The voyage came to an end. We landed, and proceeded to Paris.
I soon found that I had overtaxed my strength and that I must
repose before I could continue my journey. My father's care and
attentions were indefatigable, but he did not know the origin of my
sufferings and sought erroneous methods to remedy the incurable ill.
He wished me to seek amusement in society. I abhorred the face of man.
Oh, not abhorred! They were my brethren, my fellow beings,
and I felt attracted even to the most repulsive among them,
as to creatures of an angelic nature and celestial mechanism.
But I felt that I had no right to share their intercourse.
I had unchained an enemy among them whose joy it was to shed
their blood and to revel in their groans. How they would,
each and all, abhor me and hunt me from the world did they know
my unhallowed acts and the crimes which had their source in me!
My father yielded at length to my desire to avoid society and
strove by various arguments to banish my despair. Sometimes he
thought that I felt deeply the degradation of being obliged to
answer a charge of murder, and he endeavoured to prove to me the
futility of pride.
"Alas! My father," said I, "how little do you know me. Human beings,
their feelings and passions, would indeed be degraded if such a wretch
as I felt pride. Justine, poor unhappy Justine, was as innocent as I,
and she suffered the same charge; she died for it; and I am the cause
of this--I murdered her. William, Justine, and Henry--they all died
by my hands."
My father had often, during my imprisonment, heard me make the same
assertion; when I thus accused myself, he sometimes seemed to desire
an explanation, and at others he appeared to consider it as the offspring
of delirium, and that, during my illness, some idea of this kind had
presented itself to my imagination, the remembrance of which I preserved
in my convalescence.
I avoided explanation and maintained a continual silence concerning
the wretch I had created. I had a persuasion that I should be
supposed mad, and this in itself would forever have chained my tongue.
But, besides, I could not bring myself to disclose a secret which
would fill my hearer with consternation and make fear and unnatural
horror the inmates of his breast. I checked, therefore, my impatient
thirst for sympathy and was silent when I would have given the world
to have confided the fatal secret. Yet, still, words like those
I have recorded would burst uncontrollably from me. I could offer
no explanation of them, but their truth in part relieved the burden
of my mysterious woe.
Upon this occasion my father said, with an expression of
unbounded wonder, "My dearest Victor, what infatuation is this?
My dear son, I entreat you never to make such an assertion again."
"I am not mad," I cried energetically; "the sun and the heavens,
who have viewed my operations, can bear witness of my truth.
I am the assassin of those most innocent victims; they died
by my machinations. A thousand times would I have shed my
own blood, drop by drop, to have saved their lives; but I
could not, my father, indeed I could not sacrifice the
whole human race."
The conclusion of this speech convinced my father that my ideas
were deranged, and he instantly changed the subject of our
conversation and endeavoured to alter the course of my thoughts.
He wished as much as possible to obliterate the memory of the
scenes that had taken place in Ireland and never alluded to them
or suffered me to speak of my misfortunes.
As time passed away I became more calm; misery had her dwelling in
my heart, but I no longer talked in the same incoherent manner of
my own crimes; sufficient for me was the consciousness of them.
By the utmost self-violence I curbed the imperious voice of
wretchedness, which sometimes desired to declare itself to the
whole world, and my manners were calmer and more composed than they
had ever been since my journey to the sea of ice. A few days
before we left Paris on our way to Switzerland, I received the
following letter from Elizabeth:
My dear Friend,
It gave me the greatest pleasure to receive a letter from my
uncle dated at Paris; you are no longer at a formidable distance,
and I may hope to see you in less than a fortnight. My poor
cousin, how much you must have suffered! I expect to see you
looking even more ill than when you quitted Geneva. This winter
has been passed most miserably, tortured as I have been by anxious
suspense; yet I hope to see peace in your countenance and to find
that your heart is not totally void of comfort and tranquillity.
Yet I fear that the same feelings now exist that made you so
miserable a year ago, even perhaps augmented by time. I would not
disturb you at this period, when so many misfortunes weigh upon
you, but a conversation that I had with my uncle previous to his
departure renders some explanation necessary before we meet.
