MiSTings and More

Alonzo and Melissa
a do-it-yourself MiSTing

Chapter 20

“To undeceive you, Alonzo,” continued Melissa, “was the next object.

Meredith [as Melissa]: My mother, brother and everyone else in the world can rot for all I care.

I consulted with Alfred how this should be done.

David: I’d like to consult with Alfred too, because the more I try to make sense of this scenario, the more confused I get. Right now—which is really eighteen months ago, because Melissa is telling the story to Alonzo—everyone in the universe thinks Melissa is dead, except her cousin Alfred and her uncle the Colonel.

Hugh: Don’t forget Mrs. Colonel and their three children, aged ten, seven and four. Minus eighteen months. Just the age to be entrusted with a life-or-death secret.

Meredith: The Colonel shouldn’t have been in such a hurry to dispose of the doctor. He could have surgically removed the children’s tongues. Instead, it will have to be house arrest for all of them.

Linda: And the servants.

Lucy: And a few hundred slaves. Last time I looked, Charleston was in the South, and Melissa did say he’d racked up a fortune.

Hugh: A splendid fortune.

‘My sister,’ he said, (in our private circles he always called me by the tender name of sister,)

David: She’s just saying that so Alonzo won’t ask awkward questions about what she’s been doing to pass the time for the last eighteen months.

‘I am determined to see you happy before I relinquish the business I have undertaken: letters are a precarious mode of communi­cation; I will make a journey to Connecticut, find out Alonzo, visit your friends, and see how the plan operates. I am known to your father, who has ever treated me as a relative.

Meredith: But he is a—

Hugh: He is not. He’s only his . . . uhm . . . sister’s son.

I will return as speedily as possible, and we shall then know what measures are best next to pursue.’

“I requested him to unfold the deception to my mother,

Linda: I wouldn’t have thought the human doormat could keep any secret from her husband, let alone a whopper like this one. But I guess Melissa knows her mother better than we do.

Meredith: She knows her father better. He never tells his wife anything, and has never listened to a word she says.

and, if he found it expedient, to Vincent and Mr. Simpson, in whose friendship and fidelity I was sure he might safely confide.

David: In fact, what the heck, tell everyone. Print a retraction in the newspaper. Put up a billboard. Just don’t let Melissa’s father know.

“He soon departed, and returned in about two months. He found my father and mother in extreme distress on account of my supposed death: my mother’s grief had brought her on to the bed of sickness; but when Alfred had undeceived her she rapidly revived.

Lucy: Since Melissa’s father never pays attention to anything his wife does, this abrupt change in demeanor passed unnoticed.

My father told Alfred that he seriously regretted opposing my inclinations, and that, were it possible he could retrace the steps he had taken, he should conduct in a very different manner, as he was not only deprived of you,

Meredith [after exchanging glances with others]: Uh, I think you meant “deprived of me”. It’s still Melissa speaking.

Linda [to Hugh, kindly]: This is not Mitchell’s best day, is it?

but Edgar also, who had gone to Holland in an official capacity, soon after receiving the tidings of my death.

David: Darn! Just missed him.

Lucy: I think Edgar just missed Alfred. [Turning back pages and reaching for pencil and paper.] The whole Eastern seaboard is at war, so mail delivery wouldn’t be much faster than regular travel time. Maybe even slower, if mail gets intercepted and read a few times. Say two weeks for Alfred’s letter to reach Melissa’s father. A little longer for Alfred himself to reach Connecticut. At the same time, Melissa’s father is writing to Edgar in the Army—more slow mail—and then Edgar has to get a furlough and travel home. In November, in Connecticut, with a war on. I don’t see how he can even have reached his father’s house yet, let alone leave for Holland.

“I am now childless,” said my father in—

Linda: crocodile—

tears. Alfred’s feelings were moved, and could he then have found you, he would have told my father the truth; but lest he should relapse from present deter­minations, he considered it his duty still with him, to continue the deception.

“On enquiring at your father’s, at Vincent’s, and at Mr. Simpson’s, he could learn nothing of you, except that you had gone to New London,

Hugh [glaring at others]: You had gone in search of me. Vincent conjectured that you had gone to New London.

judging possibly that you would find me there. Alfred therefore determined to proceed to that place immediately. He then confi­dentially unfolded—

Linda [1836 text]: He then confidently unf . . . Uh . . . I’ll just go sit in the corner with Mitchell, shall I?

