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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Frankenstein 24
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Chapter 24

My present situation was one in which all voluntary thought was
swallowed up and lost. I was hurried away by fury; revenge alone
endowed me with strength and composure; it moulded my feelings and
allowed me to be calculating and calm at periods when otherwise
delirium or death would have been my portion.

My first resolution was to quit Geneva forever; my country, which, when
I was happy and beloved, was dear to me, now, in my adversity, became
hateful. I provided myself with a sum of money, together with a few
jewels which had belonged to my mother, and departed. And now my
wanderings began which are to cease but with life. I have traversed a
vast portion of the earth and have endured all the hardships which
travellers in deserts and barbarous countries are wont to meet. How I
have lived I hardly know; many times have I stretched my failing limbs
upon the sandy plain and prayed for death. But revenge kept me alive;
I dared not die and leave my adversary in being.

When I quitted Geneva my first labour was to gain some clue by which I
might trace the steps of my fiendish enemy. But my plan was unsettled,
and I wandered many hours round the confines of the town, uncertain
what path I should pursue. As night approached I found myself at the
entrance of the cemetery where William, Elizabeth, and my father
reposed. I entered it and approached the tomb which marked their
graves. Everything was silent except the leaves of the trees, which
were gently agitated by the wind; the night was nearly dark, and the
scene would have been solemn and affecting even to an uninterested
observer. The spirits of the departed seemed to flit around and to
cast a shadow, which was felt but not seen, around the head of the
mourner.

The deep grief which this scene had at first excited quickly gave way
to rage and despair. They were dead, and I lived; their murderer also
lived, and to destroy him I must drag out my weary existence. I knelt
on the grass and kissed the earth and with quivering lips exclaimed,
"By the sacred earth on which I kneel, by the shades that wander near
me, by the deep and eternal grief that I feel, I swear; and by thee, O
Night, and the spirits that preside over thee, to pursue the daemon who
caused this misery, until he or I shall perish in mortal conflict. For
this purpose I will preserve my life; to execute this dear revenge will
I again behold the sun and tread the green herbage of earth, which
otherwise should vanish from my eyes forever. And I call on you,
spirits of the dead, and on you, wandering ministers of vengeance, to
aid and conduct me in my work. Let the cursed and hellish monster
drink deep of agony; let him feel the despair that now torments me." I
had begun my adjuration with solemnity and an awe which almost assured
me that the shades of my murdered friends heard and approved my
devotion, but the furies possessed me as I concluded, and rage choked
my utterance.

I was answered through the stillness of night by a loud and fiendish
laugh. It rang on my ears long and heavily; the mountains re-echoed
it, and I felt as if all hell surrounded me with mockery and laughter.
Surely in that moment I should have been possessed by frenzy and have
destroyed my miserable existence but that my vow was heard and that I
was reserved for vengeance. The laughter died away, when a well-known
and abhorred voice, apparently close to my ear, addressed me in an
audible whisper, "I am satisfied, miserable wretch! You have
determined to live, and I am satisfied."

I darted towards the spot from which the sound proceeded, but the devil
eluded my grasp. Suddenly the broad disk of the moon arose and shone
full upon his ghastly and distorted shape as he fled with more than
mortal speed.

I pursued him, and for many months this has been my task. Guided by a
slight clue, I followed the windings of the Rhone, but vainly. The
blue Mediterranean appeared, and by a strange chance, I saw the fiend
enter by night and hide himself in a vessel bound for the Black Sea. I
took my passage in the same ship, but he escaped, I know not how.

Amidst the wilds of Tartary and Russia, although he still evaded me, I
have ever followed in his track. Sometimes the peasants, scared by
this horrid apparition, informed me of his path; sometimes he himself,
who feared that if I lost all trace of him I should despair and die,
left some mark to guide me. The snows descended on my head, and I saw
the print of his huge step on the white plain. To you first entering
on life, to whom care is new and agony unknown, how can you understand
what I have felt and still feel? Cold, want, and fatigue were the
least pains which I was destined to endure; I was cursed by some devil
and carried about with me my eternal hell; yet still a spirit of good
followed and directed my steps and when I most murmured would suddenly
extricate me from seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Sometimes,
when nature, overcome by hunger, sank under the exhaustion, a repast
was prepared for me in the desert that restored and inspirited me. The
fare was, indeed, coarse, such as the peasants of the country ate, but
I will not doubt that it was set there by the spirits that I had
invoked to aid me. Often, when all was dry, the heavens cloudless, and
I was parched by thirst, a slight cloud would bedim the sky, shed the
few drops that revived me, and vanish.