Explanation! You may possibly say, What can Elizabeth have to
explain? If you really say this, my questions are answered and all
my doubts satisfied. But you are distant from me, and it is
possible that you may dread and yet be pleased with this
explanation; and in a probability of this being the case,
I dare not any longer postpone writing what, during your absence,
I have often wished to express to you but have never had the courage
You well know, Victor, that our union had been the favourite
plan of your parents ever since our infancy. We were told this
when young, and taught to look forward to it as an event that would
certainly take place. We were affectionate playfellows during
childhood, and, I believe, dear and valued friends to one another
as we grew older. But as brother and sister often entertain a
lively affection towards each other without desiring a more
intimate union, may not such also be our case? Tell me, dearest
Victor. Answer me, I conjure you by our mutual happiness, with
simple truth--Do you not love another?
You have travelled; you have spent several years of your life
at Ingolstadt; and I confess to you, my friend, that when I saw you
last autumn so unhappy, flying to solitude from the society of
every creature, I could not help supposing that you might regret
our connection and believe yourself bound in honour to fulfil the
wishes of your parents, although they opposed themselves to your
inclinations. But this is false reasoning. I confess to you, my
friend, that I love you and that in my airy dreams of futurity you
have been my constant friend and companion. But it is your
happiness I desire as well as my own when I declare to you that our
marriage would render me eternally miserable unless it were the
dictate of your own free choice. Even now I weep to think that,
borne down as you are by the cruellest misfortunes, you may stifle,
by the word "honour," all hope of that love and happiness which
would alone restore you to yourself. I, who have so
disinterested an affection for you, may increase your miseries
tenfold by being an obstacle to your wishes. Ah! Victor, be
assured that your cousin and playmate has too sincere a love for
you not to be made miserable by this supposition. Be happy, my
friend; and if you obey me in this one request, remain satisfied
that nothing on earth will have the power to interrupt my
Do not let this letter disturb you; do not answer tomorrow,
or the next day, or even until you come, if it will give you pain.
My uncle will send me news of your health, and if I see but one
smile on your lips when we meet, occasioned by this or any other
exertion of mine, I shall need no other happiness.
Geneva, May 18th, 17-
This letter revived in my memory what I had before forgotten, the
threat of the fiend--"I WILL BE WITH YOU ON YOUR WEDDING-NIGHT!"
Such was my sentence, and on that night would the daemon employ
every art to destroy me and tear me from the glimpse of happiness
which promised partly to console my sufferings. On that night
he had determined to consummate his crimes by my death.
Well, be it so; a deadly struggle would then assuredly take place,
in which if he were victorious I should be at peace and his power
over me be at an end. If he were vanquished, I should be a free man.
Alas! What freedom? Such as the peasant enjoys when his family
have been massacred before his eyes, his cottage burnt, his lands
laid waste, and he is turned adrift, homeless, penniless, and alone,
but free. Such would be my liberty except that in my Elizabeth
I possessed a treasure, alas, balanced by those horrors of remorse
and guilt which would pursue me until death.
Sweet and beloved Elizabeth! I read and reread her letter, and
some softened feelings stole into my heart and dared to whisper
paradisiacal dreams of love and joy; but the apple was already
eaten, and the angel's arm bared to drive me from all hope. Yet I
would die to make her happy. If the monster executed his threat,
death was inevitable; yet, again, I considered whether my marriage
would hasten my fate. My destruction might indeed arrive a few
months sooner, but if my torturer should suspect that I postponed it,
influenced by his menaces, he would surely find other and perhaps
more dreadful means of revenge.
He had vowed TO BE WITH ME ON MY WEDDING-NIGHT, yet he did not
consider that threat as binding him to peace in the meantime,
for as if to show me that he was not yet satiated with blood,
he had murdered Clerval immediately after the enunciation
of his threats. I resolved, therefore, that if my immediate
union with my cousin would conduce either to hers or my
father's happiness, my adversary's designs against my life
should not retard it a single hour.
