The significant events occur within a four-month period during which the characters of this once-thriving town are changed forever. The story begins with Mattie waking to a mosquito whining in one ear and her mother hollering in the other.

Mattie lives in a room above the family coffee house. It is August and the relentless heat pours into the modest bedchamber. Struggling to awaken to begin her chores, Mattie typifies the life of a teen. She struggles with her desire to do the right thing and her need to have some fun. She finds her mother annoying and dreams of the day when she can slip free of family restrictions. Mattie thinks of her friend, Nathaniel Benson, who understands her dreams.

Anderson effectively puts readers in the hubbub of the nation's capital, Philadelphia. She describes the hustle and bustle of the city, with its horsemen, carriages, and carts. A neighbor gossips as a dog barks at a pig running loose in the street. A blacksmith's hammer hits his anvil.

The author sets the topography and political climate. From Mattie's coffeehouse, she can see the rooftop of the State House where the Congress met. The coffeehouse sits two blocks away from President Washington's house. Politicians, as well as merchants and gentlemen, enjoy cups of coffee, a bite to eat, and the daily news. On a clear day, Mattie can see the masts of the ships anchored at the docks of the Delaware River. These historical and geographical details...

(The entire section is 403 words.)