Wendell Harrison was a club man with no ambition in life beyond making
his small income pay his club fees, and leave enough for him to live in
the manner peculiar to young men of his class. His one hope in life, as
he often told his particular crony, was to find a rich wife, and it
seemed to Harrison that chance had played into his hands when he
received an invitation from old John Stiversant to join his party on a
trip to the Grand Cañon in Northern Arizona.
Harrison had met old Stiversant on the yacht of a mutual friend a few
weeks before, and knowing how to make himself agreeable he had done so
to the best of his ability, with the result that he had been asked to
make one of a party on this western trip in Mr. Stiversant's private
"Good luck to you, old man," said his chum as he was leaving the club on
his way to the station. "Go in and win."
"Trust me for that," answered Harrison.
The trip out proved a delightful one. Miss Nellie Stiversant, the young
lady who, Harrison had decided, was the most likely catch, did not prove
as easy as he imagined. While charming and agreeable, she had evidently
seen more or less of the world, and was not to be gathered in by the
first man who made up his mind he would like to have her ornament his
home. Likewise, she was a girl with common sense, and knowing her
position and advantages did not lose her head when a man showed an
inclination for her society. In fact, just before the party arrived in
Flagstaff she had made it very evident that she did not care for
serious attentions from any one. She was, however, of a decidedly
romantic nature, and Harrison pondered deep and long as to the best
method of gaining her affections. Late that evening he was reading a
sensational novel, when suddenly he laid it down and a far-away look
came into his eyes.
"By Jove," he muttered, "the very thing—on this very road too. Whether
the story is true or not, it is reasonable enough, although a trifle
dramatic, but that is what is wanted to attract a girl like Nell. She
don't care for me and never will, and all she wants is excitement and
novelty, but if she thinks I saved her life or risked my own in
protecting her, there might be a chance. In this story the chap had led
rather a tough life, but had reformed, and the road-agents recognized
him and knew he meant business. He got pretty well shot up, but the
whole thing cast a halo around him, which would undoubtedly attract any
romantic girl. Damn it, why couldn't I do it? It is that or nothing, the
trip will be over in two weeks, and it is pretty evident that I am not
in it unless something extraordinary happens."
The saloon was pretty well filled with a sprinkling of miners, Mexicans,
and ranchers. Men in blue overalls, flannel shirts, and wide-brimmed
hats were playing the different games of chance or standing in groups in
front of the bar. A harsh brass-sounding piano on a raised platform at
the end of the room was being played by a short-haired individual in a
dress suit, and a young lady who evidently did not object to the
calsomining process to aid nature was singing a topical song. In the
corner stood Wendell Harrison surrounded by four rough-looking men, who
seemed very much interested in what he was saying.
"Now I think you understand thoroughly what is required," said
Harrison. "I am to pay you five dollars each now, and twenty dollars
each when the job is done, likewise if it comes off successfully and the
bluff works I am to give you twenty dollars more upon our return to
Flagstaff. Don't forget to carry out the plan exactly as we have agreed.
When I spring from the coach waving my pistol and firing blank
cartridges, one of you is to shout, 'Fighting Harrison, by God!' and
shoot two or three times as you run. The thing is easy, but requires a
little judgment. I do not care where you stop the stage. Stop it any old
place, but not too near Flagstaff. I shall be alone in the coach with an
old man and two young girls, so there is not the slightest danger, and I
will see that the old man is unarmed."
"Say, Jimmie, I must tell yer something, but let me larf first. Say, I
nearly fell down in a fit. I am going to tell yer all about it, but
don't call me a liar, or I'll kill yer. What do yer think? Oh, Lord, how
my stomach aches!—what do yer think? Wait a minute—I'll tell yer in
a minute, let me larf it out now, or I shall drop down right here!
"Say, I sat in that booth over there having a quiet drink, and what do
yer think? A dude in the next booth commenced putting up a job with four
ducks; one of them is Mexican John and the other is Brady, our assistant
bar-keeper here. As far as I can make it out Brady got the three other
ducks. Say, wait a minute! I don't believe I ever will stop larfin'.
