My present situation was one in which all voluntary thought wasswallowed up and lost. I was hurried away by fury; revengealone endowed me with strength and composure; it moulded myfeelings, and allowed me to be calculating and calm, at periodswhen otherwise delirium or death would have been my portion.
My first resolution was to quit Geneva for ever; my country,which, when I was happy and beloved, was dear to me, now, in myadversity, became hateful. I provided myself with a sum ofmoney, together with a few jewels which had belonged to mymother, and departed.
And now my wanderings began, which are to cease but with life. I have traversed a vast portion of the earth, and have enduredall the hardships which travellers, in deserts and barbarouscountries, are wont to meet. How I have lived I hardly know;many times have I stretched my failing limbs upon the sandyplain and prayed for death. But revenge kept me alive; I darednot die and leave my adversary in being.
When I quitted Geneva my first labour was to gain some clue bywhich I might trace the steps of my fiendish enemy. But myplan was unsettled; and I wandered many hours round theconfines of the town, uncertain what path I should pursue. As night approached, I found myself at the entrance of thecemetery where William, Elizabeth, and my father reposed. I entered it and approached the tomb which marked their graves. Everything was silent, except the leaves of the trees, whichwere gently agitated by the wind; the night was nearly dark;and the scene would have been solemn and affecting even to anuninterested observer. The spirits of the departed seemed toflit around and to cast a shadow, which was felt but not seen,around the head of the mourner.
The deep grief which this scene had at first excited quicklygave way to rage and despair. They were dead, and I lived;their murderer also lived, and to destroy him I must drag outmy weary existence. I knelt on the grass and kissed the earth,and with quivering lips exclaimed, "By the sacred earth onwhich I kneel, by the shades that wander near me, by the deepand eternal grief that I feel, I swear; and by thee, O Night,and the spirits that preside over thee, to pursue the daemonwho caused this misery until he or I shall perish in mortalconflict. For this purpose I will preserve my life: to executethis dear revenge will I again behold the sun and tread thegreen herbage of earth, which otherwise should vanish from myeyes for ever. And I call on you, spirits of the dead; and onyou, wandering ministers of vengeance, to aid and conduct me inmy work. Let the cursed and hellish monster drink deep ofagony; let him feel the despair that now torments me."
I had begun my abjuration with solemnity and an awe whichalmost assured me that the shades of my murdered friends heardand approved my devotion; but the furies possessed me as Iconcluded, and rage choked my utterance.
I was answered through the stillness of night by a loud andfiendish laugh. It rung on my ears long and heavily; themountains re-echoed it, and I felt as if all hell surrounded mewith mockery and laughter. Surely in that moment I should havebeen possessed by frenzy, and have destroyed my miserableexistence, but that my vow was heard and that I was reservedfor vengeance. The laughter died away; when a well-known andabhorred voice, apparently close to my ear, addressed me in anaudible whisper--"I am satisfied: miserable wretch! you havedetermined to live, and I am satisfied."
I darted towards the spot from which the sound proceeded; butthe devil eluded my grasp. Suddenly the broad disk of the moonarose and shone full upon his ghastly and distorted shape as hefled with more than mortal speed.
I pursued him; and for many months this has been my task. Guided by a slight clue I followed the windings of the Rhone,but vainly. The blue Mediterranean appeared; and, by a strangechance, I saw the fiend enter by night and hide himself in avessel bound for the Black Sea. I took my passage in the sameship; but he escaped, I know not how.
Amidst the wilds of Tartary and Russia, although he stillevaded me, I have ever followed in his track. Sometimes thepeasants, scared by this horrid apparition, informed me of hispath; sometimes he himself, who feared that if I lost all traceof him I should despair and die, left some mark to guide me. The snows descended on my head, and I saw the print of his hugestep on the white plain. To you first entering on life, towhom care is new and agony unknown, how can you understand whatI have felt and still feel? Cold, want, and fatigue were theleast pains which I was destined to endure; I was cursed bysome devil, and carried about with me my eternal hell; yetstill a spirit of good followed and directed my steps; and,when I most murmured, would suddenly extricate me fromseemingly insurmountable difficulties. Sometimes, when nature,overcome by hunger, sunk under the exhaustion, a repast wasprepared for me in the desert that restored and inspirited me. The fare was, indeed, coarse, such as the peasants of thecountry ate; but I will not doubt that it was set there by thespirits that I had invoked to aid me. Often, when all was dry,the heavens cloudless, and I was parched by thirst, a slightcloud would bedim the sky, shed the few drops that revived me,and vanish.
