Clerval then put the following letter into my hands. It wasfrom my own Elizabeth:--
"MY DEAREST COUSIN,--YOU have been ill, very ill, and even theconstant letters of dear kind Henry are not sufficient toreassure me on your account. You are forbidden to write--tohold a pen; yet one word from you, dear Victor, is necessary tocalm our apprehensions. For a long time I have thought thateach post would bring this line, and my persuasions haverestrained my uncle from undertaking a journey to Ingolstadt. I have prevented his encountering the inconveniences andperhaps dangers of so long a journey; yet how often have Iregretted not being able to perform it myself! I figure tomyself that the task of attending on your sick bed has devolvedon some mercenary old nurse, who could never guess your wishes,nor minister to them with the care and affection of your poorcousin. Yet that is over now: Clerval writes that indeed youare getting better. I eagerly hope that you will confirm thisintelligence soon in your own handwriting.
"Get well--and return to us. You will find a happy, cheerfulhome, and friends who love you dearly. Your father's health isvigorous, and he asks but to see you--but to be assured that youare well; and not a care will ever cloud his benevolentcountenance. How pleased you would be to remark theimprovement of our Ernest! He is now sixteen, and full ofactivity and spirit. He is desirous to be a true Swiss, and toenter into foreign service; but we cannot part with him, atleast until his elder brother return to us. My uncle is notpleased with the idea of a military career in a distant country;but Ernest never had your powers of application. He looksupon study as an odious fetter;--his time is spent in the openair, climbing the hills or rowing on the lake. I fear that hewill become an idler, unless we yield the point, and permit himto enter on the profession which he has selected.
"Little alteration, except the growth of our dear children, hastaken place since you left us. The blue lake, and snow-cladmountains, they never change;--and I think our placid home andour contented hearts are related by the same immutable laws. My trifling occupations take up my time and amuse me, and I amrewarded for any exertions by seeing none but happy, kind facesaround me. Since you left us, but one change has taken place inour little household. Do you remember on what occasionJustine Moritz entered our family? Probably you do not; I willrelate her history, therefore, in a few words. Madame Moritz,her mother, was a widow with four children, of whom Justine wasthe third. This girl had always been the favourite of herfather; but, through a strange perversity, her mother could notendure her, and after the death of M. Moritz, treated her veryill. My aunt observed this; and, when Justine was twelveyears of age, prevailed on her mother to allow her to live atour house. The republican institutions of our country haveproduced simpler and happier manners than those which prevailin the great monarchies that surround it. Hence there is lessdistinction between the several classes of its inhabitants; and the lower orders, being neither so poor nor so despised,their manners are more reined and moral. A servant in Genevadoes not mean the same thing as a servant in France andEngland. Justine, thus received in our family, learned theduties of a servant; a condition which, in our fortunatecountry, does not include the idea of ignorance, and asacrifice of the dignity of a human being.
"Justine, you may remember, was a great favourite of yours;and I recollect you once remarked, that if you were in anill-humour, one glance from Justine could dissipate it, for thesame reason that Ariosto gives concerning the beauty ofAngelica--she looked so frank-hearted and happy. My auntconceived a great attachment for her, by which she was inducedto give her an education superior to that which she had atfirst intended. This benefit was fully repaid; Justine was themost grateful little creature in the world: I do not mean thatshe made any professions; I never heard one pass her lips; butyou could see by her eyes that she almost adored herprotectress. Although her disposition was gay, and in manyrespects inconsiderate, yet she paid the greatest attention toevery gesture of my aunt. She thought her the model of allexcellence, and endeavoured to imitate her phraseology andmanners, so that even now she often reminds me of her.
"When my dearest aunt died, every one was too much occupied intheir own grief to notice poor Justine, who had attended herduring her illness with the most anxious affection. PoorJustine was very ill; but other trials were reserved for her.
