Tin Bath Tub image from: https://www.decorhomeideas.com/tin-bathtubs/, DH Ideas: 10 Amazing Bathtubs for the Best Farmhouse Decor. (You have no idea how hard it was to find a photo of an old tin bath tub!)
The Naked Truth?
I love this scene because it is rather goofy. Here’s the set up: the family is still in Pennsylvania, divided between Gettysburg and Middletown (known today as Biglerville). Capt. Phillip Frost (Union Army) has a growing attraction to Maggie’s eldest daughter, Lydia. Frost is attached to Camp Letterman, a tent hospital for soldiers wounded during the battle at Gettysburg. When one of the wounded Confederate soldiers at the old Smith House turns up missing, Frost immediately believes that Lydia and her family were somehow involved. They were – but he has the wrong soldier and wrong accuses Eli of being involved, which he wasn’t. Eli ends up in jail in Gettysburg with an appointment to go before the District Provost Marshal.
In short, the matter is cleared up at the hearing and Eli and the family return to the Smith house in Gettysburg.
Having been in a jail cell for several days, the men need decent food and, of course, a good bath. However, what should have been a relaxing soak for Eli turns into… well, I’ll just let you read about it.
After dinner, the two men were given the opportunity to get cleaned up. Lydia, Emily, and Nate saw to it that baths were filled – one in a bedroom in the annex for Gideon and the other in the back parlor for Eli.
Eli stripped down and put his glasses and cane next to the bath. As he sank happily into the large tin tub, the warm water began to ease the persistent aching in his left leg. For the first time in days, he was mentally and physically comfortable. To top it all off, Carson had presented him with a celebratory cigar, which Eli lit. He contentedly blew out a circle of smoke and watched it dissipate into nothingness, symbolizing his troubles vanishing into thin air.
“Thank you,” he said to the air.
He was lucky – lucky and blessed, whatever that meant. “I am grateful from the very bottom of my soul,” he said to Whoever or Whatever might be listening in.
There was an abrupt knock on the door. Before he could ask who was there, it flew open, and Frankie strode into the room.
Eli squawked. His cigar fell into the water. The stogie submerged with a hiss as he put his hands over his privates and tried to disappear into the water. Frankie squealed in horror and, putting her hands over her eyes, spun away from him.
“Egad!” Eli sputtered. “When you knock on the door, you’re supposed to wait for someone to answer!”
“I didn’t know you’d be in the bath.”
Hearing the ruckus, Lydia entered, took in the situation and, averting her eyes, plucked the large towel from the floor by the tub and passed it to her stepfather.
Eli grabbed the cloth, quickly spreading it from one side of the tub to the other to hide his nudity as he growled, “Did you not hear Matilda telling me that the bath was ready?”
“It’s all right,” Lydia told her sister. “You may turn around now.”
Frankie did so but avoided looking at her stepfather.
“The last thing I need,” Eli muttered, “is you seeing me in my birthday suit! Egad, I’ll never be able to meet your eyes again!”
“I didn’t see anything. I just saw your shoulders – nothing else.”
Relieved, Eli calmed down.
“And,” Lydia announced, “I’ve seen enough naked men to last me a lifetime.” She smirked. “And that includes you.”
“After you had been shot. Who do you think removed your clothes and prepared you for surgery?” She pointedly added, “However, I scarce remember a thing. One naked man looks very much like all naked men, don’t you think?”
Eli went bright red. “This discussion is over!” He turned to his youngest stepdaughter. “What brought you in here in the first place? You might as well tell me so long as I’m covered.”
“I wanted to apologize for getting you into all that trouble.”
Frankie winced. “And for helping Caleb desert.”
“Thank you,” he muttered, nettled that they had ruined his bath. “You girls will be the death of me.”
Frankie’s voice had a little tremor in it. “Will you ever forgive us, Papa?”
He sighed and rested the back of his head on the lip of the bath. “Of course, I’ll forgive you. I’m your stepfather. You were doing what you thought was right – the both of you. How can I be angry at that?”
Her face burst into the elfin grin that always melted his heart. “Thank you, Papa!”
Eli indicated the tub. “Now, do you mind if I finish my bath?”
Remembering that he was naked under the shelter of the towel, Frankie grabbed Lydia’s hand and pulled her older sister toward the door.
As the two left the room, Eli heard Lydia laugh. “Oh, I do so love this family!”
The door shut with a firm click and Eli was alone once more. He grunted, pulled the towel away, and located the now water-logged cigar. Lifting it out, he stared at the soggy stogie for a second and then irritably heaved it into the fireplace as he muttered, “What a waste of a perfectly good smoke.”
I think Eli handled that amazingly well, don’t you? Of course, what else could he do? He was lying naked in a tub of water with only a towel to cover him.
Interestingly, 19th century folks did not spend a lot of time soaking in a tub. They believed hot water was unhealthy and advocated cold baths. Brrrr! Don’t think I’d like that. However, Eli deserves to wallow in tepid water after all he’s been through.
Until next blog…
Later, gators, and remember to be kind.
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder