Fever, 1793 Chapter 4 Summary
August 16th, 1793
- By noon, the coffeehouse is packed with customers. One of them is Mattie's grandfather, Captain William Farnsworth Cook, a feisty old soldier who served under George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
- Grandfather is hanging out with King George (as in, his parrot), a businessman named Mr. Carris, and a lawyer.
- Mr. Carris teases Mattie that she'll have to find a husband soon. (She's so not amused by this.)
- The men are discussing the fever breaking out in the city. Mr. Carris believes it's caused by a "deadly miasma" – the foul stench from a bunch of rotting coffee beans down at the docks (4.11).
- The lawyer says that he's heard stories of a fever breaking out among the refugees down by Ball's Wharf.
- A doctor sitting nearby pipes up and says that the fever isn't just striking the refugees. There may be a new epidemic in town: yellow fever. The room grows quiet.
- The doctor says that it's too early to say yet if the fever is indeed an epidemic, but that some folks in the city are taking precautions by sending women and children to the country where the air is cool and healthy. Grandfather scoffs at this.
- The day proceeds and Matilda does her own work (figuring the bills, keeping the accounts), as well as the late Polly's tasks (washing, sweep, dusting).
- Matilda goes to help her mother put away the clean china, but her mother replies, "Polly will do it in the morning" (4.35). She stops and realizes that Polly is, of course, dead. Sigh.
- Matilda wonders if anyone has told Matthew.