In this state of mind I wrote to Elizabeth. My letter was calm and
affectionate. "I fear, my beloved girl," I said, "little happiness
remains for us on earth; yet all that I may one day enjoy is centred in you.
Chase away your idle fears; to you alone do I consecrate my life and
my endeavours for contentment. I have one secret, Elizabeth, a dreadful one;
when revealed to you, it will chill your frame with horror, and then,
far from being surprised at my misery, you will only wonder that
I survive what I have endured. I will confide this tale of misery
and terror to you the day after our marriage shall take place,
for, my sweet cousin, there must be perfect confidence between us.
But until then, I conjure you, do not mention or allude to it.
This I most earnestly entreat, and I know you will comply."
In about a week after the arrival of Elizabeth's letter we
returned to Geneva. The sweet girl welcomed me with warm affection,
yet tears were in her eyes as she beheld my emaciated frame and
feverish cheeks. I saw a change in her also. She was thinner
and had lost much of that heavenly vivacity that had before charmed me;
but her gentleness and soft looks of compassion made her a more fit
companion for one blasted and miserable as I was. The tranquillity
which I now enjoyed did not endure. Memory brought madness with it,
and when I thought of what had passed, a real insanity possessed me;
sometimes I was furious and burnt with rage, sometimes low and despondent.
I neither spoke nor looked at anyone, but sat motionless, bewildered by
the multitude of miseries that overcame me.
Elizabeth alone had the power to draw me from these fits; her
gentle voice would soothe me when transported by passion and
inspire me with human feelings when sunk in torpor. She wept with
me and for me. When reason returned, she would remonstrate and
endeavour to inspire me with resignation. Ah! It is well for the
unfortunate to be resigned, but for the guilty there is no peace.
The agonies of remorse poison the luxury there is otherwise
sometimes found in indulging the excess of grief. Soon after my
arrival my father spoke of my immediate marriage with Elizabeth.
I remained silent.
"Have you, then, some other attachment?"
"None on earth. I love Elizabeth and look forward to our union
with delight. Let the day therefore be fixed; and on it I will
consecrate myself, in life or death, to the happiness of my cousin."
"My dear Victor, do not speak thus. Heavy misfortunes have
befallen us, but let us only cling closer to what remains and
transfer our love for those whom we have lost to those who yet
live. Our circle will be small but bound close by the ties of
affection and mutual misfortune. And when time shall have softened
your despair, new and dear objects of care will be born to replace
those of whom we have been so cruelly deprived."
Such were the lessons of my father. But to me the remembrance of
the threat returned; nor can you wonder that, omnipotent as the
fiend had yet been in his deeds of blood, I should almost regard
him as invincible, and that when he had pronounced the words
"I SHALL BE WITH YOU ON YOUR WEDDING-NIGHT," I should regard the
threatened fate as unavoidable. But death was no evil to me if the
loss of Elizabeth were balanced with it, and I therefore, with a
contented and even cheerful countenance, agreed with my father
that if my cousin would consent, the ceremony should take place
in ten days, and thus put, as I imagined, the seal to my fate.
Great God! If for one instant I had thought what might be the
hellish intention of my fiendish adversary, I would rather have
banished myself forever from my native country and wandered a
friendless outcast over the earth than have consented to this
miserable marriage. But, as if possessed of magic powers,
the monster had blinded me to his real intentions; and when I
thought that I had prepared only my own death, I hastened that
of a far dearer victim.
As the period fixed for our marriage drew nearer, whether from
cowardice or a prophetic feeling, I felt my heart sink within me.
But I concealed my feelings by an appearance of hilarity that
brought smiles and joy to the countenance of my father, but hardly
deceived the everwatchful and nicer eye of Elizabeth. She looked
forward to our union with placid contentment, not unmingled with a
little fear, which past misfortunes had impressed, that what now
appeared certain and tangible happiness might soon dissipate into
an airy dream and leave no trace but deep and everlasting regret.
