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# Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus
## by Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley
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Frankenstein/Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley [] 84
Frankenstein/Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley [] 84a
[Two separate editions were prepared from the same sources]
Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus
by Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley
[Chapters 1-6: mostly scanned by David Meltzer,, proofread, partially typed and submitted by
Christy Phillips,, submitted on 9/24/93.
Proofread by Lynn Hanninen, submitted 10/93.
Frankenstein, continued (Chapters 20-24)
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# Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus
## by Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley
### Letter 1
To Mrs. Saville, England
St. Petersburgh, Dec. 11th, 17--
You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement
of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.
I arrived here yesterday, and my first task is to assure my dear sister
of my welfare and increasing confidence in the success of my undertaking.
I am already far north of London, and as I walk in the streets
of Petersburgh, I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks,
which braces my nerves and fills me with delight. Do you understand
this feeling? This breeze, which has travelled from the regions
towards which I am advancing, gives me a foretaste of those icy climes.
Inspirited by this wind of promise, my daydreams become more fervent
and vivid. I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole
is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself
to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight. There,
the sun is forever visible, its broad disk just skirting the horizon
and diffusing a perpetual splendour. There--for with your leave,
my sister, I will put some trust in preceding navigators--
there snow and frost are banished; and, sailing over a calm sea,
we may be wafted to a land surpassing in wonders and in beauty
every region hitherto discovered on the habitable globe.
Its productions and features may be without example, as the phenomena
of the heavenly bodies undoubtedly are in those undiscovered solitudes.
What may not be expected in a country of eternal light?
I may there discover the wondrous power which attracts the needle
and may regulate a thousand celestial observations that require
only this voyage to render their seeming eccentricities consistent forever.
I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world
never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted
by the foot of man. These are my enticements, and they are sufficient
to conquer all fear of danger or death and to induce me to commence
this labourious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks
in a little boat, with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery
up his native river. But supposing all these conjectures to be false,
you cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer
on all mankind, to the last generation, by discovering a passage
near the pole to those countries, to reach which at present so many months
are requisite; or by ascertaining the secret of the magnet, which,
if at all possible, can only be effected by an undertaking such as mine.
These reflections have dispelled the agitation with which I began my letter,
and I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me to heaven,
for nothing contributes so much to tranquillize the mind
as a steady purpose--a point on which the soul may fix
its intellectual eye. This expedition has been the favourite dream
of my early years. I have read with ardour the accounts
of the various voyages which have been made in the prospect
of arriving at the North Pacific Ocean through the seas
which surround the pole. You may remember that a history
of all the voyages made for purposes of discovery composed the whole
of our good Uncle Thomas' library. My education was neglected,
yet I was passionately fond of reading. These volumes were my study
day and night, and my familiarity with them increased that regret
which I had felt, as a child, on learning that my father's dying injunction
had forbidden my uncle to allow me to embark in a seafaring life.
These visions faded when I perused, for the first time, those poets
whose effusions entranced my soul and lifted it to heaven. I also became
a poet and for one year lived in a paradise of my own creation;
I imagined that I also might obtain a niche in the temple
where the names of Homer and Shakespeare are consecrated.
You are well acquainted with my failure and how heavily
I bore the disappointment. But just at that time I inherited
the fortune of my cousin, and my thoughts were turned
into the channel of their earlier bent.
Six years have passed since I resolved on my present undertaking.
I can, even now, remember the hour from which I dedicated myself
to this great enterprise. I commenced by inuring my body to hardship.
I accompanied the whale-fishers on several expeditions to the North Sea;
I voluntarily endured cold, famine, thirst, and want of sleep;
I often worked harder than the common sailors during the day
and devoted my nights to the study of mathematics, the theory of medicine,
and those branches of physical science from which a naval adventurer
might derive the greatest practical advantage. Twice I actually hired myself
as an under-mate in a Greenland whaler, and acquitted myself to admiration.
I must own I felt a little proud when my captain offered me
the second dignity in the vessel and entreated me to remain
with the greatest earnestness, so valuable did he consider my services.
And now, dear Margaret, do I not deserve to accomplish
some great purpose? My life might have been passed in ease and luxury,
but I preferred glory to every enticement that wealth placed in my path.
Oh, that some encouraging voice would answer in the affirmative!
My courage and my resolution is firm; but my hopes fluctuate,
and my spirits are often depressed. I am about to proceed
on a long and difficult voyage, the emergencies of which
will demand all my fortitude: I am required not only
to raise the spirits of others, but sometimes to sustain my own,
when theirs are failing.
This is the most favourable period for travelling in Russia.
They fly quickly over the snow in their sledges; the motion is pleasant,
and, in my opinion, far more agreeable than that of an English stagecoach.
The cold is not excessive, if you are wrapped in furs--
a dress which I have already adopted, for there is a great difference
between walking the deck and remaining seated motionless for hours,
when no exercise prevents the blood from actually freezing in your veins.
I have no ambition to lose my life on the post-road between
St. Petersburgh and Archangel.
I shall depart for the latter town in a fortnight or three weeks;
and my intention is to hire a ship there, which can easily be done
by paying the insurance for the owner, and to engage as many sailors
as I think necessary among those who are accustomed to the whale-fishing.
I do not intend to sail until the month of June; and when shall I return?
Ah, dear sister, how can I answer this question? If I succeed,
many, many months, perhaps years, will pass before you and I may meet.
If I fail, you will see me again soon, or never.
Farewell, my dear, excellent Margaret. Heaven shower down blessings on you,
and save me, that I may again and again testify my gratitude
for all your love and kindness.
Your affectionate brother,
R. Walton
### Letter 2
To Mrs. Saville, England
Archangel, 28th March, 17--
How slowly the time passes here, encompassed as I am by frost and snow!
Yet a second step is taken towards my enterprise. I have hired a vessel
and am occupied in collecting my sailors; those whom I have already engaged
appear to be men on whom I can depend and are certainly possessed
of dauntless courage.
But I have one want which I have never yet been able to satisfy,
and the absence of the object of which I now feel as a most severe evil.
I have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm
of success, there will be none to participate my joy; if I am assailed
by disappointment, no one will endeavour to sustain me in dejection.
I shall commit my thoughts to paper, it is true; but that is a poor medium
for the communication of feeling. I desire the company of a man
who could sympathize with me, whose eyes would reply to mine.
You may deem me romantic, my dear sister, but I bitterly feel
the want of a friend. I have no one near me, gentle yet courageous,
possessed of a cultivated as well as of a capacious mind,
whose tastes are like my own, to approve or amend my plans.
How would such a friend repair the faults of your poor brother!
I am too ardent in execution and too impatient of difficulties.
But it is a still greater evil to me that I am self-educated:
for the first fourteen years of my life I ran wild on a common
and read nothing but our Uncle Thomas' books of voyages.
At that age I became acquainted with the celebrated poets
of our own country; but it was only when it had ceased to be in my power
to derive its most important benefits from such a conviction
that I perceived the necessity of becoming acquainted with more languages
than that of my native country. Now I am twenty-eight and am in reality
more illiterate than many schoolboys of fifteen. It is true
that I have thought more and that my daydreams are more extended
and magnificent, but they want (as the painters call it) *keeping*;
and I greatly need a friend who would have sense enough not to despise me
as romantic, and affection enough for me to endeavour to regulate my mind.
Well, these are useless complaints; I shall certainly find no friend
on the wide ocean, nor even here in Archangel, among merchants and seamen.
Yet some feelings, unallied to the dross of human nature, beat even
in these rugged bosoms. My lieutenant, for instance, is a man of wonderful
courage and enterprise; he is madly desirous of glory, or rather,
to word my phrase more characteristically, of advancement in his profession.
He is an Englishman, and in the midst of national and professional
prejudices, unsoftened by cultivation, retains some of the noblest
endowments of humanity. I first became acquainted with him
on board a whale vessel; finding that he was unemployed in this city,
I easily engaged him to assist in my enterprise.
The master is a person of an excellent disposition and is remarkable
in the ship for his gentleness and the mildness of his discipline.
This circumstance, added to his well-known integrity and dauntless courage,
made me very desirous to engage him. A youth passed in solitude,
my best years spent under your gentle and feminine fosterage,
has so refined the groundwork of my character that I cannot overcome
an intense distaste to the usual brutality exercised on board ship:
I have never believed it to be necessary, and when I heard of a mariner
equally noted for his kindliness of heart and the respect and obedience
paid to him by his crew, I felt myself peculiarly fortunate
in being able to secure his services. I heard of him first
in rather a romantic manner, from a lady who owes to him the happiness
of her life. This, briefly, is his story. Some years ago
he loved a young Russian lady of moderate fortune, and having amassed
a considerable sum in prize-money, the father of the girl consented
to the match. He saw his mistress once before the destined ceremony;
but she was bathed in tears, and throwing herself at his feet,
entreated him to spare her, confessing at the same time
that she loved another, but that he was poor, and that her father
would never consent to the union. My generous friend
reassured the suppliant, and on being informed of the name of her lover,
instantly abandoned his pursuit. He had already bought a farm
with his money, on which he had designed to pass the remainder of his life;
but he bestowed the whole on his rival, together with the remains
of his prize-money to purchase stock, and then himself solicited
the young woman's father to consent to her marriage with her lover.
But the old man decidedly refused, thinking himself bound in honour
to my friend, who, when he found the father inexorable,
quitted his country, nor returned until he heard that his former mistress
was married according to her inclinations. "What a noble fellow!"
you will exclaim. He is so; but then he is wholly uneducated:
he is as silent as a Turk, and a kind of ignorant carelessness attends him,
which, while it renders his conduct the more astonishing,
detracts from the interest and sympathy which otherwise he would command.
Yet do not suppose, because I complain a little or because I can conceive
a consolation for my toils which I may never know, that I am wavering
in my resolutions. Those are as fixed as fate, and my voyage
is only now delayed until the weather shall permit my embarkation.
The winter has been dreadfully severe, but the spring promises well,
and it is considered as a remarkably early season, so that perhaps
I may sail sooner than I expected. I shall do nothing rashly:
you know me sufficiently to confide in my prudence and considerateness
whenever the safety of others is committed to my care.
I cannot describe to you my sensations on the near prospect
of my undertaking. It is impossible to communicate to you
a conception of the trembling sensation, half pleasurable and half fearful,
with which I am preparing to depart. I am going to unexplored regions,
to "the land of mist and snow," but I shall kill no albatross;
therefore do not be alarmed for my safety or if I should come back to you
as worn and woeful as the "Ancient Mariner." You will smile at my allusion,
but I will disclose a secret. I have often attributed my attachment to,
my passionate enthusiasm for, the dangerous mysteries of ocean
to that production of the most imaginative of modern poets.
There is something at work in my soul which I do not understand.
I am practically industrious--painstaking, a workman to execute
with perseverance and labour--but besides this there is a love
for the marvellous, a belief in the marvellous, intertwined
in all my projects, which hurries me out of the common pathways of men,
even to the wild sea and unvisited regions I am about to explore.
But to return to dearer considerations. Shall I meet you again,
after having traversed immense seas, and returned by the most southern cape
of Africa or America? I dare not expect such success, yet I cannot bear
to look on the reverse of the picture. Continue for the present
to write to me by every opportunity: I may receive your letters
on some occasions when I need them most to support my spirits.
I love you very tenderly. Remember me with affection,
should you never hear from me again.
Your affectionate brother,
Robert Walton
### Letter 3
To Mrs. Saville, England
July 7th, 17--
My dear Sister,
I write a few lines in haste to say that I am safe--
and well advanced on my voyage. This letter will reach England
by a merchantman now on its homeward voyage from Archangel;
more fortunate than I, who may not see my native land, perhaps,
for many years. I am, however, in good spirits: my men are bold
and apparently firm of purpose, nor do the floating sheets of ice
that continually pass us, indicating the dangers of the region
towards which we are advancing, appear to dismay them.
We have already reached a very high latitude; but it is
the height of summer, and although not so warm as in England,
the southern gales, which blow us speedily towards those shores
which I so ardently desire to attain, breathe a degree
of renovating warmth which I had not expected.
No incidents have hitherto befallen us that would make a figure
in a letter. One or two stiff gales and the springing of a leak
are accidents which experienced navigators scarcely remember to record,
and I shall be well content if nothing worse happen to us during our voyage.
Adieu, my dear Margaret. Be assured that for my own sake,
as well as yours, I will not rashly encounter danger.
I will be cool, persevering, and prudent.
But success *shall* crown my endeavours. Wherefore not?
Thus far I have gone, tracing a secure way over the pathless seas,
the very stars themselves being witnesses and testimonies
of my triumph. Why not still proceed over the untamed
yet obedient element? What can stop the determined heart
and resolved will of man?
My swelling heart involuntarily pours itself out thus.
But I must finish. Heaven bless my beloved sister!
### Letter 4
To Mrs. Saville, England
August 5th, 17--
So strange an accident has happened to us that I cannot forbear
recording it, although it is very probable that you will see me
before these papers can come into your possession.
Last Monday (July 31st) we were nearly surrounded by ice,
which closed in the ship on all sides, scarcely leaving her
the sea-room in which she floated. Our situation was somewhat dangerous,
especially as we were compassed round by a very thick fog.
We accordingly lay to, hoping that some change would take place
in the atmosphere and weather.
About two o'clock the mist cleared away, and we beheld,
stretched out in every direction, vast and irregular plains of ice,
which seemed to have no end. Some of my comrades groaned,
and my own mind began to grow watchful with anxious thoughts,
when a strange sight suddenly attracted our attention
and diverted our solicitude from our own situation.
We perceived a low carriage, fixed on a sledge and drawn by dogs,
pass on towards the north, at the distance of half a mile;
a being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature,
sat in the sledge and guided the dogs. We watched the rapid progress
of the traveller with our telescopes until he was lost
among the distant inequalities of the ice.
This appearance excited our unqualified wonder. We were, as we believed,
many hundred miles from any land; but this apparition seemed to denote
that it was not, in reality, so distant as we had supposed. Shut in,
however, by ice, it was impossible to follow his track,
which we had observed with the greatest attention.
About two hours after this occurrence we heard the ground sea,
and before night the ice broke and freed our ship. We, however,
lay to until the morning, fearing to encounter in the dark
those large loose masses which float about after the breaking up
of the ice. I profited of this time to rest for a few hours.
In the morning, however, as soon as it was light, I went upon deck
and found all the sailors busy on one side of the vessel,
apparently talking to someone in the sea. It was, in fact, a sledge,
like that we had seen before, which had drifted towards us in the night
on a large fragment of ice. Only one dog remained alive;
but there was a human being within it whom the sailors were persuading
to enter the vessel. He was not, as the other traveller seemed to be,
a savage inhabitant of some undiscovered island, but a European.
When I appeared on deck the master said, "Here is our captain,
and he will not allow you to perish on the open sea."
On perceiving me, the stranger addressed me in English,
although with a foreign accent. "Before I come on board your vessel,"
said he, "will you have the kindness to inform me whither you are bound?"
You may conceive my astonishment on hearing such a question
addressed to me from a man on the brink of destruction and to whom
I should have supposed that my vessel would have been a resource
which he would not have exchanged for the most precious wealth
the earth can afford. I replied, however, that we
were on a voyage of discovery towards the northern pole.
Upon hearing this he appeared satisfied and consented to come on board.
Good God! Margaret, if you had seen the man who thus capitulated
for his safety, your surprise would have been boundless.
His limbs were nearly frozen, and his body dreadfully emaciated
by fatigue and suffering. I never saw a man in so wretched a condition.
We attempted to carry him into the cabin, but as soon as he had quitted
the fresh air he fainted. We accordingly brought him back to the deck
and restored him to animation by rubbing him with brandy
and forcing him to swallow a small quantity. As soon as he showed
signs of life we wrapped him up in blankets and placed him near the chimney
of the kitchen stove. By slow degrees he recovered and ate a little soup,
which restored him wonderfully.
Two days passed in this manner before he was able to speak,
and I often feared that his sufferings had deprived him of understanding.
When he had in some measure recovered, I removed him to my own cabin
and attended on him as much as my duty would permit. I never saw
a more interesting creature: his eyes have generally
an expression of wildness, and even madness, but there are moments when,
if anyone performs an act of kindness towards him or does him
the most trifling service, his whole countenance is lighted up,
as it were, with a beam of benevolence and sweetness
that I never saw equalled. But he is generally melancholy and despairing,
and sometimes he gnashes his teeth, as if impatient of the weight of woes
that oppresses him.
When my guest was a little recovered I had great trouble
to keep off the men, who wished to ask him a thousand questions;
but I would not allow him to be tormented by their idle curiosity,
in a state of body and mind whose restoration evidently depended
upon entire repose. Once, however, the lieutenant asked
why he had come so far upon the ice in so strange a vehicle.
His countenance instantly assumed an aspect of the deepest gloom,
and he replied, "To seek one who fled from me."
"And did the man whom you pursued travel in the same fashion?"
"Then I fancy we have seen him, for the day before we picked you up
we saw some dogs drawing a sledge, with a man in it, across the ice."
This aroused the stranger's attention, and he asked a multitude
of questions concerning the route which the demon, as he called him,
had pursued. Soon after, when he was alone with me, he said,
"I have, doubtless, excited your curiosity, as well as that
of these good people; but you are too considerate to make inquiries."
"Certainly; it would indeed be very impertinent and inhuman of me
to trouble you with any inquisitiveness of mine."
"And yet you rescued me from a strange and perilous situation;
you have benevolently restored me to life."
Soon after this he inquired if I thought that the breaking up
of the ice had destroyed the other sledge. I replied
that I could not answer with any degree of certainty,
for the ice had not broken until near midnight, and the traveller
might have arrived at a place of safety before that time;
but of this I could not judge.
From this time a new spirit of life animated the decaying frame
of the stranger. He manifested the greatest eagerness to be upon deck
to watch for the sledge which had before appeared; but I have persuaded him
to remain in the cabin, for he is far too weak to sustain the rawness
of the atmosphere. I have promised that someone should watch for him
and give him instant notice if any new object should appear in sight.
Such is my journal of what relates to this strange occurrence
up to the present day. The stranger has gradually improved in health
but is very silent and appears uneasy when anyone except myself
enters his cabin. Yet his manners are so conciliating and gentle
that the sailors are all interested in him, although they have had
very little communication with him. For my own part, I begin to love him
as a brother, and his constant and deep grief fills me with sympathy
and compassion. He must have been a noble creature in his better days,
being even now in wreck so attractive and amiable.
