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Our narrator awakes on a hot and sweaty morning in August 1793. A mosquito is buzzing in one of her ears and someone is screeching in the other.
The narrator's mother is demanding that she, a young girl named Matilda, get out of bed. Someone named Polly, the mother tells us, is running late.
Matilda, we learn, lives in a not very large room above a coffeehouse in Philadelphia.
Matilda's mother again urges her to get out of bed with the classic line: "When I was a girl, we were up before the sun…" (1.6). (Sound familiar? It does to us.)
Matilda has apparently heard this one before. Her mother was a perfect child who grew up during the American Revolutionary War. She was a hard worker who stitched quilts and spun wool all before breakfast. Matilda's thoughts on this? "How utterly unlike me" (1.7).
Matilda snuggles back down into her bed and imagines herself floating away like the famous Pierre Blanchard's hot air balloon. ("For more on Blanchard, see: Symbols, Imagery, Allegory: Blanchard's Hot Air Balloon.")
Eventually, Matilda gets out of bed and hits her head on the ceiling. (A nocturnal growth spurt?) She decides to forgo washing up.
Matilda watches her cat Silas pounce on a mouse and nearly drop his breakfast onto her mother's best quilt. Matilda manages to shoo the cat away.
Matilda gets dressed and realizes that she's starting to outgrow her clothes.
She then takes the dead mouse carcass and considers throwing it out the front window.
Leaning out the window, Matilda surveys Philadelphia, her city: "Below the window, High Street teemed with horsemen, carriages and carts" (1.25).
The sound of the blacksmith's anvil reminds her of Polly, the serving girl who's running late. Matilda assumes Polly must be visiting her beau, Matthew, who is the blacksmith's son.
Matilda tells us that her favorite place in the city is the waterfront, with the docks and the ship masts and such.
She again imagines floating free like Pierre Blanchard's hot air balloon. (For more, see: "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory: Blanchard's Hot Air Balloon.")
Matilda mentions Nathaniel Benson, a boy who has heard her talk about Blanchard's hot air balloon. She sometimes sees him down at the docks where he sketches the ships or the sea birds.
Matilda stops herself from throwing the mouse corpse out the front window. She instead flings the dead creature out the back window overlooking the garden so that Silas can find his morning breakfast.