Meredith: I like it. He’s absolutely confident nobody will utter a word of doubt or criticism.

to your father, Vincent, and Mr. Simpson, the scheme, desiring that if you returned you would proceed immediately to Charleston. My father was still to be kept in ignorance.

“Alfred proceeded immediately to New London: from my cousin there he was informed of your interview with him;

Lucy: A pretty neat trick, since the interview can’t possibly have happened yet. [Ticks off points on fingers.] Alonzo reads about Melissa’s death in a weekly paper, so the news would be up to six days old, plus the time it took to reach the newspaper in the first place. He then spends some indeter­minate time in delirium before his talk with the cousin. He was probably semi-conscious at the Wyllis’ house the whole time Alfred was in New London looking for him.

but from whence you then came, to where you went, he knew not; and after making the strictest enquiry,

Linda: Thanks to Alonzo’s earlier military history, it would never have entered Alfred’s mind to ask the Navy to check their records.

he could hear nothing more of you. By a vessel in that port, bound directly for Holland, he wrote an account of the whole affair to Edgar,

Meredith: That will teach him to rely on the cousin’s precognition. He could have just swung by Melissa’s home on the way back, and told Edgar.

Linda: No, Edgar’s still waiting for the military authorities to process his furlough request. Alonzo has to have at least six or eight weeks’ head start to allow for his time in prison, “several weeks” hiding out at Jack Brown’s house, and then traveling from London to Paris.

mentioning his unsuccessful search to find you; and returned to Charleston.

“Alfred learnt from my friends the circumstances which occasioned my sudden removal from the old mansion.

David: What friends? The ones who were completely clueless when Alonzo was trying to find Melissa a few months ago?

Linda: Alfred has an air that invites people to spill their guts. That’s what makes him such a good recruiting officer. Alonzo hasn’t got it, so nobody would tell him anything.

The morning you left me you was discovered by my aunt, who was passing the road in a chair with a gentleman, whom she had then but recently become acquainted with. My aunt knew you. They immediately drove to John’s hut. On finding that John had left the keys with me, she sent him for them;

Hugh: You wouldn’t expect her to make a two-mile round trip on foot just because her meal ticket is about to slip from her grasp.

and on my refusing to give them up, she came herself, as I have before related; and as she succeeded no better than John, she returned—

Meredith: Providing Melissa with two separate opportunities for a last-minute escape.

David: She could have escaped at any time, even without the keys. All she had to do was hide near the gate, wait for John to let himself in—you know he won’t bother to lock the gate behind him—and slip out while he’s knocking on the house door.

and dispatched a message to my father, informing him of the circum­stances, and her suspi­cions of your having been to the mansion, and that, from my having possession of the keys and refusing to yield them up, there was little doubt but that we had formed a plan for my escape.

Linda: Since counting days is not John’s strong point, the aunt doesn’t know that Melissa has had the keys for ages, on the off chance that Alonzo might randomly happen to stumble across the castle in a thunder­storm.

“Alarmed at this information, my father immediately ordered his carriage, drove to the mansion, and removed me, as I have before informed you.

David: So the people who know the story are [ticking off names] Melissa’s father, the evil aunt, John . . . and Mrs. John, and possibly the evil aunt’s mysterious gentleman friend. One of those five is a double agent and leaked the information to someone on Melissa’s side.

Hugh: My money is on John’s wife. She’d jump at the chance to make trouble for the aunt.

“I ought to have told you, that the maid and man servant who attended me to Charles­ton, not liking the country, and growing sickly,

Linda: Like everyone else who sets foot in Charleston.

were sent back by my uncle, after they had been there about two months.”

Hugh: So don’t expect to trip me up with inconvenient questions about how they kept Melissa’s father’s servants from talking. They’d already been gotten out of the way.

Alonzo found by this narrative that John had deceived him, when he made his enquiries of him concerning his knowledge of Melissa’s removal. But this was not surprising: John was tenant to Melissa’s aunt, and subservient to all her views;—she had undoubtedly given him instructions how to act.

“But who was the strange gentleman with your aunt?” enquired Alonzo. “This I will also tell you,” answered Melissa, “though it unfolds a tale which reflects no great honour to my family.