I said in one of my letters, my dear Margaret, that I should find no friend
on the wide ocean; yet I have found a man who, before his spirit
had been broken by misery, I should have been happy to have possessed
as the brother of my heart.
I shall continue my journal concerning the stranger at intervals,
should I have any fresh incidents to record.
August 13th, 17--
My affection for my guest increases every day. He excites at once
my admiration and my pity to an astonishing degree.
How can I see so noble a creature destroyed by misery
without feeling the most poignant grief? He is so gentle,
yet so wise; his mind is so cultivated, and when he speaks,
although his words are culled with the choicest art,
yet they flow with rapidity and unparalleled eloquence.
He is now much recovered from his illness and is continually on the deck,
apparently watching for the sledge that preceded his own.
Yet, although unhappy, he is not so utterly occupied by his own misery
but that he interests himself deeply in the projects of others.
He has frequently conversed with me on mine, which I have communicated
to him without disguise. He entered attentively into all my arguments
in favour of my eventual success and into every minute detail
of the measures I had taken to secure it. I was easily led
by the sympathy which he evinced to use the language of my heart,
to give utterance to the burning ardour of my soul, and to say,
with all the fervour that warmed me, how gladly I would sacrifice my fortune,
my existence, my every hope, to the furtherance of my enterprise.
One man's life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement
of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire
and transmit over the elemental foes of our race. As I spoke,
a dark gloom spread over my listener's countenance. At first
I perceived that he tried to suppress his emotion; he placed his hands
before his eyes, and my voice quivered and failed me as I beheld tears
trickle fast from between his fingers; a groan burst from his heaving breast.
I paused; at length he spoke, in broken accents: "Unhappy man!
Do you share my madness? Have you drunk also of the intoxicating draught?
Hear me; let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips!"
Such words, you may imagine, strongly excited my curiosity;
but the paroxysm of grief that had seized the stranger
overcame his weakened powers, and many hours of repose
and tranquil conversation were necessary to restore his composure.
Having conquered the violence of his feelings, he appeared
to despise himself for being the slave of passion; and quelling
the dark tyranny of despair, he led me again to converse
concerning myself personally. He asked me the history
of my earlier years. The tale was quickly told, but it awakened
various trains of reflection. I spoke of my desire of finding a friend,
of my thirst for a more intimate sympathy with a fellow mind
than had ever fallen to my lot, and expressed my conviction
that a man could boast of little happiness who did not enjoy this blessing.
"I agree with you," replied the stranger; "we are unfashioned creatures,
but half made up, if one wiser, better, dearer than ourselves--
such a friend ought to be--do not lend his aid to perfectionate
our weak and faulty natures. I once had a friend, the most noble
of human creatures, and am entitled, therefore, to judge
respecting friendship. You have hope, and the world before you,
and have no cause for despair. But I--I have lost everything
and cannot begin life anew."
As he said this his countenance became expressive of a calm,
settled grief that touched me to the heart. But he was silent
and presently retired to his cabin.
Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than he does
the beauties of nature. The starry sky, the sea, and every sight
afforded by these wonderful regions seem still to have the power
of elevating his soul from earth. Such a man has a double existence:
he may suffer misery and be overwhelmed by disappointments,
yet when he has retired into himself, he will be like a celestial spirit
that has a halo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures.
Will you smile at the enthusiasm I express concerning this divine wanderer?
You would not if you saw him. You have been tutored and refined
by books and retirement from the world, and you are therefore
somewhat fastidious; but this only renders you the more fit
to appreciate the extraordinary merits of this wonderful man.
Sometimes I have endeavoured to discover what quality it is
which he possesses that elevates him so immeasurably above
any other person I ever knew. I believe it to be an intuitive discernment,
a quick but never-failing power of judgment, a penetration
into the causes of things, unequalled for clearness and precision;
add to this a facility of expression and a voice whose varied intonations
are soul-subduing music.
August 19, 17--
Yesterday the stranger said to me, "You may easily perceive,
Captain Walton, that I have suffered great and unparalleled misfortunes.
I had determined at one time that the memory of these evils
should die with me, but you have won me to alter my determination.
You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope
that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you,
as mine has been. I do not know that the relation of my disasters
will be useful to you; yet, when I reflect that you are pursuing
the same course, exposing yourself to the same dangers
which have rendered me what I am, I imagine that you may deduce
an apt moral from my tale, one that may direct you if you succeed
in your undertaking and console you in case of failure.
Prepare to hear of occurrences which are usually deemed marvellous.
Were we among the tamer scenes of nature I might fear to encounter
your unbelief, perhaps your ridicule; but many things will appear possible
in these wild and mysterious regions which would provoke the laughter
of those unacquainted with the ever-varied powers of nature;
nor can I doubt but that my tale conveys in its series internal evidence
of the truth of the events of which it is composed."
You may easily imagine that I was much gratified
by the offered communication, yet I could not endure that he should renew
his grief by a recital of his misfortunes. I felt the greatest eagerness
to hear the promised narrative, partly from curiosity and partly
from a strong desire to ameliorate his fate if it were in my power.
I expressed these feelings in my answer.
"I thank you," he replied, "for your sympathy, but it is useless;
my fate is nearly fulfilled. I wait but for one event,
and then I shall repose in peace. I understand your feeling,"
continued he, perceiving that I wished to interrupt him;
"but you are mistaken, my friend, if thus you will allow me to name you;
nothing can alter my destiny; listen to my history,
and you will perceive how irrevocably it is determined."
He then told me that he would commence his narrative the next day
when I should be at leisure. This promise drew from me the warmest thanks.
I have resolved every night, when I am not imperatively occupied
by my duties, to record, as nearly as possible in his own words,
what he has related during the day. If I should be engaged,
I will at least make notes. This manuscript will doubtless afford you
the greatest pleasure; but to me, who know him and who hear it
from his own lips--with what interest and sympathy shall I read it
in some future day! Even now, as I commence my task, his full-toned voice
swells in my ears; his lustrous eyes dwell on me
with all their melancholy sweetness; I see his thin hand
raised in animation, while the lineaments of his face
are irradiated by the soul within. Strange and harrowing must be his story,
frightful the storm which embraced the gallant vessel on its course
and wrecked it--thus!
Chapter 1
I am by birth a Genevese, and my family is one of the most distinguished
of that republic. My ancestors had been for many years counsellors
and syndics, and my father had filled several public situations
with honour and reputation. He was respected by all who knew him
for his integrity and indefatigable attention to public business.
He passed his younger days perpetually occupied by the affairs
of his country; a variety of circumstances had prevented his marrying early,
nor was it until the decline of life that he became a husband
and the father of a family.
As the circumstances of his marriage illustrate his character,
I cannot refrain from relating them. One of his most intimate friends
was a merchant who, from a flourishing state, fell,
through numerous mischances, into poverty. This man,
whose name was Beaufort, was of a proud and unbending disposition
and could not bear to live in poverty and oblivion in the same country
where he had formerly been distinguished for his rank and magnificence.
Having paid his debts, therefore, in the most honourable manner,
he retreated with his daughter to the town of Lucerne,
where he lived unknown and in wretchedness. My father loved Beaufort
with the truest friendship and was deeply grieved by his retreat
in these unfortunate circumstances. He bitterly deplored
the false pride which led his friend to a conduct so little worthy
of the affection that united them. He lost no time in endeavouring
to seek him out, with the hope of persuading him
to begin the world again through his credit and assistance.
Beaufort had taken effectual measures to conceal himself,
and it was ten months before my father discovered his abode.
Overjoyed at this discovery, he hastened to the house,
which was situated in a mean street near the Reuss.
But when he entered, misery and despair alone welcomed him.
Beaufort had saved but a very small sum of money from the wreck
of his fortunes, but it was sufficient to provide him with sustenance
for some months, and in the meantime he hoped to procure
some respectable employment in a merchant's house. The interval was,
consequently, spent in inaction; his grief only became
more deep and rankling when he had leisure for reflection,
and at length it took so fast hold of his mind that
at the end of three months he lay on a bed of sickness,
incapable of any exertion.
His daughter attended him with the greatest tenderness,
but she saw with despair that their little fund was rapidly decreasing
and that there was no other prospect of support. But Caroline Beaufort
possessed a mind of an uncommon mould, and her courage rose to support her
in her adversity. She procured plain work; she plaited straw
and by various means contrived to earn a pittance
scarcely sufficient to support life.
Several months passed in this manner. Her father grew worse;
her time was more entirely occupied in attending him;
her means of subsistence decreased; and in the tenth month
her father died in her arms, leaving her an orphan and a beggar.
This last blow overcame her, and she knelt by Beaufort's coffin
weeping bitterly, when my father entered the chamber. He came
like a protecting spirit to the poor girl, who committed herself
to his care; and after the interment of his friend he conducted her
to Geneva and placed her under the protection of a relation.
Two years after this event Caroline became his wife.
There was a considerable difference between the ages of my parents,
but this circumstance seemed to unite them only closer
in bonds of devoted affection. There was a sense of justice
in my father's upright mind which rendered it necessary
that he should approve highly to love strongly.
Perhaps during former years he had suffered from the late-discovered
unworthiness of one beloved and so was disposed to set a greater value
on tried worth. There was a show of gratitude and worship
in his attachment to my mother, differing wholly from the doting fondness
of age, for it was inspired by reverence for her virtues
and a desire to be the means of, in some degree, recompensing her
for the sorrows she had endured, but which gave inexpressible grace
to his behaviour to her. Everything was made to yield to her wishes
and her convenience. He strove to shelter her, as a fair exotic
is sheltered by the gardener, from every rougher wind and to surround her
with all that could tend to excite pleasurable emotion
in her soft and benevolent mind. Her health, and even the tranquillity
of her hitherto constant spirit, had been shaken by what she
had gone through. During the two years that had elapsed previous
to their marriage my father had gradually relinquished
all his public functions; and immediately after their union
they sought the pleasant climate of Italy, and the change of scene
and interest attendant on a tour through that land of wonders,
as a restorative for her weakened frame.
From Italy they visited Germany and France. I, their eldest child,
was born at Naples, and as an infant accompanied them in their rambles.
I remained for several years their only child. Much as they were
attached to each other, they seemed to draw inexhaustible stores
of affection from a very mine of love to bestow them upon me.
My mother's tender caresses and my father's smile of benevolent pleasure
while regarding me are my first recollections. I was their plaything
and their idol, and something better--their child, the innocent
and helpless creature bestowed on them by heaven, whom to bring up to good,
and whose future lot it was in their hands to direct to happiness
or misery, according as they fulfilled their duties towards me.
With this deep consciousness of what they owed towards the being
to which they had given life, added to the active spirit of tenderness
that animated both, it may be imagined that while during every hour
of my infant life I received a lesson of patience, of charity,
and of self-control, I was so guided by a silken cord that all seemed
but one train of enjoyment to me.
For a long time I was their only care. My mother had much desired
to have a daughter, but I continued their single offspring.
When I was about five years old, while making an excursion
beyond the frontiers of Italy, they passed a week on the shores
of the Lake of Como. Their benevolent disposition often made them enter
the cottages of the poor. This, to my mother, was more than a duty;
it was a necessity, a passion--remembering what she had suffered,
and how she had been relieved--for her to act in her turn
the guardian angel to the afflicted. During one of their walks
a poor cot in the foldings of a vale attracted their notice
as being singularly disconsolate, while the number of half-clothed children
gathered about it spoke of penury in its worst shape. One day,
when my father had gone by himself to Milan, my mother, accompanied by me,
visited this abode. She found a peasant and his wife, hard working,
bent down by care and labour, distributing a scanty meal
to five hungry babes. Among these there was one which attracted
my mother far above all the rest. She appeared of a different stock.
The four others were dark-eyed, hardy little vagrants;
this child was thin and very fair. Her hair was the brightest
living gold, and despite the poverty of her clothing, seemed
to set a crown of distinction on her head. Her brow was clear and ample,
her blue eyes cloudless, and her lips and the moulding of her face
so expressive of sensibility and sweetness that none could behold her
without looking on her as of a distinct species, a being heaven-sent,
and bearing a celestial stamp in all her features.
The peasant woman, perceiving that my mother fixed eyes of wonder
and admiration on this lovely girl, eagerly communicated her history.
She was not her child, but the daughter of a Milanese nobleman.
Her mother was a German and had died on giving her birth.
The infant had been placed with these good people to nurse:
they were better off then. They had not been long married,
and their eldest child was but just born. The father of their charge
was one of those Italians nursed in the memory of the antique glory
of Italy--one among the *schiavi ognor frementi*, who exerted himself
to obtain the liberty of his country. He became the victim
of its weakness. Whether he had died or still lingered
in the dungeons of Austria was not known. His property was confiscated;
his child became an orphan and a beggar. She continued
with her foster parents and bloomed in their rude abode,
fairer than a garden rose among dark-leaved brambles.
When my father returned from Milan, he found playing with me
in the hall of our villa a child fairer than pictured cherub--
a creature who seemed to shed radiance from her looks and whose form
and motions were lighter than the chamois of the hills. The apparition
was soon explained. With his permission my mother prevailed
on her rustic guardians to yield their charge to her. They were fond
of the sweet orphan. Her presence had seemed a blessing to them,
but it would be unfair to her to keep her in poverty and want
when Providence afforded her such powerful protection.
They consulted their village priest, and the result was
that Elizabeth Lavenza became the inmate of my parents' house--
my more than sister--the beautiful and adored companion
of all my occupations and my pleasures.
Everyone loved Elizabeth. The passionate and almost reverential attachment
with which all regarded her became, while I shared it, my pride
and my delight. On the evening previous to her being brought to my home,
my mother had said playfully, "I have a pretty present for my Victor--
tomorrow he shall have it." And when, on the morrow,
she presented Elizabeth to me as her promised gift, I,
with childish seriousness, interpreted her words literally
and looked upon Elizabeth as mine--mine to protect, love, and cherish.
All praises bestowed on her I received as made to a possession of my own.
We called each other familiarly by the name of cousin. No word,
no expression could body forth the kind of relation in which she stood
to me--my more than sister, since till death she was to be mine only.
Chapter 2
We were brought up together; there was not quite a year
difference in our ages. I need not say that we were strangers
to any species of disunion or dispute. Harmony was the soul
of our companionship, and the diversity and contrast
that subsisted in our characters drew us nearer together.
Elizabeth was of a calmer and more concentrated disposition;
but, with all my ardour, I was capable of a more intense application
and was more deeply smitten with the thirst for knowledge.
She busied herself with following the aerial creations
of the poets; and in the majestic and wondrous scenes
which surrounded our Swiss home--the sublime shapes
of the mountains, the changes of the seasons, tempest and calm,
the silence of winter, and the life and turbulence
of our Alpine summers--she found ample scope for admiration
and delight. While my companion contemplated with a serious
and satisfied spirit the magnificent appearances of things,
I delighted in investigating their causes. The world was to me
a secret which I desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research
to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture,
as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations
I can remember.
On the birth of a second son, my junior by seven years,
my parents gave up entirely their wandering life and fixed themselves
in their native country. We possessed a house in Geneva, and a campagne
on Belrive, the eastern shore of the lake, at the distance
of rather more than a league from the city. We resided principally
in the latter, and the lives of my parents were passed
in considerable seclusion. It was my temper to avoid a crowd
and to attach myself fervently to a few. I was indifferent, therefore,
to my school-fellows in general; but I united myself in the bonds
of the closest friendship to one among them. Henry Clerval
was the son of a merchant of Geneva. He was a boy
of singular talent and fancy. He loved enterprise, hardship,
and even danger for its own sake. He was deeply read
in books of chivalry and romance. He composed heroic songs
and began to write many a tale of enchantment and knightly adventure.
He tried to make us act plays and to enter into masquerades,
in which the characters were drawn from the heroes of Roncesvalles,
of the Round Table of King Arthur, and the chivalrous train
who shed their blood to redeem the holy sepulchre
from the hands of the infidels.
No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself.
My parents were possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence.
We felt that they were not the tyrants to rule our lot
according to their caprice, but the agents and creators
of all the many delights which we enjoyed. When I mingled
with other families I distinctly discerned how peculiarly fortunate
my lot was, and gratitude assisted the development of filial love.
My temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement;
but by some law in my temperature they were turned
not towards childish pursuits but to an eager desire to learn,
and not to learn all things indiscriminately. I confess
that neither the structure of languages, nor the code of governments,
nor the politics of various states possessed attractions for me.
It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn;
and whether it was the outward substance of things
or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man
that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical,
or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.
Meanwhile Clerval occupied himself, so to speak,
with the moral relations of things. The busy stage of life,
the virtues of heroes, and the actions of men were his theme;
and his hope and his dream was to become one among those
whose names are recorded in story as the gallant
and adventurous benefactors of our species. The saintly soul
of Elizabeth shone like a shrine-dedicated lamp in our peaceful home.
Her sympathy was ours; her smile, her soft voice, the sweet glance
of her celestial eyes, were ever there to bless and animate us.
She was the living spirit of love to soften and attract;
I might have become sullen in my study, through the ardour of my nature,
but that she was there to subdue me to a semblance of her own gentleness.
And Clerval--could aught ill entrench on the noble spirit of Clerval?
Yet he might not have been so perfectly humane, so thoughtful
in his generosity, so full of kindness and tenderness
amidst his passion for adventurous exploit, had she not unfolded
to him the real loveliness of beneficence and made the doing good
the end and aim of his soaring ambition.
I feel exquisite pleasure in dwelling on the recollections of childhood,
before misfortune had tainted my mind and changed its bright visions
of extensive usefulness into gloomy and narrow reflections upon self.
Besides, in drawing the picture of my early days, I also record
those events which led, by insensible steps, to my after tale of misery,
for when I would account to myself for the birth of that passion
which afterward ruled my destiny I find it arise, like a mountain river,
from ignoble and almost forgotten sources; but, swelling as it proceeded,
it became the torrent which, in its course, has swept away
all my hopes and joys. Natural philosophy is the genius
that has regulated my fate; I desire, therefore, in this narration,
to state those facts which led to my predilection for that science.
