Frances has a graceful figure but often walks with a slight stoop, as she feels her way with her stick, but straightens when spoken to, so that people remark that she is taller than they thought. Beautiful chestnut hair and a reasonably pretty face, which is obscured by the bandage that she habitually wears over her blind eyes in preference to dark spectacles.
Traits & Characteristics
Intelligent, calm, although sometimes exasperated with her brother.
Picks up some work as a musician or anything else she can manage with her disability. Is a trained piano tuner but there is little call for that in a Western Frontier town.
Music (plays banjo, guitar, piano by ear); New York Point reading system for the blind.
Aliases / Nicknames
Shares a small apartment above a store in Kalispell.
Kith & Kin
Older Brother Franklin Grosvenor 'Frank' Grimes
1846: Parents Francis Patrick Grimes marries May O'Brien in Cincinnati, Ohio.
1846: Son Franklin Grosvenor Grimes born.
1850: Francis Grimes contracts syphilis rom a local prostitute and infects his wife.
1851-57: May Grimes suffers several miscarriages due to congenital Syphilis.
1858: The couple's final child is born blind but survives.
1860: Francis and May die within three months of each other.
1866: After being passed around extended family, a place is found for Frances at the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind at 34th Street and Ninth Avenue in Manhattan where she was taught 'New York Point' reading by its creator, William Bell Wait.
1873: At age 15, her brother Frank turns up to 'rescue' her and 'take care of her' and takes her to Virginia City, Nevada. She spends the next 3 years looking after Frank.
1876: After losing most of their possessions in the great fire of 1875, Frank ups sticks and moves to Kalispell, Montana. Becomes involved in various dubious endeavours. Frances tries to find honest work that she can do.
"Hello? Who is there, please?" asked Frances, raising her voice that the stranger outside might hear.
When she realised that it was the Marshall, she let him in immediately. "Is this about my brother?" she asked, in a voice that betrayed the fact that she would be surprised if it was about anything else.
“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.” - Helen Keller
Mature Content: Highly unlikely!
With: Speed Guyer Location: Rented apartment above the Hardware Store. When: July 1876 Time of Day: Afternoon.
Had she sight and the wherewithal to do so, Frances would have provided a hot cooked feast for her brother to come home to. Not because he deserved it (many would say) or because it was her sisterly duty (she had only known him, what? three years this Fall, he was not a person she had grown up with, he hardly felt like a brother to the blind girl, although people told her that there was a strong family resemblance). She would have done it because she would have been able to. This new place took some getting used to: there was a stove, but she did not yet trust her way around enough not to set the place on fire, or herself on fire for that matter! like this poor Mr. Orr she had heard about.
So Frank would have to make do with a cold collation. Probably just as well, he was never back when he said he would be: and then he was usually drunk, often to the point of insensibility.
But lo! A creak at the bottom of the outside stair that ran up the side of the hardware store and terminated at the top to the door of the pokey little apartment the two of them rented. Not Frank, though. A heavier step. She stood, a vague feeling of apprehension kneading at the pit of her stomach. A man. A man with a purpose. She walked the route to the door. Funny, Frank was always tripping over the foot stool, kicking the small table with the aspidistra on it, knocking the antimacassar off of the back of the armchair. He seemed less able to see the furnishings of the place than she. She knew where everything was; she learned it first with her hands and her mind, but now, after a couple of weeks, her whole body knew it.
She stood by the inside of the door, the man was at the top now. He was fit, it seemed, she could not hear him breathing heavily through the crack in the door, but somehow she did not expect him to be a young man, not Hector, for instance.
Frances stood panting outside the store for a second before moving on. It had been a panic attack: the poor woman had meant well, but the horror of the idea of being a beggar had made her act rashly. She couldn't go back in, she just couldn't: but if she were fortunate enough to meet MrsPike in Kalispell, she would certainly apologise profusely: and try to explain.
Her head sank. She had been silly. But then it rose again; as it had to: she had to carry on, she had to keep walking forward. And the name, the name would be useful. It was not charity to approach a valuable contact and enquire if good honest work was available. For a blind person, a good contact name was more valuable than gold: she would certainly seek out Mrs Connolly when she got to Kalispell!
