a do-it-yourself MiSTing
Melissa was received with joyful tenderness by her friends. Edgar soon recovered from his fall, and cheerfulness again assumed its most pleasing aspect in the family.
Linda: —having previously worn one of its less pleasing aspects.
Meredith: Otherwise known as cheerlessness.
—Edgar’s father was a plain Connecticut farmer.
Lucy: As demonstrated by the fact that his daughter wore just one measly diamond in her hair at a country wedding.
He was rich, and his riches had been acquired by his diligent attention to business. He had loaned money, and taken mortgages on lands and houses for security; and as payment frequently failed,
Meredith: Most good businessmen try not to lend money to people who can’t pay.
he often had opportunities of purchasing the involved premises at his own price.
David: Sounds like a really swell guy. When did he have time for farming?
He well knew the worth of a shilling, and how to apply it to its best use; and in casting interest, he was sure never to lose a farthing.
Meredith: Note the author’s masterly command of a currency that had not been in use for twenty years.
Linda: A farthing on the shilling isn’t that much interest. It’s only about two percent.
He had no other children except Edgar and Melissa, on whom he doated.—Destitute of literature himself, he had provided the means of obtaining it for his son, and as he was a rigid presbyterian, he considered that Edgar could nowhere figure so well, or gain more eminence, than in the sacred desk.
Lucy: Edgar’s own preferences do not, presumably, enter into the picture.
The time now arrived when Edgar and Alonzo were to part. The former repaired to New York, where he was to enter upon his professional studies. The latter entered in the office of an eminent attorney in his native town,
David: You can read law any old where, but to study for the ministry you have to venture into the stewpots of the big city.
which was about twenty miles distant from the village in which lived the family of Edgar and Melissa.
Hugh [looks around for blue pencil, but then sits back with a resigned shrug].
Alonzo was the frequent guest of this family; for though Edgar was absent, there was still a charm which attracted him hither.
Linda [1870 text]: Or possibly “thither”.
If he had admired the manly virtues of the brother, could he fail to adore the sublimer graces—
Linda [1870 text]: Sublimer than Edgar? Let’s make it plain “sublime”.
of the sister? If all the sympathies of the most ardent friendship had been drawn forth towards the former, must not the most tender passions of the soul be attracted by the milder and more refined excellencies of the other?
Linda [1870 text]: Of the latter.
Beauman had become the suitor of Melissa; but the distance of his residence rendered it inconvenient to visit her often. He came regularly, about once in two or three months; of course Alonzo and he sometimes met.
Meredith: Any mathematicians out there? Compute what proportion of his total time Alonzo would have to spend at Melissa’s house in order to make it statistically probable that he will encounter, at least twice, someone who visits every sixty to ninety days.
Lucy: Not enough information. Did Beauman show up in the evening and leave the next morning, or did he stay for a month and a half?
Beauman had made no serious pretensions, but his particularity indicated something more than fashionable politeness.
Meredith: He’s only her suitor. It doesn’t mean he’s serious about her.
His manners, his independent situation, his family, entitled him to respect. “It is not probable therefore that he will be objectionable to Melissa’s friends—Nor to Melissa herself,” said Alonzo, with an involuntary sigh.
But as Beauman’s visits to Melissa became more frequent,
Linda: Sometimes as often as once in six weeks.
an increasing anxiety took place in Alonzo’s bosom. He wished her to remain single; the idea of losing her by marriage, gave him inexpressible regret.
Lucy: Alonzo, can you say “dog in the manger”?
What substitute could supply the happy hours he had passed in her company? What charm could wing the lingering moments when she was gone? In the recess of his studies, he could, in a few hours, be at the seat of her father:
David: School recesses were apparently longer in 1804 than they are today.
there his cares were dissipated, and the troubles of life, real or imaginary, on light pinions, fleeted away.—How different would be the scene when debarred from the unreserved friendship and conversation of Melissa; And unreserved it could not be, were she not exclusively mistress of herself. But was there not something of a more refined texture than friendship in his predilection for the company of Melissa? If so, why not avow it? His prospects, his family, and of course his pretensions might not be inferior to those of Beauman. But perhaps Beauman was preferred. His opportunities had been greater; he had formed an acquaintance with her.
