a do-it-yourself MiSTing
That night Melissa let down the bridge,
David: Following John’s advice.
locked and barred the gate, and the doors and windows of the house: she also went again over all parts of the building, strictly searching every place, though she was well convinced she should find nothing extraordinary. She then retired to her chamber, seated herself at a western window,
Linda [1836 text]: At the western window.
Lucy: Another iniquitous effect of the window tax.
and watched the slow declining sun, as it leisurely sunk behind the lofty groves. Pensive twilight spread her misty mantle over the landscape; the western horizon glowed with the spangles of evening. Deepening glooms advanced. The last beam of day faded from the view, and the world was enveloped in night. The owl hooted solemnly in the forest, and the whippoorwill sung cheerfully in the garden.
Edmund [reading from typescript half concealed under the table]: If it were possible to interview the rival claimants to Alonzo and Melissa, Daniel Jackson and Isaac Mitchell, it would be easy to find out which was the author. Simply introduce the subject of whippoorwills and observe the result. The author of the work was hipped about them.
Innumerous stars glittered in the firmament, intermingling their quivering lustre with the pale splendours of the milky way.
Melissa did not retire from the window until late; she then shut it and withdrew within the room. She determined not to go to bed that night. If she was to be visited by beings, material or immaterial, she chose not again to encounter them in darkness, or to be surprised when she was asleep. But why should she fear? She knew of none she had dis—
Hugh [1804 text]: She knew of no one she had injured. She knew of none she had displeased—
Meredith: You did it again. Two consecutive sentences starting “She knew”, and then you complain when one gets misplaced.
except her father, her aunt and Beauman.
Linda: And half a dozen others whose names she can’t remember at the moment.
If by any of those the late terrifying scenes had been wrought, she had now effectually precluded a recurrence thereof, for she was well convinced that no human being could now enter the enclosure without her permission.
Lucy: Since the compound was now in exactly the same condition it had been in last night.
But if supernatural agents had been the actors, what had she to fear from them? The night passed away without any alarming circumstances, and when daylight appeared she flung herself upon the bed, and slept until the morning was considerably advanced. She now felt convinced that her former conjectures were right; that it was her aunt, her father, or both, who had caused the alarming sounds she had heard, a repetition of which had only been prevented by the precautions she had taken.
When she awoke, the horizon was overclouded, and it had begun to rain. It continued to rain until towards evening, when it cleared away.
Linda: On the off chance that someone might stop by and feel like taking a walk.
She went to the gate, and found all things as she had left them: She returned, fastened the doors as usual, examined all parts of the house, and again went ing very drowsy,
Meredith: Wake up! You missed something.
David: She . . . examined all parts of the house, and again went
ing very drowsy That’s what it says.
Lucy: Don’t look at me. I’m only a reprint.
[Hugh, Meredith and Linda share notes. Linda, who has the clearest print, reads.]
—examined all parts of the house, and again went to her chamber.
She sat up until a late hour, when growing very drowsy, and convinced that she was safe and secure, she went to bed;
Hugh [1804 text]: She concluded to go to bed.
Meredith: So did she go or just decide to go?
leaving, however, two candles burning in the room. As she, for two nights, had been deprived of her usual rest, she soon fell into a slumber.
She had not long been asleep before she was suddenly aroused by the apparent report of a pistol, seemingly discharged close to her head.
David: Give me that gun, you incompetent. I swear you couldn’t hit the side of a barn if you were inside it.
Awakened so instantaneously, her recollection, for a time, was confused and imperfect. She was only sensible of a strong, sulphureous scent: but she soon remembered that she had left two candles burning, and every object was now shrouded in darkness. This alarmed her exceedingly. What could have become of the candles? They must have been blown out or taken away. What was the sound she had just heard?—What the sulphureous stench which had pervaded the room?—While she was thus musing in perplexity, a broad flash like that of lightning, transiently illuminated her chamber, followed by a long, loud, and deep roar, which seemed to shake the building to its centre. It did not appear like thunder; the sounds seemed to be in the rooms directly over her head.
Linda [1836 text]: The sound seemed to be in the room directly over . . .
Meredith: The stage manager complained bitterly about how they expected him to perform miracles after cutting his budget in half.