"Don't you worry one bit, Kalispell does have its share of well-dressed ladies, but for the most part the clothing is practical and well-used, you'll fit in just fine." Heck, she was the one who was going to stand out if she was wearing whatever she was going to be buying here and in San Francisco around the streets of Kalispell!
Well, the lady had just basically damned her outfit, but Frances realised that she meant well. Despite her lack of vision, she could tell the difference between a fashionable and well tailored dress and a worn, scruffy looking old thing like was wearing now; if only by report and touch. Oh well. Maybe when she had established herself in the new place she would save up enough to afford a nice new dress with a plain front and a lavish 'polonaise princess' train of ruffled material at the back: the whole trimmed with écru lace, fringe, braids, or flowers, as was now the fashion back East. Maybe this lady would be friend enough to advise her on a colour that would suit her complexion and hair.
"And really, you'll love Kalispell, there's Miss Arabella, who also plays the piano, and a wonderful school teacher, and...well, there's even a lady who drives the stage coach! I'll look you up as soon as we get back."
'Arabella'? She sounded like sophisticated young woman. A possible rival in the piano playing field, perhaps, but often it was other musicians who helped you find paying jobs, especially if they had more work than they could handle themselves. She didn't think that she would be vying for the stage driver-ette's job anytime soon though.
"It sounds wonderful!" she smiled. How wonderful to have made a friend in her new abode before she even got there, she thought. But then, it happened.
She patted the girl's hand, then pressed a gold half-eagle into her palm. "Here, this is a welcome gift. And watch out for the skunks on the trail, they can be quite inquisitive!"
A look of horror crossed the blind girl's face. "Oh, I am sorry. Thank you, but I cannot take this." she said quickly as she pushed the large coin back at Emeline, not caring whether it found the other woman's hand or clattered to the floor, and quickly turned and fled as best she could before the stranger tried again to give her charity. She would never beg. She would die before she would beg.
Oh God, the woman from Kalispell probably thought that that is what she had been angling for all along: the idea gripped at her heart like an icy hand! She had cried! That was it. She had told a 'sob story' to get money out of someone - that is how it must look. She felt for the door out of the shop, luckily she had paid for the mending in advance, or she would have looked like a thief as well as a dirty, grasping beggar.
"It's just to your right. Would you like some help?" There! An offer, but Frances' choice.
Miss Grimes flicked her stick to the right and struck the package, bending down to retrieve it. "Oh, thank you, Mrs Pike, I have it." she smiled picking up the package and feeling it over for tears. "I hope none of it is peeping out, it is some undergarments and an old dress that needed repairs. I can sew but it's a laborious process for me, and we will be on our way to Kalispell tomorrow."
She managed to bundle up everything in one arm, packages, stick, and stuck out the other to somewhere near Emeline again.
"Goodbye, I hope to see you in Kalispell when you return" she did not shy away from using the 'S' word "And I shall certainly look up Mrs Connolly at the Diner."
He took Frances' hand and gently shook it, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Grimes."
"And you, Mr. Simons." she smiled sweetly.
"If you are interested in joining the ladies group my aunt Rebecca Wentworth will be running, I can get her to send you an invitation or she can personally come to see you."
"Oh, that sounds wonderful, I shall have to see if, er..." stammered the blind girl, and Crabbe could guess why.
"And it doesn't cost anything to join, does it, Ben?" Lorenzo put in.
"It sounds absolutely wonderful Mr. Simons" said Frances, now much more firmly "Please, just an invitation, I mean, just knowing when and when your Aunt would be holding the meetings would be all I need. I shall find it with no problem. What a kind thought, thank you, Mr. Simons."
At the sound of Ben munching, she decided that she had probably outstayed her welcome at his tableside and said "I shall leave you to your repast, Mr Simons, thank you again."
She heard the kind stranger offered her condolences and Frances pulled herself together. She didn't usually cry like that, maybe it was Emeline's very kindness that had sparked her off.
"I'm sure you'll do just fine, especially with your brother's help," Emeline tried to reassure her, "and there's a fine church that has an organ that I'm certain they would let you play on Sundays." And pianos in the saloons, but she didn't mention that, as those places weren't appropriate for a lady.