When I was thirteen years of age we all went on a party of pleasure
to the baths near Thonon; the inclemency of the weather
obliged us to remain a day confined to the inn. In this house
I chanced to find a volume of the works of Cornelius Agrippa.
I opened it with apathy; the theory which he attempts
to demonstrate and the wonderful facts which he relates
soon changed this feeling into enthusiasm. A new light
seemed to dawn upon my mind, and bounding with joy,
I communicated my discovery to my father. My father looked carelessly
at the title page of my book and said, "Ah! Cornelius Agrippa!
My dear Victor, do not waste your time upon this; it is sad trash."
If, instead of this remark, my father had taken the pains
to explain to me that the principles of Agrippa
had been entirely exploded and that a modern system of science
had been introduced which possessed much greater powers
than the ancient, because the powers of the latter were chimerical,
while those of the former were real and practical,
under such circumstances I should certainly have thrown Agrippa aside
and have contented my imagination, warmed as it was,
by returning with greater ardour to my former studies.
It is even possible that the train of my ideas
would never have received the fatal impulse that led to my ruin.
But the cursory glance my father had taken of my volume
by no means assured me that he was acquainted with its contents,
and I continued to read with the greatest avidity.
When I returned home my first care was to procure the whole works
of this author, and afterwards of Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus.
I read and studied the wild fancies of these writers with delight;
they appeared to me treasures known to few besides myself.
I have described myself as always having been imbued
with a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature.
In spite of the intense labour and wonderful discoveries
of modern philosophers, I always came from my studies discontented
and unsatisfied. Sir Isaac Newton is said to have avowed
that he felt like a child picking up shells beside the great
and unexplored ocean of truth. Those of his successors
in each branch of natural philosophy with whom I was acquainted
appeared even to my boy's apprehensions as tyros engaged
in the same pursuit.
The untaught peasant beheld the elements around him and was acquainted
with their practical uses. The most learned philosopher knew little more.
He had partially unveiled the face of Nature, but her immortal
lineaments were still a wonder and a mystery. He might dissect,
anatomize, and give names; but, not to speak of a final cause,
causes in their secondary and tertiary grades were utterly unknown to him.
I had gazed upon the fortifications and impediments that seemed
to keep human beings from entering the citadel of nature,
and rashly and ignorantly I had repined.
But here were books, and here were men who had penetrated deeper
and knew more. I took their word for all that they averred,
and I became their disciple. It may appear strange that such
should arise in the eighteenth century; but while I followed the routine
of education in the schools of Geneva, I was, to a great degree,
self-taught with regard to my favourite studies. My father
was not scientific, and I was left to struggle with a child's blindness,
added to a student's thirst for knowledge. Under the guidance
of my new preceptors I entered with the greatest diligence
into the search of the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life;
but the latter soon obtained my undivided attention.
Wealth was an inferior object, but what glory would attend
the discovery if I could banish disease from the human frame
and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!
Nor were these my only visions. The raising of ghosts or devils
was a promise liberally accorded by my favourite authors,
the fulfillment of which I most eagerly sought; and if my incantations
were always unsuccessful, I attributed the failure rather to my own
inexperience and mistake than to a want of skill or fidelity
in my instructors. And thus for a time I was occupied by exploded systems,
mingling, like an unadept, a thousand contradictory theories
and floundering desperately in a very slough of multifarious knowledge,
guided by an ardent imagination and childish reasoning, till an accident
again changed the current of my ideas. When I was
about fifteen years old we had retired to our house near Belrive,
when we witnessed a most violent and terrible thunderstorm.
It advanced from behind the mountains of Jura, and the thunder burst
at once with frightful loudness from various quarters of the heavens.
I remained, while the storm lasted, watching its progress
with curiosity and delight. As I stood at the door, on a sudden
I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak
which stood about twenty yards from our house; and so soon
as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared,
and nothing remained but a blasted stump. When we visited it
the next morning, we found the tree shattered in a singular manner.
It was not splintered by the shock, but entirely reduced
to thin ribbons of wood. I never beheld anything
so utterly destroyed.
Before this I was not unacquainted with the more obvious
laws of electricity. On this occasion a man of great research
in natural philosophy was with us, and excited by this catastrophe,
he entered on the explanation of a theory which he had formed
on the subject of electricity and galvanism, which was at once new
and astonishing to me. All that he said threw greatly
into the shade Cornelius Agrippa, Albertus Magnus, and Paracelsus,
the lords of my imagination; but by some fatality the overthrow
of these men disinclined me to pursue my accustomed studies.
It seemed to me as if nothing would or could ever be known.
All that had so long engaged my attention suddenly grew despicable.
By one of those caprices of the mind which we are perhaps
most subject to in early youth, I at once gave up
my former occupations, set down natural history and all its progeny
as a deformed and abortive creation, and entertained
the greatest disdain for a would-be science which
could never even step within the threshold of real knowledge.
In this mood of mind I betook myself to the mathematics
and the branches of study appertaining to that science
as being built upon secure foundations, and so worthy
of my consideration.
Thus strangely are our souls constructed, and by such slight ligaments
are we bound to prosperity or ruin. When I look back,
it seems to me as if this almost miraculous change of inclination
and will was the immediate suggestion of the guardian angel
of my life--the last effort made by the spirit of preservation
to avert the storm that was even then hanging in the stars
and ready to envelop me. Her victory was announced
by an unusual tranquillity and gladness of soul which followed
the relinquishing of my ancient and latterly tormenting studies.
It was thus that I was to be taught to associate evil with their prosecution,
happiness with their disregard.
It was a strong effort of the spirit of good, but it was ineffectual.
Destiny was too potent, and her immutable laws had decreed
my utter and terrible destruction.
Chapter 3
When I had attained the age of seventeen my parents resolved
that I should become a student at the university of Ingolstadt.
I had hitherto attended the schools of Geneva, but my father
thought it necessary for the completion of my education
that I should be made acquainted with other customs
than those of my native country. My departure was therefore fixed
at an early date, but before the day resolved upon could arrive,
the first misfortune of my life occurred--an omen, as it were,
of my future misery. Elizabeth had caught the scarlet fever;
her illness was severe, and she was in the greatest danger.
During her illness many arguments had been urged
to persuade my mother to refrain from attending upon her.
She had at first yielded to our entreaties, but when she heard
that the life of her favourite was menaced, she could no longer
control her anxiety. She attended her sickbed; her watchful attentions
triumphed over the malignity of the distemper--Elizabeth was saved,
but the consequences of this imprudence were fatal to her preserver.
On the third day my mother sickened; her fever was accompanied
by the most alarming symptoms, and the looks of her medical attendants
prognosticated the worst event. On her deathbed the fortitude
and benignity of this best of women did not desert her.
She joined the hands of Elizabeth and myself. "My children,"
she said, "my firmest hopes of future happiness were placed
on the prospect of your union. This expectation
will now be the consolation of your father. Elizabeth, my love,
you must supply my place to my younger children. Alas!
I regret that I am taken from you; and, happy and beloved
as I have been, is it not hard to quit you all?
But these are not thoughts befitting me; I will endeavour
to resign myself cheerfully to death and will indulge a hope
of meeting you in another world."
She died calmly, and her countenance expressed affection
even in death. I need not describe the feelings of those
whose dearest ties are rent by that most irreparable evil,
the void that presents itself to the soul, and the despair
that is exhibited on the countenance. It is so long
before the mind can persuade itself that she whom we saw every day
and whose very existence appeared a part of our own can have departed
forever--that the brightness of a beloved eye can have been extinguished
and the sound of a voice so familiar and dear to the ear can be hushed,
never more to be heard. These are the reflections of the first days;
but when the lapse of time proves the reality of the evil,
then the actual bitterness of grief commences. Yet from whom
has not that rude hand rent away some dear connection?
And why should I describe a sorrow which all have felt,
and must feel? The time at length arrives when grief
is rather an indulgence than a necessity; and the smile
that plays upon the lips, although it may be deemed a sacrilege,
is not banished. My mother was dead, but we had still duties
which we ought to perform; we must continue our course with the rest
and learn to think ourselves fortunate whilst one remains
whom the spoiler has not seized. My departure for Ingolstadt,
which had been deferred by these events, was now again determined upon.
I obtained from my father a respite of some weeks. It appeared to me
sacrilege so soon to leave the repose, akin to death,
of the house of mourning and to rush into the thick of life.
I was new to sorrow, but it did not the less alarm me.
I was unwilling to quit the sight of those that remained to me,
and above all, I desired to see my sweet Elizabeth
in some degree consoled.
She indeed veiled her grief and strove to act the comforter
to us all. She looked steadily on life and assumed its duties
with courage and zeal. She devoted herself to those
whom she had been taught to call her uncle and cousins.
Never was she so enchanting as at this time, when she recalled
the sunshine of her smiles and spent them upon us.
She forgot even her own regret in her endeavours to make us forget.
The day of my departure at length arrived. Clerval spent the last evening
with us. He had endeavoured to persuade his father to permit him
to accompany me and to become my fellow student, but in vain. His father
was a narrow-minded trader and saw idleness and ruin
in the aspirations and ambition of his son. Henry deeply felt
the misfortune of being debarred from a liberal education.
He said little, but when he spoke I read in his kindling eye
and in his animated glance a restrained but firm resolve
not to be chained to the miserable details of commerce.
We sat late. We could not tear ourselves away from each other
nor persuade ourselves to say the word "Farewell!" It was said,
and we retired under the pretence of seeking repose,
each fancying that the other was deceived; but when at morning's dawn
I descended to the carriage which was to convey me away,
they were all there--my father again to bless me, Clerval
to press my hand once more, my Elizabeth to renew her entreaties
that I would write often and to bestow the last feminine attentions
on her playmate and friend.
I threw myself into the chaise that was to convey me away
and indulged in the most melancholy reflections. I, who had ever been
surrounded by amiable companions, continually engaged in endeavouring
to bestow mutual pleasure--I was now alone. In the university
whither I was going I must form my own friends and be my own protector.
My life had hitherto been remarkably secluded and domestic,
and this had given me invincible repugnance to new countenances.
I loved my brothers, Elizabeth, and Clerval; these were
"old familiar faces," but I believed myself totally unfitted
for the company of strangers. Such were my reflections
as I commenced my journey; but as I proceeded,
my spirits and hopes rose. I ardently desired the acquisition
of knowledge. I had often, when at home, thought it hard
to remain during my youth cooped up in one place and had longed
to enter the world and take my station among other human beings.
Now my desires were complied with, and it would, indeed,
have been folly to repent.
I had sufficient leisure for these and many other reflections
during my journey to Ingolstadt, which was long and fatiguing.
At length the high white steeple of the town met my eyes.
I alighted and was conducted to my solitary apartment
to spend the evening as I pleased.
The next morning I delivered my letters of introduction
and paid a visit to some of the principal professors.
Chance--or rather the evil influence, the Angel of Destruction,
which asserted omnipotent sway over me from the moment I turned
my reluctant steps from my father's door--led me first to
M. Krempe, professor of natural philosophy. He was an uncouth man,
but deeply imbued in the secrets of his science. He asked me
several questions concerning my progress in the different
branches of science appertaining to natural philosophy. I replied
carelessly, and partly in contempt, mentioned the names
of my alchemists as the principal authors I had studied.
The professor stared. "Have you," he said, "really spent your time
in studying such nonsense?"
I replied in the affirmative. "Every minute," continued M. Krempe
with warmth, "every instant that you have wasted on those books
is utterly and entirely lost. You have burdened your memory
with exploded systems and useless names. Good God!
In what desert land have you lived, where no one was kind enough
to inform you that these fancies which you have so greedily imbibed
are a thousand years old and as musty as they are ancient?
I little expected, in this enlightened and scientific age,
to find a disciple of Albertus Magnus and Paracelsus. My dear sir,
you must begin your studies entirely anew."
So saying, he stepped aside and wrote down a list of several books
treating of natural philosophy which he desired me to procure,
and dismissed me after mentioning that in the beginning
of the following week he intended to commence a course of lectures
upon natural philosophy in its general relations, and that M. Waldman,
a fellow professor, would lecture upon chemistry the alternate days
that he omitted.
I returned home not disappointed, for I have said that I had long considered
those authors useless whom the professor reprobated; but I returned
not at all the more inclined to recur to these studies in any shape.
M. Krempe was a little squat man with a gruff voice and a repulsive
countenance; the teacher, therefore, did not prepossess me in favour
of his pursuits. In rather a too philosophical and connected a strain,
perhaps, I have given an account of the conclusions I had come to
concerning them in my early years. As a child I had not been content
with the results promised by the modern professors of natural science.
With a confusion of ideas only to be accounted for by my extreme youth
and my want of a guide on such matters, I had retrod the steps of knowledge
along the paths of time and exchanged the discoveries of recent inquirers
for the dreams of forgotten alchemists. Besides, I had a contempt
for the uses of modern natural philosophy. It was very different
when the masters of the science sought immortality and power;
such views, although futile, were grand; but now the scene was changed.
The ambition of the inquirer seemed to limit itself to the annihilation
of those visions on which my interest in science was chiefly founded.
I was required to exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities
of little worth.
Such were my reflections during the first two or three days
of my residence at Ingolstadt, which were chiefly spent
in becoming acquainted with the localities and the principal residents
in my new abode. But as the ensuing week commenced, I thought
of the information which M. Krempe had given me concerning the lectures.
And although I could not consent to go and hear that little conceited fellow
deliver sentences out of a pulpit, I recollected what he had said
of M. Waldman, whom I had never seen, as he had hitherto been out of town.
Partly from curiosity and partly from idleness, I went
into the lecturing room, which M. Waldman entered shortly after.
This professor was very unlike his colleague. He appeared
about fifty years of age, but with an aspect expressive
of the greatest benevolence; a few grey hairs covered his temples,
but those at the back of his head were nearly black. His person
was short but remarkably erect and his voice the sweetest
I had ever heard. He began his lecture by a recapitulation
of the history of chemistry and the various improvements
made by different men of learning, pronouncing with fervour
the names of the most distinguished discoverers. He then
took a cursory view of the present state of the science
and explained many of its elementary terms. After having made
a few preparatory experiments, he concluded with a panegyric
upon modern chemistry, the terms of which I shall never forget:
"The ancient teachers of this science," said he, "promised impossibilities
and performed nothing. The modern masters promise very little;
they know that metals cannot be transmuted and that the elixir of life
is a chimera but these philosophers, whose hands seem only made to dabble
in dirt, and their eyes to pore over the microscope or crucible,
have indeed performed miracles. They penetrate into the recesses
of nature and show how she works in her hiding-places.
They ascend into the heavens; they have discovered
how the blood circulates, and the nature of the air we breathe.
They have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command
the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock
the invisible world with its own shadows."
Such were the professor's words--rather let me say such the words
of the fate--enounced to destroy me. As he went on I felt
as if my soul were grappling with a palpable enemy; one by one
the various keys were touched which formed the mechanism of my being;
chord after chord was sounded, and soon my mind was filled
with one thought, one conception, one purpose. So much has been done,
exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein--more, far more, will I achieve;
treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way,
explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries
of creation.
I closed not my eyes that night. My internal being was
in a state of insurrection and turmoil; I felt that order
would thence arise, but I had no power to produce it. By degrees,
after the morning's dawn, sleep came. I awoke, and my yesternight's
thoughts were as a dream. There only remained a resolution to return
to my ancient studies and to devote myself to a science for which
I believed myself to possess a natural talent. On the same day
I paid M. Waldman a visit. His manners in private
were even more mild and attractive than in public,
for there was a certain dignity in his mien during his lecture
which in his own house was replaced by the greatest affability
and kindness. I gave him pretty nearly the same account
of my former pursuits as I had given to his fellow professor.
He heard with attention the little narration concerning my studies
and smiled at the names of Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus,
but without the contempt that M. Krempe had exhibited.
He said that "These were men to whose indefatigable zeal
modern philosophers were indebted for most of the foundations
of their knowledge. They had left to us, as an easier task,
to give new names and arrange in connected classifications
the facts which they in a great degree had been the instruments
of bringing to light. The labours of men of genius,
however erroneously directed, scarcely ever fail in ultimately turning
to the solid advantage of mankind." I listened to his statement,
which was delivered without any presumption or affectation,
and then added that his lecture had removed my prejudices
against modern chemists; I expressed myself in measured terms,
with the modesty and deference due from a youth to his instructor,
without letting escape (inexperience in life would have made me ashamed)
any of the enthusiasm which stimulated my intended labours.
I requested his advice concerning the books I ought to procure.
"I am happy," said M. Waldman, "to have gained a disciple;
and if your application equals your ability, I have no doubt
of your success. Chemistry is that branch of natural philosophy
in which the greatest improvements have been and may be made;
it is on that account that I have made it my peculiar study;
but at the same time, I have not neglected the other
branches of science. A man would make but a very sorry chemist
if he attended to that department of human knowledge alone.
If your wish is to become really a man of science and not merely
a petty experimentalist, I should advise you to apply to every branch
of natural philosophy, including mathematics." He then took me
into his laboratory and explained to me the uses of his various machines,
instructing me as to what I ought to procure and promising me the use
of his own when I should have advanced far enough in the science
not to derange their mechanism. He also gave me the list of books
which I had requested, and I took my leave.
Thus ended a day memorable to me; it decided my future destiny.
Chapter 4
From this day natural philosophy, and particularly chemistry,
in the most comprehensive sense of the term, became nearly
my sole occupation. I read with ardour those works,
so full of genius and discrimination, which modern inquirers
have written on these subjects. I attended the lectures
and cultivated the acquaintance of the men of science
of the university, and I found even in M. Krempe a great deal
of sound sense and real information, combined, it is true,
with a repulsive physiognomy and manners, but not on that account
the less valuable. In M. Waldman I found a true friend.
His gentleness was never tinged by dogmatism, and his instructions
were given with an air of frankness and good nature that banished
every idea of pedantry. In a thousand ways he smoothed for me
the path of knowledge and made the most abstruse inquiries
clear and facile to my apprehension. My application was at first
fluctuating and uncertain; it gained strength as I proceeded
and soon became so ardent and eager that the stars often disappeared
in the light of morning whilst I was yet engaged in my laboratory.
As I applied so closely, it may be easily conceived that
my progress was rapid. My ardour was indeed the astonishment
of the students, and my proficiency that of the masters.