I followed, when I could, the courses of the rivers; but the daemon
generally avoided these, as it was here that the population of the
country chiefly collected. In other places human beings were seldom
seen, and I generally subsisted on the wild animals that crossed my
path. I had money with me and gained the friendship of the villagers
by distributing it; or I brought with me some food that I had killed,
which, after taking a small part, I always presented to those who had
provided me with fire and utensils for cooking.

My life, as it passed thus, was indeed hateful to me, and it was during
sleep alone that I could taste joy. O blessed sleep! Often, when most
miserable, I sank to repose, and my dreams lulled me even to rapture.
The spirits that guarded me had provided these moments, or rather
hours, of happiness that I might retain strength to fulfil my
pilgrimage. Deprived of this respite, I should have sunk under my
hardships. During the day I was sustained and inspirited by the hope
of night, for in sleep I saw my friends, my wife, and my beloved
country; again I saw the benevolent countenance of my father, heard the
silver tones of my Elizabeth's voice, and beheld Clerval enjoying
health and youth. Often, when wearied by a toilsome march, I persuaded
myself that I was dreaming until night should come and that I should
then enjoy reality in the arms of my dearest friends. What agonizing
fondness did I feel for them! How did I cling to their dear forms, as
sometimes they haunted even my waking hours, and persuade myself that
they still lived! At such moments vengeance, that burned within me,
died in my heart, and I pursued my path towards the destruction of the
daemon more as a task enjoined by heaven, as the mechanical impulse of
some power of which I was unconscious, than as the ardent desire of my
soul. What his feelings were whom I pursued I cannot know. Sometimes,
indeed, he left marks in writing on the barks of the trees or cut in
stone that guided me and instigated my fury. "My reign is not yet
over"--these words were legible in one of these inscriptions--"you
live, and my power is complete. Follow me; I seek the everlasting ices
of the north, where you will feel the misery of cold and frost, to
which I am impassive. You will find near this place, if you follow not
too tardily, a dead hare; eat and be refreshed. Come on, my enemy; we
have yet to wrestle for our lives, but many hard and miserable hours
must you endure until that period shall arrive."

Scoffing devil! Again do I vow vengeance; again do I devote thee,
miserable fiend, to torture and death. Never will I give up my search
until he or I perish; and then with what ecstasy shall I join my
Elizabeth and my departed friends, who even now prepare for me the
reward of my tedious toil and horrible pilgrimage!

As I still pursued my journey to the northward, the snows thickened and
the cold increased in a degree almost too severe to support. The
peasants were shut up in their hovels, and only a few of the most hardy
ventured forth to seize the animals whom starvation had forced from
their hiding-places to seek for prey. The rivers were covered with
ice, and no fish could be procured; and thus I was cut off from my
chief article of maintenance. The triumph of my enemy increased with
the difficulty of my labours. One inscription that he left was in
these words: "Prepare! Your toils only begin; wrap yourself in furs
and provide food, for we shall soon enter upon a journey where your
sufferings will satisfy my everlasting hatred."

My courage and perseverance were invigorated by these scoffing words; I
resolved not to fail in my purpose, and calling on heaven to support
me, I continued with unabated fervour to traverse immense deserts,
until the ocean appeared at a distance and formed the utmost boundary
of the horizon. Oh! How unlike it was to the blue seasons of the
south! Covered with ice, it was only to be distinguished from land by
its superior wildness and ruggedness. The Greeks wept for joy when
they beheld the Mediterranean from the hills of Asia, and hailed with
rapture the boundary of their toils. I did not weep, but I knelt down
and with a full heart thanked my guiding spirit for conducting me in
safety to the place where I hoped, notwithstanding my adversary's gibe,
to meet and grapple with him.

Some weeks before this period I had procured a sledge and dogs and thus
traversed the snows with inconceivable speed. I know not whether the
fiend possessed the same advantages, but I found that, as before I had
daily lost ground in the pursuit, I now gained on him, so much so that
when I first saw the ocean he was but one day's journey in advance, and
I hoped to intercept him before he should reach the beach. With new
courage, therefore, I pressed on, and in two days arrived at a wretched
hamlet on the seashore. I inquired of the inhabitants concerning the
fiend and gained accurate information. A gigantic monster, they said,
had arrived the night before, armed with a gun and many pistols,
putting to flight the inhabitants of a solitary cottage through fear of
his terrific appearance. He had carried off their store of winter
food, and placing it in a sledge, to draw which he had seized on a
numerous drove of trained dogs, he had harnessed them, and the same
night, to the joy of the horror-struck villagers, had pursued his
journey across the sea in a direction that led to no land; and they
conjectured that he must speedily be destroyed by the breaking of the
ice or frozen by the eternal frosts.

