When she arrived in Whitefish in December 1875, Arabella was not exactly pretty, thin as a rake and flat as an ironin' board, gawky teeth, skin pale and ill looking. At 14 she was so stunted and emaciated that she looked more like 10 or 12.
By April 1876, and her 15th Birthday, with four months of good food and care under her belt, Arabella had grown considerable. She was a good two inches taller, hitting an upward growth spurt that effectively cancelled out any more horizontal developments. She still described her figure as "range-y", whatever that means, and many hours of posing in front of Ms Devereau's big full length mirror failed to display any signs of the voluptuous Victorian figure she desired.
Still, she was no longer a big girl, but more of a young woman, and one day told Mammy Cookie that she had, at last, been visited by the "Sin of Eve" The big chubby cook had, to her surprise, first slapped her face and then given her the biggest hug in the whole history of hugs. That's what some folks did, apparently. She was part of the sisterhood, now.
Traits & Characteristics
A romantic daydreamer with a strong religious streak and a propensity to gossip and self dramatize.
Mostly helped out on farm, but when Pa headed up North to the Utopia of "Canadia" and then up and died on her on the way, it left her high and dry in Whitefish.
Now works as a pot girl at the Stardust Saloon, Kalispell.
Women's work, farm work, can quote scripture and Sir Walter Scott with the best of 'em, allegedly "The best reader an' writer an adder in the whole of Virginia". Can dance, play the pianna and the harmonium and gossip like nodody's business.
Aliases / Nicknames
Her Again (as in "Oh no, it's HER again!")
Stardust Saloon, attic room.
Kith & Kin
Once just a poor orphan with no family and no home (sniff) she now considers Mammy Cookie, Mr Flandry and (sigh) even Ms Devereau her family. Her best and bosom friend is Clara Anne Redmond, with Bridget Monahan on the reserve bench. One day she will marry Mr Michael Wentworth.
Born to Abeizer and Anne-Mariah Mudd at Monroe, Virginia in 1861, coincidentally on the day that the very first shot of the civil war was fired, she was soon taken to, and grew up on, her father's dirt farm up on the Clinch Mountain Ridge. After her mother up and died of the dropsy in '71 she more or less took over the management of the place, her Father being an indolent dreamer. When her brother John up and died of the typhus, Pa decided it was time to fulfill his dreams of transporting to "Canadia" where he had heard that plumcakes grew on trees and the muskrats smelt like perfume. When he up and died somewhere near Whitefish, Montana, his last words to his daughter were "Nearly there, Sump, nearly there."
Nearly kilt in the destruction of Whitefish, she was rescued by Mike Wentworth and nursed back to health by Clara Redmond. She now works as a pot girl in the Stardust Saloon in Kalispell.
"A good church going girl - will work hard for bed and bord" [sic]
"Sorry," he said as they moved through the motions of the dance, "but she ain't the opposition, really. Here..." He smiled down at her. "There...happy now? Ooop..."
Brendan might not be able to tell much from people’s eyes, but Arabella could, and the way the man from Mississippi kept glancing over to Clara (or to Charlie perhaps, in a way it amounted to the same thing) told her something.
When the jigging and giggling part was over, they moved into another straight polka round in circles and Arabella was able to get to work on the earthy nature boy.
“How d’ya like my friend Bridget?” she asked “Nice ain’t she?”
“… an’ you know what they say about redheads!” she threw that into the pot as well.
She wasn’t sure herself what exactly ‘they’ said about redheads, but hoped it was more fuel to pique his interest. Somewhere in the back of her butterfly brain, something tugged at her conscience: why was she pressing the suit of the strange, almost ethereal crippled girl over her alleged ‘bosom friend’? The thought appeared and died again like a mayfly in Spring, but it would flutter into her heart again in time.
They danced around some more and Arabella tipped him the wink.
