Fever, 1793 Chapter 23 Summary
September 28th, 1793
- Matilda wakes the next morning to find that Nell has wet the bed. Eliza suggests she wash the bedding (and the twins' sheets too), which Matilda does in the courtyard while the children watch.
- While Eliza goes out to care for the sick, Mother Smith comes to care for the children. The tough old woman makes Matilda rewash the dishes and beat the rugs like crazy. Matilda thinks Mother Smith would get along with Lucille pretty darn well.
- Before she leaves in the evening, Mother Smith warns Matilda not to start loving Nell. It would be cruel and hard for everyone. Though she hates the idea, Matilda realizes that Mother Smith is right.
- The next day, Matilda and Eliza take Nell to the orphan house. The woman who answers the door is completely swamped with children.
- The woman tells Matilda that the orphan house is better than the street, but asks if there's maybe someone who could keep Nell for the time being. The orphan house has become, in her words, "the house of last resort" (23.44).
- Matilda, with Eliza's approval, decides to keep Nell with her. She's so happy she wants to dance.
- On the way home, Eliza tells Matilda gossip about the Ogilvie family: the daughter Colette did indeed come down with fever, but she recovered. Great, right? Well, no. Unfortunately, her mother found out that she eloped with "Loueey!" her French tutor (23.62). Talk about a scandal. Matilda can't help but chuckle.
- Nell stoops to pick up a flower, and Matilda notices daisies falling on the sidewalk from a second-story window. Matilda realizes that it's the painter Mr. Peale's house – the house where Nathaniel Benson is apprenticed! Could it be? Is it he?
- Something crashes inside the house and the flowers stop falling. They all move down the street, Matilda's heart happy over the thought of Nathaniel sending her even more flowers.
- Back home, Eliza becomes an official part of the family. Mother Smith moves on to help a family of eight that had just lost their mother, so Mattie is to help out at home – and at the Free African Society where Eliza works.