Chapters 7-8 Summary
At the Oglivie mansion, Mattie and her mother are escorted to "a drawing room as large as the entire first floor of the coffee shop" by a maid. After a short time Penilla Oglivie "sails" in, complaining that the summer has been the "worst of [her] life" and declaring that she is counting on her visitors to "lighten [her] mood."
Mrs. Oglivie's outfit glimmers with richness in contrast to the old clothes Mother has pieced together for herself and Mattie. The house itself exudes opulence; the fixtures and furnishings are lavish and expensive.
Colette and Jeannine, the two Oglivie daughters, join the gathering. Colette, the older of the two, is pale and has dark rings under her eyes; Jeannine's cheeks "[shine] pink and chubby as a baby pig's."
The younger sister takes an instant dislike to Mattie and surreptitiously makes sure that the delicate desserts served remain out of the reach of her visitor. When Mattie's mother, determined to find a future marriage partner for her daughter in the well-heeled household, indelicately persists in trying to turn the conversation to the subject of the Oglivie sons, Jeannine perceives her intent.
When it is clear that Penilla Oglivie, who is prattling on about the "gross injustice" that her plans for summer partying are being ruined "because the lower class [is falling] ill," does not share her daughter's insight, Jeannine rudely exclaims, "Mama, must you be so thick-headed? Mrs. Cook is asking if you might consider Miss Cook as a wife for one of our brothers."
At that point Colette, who is obviously ill, crumples to the floor in a faint. While Mrs. Oglivie shrieks, Mother goes over and lays her hand against the stricken girl's forehead. Colette is burning with fever.
The church bells toll incessantly from that day as scores of Philadelphia's denizens succumb to the mysterious...
(The entire section is 664 words.)