“All right, this is the walky part!” she explained “Just ignore them!” she heard herself adding, and almost jumped with surprise at the sound of her own voice, terse and didactic. “I mean, let’s pretend to be snooty!” she said with more fun in her voice, saving the mood, and the actress in her managed to pull a funny nose-in-the-air face as they turned and paced toward Clara and Charlie walking at them the other way.
After the initial bow and curtsy (combined with an excited wave in Clara's direction) Arabella had expected the dance to be hard work. Fun, but hard work. However, although she had to direct Brendan a good deal of the time – during some of the more complicated passages she could be heard murmuring instructions like “In, in, in, and out, out, out, and round and round and JIG!” – he had such an intuitive feeling for the directions she was pulling in him, an observer would have found it hard to tell that he wasn’t leading.
When they came in for the first boomps-a-daisy, he even rebelled from her tutelage and pulled them up short.
“Hey!” she objected.
"You still wanna use your elbows on Clara?" he asked Arabella teasingly, hoping the answer would be no.
“I wanted to bump our bustles!” she corrected.
She didn’t actually have a bustle herself, but Clara’s was more than ample. She thought it would be fun to bump backsides when they met in the middle, although it was unlikely in the extreme that the Redmond girl would appreciate such a deviation from the accepted steps. Arabella was a full 100 years ahead of her time.
As the two couples neared, he decided not to ignore Clara anymore - he had made a point to look in the opposite direction whenever they had happened to be looking at each other - and so he flashed her a smirk that said "Havin' fun? I am."
“Whoa Cowboy!” frowned Arabella in mock indignation “You’re meant to be smiling at me not … in again, in, in, in, out, out, out … not a-grinnin at the opposition!! Two more o’ these, then the jig!”
She had to combine reminding him that he was her partner for the next four minutes, with telling him what came next.
But the part where they did a little jig facing each other was so funny, she couldn’t help laughing out loud. There was something so naturally graceful and unrestrained about Brendan, he was like the wild and free horses and cattle he worked with every day and the dance floor was like a wide open prairie they trailed. He looked like he was enjoying himself, and that made her enjoy herself too, she could have stood jigging back and forth with him like this forever and a day.
"Hold you real tight, feint left, dart right," he repeated, trying to get everything down in his head and unknowingly rhyming. "Touch her hand, use my elbows. Lordy. All right, Arabella, here goes nothin'."
Arabella listened nodding. “That’s it! Especially the 'holding me real tight' part, that's important!” she concurred “You’re a natural, big feller, this goin’ ta be all right!” she beamed. She certainly liked his positive, have-a-go attitude: and if it was all a complete shambles, who cared, she couldn’t help feeling that they were going have darn good chuckle trying.
He held one hand to her and put the other on her waist, pulling her close so she could direct them.
“Oooop!” she exclaimed as the handsome cowhand pulled her in close to him. “Oooh, well this feels real nice!” she said (it did!) “But we gotta bow to each other and the couple opposite first. Well, you bow, I curtsey, o’ course.” She reluctantly freed herself from the embrace of his strong arms.
Then a thought occurred to him. "Hey, shouldn't I be leadin'?"
“Oh usually, sure. But this is a Leap Year, so sometimes ladies can lead” (this was a complete lie, of course) “… like they can also ask gentlemen to dance with ‘em, or even propose and ask a gentleman to marry ‘em!” she grinned, then added. “Oh, don’t look so worried, Cowboy, you’re safe from me. Even a big handsome feller like you can’t break my heart, it’s already broke.” she sighed with what she hoped was a look of romantic resignation on her juvenile features.
[OOC: treading water a little here – waiting to se if Charlie stays on the dance floor or not: I reckon C&C are our opposite couple]
"Hold your horses, Arabella," he said, glancing back to where Bridget was talking with Emmeline before looking back down at the gregarious girl, "I don't know this one. If you know it, you'd better give me a real quick lesson. Otherwise we won't get back in one piece 'cause I'll have stomped on your toes too much."
