a do-it-yourself MiSTing
Alonzo passed along the street in this forlorn condition, not knowing where to proceed, or what course to take. It was about three o’clock in the morning; the street was illuminated by lamps, and he feared falling into the hands of the watch.
Lucy: In London in 1780? He’s delirious.
For some time he saw no person; at length a voice from the other side of the street called out,—“Hallo, messmate! what, scudding under bare poles? You must have experienced a severe gale indeed thus to have carried away every rag of sail!”
Alonzo turned, and saw the person who spoke. He was a decent looking man, of middle age, dressed in a sailor’s habit.
Meredith: We will not speculate about why this decent-looking middle-aged sailor is walking the streets at three A.M.
Alonzo had often heard of the generosity and honourable conduct of the British tars: he therefore approached him and told him his real case, not even concealing his being taken in actual hostility to the British government, and his escape from prison. The sailor mused a few minutes. “Thy case,” said he, “is a little critical, but do not despair. Had I met thee as an enemy, I should have fought thee;
David: I thought Quakers were opposed to war.
but as it is, compassion is the first consideration. Perhaps I may be in as bad a situation before the war is ended.” Then slipping off his coat and giving it to Alonzo, “follow me,” he said, and turning, walked hastily along the street, followed by Alonzo; he passed into a bye-lane, entered a small house, and taking Alonzo into a back room, opened a trunk, and handed out a shirt: “there,” said he, pointing to a bed, “you can sleep till morning, when we will see what can be done.”
Linda: Hours later, Alonzo awoke to find himself bound and gagged, on a ship bound for parts unknown.
The next morning the sailor brought in a very decent suit of clothes—
Hugh: Minus their former owner.
and presented them to Alonzo. “You will make this place your home,” said he, “until more favourable prospects appear. In this great city you will be safe, for even your late gaoler would not recognize you in this dress. And perhaps some opportunity may offer by which you may return to your own country.” He told Alonzo that his name was Jack Brown;
David: They’re so darn formal in England. Everyone has two names.
that he was a midshipman—
Meredith [laughing]: Oh, come on. Isn’t a midshipman something like a corporal?
Lucy [consulting reference books]: More like an officer trainee. That explains what he’s doing out in the middle of the night: it’s a hazing ritual. He only just joined the Navy, and his fellow midshipmen are all in their late teens.
Linda: Either that, or he failed the officers’ exam so many times, they wouldn’t let him take it any more. In which case he and Alonzo ought to get along like a house on fire.
on board the Severn;
Lucy [turning pages]: You’d think Severn would be a safe name, since there have been at least seven of them—
David [dutifully]: Ha, ha.
Lucy: —in the British Navy. But there’s a yawning gap from 1759 to 1786. And Severn number three was conveniently wrecked in 1804, so the author didn’t have to worry about getting the details wrong.
that he had a wife and four children, and owned the house in which they then were. “In order to prevent suspicion or discovery,” said he, “I shall consider you as a relation from the country until you are better provided for.” Alonzo was then introduced to the sailor’s wife, an amiable woman, and here he remained for several weeks.
One day Alonzo was informed that a number of American prisoners were brought in. He went to the place where they were landed, and saw several led away to prison, and some who were sick or disabled, carried to the hospital. As the hospital was near at hand, Alonzo entered it—
David: Next time someone hauls out the OED, see when the word “security” first appeared in the language.
to see how the sick and disabled prisoners—
Hugh: American prisoners. He doesn’t give a hoot about the others.
He found that they received as much attention as could reasonably be expected.*
* The Americans who were imprisoned in England, in the time of the war, were treated with much more humanity than those who were imprisoned in America.
Linda [1836 text]: You left out a line. It’s at Halifax and other places in America.
Others [in unison]: Huh?
Hugh [nastily]: Your editor’s mother-in-law came from Halifax and this was his way of sneaking in a crack at her.
Lucy [shuffling papers]: Wait, I just read something about this. August 1791:
William Cunningham, captain of the British provost in Boston and New York during the revolutionary war, executed in England for forgery. He confessed to have starved more than 2,000 American prisoners in New York, by stopping their rations, which he sold; and to have hanged upwards of 270 in a private manner.
David [as judge]: The Court would have been prepared to turn a blind eye on the 2,270 deaths, but forgery cannot be tolerated. You are hereby sentenced to hang.
Linda: In a public manner.
As he passed along the different apartments he was surprised at hearing his name called by a faint voice. He turned to the place from whence it proceeded, and saw stretched on a mattress, a person who appeared on the point of expiring. His visage was pale and emaciated, his countenance haggard and ghastly, his eyes inexpressive and glazy.
