In the present day July, Mattie creeps down the front stairs of the hotel at midnight to avoid waking Cook. She's making her way to the cellar to burn Grace Brown's letters but finds the cellar door locked.
With no solution to get rid of the letters, Mattie tells herself to head upstairs, but instead her feet take her into the room where Grace Brown's body is laid out.
As she feels sorry for Grace, Mattie wonders why Carl Grahm took a suitcase and tennis racket rowing.
And then Mattie's curiosity about Grace's story gets the best of her, so she takes out the letters from her pocket and opens the first one to read it.
In the first letter, Grace talks about her worry for her ill sister and Mattie thinks nothing of it, but then she reads Grace's words pleading for Chester to come to her and write to her.
Mattie wants to fill in the gaps of Grace's story and she feels like the "ice is breaking all around" her (15.23).