“Course you don’t know it, nobody knows it! Those mean rattlesnakes in the band chose it just make folk look foolish.” She pointed to a brace of couples who were high-tailing it off the dance floor at top speed. “Look at ‘em go, they’re runnin’ away faster than the Yankees at First Manassas!” she cooed. “But we’re Southerners, Mr Connolly, we’re used to fightin’ agin the odds fer lost causes.”
She turned to face him for a quick lesson in dance floor signaling.
“Listen, when I say ‘Jig’ we just jig about facing each other.” She lifted her skirts and cut a few capers to illustrate the thing.
“When I say ‘Circle’ we do this…” she held his right hand up in the air with her right hand and walked around him, Brendan had to do the same or get a strained wrist. “Good, you’re picking it up.” Arabella complemented him.
“When I say ‘Walk’ we walk side by side toward the opposite couple, and boy, they’d best git out of our way, use your elbows if you have to. We’ll dance a little and then walk back the way we came. When I say ‘Dance’, that’s just the regular kind o’ polkerin’ but … you’ll have to hold me real tight and close, so you can feel the direction I’m takin’ us in!” she added coquettishly.
She ran through the dance in her head, swaying slightly as she re-lived it.
“Oh heck, there’s that skippin’ part at the end! That’s like ‘strippin’ the willer’ but in a circle. Don’t worry about the fellers, they’ll all be lost and wanderin’ around in a daze by then, but if you see some woman headed at yer like a Ironclad ploughin’ down the Potomac, feint left and then dart right: you get extra points if you manage to touch her hand.”
She thought hard.
“That’s about it. But listen, Pard, this thing's gonna get real ugly real quick, so use your elbows, ‘member to smile and like they say in the boxing matches, protect yourself at all times!”
Brendan looked down at her with a grin, feeling for a cookie since he was looking at her. "Me, too. Come another waltz or slow dance, let's do it again. Cookie?" He held one out to her with a dazzling smile.
She took the sweet treat from his hand without diverting her eyes from his, still holding his other hand, and shoved it into her mouth.
Just then, there was an announcement from the musicians about a galop quadrille. A gallop dance? Brendan imagined couples dancing from atop their horses and choked with laughter, which he quickly stifled so that Bridget wouldn't think he was laughing at her.
She heard the caller shout out the dance name, but it didn’t anything to her. It provoked a small reaction from Brendan and she tipped her head quizzically as she continued to chew the delicious cookie.
Arabella had made some pretty swift goodbyes in the Booze tent and had run helter-skelter back into the barn, wondering who she could corral for the next dance. She hit on Brendan, as he’d already promised her a couple of dances and was, therefore, effectively roped and branded already. Ignoring the fact that Bridget was standing in front of the handsome ranch-hand, making cow eyes at him, she quickly grabbed him round his free arm and started to pull him toward the dance floor.
“C’mon Mississippi! I want that dance yer promised me!!” she yelped, but he seemed to be snagged on something, like a stray muley calf caught in a muddy draw. She looked and saw that the cause of the holdup was Bridget, holding fast to his other hand, with poor Brendan stretched in the middle like the rope in a tug-of-war.
Arabella frowned at the ginger girl and literally stamped her foot.
“Oh tarnation Bridg’! Let go o’ him! I needs him fer this dance! I’ll bring him back to ya in one piece, promise!” she reasoned urgently. The dance would start any minute, and she needed to give her partner a pep talk before it started.
"Yer welcome, Arabella. Think you could do a whole lot better than the likes of me in yer search for a father, but I am flattered," he smiled down upon her.
She twined her arm in his and patted it, fair bustin’ with pride at having had the first dance with him. Mr. Flandry would have made such a wonderful father for some, sadly never-to-be-born brood of children: it was a pity, felt like a waste, especially as there were so many terrible, or completely absent fathers in the world.