Meredith: Mitchell got a package rate on adjectives if he used them in sets of six.
He held out his withered hand, and feebly beckoned to Alonzo, who immediately approached him. His features appeared not unfamiliar to Alonzo, but for a moment he could not recollect him. “You do not know me,” said the apparently dying stranger. “Beauman!” exclaimed Alonzo, in surprise.
Lucy: Archaic usage meaning “with poorly concealed glee”.
“Yes,” replied the sick man, “it is Beauman; you behold me on the verge of eternity; I have but a short time to continue in this world.” Alonzo enquired how he came in the power of the enemy. “By the fate of war,” he replied; “I was taken in an action on York Island, carried on board a prison-ship in New York, and sent with a number of others for England. I had received a wound in my thigh, from a musket ball, during the action; the wound mortified, and my thigh was amputated on the voyage; since which I have been rapidly wasting away, and I now feel that the cold hand of death is laid upon me.”
Linda: I always thought that was just a figure of speech, but didn’t the same cold hand get laid on Melissa? It must be a forewarning, like the wail of the banshee.
Here he became exhausted, and for some time remained silent. Alonzo had not before discovered that he had lost his leg: he now found that it had been taken off close to his body, and that he was worn to a skeleton.
Hugh [as Alonzo]: I did think he looked skinny, but I thought it was just a trick of the light.
When Beauman revived, he enquired into Alonzo’s affairs.
David [as Beauman]: For starters, while I’ve still got the strength to summon a guard, tell me what you’re doing in England, well dressed and at perfect liberty.
Alonzo related all that had happened to him after leaving New London.
“You are unhappy, Alonzo,” said Beauman, “in the death of your Melissa, to which it is possible I have been undesigningly accessory. I could say much on this subject, would my strength permit; but it is needless. She is gone, and I must soon go also. She was sent—
Meredith: On second thought, I will say more, because you’re never too far gone to gloat.
to her uncle’s at Charleston, by her father, where I was soon to follow her. It was supposed that thus widely removed from all access to your company, she would yield to the persuasion of her friends to renounce you: her unexpected death, however, frustrated every design of this nature, and overwhelmed her father and family in inexpressible woe.”
David: It was also the last straw for Beauman’s creditors, leaving him no choice but to join the army under an assumed name.
Here Beauman ceased. Alonzo found he wanted rest: he enquired whether he was in want of any thing to render him more comfortable.
Linda [as Alonzo]: A spot of arsenic in your tea, perhaps? A meat cleaver to your head? Or shall I just even out your legs for you?
Beauman replied that he was not: “For the comforts of life,” said he, “I have no relish; medical aid is applied, but without effect.” Alonzo then left him, promising to call again in the morning.
When Alonzo called the next morning,
Lucy: —he was greeted by three prison guards equipped with chains and handcuffs to take him back into custody.
he perceived an alarming alteration in Beauman. His extremities were cold, a chilling, clammy sweat stood upon his face, his respiration was short and interrupted, his pulse weak and intermitting. He took the hand of Alonzo, and feebly pressing it,—“I am dying,” said he in a faint voice. “If ever you return to America, inform my friends of my fate.” This Alonzo readily engaged to do,
Meredith: But only after coercing Beauman into making out a will leaving him all his property.
and told him also that he would not leave him.
David [as Alonzo]: No worries, Beauman. I wouldn’t miss your funeral for the world.
Beauman soon fell into a stupor; sensation became suspended; his eyes rolled up and fixed. Sometimes a partial revival would take place, when he would fall into incoherent mutterings, calling on the names of his deceased father, his mother and Melissa; his voice dying away in imperfect moanings, till his lips continued to move without sound.
Lucy: Wait, this sounds familiar. [Leafs through other book.] Yup. The author of Alida swiped this sequence to get rid of Bonville once and for all. In her version, Theodore and Alida have already gotten back together. Alida’s the main character, so she can’t die, not even offstage. The author’s only killing Bonville to punish him.
Hugh: With injuries incurred in the war of 1812 instead of in the late American revolution?
Lucy: Oh, no. She’s much too squeamish to let any of her characters get hurt. In this book, “wounds” and “injuries” are always metaphorical. Here:
He was surprised to see him stretched on a mattress—I’d be surprised too, since Bonville’s in his own home and there’s no earthly reason for him not to be in a proper bed—his visage pale and emaciated, his countenance haggard—her source seems to have left out the “ghastly”
Meredith: Or mattress-side, as the case may be.
“You behold me, Theodore,” said he, “on the verge of eternity. I have but a short time to continue in this world.” He evidently appeared to have suffered much from the remembrance of his ungenerous conduct towards Theodore.
And so on for about a page and a half. He even gets the “I could say more” line, but here he really doesn’t say any more.
David: He got sick and died just because he felt bad?
Lucy [turning pages]:
He evidently fell a victim to disappointed pride and remorse at the remembrance of his own baseness.
Hugh: He should have sent to Connecticut for a doctor. They seem to have been good with guilt-induced psychosomatic illnesses.
Towards night he lay silent, and only continued to breathe with difficulty, till a slight convulsion gave the freed spirit to the unknown regions of immaterial existence. Alonzo followed his remains to the grave: a natural stone was placed at its head, on which Alonzo, unobserved, carved the initials of the deceased’s name, with the date of his death,
David [as Alonzo]: Excuse me, gravediggers, could you please go somewhere and get roaring drunk for a few days while I carve some text into this stone with my trusty scissors.
and left him to moulder with his native dust.
Meredith: Beauman was English? I swear they never told us that before.
A few days after this event, Jack Brown informed Alonzo that he had procured the means of his escape. “A person with whom I am acquainted,” said he, “and whom I suppose to be a smuggler,
Linda: That’s why he never got promoted past midshipman. The authorities have grave reservations about his loyalty.
has agreed to carry you to France. There, by application to the American minister, you will be enabled to get to your own country, if that is your object. About midnight I will pilot you on board, and by to-morrow’s sun you may be in France.”
Lucy: Who’s got the almanac? Tide going out at midnight, followed by a steady north-by-northwest wind, should give us a pretty small range of dates.
At the time appointed, Jack set out bearing a large trunk on his shoulder, and directing Alonzo to follow him. They proceeded down to a quay, and went on board a small skiff. “Here,” said Jack to the captain, “is the gentleman I spoke to you about,” and delivered him the trunk. Then taking Alonzo aside, “in that trunk,” said he, “are a few changes of linen,
David: The remaining contents of the large trunk are for the use and benefit of Jack’s smuggler friend, so we won’t say any more about them.
and here is something to help you till you can help yourself.” So saying, he slipped ten guineas into his hand.
Edmund: This lavish generosity is probably accounted for by the fact that Jack is married, with four children, and naturally has to have a great deal of money.
Linda: That was irony, wasn’t it?
Alonzo expressed his gratitude with tears. “Say nothing,” said Jack, “we were born to help each other in distress, and may Jack never weather a storm or splice a rope, if he permits a fellow creature to suffer with want while he has a luncheon on board.” He then shook Alonzo by the hand, wishing him a good voyage, and went whistling away. The skiff soon sailed, and the next morning Alonzo was landed in France. Alonzo proceeded immediately to Paris,
Hugh: We’ll gloss over this part because we have no idea how far Paris is from the nearest seaport, or how you would get there when you don’t speak a word of French and have nothing but English money.
Lucy: Too bad Melissa kicked it. She had a “suitable education”, so she learned French. And Italian.
Meredith [turning back pages]: I remember the education, but where does it say French?
Lucy: Oh, sorry, I was still in Alida:
. . . a pattern of every female excellence, combined with a taste and judgment that had been properly directed by a suitable education.
Oops, no, that was Alida’s mother. Here’s the part I was thinking of:
. . . Alida, their youngest child, who at this time was placed at a boarding-school, at the village of ——, where she was taught, in addition to the different studies belonging to a Christian education, the French and Italian languages.
And, in case we missed it the first time around:
Among her favourite studies was the French language, which, at this period, was considered as one of the necessary appendages to female education, when scarcely any new work could be read without a regret to those who did not understand it.
David: Maybe Presbyterians don’t feel the same way. Can we get back to Alonzo now?
not with a view to returning to America; he had yet no relish for revisiting the land of his sorrows, the scenes where at every step his heart must bleed afresh, though to bleed it had never ceased. But he was friendless in a strange land: perhaps, through the aid of the American minister, Dr. Franklin,
Meredith: Doctor? I thought he always made such a big deal about being a printer.
Lucy: Oxford gave him an honorary doctorate a while back. Guess they didn’t have a way to revoke it when the Colonies started getting uppity.
to whose fame Alonzo was no stranger, he might be placed in a situation to procure bread,
Hugh: Let him eat cake.
which was all he at present hoped or wished.
He therefore presented himself before the doctor, whom he found in his study.
Meredith: This is like when a good actor guest-stars on a bad show and ends up looking uncomfortable and out-of-place.