Meredith [as Melissa]: Alonzo? We spent a few hours sitting on a rock one night, but I wouldn’t say we’re acquainted, exactly.
Distance proved no barrier to his addresses. His visits became more and more frequent.
Linda [as Melissa]: Why, Beauman! It’s only been a month. What brings you here so soon?
Was it not then highly probable that he had secured her affections? Thus reasoned Alonzo, but the reasoning tended not to allay the tempest which was gathering in his bosom. He ordered his horse, and was in a short time at the seat of Melissa’s father.
Lucy: The abovementioned plain Connecticut farmer. Next year he’ll start laying foundations in Newport, and then he’ll be a plain Rhode Island cottager.
It was summer,
David: How can it still be summer after all that stuff about Beauman visiting every two or three months?
Linda: It’s a year later. Time flies in Connecticut.
and towards evening when he arrived. Melissa was sitting by the window when he entered the hall. She arose and received him with a smile. “I have just been thinking of an evening’s walk,” said she, “but had no one to attend me, and you have come just in time to perform that office.
Meredith: With the evils of New York less than fifty miles away, walking alone would be unthinkable.
I will order tea—
Linda: English sympathizer! Boo, hiss! Good patriots drink coffee.
immediately, while you rest from the fatigues of your journey.”
When tea was served up, a servant entered the room with a letter which he had found in the yard. Melissa received it.—“’Tis a letter,” said she,
David: Full points for keen observation.
“which I sent by Beauman, to a lady in New London, and the careless man has lost it.”
Hugh: May as well give up, Alonzo. Those are obviously the words of a woman deeply in love.
Turning to Alonzo, “I forgot to tell you that your friend Beauman has been with us a few days;
David: Someone call back the mathematician; we’ve got the rest of the information.
he left us this morning.”
“My friend!” replied Alonzo, hastily.
“Is he not your friend?” enquired Melissa.
“I beg pardon, madam,” answered he, “my mind was absent.”
“He requested us to present his respects to his friend Alonzo,” said she.
Meredith: At Princeton you learn to remember these little niceties.
Alonzo bowed and turned the conversation.
David: Yale, on the other hand, goes for the strong silent approach.
They walked out and took a winding path which led along pleasant fields by a gliding stream, through a little grove and up a sloping eminence, which commanded an extensive prospect of the surrounding country; Long Island, the sound between that and the main land, and the opening thereof to the distant ocean.
A soft and silent shower had descended;
David: They’re strolling around in the rain?
Linda: It sneaked up so silently, they didn’t notice until they were both soaked.
a thousand transitory gems trembled upon the foliage—
Meredith: The rain went away in a snit when it saw that nobody was paying any attention to it.
glittering the western ray.
Hugh: —to the western ray.
Linda: You may have the original text but my editor had a better grip on the language. Try “glittering in the western ray”.
—A bright rainbow—
Meredith: Oh, now I get it. It wasn’t real rain, it was just a stagehand bringing on the rainbow and the rest of the scenery.
sat upon a southern cloud;
Linda: By 1870, global climate changes had forced a cutback to “the southern cloud”.
the light gales whispered among the branches,
Lucy [consulting chart]: Moderate gale, 32–38 MPH. Fresh gale . . . Strong gale . . . Whole gale. Beyond that, you’re into storms and hurricanes. Nothing about light gales.
Meredith: In the old days, even the weather was better.
agitated the young harvest to billowy motion, or waved the tops of the distant deep green forest with majestic grandeur. Flocks, herds, and cottages were scattered over the variegated landscape.
David: Batten down the hatches—there’s a storm brewing!
Hugh: Too late. Your cows have been scattered all over the landscape.
Hills piled on hills,
Meredith: This is a serious storm. Maybe we should seek cover.
receding, faded from the pursuing eye, mingling with the blue mist which hovered around the extreme verge—
Linda: Isn’t that like saying “more unique”? It’s either the extreme verge or it isn’t.
of the horizon. “This is a most beautiful scene,” said Melissa.