I followed, when I could, the courses of the rivers; but thedaemon generally avoided these, as it was here that thepopulation of the country chiefly collected. In other placeshuman beings were seldom seen; and I generally subsisted on thewild animals that crossed my path. I had money with me, andgained the friendship of the villagers by distributing it; orI brought with me some food that I had killed, which, aftertaking a small part, I always presented to those who hadprovided me with fire and utensils for cooking.
My life, as it passed thus, was indeed hateful to me, and itwas during sleep alone that I could taste joy. O blessedsleep! often, when most miserable, I sank to repose, and mydreams lulled me even to rapture. The spirits that guarded mehad provided these moments, or rather hours, of happiness, thatI might retain strength to fulfil my pilgrimage. Deprived ofthis respite, I should have sunk under my hardships. Duringthe day I was sustained and inspirited by the hope of night:for in sleep I saw my friends, my wife, and my beloved country;again I saw the benevolent countenance of my father, heard thesilver tones of my Elizabeth's voice, and beheld Clervalenjoying health and youth. Often, when wearied by a toilsomemarch, I persuaded myself that I was dreaming until nightshould come, and that I should then enjoy reality in the armsof my dearest friends. What agonising fondness did I feel forthem! how did I cling to their dear forms, as sometimes theyhaunted even my waking hours, and persuade myself that theystill lived! At such moments vengeance, that burned within me,died in my heart, and I pursued my path towards the destructionof the daemon more as a task enjoined by heaven, as themechanical impulse of some power of which I was unconscious,than as the ardent desire of my soul.
What his feelings were whom I pursued I cannot know. Sometimes, indeed, he left marks in writing on the barks of thetrees, or cut in stone, that guided me and instigated my fury. "My reign is not yet over" (these words were legible in oneof these inscriptions); "you live, and my power is complete. Fellow me; I seek the everlasting ices of the north, where youwill feel the misery of cold and frost to which I am impassive. You will find near this place, if you follow not too tardily,a dead hare; eat and be refreshed. Come on, my enemy; wehave yet to wrestle for our lives; but many hard and miserablehours must you endure until that period shall arrive."
Scoffing devil! Again do I vow vengeance; again do I devotethee, miserable fiend, to torture and death. Never will I giveup my search until he or I perish; and then with what ecstasyshall I join my Elizabeth and my departed friends, who even nowprepare for me the reward of my tedious toil and horrible pilgrimage!
As I still pursued my journey to the northward, the snowsthickened and the cold increased in a degree almost too severeto support. The peasants were shut up in their hovels, andonly a few of the most hardy ventured forth to seize theanimals whom starvation had forced from their hiding places toseek for prey. The rivers were covered with ice and no fishcould be procured; and thus I was cut off from my chief articleof maintenance.
The triumph of my enemy increased with the difficulty of mylabours. One inscription that he left was in thesewords:--"Prepare! your toils only begin: wrap yourself in fursand provide food; for we shall soon enter upon a journey whereyour sufferings will satisfy my everlasting hatred."
My courage and perseverance were invigorated by these scoffingwords; I resolved not to fail in my purpose; and, calling onHeaven to support me, I continued with unabated fervour totraverse immense deserts until the ocean appeared at a distanceand formed the utmost boundary of the horizon. Oh! how unlikeit was to the blue seas of the south! Covered with ice, it wasonly to be distinguished from land by its superior wildnessand ruggedness. The Greeks wept for joy when they beheld theMediterranean from the hills of Asia, and hailed with rapturethe boundary of their toils. I did not weep; but I knelt downand, with a full heart, thanked my guiding spirit forconducting me in safety to the place where I hoped,notwithstanding my adversary's gibe, to meet and grapple with him.
Some weeks before this period I had procured a sledge and dogs,and thus traversed the snows with inconceivable speed. I knownot whether the fiend possessed the same advantages; but Ifound that, as before I had daily lost ground in the pursuit,I now gained on him: so much so that, when I first saw theocean, he was but one day's journey in advance, and I hoped tointercept him before he should reach the beach. With newcourage, therefore, I pressed on, and in two days arrived at awretched hamlet on the sea-shore. I inquired of theinhabitants concerning the fiend, and gained accurateinformation. A gigantic monster, they said, had arrived thenight before, armed with a gun and many pistols, putting toflight the inhabitants of a solitary cottage through fear ofhis terrific appearance. He had carried off their store ofwinter food, and placing it in a sledge, to draw which he hadseized on a numerous drove of trained dogs, he had harnessedthem, and the same night, to the joy of the horror-struckvillagers, had pursued his journey across the sea in adirection that led to no land; and they conjectured that hemust speedily be destroyed by the breaking of the ice or frozenby the eternal frosts.
