Matilda is in shock that Polly, her former playmate and "cradle friend," is totally gone (3.2).
Matilda's mother explains to both Matilda and Eliza that there was no doctor present at Polly's death. The girl had simply taken a fever and then died in bed. Mother mentions that a man living across the alley is also sick.
Matilda closes her eyes and imagines Polly as she was: happy, and with her beau Matthew.
Eliza suggests that Mattie (Matilda's nickname) take a ham over to the grieving family, but Mother doesn't want her to get exposed to the sickness.
Matilda's mother also forbids her from attending the funeral. Mattie is angered by this and lashes out. She's then made to apologize to her mother, "the captain I had to obey" (3.25).