|Red Rock Canyon in California, USA|
In Ed Harris' movie "Appaloosa," based on the Western novel by author Robert B Parker, city marshall Virgil Cole is the ultimate impersonation of a benevolent dictator. Cole has no interest in accumulating wealth for himself, or extending the power and influence of Appaloosa by conquering nearby towns or businesses. He may have his flaws, but essentially he's a man like Gerald Skibbow in Peter F Hamilton's novel The Reality Dysfunction, who believes in simple values, and expects his citizens to respect the rights of others.
He may beat up a drunk in the saloon for not leaving when he tells him to, or for using foul language in front of the woman he's falling in love with, the beautiful Mrs. Allie French. Nevertheless, he doesn't hurt others out of a desire to do so. In fact, he relies on his friend Everett Hitch to make sure he doesn't cross the line and abuse the authority he has been entrusted with. In those rare moments when he loses control, he wants Hitch to restrain him, to hold him back, when his emotions temporarily overwhelm him. And Cole always tells the truth. Always.
"No one always tells the truth," Mrs. French tells him, shortly after she gets off the train and finds employment playing the piano in Appaloosa's saloon.
"I always figured telling the truth was easier." Virgil Cole shrugs. "Tell a man what you think."
"And a woman?" she asks.
This question flusters Cole, and seems to embarrass him.
If Virgil Cole is easy to understand, Mrs. French, or Allie as she prefers to be called, is more difficult. She wears fine clothes, yet has no money. She smiles often, yet speaks demurely, and with lady-like grace. Cole quickly takes to her, and within a few days, he buys a house for them already under construction in Appaloosa, which surprises his friend Everett Hitch. Allie seems equally in love with Cole, yet one day he walks back to the Marshall's office, complains Allie is fretting, and over seemingly inconsequential things such as curtain material.
|Hitch: These are a little small for curtains, aren't they?|
Cole: Get off with you, you rascally varmint!
Cole asks his friend to go calm her down. When Hitch arrives at the worksite, deserted due to a windstorm, she shows off the foundation and rough framing, and expounds on their great plans for the house. Her eyes gleam with all the hope, joy, and pride she takes in her future with Cole. But then she pulls Hitch into her arms and kisses him passionately.
Hitch pulls away, and explains, like a father to a child, that they are both with Cole, but he and Allie are not together. She frowns (something she rarely does in public), pulls away, and asks him to leave. Hitch says nothing of the incident to his friend. Still, he can't help but wonder at the kind of woman to whom Cole has pledged his heart.
But then, Allie French is a complicated woman.