MiSTings and More

Alonzo and Melissa
a do-it-yourself MiSTing

Chapter 19

Again will the incidents of our history produce a pause.

Linda: For “will”, read “did”. For “the incidents of our history”, read “editorial action”.

Our sentimental readers will experience a recurrence of sympathetic sensi­bilities, and will attend more eagerly to the final scene of our drama.—“Melissa alive!” may they say—“impossible! Did not Alonzo see her death in the public prints?

Hugh and Meredith: —announced in the—

David: You mean they knew about it beforehand, like a wedding or a furniture sale?

Did not her cousin at New London inform him of the circumstances, and was he not in mourning? Did not the dying Beauman confirm the melancholy fact?

Lucy: Dying Declaration. Common exception to the hearsay rule. Obviously Alonzo has never seen Strangers on a Train.

And was not the unquestionable testimony of her brother Edgar sufficient to seal the truth of all of this? Did not the sexton’s wife who knew not Alonzo, corroborate it? And did not Alonzo finally read her name, her age, and the time of her death, on her tomb-stone, which exactly accorded with the publication of her death in the papers, and his own knowledge of her age? And is not this—

Hugh [1804 text]: Is not all this.

sufficient to prove, clearly and incontestibly prove, that she is dead?

Meredith: Well, let’s see. People who independently reported Melissa’s death [ticking off on fingers]: newspaper obituary writer, cousin, Beauman, Edgar, sexton’s wife—

Linda: Woman claiming to be the sexton’s wife. We have only her word for it, and why is a sexton’s wife hanging out in an alehouse with two small childen?

Meredith: —stone-cutter. Total, six. Number of people who personally witnessed Melissa’s death . . .

David [ostentatiously counting on fingers]: I make it zero.

Lucy: Call it Preponderance of the Evidence, but not Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. Might be enough to get her will into probate, though.

And yet here she is again, in all her primitive beauty and splendour! No, this surely can never be. However the author may succeed in his description, in painting reanimated nature,

Linda: If Mitchell is about to claim that the idea of Frankenstein was originally his, I’m going to need some hard proof.

he is no magician, or if he is, he cannot raise the dead.

“Melissa has long since mouldered into dust,

Meredith: Uh, it’s been six months, I think.

Lucy: Eighteen. But he definitely isn’t up to speed on human-decomposition research.

and he has raised up some female Martin Guerre, or Thomas Hoag—

Linda: I remember Martin Guerre—there was a French movie about him—but who’s Thomas Hoag?

Lucy [riffling through books]: New York City bigamy case in—oh, lucky break for Mitchell!—1804. His readers had probably been slurping up every detail. Real name, Joseph Parker. He was acquitted and they never did find the real Hoag. The Martin Guerre impostor was more fun. He claimed he really was Guerre, and probably would have got away with it if the real one hadn’t turned up.

some person, from whose near resemblance to the deceased, he thinks to impose upon us and upon Alonzo also, for Melissa. But it will not do; it must be the identical Melissa herself, or it might as well be her likeness in a marble statue. What! can Alonzo realize the delicacies, the tenderness, the blandish­ments of Melissa in another? Can her substitute point him to the rock on New London beach, the bower on her favourite hill,

David: That’s a pretty good question—but first we’d have to know for certain that Melissa never told anyone but Alonzo. She could have babbled out anything when she was dying.

Meredith: And he could have babbled out anything at any time.

or so feelingly describe the charms of nature?

Lucy: Better not lay too much weight on that one. I don’t think a court would consider an ability to describe the charms of nature as dispositive evidence.

Can he, indeed, find in her representative those alluring graces, that pensive sweetness, those unrivalled virtues and matchless worth which he found in Melissa, and which attracted, fixed and secured the youngest affections of his soul? Impossible!—Or could the author even make it out that Alonzo was deceived by a person so nearly resembling Melissa that he could not distinguish the difference,

Linda: Based on our knowledge of Alonzo and his powers of observation—I’d say yes, easily.

yet to his readers he must unveil the deception, and, of course, the story will end in disap­pointment; it will leave an unpleasant and disagreeable impression on the mind of the reader,

Meredith: Truer words . . .

which in novel writing is certainly wrong. It is proved as clearly as facts can prove, that he has suffered Melissa to die; and since she is dead, it is totally beyond his power to bring her to life—

Meredith: The Imagined Reader apparently has a thin grasp on the concept of fiction.

and so his history is intrinsically good for nothing.”