On hearing this information, I suffered a temporary access ofdespair. He had escaped me; and I must commence a destructiveand almost endless journey across the mountainous ices of theocean--amidst cold that few of the inhabitants could longendure, and which I, the native of a genial and sunny climate,could not hope to survive. Yet at the idea that the fiendshould live and be triumphant, my rage and vengeance returned,and, like a mighty tide, overwhelmed every other feeling. After a slight repose, during which the spirits of the deadhovered round and instigated me to toil and revenge, I preparedfor my journey.
I exchanged my land-sledge for one fashioned for theinequalities of the Frozen Ocean; and purchasing a plentifulstock of provisions, I departed from land.
I cannot guess how many days have passed since then; but I haveendured misery which nothing but the eternal sentiment of ajust retribution burning within my heart could have enabled meto support. Immense and rugged mountains of ice often barredup my passage, and I often heard the thunder of the ground seawhich threatened my destruction. But again the frost came andmade the paths of the sea secure.
By the quantity of provision which I had consumed, I shouldguess that I had passed three weeks in this journey; and thecontinual protraction of hope, returning back upon the heart,often wrung bitter drops of despondency and grief from my eyes. Despair had indeed almost secured her prey, and I should soonhave sunk beneath this misery. Once, after the poor animalsthat conveyed me had with incredible toil gained the summit ofa sloping ice mountain, and one, sinking under his fatigue,died, I viewed the expanse before me with anguish, whensuddenly my eye caught a dark speck upon the dusky plain. I strained my sight to discover what it could be, and uttereda wild cry of ecstasy when I distinguished a sledge and thedistorted proportions of a well known form within. Oh! withwhat a burning gush did hope revisit my heart! warm tearsfilled my eyes, which I hastily wiped away that they might notintercept the view I had of the daemon; but still my sight wasdimmed by the burning drops until, giving way to the emotionsthat oppressed me, I wept aloud.
But this was not the time for delay: I disencumbered the dogsof their dead companion, gave them a plentiful portion of food;and, after an hour's rest, which was absolutely necessary, andyet which was bitterly irksome to me, I continued my route. The sledge was still visible; nor did I again lose sight of itexcept at the moments when for a short time some ice-rockconcealed it with its intervening crags. I indeed perceptiblygained on it; and when, after nearly two days' journey, Ibeheld my enemy at no more than a mile distant, my heartbounded within me.
But now, when I appeared almost within grasp of my foe, myhopes were suddenly extinguished, and I lost all trace of himmore utterly than I had ever done before. A ground sea washeard; the thunder of its progress, as the waters rolled andswelled beneath me, became every moment more ominous andterrific. I pressed on, but in vain. The wind arose; the searoared; and, as with the mighty shock of an earthquake, itsplit and cracked with a tremendous and overwhelming sound. The work was soon finished: in a few minutes a tumultuous searolled between me and my enemy, and I was left drifting on ascattered piece of ice, that was continually lessening, andthus preparing for me a hideous death.
In this manner many appalling hours passed; several of my dogsdied; and I myself was about to sink under the accumulation ofdistress when I saw your vessel riding at anchor, and holdingforth to me hopes of succour and life. I had no conceptionthat vessels ever came so far north, and was astounded at thesight. I quickly destroyed part of my sledge to constructoars; and by these means was enabled, with infinite fatigue, tomove my ice-raft in the direction of your ship. I haddetermined, if you were going southward, still to trust myselfto the mercy of the seas rather than abandon my purpose. I hoped to induce you to grant me a boat with which I couldpursue my enemy. But your direction was northward. You tookme on board when my vigour was exhausted, and I should soonhave sunk under my multiplied hardships into a death which Istill dread--for my task is unfulfilled.
Oh! when will my guiding spirit, in conducting me to thedaemon, allow me the rest I so much desire; or must I die andhe yet live? If I do, swear to me, Walton, that he shall notescape; that you will seek him and satisfy my vengeance in hisdeath. And do I dare to ask of you to undertake my pilgrimage,to endure the hardships that I have undergone? No; I am notso selfish. Yet, when I am dead, if he should appear; if theministers of vengeance should conduct him to you, swear that heshall not live--swear that he shall not triumph over myaccumulated woes, and survive to add to the list of his darkcrimes. He is eloquent and persuasive; and once his words hadeven power over my heart: but trust him not. His soul is ashellish as his form, full of treachery and fiendlike malice. Hear him not; call on the names of William, Justine, Clerval,Elizabeth, my father, and of the wretched Victor, and thrustyour sword into his heart. I will hover near and direct thesteel aright.
