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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Frankenstein 22
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Chapter 22

The voyage came to an end. We landed, and proceeded to Paris. I soon
found that I had overtaxed my strength and that I must repose before I
could continue my journey. My father's care and attentions were
indefatigable, but he did not know the origin of my sufferings and
sought erroneous methods to remedy the incurable ill. He wished me to
seek amusement in society. I abhorred the face of man. Oh, not
abhorred! They were my brethren, my fellow beings, and I felt
attracted even to the most repulsive among them, as to creatures of an
angelic nature and celestial mechanism. But I felt that I had no right
to share their intercourse. I had unchained an enemy among them whose
joy it was to shed their blood and to revel in their groans. How they
would, each and all, abhor me and hunt me from the world did they know
my unhallowed acts and the crimes which had their source in me!

My father yielded at length to my desire to avoid society and strove by
various arguments to banish my despair. Sometimes he thought that I
felt deeply the degradation of being obliged to answer a charge of
murder, and he endeavoured to prove to me the futility of pride.

"Alas! My father," said I, "how little do you know me. Human beings,
their feelings and passions, would indeed be degraded if such a wretch
as I felt pride. Justine, poor unhappy Justine, was as innocent as I,
and she suffered the same charge; she died for it; and I am the cause
of this--I murdered her. William, Justine, and Henry--they all died by
my hands."

My father had often, during my imprisonment, heard me make the same
assertion; when I thus accused myself, he sometimes seemed to desire an
explanation, and at others he appeared to consider it as the offspring
of delirium, and that, during my illness, some idea of this kind had
presented itself to my imagination, the remembrance of which I
preserved in my convalescence.

I avoided explanation and maintained a continual silence concerning the
wretch I had created. I had a persuasion that I should be supposed
mad, and this in itself would forever have chained my tongue. But,
besides, I could not bring myself to disclose a secret which would fill
my hearer with consternation and make fear and unnatural horror the
inmates of his breast. I checked, therefore, my impatient thirst for
sympathy and was silent when I would have given the world to have
confided the fatal secret. Yet, still, words like those I have
recorded would burst uncontrollably from me. I could offer no
explanation of them, but their truth in part relieved the burden of my
mysterious woe. Upon this occasion my father said, with an expression
of unbounded wonder, "My dearest Victor, what infatuation is this? My
dear son, I entreat you never to make such an assertion again."

"I am not mad," I cried energetically; "the sun and the heavens, who
have viewed my operations, can bear witness of my truth. I am the
assassin of those most innocent victims; they died by my machinations.
A thousand times would I have shed my own blood, drop by drop, to have
saved their lives; but I could not, my father, indeed I could not
sacrifice the whole human race."

The conclusion of this speech convinced my father that my ideas were
deranged, and he instantly changed the subject of our conversation and
endeavoured to alter the course of my thoughts. He wished as much as
possible to obliterate the memory of the scenes that had taken place in
Ireland and never alluded to them or suffered me to speak of my
misfortunes.

As time passed away I became more calm; misery had her dwelling in my
heart, but I no longer talked in the same incoherent manner of my own
crimes; sufficient for me was the consciousness of them. By the utmost
self-violence I curbed the imperious voice of wretchedness, which
sometimes desired to declare itself to the whole world, and my manners
were calmer and more composed than they had ever been since my journey
to the sea of ice. A few days before we left Paris on our way to
Switzerland, I received the following letter from Elizabeth:


"My dear Friend,

"It gave me the greatest pleasure to receive a letter from my uncle
dated at Paris; you are no longer at a formidable distance, and I may
hope to see you in less than a fortnight. My poor cousin, how much you
must have suffered! I expect to see you looking even more ill than
when you quitted Geneva. This winter has been passed most miserably,
tortured as I have been by anxious suspense; yet I hope to see peace in
your countenance and to find that your heart is not totally void of
comfort and tranquillity.

