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The Voice of the City O Henry

The Shocks Of Doom

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"Without the slightest trouble," said Vallance, with a laugh. "I lunched there yesterday. Tonight I couldn't buy a five-cent cup of coffee."

"You don't look like one of us. Well, I guess those things happen. I used to be a high-flyer myself years ago. What knocked you out of the game?"

"I -- oh, I lost my job," said Vallance.

"It's undiluted Hades, this city," went on the other. "One day you're eating from china; the next you are eating in China -- a chop-suey joint. I've had more than my share of hard luck. For five years I've been little better than a panhandler. I was raised up to live expensively and do nothing. Say -- I don't mind telling you -- I've got to talk to somebody, you see, because I'm afraid -- I'm afraid. My name's Ide. You wouldn't think that old Paulding, one of the millionaires on Riverside Drive, was my uncle, would you? Well, he is. I lived in his house once, and had all the money I wanted. Say, haven't you got the price of a couple of drinks about you -- er -- what's your name"

"Dawson," said Vallance. "No; I'm sorry to say that I'm all in, financially."

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"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 be 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 bead. 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 -- "

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