Professor Krempe often asked me, with a sly smile, how Cornelius Agrippa
went on, whilst M. Waldman expressed the most heartfelt exultation
in my progress. Two years passed in this manner, during which
I paid no visit to Geneva, but was engaged, heart and soul,
in the pursuit of some discoveries which I hoped to make.
None but those who have experienced them can conceive
of the enticements of science. In other studies you go as far as others
have gone before you, and there is nothing more to know;
but in a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery
and wonder. A mind of moderate capacity which closely pursues one study
must infallibly arrive at great proficiency in that study;
and I, who continually sought the attainment of one object
of pursuit and was solely wrapped up in this, improved so rapidly
that at the end of two years I made some discoveries
in the improvement of some chemical instruments, which procured me
great esteem and admiration at the university. When I had arrived
at this point and had become as well acquainted with the theory
and practice of natural philosophy as depended on the lessons
of any of the professors at Ingolstadt, my residence there
being no longer conducive to my improvements, I thought of returning
to my friends and my native town, when an incident happened
that protracted my stay.
One of the phenomena which had peculiarly attracted my attention
was the structure of the human frame, and, indeed, any animal
endued with life. Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle
of life proceed? It was a bold question, and one which has ever been
considered as a mystery; yet with how many things are we upon the brink
of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain
our inquiries. I revolved these circumstances in my mind and determined
thenceforth to apply myself more particularly to those branches
of natural philosophy which relate to physiology. Unless I had been animated
by an almost supernatural enthusiasm, my application to this study
would have been irksome and almost intolerable. To examine
the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death.
I became acquainted with the science of anatomy, but this was not sufficient;
I must also observe the natural decay and corruption of the human body.
In my education my father had taken the greatest precautions that my mind
should be impressed with no supernatural horrors. I do not ever remember
to have trembled at a tale of superstition or to have feared the apparition
of a spirit. Darkness had no effect upon my fancy, and a churchyard
was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived of life, which,
from being the seat of beauty and strength, had become food for the worm.
Now I was led to examine the cause and progress of this decay
and forced to spend days and nights in vaults and charnel-houses.
My attention was fixed upon every object the most insupportable
to the delicacy of the human feelings. I saw how the fine form of man
was degraded and wasted; I beheld the corruption of death succeed
to the blooming cheek of life; I saw how the worm inherited the wonders
of the eye and brain. I paused, examining and analysing all the minutiae
of causation, as exemplified in the change from life to death,
and death to life, until from the midst of this darkness a sudden light
broke in upon me--a light so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simple,
that while I became dizzy with the immensity of the prospect
which it illustrated, I was surprised that among so many men of genius
who had directed their inquiries towards the same science,
that I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret.
Remember, I am not recording the vision of a madman. The sun does not
more certainly shine in the heavens than that which I now affirm is true.
Some miracle might have produced it, yet the stages of the discovery
were distinct and probable. After days and nights of incredible labour
and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life;
nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation
upon lifeless matter.
The astonishment which I had at first experienced on this discovery
soon gave place to delight and rapture. After so much time
spent in painful labour, to arrive at once at the summit
of my desires was the most gratifying consummation of my toils.
But this discovery was so great and overwhelming that all the steps
by which I had been progressively led to it were obliterated,
and I beheld only the result. What had been the study
and desire of the wisest men since the creation of the world
was now within my grasp. Not that, like a magic scene,
it all opened upon me at once: the information I had obtained
was of a nature rather to direct my endeavours so soon as I should point them
towards the object of my search than to exhibit that object
already accomplished. I was like the Arabian who had been buried
with the dead and found a passage to life, aided only by one glimmering
and seemingly ineffectual light.
I see by your eagerness and the wonder and hope which your eyes express,
my friend, that you expect to be informed of the secret with which
I am acquainted; that cannot be; listen patiently until the end of my story,
and you will easily perceive why I am reserved upon that subject.
I will not lead you on, unguarded and ardent as I then was,
to your destruction and infallible misery. Learn from me,
if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous
is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is
who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires
to become greater than his nature will allow.
When I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands,
I hesitated a long time concerning the manner in which I should employ it.
Although I possessed the capacity of bestowing animation, yet
to prepare a frame for the reception of it, with all its intricacies
of fibres, muscles, and veins, still remained a work
of inconceivable difficulty and labour. I doubted at first
whether I should attempt the creation of a being like myself,
or one of simpler organization; but my imagination was too much exalted
by my first success to permit me to doubt of my ability to give life
to an animal as complete and wonderful as man. The materials at present
within my command hardly appeared adequate to so arduous an undertaking,
but I doubted not that I should ultimately succeed. I prepared myself
for a multitude of reverses; my operations might be incessantly baffled,
and at last my work be imperfect, yet when I considered the improvement
which every day takes place in science and mechanics, I was encouraged
to hope my present attempts would at least lay the foundations
of future success. Nor could I consider the magnitude
and complexity of my plan as any argument of its impracticability.
It was with these feelings that I began the creation of a human being.
As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed,
I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being
of a gigantic stature, that is to say, about eight feet in height,
and proportionably large. After having formed this determination
and having spent some months in successfully collecting
and arranging my materials, I began.
No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards,
like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success. Life and death
appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through,
and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species
would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures
would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude
of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs.
Pursuing these reflections, I thought that if I could bestow animation
upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time (although I now found it
impossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body
to corruption.
These thoughts supported my spirits, while I pursued my undertaking
with unremitting ardour. My cheek had grown pale with study,
and my person had become emaciated with confinement. Sometimes,
on the very brink of certainty, I failed; yet still I clung to the hope
which the next day or the next hour might realize. One secret
which I alone possessed was the hope to which I had dedicated myself;
and the moon gazed on my midnight labours, while, with unrelaxed
and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding-places.
Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil as I dabbled
among the unhallowed damps of the grave or tortured the living animal
to animate the lifeless clay? My limbs now tremble, and my eyes swim
with the remembrance; but then a resistless and almost frantic impulse
urged me forward; I seemed to have lost all soul or sensation
but for this one pursuit. It was indeed but a passing trance,
that only made me feel with renewed acuteness so soon as,
the unnatural stimulus ceasing to operate, I had returned to my old habits.
I collected bones from charnel-houses and disturbed, with profane fingers,
the tremendous secrets of the human frame. In a solitary chamber,
or rather cell, at the top of the house, and separated
from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase,
I kept my workshop of filthy creation; my eyeballs were starting
from their sockets in attending to the details of my employment.
The dissecting room and the slaughter-house furnished many of my materials;
and often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation,
whilst, still urged on by an eagerness which perpetually increased,
I brought my work near to a conclusion.
The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul,
in one pursuit. It was a most beautiful season; never did the fields
bestow a more plentiful harvest or the vines yield a more luxuriant vintage,
but my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature. And the same feelings
which made me neglect the scenes around me caused me also to forget
those friends who were so many miles absent, and whom I had not seen
for so long a time. I knew my silence disquieted them, and I well remembered
the words of my father: "I know that while you are pleased with yourself
you will think of us with affection, and we shall hear regularly from you.
You must pardon me if I regard any interruption in your correspondence
as a proof that your other duties are equally neglected."
I knew well therefore what would be my father's feelings,
but I could not tear my thoughts from my employment, loathsome in itself,
but which had taken an irresistible hold of my imagination. I wished,
as it were, to procrastinate all that related to my feelings of affection
until the great object, which swallowed up every habit of my nature,
should be completed.
I then thought that my father would be unjust if he ascribed my neglect
to vice or faultiness on my part, but I am now convinced
that he was justified in conceiving that I should not be altogether
free from blame. A human being in perfection ought always to preserve
a calm and peaceful mind and never to allow passion or a transitory desire
to disturb his tranquillity. I do not think that the pursuit of knowledge
is an exception to this rule. If the study to which you apply yourself
has a tendency to weaken your affections and to destroy your taste
for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix,
then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting
the human mind. If this rule were always observed; if no man
allowed any pursuit whatsoever to interfere with the tranquillity
of his domestic affections, Greece had not been enslaved, Caesar
would have spared his country, America would have been discovered
more gradually, and the empires of Mexico and Peru had not been destroyed.
But I forget that I am moralizing in the most interesting part
of my tale, and your looks remind me to proceed. My father
made no reproach in his letters and only took notice of my science
by inquiring into my occupations more particularly than before.
Winter, spring, and summer passed away during my labours;
but I did not watch the blossom or the expanding leaves--sights
which before always yielded me supreme delight--so deeply
was I engrossed in my occupation. The leaves of that year had withered
before my work drew near to a close, and now every day showed me more plainly
how well I had succeeded. But my enthusiasm was checked
by my anxiety, and I appeared rather like one doomed by slavery
to toil in the mines, or any other unwholesome trade than an artist
occupied by his favourite employment. Every night I was oppressed
by a slow fever, and I became nervous to a most painful degree;
the fall of a leaf startled me, and I shunned my fellow creatures
as if I had been guilty of a crime. Sometimes I grew alarmed
at the wreck I perceived that I had become; the energy of my purpose
alone sustained me: my labours would soon end, and I believed
that exercise and amusement would then drive away incipient disease;
and I promised myself both of these when my creation should be complete.
Chapter 5
It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment
of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony,
I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse
a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.
It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally
against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when,
by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye
of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion
agitated its limbs.
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate
the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form?
His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful.
Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles
and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing;
his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more
horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the
same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his
shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.
The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings
of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years,
for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body.
For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it
with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished,
the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust
filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created,
I rushed out of the room and continued a long time traversing my bed-chamber,
unable to compose my mind to sleep. At length lassitude succeeded
to the tumult I had before endured, and I threw myself on the bed
in my clothes, endeavouring to seek a few moments of forgetfulness.
But it was in vain; I slept, indeed, but I was disturbed
by the wildest dreams. I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health,
walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised,
I embraced her, but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips,
they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change,
and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms;
a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling
in the folds of the flannel. I started from my sleep with horror;
a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb
became convulsed; when, by the dim and yellow light of the moon,
as it forced its way through the window shutters, I beheld the wretch--
the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain
of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me.
His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds,
while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear;
one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped
and rushed downstairs. I took refuge in the courtyard belonging
to the house which I inhabited, where I remained during the rest
of the night, walking up and down in the greatest agitation,
listening attentively, catching and fearing each sound as if it were
to announce the approach of the demoniacal corpse to which
I had so miserably given life.
Oh! No mortal could support the horror of that countenance. A mummy
again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch.
I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then,
but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion,
it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.
I passed the night wretchedly. Sometimes my pulse beat so quickly
and hardly that I felt the palpitation of every artery; at others,
I nearly sank to the ground through languor and extreme weakness.
Mingled with this horror, I felt the bitterness of disappointment;
dreams that had been my food and pleasant rest for so long a space
were now become a hell to me; and the change was so rapid,
the overthrow so complete!
Morning, dismal and wet, at length dawned and discovered to my sleepless
and aching eyes the church of Ingolstadt, its white steeple and clock,
which indicated the sixth hour. The porter opened the gates of the court,
which had that night been my asylum, and I issued into the streets,
pacing them with quick steps, as if I sought to avoid the wretch
whom I feared every turning of the street would present to my view.
I did not dare return to the apartment which I inhabited,
but felt impelled to hurry on, although drenched by the rain
which poured from a black and comfortless sky.
I continued walking in this manner for some time, endeavouring
by bodily exercise to ease the load that weighed upon my mind.
I traversed the streets without any clear conception of where I was
or what I was doing. My heart palpitated in the sickness of fear,
and I hurried on with irregular steps, not daring to look about me:
Like one who, on a lonely road,
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And, having once turned round, walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.
[Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner."]
Continuing thus, I came at length opposite to the inn at which
the various diligences and carriages usually stopped. Here I paused,
I knew not why; but I remained some minutes with my eyes fixed on a coach
that was coming towards me from the other end of the street.
As it drew nearer I observed that it was the Swiss diligence;
it stopped just where I was standing, and on the door being opened,
I perceived Henry Clerval, who, on seeing me, instantly sprung out.
"My dear Frankenstein," exclaimed he, "how glad I am to see you!
How fortunate that you should be here at the very moment of my alighting!"
Nothing could equal my delight on seeing Clerval; his presence
brought back to my thoughts my father, Elizabeth, and all those scenes
of home so dear to my recollection. I grasped his hand,
and in a moment forgot my horror and misfortune; I felt suddenly,
and for the first time during many months, calm and serene joy.
I welcomed my friend, therefore, in the most cordial manner,
and we walked towards my college. Clerval continued talking for some time
about our mutual friends and his own good fortune in being permitted
to come to Ingolstadt. "You may easily believe," said he,
"how great was the difficulty to persuade my father that
all necessary knowledge was not comprised in the noble art of bookkeeping;
and, indeed, I believe I left him incredulous to the last,
for his constant answer to my unwearied entreaties was the same
as that of the Dutch schoolmaster in *The Vicar of Wakefield*:
`I have ten thousand florins a year without Greek, I eat heartily
without Greek.' But his affection for me at length overcame his dislike
of learning, and he has permitted me to undertake a voyage of discovery
to the land of knowledge."
"It gives me the greatest delight to see you; but tell me
how you left my father, brothers, and Elizabeth."
"Very well, and very happy, only a little uneasy that they hear
from you so seldom. By the by, I mean to lecture you a little
upon their account myself. But, my dear Frankenstein," continued he,
stopping short and gazing full in my face, "I did not before remark
how very ill you appear; so thin and pale; you look as if
you had been watching for several nights."
"You have guessed right; I have lately been so deeply engaged
in one occupation that I have not allowed myself sufficient rest,
as you see; but I hope, I sincerely hope, that all these employments
are now at an end and that I am at length free."
I trembled excessively; I could not endure to think of, and far less
to allude to, the occurrences of the preceding night. I walked
with a quick pace, and we soon arrived at my college. I then reflected,
and the thought made me shiver, that the creature whom I had left
in my apartment might still be there, alive and walking about.
I dreaded to behold this monster, but I feared still more that Henry
should see him. Entreating him, therefore, to remain a few minutes
at the bottom of the stairs, I darted up towards my own room.
My hand was already on the lock of the door before I recollected myself.
I then paused, and a cold shivering came over me. I threw the door
forcibly open, as children are accustomed to do when they expect
a spectre to stand in waiting for them on the other side;
but nothing appeared. I stepped fearfully in: the apartment was empty,
and my bedroom was also freed from its hideous guest. I could hardly believe
that so great a good fortune could have befallen me, but when I became
assured that my enemy had indeed fled, I clapped my hands for joy
and ran down to Clerval.
We ascended into my room, and the servant presently brought breakfast;
but I was unable to contain myself. It was not joy only that possessed me;
I felt my flesh tingle with excess of sensitiveness, and my pulse
beat rapidly. I was unable to remain for a single instant in the same place;
I jumped over the chairs, clapped my hands, and laughed aloud.
Clerval at first attributed my unusual spirits to joy on his arrival,
but when he observed me more attentively, he saw a wildness in my eyes
for which he could not account, and my loud, unrestrained,
heartless laughter frightened and astonished him.
"My dear Victor," cried he, "what, for God's sake, is the matter?
Do not laugh in that manner. How ill you are! What is the cause
of all this?"
"Do not ask me," cried I, putting my hands before my eyes, for I
thought I saw the dreaded spectre glide into the room; "*he* can
tell. Oh, save me! Save me!" I imagined that the monster seized
me; I struggled furiously and fell down in a fit.
Poor Clerval! What must have been his feelings? A meeting,
which he anticipated with such joy, so strangely turned to bitterness.
But I was not the witness of his grief, for I was lifeless
and did not recover my senses for a long, long time.
This was the commencement of a nervous fever which confined me
for several months. During all that time Henry was my only nurse.
I afterwards learned that, knowing my father's advanced age
and unfitness for so long a journey, and how wretched my sickness
would make Elizabeth, he spared them this grief by concealing the extent
of my disorder. He knew that I could not have a more kind
and attentive nurse than himself; and, firm in the hope he felt
of my recovery, he did not doubt that, instead of doing harm,
he performed the kindest action that he could towards them.
But I was in reality very ill, and surely nothing but the unbounded
and unremitting attentions of my friend could have restored me to life.
The form of the monster on whom I had bestowed existence was
forever before my eyes, and I raved incessantly concerning him.
Doubtless my words surprised Henry; he at first believed them to be
the wanderings of my disturbed imagination, but the pertinacity
with which I continually recurred to the same subject persuaded him
that my disorder indeed owed its origin to some uncommon and terrible event.
By very slow degrees, and with frequent relapses that alarmed
and grieved my friend, I recovered. I remember the first time
I became capable of observing outward objects with any kind of pleasure,
I perceived that the fallen leaves had disappeared and that the young buds
were shooting forth from the trees that shaded my window.
It was a divine spring, and the season contributed greatly
to my convalescence. I felt also sentiments of joy and affection
revive in my bosom; my gloom disappeared, and in a short time
I became as cheerful as before I was attacked by the fatal passion.
"Dearest Clerval," exclaimed I, "how kind, how very good you are to me.
This whole winter, instead of being spent in study, as you promised yourself,
has been consumed in my sick room. How shall I ever repay you?
I feel the greatest remorse for the disappointment of which I have been
the occasion, but you will forgive me."
"You will repay me entirely if you do not discompose yourself,
but get well as fast as you can; and since you appear in such good spirits,
I may speak to you on one subject, may I not?"
I trembled. One subject! What could it be? Could he allude
to an object on whom I dared not even think?
"Compose yourself," said Clerval, who observed my change of colour,
"I will not mention it if it agitates you; but your father and cousin
would be very happy if they received a letter from you
in your own handwriting. They hardly know how ill you have been
and are uneasy at your long silence."
"Is that all, my dear Henry? How could you suppose that my first thought
would not fly towards those dear, dear friends whom I love
and who are so deserving of my love?"
"If this is your present temper, my friend, you will perhaps be glad
to see a letter that has been lying here some days for you;
it is from your cousin, I believe."
