Summary: Chapter Twenty-Nine: November 10th, 1793

Matilda runs to greet Mother. Mother introduces Matilda to her companion, Mrs. Ludington. Matilda learns that after Mother began to recover from the fever, she went to join Matilda and Grandfather at the Ludingtons’. When Mother found that Matilda and Grandfather were not there, she tried to find them herself and became even more ill. Mother recovered at the Ludingtons’ farm until they heard that President Washington was returning to Philadelphia. Matilda reveals that Grandfather died. Mrs. Ludington tells Matilda that Mother must rest from now on as the fever weakened her heart, and then she departs. Matilda explains in more detail to Mother how Grandfather died. She then helps Mother upstairs to bed. 

Summary: Epilogue: December 11th, 1793

A month has passed since Mother’s return. Matilda is the first one up in the morning to begin the work of the day. Matilda drinks a cup of coffee while watching the street from the front step, marveling at how the epidemic of yellow fever seems like a distant dream.

Analysis: Chapter Twenty-Nine & Epilogue

The final chapter and epilogue reveal that the epidemic has totally transformed both Matilda and Lucille. At the beginning of the story, Matilda longs for freedom, but she learns that freedom requires responsibility. Matilda perceived freedom as leaving her family, but she realizes that there is freedom in choosing to be tied to a home and people she loves. While Matilda had to mature immensely in a short time, so did her mother. Yellow fever rendered Lucille elderly and frail. Matilda has completely reversed roles with Lucille, becoming her caretaker, and although it upsets Matilda, she knows she has the strength to thrive in this role. The story ends much the same way it began: Silas catches a mouse and Matilda wakes in her bedroom and daydreams of Blanchard’s balloon. However, Matilda’s new world stands in stark contrast to what it was. On an icy winter morning, Lucille sleeps in while Matilda starts the day at the coffeehouse. The sun rises and reminds her of Blanchard’s balloon, but instead of a symbol of escape, Matilda now sees it as the promise of a new day in the life she has built for herself.