"Oh, an organ!" beamed Frances, delighted "Most churches out West just seem to have an out of tune piano or a broken down old harmonium: an organ would be splendid." To be honest, her interest was as much pecuniary as religious or musical; when she and her brother had reached San Francisco after being burnt out of Virginia City, the kind proprietor of a Beer Garden on Jackson Street had allowed her to play a benefit concert on his quite newly installed Schoenstein pipe organ. The proceeds from that had kept the wolf from the door while she found more permanent work that she could do.
Frances had found it a little disturbing that the best organ in the city was in a beer garden rather than a church, but pecuniary matters had taken precedence over morals; beggars can't be choosers; and she she had received the money gladly.
At that point, Miss Eleanor returned with the packages. "Here you are, dear. Are you going to need help with these?"
"Oh, please let me feel them." Frances said, standing up and holding out her free hand to where the proprietress's voice seemed to emanate from. "I can manage those, she nodded." Actually, they were a bit of a handful with her stick as well, but she didn't want to be offered help carrying them where she would then be obliged to give a tip.
She immediately dropped one of the light, but awkward shaped packages on the floor and bent to feel down to the ground for it. Luckily, she didn't have tight corsets on.
"He was my employee," Emeline chuckled, "when he wasn't working at his job as a deputy. And I've no doubt there is a fine man who will take care of you, although you seem to be pretty self-sufficient, and once you are settled in your own home, you'll do well." After all, once she learned her way around an area that didn't change, it should be fairly easy to find her function.
Frances was surprised to hear that the lady's husband was a Sheriff or Marshall's Deputy, an important and responsible, if not always respected, office, but also a menial dish-washer under his wife's thrall. Mrs Pike must really wear the pants in that relationship, she supposed. Frances, to be fair, had rather conservative and conventional views on marriage: an institution that she had taught about, more than actually experienced in practice, due to her upbringing in a special school for the blind.
She expressed her hope that the two of them might be friends in the future.
Returning the girl's squeeze, Emeline smiled. "I'm the one who is lucky, I think. I had no plan to marry again, but then he came into my life...sometimes these things just happen without you knowing it until you do."[/i] The best kind of love, she supposed, when you were friends and it took time to realize you were more.
"Then I must be an incurable romantic, for I hope to be quite swept off my feet by a 'tall dark handsome stranger'" she admitted, a little giddily. Gosh, why was she saying all this to a someone she had only just met? Probably because the kind-sounding lady in the dress shop was the first interested ear she had met with in quite some time.
"And I'm certain we'll be great friends, I look forward to it." By the time they were back in Kalispell, Miss Frances and her brother should be well-settled. "Tell me about Virginia City, is it a nice place?"
"Oh. Mrs Pike, it is a terrible, sinful place: as are all such mining cities that are founded by those who seek riches above all else, including decent moral Christian conduct. When the whole town burnt down last year, we moved our belongings to the church, hoping that it would be protected above all other buildings: but the evil men in charge of the fire-fighting turned all their attention to saving their precious lucre-belching mine shafts!" Her demeanour suddenly turned from righteous anger to a sort of despairing sag.
"All our possessions were destroyed: my clothes, the musical instruments I depended upon to earn our keep, and my precious, irreplaceable embossed books: the only ones I can read. Oh, oh Mrs Pike, my entire life was destroyed that day!" she sighed and the poor little blind girl, her shoulders heaving, dissolved in unstoppable, salty, sightless tears.
Ben smiled, "Don't worry. With my aunt running the group you can be sure that everything will be above board."
"Jesus, that sounds boring!" shrugged Crabbe.
He took a sip of his coffee before going on, "Now, what I plan is it for to be a theatrical group. That debacle with the tabloid those young ladies tried at that meeting is a prime example why they need some guidance, especially where deportment is concerned. I am sure that your Bridget, will benefit greatly from learning such things from a lady."
Lorenzo frowned, then remembered Arabella rabbiting on about some lame Tableaux Vivant that she and Bridge and her pretty minx of a friend, Miriam Kaufmann, had put on, under the auspices of that snooty little Anæsthsia Orr. According to Arabella, it had been the greatest thing of its kind ever unveiled to the General Public: although when she mentioned that her knock-kneed legs had been on show, he immediately downgraded the spectacle in his mind. According to Ben, he had been right to.
Another grin appeared on his face, "Besides, I think that you'll agree that if Miss Bridget is seen as a respectable and accomplished young lady, you will be able to find her a suitable husband more easily."