Readers [ostentatiously look in five different directions, avoiding eye contact].

Be not quite so hasty, my zealous censor.

Meredith: Don’t tell me what to do, Jackson.

Hugh: Mitchell.

Meredith: Don’t tell me what to do, Mitchell.

Did we not tell you that we were detailing facts? Shall we disguise or discolour truth to please your taste?

Linda: Well, sure, if it sells more copies. We’ve been over this before.

Have we not told you that disappointments are the lot of life? Have we not, according to the advice of the moralist, led Alonzo to the temple of philosophy, the shrine of reason, and the sanctuary of religion?

Lucy: You can lead a man to philosophy but you can’t make him think.

If all these fail—if in these Alonzo cannot find a balsam sufficient to heal his wounded bosom; then if, in despite of graves and tomb-stones, Melissa will come to his relief—will pour the balm of consolation over his anguished soul, cynical critic, can the author help it?

David: If the author is asking us to believe that the character took on a life of her own and he never had any idea she was still alive, I’m not buying it.

It was indeed Melissa, the identical Melissa, whom Alonzo ascended a tree to catch a last glimpse of, as she walked up the avenue to the old mansion, after they had parted at the draw-bridge, on the morning of the day when she was so mysteriously removed.

Linda: Oh, thank you, Mitchell. I’d forgotten who this Melissa character was, and was hoping someone would jog my memory.

“Melissa!”—“Alonzo!”—were all they could articulate: and frown not, my fair readers, if we tell you that she was instantly in his arms, while he pressed his ardent lips to her glowing cheek.

David: That’s her brother’s cue to burst in with a shotgun.

Sneer not, ye callous hearted insensibles, ye fastidious prudes, if we inform you that their tears fell in one inter­mingling shower,

Hugh [1804 text]: In one immingling shower.

that their sighs wafted in one blended breeze.

The sudden opening of the door aroused them to a sense of their improper situation; for who but must consider it improper to find a young lady locked in the arms of a gentleman to whom she had just been introduced?

David: This is that “humor” thing again, isn’t it?

Meredith: Give it up, Mitchell. You haven’t got the knack.

The opening of the door, therefore, caused them quickly to change their position; not so hastily, however, but that the young officer who then entered the room had a glimpse of their situation.—“Aha!” said he, “have I caught you? Is my philosophic Plato so soon meta­morphosed to a bon ton enamarato? But a few hours ago, sir, and you were proof against the whole arcana of beauty,

Linda [1836 text]: The whole arena of . . . um . . . never mind.

and all the artillery of the graces; but no sooner are you for one moment tete a tete with a fashionable belle, than your heroism and your resolutions are vanquished, your former ties dissolved, and your deceased charmer totally forgotten or neglected, by the virtue of a single glance. Well, so it is: Amor vincit omnia is my motto;

Meredith: Save yourselves a trip to the dictionary. In my margin it says “Love conquers all”.

to thee all conquering beauty, our firmest determinations must bow. I cannot censure you for discovering, though late, that one living object is really of more intrinsic value than two dead ones.

Lucy: Two dead ones? Did I miss something?

Indeed, sir, I cannot but applaud your determination.”

Hugh [1804 text]: Your discrimination.

Linda: I like “determination”. Makes him sound sarcastic.

“The laws of honour,” said Alonzo, smiling, “compel me to submit to become the subject of your raillery and deception; I am in your power.”

“I acknowledge,” said the officer, “that I have a little deceived you, my story was fiction founded on truth—the novel style:

Hugh: The true novel style.

David: So is it true, or is it a novel?

Hugh: I don’t care, so long as you buy my newspaper.

but for the deceptive part, you may thank your little gipsey of a nymph there,”

Lucy: Mitchell was fresh out of adjectives but he found some usable nouns in the bargain bin.

Linda: For a given definition of “usable”. Just don’t ask him what a gipsy nymph is.