“Well, if my Daddy’s lookin’ down right now, and I reckon he is, well, I think he’d be right happy with the feller I found to take his place. And, Lord, you sure stomped on my toes a heap less than he used to!” she laughed.
As they walked off the dance floor, he added on a sudden whim, "If you wanna second dance - LATER that is - you can ask me. But I gotta get back ta work. Wouldn't want Tildy ta catch me not on the job, she might just fire me on the spot."
Arabella closed her eyes and let out that gurgling chuckle of hers. “Well, she ain’t fired me yet, after all my mistakes, so I don’t think she’ll fire you. Now, Mr. Flandry, you betcha I’m gonna hold you to that promise, but don’t you want to dance with anybody else? How ‘bout Mammy Cookie?” she asked for a joke.
They were back at the tent by now and the large woman looked up at the sound of her nickname.
“Don’t you go takin’ my name in vain Arabella Mudd!” she said in mock serious tones, before looking her dance partner up and down and commenting “Well praise the Lawd! Mr. Ralph, you survived!”
"Fine, fine. I'll dance with her," he huffed and left the bartending duties to the cook, "Make sure everyone pays up front of liquor, we ain't here to lose money."
Messalina laughed. “Don’t you worry about that none, Mr. Ralph. In fac’, when these boys get served by a beautiful barmaid, they usually sez ‘keep the change!’” she added, perhaps a trifle overoptimistically.
Extracting himself from the crush, he now faced Arabella. He didn't look mad but no one would mistake that bearded visage for being eager either.
Arabella, on the other hand, was eagerness personified, jumping up and down clapping her hands. It must have been contagious, because as Ralph took off his apron and moved forward part of the queuing contingent let out a ragged cheer, mixed with catcalls from saloon regulars like Jimmy Jarman and Ted Carrington of “Hope ya got yer steel-capped boots on, Arabella” and “Bring him back alive! We need booze!”
"Alright, one dance. And I'll warn ya, I ain't much of a dancer. Last time I can even remember dancin' was celebrating the war bein' over with a lot of drinkin' and a some painted woman whose name I didn't even know, maybe cuz I didn't ask."
“One’s all I need!” she beamed, leaping forward like a starved puma, entwining her arm in his.
He looked then toward the barn, "Lead the way, kiddo."
That she did, and the odd thing was that instead of giving Mr Flandry an intensive interrogation about the painted lady, like she normally would, followed by a rambling dissertation on what she herself thought of painted ladies, with umpteen illustrative, if not always relevant, examples, she didn’t say a peep. It was as if Miss Mudd had two settings: “Noisy” and “Dancing”.
It turned out that Mr Flandry wasn’t as rusty as he made out, and Arabella was as good at dancing as she made out, with, perhaps, a slight tendency to lead; and the only time she opened her mouth to speak was when they bumped into a perfectly stationary gentleman who was simply minding his own business, and she shouted at him “Hey, watch where you’re goin’, y’clumsy oaf!”
Most of the time she contented herself with smiling in contented beautifaction as they swayed around the barn floor in time with the music, which was a slightly rough western version of the Kiss Waltz so popular in the fancy ballrooms back East back in the ’50s. As the music faded, she jumped up and gave the tough barman a peck on his hairy cheek.
“That ain’t cause it’s the kiss waltz” she explained, still grinning, but wiping a sentimental tear from her eye “That’s to say thanks fer bein’ my Daddy tonight.”
[Present: Ralph Flandy, Arabella Mudd, Melissina "Cookie" McMahon]
He gave the woman a look, "Then go ahead and dance with her. I can't just leave the tent right now what with these customers wanting to get served."
Cookie rolled her eyes, was this man serious?!
He then glanced down at Arabella, "Tell ya what, missy, I'll dance with you later when Tildy comes over to spell me for awhile. You got my word."
“But I just gotta have the first dance with you Mr Flandry, see my Daddy…” started Arabella with her complicated explanation, but an impatient customer cut her off.
