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Contents > Author > Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley > Frankenstein 11 1797- 1851
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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Frankenstein 11
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Chapter 11

"It is with considerable difficulty that I remember the original era of
my being; all the events of that period appear confused and
indistinct. A strange multiplicity of sensations seized me, and I saw,
felt, heard, and smelt at the same time; and it was, indeed, a long
time before I learned to distinguish between the operations of my
various senses. By degrees, I remember, a stronger light pressed upon
my nerves, so that I was obliged to shut my eyes. Darkness then came
over me and troubled me, but hardly had I felt this when, by opening my
eyes, as I now suppose, the light poured in upon me again. I walked
and, I believe, descended, but I presently found a great alteration in
my sensations. Before, dark and opaque bodies had surrounded me,
impervious to my touch or sight; but I now found that I could wander on
at liberty, with no obstacles which I could not either surmount or
avoid. The light became more and more oppressive to me, and the heat
wearying me as I walked, I sought a place where I could receive shade.
This was the forest near Ingolstadt; and here I lay by the side of a
brook resting from my fatigue, until I felt tormented by hunger and
thirst. This roused me from my nearly dormant state, and I ate some
berries which I found hanging on the trees or lying on the ground. I
slaked my thirst at the brook, and then lying down, was overcome by
sleep.

"It was dark when I awoke; I felt cold also, and half frightened, as it
were, instinctively, finding myself so desolate. Before I had quitted
your apartment, on a sensation of cold, I had covered myself with some
clothes, but these were insufficient to secure me from the dews of
night. I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch; I knew, and could
distinguish, nothing; but feeling pain invade me on all sides, I sat
down and wept.

"Soon a gentle light stole over the heavens and gave me a sensation of
pleasure. I started up and beheld a radiant form rise from among the
trees. [The moon] I gazed with a kind of wonder. It moved slowly,
but it enlightened my path, and I again went out in search of berries.
I was still cold when under one of the trees I found a huge cloak, with
which I covered myself, and sat down upon the ground. No distinct
ideas occupied my mind; all was confused. I felt light, and hunger,
and thirst, and darkness; innumerable sounds rang in my ears, and on
all sides various scents saluted me; the only object that I could
distinguish was the bright moon, and I fixed my eyes on that with
pleasure.

"Several changes of day and night passed, and the orb of night had
greatly lessened, when I began to distinguish my sensations from each
other. I gradually saw plainly the clear stream that supplied me with
drink and the trees that shaded me with their foliage. I was delighted
when I first discovered that a pleasant sound, which often saluted my
ears, proceeded from the throats of the little winged animals who had
often intercepted the light from my eyes. I began also to observe,
with greater accuracy, the forms that surrounded me and to perceive the
boundaries of the radiant roof of light which canopied me. Sometimes I
tried to imitate the pleasant songs of the birds but was unable.
Sometimes I wished to express my sensations in my own mode, but the
uncouth and inarticulate sounds which broke from me frightened me into
silence again.

"The moon had disappeared from the night, and again, with a lessened
form, showed itself, while I still remained in the forest. My
sensations had by this time become distinct, and my mind received every
day additional ideas. My eyes became accustomed to the light and to
perceive objects in their right forms; I distinguished the insect from
the herb, and by degrees, one herb from another. I found that the
sparrow uttered none but harsh notes, whilst those of the blackbird and
thrush were sweet and enticing.

"One day, when I was oppressed by cold, I found a fire which had been
left by some wandering beggars, and was overcome with delight at the
warmth I experienced from it. In my joy I thrust my hand into the live
embers, but quickly drew it out again with a cry of pain. How strange,
I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects! I
examined the materials of the fire, and to my joy found it to be
composed of wood. I quickly collected some branches, but they were wet
and would not burn. I was pained at this and sat still watching the
operation of the fire. The wet wood which I had placed near the heat
dried and itself became inflamed. I reflected on this, and by touching
the various branches, I discovered the cause and busied myself in
collecting a great quantity of wood, that I might dry it and have a
plentiful supply of fire. When night came on and brought sleep with
it, I was in the greatest fear lest my fire should be extinguished. I
covered it carefully with dry wood and leaves and placed wet branches
upon it; and then, spreading my cloak, I lay on the ground and sank
into sleep.