Hugh: I thought it was a stage in the development of an insect.

pointing to Melissa; “she planned and I executed.”

“How ready you gentlemen are,” replied Melissa, “when accused of impropriety, to cast the blame on the defenceless! So it was with our first parents, and so it is still.

David: If her father were here, he would say she’ll burn in Hell for that remark. But since she’s spent the last year and a half being dead, she probably knows more about the subject than he does.

But you must remember that Alonzo is yet to hear my story; there, sir, I have the advan­tage of you.”

“There I confess,” said he, looking at Alonzo, “you will be too hard for me, and so I will say no more about it.”

Melissa then introduced the young officer to Alonzo, by the appellation of Capt. Wilmot. “He is the son of my deceased uncle,” said she,

Linda: It’s no use objecting that this is the first you’ve heard of any deceased uncle. Melissa never knew about him either; she met him while she was dead.

“a cousin to whom I am much indebted, as you shall hereafter know.”

A coach drove up to the door, which Melissa informed Alonzo was her uncle’s, and was sent to convey Alfred—

David: Who the— Does she mean Captain Wilmot? Another person with two names?

Meredith: That makes four. William Simpson, Henry Malcomb, Jack Brown and now this cousin.

Lucy: Four and a half, if you give Melissa credit for the initial D.

Meredith: But she has to share that with her uncle—the one who isn’t deceased—and her parents and Edgar. Oh, and the old maid.

and her home.

Linda: I guess it would be tactless to ask whose house this is, if it isn’t any of theirs.

Hugh: The author rented it for a half-day to fool the reader.

“You will have no objection to breakfast with me at my uncle’s,” said Alfred, “if it be only to keep our cousin Melissa in countenance.”

Alonzo did not hesitate to accept the invitation:

Meredith: Thanks to his well-attested memory problem, he has long since forgotten that he had breakfast at the inn before leaving, and can’t understand why he feels so full already.

They immediately therefore entered the coach, a servant took charge of Alonzo’s carriage, and they drove to the seat of Col. D——, who, with his family, received Alonzo with much friendship and politeness. Alfred had apprized them of Alonzo’s arrival in town, and of course he was expected.

Col. D—— was about fifty years old, his manners were majestically grave, and commanding, yet polished and polite. His family consisted of an amiable wife, consi­derably younger than himself, and three children: the eldest son,

Hugh: Pay attention, will you? The eldest, comma, a son . . .

Lucy: It’s redundant either way. The firstborn is always a son, unless all the children are going to be daughters. Well-known biological fact, attested in hundreds of novels.

about ten years of age, and two daughters, one seven, the other four years old. Harmony and cheerfulness reigned in this family, which diffused tranquillity and ease to its members and its guests.

It was agreed—

Hugh: Hey! You skipped a paragraph. [1804 text:]

. . . to its members and its guests.

And here, were we to adopt the method of some novel writers,

Linda: Neener-neener, you used the n-word.

Hugh [huffily]: It doesn’t say the story is a novel. The reference is to the methods of novel writers.

Linda: Tell it to the judge.

we might close our history, and leave it for imagination to paint the sequel. But there are some mysteries, which if not elucidated, will render our story incomplete, and besides were we to stop here, the real finishing stroke would still be wanting;

Lucy: So long as one reader is left alive, the author’s job cannot be considered complete.

we shall therefore pass with as much rapidity as possible over the remaining incidents of our story,

Readers [ad lib]: Yay! Woo hoo! Hurrah!

rendered already too lengthy for a weekly paper.

It was agreed that Alonzo should pass a few days at the house of Melissa’s uncle, when Melissa was to accompany him to Connecticut. Alfred, with some other officers, was recruiting for the army, where his regiment then lay, and which he was shortly to join. He could not, therefore, be constantly at his uncle’s, though he was principally there while Alonzo staid: but being absent the day after his arrival, Melissa and Alonzo having retired to a room separate from the family, she gave him the following account of what happened after they parted at the old mansion.

“The morning after you left me,” she said, “John came to the bridge and called to be let in:

Lucy: You know, I always wondered about that. The walled compound must be awfully small if you can hear from inside the house when someone’s at the main gate.