On hearing this information I suffered a temporary access of despair.
He had escaped me, and I must commence a destructive and almost endless
journey across the mountainous ices of the ocean, amidst cold that few
of the inhabitants could long endure and which I, the native of a
genial and sunny climate, could not hope to survive. Yet at the idea
that the fiend should live and be triumphant, my rage and vengeance
returned, and like a mighty tide, overwhelmed every other feeling.
After a slight repose, during which the spirits of the dead hovered
round and instigated me to toil and revenge, I prepared for my journey.
I exchanged my land-sledge for one fashioned for the inequalities of
the frozen ocean, and purchasing a plentiful stock of provisions, I
departed from land.

I cannot guess how many days have passed since then, but I have endured
misery which nothing but the eternal sentiment of a just retribution
burning within my heart could have enabled me to support. Immense and
rugged mountains of ice often barred up my passage, and I often heard
the thunder of the ground sea, which threatened my destruction. But
again the frost came and made the paths of the sea secure.

By the quantity of provision which I had consumed, I should guess that
I had passed three weeks in this journey; and the continual protraction
of hope, returning back upon the heart, often wrung bitter drops of
despondency and grief from my eyes. Despair had indeed almost secured
her prey, and I should soon have sunk beneath this misery. Once, after
the poor animals that conveyed me had with incredible toil gained the
summit of a sloping ice mountain, and one, sinking under his fatigue,
died, I viewed the expanse before me with anguish, when suddenly my eye
caught a dark speck upon the dusky plain. I strained my sight to
discover what it could be and uttered a wild cry of ecstasy when I
distinguished a sledge and the distorted proportions of a well-known
form within. Oh! With what a burning gush did hope revisit my heart!
Warm tears filled my eyes, which I hastily wiped away, that they might
not intercept the view I had of the daemon; but still my sight was
dimmed by the burning drops, until, giving way to the emotions that
oppressed me, I wept aloud.

But this was not the time for delay; I disencumbered the dogs of their
dead companion, gave them a plentiful portion of food, and after an
hour's rest, which was absolutely necessary, and yet which was bitterly
irksome to me, I continued my route. The sledge was still visible, nor
did I again lose sight of it except at the moments when for a short
time some ice-rock concealed it with its intervening crags. I indeed
perceptibly gained on it, and when, after nearly two days' journey, I
beheld my enemy at no more than a mile distant, my heart bounded within
me.

But now, when I appeared almost within grasp of my foe, my hopes were
suddenly extinguished, and I lost all trace of him more utterly than I
had ever done before. A ground sea was heard; the thunder of its
progress, as the waters rolled and swelled beneath me, became every
moment more ominous and terrific. I pressed on, but in vain. The wind
arose; the sea roared; and, as with the mighty shock of an earthquake,
it split and cracked with a tremendous and overwhelming sound. The
work was soon finished; in a few minutes a tumultuous sea rolled
between me and my enemy, and I was left drifting on a scattered piece
of ice that was continually lessening and thus preparing for me a
hideous death. In this manner many appalling hours passed; several of
my dogs died, and I myself was about to sink under the accumulation of
distress when I saw your vessel riding at anchor and holding forth to
me hopes of succour and life. I had no conception that vessels ever
came so far north and was astounded at the sight. I quickly destroyed
part of my sledge to construct oars, and by these means was enabled,
with infinite fatigue, to move my ice raft in the direction of your
ship. I had determined, if you were going southwards, still to trust
myself to the mercy of the seas rather than abandon my purpose. I
hoped to induce you to grant me a boat with which I could pursue my
enemy. But your direction was northwards. You took me on board when
my vigour was exhausted, and I should soon have sunk under my
multiplied hardships into a death which I still dread, for my task is
unfulfilled.

Oh! When will my guiding spirit, in conducting me to the daemon, allow
me the rest I so much desire; or must I die, and he yet live? If I do,
swear to me, Walton, that he shall not escape, that you will seek him
and satisfy my vengeance in his death. And do I dare to ask of you to
undertake my pilgrimage, to endure the hardships that I have
undergone? No; I am not so selfish. Yet, when I am dead, if he should
appear, if the ministers of vengeance should conduct him to you, swear
that he shall not live--swear that he shall not triumph over my
accumulated woes and survive to add to the list of his dark crimes. He
is eloquent and persuasive, and once his words had even power over my
heart; but trust him not. His soul is as hellish as his form, full of
treachery and fiend-like malice. Hear him not; call on the names of
William, Justine, Clerval, Elizabeth, my father, and of the wretched
Victor, and thrust your sword into his heart. I will hover near and
direct the steel aright.


Walton, in continuation.