Perhaps, however, it was thunder.
Perhaps a preceding clap had struck near the building, broken the windows, put out the lights, and filled the house with electric effluvium.
David: But only after rendering her temporarily deaf, so she would sleep right through it.
She listened for a repetition of the thunder—but a very different sound soon grated on her ear. A hollow, horrible groan echoed through her apartment, passing off in a faint dying murmur. It was evident that the groan proceeded from some person in the chamber. Melissa raised herself up in bed; a tall white form moved from the upper end of the room, glided slowly by her bed, and seemed to pass off near the foot. She then heard the doors below alternately open and shut, slapping furiously,
Hugh: Flapping furiously.
Lucy: Oh, come on. You’ve got long s’s.
and in quick succession, followed by violent noises in the rooms below, like the falling of heavy bodies and the crash of furniture. Clamorous voices succeeded, among which she could distinguish boisterous menaces and threatenings, and the plaintive tone of expostulation.—A momentary silence ensued,
Meredith: Followed by a burst of spontaneous applause from the New Haven Players, gathered in this isolated spot to rehearse their next production.
when the cry of “Murder! murder! murder!!” echoed through the building, followed by the report of a pistol, and shortly after, the groans of a person apparently in the agonies of death, which grew fainter and fainter until it died away in a seemingly expiring gasp. A dead silence prevailed for a few minutes, to which a loud hoarse peal of ghastly laughter succeeded—then again all was still. But she soon heard heavy footsteps ascending the stairs to her chamber door.
It was now she became terrified and alarmed beyond any former example.—“Gracious heaven, defend me!” she exclaimed; “what am I coming to!” Knowing that every avenue to the enclosure was effectually secured; knowing that all the doors and windows of the house, as also that which opened into her chamber,
Linda: Has anyone got a “those which”, plural? [Shaking of heads all around.]
Lucy: I’ll count that as nine. Methinks the author doth protest too much.
were fast locked, strictly bolted and barred; and knowing that all the keys were in her possession, she could not entertain the least doubt but the noises she had heard were produced by supernatural beings, and, she had reason to believe, of the most mischievous nature. She was now convinced that her father or her aunt could have no agency in the business. She even wished her aunt had returned. It must be exceedingly difficult to cross the moat, as the draw bridge was up;
David [rapidly leafing back]: This is probably not the time to remind Melissa that she deliberately let down the bridge before locking up the night before last.
it must be still more difficult to surpass the wall of the enclosure; it was impossible for any human being to enter the house, and still more impossible to enter her chamber.
Meredith: Um, I don’t think you can have degrees of impossibility.
While she lay thus ruminating in extreme agitation,
Linda: I can’t get the words “ruminate” and “agitation” to fit into my brain at the same time.
Lucy: Neither could Melissa. She was so busy ruminating, it never occurred to her to get out of bed and arm herself with the poker.
momentarily expecting to have her ears assailed with some terrific sound, a pale light dimly illuminated her chamber. It grew brighter. She raised herself up to look towards the door;—
the first object which met her eye, was a most horrible form, standing at a little distance from her bedside. Its appearance was tall and robust, wrapped in a tattered white robe, spotted with blood. The hair of its head was matted with clotted gore. A deep wound appeared to have pierced its breast, from which fresh blood flowed down its garment. Its pale face was gashed and gory! its eyes fixed, glazed, and glaring;—its lips open, its teeth set, and in its hand was a bloody dagger.
Melissa, uttering a shriek of terror, shrunk into the bed, and in an instant the room was involved in pitchy darkness. A freezing ague seized her limbs, and drops of chilling sweat stood upon her face. Immediately a horrid hoarse voice burst from amidst the gloom of her apartment, “Begone! begone from this house!” The bed on which she lay then seemed to be agitated,
David: Melissa has communicated her state of mind to the furniture.
and directly she perceived some person crawling on its foot.
Hugh: Crawling on to its foot.
Linda: I can’t decide which version is creepier.
Every consideration, except present safety, was relinquished; instantaneously she sprang from the bed to the floor—with convulsive grasp, seized the candle, flew to the fire and lighted it. She gazed wildly around the room—no new object was visible. With timid step she approached the bed; she strictly searched all around and under it, but nothing strange could be found. A thought darted into her mind to leave the house immediately and fly to John’s: this was easy, as the keys of the gate and draw-bridge were in her possession.