Hugh: The old maid made sure the intercom was kept in good working order, and changed the batteries regularly.

I immediately went to the gate, opened it, and let down the bridge. John informed me that my aunt had suddenly and unexpectedly arrived that morning in company with a strange gentleman, and that he had come for the keys, as my aunt was to visit the mansion that day. I strove to persuade John to leave the keys in my possession, and that I would make all easy with my aunt when she arrived.

David: Of course it would never enter her head to lie and say she doesn’t have them.

Meredith [as Melissa]: Keys? What keys? What are you talking about? My aunt gave you the keys so you could lock me in.

Linda [as Melissa]: What do you mean, give you the keys? I gave them back to you when I opened the gate. It’s not my fault if you’ve lost them.

This, though with much reluctance, he at length consented to, and departed. Soon after this my aunt came, and without much ceremony demanded the keys, insinuating that I had obtained them from John by imposition, and for the basest purposes.

David: Something baser than mere escape, obviously.

Linda: It wouldn’t have to be anything fancy. She could just lock up her aunt and leave her to starve.

This aroused me to indignation, and I answered by informing her that whatever purposes the persecution and cruelty of my family had compelled me to adopt, my conscience, under present circum­stances approved them, and I refused to give her the keys. She then ordered me to prepare to leave the mansion, and accompany her to her residence at the house of John.

Lucy: Since Melissa isn’t planning to escape anyway, this whole locked-in-a-castle business has become a pointless hassle.

I told her that I had been placed there by my father, and should not—

Hugh: Have subordinate clauses gone out of fashion? [1804 text:] I told her that as I had been placed there by my father, I should not—

David: Come to think of it, how does she know it was her father? If someone locked me in a castle, I’d want something more than my captor’s unsupported word that they were acting on my father’s instructions.

consent to a removal unless by his express orders.

Meredith: Melissa gives new meaning to the term “a model prisoner”.

She then left me, intimating that she would soon let me know that her authority was not to be thus trampled upon with impunity.

“I immediately raised the bridge, and made fast the gate, determining, on no considera­tions, to suffer it to be opened until evening. The day passed away without any occur­rence worthy of note, and as soon as it was dark, I went, opened the gate, and cautiously let down the bridge.

Linda: Uh . . . why? Alonzo isn’t coming until eleven. Is she holding open house for the burglars?

I then returned to the mansion, and placed the candle, as we had concerted, at the window. Shortly after I heard a carriage roll over the bridge and proceed up the avenue.—My heart fluttered; I wished—I hardly know what I did wish;

David: Try wishing for a clock. It can’t possibly be eleven P.M. already.

Lucy [consulting almanac]: Even if we make it earlier in the year—say, mid-August rather than close to the equinox—it would be dark by seven-thirty or so.

but I feared I was about to act improperly, as I had no other idea but that it was you, Alonzo, who was approaching.

Meredith: Bit late to worry about the proprieties, since Alonzo is showing up by express arrangement—and you can’t get a whole lot more improper than sharing a closed carriage in the middle of the night.

Lucy: Spending a night alone together would be even worse, but— Oh, right, they’ve already done that.

The carriage stopped near the door of the mansion; a footstep ascended the stairs. Judge of my surprise and agitation, when my father entered the chamber! A maid and two men servants followed him. He directed me to make immediate preparations for leaving the mansion—which command, with the assistance of the servants, I obeyed with a heart too full for utterance.

“As soon as I was ready, we entered the carriage, which drove rapidly away. As we passed out of the gate, I looked back at the mansion, and saw the light of the candle, which I had forgotten to remove, streaming from the window, and it was by an extra­ordinary effort that I prevented myself from fainting.

Linda: Why bother? It’s not like she’d be missing anything.

“The carriage drove, as near as I could judge, about ten miles, when we stopped at an inn for the night, except my father, who returned home on horseback, leaving me at the inn in company with the servants,

Meredith: Melissa’s father has finally mastered the “chaperone” concept. The maid­servant’s job is to sleep in Melissa’s room.

where the carriage also remained. The maid was a person who had been attached to me from my infancy. I asked her whether she could explain these mysterious proceedings.