August 26th, 17--


You have read this strange and terrific story, Margaret; and do you not
feel your blood congeal with horror, like that which even now curdles
mine? Sometimes, seized with sudden agony, he could not continue his
tale; at others, his voice broken, yet piercing, uttered with
difficulty the words so replete with anguish. His fine and lovely eyes
were now lighted up with indignation, now subdued to downcast sorrow
and quenched in infinite wretchedness. Sometimes he commanded his
countenance and tones and related the most horrible incidents with a
tranquil voice, suppressing every mark of agitation; then, like a
volcano bursting forth, his face would suddenly change to an expression
of the wildest rage as he shrieked out imprecations on his persecutor.

His tale is connected and told with an appearance of the simplest
truth, yet I own to you that the letters of Felix and Safie, which he
showed me, and the apparition of the monster seen from our ship,
brought to me a greater conviction of the truth of his narrative than
his asseverations, however earnest and connected. Such a monster has,
then, really existence! I cannot doubt it, yet I am lost in surprise
and admiration. Sometimes I endeavoured to gain from Frankenstein the
particulars of his creature's formation, but on this point he was
impenetrable. "Are you mad, my friend?" said he. "Or whither does your
senseless curiosity lead you? Would you also create for yourself and
the world a demoniacal enemy? Peace, peace! Learn my miseries and do
not seek to increase your own." Frankenstein discovered that I made
notes concerning his history; he asked to see them and then himself
corrected and augmented them in many places, but principally in giving
the life and spirit to the conversations he held with his enemy. "Since
you have preserved my narration," said he, "I would not that a
mutilated one should go down to posterity."

Thus has a week passed away, while I have listened to the strangest
tale that ever imagination formed. My thoughts and every feeling of my
soul have been drunk up by the interest for my guest which this tale
and his own elevated and gentle manners have created. I wish to soothe
him, yet can I counsel one so infinitely miserable, so destitute of
every hope of consolation, to live? Oh, no! The only joy that he can
now know will be when he composes his shattered spirit to peace and
death. Yet he enjoys one comfort, the offspring of solitude and
delirium; he believes that when in dreams he holds converse with his
friends and derives from that communion consolation for his miseries or
excitements to his vengeance, that they are not the creations of his
fancy, but the beings themselves who visit him from the regions of a
remote world. This faith gives a solemnity to his reveries that render
them to me almost as imposing and interesting as truth.

Our conversations are not always confined to his own history and
misfortunes. On every point of general literature he displays
unbounded knowledge and a quick and piercing apprehension. His
eloquence is forcible and touching; nor can I hear him, when he relates
a pathetic incident or endeavours to move the passions of pity or love,
without tears. What a glorious creature must he have been in the days
of his prosperity, when he is thus noble and godlike in ruin! He seems
to feel his own worth and the greatness of his fall.

"When younger," said he, "I believed myself destined for some great
enterprise. My feelings are profound, but I possessed a coolness of
judgment that fitted me for illustrious achievements. This sentiment
of the worth of my nature supported me when others would have been
oppressed, for I deemed it criminal to throw away in useless grief
those talents that might be useful to my fellow creatures. When I
reflected on the work I had completed, no less a one than the creation
of a sensitive and rational animal, I could not rank myself with the
herd of common projectors. But this thought, which supported me in the
commencement of my career, now serves only to plunge me lower in the
dust. All my speculations and hopes are as nothing, and like the
archangel who aspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell.
My imagination was vivid, yet my powers of analysis and application
were intense; by the union of these qualities I conceived the idea and
executed the creation of a man. Even now I cannot recollect without
passion my reveries while the work was incomplete. I trod heaven in my
thoughts, now exulting in my powers, now burning with the idea of their
effects. From my infancy I was imbued with high hopes and a lofty
ambition; but how am I sunk! Oh! My friend, if you had known me as I
once was, you would not recognize me in this state of degradation.
Despondency rarely visited my heart; a high destiny seemed to bear me
on, until I fell, never, never again to rise." Must I then lose this
admirable being? I have longed for a friend; I have sought one who
would sympathize with and love me. Behold, on these desert seas I have
found such a one, but I fear I have gained him only to know his value
and lose him. I would reconcile him to life, but he repulses the idea.

"I thank you, Walton," he said, "for your kind intentions towards
so miserable a wretch; but when you speak of new ties and fresh
affections, think you that any can replace those who are gone?
Can any man be to me as Clerval was, or any woman another Elizabeth?
Even where the affections are not strongly moved by any superior
excellence, the companions of our childhood always possess a certain
power over our minds which hardly any later friend can obtain.
They know our infantine dispositions, which, however they may
be afterwards modified, are never eradicated; and they can judge
of our actions with more certain conclusions as to the integrity
of our motives. A sister or a brother can never, unless indeed
such symptoms have been shown early, suspect the other of fraud
or false dealing, when another friend, however strongly he may
be attached, may, in spite of himself, be contemplated with suspicion.
But I enjoyed friends, dear not only through habit and association,
but from their own merits; and wherever I am, the soothing voice
of my Elizabeth and the conversation of Clerval will be ever whispered
in my ear. They are dead, and but one feeling in such a solitude
can persuade me to preserve my life. If I were engaged in any high
undertaking or design, fraught with extensive utility to my fellow
creatures, then could I live to fulfil it. But such is not my destiny;
I must pursue and destroy the being to whom I gave existence;
then my lot on earth will be fulfilled and I may die."


