I spent the following day roaming through the valley. I stoodbeside the sources of the Arveiron, which take their rise in aglacier, that with slow pace is advancing down from the summitof the hills, to barricade the valley. The abrupt sides ofvast mountains were before me; the icy wall of the glacieroverhung me; a few shattered pines were scattered around; andthe solemn silence of this glorious presence-chamber ofimperial Nature was broken only by the brawling waves, or thefall of some vast fragment, the thunder sound of the avalanche,or the cracking reverberated along the mountains of theaccumulated ice, which, through the silent working of immutablelaws, was ever and anon rent and torn, as if it had been but aplaything in their hands. These sublime and magnificent scenesafforded me the greatest consolation that I was capable ofreceiving. They elevated me from all littleness of feeling;and although they did not remove my grief, they subdued andtranquillised it. In some degree, also, they diverted my mindfrom the thoughts over which it had brooded for the last month. I retired to rest at night; my slumbers, as it were, waited onand ministered to by the assemblance of grand shapes which Ihad contemplated during the day. They congregated round me;the unstained snowy mountain-top, the glittering pinnacle, thepine woods, and ragged bare ravine; the eagle, soaring amidstthe clouds--they all gathered round me, and bade me be at peace.
Where had they fled when the next morning I awoke? All ofsoul-inspiriting fled with sleep, and dark melancholy cloudedevery thought. The rain was pouring in torrents, and thickmists hid the summits of the mountains, so that I even saw notthe faces of those mighty friends. Still I would penetratetheir misty veil, and seek them in their cloudy retreats. Whatwere rain and storm to me? My mule was brought to the door, andI resolved to ascend to the summit of Montanvert. I rememberedthe effect that the view of the tremendous and ever-movingglacier had produced upon my mind when I first saw it. It hadthen filled me with a sublime ecstasy that gave wings to thesoul, and allowed it to soar from the obscure world to lightand joy. The sight of the awful and majestic in nature hadindeed always the effect of solemnising my mind, and causing meto forget the passing cares of life. I determined to gowithout a guide, for I was well acquainted with the path, andthe presence of another would destroy the solitary grandeur ofthe scene.
The ascent is precipitous, but the path is cut into continualand short windings, which enable you to surmount theperpendicularity of the mountain. It is a scene terrificallydesolate. In a thousand spots the traces of the winteravalanche may be perceived, where trees lie broken and strewedon the ground; some entirely destroyed, others bent, leaningupon the jutting rocks of the mountain, or transversely uponother trees. The path, as you ascend higher, is intersected byravines of snow, down which stones continually roll fromabove; one of them is particularly dangerous, as the slightestsound, such as even speaking in a loud voice, produces aconcussion of air sufficient to draw destruction upon the headof the speaker. The pines are not tall or luxuriant, but theyare sombre, and add an air of severity to the scene. I lookedon the valley beneath; vast mists were rising from the riverswhich ran through it, and curling in thick wreaths around theopposite mountains, whose summits were hid in the uniformclouds, while rain poured from the dark sky, and added to themelancholy impression I received from the objects around me. Alas! why does man boast of sensibilities superior to thoseapparent in the brute; it only renders them more necessarybeings. If our impulses were confined to hunger, thirst, anddesire, we might be nearly free; but now we are moved by everywind that blows, and a chance word or scene that that word mayconvey to us.
"We rest; a dream has power to poison sleep. We rise; one wandering thought pollutes the day. We feel, conceive, or reason; laugh or weep, Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away; It is the same: for, be it joy or sorrow, The path of its departure still is free. Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow. Nought may endure but mutability!"
It was nearly noon when I arrived at the top of the ascent. For some time I sat upon the rock that overlooks the sea of ice. A mist covered both that and the surrounding mountains. Presently a breeze dissipated the cloud, and I descended uponthe glacier. The surface is very uneven, rising like the wavesof a troubled sea, descending low, and interspersed by riftsthat sink deep. The field of ice is almost a league in width,but I spent nearly two hours in crossing it. The oppositemountain is a bare perpendicular rock. From the side where Inow stood Montanvert was exactly opposite, at the distance ofa league; and above it rose Mont Blanc, in awful majesty. I remained in a recess of the rock, gazing on this wonderful andstupendous scene. The sea, or rather the vast river of ice,wound among its dependent mountains, whose aerial summits hungover its recesses. Their icy and glittering peaks shone in thesunlight over the clouds. My heart, which was beforesorrowful, now swelled with something like joy; I exclaimed--"Wandering spirits, if indeed ye wander, and do notrest in your narrow beds, allow me this faint happiness, ortake me, as your companion, away from the joys of life."
As I said this, I suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at somedistance, advancing towards me with superhuman speed. He boundedover the crevices in the ice, among which I had walkedwith caution; his stature, also, as he approached, seemed toexceed that of man. I was troubled: a mist came over my eyes,and I felt a faintness seize me; but I was quickly restored bythe cold gale of the mountains. I perceived, as the shape camenearer (sight tremendous and abhorred!) that it was the wretchwhom I had created. I trembled with rage and horror, resolvingto wait his approach, and then close with him in mortal combat. He approached; his countenance bespoke bitter anguish, combinedwith disdain and malignity, while its unearthly uglinessrendered it almost too horrible for human eyes. But I scarcelyobserved this; rage and hatred had at first deprived me ofutterance, and I recovered only to overwhelm him with wordsexpressive of furious detestation and contempt.