Chapter 6
Clerval then put the following letter into my hands. It was from
my own Elizabeth:
My dearest Cousin,
You have been ill, very ill, and even the constant letters
of dear kind Henry are not sufficient to reassure me
on your account. You are forbidden to write--to hold a pen;
yet one word from you, dear Victor, is necessary to calm
our apprehensions. For a long time I have thought that each post
would bring this line, and my persuasions have restrained my uncle
from undertaking a journey to Ingolstadt. I have prevented
his encountering the inconveniences and perhaps dangers
of so long a journey, yet how often have I regretted
not being able to perform it myself! I figure to myself
that the task of attending on your sickbed has devolved
on some mercenary old nurse, who could never guess your wishes
nor minister to them with the care and affection of your
poor cousin. Yet that is over now: Clerval writes
that indeed you are getting better. I eagerly hope that you will
confirm this intelligence soon in your own handwriting.
Get well--and return to us. You will find a happy,
cheerful home and friends who love you dearly. Your
father's health is vigorous, and he asks but to see you,
but to be assured that you are well; and not a care will ever
cloud his benevolent countenance. How pleased you would be
to remark the improvement of our Ernest! He is now sixteen
and full of activity and spirit. He is desirous to be a true Swiss
and to enter into foreign service, but we cannot part with him,
at least until his elder brother return to us. My uncle
is not pleased with the idea of a military career in a distant country,
but Ernest never had your powers of application. He looks upon study
as an odious fetter; his time is spent in the open air, climbing
the hills or rowing on the lake. I fear that he will become
an idler unless we yield the point and permit him to enter
on the profession which he has selected.
Little alteration, except the growth of our dear children,
has taken place since you left us. The blue lake and snow-clad
mountains--they never change; and I think our placid home
and our contented hearts are regulated by the same immutable laws.
My trifling occupations take up my time and amuse me, and I am rewarded
for any exertions by seeing none but happy, kind faces around me.
Since you left us, but one change has taken place
in our little household. Do you remember on what occasion
Justine Moritz entered our family? Probably you do not;
I will relate her history, therefore, in a few words. Madame Moritz,
her mother, was a widow with four children, of whom Justine
was the third. This girl had always been the favourite of her father,
but through a strange perversity, her mother could not endure her,
and after the death of M. Moritz, treated her very ill. My aunt
observed this, and when Justine was twelve years of age,
prevailed on her mother to allow her to live at our house.
The republican institutions of our country have produced simpler
and happier manners than those which prevail in the great monarchies
that surround it. Hence there is less distinction between
the several classes of its inhabitants; and the lower orders,
being neither so poor nor so despised, their manners are more refined
and moral. A servant in Geneva does not mean the same thing
as a servant in France and England. Justine, thus received
in our family, learned the duties of a servant, a condition which,
in our fortunate country, does not include the idea of ignorance
and a sacrifice of the dignity of a human being.
Justine, you may remember, was a great favourite of yours;
and I recollect you once remarked that if you were in an ill humour,
one glance from Justine could dissipate it, for the same reason
that Ariosto gives concerning the beauty of Angelica--she looked
so frank-hearted and happy. My aunt conceived a great attachment
for her, by which she was induced to give her an education superior
to that which she had at first intended. This benefit was fully repaid;
Justine was the most grateful little creature in the world:
I do not mean that she made any professions; I never heard
one pass her lips, but you could see by her eyes that she
almost adored her protectress. Although her disposition was gay
and in many respects inconsiderate, yet she paid the greatest attention
to every gesture of my aunt. She thought her the model
of all excellence and endeavoured to imitate her phraseology
and manners, so that even now she often reminds me of her.
When my dearest aunt died every one was too much occupied
in their own grief to notice poor Justine, who had attended her
during her illness with the most anxious affection. Poor Justine
was very ill; but other trials were reserved for her.
One by one, her brothers and sister died; and her mother,
with the exception of her neglected daughter, was left childless.
The conscience of the woman was troubled; she began to think
that the deaths of her favourites was a judgment from heaven
to chastise her partiality. She was a Roman Catholic;
and I believe her confessor confirmed the idea which she had conceived.
Accordingly, a few months after your departure for Ingolstadt,
Justine was called home by her repentant mother. Poor girl!
She wept when she quitted our house; she was much altered
since the death of my aunt; grief had given softness
and a winning mildness to her manners which had before been remarkable
for vivacity. Nor was her residence at her mother's house
of a nature to restore her gaiety. The poor woman was very vacillating
in her repentance. She sometimes begged Justine to forgive
her unkindness but much oftener accused her of having caused
the deaths of her brothers and sister. Perpetual fretting at length
threw Madame Moritz into a decline, which at first increased
her irritability, but she is now at peace for ever. She died
on the first approach of cold weather, at the beginning
of this last winter. Justine has returned to us, and I assure you
I love her tenderly. She is very clever and gentle
and extremely pretty; as I mentioned before, her mien
and her expressions continually remind me of my dear aunt.
I must say also a few words to you, my dear cousin,
of little darling William. I wish you could see him;
he is very tall of his age, with sweet laughing blue eyes,
dark eyelashes, and curling hair. When he smiles, two little dimples
appear on each cheek, which are rosy with health. He has already
had one or two little *wives*, but Louisa Biron is his favourite,
a pretty little girl of five years of age.
Now, dear Victor, I dare say you wish to be indulged
in a little gossip concerning the good people of Geneva.
The pretty Miss Mansfield has already received the congratulatory
visits on her approaching marriage with a young Englishman,
John Melbourne, Esq. Her ugly sister, Manon, married M. Duvillard,
the rich banker, last autumn. Your favourite schoolfellow,
Louis Manoir, has suffered several misfortunes since the departure
of Clerval from Geneva. But he has already recovered his spirits,
and is reported to be on the point of marrying a very lively,
pretty Frenchwoman, Madame Tavernier. She is a widow,
and much older than Manoir, but she is very much admired
and a favourite with everybody.
I have written myself into better spirits, dear cousin;
but my anxiety returns upon me as I conclude. Write,
dearest Victor--one line--one word will be a blessing to us.
Ten thousand thanks to Henry for his kindness, his affection,
and his many letters; we are sincerely grateful. Adieu!
My cousin, take care of yourself, and, I entreat you, write!
Elizabeth Lavenza
Geneva, March 18th, 17--
"Dear, dear Elizabeth!" I exclaimed when I had read her letter.
"I will write instantly and relieve them from the anxiety they must feel."
I wrote, and this exertion greatly fatigued me; but my convalescence
had commenced, and proceeded regularly. In another fortnight
I was able to leave my chamber.
One of my first duties on my recovery was to introduce Clerval
to the several professors of the university. In doing this, I underwent
a kind of rough usage, ill befitting the wounds that my mind had sustained.
Ever since the fatal night, the end of my labours, and the beginning
of my misfortunes, I had conceived a violent antipathy
even to the name of natural philosophy. When I was otherwise
quite restored to health, the sight of a chemical instrument
would renew all the agony of my nervous symptoms. Henry saw this,
and had removed all my apparatus from my view. He had also changed
my apartment, for he perceived that I had acquired a dislike
for the room which had previously been my laboratory. But these cares
of Clerval were made of no avail when I visited the professors.
M. Waldman inflicted torture when he praised, with kindness and warmth,
the astonishing progress I had made in the sciences. He soon perceived
that I disliked the subject, but not guessing the real cause,
he attributed my feelings to modesty and changed the subject
from my improvement to the science itself, with a desire,
as I evidently saw, of drawing me out. What could I do?
He meant to please, and he tormented me. I felt as if he had placed
carefully, one by one, in my view those instruments which were
to be afterwards used in putting me to a slow and cruel death.
I writhed under his words yet dared not exhibit the pain I felt.
Clerval, whose eyes and feelings were always quick in discerning
the sensations of others, declined the subject, alleging, in excuse,
his total ignorance; and the conversation took a more general turn.
I thanked my friend from my heart, but I did not speak. I saw plainly
that he was surprised, but he never attempted to draw my secret from me;
and although I loved him with a mixture of affection and reverence
that knew no bounds, yet I could never persuade myself to confide to him
that event which was so often present to my recollection but which I feared
the detail to another would only impress more deeply.
M. Krempe was not equally docile; and in my condition at that time,
of almost insupportable sensitiveness, his harsh, blunt encomiums
gave me even more pain than the benevolent approbation of M. Waldman.
"D--n the fellow!" cried he. "Why, M. Clerval, I assure you
he has outstripped us all. Ay, stare if you please; but it is
nevertheless true. A youngster who, but a few years ago, believed
in Cornelius Agrippa as firmly as in the Gospel, has now set himself
at the head of the university; and if he is not soon pulled down,
we shall all be out of countenance. Ay, ay," continued he,
observing my face expressive of suffering, "M. Frankenstein is modest,
an excellent quality in a young man. Young men should be diffident
of themselves, you know, M. Clerval; I was myself when young;
but that wears out in a very short time."
M. Krempe had now commenced a eulogy on himself, which happily
turned the conversation from a subject that was so annoying to me.
Clerval had never sympathized in my tastes for natural science,
and his literary pursuits differed wholly from those which had occupied me.
He came to the university with the design of making himself complete master
of the Oriental languages, as thus he should open a field
for the plan of life he had marked out for himself. Resolved to pursue
no inglorious career, he turned his eyes towards the East
as affording scope for his spirit of enterprise. The Persian,
Arabic, and Sanskrit languages engaged his attention,
and I was easily induced to enter on the same studies.
Idleness had ever been irksome to me, and now that I wished to fly
from reflection and hated my former studies, I felt great relief
in being the fellow pupil with my friend, and found not only instruction
but consolation in the works of the Orientalists. I did not,
like him, attempt a critical knowledge of their dialects,
for I did not contemplate making any other use of them
than temporary amusement. I read merely to understand their meaning,
and they well repaid my labours. Their melancholy is soothing,
and their joy elevating, to a degree I never experienced
in studying the authors of any other country. When you read
their writings, life appears to consist in a warm sun and a garden of roses,
in the smiles and frowns of a fair enemy, and the fire that consumes
your own heart. How different from the manly and heroical poetry
of Greece and Rome!
Summer passed away in these occupations, and my return to Geneva
was fixed for the latter end of autumn; but being delayed
by several accidents, winter and snow arrived, the roads
were deemed impassable, and my journey was retarded
until the ensuing spring. I felt this delay very bitterly,
for I longed to see my native town and my beloved friends.
My return had only been delayed so long from an unwillingness
to leave Clerval in a strange place before he had become acquainted
with any of its inhabitants. The winter, however, was spent cheerfully,
and although the spring was uncommonly late, when it came
its beauty compensated for its dilatoriness.
The month of May had already commenced, and I expected the letter daily
which was to fix the date of my departure, when Henry proposed
a pedestrian tour in the environs of Ingolstadt, that I might bid
a personal farewell to the country I had so long inhabited.
I acceded with pleasure to this proposition: I was fond of exercise,
and Clerval had always been my favourite companion in the rambles
of this nature that I had taken among the scenes of my native country.
We passed a fortnight in these perambulations; my health and spirits
had long been restored, and they gained additional strength
from the salubrious air I breathed, the natural incidents of our progress,
and the conversation of my friend. Study had before secluded me
from the intercourse of my fellow creatures and rendered me unsocial,
but Clerval called forth the better feelings of my heart;
he again taught me to love the aspect of nature and the cheerful faces
of children. Excellent friend! How sincerely did you love me
and endeavour to elevate my mind until it was on a level with your own!
A selfish pursuit had cramped and narrowed me until your gentleness
and affection warmed and opened my senses; I became the same happy creature
who, a few years ago, loved and beloved by all, had no sorrow or care.
When happy, inanimate nature had the power of bestowing on me
the most delightful sensations. A serene sky and verdant fields
filled me with ecstasy. The present season was indeed divine;
the flowers of spring bloomed in the hedges, while those of summer
were already in bud. I was undisturbed by thoughts which
during the preceding year had pressed upon me, notwithstanding
my endeavours to throw them off, with an invincible burden.
Henry rejoiced in my gaiety and sincerely sympathized in my feelings;
he exerted himself to amuse me, while he expressed the sensations
that filled his soul. The resources of his mind on this occasion
were truly astonishing; his conversation was full of imagination,
and very often, in imitation of the Persian and Arabic writers,
he invented tales of wonderful fancy and passion. At other times
he repeated my favourite poems or drew me out into arguments,
which he supported with great ingenuity.
We returned to our college on a Sunday afternoon; the peasants were dancing,
and everyone we met appeared gay and happy. My own spirits were high,
and I bounded along with feelings of unbridled joy and hilarity.
Chapter 7
On my return, I found the following letter from my father:--
"My dear Victor,
"You have probably waited impatiently for a letter to fix
the date of your return to us; and I was at first tempted
to write only a few lines, merely mentioning the day
on which I should expect you. But that would be a cruel kindness,
and I dare not do it. What would be your surprise, my son,
when you expected a happy and glad welcome, to behold,
on the contrary, tears and wretchedness? And how, Victor,
can I relate our misfortune? Absence cannot have rendered you
callous to our joys and griefs; and how shall I inflict pain
on my long absent son? I wish to prepare you for the woeful news,
but I know it is impossible; even now your eye skims over the page
to seek the words which are to convey to you the horrible tidings.
William is dead!--that sweet child, whose smiles delighted
and warmed my heart, who was so gentle, yet so gay! Victor,
he is murdered! I will not attempt to console you;
but will simply relate the circumstances of the transaction.
Last Thursday (May 7th), I, my niece, and your two brothers,
went to walk in Plainpalais. The evening was warm and serene,
and we prolonged our walk farther than usual. It was already dusk
before we thought of returning; and then we discovered that
William and Ernest, who had gone on before, were not to be found.
We accordingly rested on a seat until they should return.
Presently Ernest came, and enquired if we had seen his brother;
he said, that he had been playing with him, that William
had run away to hide himself, and that he vainly sought for him,
and afterwards waited for a long time, but that he did not return.
This account rather alarmed us, and we continued to search for him
until night fell, when Elizabeth conjectured that he might
have returned to the house. He was not there. We returned again,
with torches; for I could not rest, when I thought that my sweet boy
had lost himself, and was exposed to all the damps and dews of night;
Elizabeth also suffered extreme anguish. About five in the morning
I discovered my lovely boy, whom the night before I had seen blooming
and active in health, stretched on the grass livid and motionless;
the print of the murder's finger was on his neck.
He was conveyed home, and the anguish that was visible
in my countenance betrayed the secret to Elizabeth.
She was very earnest to see the corpse. At first I attempted
to prevent her; but she persisted, and entering the room
where it lay, hastily examined the neck of the victim,
and clasping her hands exclaimed, "O God! I have murdered
my darling child!"
She fainted, and was restored with extreme difficulty.
When she again lived, it was only to weep and sigh. She told me,
that that same evening William had teased her to let him wear
a very valuable miniature that she possessed of your mother.
This picture is gone, and was doubtless the temptation which urged
the murdered to the deed. We have no trace of him at present,
although our exertions to discover him are unremitted;
but they will not restore my beloved William!
Come, dearest Victor; you alone can console Elizabeth.
She weeps continually, and accuses herself unjustly
as the cause of his death; her words pierce my heart.
We are all unhappy; but will not that be an additional motive for you,
my son, to return and be our comforter? Your dear mother!
Alas, Victor! I now say, Thank God she did not live
to witness the cruel, miserable death of her youngest darling!
Come, Victor; not brooding thoughts of vengeance
against the assassin, but with feelings of peace and gentleness,
that will heal, instead of festering, the wounds of our minds.
Enter the house of mourning, my friend, but with kindness
and affection for those who love you, and not with hatred
for your enemies.
Your affectionate and afflicted father,
Alphonse Frankenstein.
Geneva, May 12th, 17--.
Clerval, who had watched my countenance as I read this letter,
was surprised to observe the despair that succeeded the joy
I at first expressed on receiving new from my friends.
I threw the letter on the table, and covered my face with my hands.
"My dear Frankenstein," exclaimed Henry, when he perceived me weep
with bitterness, "are you always to be unhappy? My dear friend,
what has happened?"
I motioned him to take up the letter, while I walked up and down the room
in the extremest agitation. Tears also gushed from the eyes of Clerval,
as he read the account of my misfortune.
"I can offer you no consolation, my friend," said he;
"your disaster is irreparable. What do you intend to do?"
"To go instantly to Geneva: come with me, Henry, to order the horses."
During our walk, Clerval endeavoured to say a few words of consolation;
he could only express his heartfelt sympathy. "Poor William!" said he,
dear lovely child, he now sleeps with his angel mother!
Who that had seen him bright and joyous in his young beauty,
but must weep over his untimely loss! To die so miserably;
to feel the murderer's grasp! How much more a murderer
that could destroy radiant innocence! Poor little fellow!
one only consolation have we; his friends mourn and weep,
but he is at rest. The pang is over, his sufferings
are at an end for ever. A sod covers his gentle form,
and he knows no pain. He can no longer be a subject for pity;
we must reserve that for his miserable survivors."
Clerval spoke thus as we hurried through the streets;
the words impressed themselves on my mind and I remembered them
afterwards in solitude. But now, as soon as the horses arrived,
I hurried into a cabriolet, and bade farewell to my friend.
My journey was very melancholy. At first I wished to hurry on,
for I longed to console and sympathise with my loved
and sorrowing friends; but when I drew near my native town,
I slackened my progress. I could hardly sustain the multitude
of feelings that crowded into my mind. I passed through scenes
familiar to my youth, but which I had not seen for nearly six years.
How altered every thing might be during that time! One sudden
and desolating change had taken place; but a thousand
little circumstances might have by degrees worked other alterations,
which, although they were done more tranquilly, might not be
the less decisive. Fear overcame me; I dared no advance,
dreading a thousand nameless evils that made me tremble,
although I was unable to define them.
I remained two days at Lausanne, in this painful state of mind.
I contemplated the lake: the waters were placid; all around was calm;
and the snowy mountains, `the palaces of nature,' were not changed.
By degrees the calm and heavenly scene restored me, and I continued
my journey towards Geneva.
The road ran by the side of the lake, which became narrower
as I approached my native town. I discovered more distinctly
the black sides of Jura, and the bright summit of Mont Blanc.
I wept like a child. "Dear mountains! my own beautiful lake!
how do you welcome your wanderer? Your summits are clear;
the sky and lake are blue and placid. Is this to prognosticate peace,
or to mock at my unhappiness?"
I fear, my friend, that I shall render myself tedious by dwelling
on these preliminary circumstances; but they were days
of comparative happiness, and I think of them with pleasure.