Meredith: Unlike, say, keeping your daughter locked up in a castle, which nobody could possibly object to once they knew the story.

“Hamblin was the name which this man assumed: he said he had been an eminent merchant in New York, and had left it about the time it was taken by the British.

Lucy: Taking with him all the loose treasure he could lay his— Oops, sorry. I was thinking of Aeneas sneaking out of Troy.

He lodged at an inn where my aunt frequently stopped when she was out collecting her rents, where he first intro­duced himself to her acquain­tance, and ingratiated himself into her favour by art and insidi­ousness. He accom­panied her on her visits to her tenants, and assisted her in collecting her rents.

David: He had that unmistakable look of someone who’d break your arm for two cents.

He told her, that when the war came on, he had turned his effects into money, which he had with him, and was now in pursuit of some country place—

Linda: When Alonzo saw them, the aunt was giving Hamblin the hard sell on the castle and its luxurious grounds, while making up excuses why he couldn’t view the interior just yet.

where he might purchase a residence to remain during the war.

Lucy: Or at least until it became obvious which side was winning, so he could make money selling out the losers.

To cut the story as short as possible, he finally initiated himself so far in my aunt’s favour that she accepted his hand, and, contrary to my father’s opinion,

Meredith: Up until this moment, he had thought they were just good friends.

she married him,

Hugh: As far as the aunt is concerned, yielding to your family’s wishes is for the little people.

and he soon after persuaded her to sell her property, under pretence of removing to some populous town, and living in style. Her property, however, was no sooner sold (which my father bought for ready cash, at a low price)

Lucy: Dog Bites Man.

than he found means to realize the money, and absconded.

“It was afterwards found out that his real name was Brenton;

Linda: If she had known at the beginning that his name came before hers in the alphabet, she would never have trusted him for a moment.

that he had left a wife and family in Virginia in indigent circumstances, where he had spent an ample fortune, left him by his father, in debauchery, and involved himself deeply in debt. He had scarcely time to get off with the booty he swindled from my aunt, when his credi­tors from Virginia were at his heels. He fled to the British at New York, where he rioted for a few months,

David: All by himself?

was finally stabbed by a soldier in a fracas, and died the next day. He was about thirty-five years old.

Meredith: Making him the perfect match for the evil aunt, whose youngest brother is fifty.

“All these troubles bore so heavily upon my aunt, that she went into a decline, and died about six months ago.

Hugh [apologetic]: Mitchell wanted to come up with a really good fate for the aunt, like dancing in red-hot boots until she dropped dead, or at least going mad and being locked up in the castle for her own safety, but he was getting tired.

“After Alfred returned from Connecticut, he wrote frequently to Vincent and Mr. Simp­son, but could obtain no intelligence concerning you.

Lucy: Here is where you run into the slight problem with Alfred’s scheme. If he doesn’t immediately find Alonzo and move on to Phase Two, they’re stuck maintaining this fake-death charade indefinitely. Sooner or later it’s bound to blow up in his face.

It would be needless, Alonzo, to describe my conjectures, my anxieties, my feelings!

David: Even Melissa can nebulously sense that she’s going to feel like a total imbecile if it turns out Alonzo was killed in the war and it was all for nothing.

The death of my cousin and aunt had kept me in crape—

Meredith [snickers].

until, at the instance of Alfred, I put it off yesterday morning—

Linda [to Lucy]: Do you have anything there about mourning conventions? I make it twelve months of full mourning for her cousin, followed by only six months for her aunt. Seems like it ought to be the other way around.

at my uncle’s house, which—

Hugh [1804 text]: My uncle’s house in town.

Lucy: So that’s what that conveniently vacant house was. The Colonel happened to have a spare house sitting around, so why not get some use out of it.

Alfred had proposed for the scene of action, after he had discovered the cause of my fainting at the theatre. I did not readily come into Alfred’s plan to deceive you: ‘Suffer me,’ he said, ‘to try the constancy of your Leander;—I doubt whether he would swim the Helles­pont for you.’

Meredith: Maybe because he found out what happened to the original Leander.

This aroused my pride and confidence, and I permitted him to proceed.”

Alonzo then gave Melissa a minute account of all that had happened to him from the time of their parting at the old mansion until he met with her the day before.