"Devil," I exclaimed, "do you dare approach me? and do not youfear the fierce vengeance of my arm wreaked on your miserablehead? Begone, vile insect! or rather, stay, that I may trampleyou to dust! and, oh! that I could, with the extinction of yourmiserable existence, restore those victims whom you have sodiabolically murdered!"
"I expected this reception," said the daemon. "All men hatethe wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserablebeyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurnme, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties onlydissoluble by the annihilation of one of us. You purpose tokill me. How dare you sport thus with life? Do your dutytowards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest ofmankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leavethem and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw ofdeath, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends."
"Abhorred monster! fiend that thou art! the tortures of hellare too mild a vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil! youreproach me with your creation; come on, then, that I mayextinguish the spark which I so negligently bestowed." My ragewas without bounds; I sprang on him, impelled by all thefeelings which can arm one being against the existence of another.
He easily eluded me, and said--
"Be calm! I entreat you to hear me, before you give vent toyour hatred on my devoted head. Have I not suffered enoughthat you seek to increase my misery? Life, although it mayonly be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I willdefend it. Remember, thou hast made me more powerful thanthyself; my height is superior to thine; my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to mynatural lord and king, if thou wilt also perform thy part,the which thou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitableto every other, and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice,and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember, thatI am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather thefallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy,and I shall again be virtuous."
"Begone! I will not hear you. There can be no communitybetween you and me; we are enemies. Begone, or let us try ourstrength in a fight, in which one must fall."
"How can I move thee? Will no entreaties cause thee to turn afavourable eye upon thy creature, who implores thy goodness andcompassion? Believe me, Frankenstein: I was benevolent; my soulglowed with love and humanity: but am I not alone, miserablyalone? You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather fromyour fellow-creatures, who owe me nothing? they spurn and hate me. The desert mountains and dreary glaciers are my refuge. I have wandered here many days; the caves of ice, which I onlydo not fear, are a dwelling to me, and the only one which mandoes not grudge. These bleak skies I hail, for they are kinderto me than your fellow-beings. If the multitude of mankindknew of my existence, they would do as you do, and armthemselves for my destruction. Shall I not then hate them whoabhor me? I will keep no terms with my enemies. I ammiserable, and they shall share my wretchedness. Yet it is inyour power to recompense me, and deliver them from an evilwhich it only remains for you to make so great that not onlyyou and your family, but thousands of others, shall beswallowed up in the whirlwinds of its rage. Let yourcompassion be moved, and do not disdain me. Listen to my tale:when you have heard that, abandon or commiserate me, as youshall judge that I deserve. But hear me. The guilty areallowed, by human laws, bloody as they are, to speak in theirown defence before they are condemned. Listen to me,Frankenstein. You accuse me of murder; and yet you would, witha satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praisethe eternal justice of man! Yet I ask you not to spare me:listen to me; and then, if you can, and if you will, destroythe work of your hands."
"Why do you call to my remembrance," I rejoined,"circumstances, of which I shudder to reflect, that I have beenthe miserable origin and author? Cursed be the day, abhorreddevil, in which you first saw light! Cursed (although I cursemyself) be the hands that formed you! You have made mewretched beyond expression. You have left me no power toconsider whether I am just to you or not. Begone! relieve mefrom the sight of your detested form."
"Thus I relieve thee, my creator, "he said, and placed hishated hands before my eyes, which I flung from me withviolence; "thus I take from thee a sight which you abhor. Still thou canst listen to me, and grant me thy compassion. By the virtues that I once possessed, I demand this from you. Hear my tale; it is long and strange, and the temperature ofthis place is not fitting to your fine sensations; come to thehut upon the mountain. The sun is yet high in the heavens;before it descends to hide itself behind yon snowy precipices,and illuminate another world, you will have heard my story, andcan decide. On you it rests whether I quit for ever theneighbourhood of man, and lead a hapless life, or become thescourge of your fellow-creatures, and the author of your ownspeedy ruin."
As he said this, he led the way across the ice: I followed. My heart was full, and I did not answer him; but, as I proceeded,I weighed the various arguments that he had used, anddetermined at least to listen to his tale. I was partly urgedby curiosity, and compassion confirmed my resolution. I hadhitherto supposed him to be the murderer of my brother, and Ieagerly sought a confirmation or denial of this opinion. For the first time, also, I felt what the duties of a creatortowards his creature were, and that I ought to render him happybefore I complained of his wickedness. These motives urged meto comply with his demand. We crossed the ice, therefore, andascended the opposite rock. The air was cold, and the rainagain began to descend: we entered the hut, the fiend with anair of exultation, I with a heavy heart and depressed spirits. But I consented to listen; and, seating myself by the firewhich my odious companion had lighted, he thus began his tale.