"It was morning when I awoke, and my first care was to visit the fire.
I uncovered it, and a gentle breeze quickly fanned it into a flame. I
observed this also and contrived a fan of branches, which roused the
embers when they were nearly extinguished. When night came again I
found, with pleasure, that the fire gave light as well as heat and that
the discovery of this element was useful to me in my food, for I found
some of the offals that the travellers had left had been roasted, and
tasted much more savoury than the berries I gathered from the trees. I
tried, therefore, to dress my food in the same manner, placing it on
the live embers. I found that the berries were spoiled by this
operation, and the nuts and roots much improved.

"Food, however, became scarce, and I often spent the whole day
searching in vain for a few acorns to assuage the pangs of hunger. When
I found this, I resolved to quit the place that I had hitherto
inhabited, to seek for one where the few wants I experienced would be
more easily satisfied. In this emigration I exceedingly lamented the
loss of the fire which I had obtained through accident and knew not how
to reproduce it. I gave several hours to the serious consideration of
this difficulty, but I was obliged to relinquish all attempt to supply
it, and wrapping myself up in my cloak, I struck across the wood
towards the setting sun. I passed three days in these rambles and at
length discovered the open country. A great fall of snow had taken
place the night before, and the fields were of one uniform white; the
appearance was disconsolate, and I found my feet chilled by the cold
damp substance that covered the ground.

"It was about seven in the morning, and I longed to obtain food and
shelter; at length I perceived a small hut, on a rising ground, which
had doubtless been built for the convenience of some shepherd. This
was a new sight to me, and I examined the structure with great
curiosity. Finding the door open, I entered. An old man sat in it,
near a fire, over which he was preparing his breakfast. He turned on
hearing a noise, and perceiving me, shrieked loudly, and quitting the
hut, ran across the fields with a speed of which his debilitated form
hardly appeared capable. His appearance, different from any I had ever
before seen, and his flight somewhat surprised me. But I was enchanted
by the appearance of the hut; here the snow and rain could not
penetrate; the ground was dry; and it presented to me then as exquisite
and divine a retreat as Pandemonium appeared to the demons of hell
after their sufferings in the lake of fire. I greedily devoured the
remnants of the shepherd's breakfast, which consisted of bread, cheese,
milk, and wine; the latter, however, I did not like. Then, overcome by
fatigue, I lay down among some straw and fell asleep.

"It was noon when I awoke, and allured by the warmth of the sun, which
shone brightly on the white ground, I determined to recommence my
travels; and, depositing the remains of the peasant's breakfast in a
wallet I found, I proceeded across the fields for several hours, until
at sunset I arrived at a village. How miraculous did this appear! The
huts, the neater cottages, and stately houses engaged my admiration by
turns. The vegetables in the gardens, the milk and cheese that I saw
placed at the windows of some of the cottages, allured my appetite. One
of the best of these I entered, but I had hardly placed my foot within
the door before the children shrieked, and one of the women fainted.
The whole village was roused; some fled, some attacked me, until,
grievously bruised by stones and many other kinds of missile weapons, I
escaped to the open country and fearfully took refuge in a low hovel,
quite bare, and making a wretched appearance after the palaces I had
beheld in the village. This hovel however, joined a cottage of a neat
and pleasant appearance, but after my late dearly bought experience, I
dared not enter it. My place of refuge was constructed of wood, but so
low that I could with difficulty sit upright in it. No wood, however,
was placed on the earth, which formed the floor, but it was dry; and
although the wind entered it by innumerable chinks, I found it an
agreeable asylum from the snow and rain.

"Here, then, I retreated and lay down happy to have found a shelter,
however miserable, from the inclemency of the season, and still more
from the barbarity of man. As soon as morning dawned I crept from my
kennel, that I might view the adjacent cottage and discover if I could
remain in the habitation I had found. It was situated against the back
of the cottage and surrounded on the sides which were exposed by a pig
sty and a clear pool of water. One part was open, and by that I had
crept in; but now I covered every crevice by which I might be perceived
with stones and wood, yet in such a manner that I might move them on
occasion to pass out; all the light I enjoyed came through the sty, and
that was sufficient for me.

"Having thus arranged my dwelling and carpeted it with clean straw, I
retired, for I saw the figure of a man at a distance, and I remembered
too well my treatment the night before to trust myself in his power. I
had first, however, provided for my sustenance for that day by a loaf
of coarse bread, which I purloined, and a cup with which I could drink
more conveniently than from my hand of the pure water which flowed by
my retreat. The floor was a little raised, so that it was kept
perfectly dry, and by its vicinity to the chimney of the cottage it was
tolerably warm.