“‘All I know, Miss, I will tell you,’ said she. ‘Your father received a letter to-day from your aunt, which put him in a terrible flutter:

Hugh and Meredith: A terrible fluster.

Lucy: Those -st- ligatures will trip you up every time.

he immediately ordered his carriage and directed us to attend him. He met your aunt at a tavern somewhere away back, and she told him that the gentleman who used to come to our house so much once, had contrived to carry you off from the place where you lived with her;

Linda: Melissa skipped the part where she blurted out the whole plan to her aunt because she’s—hang on, I know it’s in here somewhere—incapable of duplicity or evasion.

David: Or possibly because she’s a godforsaken imbecile.

so your father concluded to send you to your uncle’s in Carolina, and said that I must go with you. And to tell you the truth, Miss, I was not displeased with it; for your father has grown so sour of late, that we have little peace in the house.’

“By this I found that my fate was fixed, and I gave myself up for some time to unavailing sorrow. The maid informed me that my mother was well, which was one sweet consolation among my many troubles; but she knew nothing of my father’s late conduct.

Meredith: Melissa has a long history of disappearing for months at a stretch without saying a word to anyone, so her mother thought nothing of it.

Hugh [absent-mindedly]: Too wordy. Cut everything but “Melissa’s mother thought nothing”.

“The next morning we proceeded, and I was hurried on by rapid stages to the Chesa­peak, where, with the maid and one man servant, I was put on board a packet for Charleston, at which place we arrived in due time.

“My uncle and his family received me with much tenderness: the servant delivered a package of letters—

Hugh [1804 text]: A packet of letters.

Linda: Hence the term “packet boat”.

to my uncle from my father. The carriage with one servant (the driver) had returned from the Chesapeak to Connecticut.

“My father had but one brother and two sisters, of which my uncle here is the youngest. One of my aunts, the old maid, who was my protectress at the old mansion, you have seen at my father’s. The other was the mother of Alfred:

David: Can’t she keep her stories straight? First she said Alfred was the son of her deceased uncle; now it’s an aunt.

she married very young, to a gentleman in Hartford, of the name of Wilmot,

Meredith: It would be a lot funnier if his name had been something other than Wilmot, since we already know that’s Alfred’s last name.

who fell before the walls of Louisburg, in the old French war.

Lucy [reference books]: Otherwise known as the French and Indian war, 1754–1763. Siege of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, summer 1758.

My aunt did not long survive him;—her health, which had been for some time declining, received so serious a shock by this catastrophe, that she died a few months after the melancholy tidings arrived, leaving Alfred, their only child, then an infant,

Linda: What did “infant” mean in 1804—under 21? The author thinks we’re in the first half of 1778, so if Alfred was an infant in 1758 he’d be around twenty, twenty-one. You’d have to do some serious juggling to get him to be “about Alonzo’s age”.

Meredith: While you’re juggling, see if you can figure out how old his mother was. If she married “very young” and her only child is in his early 20’s, she’d be at most in her early 40’s if she were still alive—but the author specifically said that the Colonel is the youngest, and that he’s about fifty.

David: Maybe her first child wasn’t born until ten years after she got married.

Meredith: Which wipes out the only reason for saying that she married “very young”.

Lucy: And, to wrap it up, the old maid hasn’t just “doubled her teens”, she has tripled or even quadrupled them.

to the protection of his relations, who as soon as he arrived at a suitable age, placed him at school.

“My grandfather, who had the principal management of Mr. Wilmot’s estate, sent my uncle, who was then young and unmarried, to Hartford, for the purpose of transacting the necessary business. Here he became acquainted with a young lady, eminent for beauty and loveliness, but without fortune, the daughter of a poor mechanic.

Linda: I don’t usually ask for extra words, but I do wish he’d said “poor but honest”.

As soon as my grandfather was informed of this attachment, he, in a very peremptory manner, ordered my uncle to break off the connection on pain of his highest displeasure. But such is the force of early impressions, (Melissa sighed) that my uncle found it impos­sible to submit to these firm injunctions;

Hugh [1804 text]: These stern injunctions.

