Francie is now aged 13, in Chapter Thirty, and has had her first work published. This is a composition entitled ‘Winter Time’ and it appears in her school magazine.
There is then a shift in the narrative when Francie sees her young neighbor, Joanna, who has had an illegitimate baby. Katie has said, ‘let her be lesson to you’, but Francie does not understand the point that her mother is making. The other women in the area talk about Joanna in negative terms, but Francie believes this baby is more cared for than their children are. Francie hears a local woman taunting Joanna by calling her a whore and throwing a stone at her. Other women join in and also throw stones and one hits the baby accidentally. Francie feels guilty as she did not smile at Joanna earlier and leaves the school magazine (which includes her story) inside the baby’s pram as a form of penance. Whilst crying about Joanna, Francie begins to menstruate for the first time. From this point onwards, Francie hates women because of their judgement of Joanna.
The introduction to Chapter Thirty One points out that in the year Francie turns 13 war breaks out in Europe. Willie is kicked unconscious by his horse, Drummer and Evy has to drive the wagon back to the stable. She covers for him whilst he is in hospital. She is the first woman to deliver milk in that area, and this is only allowed because she works in the dark. Drummer falls in love with her as she treats him with kindness. When Willie returns to work, Drummer refuses to leave the stable. Drummer will only work with an effeminate man.
Chapter Thirty Two concentrates on Francie’s diary of that year and she often records that her father is sick. She uses the word sick as a substitute for drunk. She has worked in the summer and her mother is cleaning for Mrs McGarrity. Her husband owns the saloon that Johnny frequents. In her last diary entry, Francie says she is curious about sex.
Chapter Thirty Three continues with an exploration of how the curiosity about sex is prevalent among the young, as their parents do not know how to discuss it. Francie is lucky as Katie explains the facts of life as best as she is able.
It is not until the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl that parents begin to explain sex in more detail and warn their children to stay away from strangers. Johnny is so worried he borrows a gun.
A man waiting in the hallway of their building attacks Francie and Katie shoots him in his exposed genitals. After he is taken away, it transpires that Katie did not kill him, and he confessed to the rape and murder of the seven year old and to two other crimes. Sergeant McShane comes to see Katie and gives her money that the police collected between them as a reward for catching the murderer. She refuses to take it, but it is clear that they like each other and are considering each other for marriage if their respective spouses die.
Within these chapters, there is a mixture of serious comment combined with the light-hearted story of Evy and the horse Drummer. This combination of different types of tales typifies this novel’s movement between episodes of poignancy and humour.
The narratives concerning the treatment of Joanna by the local women and then Francie’s attack by a stranger serve to counterbalance the overly sentimental nature of this novel. With the tale of Joanna and her illegitimate baby in particular, Smith is careful to demonstrate that tales of this era and area are not always life-affirming. The local women are seen to enforce the restrictions placed on their gender in a patriarchal society. It is the women, rather than the men, in this instance who keep other women subjugated and ill at ease.