WALTON, _in continuation_ _August 26th, 17--._
You have read this strange and terrific story, Margaret; and doyou not feel your blood congeal with horror like that whicheven now curdles mine? Sometimes, seized with sudden agony, hecould not continue his tale; at others, his voice broken, yetpiercing, uttered with difficulty the words so replete withanguish. His fine and lovely eyes were now lighted up withindignation, now subdued to downcast sorrow, and quenched ininfinite wretchedness. Sometimes he commanded his countenanceand tones, and related the most horrible incidents with atranquil voice, suppressing every mark of agitation; then, likea volcano bursting forth, his face would suddenly change to anexpression of the wildest rage, as he shrieked out imprecationson his persecutor.
His tale is connected, and told with an appearance of thesimplest truth; yet I own to you that the letters of Felix andSafie, which he showed me, and the apparition of the monsterseen from our ship, brought to me a greater conviction of thetruth of his narrative than his asseverations, however earnestand connected. Such a monster has then really existence! Icannot doubt it; yet I am lost in surprise and admiration. Sometimes I endeavoured to gain from Frankenstein theparticulars of his creature's formation: but on this point hewas impenetrable.
"Are you mad, my friend?" said he; "or whither does yoursenseless curiosity lead you? Would you also create foryourself and the world a demoniacal enemy? Peace, peace! learnmy miseries, and do not seek to increase your own."
Frankenstein discovered that I made notes concerning hishistory: he asked to see them, and then himself corrected andaugmented them in many places; but principally in giving thelife and spirit to the conversations he held with his enemy. "Since you have preserved my narration," said he, "I would notthat a mutilated one should go down to posterity."
Thus has a week passed away, while I have listened to thestrangest tale that ever imagination formed. My thoughts, andevery feeling of my soul, have been drunk up by the interestfor my guest, which this tale, and his own elevated and gentlemanners, have created. I wish to soothe him; yet can I counselone so infinitely miserable, so destitute of every hope ofconsolation, to live? Oh, no! the only joy that he can now knowwill be when he composes his shattered spirit to peace anddeath. Yet he enjoys one comfort, the offspring of solitudeand delirium: he believes that, when in dreams he holdsconverse with his friends and derives from that communionconsolation for his miseries or excitements to his vengeance,they are not the creations of his fancy, but the beingsthemselves who visit him from the regions of a remote world. This faith gives a solemnity to his reveries that render themto me almost as imposing and interesting as truth.
Our conversations are not always confined to his own historyand misfortunes. On every point of general literature hedisplays unbounded knowledge and a quick and piercingapprehension. His eloquence is forcible and touching; nor canI hear him, when he relates a pathetic incident, or endeavoursto move the passions of pity or love, without tears. What aglorious creature must he have been in the days of hisprosperity when he is thus noble and godlike in ruin! He seemsto feel his own worth and the greatness of his fall.
"When younger," said he, "I believed myself destined for somegreat enterprise. My feelings are profound; but I possessed acoolness of judgment that fitted me for illustriousachievements. This sentiment of the worth of my naturesupported me when others would have been oppressed; for Ideemed it criminal to throw away in useless grief those talentsthat might be useful to my fellow-creatures. When I reflectedon the work I had completed, no less a one than the creation ofa sensitive and rational animal, I could not rank myself withthe herd of common projectors. But this thought, whichsupported me in the commencement of my career, now serves onlyto plunge me lower in the dust. All my speculations and hopesare as nothing; and, like the archangel who aspired toomnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell. My imaginationwas vivid, yet my powers of analysis and application wereintense; by the union of these qualities I conceived the ideaand executed the creation of a man. Even now I cannotrecollect without passion my reveries while the work wasincomplete. I trod heaven in my thoughts, now exulting in mypowers, now burning with the idea of their effects. From myinfancy I was imbued with high hopes and a lofty ambition; buthow am I sunk! Oh! my friend, if you had known me as I once wasyou would not recognise me in this state of degradation. Despondency rarely visited my heart; a high destiny seemed tobear me on until I fell, never, never again to rise.
"Must I then lose this admirable being? I have longed for afriend; I have sought one who would sympathise with and love me. Behold, on these desert seas I have found such a one; butI fear I have gained him only to know his value and lose him. I would reconcile him to life, but he repulses the idea.
"I thank you, Walton," he said, "for your kind intentionstowards so miserable a wretch; but when you speak of new tiesand fresh affections, think you that any can replace those whoare gone? Can any man be to me as Clerval was; or any womananother Elizabeth? Even, where the affections are not stronglymoved by any superior excellence, the companions of ourchildhood always possess a certain power over our minds whichhardly any later friend can obtain. They know our infantinedispositions, which, however they may be afterwards modified,are never eradicated; and they can judge of our actions withmore certain conclusions as to the integrity of our motives. A sister or a brother can never, unless indeed such symptomshave been shown early, suspect the other of fraud or falsedealing, when another friend, however strongly he may beattached, may, in spite of himself, be contemplated withsuspicion. But I enjoyed friends, dear not only through habitand association, but from their own merits; and wherever I amthe soothing voice of my Elizabeth and the conversation ofClerval will be ever whispered in my ear. They are dead, andbut one feeing in such a solitude can persuade me to preservemy life. If I were engaged in any high undertaking or design,fraught with extensive utility to my fellow-creatures, thencould I live to fulfil it. But such is not my destiny; Imust pursue and destroy the being to whom I gave existence;then my lot on earth will be fulfilled, and I may die."
MY BELOVED SISTER,--I write to you encompassed by peril andignorant whether I am ever doomed to see again dear England,and the dearer friends that inhabit it. I am surrounded bymountains of ice which admit of no escape and threaten everymoment to crush my vessel. The brave fellows whom I havepersuaded to be my companions look towards me for aid; but Ihave none to bestow. There is something terribly appalling inour situation, yet my courage and hopes do not desert me. Yet itis terrible to reflect that the lives of all these men areendangered through me. If we are lost, my mad schemes are the cause.
And what, Margaret, will be the state of your mind? You willnot hear of my destruction, and you will anxiously await myreturn. Years will pass, and you will have visitings ofdespair, and yet be tortured by hope. Oh! my beloved sister,the sickening failing of your heart felt expectations is, inprospect, more terrible to me than my own death. But you havea husband and lovely children; you may be happy: Heaven blessyou and make you so!
My unfortunate guest regards me with the tenderest compassion. He endeavours to fill me with hope; and talks as if life werea possession which he valued. He reminds me how often the sameaccidents have happened to other navigators who have attemptedthis sea, and, in spite of myself, he fills me with cheerfulauguries. Even the sailors feel the power of his eloquence:when he speaks they no longer despair; he rouses their energiesand, while they hear his voice, they believe these vastmountains of ice are mole-hills which will vanish before theresolutions of man. These feelings are transitory; each day ofexpectation delayed fills them with fear, and I almost dread amutiny caused by this despair.
A scene has just passed of such uncommon interest that althoughit is highly probable that these papers may never reach you,yet I cannot forbear recording it.
We are still surrounded by mountains of ice, still in imminentdanger of being crushed in their conflict. The cold isexcessive, and many of my unfortunate comrades have alreadyfound a grave amidst this scene of desolation. Frankensteinhas daily declined in health: a feverish fire still glimmers inhis eyes; but he is exhausted, and when suddenly roused to anyexertion he speedily sinks again into apparent lifelessness.
I mentioned in my last letter the fears I entertained of amutiny. This morning, as I sat watching the wan countenance ofmy friend--his eyes half closed, and his limbs hanginglistlessly--I was roused by half a dozen of the sailors whodemanded admission into the cabin. They entered, and theirleader addressed me. He told me that he and his companions hadbeen chosen by the other sailors to come in deputation to me,to make me a requisition which, in justice, I could not refuse. We were immured in ice and should probably never escape; butthey feared that if, as was possible, the ice should dissipate,and a free passage be opened, I should be rash enough tocontinue my voyage and lead them into fresh dangers after theymight happily have surmounted this. They insisted, therefore,that I should engage with a solemn promise that if the vesselshould be freed I would instantly direct my course southward.
This speech troubled me. I had not despaired; nor had I yetconceived the idea of returning if set free. Yet could I, injustice, or even in possibility, refuse this demand? Ihesitated before I answered; when Frankenstein, who had atfirst been silent, and, indeed, appeared hardly to have forceenough to attend, now roused himself; his eyes sparkled, andhis cheeks flushed with momentary vigour. Turning towards themen he said--
"What do you mean? What do you demand of your captain? Are you then so easily turned from your design? Did you notcall this a glorious expedition? And wherefore was it glorious? Not because the way was smooth and placid as a southern sea,but because it was full of dangers and terror; because at everynew incident your fortitude was to be called forth and yourcourage exhibited; because danger and death surrounded it, andthese you were to brave and overcome. For this was it a glorious,for this was it an honourable undertaking. You were hereafter tobe hailed as the benefactors of your species; your names adoredas belonging to brave men who encountered death for honour andthe benefit of mankind. And now, behold, with the firstimagination of danger, or, if you will, the first mighty andterrific trial of your courage, you shrink away, and arecontent to be handed down as men who had not strength enough toendure cold and peril; and so, poor souls, they were chilly andreturned to their warm firesides. Why that requires not thispreparation; ye need not have come thus far, and dragged yourcaptain to the shame of a defeat, merely to prove yourselvescowards. Oh! be men, or be more than men. Be steady to yourpurposes and firm as a rock. This ice is not made of suchstuff as your hearts may be; it is mutable and cannot withstandyou if you say that it shall not. Do not return to yourfamilies with the stigma of disgrace marked on your brows. Return as heroes who have fought and conquered, and who knownot what it is to turn their backs on the foe."
