We passed a few sad hours, until eleven o'clock, when the trialwas to commence. My father and the rest of the family beingobliged to attend as witnesses, I accompanied them to thecourt. During the whole of this wretched mockery of justice Isuffered living torture. It was to be decided, whether theresult of my curiosity and lawless devices would cause thedeath of two of my fellow-beings: one a smiling babe, full ofinnocence and joy; the other far more dreadfully murdered,with every aggravation of infamy that could make the murdermemorable in horror. Justine also was a girl of merit, andpossessed qualities which promised to render her life happy:now all was to be obliterated in an ignominious grave; and Ithe cause! A thousand times rather would I have confessedmyself guilty of the crime ascribed to Justine; but I wasabsent when it was committed, and such a declaration would havebeen considered as the ravings of a madman, and would not haveexculpated her who suffered through me.

The appearance of Justine was calm. She was dressed inmourning; and her countenance, always engaging, was rendered,by the solemnity of her feelings, exquisitely beautiful. Yet she appeared confident in innocence, and did not tremble,although gated on and execrated by thousands; for all thekindness which her beauty might otherwise have excited, wasobliterated in the minds of the spectators by the imaginationof the enormity she was supposed to have committed. She wastranquil, yet her tranquillity was evidently constrained; andas her confusion had before been adduced as a proof of herguilt, she worked up her mind to an appearance of courage. When she entered the court, she threw her eyes round it, andquickly discovered where we were seated. A tear seemed to dimher eye when she saw us; but she quickly recovered herself, anda look of sorrowful affection seemed to attest her utterguiltlessness.

The trial began; and, after the advocate against her had statedthe charge, several witnesses were called. Several strangefacts combined against her, which might have staggered any onewho had not such proof of her innocence as I had. She had beenout the whole of the night on which the murder had beencommitted, and towards morning had been perceived by amarket-woman not far from the spot where the body of themurdered child had been afterwards found. The woman asked herwhat she did there; but she looked very strangely, and onlyreturned a confused and unintelligible answer. She returnedto the house about eight o'clock; and, when one inquired whereshe had passed the night, she replied that she had been lookingfor the child, and demanded earnestly if anything had beenheard concerning him. When shown the body, she fell intoviolent hysterics, and kept her bed for several days. Thepicture was then produced, which the servant had found in herpocket; and when Elizabeth, in a faltering voice, proved thatit was the same which, an hour before the child had beenmissed, she had placed round his neck, a murmur of horror andindignation filled the court.

Justine was called on for her defence. As the trial hadproceeded, her countenance had altered. Surprise, horror, andmisery were strongly expressed. Sometimes she struggled withher tears; but, when she was desired to plead, she collectedher powers, and spoke, in an audible, although variable voice.

"God knows," she said, "how entirely I am innocent. But I donot pretend that my protestations should acquit me: I rest myinnocence on a plain and simple explanation of the facts whichhave been adduced against me; and I hope the character I havealways borne will incline my judges to a favourableinterpretation, where any circumstance appears doubtful orsuspicious."

She then related that, by the permission of Elizabeth, she hadpassed the evening of the night on which the murder had beencommitted at the house of an aunt at Chene, a village situatedat about a league from Geneva. On her return, at about nineo'clock, she met a man, who asked her if she had seen anythingof the child who was lost. She was alarmed by this account,and passed several hours in looking for him, when the gates ofGeneva were shut, and she was forced to remain several hours ofthe night in a barn belonging to a cottage, being unwilling tocall up the inhabitants, to whom she was well known. Most ofthe night she spent here watching; towards morning she believedthat she slept for a few minutes; some steps disturbed her, andshe awoke. It was dawn, and she quitted her asylum, that shemight again endeavour to find my brother. If she had gone nearthe spot where his body lay, it was without her knowledge. That she had been bewildered when questioned by the market-womanwas not surprising, since she had passed a sleepless night, andthe fate of poor William was yet uncertain. Concerning thepicture she could give no account.

"I know," continued the unhappy victim, "how heavily andfatally this one circumstance weighs against me, but I have nopower of explaining it; and when I have expressed my utterignorance, I am only left to conjecture concerning theprobabilities by which it might have been placed in my pocket. But here also I am checked. I believe that I have no enemy onearth, and none surely would have been so wicked as to destroyme wantonly. Did the murderer place it there? I know of noopportunity afforded him for so doing; or, if I had, why shouldhe have stolen the jewel, to part with it again so soon?

"I commit my cause to the justice of my judges, yet I see noroom for hope. I beg permission to have a few witnessesexamined concerning my character; and if their testimonyshall not overweigh my supposed guilt, I must be condemned,although I would pledge my salvation on my innocence."

Several witnesses were called, who had known her for manyyears, and they spoke well of her; but fear and hatred of thecrime of which they supposed her guilty rendered them timorous,and unwilling to come forward. Elizabeth saw even this lastresource, her excellent dispositions and irreproachableconduct, about to fail the accused, when, although violentlyagitated, she desired permission to address the court.