My beloved Sister, September 2nd


I write to you, encompassed by peril and ignorant whether I am ever
doomed to see again dear England and the dearer friends that inhabit
it. I am surrounded by mountains of ice which admit of no escape and
threaten every moment to crush my vessel. The brave fellows whom I
have persuaded to be my companions look towards me for aid, but I have
none to bestow. There is something terribly appalling in our
situation, yet my courage and hopes do not desert me. Yet it is
terrible to reflect that the lives of all these men are endangered
through me. If we are lost, my mad schemes are the cause.

And what, Margaret, will be the state of your mind? You will not hear
of my destruction, and you will anxiously await my return. Years will
pass, and you will have visitings of despair and yet be tortured by
hope. Oh! My beloved sister, the sickening failing of your heart-felt
expectations is, in prospect, more terrible to me than my own death.

But you have a husband and lovely children; you may be happy.
Heaven bless you and make you so!

My unfortunate guest regards me with the tenderest compassion. He
endeavours to fill me with hope and talks as if life were a possession
which he valued. He reminds me how often the same accidents have
happened to other navigators who have attempted this sea, and in spite
of myself, he fills me with cheerful auguries. Even the sailors feel
the power of his eloquence; when he speaks, they no longer despair; he
rouses their energies, and while they hear his voice they believe these
vast mountains of ice are mole-hills which will vanish before the
resolutions of man. These feelings are transitory; each day of
expectation delayed fills them with fear, and I almost dread a mutiny
caused by this despair.



September 5th


A scene has just passed of such uncommon interest that, although it is
highly probable that these papers may never reach you, yet I cannot
forbear recording it.

We are still surrounded by mountains of ice, still in imminent danger
of being crushed in their conflict. The cold is excessive, and many of
my unfortunate comrades have already found a grave amidst this scene of
desolation. Frankenstein has daily declined in health; a feverish fire
still glimmers in his eyes, but he is exhausted, and when suddenly
roused to any exertion, he speedily sinks again into apparent
lifelessness.

I mentioned in my last letter the fears I entertained of a mutiny.
This morning, as I sat watching the wan countenance of my friend--his
eyes half closed and his limbs hanging listlessly--I was roused by half
a dozen of the sailors, who demanded admission into the cabin. They
entered, and their leader addressed me. He told me that he and his
companions had been chosen by the other sailors to come in deputation
to me to make me a requisition which, in justice, I could not refuse.
We were immured in ice and should probably never escape, but they
feared that if, as was possible, the ice should dissipate and a free
passage be opened, I should be rash enough to continue my voyage and
lead them into fresh dangers, after they might happily have surmounted
this. They insisted, therefore, that I should engage with a solemn
promise that if the vessel should be freed I would instantly direct my
course southwards.

This speech troubled me. I had not despaired, nor had I yet conceived
the idea of returning if set free. Yet could I, in justice, or even in
possibility, refuse this demand? I hesitated before I answered, when
Frankenstein, who had at first been silent, and indeed appeared hardly
to have force enough to attend, now roused himself; his eyes sparkled,
and his cheeks flushed with momentary vigour. Turning towards the men,
he said, "What do you mean? What do you demand of your captain? Are
you, then, so easily turned from your design? Did you not call this a
glorious expedition?

"And wherefore was it glorious? Not because the way was smooth and
placid as a southern sea, but because it was full of dangers and
terror, because at every new incident your fortitude was to be called
forth and your courage exhibited, because danger and death surrounded
it, and these you were to brave and overcome. For this was it a
glorious, for this was it an honourable undertaking. You were
hereafter to be hailed as the benefactors of your species, your names
adored as belonging to brave men who encountered death for honour and
the benefit of mankind. And now, behold, with the first imagination of
danger, or, if you will, the first mighty and terrific trial of your
courage, you shrink away and are content to be handed down as men who
had not strength enough to endure cold and peril; and so, poor souls,
they were chilly and returned to their warm firesides. Why, that
requires not this preparation; ye need not have come thus far and
dragged your captain to the shame of a defeat merely to prove
yourselves cowards. Oh! Be men, or be more than men. Be steady to
your purposes and firm as a rock. This ice is not made of such stuff as
your hearts may be; it is mutable and cannot withstand you if you say
that it shall not. Do not return to your families with the stigma of
disgrace marked on your brows. Return as heroes who have fought and
conquered and who know not what it is to turn their backs on the foe."
He spoke this with a voice so modulated to the different feelings
expressed in his speech, with an eye so full of lofty design and
heroism, that can you wonder that these men were moved? They looked at
one another and were unable to reply. I spoke; I told them to retire
and consider of what had been said, that I would not lead them farther
north if they strenuously desired the contrary, but that I hoped that,
with reflection, their courage would return. They retired and I turned
towards my friend, but he was sunk in languor and almost deprived of
life.