Crabbe nodded. "Well, I might have a sucker lined up there, but Hell, yeah, why not? Long as it don't cost me nothing."
Both men shut up then, each hoping to avoid detection, as Frank Grimes' sister came noisily in, clacking that damn stick all about.
Stepping into the dining room once more Clara spotted what was obviously the blind girl alright although wearing a blindfold instead of dark glasses. Well, it wasn't like Clara had any experience with blind people anyhow. But she was certainly not terrified of one, instead more sympathetic. Poor thing.
"Good day, miss and welcome to the Lick Skittle Diner. Are you here for something to eat, drink, or both?" she started as she got closer.
"Please take my hand, I can't see yours." Frances said, holding out hers straight in front of her.
"I can guide you to a table if you wish? My name is Clara."
"Thank you, Clara. My name's Frances, Frances Grimes, I was hoping..." her stick whacked Crabbe on the ankle bone and the man let out an inadvertent "Ow!!"
"Oh, Mr Crabbe! Is that you? Have you seen my brother? Oh, and also he says you owe him some money." the blind girl said, quite forthrightly turning her head as Clara guided her.
Crabbe mouthed a curse, not because he did owe Frank Grimes money but because he'd paid him already and the skunk was obviously holding out on his sister.
"Frank's outta town. He won't be back until nightfall, he'll get paid tomorrow." it was easier to lie than cause a family row. "But, er, let me stand you breakfast, Franny." he offered, nodding to Clara that he would foot the blind girl's bill. He thought to change the subject quick.
"Frances!" she corrected him, coldly.
"Say, er, Frances, you're a lady ain't ya?"
"I hope so!" Again, there was little warmth in her voice for Lorenzo Crabbe.
"Well, I'm sitting here with a feller called Ben Simons and his aunt's starting up a kinda group for young ladies in town, you be interested in something like that?" he asked.
Frances, only just sat down, immediately stood up again and, swishing her stick in front of her to the peril of Lorenzo's still throbbing ankle, moved over to them, sticking out a hand miles away from Ben.
"Mr Simons, the theatre manager?!" she beamed (word sure had gotten around fast) "How wonderful to meet you, Sir."
Crabbe was aware of Clara left dangling. "Just get her the same as us!" he half-whispered to the pregnant diner manager.
"Mr. Crabbe? I've heard of him, yes, but I'm afraid I don't know him personally. I own a cafe there, and he's been in a time or two, but he's pretty new to the town." She wished she could be of more help.
"Oh dear." Frances sighed "He does sound like the sort of feckless, drifting person that Frank associates with. I fear that this will be Virginia City all over again."
"Oh, and I'm Emeline Pike. I'm certain you'll find some sort of employ there. You can even speak to the young lady running the cafe, Clara Connolly, she could likely use help with the dished and such."
"Oh, really?" the blind girl exclaimed with excitement. It was hardly the sort of work she desired, of course, but she would do anything short of begging to keep the pair of them fed and sheltered: although Frank had often suggested that she could make him them a hat-full of dollars by 'sittin' dressed in rags with a sign sayin' pity the poor blind and lettin' 'em see them horrible crazy eyes rollin' around in your head!'
"I shall remember the name: Clara Connolly, Clara Connolly. I shall certainly look her up when I arrive, and send greeting from Mrs Pike!" she smiled. She repeated the names to remember them, for a memorandum tablet was of no use to her.
She chuckled, "You see, my husband, Barnabas, was our dishwasher, and here I've stolen him away for a honeymoon!"
"Oh, Mrs Pike, when I get married, my poor husband will have enough to do looking after me: I don't think I could bear to make him wash the dishes, too." she smiled and squeezed Emeline's hand, which she still had hold of. You could do that with another woman; with a man, he might get the wrong idea. One day she would meet a man, though, she was sure, whom she would want to get that idea, but it hadn't happened yet.
"Mr Pike must be a wonderful gentleman, and very lucky one, too, in his choice of bride. You see, I have learned to judge people very quickly by their voice and the feel of their hands; I know it sounds mad! But I have never found myself to be wrong: and there is such a warm sunny tone to your voice, Mrs Pike, and such a gentleness to your grip: I hope we can become fast friends when you return to Kalispell."
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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