"I am," said she, "the cousin of the unhappy child who wasmurdered, or rather his sister, for I was educated by, and havelived with his parents ever since and even long before, hisbirth. It may, therefore, be judged indecent in me to comeforward on this occasion; but when I see a fellow-creatureabout to perish through the cowardice of her pretended friends,I wish to be allowed to speak, that I may say what I know ofher character. I am well acquainted with the accused. I havelived in the same house with her, at one time for five and atanother for nearly two years. During all that period sheappeared to me the most amiable and benevolent of humancreatures. She nursed Madame Frankenstein, my aunt, in herlast illness, with the greatest affection and care; andafterwards attended her own mother during a tedious illness, ina manner that excited the admiration of all who knew her; afterwhich she again lived in my uncle's house, where she wasbeloved by all the family. She was warmly attached to thechild who is now dead, and acted towards him like a mostaffectionate mother. For my own part, I do not hesitate tosay, that, notwithstanding all the evidence produced againsther, I believe and rely on her perfect innocence. She had notemptation for such an action: as to the bauble on which thechief proof rests, if she had earnestly desired it, I shouldhave willingly given it to her; so much do I esteem and value her."

A murmur of approbation followed Elizabeth's simple andpowerful appeal; but it was excited by her generousinterference, and not in favour of poor Justine, on whom thepublic indignation was turned with renewed violence, chargingher with the blackest ingratitude. She herself wept asElizabeth spoke, but she did not answer. My own agitation andanguish was extreme during the whole trial. I believed in herinnocence; I knew it. Could the daemon, who had (I did not fora minute doubt) murdered my brother, also in his hellish sporthave betrayed the innocent to death and ignominy? I could notsustain the horror of my situation; and when I perceived thatthe popular voice, and the countenances of the judges, hadalready condemned my unhappy victim, I rushed out of the courtin agony. The tortures of the accused did not equal mine; shewas sustained by innocence, but the fangs of remorse tore mybosom, and would not forego their hold.

I passed a night of unmingled wretchedness. In the morning Iwent to the court; my lips and throat were parched. I darednot ask the fatal question; but I was known, and the officerguessed the cause of my visit. The ballots had been thrown;they were all black, and Justine was condemned.

I cannot pretend to describe what I then felt. I had beforeexperienced sensations of horror and I have endeavoured tobestow upon them adequate expressions, but words cannot conveyan idea of the heart-sickening despair that I then endured. The person to whom I addressed myself added, that Justine hadalready confessed her guilt. "That evidence," he observed,"was hardly required in so glaring a case, but I am glad of it;and, indeed, none of our judges like to condemn a criminal uponcircumstantial evidence, be it ever so decisive."

This was strange and unexpected intelligence; what could itmean? Had my eyes deceived me? and was I really as mad as thewhole world would believe me to be, if I disclosed the objectof my suspicions? I hastened to return home, and Elizabetheagerly demanded the result.

"My cousin," replied I, "it is decided as you may haveexpected; all judges had rather that ten innocent shouldsuffer, than that one guilty should escape. But she hasconfessed."

This was a dire blow to poor Elizabeth, who had relied withfirmness upon Justine's innocence. "Alas!" said she, "howshall I ever again believe in human goodness? Justine, whomI loved and esteemed as my sister, how could she put on thosesmiles of innocence only to betray? her mild eyes seemedincapable of any severity or guile, and yet she has committeda murder."

Soon after we heard that the poor victim had expressed a desireto see my cousin. My father wished her not to go; but said,that he left it to her own judgment and feelings to decide. "Yes," said Elizabeth, "I will go, although she is guilty;and you, Victor, shall accompany me: I cannot go alone."The idea of this visit was torture to me, yet I could not refuse.

We entered the gloomy prison-chamber, and beheld Justinesitting on some straw at the farther end; her hands weremanacled, and her head rested on her knees. She rose on seeingus enter; and when we were left alone with her, she threwherself at the feet of Elizabeth, weeping bitterly. My cousinwept also.

"Oh, Justine!" said she, "why did you rob me of my lastconsolation? I relied on your innocence; and although I wasthen very wretched, I was not so miserable as I am now."

"And do you also believe that I am so very, very wicked? Do you also join with my enemies to crush me, to condemn meas a murderer?" Her voice was suffocated with sobs.

"Rise, my poor girl," said Elizabeth, "why do you kneel, if youare innocent? I am not one of your enemies; I believed youguiltless, notwithstanding every evidence, until I heard thatyou had yourself declared your guilt. That report, you say, isfalse; and be assured, dear Justine, that nothing can shake myconfidence in you for a moment, but your own confession."

