Chapter XXVI. Sammy Simpson
 

I gave a sigh of relief when the bull was gone. The encounter with the mad animal had been no laughing matter. I had once heard of a man being gored to death by just such an infuriated creature, and I considered that I had had a narrow escape. I put my hand to my forehead and found the cold sweat standing out upon it. Taking my handkerchief, I mopped it away.

"Are you hurt?" inquired the lady, with great solicitation.

"No, ma'am," I replied. "But it was a close shave!"

"Indeed it was. And you saved my Millie's life! How can I thank you!"

"I didn't do so much. I guess she's scared a good bit."

"She hardly realized the danger, dear child. Did you, Millie, my pet?"

"The bad cow wanted to eat up my dollies!" exclaimed the little miss, with a grave shake of the head. "But oo helped me," she added, to me.

"I'm glad I was here," I returned.

"May I ask how you happened to come in?" continued the lady.

In a few words I told my story. I had hardly finished when the back door opened and a gentleman stepped out.

"What is the trouble here?" he asked anxiously. "I just heard that a mad bull had run into the garden."

"So he did, James; a savage monster indeed. This young man just beat him off and saved Millie's life."

"Hardly that," I put in modestly. I did not want more praise than I was justly entitled to receive.

"Indeed, but he did. See the spade covered with blood? Had he not hit the animal over the head with that, something dreadful would have happened."

"I didn't hit him exactly," I laughed. "I held it up and he ran against it," and once more I told my story.

"You have done us a great service, young man," said the gentleman when I had concluded. "I was once in the butcher business myself,-- in fact, I am in it yet, but only in the export trade,-- and I know full well how dangerous bulls can get. Had it not been for you my little girl might have been torn to pieces. One of her dolls is dressed in red, and this would have attracted the bull's immediate attention. I thank you deeply." He grasped my hand warmly. "May I ask your name?"

"Roger Strong, sir."

"My name is Harrison-- James Harrison. You live here in Chicago, I suppose?"

"No, sir, I come from Darbyville, New Jersey."

"Darbyville?" He thought a moment. "I never heard of such a town."

"It is only a small place several miles from New York. I came to Chicago on business. I arrived about half an hour ago."

"Really? Your introduction into our city has been rather an exciting one."

"I've had other adventures fully as exciting in the past few days," I returned.

"Yes?" and Mr. Harrison eyed me curiously.

"Yes. Our train was delayed, I almost had my handbag stolen, and I've been arrested as a thief."

"And all in a half an hour?" The gentleman and his wife both looked incredulous.

"No, sir; since I've left home."

"I should like to hear your story-- that is, if you care to tell it."

"I will tell you the whole thing if you care to listen," I returned, reflecting that my newly made friend might give me some material assistance in my quest.

"Then come into the house."

"I'd better shut the alley gate first," said I, and running down I did so, and picked up my handbag as well.

Mr. Harrison led the way inside. I could not help but note the rich furnishings of the place-- the soft carpets, artistically papered walls, the costly pictures and bric-a-brac, all telling of wealth.

Mrs. Harrison and the little girl had disappeared up the stairs. Mr. Harrison ushered me into his library and motioned me to a seat.

I hardly knew how to begin my story. To show how John Stumpy had had me arrested, it would be necessary to go back to affairs at Darbyville, and this I hesitated about doing.

"If you have time I would like to tell you about my affairs before I started to come to Chicago," I said. "I would like your advice."

The gentleman looked at the clock resting upon the mantel shelf.

"I have an engagement at eleven o'clock," he returned. "Until then I am entirely at your service, and will be in the afternoon if you desire it. I'll promise to give you the best advice I can."

"Thank you. I am a stranger here, and most people won't pay much attention to a boy," I replied.

Then I told my story in full just as I have written it here. Mr. Harrison was deeply interested.

"It is a strange case," he said, when I had concluded. "These men must be thorough rascals, every one of them. Of course it yet remains to be seen what this Chris Holtzmann has to do with the affair. He may be made to give evidence for or against your father just as he is approached. I think I would be careful at the first meeting."

"I did not intend to let him know who I was."

"A good plan."

"But now if I venture on the street I may be arrested," I went on.

"It is not likely. Chicago is a big city, and unless the officer who arrested you before meets you, it is improbable that he can give an accurate enough description of you for others to identify you. Then again, having failed in his duty, he may not report the case at all."

"That's so; but if I do run across him--"

"Then send for me. Here is my card. If I can be of service to you, I shall be glad."

Mr. Harrison gave me minute directions how to reach Holtzmann's place. Then it was time for him to go, and we left the house together. I promised to call on him again before quitting Chicago.

It was with a lighter heart that I went on my way. In some manner I felt that I had at least one friend in the big city, to whom I could turn for advice and assistance.

Guided by the directions Mr. Harrison had given me, I had no difficulty in making my way in the direction of Chris Holtzmann's place of business or house, whatever it might prove to be.

As I passed up one street and down another, I could not help but look about me with great curiosity. If Chicago was not New York, it was "next door" to it, and I could have easily spent the entire day in sightseeing.

But though my eyes were taking in all that was to be seen, my mind was busy speculating upon the future. What would Chris Holtzmann think of my visit, and what would be the result of our interview?

At length I turned down the street upon which his place was located. It was a wide and busy thoroughfare, lined with shops of all kinds. Saloons were numerous, and from several of them came the sounds of lively music.

"Can you tell me where Chris Holtzmann's place is?" I asked of a man on the corner.

"Holtzmann's? Sure! Down on the next corner."

"Thank you."

"Variety actor?" went on the man, curiously.

"Oh, no!" I laughed.

"Thought not. They're generally pretty tough-- the ones Chris hires."

"Does he have a variety theatre?"

"That's what he calls it. But it's nothing but a concert hall with jugglers and tumblers thrown in."

I did not relish the idea of going into such a place, and I knew that my sister Kate and the Widow Canby would be horrified when they heard of it.

"What kind of a man is this Holtzmann?" I continued, seeing that the man I had accosted was inclined to talk.

"Oh, he's a good enough kind of a fellow if you know how to take him," was the reply. "He's a bit cranky if he's had a glass too much, but that don't happen often."

"Does he run the place himself?"

"What, tend bar and so?"

"Yes."

"Oh, no; he's too high-toned for that. He only bosses things. They say he's rich. Be came from the East some years ago with quite a little money, and he's been adding to it ever since."

"Then you know him quite well?"

"Worked for him two years. Then he up one day and declared I was robbing him. We had a big row, and I got out."

"Did he have you arrested?"

"Arrested? Not much. He knew better than to try such a game on me. When I was in his employ I kept my eyes and ears open, and I knew too much about his private affairs for him to push me, even if I had been guilty. Oh, Sammy Simpson knows a thing or two."

"That is your name?"

"Yes; Samuel A. Simpson. Generally called Sammy for short. I was his bookkeeper and corresponding clerk."

"Maybe you're just the man I want to see," I said. "Do you know anything about Mr. Holtzmann's private affairs in the East?"

"In Brooklyn?"

"Yes."

Sammy Simpson hesitated for a moment.

"Maybe I do," he replied, with a shrewd look in his eyes. "Is there anything to be made out of it?"

"I will pay you for whatever you do for me."

"Then I'm your huckleberry. Who are you and what do you want to know?"