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The Shocks Of Doom
by [?]

“Dawson,” said Vallance. “No; I’m sorry to say that I’m all in, financially.”

“I’ve been living for a week in a coal cellar on Division Street,” went on Ide, “with a crook they called ‘Blinky’ Morris. I didn’t have anywhere else to go. While I was out to-day a chap with some papers in his pocket was there, asking for me. I didn’t know but what he was a fly cop, so I didn’t go around again till after dark. There was a letter there he had left for me. Say–Dawson, it was from a big downtown lawyer, Mead. I’ve seen his sign on Ann Street. Paulding wants me to play the prodigal nephew–wants me to come back and be his heir again and blow in his money. I’m to call at the lawyer’s office at ten to-morrow and step into my old shoes again–heir to three million, Dawson, and $10,000 a year pocket money. And–I’m afraid–I’m afraid.”

The vagrant leaped to his feet and raised both trembling arms above his head. He caught his breath and moaned hysterically.

Vallance seized his arm and forced him back to the bench.

“Be quiet!” he commanded, with something like disgust in his tones. “One would think you had lost a fortune, instead of being about to acquire one. Of what are you afraid?”

Ide cowered and shivered on the bench. He clung to Vallance’s sleeve, and even in the dim glow of the Broadway lights the latest disinherited one could see drops on the other’s brow wrung out by some strange terror.

“Why, I’m afraid something will happen to me before morning. I don’t know what–something to keep me from coming into that money. I’m afraid a tree will fall on me–I’m afraid a cab will run over me, or a stone drop on me from a housetop, or something. I never was afraid before. I’ve sat in this park a hundred nights as calm as a graven image without knowing where my breakfast was to come from. But now it’s different. I love money, Dawson–I’m happy as a god when it’s trickling through my fingers, and people are bowing to me, with the music and the flowers and fine clothes all around. As long as I knew I was out of the game I didn’t mind. I was even happy sitting here ragged and hungry, listening to the fountain jump and watching the carriages go up the avenue. But it’s in reach of my hand again now–almost–and I can’t stand it to wait twelve hours, Dawson–I can’t stand it. There are fifty things that could happen to me–I could go blind–I might be attacked with heart disease–the world might come to an end before I could–“

Ide sprang to his feet again, with a shriek. People stirred on the benches and began to look. Vallance took his arm.

“Come and walk,” he said, soothingly. “And try to calm yourself. There is no need to become excited or alarmed. Nothing is going to happen to you. One night is like another.”

“That’s right,” said Ide. “Stay with me, Dawson–that’s a good fellow. Walk around with me awhile. I never went to pieces like this before, and I’ve had a good many hard knocks. Do you think you could hustle something in the way of a little lunch, old man? I’m afraid my nerve’s too far gone to try any panhandling.”

Vallance led his companion up almost deserted Fifth Avenue, and then westward along the Thirties toward Broadway. “Wait here a few minutes,” he said, leaving Ide in a quiet and shadowed spot. He entered a familiar hotel, and strolled toward the bar quite in his old assured way.

“There’s a poor devil outside, Jimmy,” he said to the bartender, “who says he’s hungry and looks it. You know what they do when you give them money. Fix up a sandwich or two for him; and I’ll see that he doesn’t throw it away.”