It was a spot lovely, lovable. Nothing in all the West is more fit to linger in a man’s memory than the imperious sun rising above the valley of Heart’s Desire; nothing unless it were the royal purple of the sunset, trailed like a robe across the shoulders of the grave unsmiling hills, which guarded it round about. In Heart’s Desire it was so calm, so complete, so past and beyond all fret and worry and caring. Perhaps the man who named it did so in grim jest, as was the manner of the early bitter ones who swept across the Western lands. Perhaps again he named it at sunset, and did so reverently. God knows he named it right.
There was no rush nor hurry, no bickering nor envying, no crowding nor thieving there. Heart’s Desire! It was well named, indeed; fit capital for the malcontents who sought oblivion, dreaming, long as they might, that Life can be left aside when one grows weary of it; dreaming—ah! deep, foolish, golden dream—that somewhere there is on earth an Eden with no Eve and without a flaming sword!
The town all lay along one deliberate, crooked street, because the arroyo along which it straggled was crooked. Its buildings were mostly of adobe, with earthen roofs, so low that when one saw a rainstorm coming in the rainy season (when it rained invariably once a day), he went forth with a shovel and shingled his roof anew, standing on the ground as he did so. There were a few cabins built of logs, but very few. Only one or two stores had the high board front common in Western villages. Lumber was very scarce and carpenters still scarcer. How the family from Kansas had happened to drift into Heart’s Desire—how a man of McKinney’s intelligence had come to settle there—how Dan Anderson, a very good lawyer, happened to have tarried there—how indeed any of us happened to be there, are questions which may best be solved by those who have studied the West-bound, the dream-bound, the malcontents. At any rate, here we were, and it was Christmas-time. The very next morning would be that of Christmas Day.
THE DINNER AT HEART’S DESIRE
This continuing the Relation of Curly, the Can of Oysters, and the Girl from Kansas; and Introducing Others
There were no stockings hung up in Heart’s Desire that Christmas Eve, for all the population was adult, male, and stern of habit. The great moon flooded the street with splendor. Afar there came voices of rioting. There were some adherents to the traditions of the South in regard to firecrackers at Yuletide, albeit the six-shooter furnished the only firecracker obtainable. Yet upon that night the very shots seemed cheerful, not ominous, as was usually the case upon that long and crooked street, which had seen duels, affairs, affrays,—even riots of mounted men in the days when the desperadoes of the range came riding into town now and again for love of danger, or for lack of aguardiente. It was so very white and solemn and content,—this street of Heart’s Desire on Christmas Eve. Far across the arroyo, as Curly had said, there gleamed red the double windows of the cabin which had been preempted by the man from Leavenworth. To-night the man from Leavenworth sat with bowed head and beard upon his bosom.