a do-it-yourself MiSTing
It was then agreed that the man should go before the proper authorities in a neighbouring town, and there, as state’s evidence, make affidavit of what he had recited, and as complete a development of the characters concerned in the business as possible, when he was to be released.
Linda: The opinions of the judge and the district attorney being, once again, completely immaterial.
Meredith: Not to say irrelevant, incompetent and argumentative.
Hugh: Calling for facts not in evidence.
Lucy: In the universe of Alonzo and Melissa, “calling for facts not in evidence” falls under the heading of “Dog Bites Man”.
The man enquired to what town they were to go, which, when they had informed him,
Hugh [reaching for blue pencil]: This sentence doesn’t hang together.
Linda: Why should it be any different from the rest of the book?
Meredith: Wasn’t it our own deus ex machina Dr. Franklin who said that if we don’t all hang together we’ll all hang separately?
David: Hanging is too good for this author.
“Then,” said he, “it will be in my power to perform one deed of justice before I leave the country, as leave it I must, immediately after I have given in my testimony,
Linda: The DA could have arranged for protective custody, but no one asked him.
or I shall be assassinated by some of those who will be implicated in the transaction I have related.”
Lucy: I don’t think it qualifies as assassination when a crook bumps off a stool pigeon. It’s more of what big-city cops call a “No Human Involvement” crime.
He then informed them, that while he, with the gang, was prosecuting the illicit trade,
Linda: We’re really not leaving much for the DA to do, are we?
a British ship came and anchored in the Sound, which they supplied with provisions,
David: The ship supplied the Sound with provisions?
Hugh: Sure. They tossed out some fish food with lead weights tied to its feet.
but that having at one time a considerable quantity on hand, the ship sent its boat on shore, with an officer and five men, to fetch it; the officer came with them on shore, leaving the men in the boat:
Lucy: Stop, please, I’m getting a headache. Can someone please explain to me what they had a considerable quantity of, and what “it” was that they were fetching, and why they had to fetch it if they already had it on hand, and who the officer came on shore with if it wasn’t the men?
Hugh [offended]: The sentence is perfectly clear. The smugglers provisioned the British ship, and the officer went on shore with the smugglers.
“As we were about to carry the provisions on board the boat,” continued the man, “a party of Americans fired upon us, and wounded the officer in the thigh, who fell: ‘I shall be made prisoner,’ said he, taking out his purse; ‘keep this, and if I live and regain my liberty, perhaps you may have an opportunity of restoring it:
Meredith: When a wounded and outnumbered man on enemy territory gives you his purse, only the lowest and meanest sort of cad would think of abusing his trust.
—alarm the boat’s crew, and shift for yourselves.’ The boat was alarmed, returned to the ship, and we saved ourselves by flight.
“This happened about four months ago; the ship soon after sailed for New York, and the officer was imprisoned in the gaol of the town to which we are to go; I can therefore restore him his purse.”
Linda: Being the gentleman of honor that he is.
The man farther informed them, that they had several times come near being taken, and the last trip they were fired upon, and one of their party killed.
David: Hey, that explains the . . . [turning pages] No, wait. What “one of their party”? Did my text leave something out?
Hugh: Earlier in the narrative there was a dramatic scene involving Melissa tripping over a ghastly corpse, with adjectives. But Mitchell got a last-minute banner ad and had to cut three paragraphs to make room.
They immediately set out for the aforesaid town, after having dismissed their fifteen men;
Lucy: Fifteen? They started out with twenty. What happened to the other five?
and when they arrived there, Alonzo and Edgar accompanied their prisoner to the gaol. On making the proper enquiries, they were conducted into a dark and dirty apartment of the gaol, where were several prisoners in irons. The British officer was soon distinguished among them by his regimentals. Though enveloped in filth and dust, his countenance appeared familiar to Alonzo; and on a few moments recollection,
David: C’mon, Alonzo! You can do it!
he recognized in the manacled officer, the generous midshipman, Jack Brown,
Hugh [1804 text]: John Brown. Proper record-keeping requires full and correct given names.
Meredith [sings]: Jack Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the jail . . .
Linda [to Hugh and Meredith]: Speaking of jail, how come you guys spell it with a “j” and we spell it British-style? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
who had so disinterestedly relieved him, when he escaped from the prison in London!
In the fervency of his feelings, Alonzo flew to him and clasped him in his arms. “What do I behold!” he cried. “My friend, my brave deliverer, in chains in my own country!”
Linda: In case you’d forgotten, Alonzo, you’re at war.
“The fortune of war, boy!” said Jack—“it might have been worse. But my lad, I am heartily glad to see you; how has it fared with you since you left Old England?”
“We will talk of that by and by,” said Alonzo.
Meredith: Hastily changing the subject as he recollects certain details of his relationship with Jack Brown.
There were then some American officers of distinction in town, with whom Edgar was acquainted, to whom he applied for the relief of the noble sailor;—and as there were several other British prisoners in the gaol it was agreed that a cartel should be immediately sent to New York to exchange them. Alonzo had, therefore, the satisfaction to see the irons knocked off of his liberal hearted benefactor, and his prison doors opened.
The man they had taken at the mansion, returned him his purse, containing only twenty-five guineas, of which Jack gave him ten. “There, boy,” said he, “you have been honest, so I will divide with you.”
They then repaired to an inn. Jack, whose wound was healed, was put under the hands of a barber,
David [as Jack]: Nooooo! Not the barber! It’s all healed, I tell you, I don’t need a barber!
Lucy: You’re not in England any more, Jack. In the rest of the world, barbers cut hair, and surgery is done by doctors.
Linda [1836 text]: Cleansed.
Hugh: He’s only dirty. He doesn’t need to be purified, sanitized and disinfected.
furnished with a change of clothes, and soon appeared in a new attitude.
Lucy: Cocksure, obnoxious and irritating.
He informed Alonzo, that soon after he left England, his ship was ordered for America:
Linda [under her breath]: Ordered to America.
that the price of provisions growing high, it had taken almost all his wages to support his family;
Hugh: He was beginning to worry that he would have to tell his wife about the prize-money which is the only reason anyone would join the Navy instead of the Army.
that he had sent home his last remittance—
Linda: Three shillings and sixpence.
just before he was taken, reserving only the twenty-five guineas which had been restored him that day.
Lucy: Twenty-five guineas wouldn’t have fed his family for more than a year or two, so no reason to mention it.
—“But I have never despaired,” said he; “the great Commodore of life orders all for the best. My tour of duty is to serve my king and country, and provide for my dear Poll and her chicks,
David: That’s why he’s keeping the big money to himself. They’re his wife’s children, not his own.
Meredith: Especially the twins who were born ten months after he left England.
which, if I faithfully perform, I shall gain the applause of the Commander.”
When the cartel was ready to depart, Alonzo, taking Jack apart from the company, presented him with a draught of five hundred pounds sterling, on a merchant in New York, who privately transacted business with the Americans. “Take this, my friend,” said he; “you can ensure it by converting it into bills of exchange on London. Though you once saw me naked, I can now conveniently spare this sum,
David: And there’s more where that came from—so long as you continue not to breathe a word to a living soul.
and it may assist you in buffeting the billows of life.”—The generous tar shed tears of gratitude, and Alonzo enjoyed the pleasure of seeing him depart, calling down blessings on the head of his reciprocal benefactor.
Meredith: On the whole, the newly married Alonzo would prefer to have an ocean separating him from any man who has seen him naked.
The man who came with Alonzo and Edgar from the mansion, then went before the magistrates of the town,
Linda [1836 text]: I’ve got “magistrate”, singular. Budget cuts, I guess.
and gave his testimony and affidavit, by which it appeared that several eminent characters of Connecticut were concerned in this illicit trade. They then released him, gave him the money they had found in the cellar at the mansion,
Hugh: His attorney argued that they couldn’t prove it was the proceeds of crime rather than his legitimate personal savings.
and he immediately left the town. Precepts were soon after issued for a number of those traders; several were taken, among whom were some of the gang, and others who were only concerned—but most of them absconded, so that the company and their plans were broken up.
When Alonzo and Edgar returned home and related their adventure, they were all surprised at the fortitude of Melissa in being enabled to support her spirits in a solitary mansion, amidst such great, and so many terrors.
Meredith: Come clean, Mitchell, you cribbed that from a Latin textbook. It reads like a clunky translation.
Lucy [riffling through assorted books before throwing them aside in disgust]: Everyone said “so many terrors”. Milton, Virgil, the Church fathers . . .
It was now that Alonzo turned his attention to future prospects. It was time to select a place for domestic residence.
David: What with all the excitement of the past eight years, Alonzo has entirely forgotten that he and Melissa spent most of the fifth installment admiring their future home.
Linda: The owner forgot too. He sold it to someone else years ago.
He consulted Melissa, and she expressively mentioned the little secluded village, where
“Ere fate and fortune frown’d severe,”
they projected scenes of connubial bliss, and planned the structure of their family edifice*.
Meredith: Footnote: See pages 34 and 36. [Turns pages.] “They had even fixed upon the place which was to be—”
David: Yes, yes, we know. The reader of 1811 was in advanced senile decay and had to be reminded of everything.
This intimation accorded with the ardent wishes of Alonzo. The site—
Hugh [1804 text]: This intimation according with the ardent wishes of Alonzo, comma, the site—
formerly marked out, with an adjoining farm, was immediately purchased, and suitable buildings erected, to which Alonzo and Melissa removed the ensuing summer.
The clergyman of the village having recently died in a good old age,
Lucy: Italicized so you will know he lifted this phrase from the Bible.
Edgar was called to the pastoral charge of this unsophisticated people. Here did Melissa and Alonzo repose after the storms of adversity were past. Here did they realize all the happiness which the sublunary hand of time apportions to mortals. The varying seasons diversified their joys, except when Alonzo was called with the militia of his country, wherein he bore an eminent commission,
Linda: Another commission? Add this to the one he got in 1777 and ignored because he didn’t feel like going, and the one in the Navy that evaporated when he was listed as a POW, and if he plays his cards right he may end up collecting three pensions.
to oppose the enemy; and this was not unfrequent, as in his country’s defence he took a very conspicuous part. Then would anxiety, incertitude, and disconsolation possess the bosom of Melissa, until dissipated by his safe return. But the happy termination of the war soon removed all cause of these disquietudes.
Soon after the close of the war, Alonzo received a letter from his friend, Jack Brown, dated at an interior parish in England,
Lucy: Oh, I know this one. It’s an Edna Ferber story. An old sea captain retires to a house surrounded by wheat fields because the waving grain reminds him of the ocean.
in which, after pouring forth abundance of gratitude, he informed, that on returning to England he procured his discharge from the navy, sold his house, and moved into the country, where he had set up an inn with the sign of The Grateful American.
David: Excellent choice of names. Someone should introduce him to the innkeeper in Charleston who thought it would be a good idea to build an alehouse right next to the cemetery.
“You have made us all happy,” said he; “my dear Poll blubbered like a fresh water sailor in a hurricane, when I told her of your goodness. My wife, my children, all hands upon deck are yours. We have a good run of business, and are now under full sail, for the land of prosperity.”
Edgar married to one of the Miss Simpsons, whose father’s seat was in the vicinity of the village. The parents of Alonzo and Melissa—
David: Parents? He got through the whole book without dropping the teeniest hint that Alonzo has a mother, and now suddenly he’s got parents, plural?
Meredith [leafing back]: No, here she is, when Alonzo’s father springs the bad news. Alonzo and his mother were much amazed at so strange a proceeding. She shows up a few more times as an adjunct to his father, but it’s strictly a non-speaking role.
were their frequent visitors, as were also Vincent and his lady, with many others of their acquaintance, who all rejoiced in their happy situation, after such a diversity of troubles. Alfred was generally once a year their guest, until at length he married and settled in the mercantile business in Charleston, South Carolina.
Linda: They put up with Alfred for old times’ sake, but nobody can stand his wife, and as for that pack of undisciplined brats . . .
To our hero and heroine, the rural charms of their secluded village were a source of ever pleasing variety. Spring, with its verdured fields—
Lucy [after looking at David, who has remained silent]: Um, I’ve got verdurous fields.
David: You can’t. You’re a reprint. You even kept all those embarrassing typos like “Oeither” for “Neither”.
Lucy [shows book. The 1864 edition has the last two pages of the 1851 edition—one full page and a few lines of overflow—packed into a single page, reset in a noticeably smaller font.]
Linda: There it is, by golly: your very own variant reading.
Readers [exchange high-fives all around].
flowery meads, and vocal groves: its vernal gales, purling rills,
Lucy: In the autumn, when everything is reversed, they’ll be knitting rills.
and its evening whippoorwill: summer, with its embowering shades, reflected in the glassy lake, and the long, pensive, yet sprightly notes of the solitary strawberry-bird;* its lightning and its thunder; autumn with its mellow fruit, its yellow foliage and decaying verdure; winter, with its hoarse, rough blasts, its icy beard and snowy mantle,
David: They have winter in Connecticut? Sorry, Mitchell, but I’m going to need something more than your unsupported word on this. The entire book took place in summer, with a few forays into spring and autumn.
all tended to thrill with sensations of pleasing transition, the feeling bosoms of Alonzo and Melissa.
* A bird which, in the New England states, makes its first appearance about the time strawberries begin to ripen. Its song is lengthy, and consists of a variety of notes, commencing sprightly, but ending plaintive and melancholy.
Linda: That’s it? The very last words in the book, and it’s a footnote about some stupid bird?
Lucy: He needed a way to sneak in one last “sprightly”. That makes eleven. And sixteen “melancholy”.
Meredith: That’s nothing. Fifty-nine bosoms, remember?
David: Fifty-nine? How can you have an odd number of—
Hugh: You both lose. Sixty-two mansions. Some of them old.
Meredith, Linda, David, Lucy [stand up and return books to shelf].
Hugh: Wait! There’s an Afterword!
Meredith, Linda, David, Lucy [with fingers in ears, hum loudly as they walk out].
was soon . . .