David: In surveys of prison escapees, the home of the warden consistently ranks among the most popular destinations.
She stopped not to reconsider her determination, but seizing the keys, with the candle in her hand, she unlocked her chamber door,
and proceeded cautiously down stairs, fearfully casting her eyes on each side, as she tremblingly advanced to the outer door. She hesitated a moment. To what perils was she about to expose herself, by thus venturing out at the dead of night, and proceeding such a distance alone? Her situation she thought could become no more hazardous, and she was about to unbar the door, when she was alarmed by—
Linda [1836 text]: She heard.
Lucy: Nerves of a turnip.
a deep, hollow sigh. She looked around and saw, stretched on one side of the hall, the same ghastly form which had so recently appeared standing by her bedside. The same haggard countenance, the same awful appearance of murderous death. A faintness came upon her; she turned to flee to her chamber—
Meredith: When you see something scary in a house, your natural impulse is to run upstairs, as far from the exit as possible.
the candle dropped from her trembling hand, and she was shrouded in impenetrable darkness. She groped to find the stairs: as she came near their foot, a black object, apparently in human shape, stood before her, with eyes which seemed to burn like coals of fire, and red flames issuing from its mouth. As she stood fixed a moment in inexpressible trepidation, a large ball of fire rolled along the hall, towards the door, and burst with an explosion which seemed to rock the building to its deepest foundation. Melissa closed her eyes and sunk senseless to the floor. She revived and got to her chamber, she hardly knew how; locked her door,
Lucy: Twelve. You have to give Mitchell credit for perseverance.
lighted another candle, and after again searching the room,
David: —and again failing to find the other door that the author has retconned out of existence—
Hugh: You’ve got it backward. He didn’t change his mind about the second door—the one opening directly from the upstairs hall. He got rid of the first door—the one that involves passing through a series of upstairs rooms.
flung herself into a chair, in a state of mind which almost deprived her of reason.
Daylight soon appeared, and the cheerful sun darting its enlivening rays through the crevices and windows of the antique mansion,
Linda: So that’s how the burglars got in. They held their breath and squeezed through the gaping cracks in the walls.
recovered her exhausted spirits, and dissipated, in some degree, the terrors which hovered about her mind. She endeavoured to reason coolly on the events of the past night, but reason could not elucidate them. Not the least noise had been heard since she last returned to her chamber: she therefore expected to discover no traits which might tend to a disclosure of those mysteries. She consoled herself only with a fixed determination to leave the desolate mansion. Should John come there that day, he might be prevailed on to permit her to remain at her aunt’s apartment in his house until her aunt should return. If he should not come before sunset, she resolved to leave the mansion and proceed there.
She took some refreshment and—
Linda: Some refreshments.
David: I’ll have a large popcorn, easy on the butter, and a box of Junior Mints.
went down stairs: she found the doors and windows all fast as she had left them. She then again searched every room in the house, both above and below, and the cellar; but she discovered no appearance of there having been any person there. Not the smallest article was displaced; every thing appeared as it had formerly been.—She then went to the gate; it was locked as usual, and the draw-bridge was up.
Lucy: This ought to have aroused her suspicion, but with all the excitement she has completely forgotten that she ever lowered it.
She again traversed the circuit of the wall, but found no alteration, or any place where it was possible the enclosure might be entered. Again she visited the out-buildings, and even entered the cemetery, but discovered not the least circumstance which could conduce to explain the surprising transactions of the preceding night. She however returned to her room in a more composed frame of spirit, confident that she should not remain alone another night in that gloomy, desolate, and dangerous solitude.
Towards evening Melissa took her usual walk around the enclosure. It was that season of the year when weary summer is lapsing into the arms of fallow autumn.—The day had been warm, and the light gales bore revigorating coolness—
Linda: Bore invigorating coolness.
Meredith: You’re just saying that because you don’t know what “revigorating” means.
Hugh: Neither did Jackson, but he never let that stop him.
on their wings as they tremulously agitated the foliage of the western forest, or fluttered among the branches of the trees surrounding the mansion.
