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Synopsis of Melville and Phalez

by Isaac Mitchell

[From the Poughkeepsie Political Barometer, June - July 1803]

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[Placed on-line December 2002]

No. 53, June 7:

Melville, a young English merchant, travels to Constantinople on business. He pays for the burial of a Christian exposed naked on the street, by paying his small debt. He finds a young girl about to be strangled for attacking her Turkish mistress, but the required ransom is beyond his means. He seeks for a merchant friend who may lend him the money; when he can't find him he returns to the execution place, where he attacks the guards and is arrested himself. The merchant appears and ransoms them both; he pays half himself and promises not to press for the remainder. The rescued lady, for whom Melville is quickly falling, says nothing of her origins, except that she had been captured by pirates and placed in slavery, and declines his offer to have her sent home. When Melville must return home, however, she agrees to accompany him; on arrival in London she goes to stay with Melville's mother in the country.

No. 54, June 14:

Melville won't leave England until Phalez' destiny is decided. Despite all attempts to cheer her up she remains gloomy, asking about ships for foreign parts but disclosing nothing of her history. Melville worries about repaying his debt, until the Turkish merchant from whom he borrowed the money promises to forgive the debt, and suggests he lead a business venture to Persia. Melville decides he must accept; he explains to this to Phalez, and proposes to her; she asks him never to raise the subject again. Melville agrees, but asks in return that she wait for him until he returns from Persia. She agrees, and gives him a richly embroidered vest, asking that he wear it whenever he visits a court; he readily promises. Melville sails for Constantinople, receives the release from the merchant, and continues on to Persia and upcountry to its capital, impressed by much that he sees.

No. 55, June 21:

Melville and the other merchants are received by the Prince, Melville wearing the vest Phalez had given him. The prince almost collapses, and -- meeting privately with Melville -- displays a similar vest, made for him by his daughter Phalez, whom he had long believed lost at sea, and more recently that she had died as a slave in Turkey. Melville assures the Prince that Phalez was alive and well when he left England, and explains how he had saved her. He is welcomed into the family, and ship prepared to take him to England and bring back Phalez, under the command of Aphello, a skilled Grecian interpreter who had recently entered the Prince's service. In a final meeting, the Prince promises to explain the secret of why his family, alone among Persians, speak French and English.

No. 56, June 28:

The Prince tells Melville the "secret history of his family": his great-great grandfather, a Frenchman named D'Valence, had eloped with an Englishwoman, Sophia; they had been hounded from country to country until they settled in Persia; his great grandfather had served ably in the then princes' army; his grandfather had married the prince's daughter; his father had thus become prince, and he had succeeded. This was why they still spoke French and English. The prince charges Melville and Aphello with sending back his daughter; the man who restores Phalez shall (with her consent) marry her. The ship sails for England, stopping in Turkey to pay off the merchant who had ransomed Phalez. Phalez is living in the countryside with Melville's mother; when he goes there he finds the house in flames and its occupants apparently destroyed in the flames. Melville collapses, and when he recovers visits the ruins daily to mourn. Aphello is to take the sad news to Persia; Melville will retreat to some lonely country. On the day before Aphello's planned departure, Melville makes a last visit to the ruins -- only to find his mother and Phalez alive and well; they had been away visiting friends and had not even heard of the fire until their return. Melville, his mother, and Phalez all embark in the ship commanded by Aphello; one stormy night he secretly throws Melville overboard, intending to be the one to restore Phalez to the prince and thus marry her.

No. 57, July 5:

Phalez dreams she is walking with Melville; a chasm opens under them, and he sinks into it; Aphello appears, brandishing a bloody dagger; a man in a robe and beard appears skimming over the earth, and Phalez tries to approach him. She is awakened by the storm. Next morning Aphello tells her Melville has fallen overboard in the night; she collapses, and Aphello notes a "remarkable natural mark" on her neck which great disturbs him. Phalez collapses but, restored to her family, gradually recovers. Aphello visits the prince, and, reminding the prince of his promise concerning Phalez, adds that Melville had told him that if anything should happen to him, he hoped Phalez would marry Aphello. It is agreed that Aphello and Phalez shall marry after 60 days mourning for Melville; Aphello gloats privately that this, the greatest of his many crimes, shall make him prince of Persia (for he plans to murder the prince after the wedding). The day before the wedding, Phalez takes a walk; as she returns she encounters an emaciated and tattered man; she recognizes him as Melville, and faints.

No. 58, July 12:

Melville revives Phalez, gets cleaned up and comes before the prince, and tells him that Aphello had pushed him overboard; Aphello comes in, sees Melville, and his guilt is obvious. He promises to tell his story, so long as he will not suffer public disgrace. Aphello's father was Spaniard who settled in Crete, married, and grew rich. Aphello, his only child, was a spoiled brat from the start. He ruined a lady, and when his father threatened to disinherit him unless he married her, Aphello waylaid and strangled him. He then married a rich woman, and spent all her money except for what was tied up in real estate which she willed to him. One night, after getting into debt gambling, he strangled her; when her brother suspected him, Aphello fled to Constantinople, and became a pirate. It was he who captured Phalez and sold her into slavery; he recognized her by a birthmark when Phalez fainted on hearing of Melville's death. In Constantinople Aphello privately married an heiress; he poisoned her father, his wife died of grief, and Aphello seized all is property; it was this father whose corpse Melville had found naked in the street. Suspected again, Aphello fled to Persia and worked his way into the confidence of the prince. It was his plan, after marrying Phalez, to murder both her father and, if necessary, herself. After telling this story, Aphello stabs himself rather than flee in disgrace.

No. 59, July 19:

Melville tells how, after being thrown overboard by Aphello, he was cast away on a desert island, where he lived on shell-fish and sea-birds' eggs; after two months he was rescued and taken to Persia by a mysterious man who demanded as reward Melville's first-born child. The prince suspected that this man might belong to a sect in the mountains that lived by deceit, and which often rescued people from shipwrecks by demanding big rewards; he presumed that such a man could be bought off with money. The prince then explains why Phalez had not revealed herself and her heart to Melville in England; her knowledge of his limited finances and doubts about her father's consent to a marriage. When she learned of Melville's plan to visit Persia, she provided the embroidered vest, knowing that her father would recognize it and investigate the circumstance.

No. 60, July 26:

Melville and Phalez are happily married in great splendor. After two years they have twin children, a boy and girl; they are troubled because of Melville's promise, but the prince assumes the man can be bought off. He is probably one of the "Order of the Magi," an international organization, headed by Dervishes, who claim knowledge of future events. Melville assumes important governmental duties. On the children's third birthday, just after a big party, the mysterious man appears and demands the boy, as Melville had promised. He refuses all efforts to buy him off, whether by money or by high position, offered by the prince, saying that he has the power to enforce his demand, but doesn't think it will be necessary. Melville agrees with reluctance to his claim and is about to hand him the screaming child. Suddenly Phalez recognizes him as the robed man in her dream on board the ship. The man, saying that Melville had proved true to his word, relinquishes his claim to the child, attributing his action to Melville's having charitably buried the naked Christian's body in Constantinople, and departs. The family rejoices, and everybody lives on happily; Melville's son inherits the throne, and his descendants rule wisely for generations. In a final footnote, the author explains the two Persian sects of the Astrologers and the Magis, citing Clifford's Travels in Persia (1642).

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