Hugh: By now, he can recite it in his sleep, since he’s already told the identical story to Franklin and to Edgar.

At the mention of Beauman’s fate Melissa sighed. “With how many vain fears,” said she, “was I perplexed, lest, by some means he should discover my existence and place of resi­dence, after he, alas, was silent in the tomb!”

David: That was 1777-speak for “Do you mean to tell me I wasted eighteen months shut up in this mosquito-infested hellhole pretending to be in mourning when I could have been living a normal life?”

Alonzo told Melissa that he had received a letter from Edgar, after he arrived in Holland, and that he had written him an answer, just as he left Paris, informing him of his reasons for returning to America.

Linda: The author has only just realized that there’s some crucial piece of information Edgar needs to get from Alonzo, so he retro­actively made up this exchange of letters.

When the time arrived that Alonzo and Melissa were to set out for Connecticut, Melissa’s uncle and Alfred accompanied them as far as Georgetown,

Lucy: This would have been a priceless opportunity for the travel agent to screw up and dump them in Georgetown, Connecticut, just down the road from Melissa’s home, but the name doesn’t seem to have been in use back then.

where an affectionate parting took place: The latter returned to Charleston, and the former proceeded on their journey.

Philadelphia was now in possession of the British troops. Alonzo found Doctor Frank­lin’s agent at Chester, transacted his business, went on, arrived at Vincent’s where he left Melissa,

Meredith: It was perfectly proper for them to travel halfway across the country together, but let’s not give Vincent any room for gossip.

and proceeded immediately to his father’s.

The friends of Alonzo and Melissa were joyfully surprised at their arrival. Melissa’s mother was sent for to Vincent’s. Let imagination paint the meeting!

Hugh: If it were anyone but Melissa’s mother, my imagination would paint her whaling the tar out of her daughter and then disowning her for pulling such a sadistic trick.

As yet however they were not prepared to undecieve her father.

Alonzo found his parents in penurious circumstances; indeed, his father having the pre­ceeding summer, been too indisposed to manage his little farm with attention, and being unable to hire laborers, his crobs had yeilded but a scanty supply—

Meredith: Your editor’s getting tired, isn’t he?

David [as 1851 editor]: Uhmm . . . “I after E, except before C, or when . . .” Oh, well. Something like that, anyway.

and he had been compelled to sell most of his stock to answer pressing demands.

Lucy: He shouldn’t have been so free with his money back in chapter 13. You never, ever sell your breeding stock or your seed corn.

With great joy they welcomed Alonzo, whom they had given up as lost. “You still find your father poor, Alonzo,” said the old gentleman, “but you find him still honest.—From my inability to labor, we have latterly been a little more pressed than usual;

Hugh [as father]: May I offer you a stewed boot, or some boiled wheat stalks? They’re quite tasty when you get used to them.

but having now recovered my health, I trust that that difficulty will soon be removed.”

Alonzo asked his father if he had ever known Dr. Franklin.

“We were school-mates,” he replied,

Linda: Another chapter in Franklin’s Lost Years.

Lucy [reaching for calculator]: Alonzo was “about 21” when he left college in 1773, or possibly ’74 or ’76. He’s an only child—or at least the only surviving child. His father is described as an old man, meaning at least fifty. Even with a very late marriage you can’t push his birthdate back past the early teens; more likely he was born in the 1720’s. Franklin, meanwhile, was born in 1706.

Meredith: Alonzo’s father is far sicker than anyone suspects. It was his father, Alonzo’s grandfather, who was Franklin’s contemporary.

“and were intimately acquainted after we became young men in business for ourselves.

Linda [shaking head sadly]: There comes a time when all you can do is nod and smile and humor them.

We have done each other favours; I once divided my money with Franklin on an urgent occasion to him; he afterwards repaid me with ample interest—he will never forget it.”

Lucy: Because of this incident, Federal banking regulations and Pennsylvania state law both include strict provisions against usury.

Alonzo then related to his father all the incidents of his travels, minutely particu­larizing the disin­terested conduct of Franklin, and then presented his father with the reversion of his estate. The old man fell on his knees, and with tears streaming down his withered cheeks, offered devout thanks to the great Dispenser of all mercies.