David: Father and grandfather really are two peas in a pod, aren’t they?

a clandestine marriage ensued, and my grandfather’s maledictions in consequence. The union was, however, soon dissolved;

Meredith: The Unfeeling Grandfather pulled strings to have it annulled.

my uncle’s wife died in about twelve months after their marriage, and soon after the birth of their first child, which was a daughter. Inconsolable and comfortless, my uncle put the child out to nurse, and travelled to the south. After wandering about for some time, he took up his residence in Charleston, where he amassed a splendid fortune. He finally married to an amiable and respectable woman, whose tenderness, though it did not entirely remove, yet greatly alleviated the pangs of early sorrow; and this, added to the little blandish­ments of a young family, fixed him in a state of more conten­tedness than he once ever expected to see.

“His daughter by his first wife, when she became of proper age, was sent to a respec­table boarding-school in Boston,

Linda: Isn’t that a tautology?

where she remained until within about two years before I came here.

David: Making her about Melissa’s age, give or take a couple of years.

Meredith [slapping forehead]: Oh, of course! This is the cousin who was supposed to spend the summer with Melissa after the wedding that never happened. I thought the author had forgotten all about her.

Linda: That makes another relative who’s ten years older than he ought to be. I think the author just hit the wrong button on his calculator. If you put the four siblings in the forty-to-fifty range, instead of fifty and up, it works out a lot better. The evil aunt is still too old—but she probably lies about her age.

“Alfred was educated at Harvard College:

Lucy: That explains why we’ve never heard of these people before. The Yale and Harvard branches of the family don’t speak to each other.

as soon as he had graduated, he came here on my uncle’s request, and has since remained in his family.

“Soon after I arrived here; my uncle came into my chamber one day. ‘Melissa,’ said he, ‘I find by your father’s letters that he considers you to have formed an improper connec­tion. I wish you to give me a true statement of the matter, and if any thing can be done to reconcile you to your father, you may depend upon my assistance. I have seen some troubles in this way myself, in my early days; perhaps my counsel may be of some service.’

“I immediately gave him a correct account—

David: Don’t forget “impartial” and “unbiased”.

of every particular circumstance, from the time of my first acquaintance with you until my arrival at his house.

Linda: Except for the episodes involving the ghostly house­breakers. Her non-disclosure agreement is still in effect there.

He sat some time silent,

Meredith: That Franklin guy has got a lot to answer for.

and then told me that my father, he believed, had drawn the worst side of the picture; and that he had urged him to exert every means in his power to reclaim me to obedience: That Beauman was to follow me in a few months, and that, if I still refused to yield him my hand, my father positively and solemnly declared that he would discard me forever, and strenu­ously enjoined it upon him to do the same.

Lucy: Melissa’s father is congenitally unable to imagine anyone disagreeing with him, let alone actively opposing him, no matter how many times it has happened in the past. So it would never enter his mind to make sure of the uncle’s position before entrusting Melissa to him.

‘I well know my brother’s temper,’ continued my uncle; ‘the case is difficult, but something must be done. I will immediately write to your father,

Meredith: Wouldn’t it be more useful to write to Alonzo?

desiring him—

Hugh [1804 text]: Advising him. Younger brothers do not give orders to older brothers.

David: Waste of time either way. Melissa’s father doesn’t take advice.

not to proceed too rashly; in the mean time we must consider what measures to pursue. You must not, my niece, you must not be sacrificed.’ So saying, he left me, highly consoled that, instead of a tyrant, I had found a friend in my new protector.

Linda: But only for as long as it takes for father to swing down from Connecticut, remove her from the uncle’s protection and proceed to Plan C.

“Alfred was made acquainted with the affair, and many were the plans projected for my benefit,

Lucy: When Yale’s best efforts fail, bring in Harvard.

and abandoned as indefeasible,

Meredith: Defying your father is tricky when you’re only prepared to defy him with his consent.

till an event happened which called forth all the fortitude of my uncle to support it, and operated in the end to free me from persecution.

“My uncle’s daughter, by his first wife, was of a very delicate and sickly constitution, and her health evidently decreasing. After she came to this place,

Hugh [with Meredith nodding assent]: Her health evidently decreasing after she came to this place.