Preparations were made for the event, congratulatory visits were
received, and all wore a smiling appearance. I shut up, as well as
I could, in my own heart the anxiety that preyed there and entered
with seeming earnestness into the plans of my father, although they
might only serve as the decorations of my tragedy. Through my father's
exertions a part of the inheritance of Elizabeth had been restored
to her by the Austrian government. A small possession on the shores
of Como belonged to her. It was agreed that, immediately after our union,
we should proceed to Villa Lavenza and spend our first days of happiness
beside the beautiful lake near which it stood.
In the meantime I took every precaution to defend my person in case
the fiend should openly attack me. I carried pistols and a dagger
constantly about me and was ever on the watch to prevent artifice,
and by these means gained a greater degree of tranquillity.
Indeed, as the period approached, the threat appeared more as
a delusion, not to be regarded as worthy to disturb my peace, while
the happiness I hoped for in my marriage wore a greater appearance
of certainty as the day fixed for its solemnization drew nearer and
I heard it continually spoken of as an occurrence which no accident
could possibly prevent.
Elizabeth seemed happy; my tranquil demeanour contributed greatly
to calm her mind. But on the day that was to fulfil my wishes and
my destiny, she was melancholy, and a presentiment of evil pervaded her;
and perhaps also she thought of the dreadful secret which I had promised
to reveal to her on the following day. My father was in the meantime
overjoyed and in the bustle of preparation only recognized in the melancholy
of his niece the diffidence of a bride.
After the ceremony was performed a large party assembled at my father's,
but it was agreed that Elizabeth and I should commence our journey by water,
sleeping that night at Evian and continuing our voyage on the following day.
The day was fair, the wind favourable; all smiled on our nuptial embarkation.
Those were the last moments of my life during which I enjoyed the
feeling of happiness. We passed rapidly along; the sun was hot,
but we were sheltered from its rays by a kind of canopy while we
enjoyed the beauty of the scene, sometimes on one side of the lake,
where we saw Mont Saleve, the pleasant banks of Montalegre, and at
a distance, surmounting all, the beautiful Mont Blanc and the
assemblage of snowy mountains that in vain endeavour to emulate her;
sometimes coasting the opposite banks, we saw the mighty Jura opposing
its dark side to the ambition that would quit its native country,
and an almost insurmountable barrier to the invader who should wish
to enslave it.
I took the hand of Elizabeth. "You are sorrowful, my love.
Ah! If you knew what I have suffered and what I may yet endure,
you would endeavour to let me taste the quiet and freedom from despair
that this one day at least permits me to enjoy."
"Be happy, my dear Victor," replied Elizabeth; "there is, I hope,
nothing to distress you; and be assured that if a lively joy is not
painted in my face, my heart is contented. Something whispers to
me not to depend too much on the prospect that is opened before us,
but I will not listen to such a sinister voice. Observe how fast
we move along and how the clouds, which sometimes obscure and
sometimes rise above the dome of Mont Blanc, render this scene of
beauty still more interesting. Look also at the innumerable fish
that are swimming in the clear waters, where we can distinguish
every pebble that lies at the bottom. What a divine day! How happy
and serene all nature appears!"
Thus Elizabeth endeavoured to divert her thoughts and mine from all
reflection upon melancholy subjects. But her temper was fluctuating;
joy for a few instants shone in her eyes, but it continually gave place
to distraction and reverie.
The sun sank lower in the heavens; we passed the river Drance and
observed its path through the chasms of the higher and the glens of
the lower hills. The Alps here come closer to the lake, and we
approached the amphitheatre of mountains which forms its eastern
boundary. The spire of Evian shone under the woods that surrounded
it and the range of mountain above mountain by which it was overhung.
The wind, which had hitherto carried us along with amazing rapidity,
sank at sunset to a light breeze; the soft air just ruffled the water
and caused a pleasant motion among the trees as we approached the shore,
from which it wafted the most delightful scent of flowers and hay.
The sun sank beneath the horizon as we landed, and as I touched
the shore I felt those cares and fears revive which soon were
to clasp me and cling to me forever.
Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus