SEDALIA AND REGALIA
My dear Friend,—
I was dreadfully afraid that my last letter was too much for you and now I feel plumb guilty. I really don’t know how to write you, for I have to write so much to say so little, and now that my last letter made you sick I almost wish so many things didn’t happen to me, for I always want to tell you. Many things have happened since I last wrote, and Zebulon Pike is not done for by any means, but I guess I will tell you my newest experience.
I am making a wedding dress. Don’t grin; it isn’t mine,—worse luck! But I must begin at the beginning. Just after I wrote you before, there came a terrific storm which made me appreciate indoor coziness, but as only Baby and I were at home I expected to be very lonely. The snow was just whirling when I saw some one pass the window. I opened the door and in came the dumpiest little woman and two daughters. She asked me if I was “Mis’ Rupit.” I told her that she had almost guessed it, and then she introduced herself. She said she was “Mis’ Lane,” that she had heard there was a new stranger in the country, so she had brought her twin girls, Sedalia and Regalia, to be neighborly. While they were taking off their many coats and wraps it came out that they were from Linwood, thirty miles away. I was powerful glad I had a pot roast and some baked beans.
After we had put the horses in the barn we had dinner and I heard the story of the girls’ odd names. The mother is one of those “comfy,” fat little women who remain happy and bubbling with fun in spite of hard knocks. I had already fallen in love with Regalia, she is so jolly and unaffected, so fat and so plain. Sedalia has a veneer of most uncomfortable refinement. She was shocked because Gale ate all the roast she wanted, and if I had been very sensitive I would have been in tears, because I ate a helping more than Gale did.
But about the names. It seemed that “Mis’ Lane” married quite young, was an orphan, and had no one to tell her things she should have known. She lived in Missouri, but about a year after her marriage the young couple started overland for the West. It was in November, and one night when they had reached the plains a real blue blizzard struck them. “Mis’ Lane” had been in pain all day and soon she knew what was the matter. They were alone and it was a day’s travel back to the last house. The team had given out and the wind and sleet were seeing which could do the most meanness. At last the poor man got a fire started and a wagon sheet stretched in such a manner that it kept off the sleet. He fixed a bed under the poor shelter and did all he could to keep the fire from blowing away, and there, a few hours later, a little girl baby was born. They melted sleet in the frying-pan to get water to wash it. “Mis’ Lane” kept feeling no better fast, and about the time they got the poor baby dressed a second little one came.
That she told me herself is proof she didn’t die, I guess, but it is right hard to believe she didn’t. Luckily the fire lasted until the babies were dressed and the mother began to feel better, for there was no wood. Soon the wind stopped and the snow fell steadily. It was warmer, and the whole family snuggled up under the wagon sheet and slept.
Mr. Lane is a powerful good husband. He waited two whole days for his wife to gain strength before he resumed the journey, and on the third morning he actually carried her to the wagon. Just think of it! Could more be asked of any man?
Every turn of the wheels made poor “Mis’ Lane” more homesick. Like Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, she had a taste for geographical names, and “Mis’ Lane” is very loyal, so she wanted to call the little first-born “Missouri.” Mr. Lane said she might, but that if she did he would call the other one “Arkansas.” Sometimes homesickness would almost master her. She would hug up the little red baby and murmur “Missouri,” and then daddy would growl playfully to “Arkansas.” It went on that way for a long time and at last she remembered that Sedalia was in Missouri, so she felt glad and really named the older baby “Sedalia.” But she could think of nothing to match the name and was in constant fear the father would name the other baby “Little Rock.”
For three years poor Gale was just “t’other one.” Then the Lanes went to Green River where some lodge was having a parade. They were watching the drill when a “bystander that was standing by” said something about the “fine regalia.” Instantly “Mis’ Lane” thought of her unnamed child; so since that time Gale has had a name.
There could be no two people more unlike than the sisters. Sedalia is really handsome, and she is thin. But she is vain, selfish, shallow, and conceited. Gale is not even pretty, but she is clean and she is honest. She does many little things that are not exactly polite, but she is good and true. They both went to the barn with me to milk. Gale tucked up her skirts and helped me. She said, “I just love a stable, with its hay and comfortable, contented cattle. I never go into one without thinking of the little baby Christ. I almost expect to see a little red baby in the straw every time I peek into a manger.”
Sedalia answered, “Well, for Heaven’s sake, get out of the stable to preach. Who wants to stand among these smelly cows all day?”
They stayed with us almost a week, and one day when Gale and I were milking she asked me to invite her to stay with me a month. She said to ask her mother, and left her mother and myself much together. But Sedalia stuck to her mother like a plaster and I just could not stand Sedalia a whole month. However, I was spared all embarrassment, for “Mis’ Lane” asked me if I could not find work enough to keep Gale busy for a month or two. She went on to explain that Sedalia was expecting to be married and that Gale was so “common” she would really spoil the match. I was surprised and indignant, especially as Sedalia sat and listened so brazenly, so I said I thought Sedalia would need all the help she could get to get married and that I should be glad to have Gale visit me as long as she liked.
So Gale stayed on with me. One afternoon she had gone to the post-office when I saw Mr. Patterson ride up. He went into the bunk-house to wait until the men should come. Now, from something Gale had said I fancied that Bob Patterson must be the right man. I am afraid I am not very delicate about that kind of meddling, and while I had been given to understand that Patterson was the man Sedalia expected to marry, I didn’t think any man would choose her if he could get Gale, so I called him. We had a long chat and he told me frankly he wanted Gale, but that she didn’t care for him, and that they kept throwing “that danged Sedalia” at him. Then he begged my pardon for saying “danged,” but I told him I approved of the word when applied to Sedalia, and broke the news to him that Gale was staying with me. He fairly beamed. So that night I left Gale to wash dishes and Bob to help her while I held Mr. Stewart a prisoner in the stable and questioned him regarding Patterson’s prospects and habits. I found both all that need be, and told Mr. Stewart about my talk with Patterson, and he said, “Wooman, some day ye’ll gang ploom daft.” But he admitted he was glad it was the “bonny lassie, instead of the bony one.” When we went to the house Mr. Stewart said, “Weel, when are you douchy bairns gangin’ to the kirk?”
They left it to me, so I set Thanksgiving Day, and as there is no “kirk to gang to,” we are going to have a justice of the peace and they are to be married here. We are going to have the dandiest dinner that I can cook, and Mr. Stewart went to town next day for the wedding dress, the gayest plaid outside of Caledonia. But Gale has lots of sense and is going to wear it. I have it almost finished, and while it doesn’t look just like a Worth model, still it looks plumb good for me to have made. The boys are going up after Zebulon Pike, and Mr. Stewart is going after “Mis’ Lane.” Joy waves are radiating from this ranch and about Thanksgiving morning one will strike you.
With lots of love and happy wishes,