"Yet I fear that the same feelings now exist that made you so
miserable a year ago, even perhaps augmented by time. I would not
disturb you at this period, when so many misfortunes weigh upon you,
but a conversation that I had with my uncle previous to his departure
renders some explanation necessary before we meet. Explanation! You
may possibly say, What can Elizabeth have to explain? If you really
say this, my questions are answered and all my doubts satisfied. But
you are distant from me, and it is possible that you may dread and yet
be pleased with this explanation; and in a probability of this being
the case, I dare not any longer postpone writing what, during your
absence, I have often wished to express to you but have never had the
courage to begin.

"You well know, Victor, that our union had been the favourite
plan of your parents ever since our infancy. We were told this
when young, and taught to look forward to it as an event that would
certainly take place. We were affectionate playfellows during
childhood, and, I believe, dear and valued friends to one another
as we grew older. But as brother and sister often entertain a
lively affection towards each other without desiring a more
intimate union, may not such also be our case? Tell me, dearest
Victor. Answer me, I conjure you by our mutual happiness, with
simple truth--Do you not love another?

"You have travelled; you have spent several years of your life
at Ingolstadt; and I confess to you, my friend, that when I saw you
last autumn so unhappy, flying to solitude from the society of
every creature, I could not help supposing that you might regret
our connection and believe yourself bound in honour to fulfil the
wishes of your parents, although they opposed themselves to your
inclinations. But this is false reasoning. I confess to you, my
friend, that I love you and that in my airy dreams of futurity you
have been my constant friend and companion. But it is your
happiness I desire as well as my own when I declare to you that our
marriage would render me eternally miserable unless it were the
dictate of your own free choice. Even now I weep to think that,
borne down as you are by the cruellest misfortunes, you may stifle,
by the word `honour,' all hope of that love and happiness which
would alone restore you to yourself. I, who have so disinterested
an affection for you, may increase your miseries tenfold by being
an obstacle to your wishes. Ah! Victor, be assured that your
cousin and playmate has too sincere a love for you not to be made
miserable by this supposition. Be happy, my friend; and if you
obey me in this one request, remain satisfied that nothing on
earth will have the power to interrupt my tranquillity.

"Do not let this letter disturb you; do not answer tomorrow,
or the next day, or even until you come, if it will give you pain.
My uncle will send me news of your health, and if I see but one
smile on your lips when we meet, occasioned by this or any other
exertion of mine, I shall need no other happiness.

"Elizabeth Lavenza

"Geneva, May 18th, 17--"


This letter revived in my memory what I had before forgotten, the
threat of the fiend--"I WILL BE WITH YOU ON YOUR WEDDING-NIGHT!" Such
was my sentence, and on that night would the daemon employ every art to
destroy me and tear me from the glimpse of happiness which promised
partly to console my sufferings. On that night he had determined to
consummate his crimes by my death. Well, be it so; a deadly struggle
would then assuredly take place, in which if he were victorious I
should be at peace and his power over me be at an end. If he were
vanquished, I should be a free man. Alas! What freedom? Such as the
peasant enjoys when his family have been massacred before his eyes, his
cottage burnt, his lands laid waste, and he is turned adrift, homeless,
penniless, and alone, but free. Such would be my liberty except that in
my Elizabeth I possessed a treasure, alas, balanced by those horrors of
remorse and guilt which would pursue me until death.

Sweet and beloved Elizabeth! I read and reread her letter, and some
softened feelings stole into my heart and dared to whisper paradisiacal
dreams of love and joy; but the apple was already eaten, and the
angel's arm bared to drive me from all hope. Yet I would die to make
her happy. If the monster executed his threat, death was inevitable;
yet, again, I considered whether my marriage would hasten my fate. My
destruction might indeed arrive a few months sooner, but if my torturer
should suspect that I postponed it, influenced by his menaces, he would
surely find other and perhaps more dreadful means of revenge.

He had vowed TO BE WITH ME ON MY WEDDING-NIGHT, yet he did not consider
that threat as binding him to peace in the meantime, for as if to show
me that he was not yet satiated with blood, he had murdered Clerval
immediately after the enunciation of his threats. I resolved,
therefore, that if my immediate union with my cousin would conduce
either to hers or my father's happiness, my adversary's designs against
my life should not retard it a single hour.