My country, my beloved country! who but a native can tell
the delight I took in again beholding thy streams, thy mountains,
and, more than all, thy lovely lake!
Yet, as I drew nearer home, grief and fear again overcame me.
Night also closed around; and when I could hardly see the dark mountains,
I felt still more gloomily. The picture appeared a vast and dim scene
of evil, and I foresaw obscurely that I was destined to become
the most wretched of human beings. Alas! I prophesied truly,
and failed only in one single circumstance, that in all the misery
I imagined and dreaded, I did not conceive the hundredth part
of the anguish I was destined to endure.
It was completely dark when I arrived in the environs of Geneva;
the gates of the town were already shut; and I was obliged
to pass the night at Secheron, a village at the distance of half a league
from the city. The sky was serene; and, as I was unable to rest,
I resolved to visit the spot where my poor William had been murdered.
As I could not pass through the town, I was obliged to cross the lake
in a boat to arrive at Plainpalais. During this short voyage
I saw the lightning playing on the summit of Mont Blanc
in the most beautiful figures. The storm appeared to approach rapidly,
and, on landing, I ascended a low hill, that I might observe its progress.
It advanced; the heavens were clouded, and I soon felt the rain
coming slowly in large drops, but its violence quickly increased.
I quitted my seat, and walked on, although the darkness and storm
increased every minute, and the thunder burst with a terrific crash
over my head. It was echoed from Saleve, the Juras, and the Alps of Savoy;
vivid flashes of lightning dazzled my eyes, illuminating the lake,
making it appear like a vast sheet of fire; then for an instant
every thing seemed of a pitchy darkness, until the eye recovered itself
from the preceding flash. The storm, as is often the case in Switzerland,
appeared at once in various parts of the heavens. The most violent storm
hung exactly north of the town, over the part of the lake
which lies between the promontory of Belrive and the village of Copet.
Another storm enlightened Jura with faint flashes; and another darkened
and sometimes disclosed the Mole, a peaked mountain to the east of the lake.
While I watched the tempest, so beautiful yet terrific,
I wandered on with a hasty step. This noble war in the sky
elevated my spirits; I clasped my hands, and exclaimed aloud,
"William, dear angel! this is thy funeral, this thy dirge!"
As I said these words, I perceived in the gloom a figure which stole
from behind a clump of trees near me; I stood fixed, gazing intently:
I could not be mistaken. A flash of lightning illuminated the object,
and discovered its shape plainly to me; its gigantic stature,
and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity,
instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy daemon,
to whom I had given life. What did he there? Could he be
(I shuddered at the conception) the murderer of my brother?
No sooner did that idea cross my imagination, than I became convinced
of its truth; my teeth chattered, and I was forced to lean against a tree
for support. The figure passed me quickly, and I lost it in the gloom.
Nothing in human shape could have destroyed the fair child.
He was the murderer! I could not doubt it. The mere presence
of the idea was an irresistible proof of the fact. I thought
of pursuing the devil; but it would have been in vain,
for another flash discovered him to me hanging among the rocks
of the nearly perpendicular ascent of Mont Saleve, a hill
that bounds Plainpalais on the south. He soon reached the summit,
and disappeared.
I remained motionless. The thunder ceased; but the rain still continued,
and the scene was enveloped in an impenetrable darkness. I resolved
in my minds the events which I had until now sought to forget:
the whole train of my progress toward the creation; the appearance
of the works of my own hands at my bedside; its departure. Two years
had now nearly elapsed since the night on which he first received life;
and was this his first crime? Alas! I had turned loose into the world
a depraved wretch, whose delight was in carnage and misery;
had he not murdered my brother?
No one can conceive the anguish I suffered during the remainder
of the night, which I spent, cold and wet, in the open air.
But I did not feel the inconvenience of the weather; my imagination
was busy in scenes of evil and despair. I considered the being
whom I had cast among mankind, and endowed with the will and power
to effect purposes of horror, such as the deed which he had now done,
nearly in the light of my own vampire, my own spirit let loose
from the grave, and forced to destroy all that was dear to me.
Day dawned; and I directed my steps towards the town. The gates
were open, and I hastened to my father's house. My first thought
was to discoverer what I knew of the murderer, and cause instant pursuit
to be made. But I paused when I reflected on the story that I had to tell.
A being whom I myself had formed, and endued with life,
had met me at midnight among the precipices of an inaccessible mountain.
I remembered also the nervous fever with which I had been seized
just at the time that I dated my creation, and which would give
an air of delirium to a tale otherwise so utterly improbable.
I well knew that if any other had communicated such a relation to me,
I should have looked upon it as the ravings of insanity. Besides,
the strange nature of the animal would elude all pursuit,
even if I were so far credited as to persuade my relatives to commence it.
And then of what use would be pursuit? Who could arrest a creature
capable of scaling the overhanging sides of Mont Saleve?
These reflections determined me, and I resolved to remain silent.
It was about five in the morning when I entered my father's house.
I told the servants not to disturb the family, and went into the library
to attend their usual hour of rising.
Six years had elapsed, passed in a dream but for one indelible trace,
and I stood in the same place where I had last embraced my father
before my departure for Ingolstadt. Beloved and venerable parent!
He still remained to me. I gazed on the picture of my mother,
which stood over the mantel-piece. It was an historical subject,
painted at my father's desire, and represented Caroline Beaufort
in an agony of despair, kneeling by the coffin of her dead father.
Her garb was rustic, and her cheek pale; but there was an air of dignity
and beauty, that hardly permitted the sentiment of pity.
Below this picture was a miniature of William; and my tears flowed
when I looked upon it. While I was thus engaged, Ernest entered:
he had heard me arrive, and hastened to welcome me: "Welcome,
my dearest Victor," said he. "Ah! I wish you had come three months ago,
and then you would have found us all joyous and delighted.
You come to us now to share a misery which nothing can alleviate;
yet your presence will, I hope, revive our father, who seems sinking
under his misfortune; and your persuasions will induce poor Elizabeth
to cease her vain and tormenting self-accusations.--Poor William!
he was our darling and our pride!"
Tears, unrestrained, fell from my brother's eyes; a sense of mortal agony
crept over my frame. Before, I had only imagined the wretchedness
of my desolated home; the reality came on me as a new,
and a not less terrible, disaster. I tried to calm Ernest;
I enquired more minutely concerning my father, and her I named my cousin.
"She most of all," said Ernest, "requires consolation; she accused herself
of having caused the death of my brother, and that made her very wretched.
But since the murderer has been discovered--"
"The murderer discovered! Good God! how can that be? who could attempt
to pursue him? It is impossible; one might as well try
to overtake the winds, or confine a mountain-stream with a straw.
I saw him too; he was free last night!"
"I do not know what you mean," replied my brother, in accents of wonder,
"but to us the discovery we have made completes our misery.
No one would believe it at first; and even now Elizabeth
will not be convinced, notwithstanding all the evidence.
Indeed, who would credit that Justine Moritz, who was so amiable,
and fond of all the family, could suddenly become so capable
of so frightful, so appalling a crime?"
"Justine Moritz! Poor, poor girl, is she the accused?
But it is wrongfully; every one knows that; no one believes it,
surely, Ernest?"
"No one did at first; but several circumstances came out,
that have almost forced conviction upon us; and her own behaviour
has been so confused, as to add to the evidence of facts a weight that,
I fear, leaves no hope for doubt. But she will be tried to-day,
and you will then hear all."
He then related that, the morning on which the murder of poor William
had been discovered, Justine had been taken ill, and confined to her bed
for several days. During this interval, one of the servants,
happening to examine the apparel she had worn on the night of the murder,
had discovered in her pocket the picture of my mother,
which had been judged to be the temptation of the murderer.
The servant instantly showed it to one of the others, who,
without saying a word to any of the family, went to a magistrate;
and, upon their deposition, Justine was apprehended. On being charged
with the fact, the poor girl confirmed the suspicion in a great measure
by her extreme confusion of manner. This was a strange tale,
but it did not shake my faith; and I replied earnestly,
"You are all mistaken; I know the murderer. Justine, poor, good Justine,
is innocent."
At that instant my father entered. I saw unhappiness deeply impressed
on his countenance, but he endeavoured to welcome me cheerfully;
and, after we had exchanged our mournful greeting, would have introduced
some other topic than that of our disaster, had not Ernest exclaimed,
"Good God, papa! Victor says that he knows who was the murderer
of poor William."
"We do also, unfortunately," replied my father, "for indeed
I had rather have been for ever ignorant than have discovered
so much depravity and ungratitude in one I valued so highly."
"My dear father, you are mistaken; Justine is innocent."
"If she is, God forbid that she should suffer as guilty.
She is to be tried to-day, and I hope, I sincerely hope,
that she will be acquitted."
This speech calmed me. I was firmly convinced in my own mind
that Justine, and indeed every human being, was guiltless of this murder.
I had no fear, therefore, that any circumstantial evidence
could be brought forward strong enough to convict her. My tale
was not one to announce publicly; its astounding horror
would be looked upon as madness by the vulgar. Did any one indeed exist,
except I, the creator, who would believe, unless his senses convinced him,
in the existence of the living monument of presumption and rash ignorance
which I had let loose upon the world?
We were soon joined by Elizabeth. Time had altered her
since I last beheld her; it had endowed her with loveliness
surpassing the beauty of her childish years. There was the same candour,
the same vivacity, but it was allied to an expression
more full of sensibility and intellect. She welcomed me
with the greatest affection. "Your arrival, my dear cousin,"
said she, "fills me with hope. You perhaps will find some means
to justify my poor guiltless Justine. Alas! who is safe,
if she be convicted of crime? I rely on her innocence as certainly
as I do upon my own. Our misfortune is doubly hard to us;
we have not only lost that lovely darling boy, but this poor girl,
whom I sincerely love, is to be torn away by even a worse fate.
If she is condemned, I never shall know joy more. But she will not,
I am sure she will not; and then I shall be happy again,
even after the sad death of my little William."
"She is innocent, my Elizabeth," said I, "and that shall be proved;
fear nothing, but let your spirits be cheered by the assurance
of her acquittal."
"How kind and generous you are! every one else believes in her guilt,
and that made me wretched, for I knew that it was impossible:
and to see every one else prejudiced in so deadly a manner
rendered me hopeless and despairing." She wept.
"Dearest niece," said my father, "dry your tears. If she is,
as you believe, innocent, rely on the justice of our laws,
and the activity with which I shall prevent the slightest shadow
of partiality."
Chapter 8
We passed a few sad hours until eleven o'clock, when the trial
was to commence. My father and the rest of the family being obliged
to attend as witnesses, I accompanied them to the court.
During the whole of this wretched mockery of justice I suffered
living torture. It was to be decided whether the result of my curiosity
and lawless devices would cause the death of two of my fellow beings:
one a smiling babe full of innocence and joy, the other
far more dreadfully murdered, with every aggravation of infamy
that could make the murder memorable in horror. Justine also was a girl
of merit and possessed qualities which promised to render her life happy;
now all was to be obliterated in an ignominious grave, and I the cause!
A thousand times rather would I have confessed myself guilty of the crime
ascribed to Justine, but I was absent when it was committed,
and such a declaration would have been considered as the ravings
of a madman and would not have exculpated her who suffered through me.
The appearance of Justine was calm. She was dressed in mourning,
and her countenance, always engaging, was rendered, by the solemnity
of her feelings, exquisitely beautiful. Yet she appeared confident
in innocence and did not tremble, although gazed on and execrated
by thousands, for all the kindness which her beauty might otherwise
have excited was obliterated in the minds of the spectators
by the imagination of the enormity she was supposed to have committed.
She was tranquil, yet her tranquillity was evidently constrained;
and as her confusion had before been adduced as a proof of her guilt,
she worked up her mind to an appearance of courage. When she entered
the court she threw her eyes round it and quickly discovered
where we were seated. A tear seemed to dim her eye when she saw us,
but she quickly recovered herself, and a look of sorrowful affection
seemed to attest her utter guiltlessness.
The trial began, and after the advocate against her had stated the charge,
several witnesses were called. Several strange facts combined against her,
which might have staggered anyone who had not such proof of her innocence
as I had. She had been out the whole of the night on which the murder
had been committed and towards morning had been perceived by a market-woman
not far from the spot where the body of the murdered child
had been afterwards found. The woman asked her what she did there,
but she looked very strangely and only returned a confused
and unintelligible answer. She returned to the house about eight o'clock,
and when one inquired where she had passed the night, she replied
that she had been looking for the child and demanded earnestly
if anything had been heard concerning him. When shown the body,
she fell into violent hysterics and kept her bed for several days.
The picture was then produced which the servant had found in her pocket;
and when Elizabeth, in a faltering voice, proved that it was
the same which, an hour before the child had been missed,
she had placed round his neck, a murmur of horror and indignation
filled the court.
Justine was called on for her defence. As the trial had proceeded,
her countenance had altered. Surprise, horror, and misery
were strongly expressed. Sometimes she struggled with her tears,
but when she was desired to plead, she collected her powers
and spoke in an audible although variable voice.
"God knows," she said, "how entirely I am innocent. But I do not pretend
that my protestations should acquit me; I rest my innocence on a plain
and simple explanation of the facts which have been adduced against me,
and I hope the character I have always borne will incline my judges
to a favourable interpretation where any circumstance appears doubtful
or suspicious."
She then related that, by the permission of Elizabeth, she had passed
the evening of the night on which the murder had been committed
at the house of an aunt at Chene, a village situated at about a league
from Geneva. On her return, at about nine o'clock, she met a man
who asked her if she had seen anything of the child who was lost.
She was alarmed by this account and passed several hours
in looking for him, when the gates of Geneva were shut, and she was forced
to remain several hours of the night in a barn belonging to a cottage,
being unwilling to call up the inhabitants, to whom she was well known.
Most of the night she spent here watching; towards morning she believed
that she slept for a few minutes; some steps disturbed her, and she awoke.
It was dawn, and she quitted her asylum, that she might again endeavour
to find my brother. If she had gone near the spot where his body lay,
it was without her knowledge. That she had been bewildered
when questioned by the market-woman was not surprising,
since she had passed a sleepless night and the fate of poor William
was yet uncertain. Concerning the picture she could give no account.
"I know," continued the unhappy victim, "how heavily and fatally
this one circumstance weighs against me, but I have no power
of explaining it; and when I have expressed my utter ignorance,
I am only left to conjecture concerning the probabilities by which
it might have been placed in my pocket. But here also I am checked.
I believe that I have no enemy on earth, and none surely would have been
so wicked as to destroy me wantonly. Did the murderer place it there?
I know of no opportunity afforded him for so doing; or, if I had,
why should he have stolen the jewel, to part with it again so soon?
"I commit my cause to the justice of my judges, yet I see no room for hope.
I beg permission to have a few witnesses examined concerning my character,
and if their testimony shall not overweigh my supposed guilt,
I must be condemned, although I would pledge my salvation on my innocence."
Several witnesses were called who had known her for many years,
and they spoke well of her; but fear and hatred of the crime
of which they supposed her guilty rendered them timorous and unwilling
to come forward. Elizabeth saw even this last resource,
her excellent dispositions and irreproachable conduct, about to fail
the accused, when, although violently agitated, she desired permission
to address the court.
"I am," said she, "the cousin of the unhappy child who was murdered,
or rather his sister, for I was educated by and have lived with his parents
ever since and even long before his birth. It may therefore be judged
indecent in me to come forward on this occasion, but when I see
a fellow creature about to perish through the cowardice
of her pretended friends, I wish to be allowed to speak,
that I may say what I know of her character. I am well acquainted
with the accused. I have lived in the same house with her,
at one time for five and at another for nearly two years.
During all that period she appeared to me the most amiable
and benevolent of human creatures. She nursed Madame Frankenstein,
my aunt, in her last illness, with the greatest affection and care
and afterwards attended her own mother during a tedious illness,
in a manner that excited the admiration of all who knew her,
after which she again lived in my uncle's house, where she was beloved
by all the family. She was warmly attached to the child who is now dead
and acted towards him like a most affectionate mother. For my own part,
I do not hesitate to say that, notwithstanding all the evidence
produced against her, I believe and rely on her perfect innocence.
She had no temptation for such an action; as to the bauble on which
the chief proof rests, if she had earnestly desired it, I should have
willingly given it to her, so much do I esteem and value her."
A murmur of approbation followed Elizabeth's simple and powerful appeal,
but it was excited by her generous interference, and not in favour
of poor Justine, on whom the public indignation was turned
with renewed violence, charging her with the blackest ingratitude.
She herself wept as Elizabeth spoke, but she did not answer.
My own agitation and anguish was extreme during the whole trial.
I believed in her innocence; I knew it. Could the demon
who had (I did not for a minute doubt) murdered my brother
also in his hellish sport have betrayed the innocent to death and ignominy?
I could not sustain the horror of my situation, and when I perceived
that the popular voice and the countenances of the judges
had already condemned my unhappy victim, I rushed out of the court
in agony. The tortures of the accused did not equal mine;
she was sustained by innocence, but the fangs of remorse
tore my bosom and would not forgo their hold.
I passed a night of unmingled wretchedness. In the morning
I went to the court; my lips and throat were parched. I dared not ask
the fatal question, but I was known, and the officer guessed the cause
of my visit. The ballots had been thrown; they were all black,
and Justine was condemned.
I cannot pretend to describe what I then felt. I had before
experienced sensations of horror, and I have endeavoured
to bestow upon them adequate expressions, but words cannot convey
an idea of the heart-sickening despair that I then endured.
The person to whom I addressed myself added that Justine
had already confessed her guilt. "That evidence," he observed,
"was hardly required in so glaring a case, but I am glad of it,
and, indeed, none of our judges like to condemn a criminal
upon circumstantial evidence, be it ever so decisive."
This was strange and unexpected intelligence; what could it mean?
Had my eyes deceived me? And was I really as mad as the whole world
would believe me to be if I disclosed the object of my suspicions?
I hastened to return home, and Elizabeth eagerly demanded the result.
"My cousin," replied I, "it is decided as you may have expected;
all judges had rather that ten innocent should suffer than that
one guilty should escape. But she has confessed."
This was a dire blow to poor Elizabeth, who had relied with firmness
upon Justine's innocence. "Alas!" said she. "How shall I ever again
believe in human goodness? Justine, whom I loved and esteemed
as my sister, how could she put on those smiles of innocence
only to betray? Her mild eyes seemed incapable of any severity or guile,
and yet she has committed a murder."
