Throughout the Saint Maggie Series, Frankie has always been a handful. She is headstrong and impulsive, especially as a teenager.
She ran away from home in 1862 so she could be with her beau Patrick, who had enlisted in the army and was staying at Camp Fair Oaks in Flemington. Early during the Battle of Gettysburg, she and a school friend Gus Schultz ran off to watch the fight, only to be caught up in the Union retreat – an event that separated her from her mother Maggie and the rest of the family for the duration of the battle. And of course, she went off to fetch Patrick from Mower General Hospital after he had been wounded to bring him back to their home.
Eli Smith, who married Maggie in his early 40s and was heretofore childless, has had the education of his life learning to parent both Lydia and Frankie – but especially Frankie.
In the excerpt below from A Time to Heal, we learn what had transpired before Frankie burst crying into the house and revealed to her mother that she and Patrick had spent a night together in the barn. The first person to find the couple was Eli, who had gone into the barn to milk the cow and brought a cup of coffee with him (coffee was a rarity during the Civil War, as most of it went to the soldiers). Eli’s response was to let Maggie handle Frankie while he talked turkey to Patrick – which he does using some very colorful language. So, if you are at all sensitive to cursing and rude terminology, stop reading here.
Maggie reins Eli’s cussing in when they’re together, of course, but when she’s not present and when Eli comes face to face with the young man who he suspects has de-flowered his stepdaughter, he lets it fly.
Eli walked as quietly as he could into the dusky interior of the barn. He stood still and listened for a moment. He heard nothing. The smell of hay and dung surrounded him. Eventually, his ears detected a noise. It was whispering. Someone was talking. Frowning, he took a few stealthy steps toward the sound. He knew those voices – and they were coming from behind the wall of the last stall.
Eyes narrowed, Eli loudly cleared his throat.
The whispers stopped.
His worst suspicions were confirmed. Eli pursed his lips. “Frances Deborah Blaine!”
Frankie warily peeked over the edge of the stall and slowly got to her feet. Patrick stood up beside her. Hay was in their hair and all over their clothing. And their clothing, to Eli’s eyes, appeared to have been hastily arranged.
He drew a deep, angry breath, working to keep his voice level. “Frances, go inside and tell your mother what you have been doing.”
“But Papa –”
He cut her off with an abrupt wave of his finger. “You shall go in the house. Now.”
His tone of voice said that he was not to be trifled with. Casting a worried look over her shoulder at Patrick, Frankie hurried past her stepfather as if she were afraid he would reach out and smack her.
Eli turned now to Patrick. With eyes snapping coldly behind the wire-rim glasses, he was a young suitor’s worst nightmare.
The younger man smiled nervously, came around from the stall, and balanced uncomfortably on his crutches.
Eli looked him up and down. “Have a seat,” he said, using his cane to indicate a milking stool.
As Patrick sat down, he realized that he had been maneuvered into a submissive position, making it possible for Elijah Smith to appear more powerful. There was only one thing Patrick could do now and that was to face the music. He set his crutches on the dirt floor and waited for the lightning to strike.
Eli’s countenance abruptly became cool, if not calculating. He took a sip from the cup in his hand. “This is very good coffee, you know. Get some when you go in for breakfast.”
“Yes, sir,” Patrick’s mouth had gone dry.
Eli fastened his dark brown eyes on the young man before him. “So … you and Frankie decided to spend some time in the hay.”
“It’s not what it seems –”
Eli’s eyebrows shot up. “That so? Well, it seems to me that you were answering the call to go forth and multiply. So, did you, Patrick? Did you partake in a little amorous congress with my stepdaughter? Some hogmagundy?”
“No, sir. We didn’t. I mean, I can’t.” He indicated his leg.
“You can’t? Well, don’t that beat all. You know, I do pretty well,” Eli slapped his left leg, “even though this thing can hurt like hell. It’s all about the positioning, you see. Positioning is very important.”
Patrick flushed bright red. “Eli – that is, Mr. Smith, I …”
“Listen, son, when I was your age nothing would’ve stopped me from screwing a willing woman. A little pain doesn’t make a whit of difference to a horny boy.”
“No, sir. I mean, yes, sir! I mean, I wouldn’t do that to Frankie, even if she begged me to.”
“So you’re saying that you didn’t have sex with my stepdaughter?”
“Yes, sir. That’s right, sir.”
“You better not have because if you have and I find out, I am going to string you up by your balls. Got that? And then, if you survive, I’m going to get a rifle, march you and Frankie to the nearest minister, and get your pathetic, wounded, blue-uniformed ass married to my stepdaughter. We do things right around here.” Eli took a breath and smoothed his feathers. Calmly putting the cup to his mouth, he took another sip of coffee. “Say, this is good stuff.” He paused to fasten his dark eyes on Patrick once more. “Have I made myself clear?”
Patrick knew when he was beaten. The portly, short man with the cane was a force to be reckoned with. “Yes, sir.”
“Good. That’s what I wanted to hear. Glad we were able to have this little chat.” Eli pointed his cane toward the exit of the barn. “Now get yourself out of here. I’ve got a cow to milk. We’ll ring the bell when breakfast is ready.”
Nodding, Patrick hastily gathered up his crutches and left in a hurry.
Eli watched him go and growled, “Bell-fired war.”
Hope you enjoyed our little journey into Maggie and Eli's struggles to raise Frankie.
See you Monday!
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder