It was eight o'clock when we landed; we walked for a short timeon the shore enjoying the transitory light, and then retiredto the inn and contemplated the lovely scene of waters, woods,and mountains, obscured in darkness, yet still displaying theirblack outlines.

The wind, which had fallen in the south, now rose with greatviolence in the west. The moon had reached her summit in theheavens and was beginning to descend; the clouds swept acrossit swifter than the flight of the vulture and dimmed her rays,while the lake reflected the scene of the busy heavens,rendered still busier by the restless waves that were beginningto rise. Suddenly a heavy storm of rain descended.

I had been calm during the day; but so soon as night obscuredthe shapes of objects, a thousand fears arose in my mind. I was anxious and watchful, while my right hand grasped a pistolwhich was hidden in my bosom; every sound terrified me; but Iresolved that I would sell my life dearly, and not shrink fromthe conflict until my own life, or that of my adversary, wasextinguished.

Elizabeth observed my agitation for some time in timid andfearful silence; but there was something in my glance whichcommunicated terror to her, and trembling she asked, "What isit that agitates you, my dear Victor? What is it you fear?"

"Oh! peace, peace, my love," replied I; "this night and allwill be safe: but this night is dreadful, very dreadful."

I passed an hour in this state of mind, when suddenly Ireflected how fearful the combat which I momentarily expectedwould be to my wife, and I earnestly entreated her to retire,resolving not to join her until I had obtained some knowledgeas to the situation of my enemy.

She left me, and I continued some time walking up and down thepassages of the house, and inspecting every corner that mightafford a retreat to my adversary. But I discovered no trace ofhim, and was beginning to conjecture that some fortunate chancehad intervened to prevent the execution of his menaces, whensuddenly I heard a shrill and dreadful scream. It came fromthe room into which Elizabeth had retired. As I heard it, thewhole truth rushed into my mind, my arms dropped, the motion ofevery muscle and fibre was suspended; I could feel the bloodtrickling in my veins and tingling in the extremities of mylimbs. This state lasted but for an instant; the scream wasrepeated, and I rushed into the room.

Great God! why did I not then expire! Why am I here to relatethe destruction of the best hope and the purest creature ofearth? She was there, lifeless and inanimate, thrown across thebed, her head hanging down, and her pale and distorted featureshalf covered by her hair. Everywhere I turn I see the samefigure--her bloodless arms and relaxed form flung by themurderer on its bridal bier. Could I behold this and live?Alas! life is obstinate and clings closest where it is most hated. For a moment only did I lose recollection; I fell senselesson the ground.

When I recovered, I found myself surrounded by the people ofthe inn; their countenances expressed a breathless terror: butthe horror of others appeared only as a mockery, a shadow ofthe feelings that oppressed me. I escaped from them to theroom where lay the body of Elizabeth, my love, my wife, solately living, so dear, so worthy. She had been moved from theposture in which I had first beheld her; and now, as she lay,her head upon her arm, and a handkerchief thrown across herface and neck, I might have supposed her asleep. I rushedtowards her, and embraced her with ardour; but the deadlylanguor and coldness of the limbs told me that what I now heldin my arms had ceased to be the Elizabeth whom I had loved andcherished. The murderous mark of the fiend's grasp was on herneck, and the breath had ceased to issue from her lips.

While I still hung over her in the agony of despair, I happenedto look up. The windows of the room had before been darkened,and I felt a kind of panic on seeing the pale yellow light ofthe moon illuminate the chamber. The shutters had been thrownback; and, with a sensation of horror not to be described, Isaw at the open window a figure the most hideous and abhorred. A grin was on the face of the monster; he seemed to jeer aswith his fiendish finger he pointed towards the corpse of mywife. I rushed towards the window and, drawing a pistol frommy bosom, fired; but he eluded me, leaped from his station, and,running with the swiftness of lightning, plunged into the lake.

The report of the pistol brought a crowd into the room. I pointed to the spot where he had disappeared, and wefollowed the track with boats; nets were cast, but in vain. After passing several hours, we returned hopeless, most ofmy companions believing it to have been a form conjured upby my fancy. After having landed, they proceeded to searchthe country, parties going in different directions among thewoods and vines.

I attempted to accompany them, and proceeded a short distancefrom the house; but my head whirled round, my steps were likethose of a drunken man, I fell at last in a state of utterexhaustion; a film covered my eyes, and my skin was parchedwith the heat of fever. In this state I was carried back andplaced on a bed, hardly conscious of what had happened; my eyeswandered round the room as if to seek something that I had lost.

After an interval I arose and, as if by instinct, crawled intothe room where the corpse of my beloved lay. There were womenweeping around--I hung over it, and joined my sad tears totheirs--all this time no distinct idea presented itself to mymind; but my thoughts rambled to various subjects, reflectingconfusedly on my misfortunes and their cause. I was bewilderedin a cloud of wonder and horror. The death of William, theexecution of Justine, the murder of Clerval, and lastly of mywife; even at that moment I knew not that my only remainingfriends were safe from the malignity of the fiend; my fathereven now might be writhing under his grasp, and Ernest might bedead at his feet. This idea made me shudder and recalled me toaction. I started up and resolved to return to Geneva with allpossible speed.

There were no horses to be procured, and I must return by thelake; but the wind was unfavourable and the rain fell intorrents. However, it was hardly morning, and I mightreasonably hope to arrive by night. I hired men to row, andtook an oar myself; for I had always experienced relief frommental torment in bodily exercise. But the overflowing miseryI now felt, and the excess of agitation that I endured,rendered me incapable of any exertion. I threw down the oar,and leaning my head upon my hands gave way to every gloomy ideathat arose. If I looked up, I saw the scenes which werefamiliar to me in my happier time, and which I had contemplatedbut the day before in the company of her who was now but ashadow and a recollection. Tears streamed from my eyes. The rain had ceased for a moment, and I saw the fish play in thewaters as they had done a few hours before; they had then beenobserved by Elizabeth. Nothing is so painful to the human mindas a great and sudden change. The sun might shine or theclouds might lower: but nothing could appear to me as it haddone the day before. A fiend had snatched from me every hopeof future happiness: no creature had ever been so miserable asI was; so frightful an event is single in the history of man.

But why should I dwell upon the incidents that followed thislast overwhelming event? Mine has been a tale of horrors; Ihave reached their _acme_, and what I must now relate can but betedious to you. Know that, one by one, my friends were snatchedaway; I was left desolate. My own strength is exhausted; andI must tell, in a few words, what remains of my hideous narration.

I arrived at Geneva. My father and Ernest yet lived; but theformer sunk under the tidings that I bore. I see him now,excellent and venerable old man! his eyes wandered in vacancy,for they had lost their charm and their delight--his Elizabeth,his more than daughter, whom he doated on with all thataffection which a man feels, who in the decline of life, havingfew affections, clings more earnestly to those that remain. Cursed, cursed be the fiend that brought misery on his greyhairs, and doomed him to waste in wretchedness! He could notlive under the horrors that were accumulated around him; thesprings of existence suddenly gave way: he was unable to risefrom his bed, and in a few days he died in my arms.

What then became of me? I know not. I lost sensation, andchains and darkness were the only objects that pressed upon me. Sometimes, indeed, I dreamt that I wandered in flowery meadowsand pleasant vales with the friends of my youth; but I awoke,and found myself in a dungeon. Melancholy followed, but bydegrees I gained a clear conception of my miseries andsituation, and was then released from my prison. For they hadcalled me mad; and during many months, as I understood, asolitary cell had been my habitation.

Liberty, however, had been an useless gift to me had I not, asI awakened to reason, at the same time awakened to revenge. As the memory of past misfortunes pressed upon me, I began toreflect on their cause--the monster whom I had created, themiserable daemon whom I had sent abroad into the world formy destruction. I was possessed by a maddening rage when Ithought of him, and desired and ardently prayed that I mighthave him within my grasp to wreak a great and signal revenge onhis cursed head.

Nor did my hate long confine itself to useless wishes; I beganto reflect on the best means of securing him; and for thispurpose, about a month after my release, I repaired to acriminal judge in the town, and told him that I had anaccusation to make; that I knew the destroyer of my family; andthat I required him to exert his whole authority for theapprehension of the murderer.

The magistrate listened to me with attention and kindness:--"Be assured, sir," said he, "no pains or exertions on my partshall be spared to discover the villain."

"I thank you," replied I; "listen, therefore, to the depositionthat I have to make. It is indeed a tale so strange that Ishould fear you would not credit it were there not something intruth which, however wonderful, forces conviction. The storyis too connected to be mistaken for a dream, and I have nomotive for falsehood." My manner, as I thus addressed him, wasimpressive but calm; I had formed in my own heart a resolutionto pursue my destroyer to death; and this purpose quieted myagony, and for an interval reconciled me to life. I nowrelated my history, briefly, but with firmness and precision,marking the dates with accuracy, and never deviating intoinvective or exclamation.

The magistrate appeared at first perfectly incredulous, but asI continued he became more attentive and interested; I saw himsometimes shudder with horror, at others a lively surprise,unmingled with disbelief, was painted on his countenance.

When I had concluded my narration, I said, "This is the beingwhom I accuse, and for whose seizure and punishment I call uponyou to exert your whole power. It is your duty as a magistrate,and I believe and hope that your feelings as a man will notrevolt from the execution of those functions on this occasion.

This address caused a considerable change in the physiognomy ofmy own auditor. He had heard my story with that half kind ofbelief that is given to a tale of spirits and supernaturalevents; but when he was called upon to act officially inconsequence, the whole tide of his incredulity returned. He, however, answered mildly, "I would willingly afford you everyaid in your pursuit; but the creature of whom you speak appearsto have powers which would put all my exertions to defiance. Who can follow an animal which can traverse the sea of ice, andinhabit caves and dens where no man would venture to intrude?Besides, some months have elapsed since the commission of hiscrimes, and no one can conjecture to what place he haswandered, or what region he may now inhabit."

"I do not doubt that he hovers near the spot which I inhabit;and if he has indeed taken refuge in the Alps, he may be huntedlike the chamois, and destroyed as a beast of prey. But Iperceive your thoughts: you do not credit my narrative, and donot intend to pursue my enemy with the punishment which ishis desert."

As I spoke, rage sparkled in my eyes; the magistrate wasintimidated:--"You are mistaken," said he, "I will exertmyself; and if it is in my power to seize the monster, beassured that he shall suffer punishment proportionate to hiscrimes. But I fear, from what you have yourself described tobe his properties, that this will prove impracticable; andthus, while every proper measure is pursued, you should make upyour mind to disappointment."

"That cannot be; but all that I can say will be of little avail. My revenge is of no moment to you; yet, while I allow it tobe a vice, I confess that it is the devouring and onlypassion of my soul. My rage is unspeakable when I reflect thatthe murderer, whom I have turned loose upon society, still exists. You refuse my just demand: I have but one resource; and I devotemyself, either in my life or death, to his destruction."

I trembled with excess of agitation as I said this; there wasa frenzy in my manner and something, I doubt not, of thathaughty fierceness which the martyrs of old are said to havepossessed. But to a Genevan magistrate, whose mind wasoccupied by far other ideas than those of devotion and heroism,this elevation of mind had much the appearance of madness. He endeavoured to soothe me as a nurse does a child, and revertedto my tale as the effects of delirium.

"Man," I cried, "how ignorant art thou in thy pride of wisdom!Cease; you know not what it is you say."

I broke from the house angry and disturbed, and retired tomeditate on some other mode of action.