Meredith: Cause and effect. The sexton’s wife already told us what an unhealthy place this is.

she was sent to a village on one of the high hills of Pedee, where she remained a consi­derable time; she then went to one of the inland towns in North Carolina, from whence she had but just returned with Alfred when I arrived. Afterwards I accompanied her to George­town,

Linda: I’m going to guess that they weren’t taking extension classes at Georgetown University, and that she doesn’t mean any of the Georgetowns west of the Mississippi or north of the Ohio. So is she talking about Georgetown, Delaware; Georgetown, Georgia; or Georgetown, South Carolina?

Lucy [reference books]: The one in South Carolina is on the coast, so there wouldn’t seem to be much point in going there instead of staying in Charleston. But it’s been around forever, while the one in Georgia is a one-horse town that wasn’t incorporated until 1859, and Dela­ware’s Georgetown only goes back to 1791.

and other places, attended by her father, so that she was little more known in Charleston than myself. But all answered no purpose to the restoration of her health; a confirmed hectic carried her off—

David: A confirmed hectic what?

Linda [before Lucy can reach for the books]: A high fever, associated with wasting diseases like consumption.

in the bloom of youth.

Meredith: Apart from being sickly all her life and dying of consumption, she was in the bloom of health.

“I was but a few months older than she; her name was Melissa, a name which a pious grandmother had borne, and was therefore retained—

Hugh [1804 text]: Was thereafter retained.

Meredith: I like “therefore”. Melissa’s father was hoping she’d grow up equally pious.

David: The other Melissa’s father was just trying to kiss up to the family after they’d disowned him.

in the family. Our similarity of age, and in some measure of appearance, our being so little known in Charleston, and our names being the same, suggested to Alfred the idea of imposing on my father, by passing off my cousin’s death as my own.

Lucy: And thanks to his Harvard education, he was able to pass off this harebrained scheme as a bright idea.

This would, at least, deter Beauman from prosecuting his intended journey to Charleston;

Linda: The strict code of Southern hospitality would have made it impossible for the uncle to refuse to let Beauman in the house. But nobody could take issue with “I’m sorry, you can’t see her because she’s dead.”

it would also give time for farther deliberation,

David: When you’re in prison for concealment of one death and falsely reporting another, you’ve got a lot of time to think.

and might so operate on my father’s feelings as to soften that obduracy of temper, which deeply disquieted himself and others, and thus finally be productive of happily effecting the designed purpose.

“My uncle was too deeply overwhelmed in grief to be particularly consulted on this plan.

Hugh [as uncle]: Just show me—sob—where to sign.

He however entrusted Alfred to act with full powers, and to use his name for my interest, if necessary.

David [as Alfred]: My uncle is too distraught over his visiting niece’s death to answer polite inquiries about his own daughter.

Meredith: Not half as distraught as the daughter herself. She’s wearing Melissa’s clothes, has made herself up to look like her—and she has miraculously been cured of consump­tion, so the doctor need never again set eyes on her.

David [as Alfred]: I’m sorry, officer, but my uncle is too distraught to discuss the sudden disap­pearance of his daughter’s doctor.

Alfred therefore procured a publication, as of my death, in the Connecticut papers, parti­cularly at New London, the native place of Beauman. In Charleston it was also generally supposed that it was the niece, and not the daughter of Col. D——, who had died.

Linda: Fortunately the other Melissa had no friends and had already broken off ties with everyone in Boston who knew her handwriting.

This imposition was likewise practised on the sexton,

Lucy: Alfred crosses his fingers and hopes that by the time the Colonel recuperates from his real daughter’s death and starts asking questions, the statute of limitations will have run out.

who keeps the register of deaths.*

* This was formerly the case.

Hugh: The author wouldn’t want anyone to think he was simply making it up.

Alfred then wrote a letter to my father, in my uncle’s name, stating the particulars of my cousin’s death, and applying them to me. The epitaph on her tombstone was likewise so devised that it would with equal propriety apply either to her or to me.

David: Apart from the trivial detail of saying she was the colonel’s niece rather than his daughter, and leaving out all mention of her birthdate.

Alonzo having thus
poured out . . .

“To undeceive
you, Alonzo,”

All-in-one Version
Introduction and Contents