David: This is some kind of bird we’re talking about?
The green splendours of spring had begun to fade into a yellow lustre, the flowery verdure of the fields were changing to a russet hue. A robin chirped on a neighbouring oak, a wren chattered beneath, swallows twittered around the decayed buildings, the ludicrous mocking bird sung sportively from the top of the highest elm and the surrounding groves rung with varying, artless melody;
Meredith: He would know from artless.
while deep in the adjacent wilderness the woodcock, hammering on some dry and blasted trees,
Hugh: Hammering on the hollow trunk of some dry and blasted tree.
filled the woods with reverberant echoes.
David: The readers were getting on his case about whippoorwills, so he put [counting on fingers] five different birds into one paragraph just to show he could do it.
Lucy: Six, if you count the rare North American gale-bird.
The Sound was only ruffled by the lingering breezes, as they idly wandered over its surface. Long Island, now in possession of the British troops,
Linda: Does he mean Long Island Sound? The British troops fell in and the water clasped them to its briny bosom.
Hugh [grudgingly]: You’re really getting the hang of this.
was thinly enveloped in smoky vapor; scattered along its shores lay the numerous small craft and larger ships of the hostile fleet. A few skiffs were passing and repassing the Sound, and several American gun-boats lay off a point which jutted out from the main land, far to the eastward. Numberless summer insects mingled their discordant strains amidst the weedy herbage. A heavy black cloud was rising in the northwest,
Meredith: If the castle gets the Weather Channel she can watch the clouds approaching and will know exactly when it’s time to close the windows.
which seemed to portend a shower, as the sonorous, distant thunder was at long intervals distinctly heard.
Melissa walked around the yard, contemplating the varying beauties of the scene: the images of departed joys—the days when Alonzo had participated with her in admiring the splendours of rural prospects,
Linda: Melissa, you’re delirious. Alonzo has never been near this place.
raised in her bosom the sigh of deep regret. She entered the garden and traversed the alleys, now overgrown with weeds and tufted knot-grass. The flower beds were choaked with low running bramble and tangling five-finger; tall, rank rushes, mullens and daisies, had usurped the empire of the kitchen garden. The viny arbour was broken, and principally gone to decay; yet the “lonely wild rose” blushed mournfully amidst the ruins. As she passed from the garden she involuntarily stopped at the cemetery:
Hugh: A bony arm reached up from a grave to hold her fast.
Lucy: But that’s normal cemetery behavior, so she thought nothing of it.
she paused in serious reflection:—“Here,” said she, “in this house of gloom rest, in undisturbed silence, my honourable ancestors,
David: That phrase just cries out for a phony Japanese accent.
once the active tenants of yonder mansion. Then, throughout these solitary demesnes,
Hugh: These now solitary demesnes.
Linda: If a plain Connecticut farmer can have a “seat”, then nothing less than a demesne will do for his ancestors.
Hugh: His honorable ancestors.
the busy occurrences of life glided in cheerful circles. Then, these now moss-clad alleys, and this wild weedy garden, were the resort of the fashionable and the gay.
Meredith: Beauman would have fit right in.
Then, evening music floated over the fields, while yonder halls and apartments shone with brilliant illumination. Now all is sad, solitary and dreary, the haunt of spirits and spectres—of nameless terror. All that now remains of the head that formed, the hand that executed,
Linda: Anyone who doesn’t get a mental picture of a guillotine is just not paying attention.
and the bosom that relished this once happy scenery, is now, alas, only a heap of dust.”
She seated herself on a little hillock, under a weeping willow, which stood near the cemetery, and watched the rising shower, which ascended—
Hugh: Which slowly ascended.
Lucy: I just remembered. Personal income taxes didn’t exist in 1804, so he really is better off paying himself by the word.
in gloomy pomp, half hidden behind the western groves, shrouding the low sun in black vapor, while coming thunders more nearly and more awfully rolled. The shrieking night hawk* soared high into the air, mingling with the lurid van of the approaching storm,
* Supposed to be the male whippoorwill; well known in the New England states, and answering to the above peculiarity.
Meredith: After that orgy of miscellaneous birds, I knew it couldn’t be long before he dragged in a whippoorwill.
David: What peculiarity is he talking about? Shrieking, or driving a garish van?
