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Summary

Fever, 1793 Chapter 6 Summary Page 1

August 30th, 1793

  • Matilda is outside washing clothes in the hot, hot heat as Grandfather and Silas (the cat) look on.
  • She remembers winter longingly, specifically ice skating with the Benson and Peale families (and, even more specifically, ice skating with one Nathaniel Benson).
  • Speaking of that charming man, Grandfather inquires after Nathaniel. Word has gotten around that he was harassing Matilda in the marketplace.
  • Matilda defends Nathaniel, saying he acted like a gentleman; to this, Grandfather replies that Nathaniel should find himself a better apprenticeship. Fair enough.
  • Silas provides some comic relief by (unsuccessfully) chasing a squirrel around the garden.
  • After the washing is all done, it's time for the midday meal: "Cold chicken, crisp pickles, butter biscuits, and peach pie were laid out on the table" (6.26). We'll take seconds.
  • Over lunch, the family discusses what to do with their extra earnings. Grandfather wants to go into trade and open a regular store.
  • Mattie, ever the businesswoman, suggests buying another coffee urn and expanding the business to include meal service and meeting rooms. As an ardent Francophile, she'd also like to sell trinkets and baubles from France.
  • Mother puts an end to speculation by saying that the increase in business is temporary and is only due to the fear of fever.
  • Grandfather comments that the fever was brought in by refugees and argues that they should be quarantined.
  • Mother suggests going to the country, but Grandfather protests: "We Cooks are made of stronger stuff!" (6.40)
  • A knock at the door brings a message. It's an invitation from the rich Pernilla Ogilvie. She'd like Matilda and her mother to come over for tea.
  • Mother is excited because she sees a potential match for Matilda with Pernilla's son, Edward. Matilda, however, protests since the family is a bunch of snobs (and Edward is not Nathaniel Benson). Eventually, though, she agrees to go.
  • Matilda and her mother have no new or fancy clothes, so Matilda wears an older dress with the side seams let out; Mother puts on an old stained ivory dress last seen around the time of the Revolutionary War.
  • Matilda lets Eliza brush her hair, but draws the line when it comes to curling. She wants it left straight.
  • As Matilda is being dressed, the conversation turns to the marriage market and Edward Ogilvie. Matilda violently objects to the idea. "You make it sound like I'm one of Mrs. Epler's chickens, ready for the market!" (6.86).
  • Mother doesn't push the subject too far, but does mention that she doesn't want Mattie to become "another miserable spinster" (6.93). Ouch.
  • Matilda maintains that Mother runs the coffeehouse just fine without a husband – and she can too.
  • Eventually, she's all dolled up and ready to go, "tightened, pinned, and locked" into her clothes (6.95).
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