David: If he means Franklin, I call that profane.

Alonzo then visited Melissa’s father, who received him with much complacency.

Linda [as Melissa’s father]: Ha ha, sucker, you’ll never marry her now. She’s dead, in case you hadn’t heard.

“I have injured,” said he, “my young friend, deeply injured you; but in doing this, I have inflicted a wound still deeper on my own bosom.”

Alonzo desired him not to renew his sorrows. “What is past,” said he, “is beyond recal; but a subject of some importance to me, is the object of my present visit.—True it is, that your daughter—

David [as Alonzo]: Can’t remember her name, but you know who I mean.

was the object of my earliest affection—

Hugh and Meredith: The subject of my earliest affection.

Lucy: Alonzo was asleep the day they explained the difference between the nominative and accusative cases.

an affection which my bosom must ever retain; but being separated by the will of Provi­dence—for I view Provi­dence as overruling all events for wise purposes—I betook myself to travel. Time, you know it is said, sir, will blunt the sharpest thorns of sorrow.—[The old man sighed.]—In my travels I have found a lady so nearly resembling your daughter, that I was induced to sue for her hand,

Meredith: So long as she’s got the right shade of brown hair, details like personality and family are irrelevant.

and have been so happy as to gain the promise of it. The favour I have to ask of you, sir, is only that you will permit the marriage ceremony to be celebrated in your house, as you know my father is poor, his house small and inconvenient,

Linda: By Connecticut custom, marriages are celebrated in the home of the groom, not the bride, so her parents’ house doesn’t enter into the discussion.

and that you will also honour me by giving the lady away.

Lucy: Someone call Miss Manners. All this time I thought the fixation with finding a man to give the bride away—any man, so long as he’s got a Y chromosome—was a Hollywood invention. There’s nothing about it in the Book of Common Prayer; it just says her father “or friends”.

In receiving her from your hands, I shall in some measure realize former antici­pations;

Hugh [1804 text]: Former happy anticipations.

I shall receive her in the character of Melissa.”

“Ah!” said Melissa’s father,

Linda: —revving up slowly as he prepares to slam Alonzo—

“were it in my power—

David [as Melissa’s father]: But by that time, I expect to be in prison, contentedly awaiting my trial for murder.

Linda: Item: The last time Melissa’s father saw Alonzo, he ordered him out of his sight.

David: Item: Thanks to Alonzo’s persistent courtship, the loving father was forced to send his daughter away to an unhealthy climate, where she soon died.

Linda: Item: Alonzo’s undying love—the only possible justifi­cation for his earlier behavior—didn’t even last two years.

David: Item: On Alonzo’s return, the first words out of his mouth are a request that Melissa’s father pay for the wedding of a total stranger who has no possible claim on him.

Linda: Item: The bride is, to all appearances, a penniless orphan without a single friend or relative of her own, so there is no chance of anyone recipro­cating such an act of extra­vagant kindness.

David: From where I’m sitting, it sounds like justifiable homicide. He’ll be out with Time Served.

could I but give you the original; But how vain that wish! Yes, my young friend, your request shall be punctually complied with: I will take upon myself the preparations. Name your day, and if the lady is portionless, in that she shall be to me a Melissa.”

Alonzo bowed his gratitude;—

Hugh and Meredith: Bowed his head in gratitude.

and after appointing that day week, he departed.

Invitations were once more sent abroad for the wedding of Alonzo and Melissa.—Few indeed knew it to be the real Melissa, but they were generally informed of Alonzo’s reasons for preferring the celebration at her father’s.

Meredith: Namely, that he was ashamed of his own home, and the bride had none. Perfectly under­standable.

The evening before the day on which the marriage was to take place, Alonzo and Melissa were sitting with the Vincents in an upper room, when a person rapped at the door below. Vincent went down, and immediately returned, introducing, to the joy and surprise of the company, Edgar!

Here, again, we shall leave it for the imagination to depict the scene of an affectionate brother, meeting a tender and only sister, whom he had long since supposed to be dead! He had been at his father’s, and his mother had let him into the secret,

Meredith: Did Alfred’s letter miss him, or did the author simply forget?