What do yer think? this dude is going up to the Cañon on my next trip,
and is going to have these four fellers stop the stage to put up a
bluff on his girl to show what a fighter he is, and he is to give um
twenty dollars each. He is going to jump out and pull his gun and clean
out the crowd, and then go back and bask in the sunshine and admiration
of the young girls. Oh, Lord! The skunk don't care how much he scares
the girls and the old man who are goin' along, but all he wants is to
pose as a fighter from away back. But say, Jimmie, what do yer think? I
have been thinkin' this thing over, and I don't believe his little
picnic will transpire. He calculates to blow in eighty dollars to make a
monkey of himself, and I am thinkin' that we can use that eighty dollars
in our business and teach the fellow a good lesson all ter wonce. What
breaks me up more than anythin' is that he told Brady to hunt me up and
tell me on the quiet that there was a reformed desperado going with me
who used to be known by the name of 'Fightin' Harrison.' Worked me into
the job too, see? What do yer think?"
The stage was slowly toiling up a dusty hill some five miles from
Flagstaff. The road was rough and the day was warm. The stage-driver let
the horses take things easy, and from time to time shook with suppressed
emotion. "I hope I may die," said he to himself, "if this ain't the
In the back seats the two young girls, the old man, and the would-be
hero were enjoying the scenery and the novelty of the trip in spite of
the dust. Suddenly three men sprang into the road, and a loud voice
commanded the stage to "hold up."
"What is the matter?" asked Nellie excitedly.
"Don't be afraid," said Wendell, pressing her hand, "remember I am with
A rough-looking man appeared at the side of the stage.
"Is your name Harrison?" he said, addressing Wendell.
"It is," answered Harrison boldly; "what do you want?"
"I have a bill here for eighty dollars against you, which will have to
be paid or you will have to get out and go back to town with me."
"What do you mean?" gasped Harrison.
"Just what I say, young man; your name is Wendell Harrison, isn't it?
You used to be known here by the name of 'Fighting Harrison,' didn't
"Certainly not, you have the wrong party," answered Harrison
"Well, I don't know about that; didn't somebody tell you that this
fellow was 'Fighting Harrison,' Bill?"
"They certainly did," answered the stage-driver.
"It is all a mistake," said Harrison.
"Mistake or not, you will have to pay or go back to town with us; that
is all there is to it. I believe you are the Harrison I want."
"Oh, Mr. Harrison," said Nell, "do pay this man and let us go on; you
can easily recover the money when you go back to town."
"Yes," said Mr. Stiversant, "that certainly is the best way to settle
the matter; it is, undoubtedly, a case of mistaken identity, but this
man is evidently acting in good faith, and you will have no difficulty
in straightening matters upon your return at Flagstaff."
Harrison's face was very red, and he looked and acted ugly; but this man
evidently meant business, and there was no way out of it but to pay the
money, which he did with a very bad grace, taking a receipt made out to
Wendell Harrison, alias "Fighting Harrison of Arizona."
"An exciting incident," said Nell, as the party rode away.
"Yes," said Harrison, "but one that might just as well have been left
out of the programme."
The stage moved on, but Harrison seemed uneasy; every few minutes he
mopped his face with his handkerchief and pressed his hand to his head
as if in pain. Visions of the little reception committee some few miles
ahead were constantly in his mind. What would he say and do when the
stage was stopped, and he received his cue to spring out and fire off
his six-shooter, especially as he had only fifteen dollars left in his
pocket. What would these pseudo-gentlemen of the road do to him, if,
after his little exhibit of bravery, he failed to wind up the melodrama
by settling with the actors? He didn't care to find out, and his mind
was bent now in deciding the best way to get back to Flagstaff. He
continued mopping his face, and once or twice he groaned.
"What is the matter?" asked Mr. Stiversant; "are you ill?"
"I fear so," answered Harrison faintly. "I have a dull pain in my head
and I feel faint."
"Oh, let us go back," said Nell, "it is only five miles, and we can
start again to-morrow just as well."
"Perhaps it would be as well," said Harrison weakly; "I fear I am going
to be ill."
In the privacy of a room at the hotel Harrison hastily manufactured an
urgent telegram calling him at once to San Francisco to see a sick
uncle, and had barely time to explain matters and express his deep
regret at being forced to leave the party at such short notice.
An hour later he lay back in a luxurious chair in the smoking
compartment of the California Limited, and gazed out of the windows at
the vast desert plains through which they passed. His eyes had a
far-away look in them, and ever and anon he sighed.
Far up the Grand Cañon road late that evening Brady and his three
companions still sat watching sadly for the stage which came not. There
they had sat in the burning sun without food or water since ten o'clock
that morning. They did not speak to each other, but occasionally they
cursed, sometimes the birds, sometimes the inanimate things about them.
At times they thought of Harrison—but what their thoughts were no one
will ever know.