He spoke this with a voice so modulated to the differentfeelings expressed in his speech, with an eye so full of loftydesign and heroism, that can you wonder that these men weremoved? They looked at one another and were unable to reply. I spoke; I told them to retire and consider of what had beensaid: that I would not lead them farther north if theystrenuously desired the contrary; but that I hoped that, withreflection, their courage would return.
They retired, and I turned towards my friend; but he was sunkin languor and almost deprived of life.
How all this will terminate I know not; but I had rather diethan return shamefully--my purpose unfulfilled. Yet I fearsuch will be my fate; the men, unsupported by ideas of gloryand honour, can never willingly continue to endure theirpresent hardships.
The die is cast; I have consented to return if we are notdestroyed. Thus are my hopes blasted by cowardice andindecision; I come back ignorant and disappointed. It requiresmore philosophy than I possess to bear this injustice with patience.
It is past; I am returning to England. I have lost my hopes ofutility and glory;--I have lost my friend. But I willendeavour to detail these bitter circumstances to you, my dearsister; and while I am wafted towards England, and towardsyou, I will not despond.
September 9th, the ice began to move, and roarings like thunderwere heard at a distance as the islands split and cracked inevery direction. We were in the most imminent peril; but, aswe could only remain passive, my chief attention was occupiedby my unfortunate guest, whose illness increased in such adegree that he was entirely confined to his bed. The icecracked behind us, and was driven with force towards the north;a breeze sprung from the west, and on the 11th the passagetowards the south became perfectly free. When the sailors sawthis, and that their return to their native country wasapparently assured, a shout of tumultuous joy broke from them,loud and long-continued. Frankenstein, who was dozing, awokeand asked the cause of the tumult. "They shout," I said,"because they will soon return to England."
"Do you then really return?"
"Alas! yes; I cannot withstand their demands. I cannot leadthem unwillingly to danger, and I must return."
"Do so, if you will; but I will not. You may give up yourpurpose, but mine is assigned to me by Heaven, and I dare not. I am weak; but surely the spirits who assist my vengeance willendow me with sufficient strength." Saying this, he endeavouredto spring from the bed, but the exertion was too great for him;he fell back and fainted.
It was long before he was restored; and I often thought thatlife was entirely extinct. At length he opened his eyes; hebreathed with difficulty, and was unable to speak. The surgeongave him a composing draught and ordered us to leave himundisturbed. In the meantime he told me that my friend hadcertainly not many hours to live.
His sentence was pronounced, and I could only grieve and bepatient. I sat by his bed watching him; his eyes were closed,and I thought he slept; but presently he called to me in afeeble voice, and, bidding me come near, said--"Alas! thestrength I relied on is gone; I feel that I shall soon die, andhe, my enemy and persecutor, may still be in being. Think not,Walton, that in the last moments of my existence I feel thatburning hatred and ardent desire of revenge I once expressed;but I feel myself justified in desiring the death of myadversary. During these last days I have been occupied inexamining my past conduct; nor do I find it blamable. In a fitof enthusiastic madness I created a rational creature, and wasbound towards him, to assure, as far as was in my power, hishappiness and well-being. This was my duty; but there wasanother still paramount to that. My duties towards the beingsof my own species had greater claims to my attention, becausethey included a greater proportion of happiness or misery. Urged by this view, I refused, and I did right in refusing, tocreate a companion for the first creature. He showedunparalleled malignity and selfishness, in evil: he destroyedmy friends; he devoted to destruction beings who possessedexquisite sensations, happiness, and wisdom; nor do I knowwhere this thirst for vengeance may end. Miserable himself,that he may render no other wretched he ought to die. The taskof his destruction was mine, but I have failed. When actuatedby selfish and vicious motives I asked you to undertake myunfinished work; and I renew this request now when I am onlyinduced by reason and virtue.
"Yet I cannot ask you to renounce your country and friends tofulfil this task; and now that you are returning to England youwill have little chance of meeting with him. But theconsideration of these points, and the well balancing of whatyou may esteem your duties, I leave to you; my judgment andideas are already disturbed by the near approach of death. I dare not ask you to do what I think right, for I may still bemisled by passion.
"That he should live to be an instrument of mischief disturbsme; in other respects, this hour, when I momentarily expect myrelease, is the only happy one which I have enjoyed for severalyears. The forms of the beloved dead flit before me and Ihasten to their arms. Farewell, Walton! Seek happiness intranquillity and avoid ambition, even if it be only theapparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in scienceand discoveries. Yet why do I say this? I have myself beenblasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed."