Lucy: The letter reached Holland several months before Edgar did, and Alfred hadn’t marked it “Hold For Arrival”, so it went straight into the dead-letter bin.

when he immediately hastened to Vincent’s. He told them that he did not stay long in Holland; that after receiving Alonzo’s letter from Paris, he felt an uncon­querable propensity to return, and soon sailed for America,

David: As it turns out, it doesn’t matter that the author forgot all about Alfred’s letter to Holland, because Edgar would have done exactly the same things anyway.

arrived at Boston, came to New Haven, took orders in the ministry,

Hugh: His previous ordination expired because he forgot to renew it before leaving the country.

and had reached home that day. He informed them that Mr. Simpson and family had arrived at his father’s, and some relatives whom his mother had invited.

The next morning ushered in the day in which the hero and heroine of our story were to consummate their felicity.

Meredith: Since they didn’t have the ordinary common sense to do it when they had a whole castle to themselves and Alonzo was looking for an excuse to take his clothes off anyway.

No cross purposes stood ready to intervene their happiness, no obdurate father,

Hugh and Meredith: No determined rival, no obdurate father.

David: The printer’s cat got tired of stealing quotation marks and ran off with the rival instead.

no watchful, scowling aunt, to interrupt their transports. It was the latter end of May; nature was arrayed in her richest ornaments, and adorned with her sweetest perfumes.

Linda: Since only Connecticut has weather, both Alonzo and Melissa have been suffering severe withdrawal symptoms for the past year and a half.

The sun blended its mild lustre with the landscape’s lovely green; silk-winged breezes frolicked amidst the flowers;

Meredith: Oh, how pretty! They’re breeze-butterflies, to go with the gale-birds from a few chapters back.

the spring birds carolled in varying strains:

“The air was fragrance, and the world was love.”

Linda: The colon meaning that he’s directly quoting the birds?

Lucy: Directly quoting someone, anyway. You have to say this in Mitchell’s defense: he didn’t inflict his own poetry on us.

Evening was appointed for the ceremony, and Edgar was to be the officiating clergyman.

“To tie those bands—

Hugh: Or possibly bonds.

which nought but death can sever.”

Lucy: Our oldest quote yet: Spenser, Amoretti VI, from 1595.

When the hour arrived, they repaired to the house of Melissa’s father, where numerous guests had assembled. Melissa was introduced into the bridal apartment, and took her seat among a brilliant circle of ladies. She was attired in robes “white as the southern clouds,”

Lucy: Oops.

David: Oh, come on. They’re allowed to have clouds outside of Connecticut.

Lucy: Not the kind that go baa. The only pre-1804 source I could find for this line was a translation of Salomon Gessner—and he’s talking about sheep. Later on, someone used the line in English, and again they were describing sheep.

Linda: So she wore wool for her May wedding. Must have been a cold year.

spangled with silver, and trimmed with deep gold lace; her hair hung loosely upon her shoulders, encircled by a wreath of artificial—

Hugh: What? [1804 text:] A wreath of flowers. Period.

Meredith: Blame it on industrialization. By 1811 the real flowers had been replaced with artificial ones.

flowers. She had regained all her former loveliness; the rose and the lily again blended their tinges in her cheek; again pensive spright­liness

Lucy: I’m not falling for that one. “Pensive” and “sprightly” are two of Mitchell’s favorite words; he’s quoting himself.

sparkled in her eye.

Alonzo was now introduced, and took his seat at the side of Melissa. His father and mother came next, who were placed at the right hand of the young couple: Melissa’s parents followed, and were stationed at the left.

David: Makes it sound like a good old-fashioned shotgun wedding. The young couple are hemmed in from both sides so neither one can run away.

Hugh: It’s to keep people from getting too close to the bride. Up until this moment, not one person has taken a second look, done a double-take and blurted out “Hey! That’s Melissa!”

Meredith: By this time, the only person who doesn’t know what’s going on is her own father, standing to her immediate left.

Edgar then came and took his seat in front; after which the guests were summoned, who filled the room. Edgar then rising, motioned to the intended bride and bridegroom to rise also. He next turned to Alonzo’s father for his sanction, who bowed assent. Then addres­sing his own father, with emotions that scarcely suffered him to articulate. “Do you, sir,” said he, “give this lady to that gentleman?”

Lucy: She’s not his to give, so it’s no skin off his nose. He just wishes Edgar would say her name, so he can pretend to have known it all along when it’s time for the receiving line.