"Being thus provided, I resolved to reside in this hovel until
something should occur which might alter my determination. It was
indeed a paradise compared to the bleak forest, my former residence,
the rain-dropping branches, and dank earth. I ate my breakfast with
pleasure and was about to remove a plank to procure myself a little
water when I heard a step, and looking through a small chink, I beheld
a young creature, with a pail on her head, passing before my hovel. The
girl was young and of gentle demeanour, unlike what I have since found
cottagers and farmhouse servants to be. Yet she was meanly dressed, a
coarse blue petticoat and a linen jacket being her only garb; her fair
hair was plaited but not adorned: she looked patient yet sad. I lost
sight of her, and in about a quarter of an hour she returned bearing
the pail, which was now partly filled with milk. As she walked along,
seemingly incommoded by the burden, a young man met her, whose
countenance expressed a deeper despondence. Uttering a few sounds with
an air of melancholy, he took the pail from her head and bore it to the
cottage himself. She followed, and they disappeared. Presently I saw
the young man again, with some tools in his hand, cross the field
behind the cottage; and the girl was also busied, sometimes in the
house and sometimes in the yard.

"On examining my dwelling, I found that one of the windows of the
cottage had formerly occupied a part of it, but the panes had been
filled up with wood. In one of these was a small and almost
imperceptible chink through which the eye could just penetrate.
Through this crevice a small room was visible, whitewashed and clean
but very bare of furniture. In one corner, near a small fire, sat an
old man, leaning his head on his hands in a disconsolate attitude. The
young girl was occupied in arranging the cottage; but presently she
took something out of a drawer, which employed her hands, and she sat
down beside the old man, who, taking up an instrument, began to play
and to produce sounds sweeter than the voice of the thrush or the
nightingale. It was a lovely sight, even to me, poor wretch who had
never beheld aught beautiful before. The silver hair and benevolent
countenance of the aged cottager won my reverence, while the gentle
manners of the girl enticed my love. He played a sweet mournful air
which I perceived drew tears from the eyes of his amiable companion,
of which the old man took no notice, until she sobbed audibly; he then
pronounced a few sounds, and the fair creature, leaving her work,
knelt at his feet. He raised her and smiled with such kindness and
affection that I felt sensations of a peculiar and overpowering
nature; they were a mixture of pain and pleasure, such as I had never
before experienced, either from hunger or cold, warmth or food; and I
withdrew from the window, unable to bear these emotions.

"Soon after this the young man returned, bearing on his shoulders a
load of wood. The girl met him at the door, helped to relieve him of
his burden, and taking some of the fuel into the cottage, placed it on
the fire; then she and the youth went apart into a nook of the cottage,
and he showed her a large loaf and a piece of cheese. She seemed
pleased and went into the garden for some roots and plants, which she
placed in water, and then upon the fire. She afterwards continued her
work, whilst the young man went into the garden and appeared busily
employed in digging and pulling up roots. After he had been employed
thus about an hour, the young woman joined him and they entered the
cottage together.

"The old man had, in the meantime, been pensive, but on the appearance
of his companions he assumed a more cheerful air, and they sat down to
eat. The meal was quickly dispatched. The young woman was again
occupied in arranging the cottage, the old man walked before the
cottage in the sun for a few minutes, leaning on the arm of the youth.
Nothing could exceed in beauty the contrast between these two excellent
creatures. One was old, with silver hairs and a countenance beaming
with benevolence and love; the younger was slight and graceful in his
figure, and his features were moulded with the finest symmetry, yet his
eyes and attitude expressed the utmost sadness and despondency. The
old man returned to the cottage, and the youth, with tools different
from those he had used in the morning, directed his steps across the
fields.

"Night quickly shut in, but to my extreme wonder, I found that the
cottagers had a means of prolonging light by the use of tapers, and was
delighted to find that the setting of the sun did not put an end to the
pleasure I experienced in watching my human neighbours. In the evening
the young girl and her companion were employed in various occupations
which I did not understand; and the old man again took up the
instrument which produced the divine sounds that had enchanted me in
the morning. So soon as he had finished, the youth began, not to play,
but to utter sounds that were monotonous, and neither resembling the
harmony of the old man's instrument nor the songs of the birds; I since
found that he read aloud, but at that time I knew nothing of the
science of words or letters.

"The family, after having been thus occupied for a short time,
extinguished their lights and retired, as I conjectured, to rest."


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