"One by one, her brothers and sister died; and her mother, withthe exception of her neglected daughter, was left childless. The conscience of the woman was troubled; she began to thinkthat the deaths of her favourites was a judgment from heaven tochastise her partiality. She was a Roman Catholic; and Ibelieve her confessor confirmed the idea which she hadconceived. Accordingly, a few months after your departure forIngolstadt, Justine was called home by her repentant mother. Poor girl! she wept when she quitted our house; she was muchaltered since the death of my aunt; grief had given softnessand a winning mildness to her manners, which had before beenremarkable for vivacity. Nor was her residence at her mother'shouse of a nature to restore her gaiety. The poor woman wasvery vacillating in her repentance. She sometimes beggedJustine to forgive her unkindness, but much oftener accusedher of having caused the deaths of her brothers and sister. Perpetual fretting at length threw Madame Moritz into adecline, which at first increased her irritability, but she isnow at peace for ever. She died on the first approach of coldweather, at the beginning of this last winter. Justine hasreturned to us; and I assure you I love her tenderly. She isvery clever and gentle, and extremely pretty; as I mentionedbefore, her mien and her expressions continually remind me ofmy dear aunt.
"I must say also a few words to you, my dear cousin, of littledarling William. I wish you could see him; he is very tall ofhis age, with sweet laughing blue eyes, dark eyelashes, andcurling hair. When he smiles, two little dimples appear oneach cheek, which are rosy with health. He has already had oneor two little _wives_, but Louisa Biron is his favourite, apretty little girl of five years of age.
"Now, dear Victor, I dare say you wish to be indulged in alittle gossip concerning the good people of Geneva. The prettyMiss Mansfield has already received the congratulatory visitson her approaching marriage with a young Englishman, JohnMelbourne, Esq. Her ugly sister, Manon, married M. Duvillard,the rich banker, last autumn. Your favourite schoolfellow,Louis Manoir, has suffered several misfortunes since thedeparture of Clerval from Geneva. But he has already recoveredhis spirits, and is reported to be on the point of marrying avery lively pretty Frenchwoman, Madame Tavernier. She is awidow, and much older than Manoir; but she is very muchadmired, and a favourite with everybody.
"I have written myself into better spirits, dear cousin; but myanxiety returns upon me as I conclude. Write, dearestVictor--one line--one word will be a blessing to us. Tenthousand thanks to Henry for his kindness, his affection, andhis many letters: we are sincerely grateful. Adieu! my cousin;take care of yourself; and, I entreat you, write! ELIZABETH LAVENZA.
"GENEVA, March 18th, 17--."
"Dear, dear Elizabeth!" I exclaimed, when I had read herletter, "I will write instantly, and relieve them from theanxiety they must feel." I wrote, and this exertion greatlyfatigued me; but my convalescence had commenced, and proceededregularly. In another fortnight I was able to leave my chamber.
One of my first duties on my recovery was to introduce Clervalto the several professors of the university. In doing this, Iunderwent a kind of rough usage, ill befitting the wounds thatmy mind had sustained. Ever since the fatal night, the end ofmy labours, and the beginning of my misfortunes, I hadconceived a violent antipathy even to the name of naturalphilosophy. When I was otherwise quite restored to health, thesight of a chemical instrument would renew all the agony of mynervous symptoms. Henry saw this, and had removed all myapparatus from my view. He had also changed my apartment; forhe perceived that I had acquired a dislike for the room whichhad previously been my laboratory. But these cares of Clervalwere made of no avail when I visited the professors. M. Waldmaninflicted torture when he praised, with kindness andwarmth, the astonishing progress I had made in the sciences. He soon perceived that I disliked the subject; but notguessing the real cause, he attributed my feelings to modesty,and changed the subject from my improvement, to the scienceitself, with a desire, as I evidently saw, of drawing me out. What could I do? He meant to please, and he tormented me. I felt as if he had placed carefully, one by one, in my viewthose instruments which were to be afterwards used in puttingme to a slow and cruel death. I writhed under his words, yetdared not exhibit the pain I felt. Clerval, whose eyes andfeelings were always quick in discerning the sensations ofothers, declined the subject, alleging, in excuse, his totalignorance; and the conversation took a more general turn. I thanked my friend from my heart, but I did not speak. I sawplainly that he was surprised, but he never attempted to drawmy secret from me; and although I loved him with a mixture ofaffection and reverence that knew no bounds, yet I could neverpersuade myself to confide to him that event which was so oftenpresent to my recollection, but which I feared the detail toanother would only impress more deeply.