How all this will terminate, I know not, but I had rather die than
return shamefully, my purpose unfulfilled. Yet I fear such will be my
fate; the men, unsupported by ideas of glory and honour, can never
willingly continue to endure their present hardships.



September 7th


The die is cast; I have consented to return if we are not destroyed.
Thus are my hopes blasted by cowardice and indecision; I come back
ignorant and disappointed. It requires more philosophy than I possess
to bear this injustice with patience.



September 12th


It is past; I am returning to England. I have lost my hopes of utility
and glory; I have lost my friend. But I will endeavour to detail these
bitter circumstances to you, my dear sister; and while I am wafted
towards England and towards you, I will not despond.

September 9th, the ice began to move, and roarings like thunder were
heard at a distance as the islands split and cracked in every
direction. We were in the most imminent peril, but as we could only
remain passive, my chief attention was occupied by my unfortunate guest
whose illness increased in such a degree that he was entirely confined
to his bed. The ice cracked behind us and was driven with force
towards the north; a breeze sprang from the west, and on the 11th the
passage towards the south became perfectly free. When the sailors saw
this and that their return to their native country was apparently
assured, a shout of tumultuous joy broke from them, loud and
long-continued. Frankenstein, who was dozing, awoke and asked the
cause of the tumult. "They shout," I said, "because they will soon
return to England."

"Do you, then, really return?"

"Alas! Yes; I cannot withstand their demands. I cannot lead them
unwillingly to danger, and I must return."

"Do so, if you will; but I will not. You may give up your purpose, but
mine is assigned to me by heaven, and I dare not. I am weak, but
surely the spirits who assist my vengeance will endow me with
sufficient strength." Saying this, he endeavoured to spring from the
bed, but the exertion was too great for him; he fell back and fainted.

It was long before he was restored, and I often thought that life was
entirely extinct. At length he opened his eyes; he breathed with
difficulty and was unable to speak. The surgeon gave him a composing
draught and ordered us to leave him undisturbed. In the meantime he
told me that my friend had certainly not many hours to live.

His sentence was pronounced, and I could only grieve and be patient. I
sat by his bed, watching him; his eyes were closed, and I thought he
slept; but presently he called to me in a feeble voice, and bidding me
come near, said, "Alas! The strength I relied on is gone; I feel that
I shall soon die, and he, my enemy and persecutor, may still be in
being. Think not, Walton, that in the last moments of my existence I
feel that burning hatred and ardent desire of revenge I once expressed;
but I feel myself justified in desiring the death of my adversary.
During these last days I have been occupied in examining my past
conduct; nor do I find it blamable. In a fit of enthusiastic madness I
created a rational creature and was bound towards him to assure, as far
as was in my power, his happiness and well-being.

"This was my duty, but there was another still paramount to that. My
duties towards the beings of my own species had greater claims to my
attention because they included a greater proportion of happiness or
misery. Urged by this view, I refused, and I did right in refusing, to
create a companion for the first creature. He showed unparalleled
malignity and selfishness in evil; he destroyed my friends; he devoted
to destruction beings who possessed exquisite sensations, happiness,
and wisdom; nor do I know where this thirst for vengeance may end.
Miserable himself that he may render no other wretched, he ought to
die. The task of his destruction was mine, but I have failed. When
actuated by selfish and vicious motives, I asked you to undertake my
unfinished work, and I renew this request now, when I am only induced
by reason and virtue.

"Yet I cannot ask you to renounce your country and friends to fulfil
this task; and now that you are returning to England, you will have
little chance of meeting with him. But the consideration of these
points, and the well balancing of what you may esteem your duties, I
leave to you; my judgment and ideas are already disturbed by the near
approach of death. I dare not ask you to do what I think right, for I
may still be misled by passion.

"That he should live to be an instrument of mischief disturbs me; in
other respects, this hour, when I momentarily expect my release, is the
only happy one which I have enjoyed for several years. The forms of
the beloved dead flit before me, and I hasten to their arms. Farewell,
Walton! Seek happiness in tranquillity and avoid ambition, even if it
be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in
science and discoveries. Yet why do I say this? I have myself been
blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed."