Linda: Soaring in the air. Normal birds sit politely in the trees and contribute sound effects.
which widening, more rapidly advanced, until “the heavens were arrayed in blackness.”
Lucy: He wouldn’t want anyone to think he was plagiarizing the Bible, so he made sure to put the phrase in quotation marks. Isaiah 50:3, “I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.”
Linda: Isaiah again? Sooner or later, someone will notice that he’s only read the one book.
The lightning broader and brighter flashed,
Hugh: More broader and brighter flashed.
Meredith: If you’re thinking of some kind of comparison between this and “The most unkindest cut of all”, you’re kidding yourself.
hurling down its forky streaming bolts—
Linda: Forky streaming bolts? Excellent!
far in the wilderness, its flaming path followed by the vollying artillery of the skies. Now bending its long, crinkling spires over the vallies, now glimmering along the summit of the hills. Convolving clouds poured smoky volumes through the expansion; a deep, hollow, distant roar, announced the approach of “summoned winds.”
David: Yo! Winds! C’mere a minute.
The whole forest bowed in awful grandeur, as from its dark bosom rushed the impetuous hurricane, twisting off, or tearing up by the roots, the stoutest trees, whirling the heaviest branches through the air with irresistible fury. It dashed upon the sea, tossed it into irregular mountains, or mingled its white foamy spray with the gloom of the turbid skies. Slantways, the large heavy drops of rain began to descend.
Meredith: It’s easy to see whose side God is on. On the very night Melissa first dares think of leaving the compound, you get the Storm of the Century.
Melissa hastened to the mansion; as she reached the door a very brilliant flash of lightning, accompanied by a tremendous explosion, alarmed her. A thunder bolt had entered a large elm tree within the enclosure, and with a horrible crash, had shivered it from top to bottom. She unlocked the door—
David: Another rural myth laid to rest. I’d always heard that in the good old days, country people never bothered to lock their doors.
Linda: Most farmers didn’t have to worry about locking out ghosts. That would make a difference.
and hurried to her chamber. Deep night now filled the atmosphere;
Meredith: There’s your anti-photons again.
the rain poured in torrents, the wind rocked the building, and bellowed in the adjacent groves: the sea raged and roared, fierce lightnings rent the heavens, alternately involving the world in the sheeted flame of its many coloured fires; thunders rolled awfully around the firmament, or burst with horrid din, bounding and reverberating among the surrounding woods, hills and valleys. It seemed nothing less than the crash of worlds—
Hugh and Meredith: The crush of worlds.
David: Hey, I’ve seen that movie. When Worlds Crash.
sounding through the universe.
Melissa walked her room, listening to the wild commotion of the elements. She feared that if the storm continued, she should be compelled to pass another night in the lonely mansion: if so, she resolved not to go to bed.
Meredith [as Melissa]: As long as I’m stuck here for another night, I may as well . . . uh . . . not go to bed.
She now suddenly recollected that in her haste to regain her chamber, she had forgotten to lock the outer door.
Hugh: You never know who might be strolling around on a night like this, rattling doorknobs and testing drawbridges.
The shock she had received when the lightning demolished the elm tree, was the cause of this neglect. She took the candle, ran hastily down, and fastened the door. As she was returning, she heard footsteps, and imperfectly saw the glance of something coming out of an adjoining room into the hall. Supposing some ghastly object was approaching, she averted her eyes and flew to the stairs.
Linda: Next best thing to putting your head under the covers. If you don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.
As she was ascending them, a voice behind her exclaimed, “Gracious heaven! Melissa!” The voice agitated her frame with a confused, sympathetic sensation. She turned, fixed her eyes upon the person who had spoken; unconnected ideas floated a moment in her imagination:
Lucy: I wish the author could have worked a masked ball into his plot. Melissa’s a natural for those scenes where a teeny little eye mask becomes an impenetrable disguise.
“Eternal powers!” she cried, “it is Alonzo.”
Hugh [1804 newspaper]:
TO BE CONTINUED
Meredith: Way to go, Mitchell! Only halfway through the serial, you’ve finally grasped the concept of a cliffhanger.
John came frequently
to the house . . .
Alonzo and Melissa were
equally surprised . . .