A solemn silence prevailed in the room. Melissa was extremely agitated, as her father slowly rising, and with down-cast eyes,

“Where tides of heavy sorrow swell’d,”

took her trembling hand, and conveying it into Alonzo’s, “May the smiles of heaven rest upon you,” he said; “may future blessings crown your present happy prospects; and may your latter days never be embittered by the premature loss of near and dear—”

Pungent grief here choaked his utterance,

David: Saving Edgar the embarrassment of having to cut him off because it isn’t time for speeches yet.

and at this moment Melissa, falling upon her knees, “Dear father!” she exclaimed, bursting into tears, “pardon deception; acknowledge your daughter—your own Melissa!”

Her father started—he gazed at her with scrutinizing attention, and sunk back in his chair.

Linda: Now he understands why the wedding planner insisted on the ridiculous innova­tion of chairs for the bridal party, even though the last thing you’re going to do at your own wedding is sit down.

“My daughter!” he cried—“God of mysterious mercy! it is my daughter!”

Meredith: God really gets a workout in this book, doesn’t He? For Alonzo it’s God of infinite wonders; for Melissa’s father it’s God of mysterious mercy. I think Franklin piles on some descriptors, too.

David: And don’t forget that whole catalogue when Alonzo revisits Melissa’s favorite rock.

Linda [sings]: Rock of New London, cleft for me!

Lucy [turning back pages:] Infinite ruler of all events, great sovereign of this ever changing world, omnipotent controller of vicissitudes . . . and last but not least, omniscient dispenser of destinies!

The guests caught the contagious sympathy; convulsive sobs arose from all parts of the room. Melissa’s father clasped her in his arms—

Linda: Calling on his wife to bring the handcuffs and the key to the cellar.

“And do I receive thee as from the dead!” he said.

David [as Melissa’s father]: You really played me for a sucker, didn’t you? But the game’s over. You’re getting married here and now to the man of my choosing, or you’ll spend the rest of your life locked in the cellar.

Hugh: Just don’t ask the richest unmarried man in the room to step forward. It might turn out to be Alonzo.

“I am anxious to hear the mighty mystery unfolded. But first let the solemn rites for which we are assembled be concluded; let not an old man’s anxiety interrupt the ceremony.”

“But you are apprised, sir,” said Alonzo, “of my inability to support your daughter accor­ding to her deserts.”

Meredith: When Alonzo’s father lost his money, Melissa’s father knew about it almost before Alonzo did. But this time, his spies have let him down in a big way.

Linda: So much the better. Alonzo and Melissa can sponge off of him until Alonzo’s father dies.

“Leave that to me, my young friend,” replied her father. “I have enough: my children are restored, and I am happy.”

David: Edgar was never exactly in danger. He went from a non-combatant position to a desk job thousands of miles away from the combat zone.

Lucy: If you’re in Holland, you might as well be dead.

Melissa soon resumed her former station. The indissoluble knot was tied: they sat down to the wedding feast, and mirth and hilarity danced in cheerful circles.

Before the company retired, Edgar related the most prominent incidents of Alonzo and Melissa’s history, since they had been absent.

Hugh: If he had allowed Alonzo to tell his own story, the guests would have been there all night.

The guests listened with attention: they applauded the conduct of our new bride and bridegroom,

David: If your father is opposed to your marriage, fake your own death and make every­one—including the man you’re supposedly in love with—spend eighteen months in misery. They’re just other people, after all. It’s not like they have real feelings or anything.

in which Melissa’s father cordially joined. They rejoiced to find that Alonzo’s father had regained his fortune, and copious libations were poured forth—

Linda: On the hymeneal altar.

in honour of the immortal Franklin.

Meredith: Anyone else notice a recurring confusion between God and Benjamin Franklin?

And now, reader of sensibility, indulge the pleasing sensations of thy bosom—for Alonzo and Melissa are MARRIED.

Linda: Whew. Thought we’d never get there. Are we finished?

Hugh: If I can have everyone’s attention for a moment—

(Concluded in our next.)

David: Those have got to be the most beautiful words in the entire book.

Again will the incidents of
our history produce a pause.

Alonzo’s father
was soon . . .

All-in-one Version
Introduction and Contents