Matilda is woken up in the morning by Silas the cat lapping at her cheek. That, though, is no surprise compared with what she sees on the ground: frost!
Eliza stumbles outside and she and Matilda laugh and jump for joy, celebrating the coming of the cold weather. They bring the children outside to cool them down.
A messenger from Joseph soon arrives with more food. The farmers are back in town, thanks to the frost, and prices are dropping.
Eliza and Matilda move all of the furniture in the house outdoors so that the next night's frost will sterilize everything.
Joseph arrives the next day with news that the market has officially reopened. Joy! Matilda heads there to see if she can hear any gossip.
At the market, the stalls are overflowing and food is everywhere, not to mention the talk and the noise and the laughter.
Matilda runs into Mrs. Epler, the gossipy German egg seller, who generously gives her two fat hens. Mrs. Epler inquires after Matilda's mother, and Matilda tells her that she's missing. Mrs. Epler promises to ask around for her.
Matilda picks up vegetables and hard candy – "for the children," of course (26.53). Yeah, right.
Suddenly someone puts a hand on Matilda's elbow. Guess who? That's right. Nathaniel Benson. (Swoon!)
The two lovebirds exchange pleasantries and smile at each other like goons. Nathaniel offers to walk her home. On the way, he tells Matilda about the activities at the Peale house – how the family survived by eating Mr. Peale's taxidermy specimens. Gross!
In front of the coffee house, Nathaniel snatches an apple from Matilda's basket and tells her that, though things have changed in the city, some things never will: he'll "always snatch apples" from her basket (26.87). Aww. Cue the hearts and flowers.
Nathaniel predicts Matilda's mother will be home soon. The two say good-bye, and Matilda's thoughts turn to her mother.