His voice became fainter as he spoke, and at length, exhausted by his
effort, he sank into silence. About half an hour afterwards he
attempted again to speak but was unable; he pressed my hand feebly, and
his eyes closed forever, while the irradiation of a gentle smile passed
away from his lips.

Margaret, what comment can I make on the untimely extinction of this
glorious spirit? What can I say that will enable you to understand the
depth of my sorrow? All that I should express would be inadequate and
feeble. My tears flow; my mind is overshadowed by a cloud of
disappointment. But I journey towards England, and I may there find
consolation.

I am interrupted. What do these sounds portend? It is midnight; the
breeze blows fairly, and the watch on deck scarcely stir. Again there
is a sound as of a human voice, but hoarser; it comes from the cabin
where the remains of Frankenstein still lie. I must arise and
examine. Good night, my sister.

Great God! what a scene has just taken place! I am yet dizzy with the
remembrance of it. I hardly know whether I shall have the power to
detail it; yet the tale which I have recorded would be incomplete
without this final and wonderful catastrophe. I entered the cabin where
lay the remains of my ill-fated and admirable friend. Over him hung a
form which I cannot find words to describe--gigantic in stature, yet
uncouth and distorted in its proportions. As he hung over the coffin,
his face was concealed by long locks of ragged hair; but one vast hand
was extended, in colour and apparent texture like that of a mummy. When
he heard the sound of my approach, he ceased to utter exclamations of
grief and horror and sprung towards the window. Never did I behold a
vision so horrible as his face, of such loathsome yet appalling
hideousness. I shut my eyes involuntarily and endeavoured to recollect
what were my duties with regard to this destroyer. I called on him to
stay.

He paused, looking on me with wonder, and again turning towards the
lifeless form of his creator, he seemed to forget my presence, and
every feature and gesture seemed instigated by the wildest rage of some
uncontrollable passion.

"That is also my victim!" he exclaimed. "In his murder my crimes are
consummated; the miserable series of my being is wound to its close!
Oh, Frankenstein! Generous and self-devoted being! What does it avail
that I now ask thee to pardon me? I, who irretrievably destroyed thee
by destroying all thou lovedst. Alas! He is cold, he cannot answer
me." His voice seemed suffocated, and my first impulses, which had
suggested to me the duty of obeying the dying request of my friend in
destroying his enemy, were now suspended by a mixture of curiosity and
compassion. I approached this tremendous being; I dared not again
raise my eyes to his face, there was something so scaring and unearthly
in his ugliness. I attempted to speak, but the words died away on my
lips. The monster continued to utter wild and incoherent
self-reproaches. At length I gathered resolution to address him in a
pause of the tempest of his passion.

"Your repentance," I said, "is now superfluous. If you had listened to
the voice of conscience and heeded the stings of remorse before you had
urged your diabolical vengeance to this extremity, Frankenstein would
yet have lived."

"And do you dream?" said the daemon. "Do you think that I was then
dead to agony and remorse? He," he continued, pointing to the corpse,
"he suffered not in the consummation of the deed. Oh! Not the
ten-thousandth portion of the anguish that was mine during the
lingering detail of its execution. A frightful selfishness hurried me
on, while my heart was poisoned with remorse. Think you that the
groans of Clerval were music to my ears? My heart was fashioned to be
susceptible of love and sympathy, and when wrenched by misery to vice
and hatred, it did not endure the violence of the change without
torture such as you cannot even imagine.

"After the murder of Clerval I returned to Switzerland, heart-broken
and overcome. I pitied Frankenstein; my pity amounted to horror; I
abhorred myself. But when I discovered that he, the author at once of
my existence and of its unspeakable torments, dared to hope for
happiness, that while he accumulated wretchedness and despair upon me
he sought his own enjoyment in feelings and passions from the
indulgence of which I was forever barred, then impotent envy and bitter
indignation filled me with an insatiable thirst for vengeance. I
recollected my threat and resolved that it should be accomplished. I
knew that I was preparing for myself a deadly torture, but I was the
slave, not the master, of an impulse which I detested yet could not
disobey. Yet when she died! Nay, then I was not miserable. I had
cast off all feeling, subdued all anguish, to riot in the excess of my
despair. Evil thenceforth became my good. Urged thus far, I had no
choice but to adapt my nature to an element which I had willingly
chosen. The completion of my demoniacal design became an insatiable
passion. And now it is ended; there is my last victim!"

I was at first touched by the expressions of his misery; yet, when I
called to mind what Frankenstein had said of his powers of eloquence
and persuasion, and when I again cast my eyes on the lifeless form of
my friend, indignation was rekindled within me. "Wretch!" I said. "It
is well that you come here to whine over the desolation that you have
made. You throw a torch into a pile of buildings, and when they are
consumed, you sit among the ruins and lament the fall. Hypocritical
fiend! If he whom you mourn still lived, still would he be the object,
again would he become the prey, of your accursed vengeance. It is not
pity that you feel; you lament only because the victim of your
malignity is withdrawn from your power."