Meredith and Hugh [in unison]: Delightful scene.
“It is indeed,” replied Alonzo; “can New London boast so charming a prospect?”
David [as printer’s assistant]: Sir, the cat got into the quotation marks again.
Hugh [as editor]: Again? All right, switch over to “play” format.
indeed I can hardly say. You know, Alonzo, how I am charmed with the rock at the point of the beach.
Alonzo. You told me of the happy hours you had passed at that place. Perhaps the company which attended you there, gave the scenery its highest embellishment.
Meredith: Fishing for compliments, Alonzo?
Melissa. I know not how it happened; but you are the only person who ever attended me there.
David: The author really doesn’t have much confidence in the reader’s memory, does he? Melissa said “many a solitary walk” when she took Alonzo to the rock, and he was with her when she left town the next morning, so she can’t have been there with anyone but him.
Meredith: Back then, they didn’t teach deductive reasoning at Yale.
Alonzo. That is a little surprising.
Mel. Why surprising?
Al. Where was Beauman?
Mel. Perhaps he was not fond of solitude. Besides he was not always my Beauman.
Meredith and Hugh [in unison]: My beau-man. It’s a pun, get it?
Mel. Yes, sometimes.
Al. And now always.
Mel. Not this evening.
Al. He formerly.
Linda: Formerly what? Visited her?
Hugh [with exaggerated enunciation]: He for-mal-ly ad-dres-ses you.
David [after comparing texts with Lucy]: Will someone chase that cat out of the print shop!
Al. And will soon claim the exclusive privilege so to do.
Meredith [as Beauman]: Now that I have formally addressed you, nobody else is allowed to speak. That’s in the Rules.
David: What rules?
Meredith: The ones we Princeton men learn in the cradle and nobody else can hope to understand.
Mel. That does not follow of course.
Al. Of course, if his intentions are sincere, and the wishes of another should accord therewith.
Mel. Who am I to understand by another?
Meredith: Melissa’s education stopped short of mastering the difference between “who” and “whom”.
Al. Melissa. [A pause ensued.]
Mel. See that ship, Alonzo, coming up the sound;
Lucy [sings]: How beautifully blue the sky / The glass is rising very high . . .
how she ploughs through the white foam, while the breezes flutter among the sails, varying with the beams of the sun.
Al. Yes, it is almost down.
Mel. What is almost down?
Al. The sun. Was not you speaking of the sun, madam?
Mel. Your mind is absent, Alonzo; I was speaking of yonder ship.
Al. I beg pardon, madam. O yes—the ship—it—it bounds with rapid motion over the waves.
Lucy: I can’t believe it. Are we seeing humor here?
A pause ensued.
Meredith: Not to be confused with the pause that ensued two minutes ago.
They walked leisurely around the hill, and moved toward home. The sun sunk behind the western hills.—Twilight arose in the east,
David: In Isaac Mitchell’s world, twilight is a distinct celestial body.
and floated along the air. Darkness began to hover around the woodlands and vallies. The beauties of the landscape slowly receded.
Hugh: The stagehands quietly carried the landscape offstage so it could work the night shift in another novel.
“This reminds me of our walk at New London,” said Melissa. “Do you remember it?” enquired Alonzo. “Certainly I do,” she replied,
Meredith [as Melissa]: —seeing as how I just this second told you I was reminded of it.
Hugh [as Alonzo]: My mind was absent.
“I shall never forget the sweet pensive scenery of my favourite rock.” “Nor I neither,” said Alonzo with a deep drawn sigh.
Linda: —of exasperation, since they’ve spent the last ten minutes talking about the rock.
The next day Alonzo returned to his studies; but, different from his former visits to Melissa, instead of exhilarating his spirits, this had tended to depress them. He doubted whether Melissa was not already engaged to Beauman. His hopes would persuade him that this was not the case; but his fears declared otherwise.
Meredith: Oh, stop quibbling.
TO BE CONTINUED
Lucy: I don’t think I can stand many more of these cliffhangers. I’m getting heart palpitations.
In the time of the late
[American] revolution . . .
It was some time before
Alonzo renewed his visit.