Another customer piped up, "Hey bartender, gimme a whiskey, not the expensive stuff."
A chorus of shouts joined in and the girl’s face fell, bang went her dream of dancing the first dance with the nearest thing she now had to a Father figure; the evening wasn’t going like she’d hoped at all.
Then Cookie waded into the fray.
As a teenager on the plantation, Messalina McMahon had stood up to Marse McMahon when the young master had assaulted her sister, and paid the price with a whipping; she had braved the underground railway in the 1850s, risking life and limb and the possibility of being sold upriver if she was caught in her bid for freedom; she had faced rabid anti-black mobs in New York during the draught riots of the War years. Ralph and a line of impatient men wanting booze held no fears for the formidable woman.
“Now, Ralph Flandry, you know very well that I can take care o’ this bunch o’ rascals!” she bellowed, and when the impatient man at the front tried to shout his order again, silenced him with a wag of a plump finger and a yell of “Hush you!”
They she laid into Ralph again. “Why you know that little girl ain’t got no Father and no Mother, she just wants the first dance with you because she respects you like her Father, an’ you should be proud o’ that! And as for this rowdy bunch o’ rapscallions, I’ll handle them!”
At that point, an angel, in the form of the town drunk, Jim Jarman, shouted from the back “Dance with her Flandry, don’t be a piker!” and much of the mob, as is its nature, fell in with its lowest common denominator.
“Whiskey – cheap!” cried Messalina, pointing at the man at the front of the line, grabbing the bottle and a glass. “How ‘bout a boilermaker so’s it lasts you longer?!” she suggested. She knew her stuff.
The slalom run that Arabella made through the crowd that night to get to the grog tent on time to claim her dance from Ralph Flandry would put a modern Olympic skier to shame. Most folks she could simply dodge as she kicked up her heels and ran helter skelter through the bunch, some she had to shout a warning to: “Coming through!”, and one frail old lady, who was blocking the doorway, had to be gently moved aside with a brief but polite “’Scuse fingers!”
Eventually she stood panting before the transplanted barman of the Star Saloon and the waddling form of Cookie.
“Mr Flandry?” she yelled excitedly “Can I have my dance now? I know it’s the worstest one cause the floor’s half empty and an’ the band ain’t warmed up yet an’ everybody’s starin’ and laughin’ but I just gotta have this first dance with you. Please, please, please, please, please!”
The big cook standing next to him shook her head in exasperation.
“Lawd, lawd, Mr. Ralph, yes, please, please, please do! Cause if you don’t take that girl out there and dance with her right now, I will!, just to hush the chile up!”
Arabella jumped up and down at this slightly backhanded bolster to her plea, and held out her hands to the big tough bearded man.
“Well you can’t be a doctor or a lawyer.” She murmured to herself, but that was lost to the clip clop of Janella’s hooves.
“Some people like have a job where they are cooped up in a stuffy building all day but not me. I like wide open spaces and being able to choose my own way in life.”
“Well it don’t get more open than this!” Arabella nodded toward the countryside around them. It was as flat as a pancake all the way up to those big, grey, foreboding mountains: granite and grim. She had grown up on a mountain, but that was a nice, tree covered, verdant friendly place. Those cold, cold stacks of rock didn’t look friendly at all, and they made the plain look flatter than an ironing board.
“So you gonna be a cowhand forever and die in the saddle!” she concluded.
“Maybe one day I'll go back to studying but today ain't that day."
Arabella shrugged. “Or maybe you’ll fall into this holy lake we’re goin’ to and become a Saint, you might decide to ‘forgo the pleasures of the flesh’ like that Saint Francis the Sissy!” She didn’t know where she’d heard that phrase, but she liked sound of the ‘pleasures of the flesh’ part.
“You’ll become Saint Charles of the Lake and talk to the animals and never kiss another girl again!” she declared, drifting, as she was wont to do, into the realms of phantasy.
Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.
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