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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Frankenstein 05
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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 book-keeping; 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."


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