In this state of mind I wrote to Elizabeth. My letter was calm and
affectionate. "I fear, my beloved girl," I said, "little happiness
remains for us on earth; yet all that I may one day enjoy is centred in
you. Chase away your idle fears; to you alone do I consecrate my life
and my endeavours for contentment. I have one secret, Elizabeth, a
dreadful one; when revealed to you, it will chill your frame with
horror, and then, far from being surprised at my misery, you will only
wonder that I survive what I have endured. I will confide this tale of
misery and terror to you the day after our marriage shall take place,
for, my sweet cousin, there must be perfect confidence between us. But
until then, I conjure you, do not mention or allude to it. This I most
earnestly entreat, and I know you will comply."

In about a week after the arrival of Elizabeth's letter we returned to
Geneva. The sweet girl welcomed me with warm affection, yet tears were
in her eyes as she beheld my emaciated frame and feverish cheeks. I
saw a change in her also. She was thinner and had lost much of that
heavenly vivacity that had before charmed me; but her gentleness and
soft looks of compassion made her a more fit companion for one blasted
and miserable as I was. The tranquillity which I now enjoyed did not
endure. Memory brought madness with it, and when I thought of what had
passed, a real insanity possessed me; sometimes I was furious and burnt
with rage, sometimes low and despondent. I neither spoke nor looked at
anyone, but sat motionless, bewildered by the multitude of miseries
that overcame me.

Elizabeth alone had the power to draw me from these fits; her gentle
voice would soothe me when transported by passion and inspire me with
human feelings when sunk in torpor. She wept with me and for me. When
reason returned, she would remonstrate and endeavour to inspire me with
resignation. Ah! It is well for the unfortunate to be resigned, but
for the guilty there is no peace. The agonies of remorse poison the
luxury there is otherwise sometimes found in indulging the excess of
grief. Soon after my arrival my father spoke of my immediate marriage
with Elizabeth. I remained silent.

"Have you, then, some other attachment?"

"None on earth. I love Elizabeth and look forward to our union with
delight. Let the day therefore be fixed; and on it I will consecrate
myself, in life or death, to the happiness of my cousin."

"My dear Victor, do not speak thus. Heavy misfortunes have befallen
us, but let us only cling closer to what remains and transfer our love
for those whom we have lost to those who yet live. Our circle will be
small but bound close by the ties of affection and mutual misfortune.
And when time shall have softened your despair, new and dear objects of
care will be born to replace those of whom we have been so cruelly
deprived."

Such were the lessons of my father. But to me the remembrance of the
threat returned; nor can you wonder that, omnipotent as the fiend had
yet been in his deeds of blood, I should almost regard him as
invincible, and that when he had pronounced the words "I SHALL BE WITH
YOU ON YOUR WEDDING-NIGHT," I should regard the threatened fate as
unavoidable. But death was no evil to me if the loss of Elizabeth were
balanced with it, and I therefore, with a contented and even cheerful
countenance, agreed with my father that if my cousin would consent, the
ceremony should take place in ten days, and thus put, as I imagined,
the seal to my fate.

Great God! If for one instant I had thought what might be the hellish
intention of my fiendish adversary, I would rather have banished myself
forever from my native country and wandered a friendless outcast over
the earth than have consented to this miserable marriage. But, as if
possessed of magic powers, the monster had blinded me to his real
intentions; and when I thought that I had prepared only my own death, I
hastened that of a far dearer victim.

As the period fixed for our marriage drew nearer, whether from
cowardice or a prophetic feeling, I felt my heart sink within me. But
I concealed my feelings by an appearance of hilarity that brought
smiles and joy to the countenance of my father, but hardly deceived the
ever-watchful and nicer eye of Elizabeth. She looked forward to our
union with placid contentment, not unmingled with a little fear, which
past misfortunes had impressed, that what now appeared certain and
tangible happiness might soon dissipate into an airy dream and leave no
trace but deep and everlasting regret. Preparations were made for the
event, congratulatory visits were received, and all wore a smiling
appearance. I shut up, as well as I could, in my own heart the anxiety
that preyed there and entered with seeming earnestness into the plans
of my father, although they might only serve as the decorations of my
tragedy. Through my father's exertions a part of the inheritance of
Elizabeth had been restored to her by the Austrian government. A small
possession on the shores of Como belonged to her. It was agreed that,
immediately after our union, we should proceed to Villa Lavenza and
spend our first days of happiness beside the beautiful lake near which
it stood.

In the meantime I took every precaution to defend my person in case the
fiend should openly attack me. I carried pistols and a dagger
constantly about me and was ever on the watch to prevent artifice, and
by these means gained a greater degree of tranquillity. Indeed, as the
period approached, the threat appeared more as a delusion, not to be
regarded as worthy to disturb my peace, while the happiness I hoped for
in my marriage wore a greater appearance of certainty as the day fixed
for its solemnization drew nearer and I heard it continually spoken of
as an occurrence which no accident could possibly prevent.

Elizabeth seemed happy; my tranquil demeanour contributed greatly to
calm her mind. But on the day that was to fulfil my wishes and my
destiny, she was melancholy, and a presentiment of evil pervaded her;
and perhaps also she thought of the dreadful secret which I had
promised to reveal to her on the following day. My father was in the
meantime overjoyed and in the bustle of preparation only recognized in
the melancholy of his niece the diffidence of a bride.

After the ceremony was performed a large party assembled at my
father's, but it was agreed that Elizabeth and I should commence our
journey by water, sleeping that night at Evian and continuing our
voyage on the following day. The day was fair, the wind favourable;
all smiled on our nuptial embarkation.

Those were the last moments of my life during which I enjoyed the
feeling of happiness. We passed rapidly along; the sun was hot, but we
were sheltered from its rays by a kind of canopy while we enjoyed the
beauty of the scene, sometimes on one side of the lake, where we saw
Mont Saleve, the pleasant banks of Montalegre, and at a distance,
surmounting all, the beautiful Mont Blanc and the assemblage of snowy
mountains that in vain endeavour to emulate her; sometimes coasting the
opposite banks, we saw the mighty Jura opposing its dark side to the
ambition that would quit its native country, and an almost
insurmountable barrier to the invader who should wish to enslave it.

I took the hand of Elizabeth. "You are sorrowful, my love. Ah! If
you knew what I have suffered and what I may yet endure, you would
endeavour to let me taste the quiet and freedom from despair that this
one day at least permits me to enjoy."

"Be happy, my dear Victor," replied Elizabeth; "there is, I hope,
nothing to distress you; and be assured that if a lively joy is not
painted in my face, my heart is contented. Something whispers to me
not to depend too much on the prospect that is opened before us, but I
will not listen to such a sinister voice. Observe how fast we move
along and how the clouds, which sometimes obscure and sometimes rise
above the dome of Mont Blanc, render this scene of beauty still more
interesting. Look also at the innumerable fish that are swimming in
the clear waters, where we can distinguish every pebble that lies at
the bottom. What a divine day! How happy and serene all nature
appears!"

Thus Elizabeth endeavoured to divert her thoughts and mine from all
reflection upon melancholy subjects. But her temper was fluctuating;
joy for a few instants shone in her eyes, but it continually gave place
to distraction and reverie.

The sun sank lower in the heavens; we passed the river Drance and
observed its path through the chasms of the higher and the glens of the
lower hills. The Alps here come closer to the lake, and we approached
the amphitheatre of mountains which forms its eastern boundary. The
spire of Evian shone under the woods that surrounded it and the range
of mountain above mountain by which it was overhung.

The wind, which had hitherto carried us along with amazing rapidity,
sank at sunset to a light breeze; the soft air just ruffled the water
and caused a pleasant motion among the trees as we approached the
shore, from which it wafted the most delightful scent of flowers and
hay. The sun sank beneath the horizon as we landed, and as I touched
the shore I felt those cares and fears revive which soon were to clasp
me and cling to me forever.


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