His voice became fainter as he spoke; and at length, exhaustedby his effort, he sunk into silence. About half an hourafterwards he attempted again to speak, but was unable; hepressed my hand feebly, and his eyes closed for ever, while theirradiation of a gentle smile passed away from his lips.
Margaret, what comment can I make on the untimely extinction ofthis glorious spirit? What can I say that will enable you tounderstand the depth of my sorrow? All that I should expresswould be inadequate and feeble. My tears flow; my mind isovershadowed by a cloud of disappointment. But I journeytowards England, and I may there find consolation.
I am interrupted. What do these sounds portend? It ismidnight; the breeze blows fairly, and the watch on deckscarcely stir. Again; there is a sound as of a human voice,but hoarser; it comes from the cabin where the remains ofFrankenstein still lie. I must arise and examine. Good night,my sister.
Great God! what a scene has just taken place! I am yet dizzywith the remembrance of it. I hardly know whether I shall havethe power to detail it; yet the tale which I have recordedwould be incomplete without this final and wonderful catastrophe.
I entered the cabin where lay the remains of my ill-fated andadmirable friend. Over him hung a form which I cannot findwords to describe; gigantic in stature, yet uncouth anddistorted in its proportions. As he hung over the coffin hisface was concealed by long locks of ragged hair; but one vasthand was extended, in colour and apparent texture like that ofa mummy. When he heard the sound of my approach he ceased toutter exclamations of grief and horror and sprung towards thewindow. Never did I behold a vision so horrible as his face,of such loathsome yet appalling hideousness. I shut my eyesinvoluntarily and endeavoured to recollect what were my dutieswith regard to this destroyer. I called on him to stay.
He paused, looking on me with wonder; and, again turningtowards the lifeless form of his creator, he seemed to forgetmy presence, and every feature and gesture seemed instigated bythe wildest rage of some uncontrollable passion.
"That is also my victim!" he exclaimed: "in his murder mycrimes are consummated; the miserable series of my being iswound to its close! Oh, Frankenstein! generous and self-devotedbeing! what does it avail that I now ask thee to pardon me? I, who irretrievably destroyed thee by destroying all thoulovedst. Alas! he is cold, he cannot answer me."
His voice seemed suffocated; and my first impulses, which hadsuggested to me the duty of obeying the dying request of myfriend, in destroying his enemy, were now suspended by amixture of curiosity and compassion. I approached thistremendous being; I dared not again raise my eyes to his face,there was something so scaring and unearthly in his ugliness. I attempted to speak, but the words died away on my lips. The monster continued to utter wild and incoherent self-reproaches. At length I gathered resolution to address him in a pause ofthe tempest of his passion: "Your repentance," I said, "is nowsuperfluous. If you had listened to the voice of conscience,and heeded the stings of remorse, before you had urged yourdiabolical vengeance to this extremity, Frankenstein would yethave lived.
"And do you dream?" said the damon; "do you think that I wasthen dead to agony and remorse?--He," he continued, pointing tothe corpse, "he suffered not in the consummation of thedeed--oh! not the ten-thousandth portion of the anguish thatwas mine during the lingering detail of its execution. A frightful selfishness hurried me on, while my heart waspoisoned with remorse. Think you that the groans of Clervalwere music to my ears? My heart was fashioned to be susceptibleof love and sympathy; and when wrenched by misery to viceand hatred it did not endure the violence of the change withouttone such as you cannot even imagine.
"After the murder of Clerval I returned to Switzerlandheart-broken and overcome. I pitied Frankenstein; my pityamounted to horror: I abhorred myself. But when I discoveredthat he, the author at once of my existence and of itsunspeakable torments, dared to hope for happiness; thatwhile he accumulated wretchedness and despair upon me he soughthis own enjoyment in feelings and passions from the indulgenceof which I was for ever barred, then impotent envy and bitterindignation filled me with an insatiable thirst for vengeance. I recollected my threat and resolved that it should beaccomplished. I knew that I was preparing for myself a deadlytorture; but I was the slave, not the master, of an impulsewhich I detested, yet could not disobey. Yet when shedied!--nay, then I was not miserable. I had cast off allfeeling, subdued all anguish, to riot in the excess of mydespair. Evil thenceforth became my good. Urged thus far, Ihad no choice but to adapt my nature to an element which I hadwillingly chosen. The completion of my demoniacal designbecame an insatiable passion. And now it is ended; there is mylast victim!"
I was at first touched by the expressions of his misery; yet,when I called to mind what Frankenstein had said of his powersof eloquence and persuasion, and when I again cast my eyes onthe lifeless form of my friend, indignation was rekindledwithin me. "Wretch!" I said, "it is well that you come here towhine over the desolation that you have made. You throw atorch into a pile of buildings; and when they are consumed yousit among the ruins and lament the fall. Hypocritical fiend!if he whom you mourn still lived, still would he be the object,again would he become the prey, of your accursed vengeance. It is not pity that you feel; you lament only because the victimof your malignity is withdrawn from your power."