To be informed that he was an American and unfortunate, was sufficient to arouse the feelings of Franklin. He desired Alonzo to be seated, and to recite his history. This he readily complied with, not concealing his attachment to Melissa, her father’s barbarity, and her death in consequence, his own father’s failure, with all the particulars of—
David [as Franklin]: Look, when I asked for your history, I didn’t mean a complete catalogue of every bad thing that has ever happened to you. Just tell me what you’re doing in Paris and what you want from me.
his leaving America, his capture, escape from prison, and arrival in France; as also the town of his nativity, the name of his father, and the particular circumstances of his family; concluding by expressing his unconquerable reluctance to return to his native country, which now would be to him only a gloomy wilderness, and that his present object was only some means of support.
The doctor enquired of Alonzo the particular circumstances and time of his father’s failure. Of this Alonzo gave him a minute account. Franklin then sat in deep contemplation for the space of fifteen minutes,
Edmund: —showing due regard for his reputation as sage and philosopher.
Hugh: Someone throw that man out. I’ve had it with his one-liners.
without speaking a word.
Meredith: Maybe he’s hoping Alonzo will leave?
He then took his pen, wrote a short note, directed it, and gave it to Alonzo: “Deliver this,” said he, “to the person to whom it is directed;
Linda: Half an hour in Alonzo’s company is enough to learn that you need to spell out these instructions.
he will find you employment, until something more favourable may offer.”
Lucy: Many highly respected citizens got their start as street-sweepers, so I don’t want to hear any complaints.
Alonzo took the note, thanked the doctor, and went in search of the person to whom it was addressed. He soon found the house, which was situated in one of the most popular streets in Paris. He knocked at the door, which was opened by an elderly looking man:
David: Those powdered wigs will fool you every time.
Alonzo enquired for the name to whom the note was addressed.
Linda [1836 text]: The man to whom et cetera.
Meredith: Alonzo doesn’t read French, so he needs someone to tell him who the note is addressed to.
The gentleman informed him that he was the man. Alonzo presented him the note, which having read, he desired him to walk in, and ordered supper.
Hugh [with mouth full]: You won’t mind sitting here watching me eat.
After supper he informed Alonzo that he was an English bookseller; that he should employ him as a clerk, and desired to know what wages he demanded. Alonzo replied that he should submit that to him, being unacquainted with the customary salary of clerks in that line of business. The gentleman told him that the matter should be arranged the next day.
Lucy: He needs to consult with his fellow booksellers about the standard schedule of deductions. By the end of the first three months, Alonzo will owe his employer ninety-seven crowns.
His name was Grafton.
The next morning Mr. Grafton took Alonzo into his bookstore, and gave him his instructions. His business was to sell the books to customers,
David: What? But you distinctly said he was to be a clerk in a bookstore!
and a list of the prices was given him for that purpose. Mr. Grafton counted out twenty crowns and gave them to Alonzo: “You may want some necessaries,” said he; “and as you have set no price on your services, we shall not differ about the wages if you are attentive and faithful.”
Alonzo gave his employer no room to complain;
Linda [1836 text]: No reason to complain.
Hugh: Oh, there were plenty of reasons. But Alonzo never let him get a word in edgewise.
nor had he any reason—
David [to Linda]: Your editor does that a lot, doesn’t he? He picks up a word from the next line, or the previous line, and re-uses it by mistake.
Linda [huffily]: Said the pot to the snowflake.
to be discontented with his situation. Mr. Grafton regularly advanced him twenty crowns at the commencement of every month,
Meredith: And took back thirty at month’s end.
and boarded him in his family. Alonzo dressed himself in deep mourning.
Linda [sulky]: In case anyone cares, I left out “himself”. Alonzo may have his limits, but nobody ever suggested he can’t put his own clothes on.
He sought no company; he found consolation only in solitude, if consolation it could be called.
As he was walking out early one morning, he discovered something lying in the street, which he at first supposed to be a small piece of silk: he took it up and found it to be a curiously wrought purse, containing a few guineas with some small pieces of silver,
David: Alonzo’s really cleaning up, isn’t he? Ten guineas here, twenty crowns there—he’ll be able to pay off his father’s debts in no time.
and something at the bottom carefully wrapped in a piece of paper; he unfolded it, and was thunderstruck at beholding an elegant miniature of Melissa! Her sweetly pensive features, her expressive countenance, her soul-enlivening eye!
Linda: Alonzo, you need professional help. It’s just some Parisian chick with brown hair.
The shock was almost too powerful for his senses. Wildered in a maze of wonders, he knew not what to conjecture. Melissa’s miniature found in the streets of Paris, after she had some time been dead!
