Upon recovering from the yellow fever at Bush Hill, Matilda and her grandfather return to the Cook Coffeehouse, the business run by her family in the heart of Philadelphia. They discover a yellow piece of fabric tied to the handle of the front door. This yellow fabric is understood in the community as the symbol that someone within the residence has contracted yellow fever. Before Mattie and her grandfather left the city in an effort to escape the epidemic, Mattie's mother had been recovering from yellow fever above the coffeeshop, where Mattie and her family resided. Upon their return, however, her mother is nowhere to be found. Additionally, the coffeehouse has been ravaged by thieves and looters, but the upstairs has remained untouched.