"Oh, it is not thus--not thus," interrupted the being; "yetsuch must be the impression conveyed to you by what appears tobe the purport of my actions. Yet I seek not a fellow-feelingin my misery. No sympathy may I ever find. When I firstsought it, it was the love of virtue, the feelings of happinessand affection with which my whole being overflowed, that Iwished to be participated. But now that virtue has become tome a shadow and that happiness and affection are turned intobitter and loathing despair, in what should I seek forsympathy? I am content to suffer alone while my sufferingsshall endure: when I die, I am well satisfied that abhorrenceand opprobrium should load my memory. Once my fancy wassoothed with dreams of virtue, of fame, and of enjoyment. Once I falsely hoped to meet with beings who, pardoning myoutward form, would love me for the excellent qualities whichI was capable of unfolding. I was nourished with high thoughtsof honour and devotion. But now crime has degraded me beneaththe meanest animal. No guilt, no mischief, no malignity, nomisery, can be found comparable to mine. When I run over thefrightful catalogue of my sins, I cannot believe that I am thesame creature whose thoughts were once filled with sublime andtranscendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associatesin his desolation; I am alone.
"You, who call Frankenstein your friend, seem to have aknowledge of my crimes and his misfortunes. But in the detailwhich he gave you of them he could not sum up the hours andmonths of misery which I endured, wasting in impotent passions. For while I destroyed his hopes, I did not satisfy my owndesires. They were for ever ardent and craving; still Idesired love and fellowship, and I was still spurned. Wasthere no injustice in this? Am I to be thought the onlycriminal when all human kind sinned against me? Why do you nothate Felix who drove his friend from his door with contumely?Why do you not execrate the rustic who sought to destroy thesaviour of his child? Nay, these are virtuous and immaculatebeings! I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, tobe spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on. Even now my bloodboils at the recollection of this injustice.
"But it is true that I am a wretch. I have murdered the lovelyand the helpless; I have strangled the innocent as theyslept, and grasped to death his throat who never injured me orany other living thing. I have devoted my creator, the selectspecimen of all that is worthy of love and admiration amongmen, to misery; I have pursued him even to that irremediableruin. There he lies, white and cold in death. You hate me;but your abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regardmyself. I look on the hands which executed the deed; I thinkon the heart in which the imagination of it was conceived, andlong for the moment when these hands will meet my eyes, whenthat imagination will haunt my thoughts no more.
"Fear not that I shall be the instrument of future mischief. My work is nearly complete. Neither yours nor any man's deathis needed to consummate the series of my being, and accomplishthat which must be done; but it requires my own. Do not thinkthat I shall be slow to perform this sacrifice. I shall quityour vessel on the iceraft which brought me thither, and shallseek the most northern extremity of the globe; I shall collectmy funeral pile and consume to ashes this miserable frame, thatits remains may afford no light to any curious and unhallowedwretch who would create such another as I have been. I shall die. I shall no longer feel the agonies which now consume me,or be the prey of feelings unsatisfied, yet unquenched. He isdead who called me into being; and when I shall be no more thevery remembrance of us both will speedily vanish. I shall nolonger see the sun or stars, or feel the winds play on my cheeks. Light, feeling, and sense will pass away; and in thiscondition must I find my happiness. Some years ago, when theimages which this world affords first opened upon me, when Ifelt the cheering warmth of summer, and heard the rustling ofthe leaves and the warbling of the birds, and these were all tome, I should have wept to die; now it is my only consolation. Polluted by crimes, and torn by the bitterest remorse, wherecan I find rest but in death?
"Farewell! I leave you, and in you the last of human kind whomthese eyes will ever behold. Farewell, Frankenstein! If thouwert yet alive, and yet cherished a desire of revenge againstme, it would be better satiated in my life than in mydestruction. But it was not so; thou didst seek my extinctionthat I might not cause greater wretchedness; and if yet, insome mode unknown to me, thou hast not ceased to think andfeel, thou wouldst not desire against me a vengeance greaterthan that which I feel. Blasted as thou wert, my agony wasstill superior to thine; for the bitter sting of remorse willnot cease to rankle in my wounds until death shall close themfor ever.
"But soon," he cried, with sad and solemn enthusiasm, "I shalldie, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burningmiseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral piletriumphantly, and exult in the agony of the torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will fade away; my ashes willbe swept into the sea by the winds. My spirit will sleep inpeace; or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus. Farewell."
He sprung from the cabin-window, as he said this, upon theice-raft which lay close to the vessel. He was soon borne awayby the waves and lost in darkness and distance.