TREASON AT HEART’S DESIRE
Showing the Dilemma of Dan Anderson, the Doubt of Leading Citizens, and the Artless Performance of a Pastoral Prevaricator
“Learned Counsel,” said Dan Anderson on the morning following the preliminary survey of Heart’s Desire, “I want you to take my case.”
“What’s up?” asked Learned Counsel. Dan Anderson pointed down the street, where a group stood talking among themselves, casting occasional side-long glances in his direction. “They’re milling like a bunch of scared longhorns,” he said. “Something’s wrong, and I know it mighty well. I want you to take my case. Come along.”
Contrary to the ancient custom of the forum at Whiteman’s corral, the group did not move apart to admit them to the circle. “The gentleman from Kansas was addressing the meeting,” said Dan Anderson. Doc Tomlinson continued speaking, but still the circle made no move.
“Say it!” burst out Dan Anderson. “Tell it out! What’s on your minds, you fellows?”
“We don’t like to believe it,” McKinney began, facing toward him. “We hope it ain’t true.”
“What’s not true?” he demanded, looking from one averted face to another. At length Doc Tomlinson resumed his office as spokesman. “They say you’ve sold us out. They say you’re bought by the railroad to clean us out; that the scheme is to steal the town, and you’re in the steal. Is that so?”
“Is it true?” asked McKinney.
“We want to know if it’s true,” insisted Doc Tomlinson. “You was all over town with them fellers. Now they’ve let it out they’re goin’ to grab the town site and make a re-survey.”
“We know there wasn’t ever any town site here,” added Uncle Jim Brothers, “but what need was there? Wasn’t there plenty of room for everybody?”
“You can’t try any hurrah game on us fellers here,” said McKinney, facing Dan Anderson squarely.
“Nor you with me,” retorted Dan Anderson. “Don’t any of you undertake that.”
“Hold on there,” called Learned Counsel, lifting his hand for attention. “This man is my client! You’re not hearing both sides.”
“Tell the other side, Dan,” said Uncle Jim Brothers. Dan Anderson shook his head.
“Why can’t you?” asked Uncle Jim.
“I can’t!” broke from Dan Andersen’s dry lips. “If you knew, you wouldn’t ask me to.”
“That’s no argument,” exclaimed Doc Tomlinson. “What we do know is that you were figurin’ to run the street right past here, maybe through my store and Uncle Jim’s place, maybe takin’ Tom’s place for depot yards. That outfit’s been all over the hills lookin’ for claims to jump. It’s a case of gobble and steal. They say you’re hired to help it on, and are gettin’ a share of the steal. Now, if that’s so, what would you do if you was in our place?”