"I did confess; but I confessed a lie. I confessed, that Imight obtain absolution; but now that falsehood lies heavier atmy heart than all my other sins. The God of heaven forgive me! Ever since I was condemned, my confessor has besieged me; hethreatened and menaced, until I almost began to think that Iwas the monster that he said I was. He threatenedexcommunication and hell fire in my last moments, if Icontinued obdurate. Dear lady, I had none to support me; alllooked on me as a wretch doomed to ignominy and perdition. What could I do? In an evil hour I subscribed to a lie; and nowonly am I truly miserable."

She paused, weeping, and then continued--"I thought withhorror, my sweet lady, that you should believe your Justine,whom your blessed aunt had so highly honoured, and whom youloved, was a creature capable of a crime which none but thedevil himself could have perpetrated. Dear William! dearestblessed child! I soon shall see you again in heaven, where weshall all be happy; and that consoles me, going as I am tosuffer ignominy and death."

"Oh, Justine! forgive me for having for one moment distrustedyou. Why did you confess? But do not mourn, dear girl. Do notfear. I will proclaim, I will prove your innocence. I willmelt the stony hearts of your enemies by my tears and prayers. You shall not die!--You, my playfellow, my companion, mysister, perish on the scaffold! No! no! I never could surviveso horrible a misfortune."

Justine shook her head mournfully. "I do not fear to die," shesaid; "that pang is past. God raises my weakness, and gives mecourage to endure the worst. I leave a sad and bitter world;and if you remember me, and think of me as of one unjustlycondemned, I am resigned to the fate awaiting me. Learn fromme, dear lady, to submit in patience to the will of Heaven!"

During this conversation I had retired to a corner of theprison-room, where I could conceal the horrid anguish thatpossessed me. Despair! Who dared talk of that? The poorvictim, who on the morrow was to pass the awful boundarybetween life and death, felt not as I did, such deep and bitteragony. I gnashed my teeth, and ground them together, utteringa groan that came from my inmost soul. Justine started. Whenshe saw who it was, she approached me, and said, "Dear sir, youare very kind to visit me; you, I hope, do not believe that Iam guilty?"

I could not answer. "No, Justine," said Elizabeth; "he is moreconvinced of your innocence than I was; for even when he heardthat you had confessed, he did not credit it."

"I truly thank him. In these last moments I feel the sincerestgratitude towards those who think of me with kindness. Howsweet is the affection of others to such a wretch as I am! Itremoves more than half my misfortune; and I feel as if I coulddie in peace, now that my innocence is acknowledged by you,dear lady, and your cousin."

Thus the poor sufferer tried to comfort others and herself. She indeed gained the resignation she desired. But I, the truemurderer, felt the never-dying worm alive in my bosom, whichallowed of no hope or consolation. Elizabeth also wept, andwas unhappy; but her's also was the misery of innocence,which, like a cloud that passes over the fair moon, for a whilehides but cannot tarnish its brightness. Anguish and despairhad penetrated into the core of my heart; I bore a hell withinme, which nothing could extinguish. We stayed several hourswith Justine; and it was with great difficulty that Elizabethcould tear herself away. "I wish," cried she, "that I were todie with you; I cannot live in this world of misery."

Justine assumed an air of cheerfulness, while she withdifficulty repressed her bitter tears. She embraced Elizabeth,and said, in a voice of half-suppressed emotion, "Farewell,sweet lady, dearest Elizabeth, my beloved and only friend; mayHeaven, in its bounty, bless and preserve you; may this be thelast misfortune that you will ever suffer! Live, and be happy,and make others so."

And on the morrow Justine died. Elizabeth's heartrendingeloquence failed to move the judges from their settledconviction in the criminality of the saintly sufferer. My passionate and indignant appeals were lost upon them. And when I received their cold answers, and heard the harshunfeeling reasoning of these men, my purposed avowal died awayon my lips. Thus I might proclaim myself a madman, but notrevoke the sentence passed upon my wretched victim. She perishedon the scaffold as a murderess!

From the tortures of my own heart, I turned to contemplate thedeep and voiceless grief of my Elizabeth. This also was mydoing! And my father's woe, and the desolation of that late sosmiling home--all was the work of my thrice-accursed hands! Ye weep, unhappy ones; but these are not your last tears! Again shall you raise the funeral wail, and the sound of yourlamentations shall again and again be heard! Frankenstein, yourson, your kinsman, your early, much-loved friend; he who wouldspend each vital drop of blood for your sakes--who has nothought nor sense of joy, except as it is mirrored also in yourdear countenances--who would fill the air with blessings, andspend his life in serving you--he bids you weep--to shedcountless tears; happy beyond his hopes, if thus inexorablefate be satisfied, and if the destruction pause before thepeace of the grave have succeeded to your sad torments!

Thus spoke my prophetic soul, as, torn by remorse, horror, anddespair, I beheld those I loved spend vain sorrow upon thegraves of William and Justine, the first hapless victims to myunhallowed arts.