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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Frankenstein 07
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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 murderer 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 murdered 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
revolved in my mind 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
discover 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 you 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 today, 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 today, 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."


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