M. Krempe was not equally docile; and in my condition at thattime, of almost insupportable sensitiveness, his harsh bluntencomiums gave me even more pain than the benevolentapprobation of M. Waldman. "D--n the fellow!" cried he; "why,M. Clerval, I assure you he has outstript us all. Ay, stareif you please; but it is nevertheless true. A youngster who,but a few years ago, believed in Cornelius Agrippa as firmly asin the gospel, has now set himself at the head of theuniversity; and if he is not soon pulled down, we shall allbe out of countenance.--Ay, ay," continued he, observing myface expressive of suffering, "M. Frankenstein is modest; anexcellent quality in a young man. Young men should bediffident of themselves, you know, M. Clerval: I was myselfwhen young; but that wears out in a very short time."
M. Krempe had now commenced an eulogy on himself, which happilyturned the conversation from a subject that was so annoying to me.
Clerval had never sympathised in my tastes for natural science;and his literary pursuits differed wholly from those which hadoccupied me. He came to the university with the design ofmaking himself complete master of the oriental languages, asthus he should open a field for the plan of life he had markedout for himself. Resolved to pursue no inglorious career, heturned his eyes toward the East, as affording scope for hisspirit of enterprise. The Persian, Arabic, and Sanscritlanguages engaged his attention, and I was easily induced toenter on the same studies. Idleness had ever been irksome tome, and now that I wished to fly from reflection, and hated myformer studies, I felt great relief in being the fellow-pupilwith my friend, and found not only instruction but consolationin the works of the orientalists. I did not, like him, attempta critical knowledge of their dialects, for I did notcontemplate making any other use of them than temporaryamusement. I read merely to understand their meaning, and theywell repaid my labours. Their melancholy is soothing, andtheir joy elevating, to a degree I never experienced instudying the authors of any other country. When you read theirwritings, life appears to consist in a warm sun and a garden ofroses--in the smiles and frowns of a fair enemy, and the firethat consumes your own heart. How different from the manly andheroical poetry of Greece and Rome!
Summer passed away in these occupations, and my return toGeneva was fixed for the latter end of autumn; but beingdelayed by several accidents, winter and snow arrived, theroads were deemed impassable, and my journey was retarded untilthe ensuing spring. I felt this delay very bitterly; for Ilonged to see my native town and my beloved friends. My returnhad only been delayed so long from an unwillingness to leaveClerval in a strange place, before he had become acquaintedwith any of its inhabitants. The winter, however, was spentcheerfully; and although the spring was uncommonly late, whenit came its beauty compensated for its dilatoriness.
The month of May had already commenced, and I expected theletter daily which was to fix the date of my departure, whenHenry proposed a pedestrian tour in the environs of Ingolstadt,that I might bid a personal farewell to the country I had solong inhabited. I acceded with pleasure to this proposition:I was fond of exercise, and Clerval had always been myfavourite companion in the rambles of this nature that I hadtaken among the scenes of my native country.
We passed a fortnight in these perambulations: my health andspirits had long been restored, and they gained additionalstrength from the salubrious air I breathed, the naturalincidents of our progress, and the conversation of my friend. Study had before secluded me from the intercourse of myfellow-creatures, and rendered me unsocial; but Clerval calledforth the better feelings of my heart; he again taught me tolove the aspect of nature, and the cheerful faces of children. Excellent friend! how sincerely did you love me, and endeavourto elevate my mind until it was on a level with your own! A selfish pursuit had cramped and narrowed me, until yourgentleness and affection warmed and opened my senses; I becamethe same happy creature who, a few years ago, loved and belovedby all, had no sorrow or care. When happy, inanimate naturehad the power of bestowing on me the most delightfulsensations. A serene sky and verdant fields filled me withecstasy. The present season was indeed divine; the flowers ofspring bloomed in the hedges, while those of summer werealready in bud. I was undisturbed by thoughts which duringthe preceding year had pressed upon me, notwithstanding myendeavours to throw them off, with an invincible burden.
Henry rejoiced in my gaiety, and sincerely sympathised in myfeelings: he exerted himself to amuse me, while he expressedthe sensations that filled his soul. The resources of his mindon this occasion were truly astonishing: his conversation wasfull of imagination; and very often, in imitation of thePersian and Arabic writers, he invented tales of wonderfulfancy and passion. At other times he repeated my favouritepoems, or drew me out into arguments, which he supported withgreat ingenuity.
We returned to our college on a Sunday afternoon: the peasantswere dancing, and every one we met appeared gay and happy. My own spirits were high, and I bounded along with feelingsof unbridled joy and hilarity.