Soon after we heard that the poor victim had expressed a desire
to see my cousin. My father wished her not to go but said
that he left it to her own judgment and feelings to decide.
"Yes," said Elizabeth, "I will go, although she is guilty;
and you, Victor, shall accompany me; I cannot go alone."
The idea of this visit was torture to me, yet I could not refuse.
We entered the gloomy prison chamber and beheld Justine
sitting on some straw at the farther end; her hands were manacled,
and her head rested on her knees. She rose on seeing us enter;
and when we were left alone with her, she threw herself at the feet
of Elizabeth, weeping bitterly. My cousin wept also.
"Oh, Justine!" said she. "Why did you rob me of my last consolation?
I relied on your innocence, and although I was then very wretched,
I was not so miserable as I am now."
"And do you also believe that I am so very, very wicked? Do you
also join with my enemies to crush me, to condemn me as a murderer?"
Her voice was suffocated with sobs.
"Rise, my poor girl," said Elizabeth; "why do you kneel,
if you are innocent? I am not one of your enemies,
I believed you guiltless, notwithstanding every evidence,
until I heard that you had yourself declared your guilt.
That report, you say, is false; and be assured, dear Justine,
that nothing can shake my confidence in you for a moment,
but your own confession."
"I did confess, but I confessed a lie. I confessed, that I might
obtain absolution; but now that falsehood lies heavier at my heart
than all my other sins. The God of heaven forgive me!
Ever since I was condemned, my confessor has besieged me; he threatened
and menaced, until I almost began to think that I was the monster
that he said I was. He threatened excommunication and hell fire
in my last moments if I continued obdurate. Dear lady,
I had none to support me; all looked on me as a wretch doomed
to ignominy and perdition. What could I do? In an evil hour
I subscribed to a lie; and now only am I truly miserable."
She paused, weeping, and then continued, "I thought with horror,
my sweet lady, that you should believe your Justine,
whom your blessed aunt had so highly honoured, and whom you loved,
was a creature capable of a crime which none but the devil himself
could have perpetrated. Dear William! dearest blessed child!
I soon shall see you again in heaven, where we shall all he happy;
and that consoles me, going as I am to suffer ignominy and death."
"Oh, Justine! Forgive me for having for one moment distrusted you.
Why did you confess? But do not mourn, dear girl. Do not fear.
I will proclaim, I will prove your innocence. I will melt
the stony hearts of your enemies by my tears and prayers.
You shall not die! You, my playfellow, my companion, my sister,
perish on the scaffold! No! No! I never could survive
so horrible a misfortune."
Justine shook her head mournfully. "I do not fear to die," she said;
"that pang is past. God raises my weakness and gives me courage
to endure the worst. I leave a sad and bitter world; and if
you remember me and think of me as of one unjustly condemned,
I am resigned to the fate awaiting me. Learn from me, dear lady,
to submit in patience to the will of heaven!"
During this conversation I had retired to a corner of the prison room,
where I could conceal the horrid anguish that possessed me. Despair!
Who dared talk of that? The poor victim, who on the morrow
was to pass the awful boundary between life and death, felt not,
as I did, such deep and bitter agony. I gnashed my teeth
and ground them together, uttering a groan that came from my inmost soul.
Justine started. When she saw who it was, she approached me and said,
"Dear sir, you are very kind to visit me; you, I hope, do not believe
that I am guilty?"
I could not answer. "No, Justine," said Elizabeth; "he is
more convinced of your innocence than I was, for even when he heard
that you had confessed, he did not credit it."
"I truly thank him. In these last moments I feel the sincerest gratitude
towards those who think of me with kindness. How sweet is the affection
of others to such a wretch as I am! It removes more than half
my misfortune, and I feel as if I could die in peace now that my innocence
is acknowledged by you, dear lady, and your cousin."
Thus the poor sufferer tried to comfort others and herself.
She indeed gained the resignation she desired. But I, the true murderer,
felt the never-dying worm alive in my bosom, which allowed of no hope
or consolation. Elizabeth also wept and was unhappy, but hers also
was the misery of innocence, which, like a cloud that passes
over the fair moon, for a while hides but cannot tarnish its brightness.
Anguish and despair had penetrated into the core of my heart;
I bore a hell within me which nothing could extinguish.
We stayed several hours with Justine, and it was with great difficulty
that Elizabeth could tear herself away. "I wish," cried she,
"that I were to die with you; I cannot live in this world of misery."
Justine assumed an air of cheerfulness, while she with difficulty
repressed her bitter tears. She embraced Elizabeth and said
in a voice of half-suppressed emotion, "Farewell, sweet lady,
dearest Elizabeth, my beloved and only friend; may heaven,
in its bounty, bless and preserve you; may this be the last misfortune
that you will ever suffer! Live, and be happy, and make others so."
And on the morrow Justine died. Elizabeth's heart-rending eloquence
failed to move the judges from their settled conviction
in the criminality of the saintly sufferer. My passionate
and indignant appeals were lost upon them. And when I received
their cold answers and heard the harsh, unfeeling reasoning of these men,
my purposed avowal died away on my lips. Thus I might proclaim myself
a madman, but not revoke the sentence passed upon my wretched victim.
She perished on the scaffold as a murderess!
From the tortures of my own heart, I turned to contemplate
the deep and voiceless grief of my Elizabeth. This also was my doing!
And my father's woe, and the desolation of that late so smiling home
all was the work of my thrice-accursed hands! Ye weep, unhappy ones,
but these are not your last tears! Again shall you raise
the funeral wail, and the sound of your lamentations shall again
and again be heard! Frankenstein, your son, your kinsman, your early,
much-loved friend; he who would spend each vital drop of blood
for your sakes, who has no thought nor sense of joy except
as it is mirrored also in your dear countenances, who would fill
the air with blessings and spend his life in serving you--
he bids you weep, to shed countless tears; happy beyond his hopes,
if thus inexorable fate be satisfied, and if the destruction pause
before the peace of the grave have succeeded to your sad torments!
Thus spoke my prophetic soul, as, torn by remorse, horror,
and despair, I beheld those I loved spend vain sorrow upon
the graves of William and Justine, the first hapless victims
to my unhallowed arts.
Chapter 9
Nothing is more painful to the human mind than, after the feelings
have been worked up by a quick succession of events, the dead calmness
of inaction and certainty which follows and deprives the soul
both of hope and fear. Justine died, she rested, and I was alive.
The blood flowed freely in my veins, but a weight of despair and remorse
pressed on my heart which nothing could remove. Sleep fled from my eyes;
I wandered like an evil spirit, for I had committed deeds of mischief
beyond description horrible, and more, much more (I persuaded myself)
was yet behind. Yet my heart overflowed with kindness and the love
of virtue. I had begun life with benevolent intentions and thirsted
for the moment when I should put them in practice and make myself useful
to my fellow beings. Now all was blasted; instead of that serenity
of conscience which allowed me to look back upon the past
with self-satisfaction, and from thence to gather promise of new hopes,
I was seized by remorse and the sense of guilt, which hurried me away
to a hell of intense tortures such as no language can describe.
This state of mind preyed upon my health, which had perhaps
never entirely recovered from the first shock it had sustained.
I shunned the face of man; all sound of joy or complacency
was torture to me; solitude was my only consolation--deep, dark,
deathlike solitude.
My father observed with pain the alteration perceptible
in my disposition and habits and endeavoured by arguments
deduced from the feelings of his serene conscience and guiltless life
to inspire me with fortitude and awaken in me the courage
to dispel the dark cloud which brooded over me. "Do you think, Victor,"
said he, "that I do not suffer also? No one could love a child
more than I loved your brother"--tears came into his eyes as he spoke--
"but is it not a duty to the survivors that we should refrain
from augmenting their unhappiness by an appearance of immoderate grief?
It is also a duty owed to yourself, for excessive sorrow
prevents improvement or enjoyment, or even the discharge
of daily usefulness, without which no man is fit for society."
This advice, although good, was totally inapplicable to my case;
I should have been the first to hide my grief and console my friends
if remorse had not mingled its bitterness, and terror its alarm,
with my other sensations. Now I could only answer my father
with a look of despair and endeavour to hide myself from his view.
About this time we retired to our house at Belrive. This change
was particularly agreeable to me. The shutting of the gates
regularly at ten o'clock and the impossibility of remaining
on the lake after that hour had rendered our residence within
the walls of Geneva very irksome to me. I was now free.
Often, after the rest of the family had retired for the night,
I took the boat and passed many hours upon the water. Sometimes,
with my sails set, I was carried by the wind; and sometimes,
after rowing into the middle of the lake, I left the boat to pursue
its own course and gave way to my own miserable reflections.
I was often tempted, when all was at peace around me,
and I the only unquiet thing that wandered restless in a scene
so beautiful and heavenly--if I except some bat, or the frogs,
whose harsh and interrupted croaking was heard only when I approached
the shore--often, I say, I was tempted to plunge into the silent lake,
that the waters might close over me and my calamities forever.
But I was restrained, when I thought of the heroic and suffering Elizabeth,
whom I tenderly loved, and whose existence was bound up in mine.
I thought also of my father and surviving brother; should I
by my base desertion leave them exposed and unprotected to the malice
of the fiend whom I had let loose among them?
At these moments I wept bitterly and wished that peace
would revisit my mind only that I might afford them consolation
and happiness. But that could not be. Remorse extinguished every hope.
I had been the author of unalterable evils, and I lived in daily fear
lest the monster whom I had created should perpetrate some new wickedness.
I had an obscure feeling that all was not over and that he would still
commit some signal crime, which by its enormity should almost efface
the recollection of the past. There was always scope for fear
so long as anything I loved remained behind. My abhorrence of this fiend
cannot be conceived. When I thought of him I gnashed my teeth,
my eyes became inflamed, and I ardently wished to extinguish
that life which I had so thoughtlessly bestowed. When I reflected
on his crimes and malice, my hatred and revenge burst all bounds
of moderation. I would have made a pilgrimage to the highest peak
of the Andes, could I when there have precipitated him to their base.
I wished to see him again, that I might wreak the utmost extent
of abhorrence on his head and avenge the deaths of William and Justine.
Our house was the house of mourning. My father's health was deeply shaken
by the horror of the recent events. Elizabeth was sad and desponding;
she no longer took delight in her ordinary occupations; all pleasure
seemed to her sacrilege toward the dead; eternal woe and tears
she then thought was the just tribute she should pay to innocence
so blasted and destroyed. She was no longer that happy creature
who in earlier youth wandered with me on the banks of the lake
and talked with ecstasy of our future prospects. The first
of those sorrows which are sent to wean us from the earth had visited her,
and its dimming influence quenched her dearest smiles.
"When I reflect, my dear cousin," said she, "on the miserable death
of Justine Moritz, I no longer see the world and its works
as they before appeared to me. Before, I looked upon the accounts
of vice and injustice that I read in books or heard from others
as tales of ancient days or imaginary evils; at least they were remote
and more familiar to reason than to the imagination; but now misery
has come home, and men appear to me as monsters thirsting
for each other's blood. Yet I am certainly unjust. Everybody believed
that poor girl to be guilty; and if she could have committed the crime
for which she suffered, assuredly she would have been the most depraved
of human creatures. For the sake of a few jewels, to have murdered the son
of her benefactor and friend, a child whom she had nursed from its birth,
and appeared to love as if it had been her own! I could not consent
to the death of any human being, but certainly I should have thought
such a creature unfit to remain in the society of men.
But she was innocent. I know, I feel she was innocent;
you are of the same opinion, and that confirms me. Alas! Victor,
when falsehood can look so like the truth, who can assure themselves
of certain happiness? I feel as if I were walking on the edge
of a precipice, towards which thousands are crowding and endeavouring
to plunge me into the abyss. William and Justine were assassinated,
and the murderer escapes; he walks about the world free,
and perhaps respected. But even if I were condemned to suffer
on the scaffold for the same crimes, I would not change places
with such a wretch."
I listened to this discourse with the extremest agony. I, not in deed,
but in effect, was the true murderer. Elizabeth read my anguish
in my countenance, and kindly taking my hand, said, "My dearest friend,
you must calm yourself. These events have affected me,
God knows how deeply; but I am not so wretched as you are.
There is an expression of despair, and sometimes of revenge,
in your countenance that makes me tremble. Dear Victor,
banish these dark passions. Remember the friends around you,
who centre all their hopes in you. Have we lost the power
of rendering you happy? Ah! While we love, while we are true
to each other, here in this land of peace and beauty,
your native country, we may reap every tranquil blessing--
what can disturb our peace?"
And could not such words from her whom I fondly prized before
every other gift of fortune suffice to chase away the fiend
that lurked in my heart? Even as she spoke I drew near to her,
as if in terror, lest at that very moment the destroyer
had been near to rob me of her.
Thus not the tenderness of friendship, nor the beauty of earth,
nor of heaven, could redeem my soul from woe; the very accents
of love were ineffectual. I was encompassed by a cloud
which no beneficial influence could penetrate. The wounded deer
dragging its fainting limbs to some untrodden brake, there to gaze
upon the arrow which had pierced it, and to die, was but a type of me.
Sometimes I could cope with the sullen despair that overwhelmed me,
but sometimes the whirlwind passions of my soul drove me to seek,
by bodily exercise and by change of place, some relief
from my intolerable sensations. It was during an access of this kind
that I suddenly left my home, and bending my steps towards
the near Alpine valleys, sought in the magnificence,
the eternity of such scenes, to forget myself and my ephemeral,
because human, sorrows. My wanderings were directed towards
the valley of Chamounix. I had visited it frequently
during my boyhood. Six years had passed since then: I was a wreck,
but nought had changed in those savage and enduring scenes.
I performed the first part of my journey on horseback.
I afterwards hired a mule, as the more sure-footed and least liable
to receive injury on these rugged roads. The weather was fine;
it was about the middle of the month of August, nearly two months
after the death of Justine, that miserable epoch from which I dated
all my woe. The weight upon my spirit was sensibly lightened
as I plunged yet deeper in the ravine of Arve. The immense mountains
and precipices that overhung me on every side, the sound of the river
raging among the rocks, and the dashing of the waterfalls around
spoke of a power mighty as Omnipotence--and I ceased to fear
or to bend before any being less almighty than that which had created
and ruled the elements, here displayed in their most terrific guise.
Still, as I ascended higher, the valley assumed a more magnificent
and astonishing character. Ruined castles hanging on the precipices
of piny mountains, the impetuous Arve, and cottages every here and there
peeping forth from among the trees formed a scene of singular beauty.
But it was augmented and rendered sublime by the mighty Alps,
whose white and shining pyramids and domes towered above all,
as belonging to another earth, the habitations of another race of beings.
I passed the bridge of Pelissier, where the ravine, which the river forms,
opened before me, and I began to ascend the mountain that overhangs it.
Soon after, I entered the valley of Chamounix. This valley
is more wonderful and sublime, but not so beautiful and picturesque
as that of Servox, through which I had just passed. The high
and snowy mountains were its immediate boundaries, but I saw no more
ruined castles and fertile fields. Immense glaciers approached the road;
I heard the rumbling thunder of the falling avalanche and marked the smoke
of its passage. Mont Blanc, the supreme and magnificent Mont Blanc,
raised itself from the surrounding aiguilles, and its tremendous dome
overlooked the valley.
A tingling long-lost sense of pleasure often came across me
during this journey. Some turn in the road, some new object
suddenly perceived and recognized, reminded me of days gone by,
and were associated with the lighthearted gaiety of boyhood.
The very winds whispered in soothing accents, and maternal Nature
bade me weep no more. Then again the kindly influence ceased to act--
I found myself fettered again to grief and indulging in all the misery
of reflection. Then I spurred on my animal, striving so to forget
the world, my fears, and more than all, myself--or, in a more desperate
fashion, I alighted and threw myself on the grass, weighed down
by horror and despair.
At length I arrived at the village of Chamounix. Exhaustion succeeded
to the extreme fatigue both of body and of mind which I had endured.
For a short space of time I remained at the window watching
the pallid lightnings that played above Mont Blanc and listening
to the rushing of the Arve, which pursued its noisy way beneath.
The same lulling sounds acted as a lullaby to my too keen sensations;
when I placed my head upon my pillow, sleep crept over me; I felt it
as it came and blessed the giver of oblivion.
Chapter 10
I spent the following day roaming through the valley. I stood
beside the sources of the Arveiron, which take their rise in a glacier,
that with slow pace is advancing down from the summit of the hills
to barricade the valley. The abrupt sides of vast mountains
were before me; the icy wall of the glacier overhung me;
a few shattered pines were scattered around; and the solemn silence
of this glorious presence-chamber of imperial nature was broken
only by the brawling waves or the fall of some vast fragment,
the thunder sound of the avalanche or the cracking, reverberated
along the mountains, of the accumulated ice, which,
through the silent working of immutable laws, was ever and anon
rent and torn, as if it had been but a plaything in their hands.
These sublime and magnificent scenes afforded me the greatest consolation
that I was capable of receiving. They elevated me from all littleness
of feeling, and although they did not remove my grief, they subdued
and tranquillized it. In some degree, also, they diverted my mind
from the thoughts over which it had brooded for the last month.
I retired to rest at night; my slumbers, as it were, waited on
and ministered to by the assemblance of grand shapes
which I had contemplated during the day. They congregated round me;
the unstained snowy mountaintop, the glittering pinnacle, the pine woods,
and ragged bare ravine, the eagle, soaring amidst the clouds--
they all gathered round me and bade me be at peace.
Where had they fled when the next morning I awoke? All of soul-
inspiriting fled with sleep, and dark melancholy clouded
every thought. The rain was pouring in torrents, and thick mists
hid the summits of the mountains, so that I even saw not the faces
of those mighty friends. Still I would penetrate their misty veil
and seek them in their cloudy retreats. What were rain and storm to me?
My mule was brought to the door, and I resolved to ascend to the summit
of Montanvert. I remembered the effect that the view of the tremendous
and ever-moving glacier had produced upon my mind when I first saw it.
It had then filled me with a sublime ecstasy that gave wings to the soul
and allowed it to soar from the obscure world to light and joy.
The sight of the awful and majestic in nature had indeed always
the effect of solemnizing my mind and causing me to forget
the passing cares of life. I determined to go without a guide,
for I was well acquainted with the path, and the presence of another
would destroy the solitary grandeur of the scene.
The ascent is precipitous, but the path is cut into continual
and short windings, which enable you to surmount the perpendicularity
of the mountain. It is a scene terrifically desolate.
In a thousand spots the traces of the winter avalanche
may be perceived, where trees lie broken and strewed on the ground,
some entirely destroyed, others bent, leaning upon the jutting rocks
of the mountain or transversely upon other trees. The path,
as you ascend nigher, is intersected by ravines of snow,
down which stones continually roll from above; one of them
is particularly dangerous, as the slightest sound,
such as even speaking in a loud voice, produces a concussion of air
sufficient to draw destruction upon the head of the speaker.
The pines are not tall or luxuriant, but they are sombre and add
an air of severity to the scene. I looked on the valley beneath;
vast mists were rising from the rivers which ran through it
and curling in thick wreaths around the opposite mountains,
whose summits were hid in the uniform clouds, while rain poured
from the dark sky and added to the melancholy impression I received
from the objects around me. Alas! Why does man boast of sensibilities
superior to those apparent in the brute; it only renders them
more necessary beings. If our impulses were confined to hunger,
thirst, and desire, we might be nearly free; but now we are moved
by every wind that blows and a chance word or scene that that word may
convey to us.
We rest; a dream has power to poison sleep.
We rise; one wand'ring thought pollutes the day.
We feel, conceive, or reason; laugh or weep,
Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away;
It is the same: for, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free.
Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but mutability!
It was nearly noon when I arrived at the top of the ascent.
For some time I sat upon the rock that overlooks the sea of ice.
A mist covered both that and the surrounding mountains.
Presently a breeze dissipated the cloud, and I descended upon the glacier.
The surface is very uneven, rising like the waves of a troubled sea,
descending low, and interspersed by rifts that sink deep.
The field of ice is almost a league in width, but I spent nearly two hours
in crossing it. The opposite mountain is a bare perpendicular rock.
From the side where I now stood Montanvert was exactly opposite,
at the distance of a league; and above it rose Mont Blanc,
in awful majesty. I remained in a recess of the rock,
gazing on this wonderful and stupendous scene. The sea, or rather
the vast river of ice, wound among its dependent mountains,
whose aerial summits hung over its recesses. Their icy
and glittering peaks shone in the sunlight over the clouds.
My heart, which was before sorrowful, now swelled with something like joy;
I exclaimed, "Wandering spirits, if indeed ye wander, and do not rest
in your narrow beds, allow me this faint happiness, or take me,
as your companion, away from the joys of life."
As I said this I suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at some distance,
advancing towards me with superhuman speed. He bounded
over the crevices in the ice, among which I had walked with caution;
his stature, also, as he approached, seemed to exceed that of man.
I was troubled; a mist came over my eyes, and I felt a faintness seize me,
but I was quickly restored by the cold gale of the mountains.
I perceived, as the shape came nearer (sight tremendous and abhorred!)
that it was the wretch whom I had created. I trembled with rage
and horror, resolving to wait his approach and then close with him
in mortal combat. He approached; his countenance bespoke bitter anguish,
combined with disdain and malignity, while its unearthly ugliness
rendered it almost too horrible for human eyes. But I scarcely
observed this; rage and hatred had at first deprived me of utterance,
and I recovered only to overwhelm him with words expressive
of furious detestation and contempt.
"Devil," I exclaimed, "do you dare approach me? And do not you
fear the fierce vengeance of my arm wreaked on your miserable head?
Begone, vile insect! Or rather, stay, that I may trample you to dust!
And, oh! That I could, with the extinction of your miserable existence,
restore those victims whom you have so diabolically murdered!"
"I expected this reception," said the daemon. "All men hate the wretched;
how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things!
Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom
thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us.
You purpose to kill me. How dare you sport thus with life?
Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you
and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions,
I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse,
I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood
of your remaining friends."
"Abhorred monster! Fiend that thou art! The tortures of hell
are too mild a vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil!
You reproach me with your creation, come on, then, that I may extinguish
the spark which I so negligently bestowed."
My rage was without bounds; I sprang on him, impelled by all the feelings
which can arm one being against the existence of another.
He easily eluded me and said--
"Be calm! I entreat you to hear me before you give vent to your hatred
on my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough, that you seek
to increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation
of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember,
thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior
to thine, my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted
to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature,
and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king
if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me.
Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample
upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection,
is most due. Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam,
but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy
for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone
am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery
made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous."
"Begone! I will not hear you. There can be no community between
you and me; we are enemies. Begone, or let us try our strength
in a fight, in which one must fall."
"How can I move thee? Will no entreaties cause thee
to turn a favourable eye upon thy creature, who implores
thy goodness and compassion? Believe me, Frankenstein,
I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity;
but am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my creator, abhor me;
what hope can I gather from your fellow creatures, who owe me nothing?
They spurn and hate me. The desert mountains and dreary glaciers
are my refuge. I have wandered here many days; the caves of ice,
which I only do not fear, are a dwelling to me, and the only one
which man does not grudge. These bleak skies I hail,
for they are kinder to me than your fellow beings. If the multitude
of mankind knew of my existence, they would do as you do,
and arm themselves for my destruction. Shall I not then hate them
who abhor me? I will keep no terms with my enemies. I am miserable,
and they shall share my wretchedness. Yet it is in your power
to recompense me, and deliver them from an evil which it only remains
for you to make so great, that not only you and your family,
but thousands of others, shall be swallowed up in the whirlwinds
of its rage. Let your compassion be moved, and do not disdain me.
Listen to my tale; when you have heard that, abandon or commiserate me,
as you shall judge that I deserve. But hear me. The guilty are allowed,
by human laws, bloody as they are, to speak in their own defence
before they are condemned. Listen to me, Frankenstein. You accuse me
of murder, and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience,
destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man!
Yet I ask you not to spare me; listen to me, and then, if you can,
and if you will, destroy the work of your hands."
"Why do you call to my remembrance," I rejoined, "circumstances
of which I shudder to reflect, that I have been the miserable origin
and author? Cursed be the day, abhorred devil, in which
you first saw light! Cursed (although I curse myself) be the hands
that formed you! You have made me wretched beyond expression.
You have left me no power to consider whether I am just to you or not.
Begone! Relieve me from the sight of your detested form."
"Thus I relieve thee, my creator," he said, and placed his hated
hands before my eyes, which I flung from me with violence; "thus
I take from thee a sight which you abhor. Still thou canst listen to me
and grant me thy compassion. By the virtues that I once possessed,
I demand this from you. Hear my tale; it is long and strange,
and the temperature of this place is not fitting to your fine sensations;
come to the hut upon the mountain. The sun is yet high in the heavens;
before it descends to hide itself behind your snowy precipices
and illuminate another world, you will have heard my story and can decide.
On you it rests, whether I quit forever the neighbourhood of man
and lead a harmless life, or become the scourge of your fellow creatures
and the author of your own speedy ruin."
As he said this he led the way across the ice; I followed.
My heart was full, and I did not answer him, but as I proceeded,
I weighed the various arguments that he had used and determined
at least to listen to his tale. I was partly urged by curiosity,
and compassion confirmed my resolution. I had hitherto supposed him
to be the murderer of my brother, and I eagerly sought a confirmation
or denial of this opinion. For the first time, also, I felt
what the duties of a creator towards his creature were,
and that I ought to render him happy before I complained of his wickedness.
These motives urged me to comply with his demand. We crossed the ice,
therefore, and ascended the opposite rock. The air was cold, and the rain
again began to descend; we entered the hut, the fiend with an air
of exultation, I with a heavy heart and depressed spirits. But I consented
to listen, and seating myself by the fire which my odious companion
had lighted, he thus began his tale.
Chapter 11
"It is with considerable difficulty that I remember the original era
of my being; all the events of that period appear confused and indistinct.
A strange multiplicity of sensations seized me, and I saw, felt, heard,
and smelt at the same time; and it was, indeed, a long time
before I learned to distinguish between the operations
of my various senses. By degrees, I remember, a stronger light
pressed upon my nerves, so that I was obliged to shut my eyes.
Darkness then came over me and troubled me, but hardly had I felt this
when, by opening my eyes, as I now suppose, the light poured in
upon me again. I walked and, I believe, descended, but I presently found
a great alteration in my sensations. Before, dark and opaque bodies
had surrounded me, impervious to my touch or sight; but I now found
that I could wander on at liberty, with no obstacles
which I could not either surmount or avoid. The light became
more and more oppressive to me, and the heat wearying me as I walked,
I sought a place where I could receive shade. This was the forest
near Ingolstadt; and here I lay by the side of a brook resting
from my fatigue, until I felt tormented by hunger and thirst.
This roused me from my nearly dormant state, and I ate some berries
which I found hanging on the trees or lying on the ground.
I slaked my thirst at the brook, and then lying down,
was overcome by sleep.
"It was dark when I awoke; I felt cold also, and half frightened,
as it were, instinctively, finding myself so desolate.
Before I had quitted your apartment, on a sensation of cold,
I had covered myself with some clothes, but these were insufficient
to secure me from the dews of night. I was a poor, helpless,
miserable wretch; I knew, and could distinguish, nothing;
but feeling pain invade me on all sides, I sat down and wept.
"Soon a gentle light stole over the heavens and gave me a sensation
of pleasure. I started up and beheld a radiant form rise
from among the trees.* [*The moon] I gazed with a kind of wonder.
It moved slowly, but it enlightened my path, and I again went out
in search of berries. I was still cold when under one of the trees
I found a huge cloak, with which I covered myself, and sat down
upon the ground. No distinct ideas occupied my mind; all was confused.
I felt light, and hunger, and thirst, and darkness; innumerable sounds
rang in my ears, and on all sides various scents saluted me;
the only object that I could distinguish was the bright moon,
and I fixed my eyes on that with pleasure.
"Several changes of day and night passed, and the orb of night
had greatly lessened, when I began to distinguish my sensations
from each other. I gradually saw plainly the clear stream
that supplied me with drink and the trees that shaded me
with their foliage. I was delighted when I first discovered
that a pleasant sound, which often saluted my ears,
proceeded from the throats of the little winged animals
who had often intercepted the light from my eyes. I began also
to observe, with greater accuracy, the forms that surrounded me
and to perceive the boundaries of the radiant roof of light
which canopied me. Sometimes I tried to imitate the pleasant songs
of the birds but was unable. Sometimes I wished to express my sensations
in my own mode, but the uncouth and inarticulate sounds
which broke from me frightened me into silence again.
"The moon had disappeared from the night, and again, with a lessened form,
showed itself, while I still remained in the forest. My sensations
had by this time become distinct, and my mind received every day
additional ideas. My eyes became accustomed to the light
and to perceive objects in their right forms; I distinguished the insect
from the herb, and by degrees, one herb from another. I found
that the sparrow uttered none but harsh notes, whilst those
of the blackbird and thrush were sweet and enticing.
"One day, when I was oppressed by cold, I found a fire
which had been left by some wandering beggars, and was overcome
with delight at the warmth I experienced from it. In my joy
I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again
with a cry of pain. How strange, I thought, that the same cause
should produce such opposite effects! I examined the materials
of the fire, and to my joy found it to be composed of wood.
I quickly collected some branches, but they were wet and would not burn.
I was pained at this and sat still watching the operation of the fire.
The wet wood which I had placed near the heat dried and itself
became inflamed. I reflected on this, and by touching
the various branches, I discovered the cause and busied myself
in collecting a great quantity of wood, that I might dry it
and have a plentiful supply of fire. When night came on
and brought sleep with it, I was in the greatest fear lest my fire
should be extinguished. I covered it carefully with dry wood and leaves
and placed wet branches upon it; and then, spreading my cloak,
I lay on the ground and sank into sleep.
"It was morning when I awoke, and my first care was to visit the fire.
I uncovered it, and a gentle breeze quickly fanned it into a flame.
I observed this also and contrived a fan of branches, which roused
the embers when they were nearly extinguished. When night came again
I found, with pleasure, that the fire gave light as well as heat
and that the discovery of this element was useful to me in my food,
for I found some of the offals that the travellers had left
had been roasted, and tasted much more savoury than the berries
I gathered from the trees. I tried, therefore, to dress my food
in the same manner, placing it on the live embers. I found
that the berries were spoiled by this operation, and the nuts
and roots much improved.
"Food, however, became scarce, and I often spent the whole day
searching in vain for a few acorns to assuage the pangs of hunger.
When I found this, I resolved to quit the place that I had
hitherto inhabited, to seek for one where the few wants
I experienced would be more easily satisfied. In this emigration
I exceedingly lamented the loss of the fire which I had obtained
through accident and knew not how to reproduce it. I gave several hours
to the serious consideration of this difficulty, but I was obliged
to relinquish all attempt to supply it, and wrapping myself up in my cloak,
I struck across the wood towards the setting sun. I passed three days
in these rambles and at length discovered the open country.
A great fall of snow had taken place the night before, and the fields
were of one uniform white; the appearance was disconsolate,
and I found my feet chilled by the cold damp substance
that covered the ground.
"It was about seven in the morning, and I longed to obtain food
and shelter; at length I perceived a small hut, on a rising ground,
which had doubtless been built for the convenience of some shepherd.
This was a new sight to me, and I examined the structure
with great curiosity. Finding the door open, I entered. An old man
sat in it, near a fire, over which he was preparing his breakfast.
He turned on hearing a noise, and perceiving me, shrieked loudly,
and quitting the hut, ran across the fields with a speed of which
his debilitated form hardly appeared capable. His appearance,
different from any I had ever before seen, and his flight
somewhat surprised me. But I was enchanted by the appearance
of the hut; here the snow and rain could not penetrate;
the ground was dry; and it presented to me then as exquisite
and divine a retreat as Pandemonium appeared to the demons of hell
after their sufferings in the lake of fire. I greedily devoured
the remnants of the shepherd's breakfast, which consisted of bread,
cheese, milk, and wine; the latter, however, I did not like.
Then, overcome by fatigue, I lay down among some straw and fell asleep.
"It was noon when I awoke, and allured by the warmth of the sun,
which shone brightly on the white ground, I determined to recommence
my travels; and, depositing the remains of the peasant's breakfast
in a wallet I found, I proceeded across the fields for several hours,
until at sunset I arrived at a village. How miraculous did this appear!
the huts, the neater cottages, and stately houses engaged my admiration
by turns. The vegetables in the gardens, the milk and cheese
that I saw placed at the windows of some of the cottages,
allured my appetite. One of the best of these I entered,
but I had hardly placed my foot within the door before the children
shrieked, and one of the women fainted. The whole village was roused;
some fled, some attacked me, until, grievously bruised by stones
and many other kinds of missile weapons, I escaped to the open country
and fearfully took refuge in a low hovel, quite bare,
and making a wretched appearance after the palaces I had beheld
in the village. This hovel however, joined a cottage of a neat
and pleasant appearance, but after my late dearly bought experience,
I dared not enter it. My place of refuge was constructed of wood,
but so low that I could with difficulty sit upright in it. No wood,
however, was placed on the earth, which formed the floor, but it was dry;
and although the wind entered it by innumerable chinks, I found it
an agreeable asylum from the snow and rain.
"Here, then, I retreated and lay down happy to have found a shelter,
however miserable, from the inclemency of the season, and still more
from the barbarity of man. As soon as morning dawned I crept
from my kennel, that I might view the adjacent cottage and discover
if I could remain in the habitation I had found. It was situated
against the back of the cottage and surrounded on the sides
which were exposed by a pig sty and a clear pool of water.
One part was open, and by that I had crept in; but now
I covered every crevice by which I might be perceived
with stones and wood, yet in such a manner that I might move them
on occasion to pass out; all the light I enjoyed
came through the sty, and that was sufficient for me.
"Having thus arranged my dwelling and carpeted it with clean straw,
I retired, for I saw the figure of a man at a distance,
and I remembered too well my treatment the night before
to trust myself in his power. I had first, however, provided
for my sustenance for that day by a loaf of coarse bread,
which I purloined, and a cup with which I could drink more conveniently
than from my hand of the pure water which flowed by my retreat.
The floor was a little raised, so that it was kept perfectly dry,
and by its vicinity to the chimney of the cottage it was tolerably warm.
"Being thus provided, I resolved to reside in this hovel
until something should occur which might alter my determination.
It was indeed a paradise compared to the bleak forest,
my former residence, the rain-dropping branches, and dank earth.
I ate my breakfast with pleasure and was about to remove a plank
to procure myself a little water when I heard a step,
and looking through a small chink, I beheld a young creature,
with a pail on her head, passing before my hovel. The girl was young
and of gentle demeanour, unlike what I have since found cottagers
and farmhouse servants to be. Yet she was meanly dressed,
a coarse blue petticoat and a linen jacket being her only garb;
her fair hair was plaited but not adorned: she looked patient yet sad.
I lost sight of her, and in about a quarter of an hour she returned
bearing the pail, which was now partly filled with milk.
As she walked along, seemingly incommoded by the burden,
a young man met her, whose countenance expressed a deeper despondence.
Uttering a few sounds with an air of melancholy, he took the pail
from her head and bore it to the cottage himself. She followed,
and they disappeared. Presently I saw the young man again,
with some tools in his hand, cross the field behind the cottage;
and the girl was also busied, sometimes in the house and sometimes
in the yard.
"On examining my dwelling, I found that one of the windows
of the cottage had formerly occupied a part of it, but the panes
had been filled up with wood. In one of these was a small
and almost imperceptible chink through which the eye
could just penetrate. Through this crevice a small room was visible,
whitewashed and clean but very bare of furniture. In one corner,
near a small fire, sat an old man, leaning his head on his hands
in a disconsolate attitude. The young girl was occupied
in arranging the cottage; but presently she took something
out of a drawer, which employed her hands, and she sat down
beside the old man, who, taking up an instrument, began to play
and to produce sounds sweeter than the voice of the thrush
or the nightingale. It was a lovely sight, even to me, poor wretch
who had never beheld aught beautiful before. The silver hair
and benevolent countenance of the aged cottager won my reverence,
while the gentle manners of the girl enticed my love. He played
a sweet mournful air which I perceived drew tears from the eyes
of his amiable companion, of which the old man took no notice,
until she sobbed audibly; he then pronounced a few sounds,
and the fair creature, leaving her work, knelt at his feet.