"Oh, it is not thus--not thus," interrupted the being. "Yet such must
be the impression conveyed to you by what appears to be the purport of
my actions. Yet I seek not a fellow feeling in my misery. No sympathy
may I ever find. When I first sought it, it was the love of virtue,
the feelings of happiness and affection with which my whole being
overflowed, that I wished to be participated. But now that virtue has
become to me a shadow, and that happiness and affection are turned into
bitter and loathing despair, in what should I seek for sympathy? I am
content to suffer alone while my sufferings shall endure; when I die, I
am well satisfied that abhorrence and opprobrium should load my
memory. Once my fancy was soothed with dreams of virtue, of fame, and
of enjoyment. Once I falsely hoped to meet with beings who, pardoning
my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was
capable of unfolding. I was nourished with high thoughts of honour and
devotion. But now crime has degraded me beneath the meanest animal. No
guilt, no mischief, no malignity, no misery, can be found comparable to
mine. When I run over the frightful catalogue of my sins, I cannot
believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts were once filled
with sublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of
goodness. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant
devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates
in his desolation; I am alone.

"You, who call Frankenstein your friend, seem to have a knowledge of
my crimes and his misfortunes. But in the detail which he gave you of
them he could not sum up the hours and months of misery which I
endured wasting in impotent passions. For while I destroyed his hopes,
I did not satisfy my own desires. They were forever ardent and
craving; still I desired love and fellowship, and I was still spurned.
Was there no injustice in this? Am I to be thought the only criminal,
when all humankind sinned against me? Why do you not hate Felix, who
drove his friend from his door with contumely? Why do you not execrate
the rustic who sought to destroy the saviour of his child? Nay, these
are virtuous and immaculate beings! I, the miserable and the
abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled
on. Even now my blood boils at the recollection of this injustice.

"But it is true that I am a wretch. I have murdered the lovely and the
helpless; I have strangled the innocent as they slept and grasped to
death his throat who never injured me or any other living thing. I
have devoted my creator, the select specimen of all that is worthy of
love and admiration among men, to misery; I have pursued him even to
that irremediable ruin.

"There he lies, white and cold in death. You hate me, but your
abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself. I look on the
hands which executed the deed; I think on the heart in which the
imagination of it was conceived and long for the moment when these
hands will meet my eyes, when that imagination will haunt my thoughts
no more.

"Fear not that I shall be the instrument of future mischief. My work
is nearly complete. Neither yours nor any man's death is needed to
consummate the series of my being and accomplish that which must be
done, but it requires my own. Do not think that I shall be slow to
perform this sacrifice. I shall quit your vessel on the ice raft which
brought me thither and shall seek the most northern extremity of the
globe; I shall collect my funeral pile and consume to ashes this
miserable frame, that its remains may afford no light to any curious
and unhallowed wretch who would create such another as I have been. I
shall die. I shall no longer feel the agonies which now consume me or
be the prey of feelings unsatisfied, yet unquenched. He is dead who
called me into being; and when I shall be no more, the very remembrance
of us both will speedily vanish. I shall no longer see the sun or
stars or feel the winds play on my cheeks.

"Light, feeling, and sense will pass away; and in this condition must I
find my happiness. Some years ago, when the images which this world
affords first opened upon me, when I felt the cheering warmth of summer
and heard the rustling of the leaves and the warbling of the birds, and
these were all to me, I should have wept to die; now it is my only
consolation. Polluted by crimes and torn by the bitterest remorse,
where can I find rest but in death?

"Farewell! I leave you, and in you the last of humankind whom these
eyes will ever behold. Farewell, Frankenstein! If thou wert yet alive
and yet cherished a desire of revenge against me, it would be better
satiated in my life than in my destruction. But it was not so; thou
didst seek my extinction, that I might not cause greater wretchedness;
and if yet, in some mode unknown to me, thou hadst not ceased to think
and feel, thou wouldst not desire against me a vengeance greater than
that which I feel. Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior to
thine, for the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in my
wounds until death shall close them forever.

"But soon," he cried with sad and solemn enthusiasm, "I shall die, and
what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be
extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the
agony of the torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will
fade away; my ashes will be swept into the sea by the winds. My spirit
will sleep in peace, or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus.
Farewell."

He sprang from the cabin window as he said this, upon the ice raft
which lay close to the vessel. He was soon borne away by the waves and
lost in darkness and distance.



--------------------------------------------THE END------------------------------------------
of
"FRANKENSTEIN, OR THE MODERN PROMETHEUS"
 

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