Chapter XXV. An Exciting Adventure

Mr. Allen Price and John Stumpy were one and the same person! For a moment so great was my surprise that I forgot I was under arrest, and walked on beside the officer without a protest.

Now that I knew the truth it was easy to trace the resemblance, and I blamed myself greatly for not having discovered it when we first met.

Of a certainty the man was bent upon frustrating my plans, partly for his own safety, and more so upon Mr. Aaron Woodward's account. No doubt the merchant was paying him well for his work, and John Stumpy intended to do all he could to crush me.

But I was not to be crushed. The forces brought against me only made my will stronger to go ahead. It was do or die, and that was all there was to it.

I could easily understand why John Stumpy wished to obtain possession of my handbag. In it he hoped to find the papers Mr. Woodward had lost and Nicholas Weaver's confession. I could not help but smile at the thought that, notwithstanding all I had said to the contrary, the two plotters still believed I had the lost documents.

One thing perplexed me. Why was my visit to Chris Holtzmann considered of such importance that every possible means was taken to prevent it? Did this man possess the entire key to the situation? And were they afraid he could be bought up or threatened into a confession? It looked so.

"You are not from Chicago, young fellow?" said the policeman who had me in charge.

"No; I'm from the East."

"Humph! Got taken in short, didn't you?"

"I'm not guilty of any crime," I returned, "and you'll find it out when it comes to the examination."

"I'll chance it," replied the officer, grimly.

"That man is a fraud. If you call on the Manners Clothing Company, you will find it so."

"That's not part of my duty. I'll take you to the station house, and you can tell the judge your story," replied the policeman.

Yet I could see by the way his brow contracted that my assertion had had its effect upon him. Probably had he given the matter proper thought in the first place, he would have compelled John Stumpy to accompany him.

Still, this did me no good. Here I was being taken to the jail while the man who should have been under arrest was free. I would probably have to remain in confinement until the following morning, and in the meantime John Stumpy could call on Chris Holtzmann and arrange plans to suit himself.

This would never do, as it would defeat the whole object of my trip West, and send me home to be laughed at by Mr. Aaron Woodward and Duncan.

"Can I ask for an examination at once?" I inquired.

"Maybe; if the judge is there."

"And if he isn't?"

"You'll have to wait till to-morrow morning. You see it isn't-- Hello! thunder and lightning! what's that?"

As the officer uttered the exclamation there was a wild cry on the streets, and the next instant the crowds of people scattered in every direction.

And no wonder, for down the pavement came an infuriated bull, charging everybody and everything before him.

The animal had evidently broken away from a herd that was being driven to the stock-yards, and his nose, where the ring was fastened, was torn and covered with blood, and he breathed hard, as if he had run a great distance.

"It's a mad bull!" I cried. "Take care, or he'll horn both of us!"

My words of caution were unnecessary, for no sooner had the bull turned in our direction than the officer let go his hold upon me and fled into a doorway near at hand.

For an instant I was on the point of following him. Then came the sudden thought that now would be a good chance to escape.

To think was to act. No sooner had the policeman jumped into the doorway than I dodged through the crowd and hurried across the street. Reaching the opposite side, I ran into an alley. It was long and led directly into the back garden of a handsome stone mansion.

The garden was filled with beautiful flowers and plants, and in the centre a tiny fountain sent a thin spray into the air. At one side, under a small arbor, stood a garden bench, and on this sat a little girl playing with a number of dolls.

Her golden hair hung heavy over her shoulders, and she looked supremely happy. She greeted my entrance with a smile, and took me at once into her confidence.

"This is my new dolly," she explained, holding the article up.

"Is it?" I asked, hardly knowing what to say.

"Yes; papa bringed it home yesterday. Does oo like dollies?"

"Oh, yes, nice ones like that. You must have lots of fun. I--"

I did not finish the sentence. There was a noise in the alley, and the next instant the mad bull came crashing into the garden!

For a second I was too surprised to move or speak. The little girl uttered a piercing scream, and gathering her dolls in her arms huddled into a corner of the bench.

Why the animal had followed so closely behind me I could not tell, but once in the garden, it was plain to see he was bent upon doing considerable damage. He was more enraged than ever, and scattered the sodding about in every direction.

At first some red flowers attracted his attention, and he charged upon these with a fury that wrecked the entire flower-bed in which they were standing.

While the bull was at this work I partly recovered my senses, and then the first thought that came to my mind was the necessity of getting the little girl to a place of safety. Let the bull once get at her, and her life might pay the penalty. I was not many feet away from the little miss, and a few bounds took me to her side.

"Come, let me take you into the house," I said, and picked her up.

She made no reply, but continued to scream and clung to me with all the strength of her little arms.

There was a back piazza to the mansion five or six steps high. I knew that if we once reached this we would be safe, for no matter what the bull might do, he could not climb.

"Oh, Millie, my child!" came s voice from the house, and I saw a lady at one of the windows. "Oh, save her! Bring her here!" she cried, as she caught sight of the bull.

I uttered no reply, but sprang toward the steps.

But though I wasted no time, the bull was too quick for me. Springing over the flower-bed, he planted himself directly in my path.

It made my blood run cold to have him face me with that vicious look and those glaring eyes. One prod of those horns and all would be over.

"Oh, save Millie! Save my child!" The lady had opened the door and now came running out upon the piazza.

"I will if I can!" I returned. "Don't come down here. He'll tear you all to pieces!"

Even as I spoke the bull made a plunge for me. I darted to one side and sprang over to the edge of the piazza corner.

"Give her to me! Hand her up!" exclaimed the lady, as she rushed over, and as I held the little one on my shoulder, the lady drew her up and clasped the child, dolls and all, to her breast.

Hardly had I got rid of my charge than the bull came for me again. The trick I had played on him only served to increase his rage, and he snorted loudly.

I was in a bad fix. Between the piazza and the next-door fence was a distance of but ten feet, and behind me was the solid stone wall of the house. Escape on any side was impossible. Had I had time I might have climbed up to the piazza, but now this was not to be thought of, and another means of getting out of danger must be instantly devised.

"Oh, he will be killed!" cried the lady, in horror. "Help! help!"

I glanced around for some weapon with which to defend myself. I had nothing with me. Even my valise lay at the other end of the garden, where I had dropped it when the animal first made his appearance.

As I said, I looked around, and behind me found a heavy spade the gardener had at one time or another used for digging post holes. It was a strong and sharp implement, and I took it up with a good deal of satisfaction.

The bull charged on me with fury. As he did so, I took the spade and held it on a level with my waist, resting the butt end on the wall behind me.

The next instant there was a terrific crash that made me sick from head to foot. With all his force the bull had sprung forward, only to receive the sharp end of the spade straight between his eyes.

The blow was as if it had been delivered by an axe. It made a frightful cut, and the blood rushed forth in a torrent.

With a mad cry of pain the bull backed out. At first I thought he was going to charge me again, but evidently the blow was too much for him, for with several moans he turned, and with his head hanging down, he staggered across the garden to the alley and disappeared.