Chapters 11-12 Summary

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Chapter 11

The passengers are tormented by hoards of mosquitoes as the half-starved horse pulls the wagon laboriously out of the city. Mattie makes a wry joke, and Grandfather's laughter brings on a coughing spell of such severity that his face reddens alarmingly.

The old man quickly recovers, however, and begins to drill his granddaughter on "soldiering lessons" to help pass the time. After Mattie dutifully and accurately answers his question about "three things [a soldier] needs to fight," he settles back for a nap and Mattie rests against her beloved grandfather's chest, lulled by the rhythmic beating of his heart.

A short time later, four horsemen armed with muskets stop the travelers. The wagon is approaching the city of Pembroke, and the men, one of whom is a doctor, have been commissioned to make sure that anyone who is sick is denied entry into the town.

Grandfather, who is still sleeping, breaks into another uncontrollable coughing fit upon being awakened. The doctor declares that the old man is "infected with disease" and orders him to return to Philadelphia, but the farmer who is driving the vehicle protests heatedly. He unceremoniously throws the offending gentleman and Mattie out of his wagon, abandoning them on the side of the road so that he and his family might be allowed to continue on their way.

Chapter 12

Grandfather and Mattie have no other option but to head back to Philadelphia on foot. It is not long before Grandfather becomes ill again and is forced to stop for a while in the shade of a nearby chestnut tree.

While the old man rests, Mattie, fighting off panic, forces herself to evaluate their situation. They are at least ten miles from the city and have no food, water, or extra clothing. Mattie can only hope that Grandfather's malaise stems only from a simple summer grippe. After making sure that he is sleeping comfortably, she sets out to address their immediate needs. 

Using an "old soldier's trick" taught to her from the cradle by Grandfather, Mattie walks to the highest point of land in the vicinity and scans the horizon. She spots a line of willow trees, which she recognizes as evidence that water is near; sure enough, when she goes over to investigate, she discovers a stream that is sweet and clear.

After washing her face and drinking until she is satisfied, Mattie spots a row of raspberry bushes on the far bank. She fills Grandfather's canteen with fresh water and loads her overskirt with berries, then triumphantly rushes back to the chestnut tree to awaken her grandfather.

Mattie notices with relief that Grandfather's eyes, although bloodshot, are not the tell-tale yellow of the fever. The old man asks her to sit close to him, and the two share the water and raspberries.

Grandfather, although lucid, is uncharacteristically subdued. He says that he is "an old fool" and expresses concern for his granddaughter's future. Grandfather seems to rally for a moment, declaring with a semblance of his usual vitality that the two of them must "form [their] battle plans," but although Mattie waits anxiously for further words of advice, they do not come.

For the first time in her life, Grandfather waits for her to decide what to do; when Mattie finally suggests that they "move camp tomorrow," he meekly replies, "Whatever you say, Captain."

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Chapters 9-10 Summary


Chapters 13-14 Summary