After yellow fever strikes and kills Polly, the family's serving girl, Mattie has the following daily routine. She gets up in the morning in her room above the Cook Coffeehouse and comes down to the shop. She eats breakfast and has to do chores around the house until it is lunchtime. Then, in the afternoon, she works in the coffee shop, serving coffee and carrying heavy trays of food. In the evenings, there is more cleaning after supper. As she puts it, "I slaved from dawn until the stars shone."
Part of this extra workload is due to increased business in the coffee shop. The fever means that people are avoiding the shops by the river and coming to High Street, where Cook's Coffeehouse is located, because the air seems healthier.
This heavier routine of work lasts for eight days. Then, Mattie gets to do the shopping at the market. After that, she is back to a backbreaking pace of work, washing tablecloths and running them through the mangle.
Mattie's increased workload reflects the effect of Polly's death, but it also reflects how labor-intensive life was in the 1790s. Everyone needs to pitch in fully to keep the coffee shop running.