Lucy: By executive order, all paintings, silhouettes, drawings, and likenesses of any kind must be destroyed upon the death of their subject.
He viewed it, he clasped it to his bosom.—“Such,” said he, “did she appear, ere the corroding cankers of grief had blighted her heavenly charms!
Linda: And while you’re on that psychiatrist’s couch, see if you can do something about your morbid obsession with the physical facts of decomposition.
By what providential miracle am I possessed of the likeness, when the original is no more? What benevolent angel has taken pity on my sufferings, and conveyed to me this inestimable prize?”
But though he had thus become possessed of what he esteemed most valuable,
Hugh [1804 text]: Most invaluable.
Meredith: You can’t have degrees of invaluability. It’s like “most impossible”.
Linda [military tones]: The valuable we buy right away. The invaluable may take a little longer.
what right had he to withhold it from the lawful owner, could the owner indeed be found? Perhaps the person who had lost it would part with it; perhaps the money contained in the purse was of more value to that person than the miniature. At any rate, justice required that he should endeavour to find to whom it belonged: this he might do by advertising, which he immediately concluded upon, resolving, should the owner appear, to purchase the miniature, if possibly within his power.
Passing into another street, he saw several hand-bills stuck up on the walls of houses; stepping up to one, he read as follows:
“Lost, between the hours of nine and ten last evening, in the Rue de Loir,
Hugh [1804 text]: Rue de Loire, with an “e”.
Lucy: With an acute accent.
Meredith: Everyone settle down. We’re almost to the end of the section.
David: The words I was really hoping to hear were “We’re almost to the end of the book”.
a small silk purse, containing a few pieces of money, and a lady’s miniature. One hundred crowns will be given to the person who may have found it, and will restore it to the owner at the American Hotel, near the Louvre, Room No. 4.”
It was printed both in the French and English languages. By the reward here offered, Alonzo was convinced that the miniature belonged to some person who set a value upon it.
Hugh: One hundred crowns, to be exact.
Determined to explicate the mystery, he proceeded immediately to the place, found the room mentioned in the bill, and knocked at the door. A servant appeared, of whom Alonzo enquired for the lodger. The servant answered him in French, which Alonzo did not understand:
Meredith: I guess they only get English-speaking customers at the bookstore. In France.
Linda: It’s an English bookstore. If you don’t understand English they make fun of you.
he replied in his own language, but found it was unintelligible to the servant.
David: Why can’t those damn Frogs speak English like human beings?
A grave middle aged gentleman then came to the door from within the room and ended their jabbering at each other: he, in the English language, desired Alonzo to walk in. It was an apartment, neatly furnished;
Linda: What else would it be? No interior space in this book has ever been described as anything other than an apartment.
Meredith: The point is that the inhabitant speaks English, so it isn’t an appartement.
no person was therein except the gentleman and servant before mentioned, and a person who sat writing in a corner of the room, with his back towards them.
Lucy: Makes me think of an adventure story I once read, where the main character was described as “clean-shaven except for a full beard, thick whiskers and a bristling mustache”. —No, wait, I tell a lie. It wasn’t a story, it was a made-up example in an article on how not to write.
Hugh: I can see the association of thoughts there.
Alonzo informed the gentleman that he had called according to the direction in a bill of advertisement to enquire for the person who the preceding night, had lost a purse and miniature. The person who was writing had hitherto taken no notice of what had passed; but at the sound of Alonzo’s voice, after he had entered the room, he started and turned about, and at mention of the miniature, he rose up. Alonzo fixed his eyes upon him: they both stood for a few moments silent: for a short time their recollection was confused and imperfect,
David: One of these days someone in this book will recognize an old friend at first sight, and I will fall over dead from shock.
but the mists of doubt were soon dissipated. “Edgar!”—“Alonzo!” they alternately exclaimed.
Lucy: It also works if you exclaim in two-part harmony, but this author seems to prefer the amœbic style.
David: Don’t ask her what “amœbic” means. I want to get out of here.
It was indeed Edgar,
the early friend and—
Lucy: Sorry, doesn’t ring a bell.
fellow student of Alonzo—
Meredith: Still drawing a blank.
the brother of Melissa!
David: Oh, that Edgar.
In an instant they were in each other’s arms.
Hugh [folding up newspaper]: And in another instant, the readers were gone.
Linda: You gotta hand it to the author. He’s really getting the hang—sorry—of these cliffhangers.
A new scene was now
opened to Alonzo . . .
Edgar and Alonzo retired
to a separate room.