Summary: Chapter Twenty-Six: October 23rd, 1793

Matilda wakes up the next morning in the garden to see the ground covered in frost. She goes inside and wakes up Eliza, and they celebrate the cold weather that they believe will destroy the fever. Matilda and Eliza then bring the children outside to help cool them down. The children begin to feel better as their fevers break and they are able to eat. With the arrival of frost, the market has reopened, and Matilda goes there to see if anyone has heard about Mother. She questions all of the vendors about Mother, but no one has seen or heard anything about her. Matilda runs into Nathaniel, and he walks her home while they talk about their experiences during the outbreak. Nathaniel assures Matilda that Mother will be home any day, but Matilda remains worried.

Summary: Chapter Twenty-Seven: October 30th, 1793

Residents come back to the city now that the yellow fever outbreak is over, and Nathaniel visits Matilda at the coffeehouse every day. Matilda and Eliza cook dinner on Thanksgiving and eat with Joseph and his sons, Nell, Mother Smith, and Nathaniel. Joseph advises Matilda to sell the coffeehouse, assuming she cannot manage it on her own, but Matilda explains that she plans to reopen the coffeehouse the next day. She asks Eliza to be her partner in running the coffeehouse, and Eliza gladly accepts the role. 

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

Matilda serves customers in the coffeehouse while Eliza cooks. Nathaniel arrives with the news that President Washington has returned to Philadelphia, and everyone runs outside to catch a glimpse of him. After they see President Washington ride by, a carriage pulls up to the coffeehouse, and Mother steps out.

Analysis: Chapters 26–28

As Joseph arrives to help with the sick children, Matilda realizes that she has nobly earned her adult status. From little decisions like going to the market to big decisions like taking over the coffeehouse, Matilda has adjusted to her freedom and managed her responsibilities. As normalcy returns to Philadelphia, only she and Eliza are left to rebuild the coffeeshop. Matilda searches her reflection at this point and feels confident in her abilities, having inherited the strength and resolve of Lucille and Grandfather. Matilda, like many trauma survivors, still embodies the lingering pain of the epidemic. She feels triggered when those who fled from the worst of the epidemic return as though nothing happened. However, Matilda chooses to focus on her own path and proves an innovative business owner when she begins to act on her creative plans from before the epidemic, signaling her transition to adulthood.

Frost and cold signify the end of the epidemic, and flowers and plants symbolize new life after the epidemic. Chapter 25 ends with Matilda shivering as she falls asleep, foreshadowing the frost she awakens to the next day, an indicator that the epidemic is almost over. Just as Eliza and others had hoped throughout the book, deaths from yellow fever decrease when frost arrives. Matilda describes Philadelphia after the epidemic as a wilted flower blooming again. Plants that survive damage serve as a symbol of optimism, hope, and the chance for new beginnings among the rubble, a nod to the circle of life that continuously takes from humanity but also gives back. From the vegetables Matilda finds in her destroyed garden to the flowers Nathaniel showers down on her from a window and also paints for her, all vegetation is a sign that new ideas and phases of life are always ahead. Even in our most difficult times, there is a seed hope inside of us.