Chapters 13-14 Summary
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 813
Two days later, Grandfather and Mattie are still stranded in the vicinity of the stream, subsisting on a meager diet of berries and water. Mattie knows that her grandfather needs a doctor, but she has no idea how to get him to one.
As the minutes pass, she grows increasingly frightened and discouraged. After bathing in the stream that day, Mattie fashions a makeshift net out of her petticoat and tries to catch some fish, but her attempt is futile.
Grandfather exhibits symptoms of a bad cold, and although the weather is stifling, he shivers and complains that he is cold. Mattie is afraid to leave him alone, but he convinces her to go off in search of help.
After walking for awhile under the blazing sun, Mattie comes upon a man hoeing in a field of potatoes. Fearing that she is infected with the fever, he runs from her and locks himself in his house. As she continues on, the young girl becomes weak and lightheaded; she contributes her condition to the fact that she has had nothing but a few raspberries to eat for two days.
Proceeding aimlessly along a narrow road, Mattie comes upon a pear tree, and after devouring one of the juicy fruits to take the edge off her own hunger, she gathers as many as she can carry and hurries back to Grandfather.
As she stumbles along, she finds that she is suddenly disoriented; her teeth begin to chatter, and she wonders vaguely what is wrong with her. The chestnut tree is within sight, and she tries to call out to the figure she sees standing under it, but she is overcome by a roaring sound in her head followed by blackness.
Mattie lies in a feverish delirium for the better part of a week. In the brief moments of clarity she experiences among a never-ending series of grotesque dreams, she hears moans coming from both sides of her and the distant sound of hammers and saws.
When her fever breaks and she finally comes to her senses, she finds that she is lying in a bed beneath bedclothes soaked with sweat, blood, and "the foul-smelling black substance that mark[s] a victim of yellow fever." In the bed next to her is a slight figure covered completely with a sheet. Two orderlies speaking quietly in French come over and carry the corpse away as Mattie slips back into exhausted sleep.
When she awakens again, Mattie is able to survey her surroundings more thoroughly. The room in which she lies reminds her of the Oglivie mansion with its flowing draperies and expensive chandelier.
A large woman who jocularly introduces herself as Mrs. Flagg comes over to her bedside and observes that her patient is doing much better. The worst is over, and Mattie will survive; now she needs to eat and regain her strength so that she may go "home to [her] loved ones."
Mrs. Flagg tells Mattie that her grandfather has been waiting "this whole time" for her to get well. The old man had somehow managed to carry her all the way to Bush Hill, where the city had converted this mansion into a hospital for fever victims.
At first the operation had been little more than a holding tank for the dead and dying, with thieves and criminals running rampant, preying on the weak. Fortunately, a wealthy Frenchman named Stephen Girard had stepped in and turned the place into "a right proper hospital," placing it under the capable direction of a French officer, Dr. Jean Deveze.
In contrast to the esteemed American, Dr. Rush, who utilizes the arguably barbaric processes of purging and blood letting to rid the body of toxins, Dr. Deveze and his followers advocate a gentler approach focusing on rest, fresh air, and fluids as the essential elements in fighting the fever.
When Grandfather comes into the sickroom, straight and handsome in his soldier's uniform, Mattie is overcome with relief. Although he admits that his heart had been giving him trouble of late, the old man appears to be fully recovered, and it is clear that Mrs. Flagg is smitten with his dapper ways.
Grandfather tells Mattie that once she had been admitted to the hospital, he had gone into the city and found the coffeehouse locked up and empty. He assumes that Mother has recovered and has gone out to the Ludingtons' place, where she has every reason to believe that Grandfather and Mattie are waiting for her.
Grandfather has sent a letter to Mother in care of the Ludingtons, but Mrs. Flagg points out that there may not be a response from her for awhile as "the post has become most unreliable."
As Mattie, still weak, drifts off to sleep again, Grandfather pats her head and Mrs. Flagg reassures her that "everything is right with the world."