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or, the Modern Prometheus
by Mary Shelley

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Chapter 6

Clerval then put the following letter into my hands. It was from

my own Elizabeth:

My dearest Cousin,

You have been ill, very ill, and even the constant letters

of dear kind Henry are not sufficient to reassure me

on your account. You are forbidden to write--to hold a pen;

yet one word from you, dear Victor, is necessary to calm

our apprehensions. For a long time I have thought that each post

would bring this line, and my persuasions have restrained my uncle

from undertaking a journey to Ingolstadt. I have prevented

his encountering the inconveniences and perhaps dangers

of so long a journey, yet how often have I regretted

not being able to perform it myself! I figure to myself

that the task of attending on your sickbed has devolved

on some mercenary old nurse, who could never guess your wishes

nor minister to them with the care and affection of your

poor cousin. Yet that is over now: Clerval writes

that indeed you are getting better. I eagerly hope that you will

confirm this intelligence soon in your own handwriting.

Get well--and return to us. You will find a happy,

cheerful home and friends who love you dearly. Your

father's health is vigorous, and he asks but to see you,

but to be assured that you are well; and not a care will ever

cloud his benevolent countenance. How pleased you would be

to remark the improvement of our Ernest! He is now sixteen

and full of activity and spirit. He is desirous to be a true Swiss

and to enter into foreign service, but we cannot part with him,

at least until his elder brother return to us. My uncle

is not pleased with the idea of a military career in a distant country,

but Ernest never had your powers of application. He looks upon study

as an odious fetter; his time is spent in the open air, climbing

the hills or rowing on the lake. I fear that he will become

an idler unless we yield the point and permit him to enter

on the profession which he has selected.

Little alteration, except the growth of our dear children,

has taken place since you left us. The blue lake and snow-clad

mountains--they never change; and I think our placid home

and our contented hearts are regulated by the same immutable laws.

My trifling occupations take up my time and amuse me, and I am rewarded

for any exertions by seeing none but happy, kind faces around me.

Since you left us, but one change has taken place

in our little household. Do you remember on what occasion

Justine Moritz entered our family? Probably you do not;

I will relate her history, therefore, in a few words. Madame Moritz,

her mother, was a widow with four children, of whom Justine

was the third. This girl had always been the favourite of her father,

but through a strange perversity, her mother could not endure her,

and after the death of M. Moritz, treated her very ill. My aunt

observed this, and when Justine was twelve years of age,

prevailed on her mother to allow her to live at our house.

The republican institutions of our country have produced simpler

and happier manners than those which prevail in the great monarchies

that surround it. Hence there is less distinction between

the several classes of its inhabitants; and the lower orders,

being neither so poor nor so despised, their manners are more refined

and moral. A servant in Geneva does not mean the same thing

as a servant in France and England. Justine, thus received

in our family, learned the duties of a servant, a condition which,

in our fortunate country, does not include the idea of ignorance

and a sacrifice 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 an ill humour,

one glance from Justine could dissipate it, for the same reason

that Ariosto gives concerning the beauty of Angelica--she looked

so frank-hearted and happy. My aunt conceived a great attachment

for her, by which she was induced to give her an education superior

to that which she had at first intended. This benefit was fully repaid;

Justine was the most grateful little creature in the world:

I do not mean that she made any professions; I never heard

one pass her lips, but you could see by her eyes that she

almost adored her protectress. Although her disposition was gay

and in many respects inconsiderate, yet she paid the greatest attention

to every gesture of my aunt. She thought her the model

of all excellence and endeavoured to imitate her phraseology

and manners, so that even now she often reminds me of her.

When my dearest aunt died every one was too much occupied

in their own grief to notice poor Justine, who had attended her

during her illness with the most anxious affection. Poor Justine

was very ill; but other trials were reserved for her.

One by one, her brothers and sister died; and her mother,

with the exception of her neglected daughter, was left childless.

The conscience of the woman was troubled; she began to think

that the deaths of her favourites was a judgment from heaven

to chastise her partiality. She was a Roman Catholic;

and I believe her confessor confirmed the idea which she had conceived.

Accordingly, a few months after your departure for Ingolstadt,

Justine was called home by her repentant mother. Poor girl!

She wept when she quitted our house; she was much altered

since the death of my aunt; grief had given softness

and a winning mildness to her manners which had before been remarkable

for vivacity. Nor was her residence at her mother's house

of a nature to restore her gaiety. The poor woman was very vacillating

in her repentance. She sometimes begged Justine to forgive

her unkindness but much oftener accused her of having caused

the deaths of her brothers and sister. Perpetual fretting at length

threw Madame Moritz into a decline, which at first increased

her irritability, but she is now at peace for ever. She died

on the first approach of cold weather, at the beginning

of this last winter. Justine has returned to us, and I assure you

I love her tenderly. She is very clever and gentle

and extremely pretty; as I mentioned before, her mien

and her expressions continually remind me of my dear aunt.

I must say also a few words to you, my dear cousin,

of little darling William. I wish you could see him;

he is very tall of his age, with sweet laughing blue eyes,

dark eyelashes, and curling hair. When he smiles, two little dimples

appear on each cheek, which are rosy with health. He has already

had one or two little *wives*, but Louisa Biron is his favourite,

a pretty little girl of five years of age.

Now, dear Victor, I dare say you wish to be indulged

in a little gossip concerning the good people of Geneva.

The pretty Miss Mansfield has already received the congratulatory

visits on her approaching marriage with a young Englishman,

John Melbourne, Esq. Her ugly sister, Manon, married M. Duvillard,

the rich banker, last autumn. Your favourite schoolfellow,

Louis Manoir, has suffered several misfortunes since the departure

of Clerval from Geneva. But he has already recovered his spirits,

and is reported to be on the point of marrying a very lively,

pretty Frenchwoman, Madame Tavernier. She is a widow,

and much older than Manoir, but she is very much admired

and a favourite with everybody.

I have written myself into better spirits, dear cousin;

but my anxiety returns upon me as I conclude. Write,

dearest Victor--one line--one word will be a blessing to us.

Ten thousand thanks to Henry for his kindness, his affection,

and his 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 her letter.

"I will write instantly and relieve them from the anxiety they must feel."

I wrote, and this exertion greatly fatigued me; but my convalescence

had commenced, and proceeded regularly. In another fortnight

I was able to leave my chamber.

One of my first duties on my recovery was to introduce Clerval

to the several professors of the university. In doing this, I underwent

a kind of rough usage, ill befitting the wounds that my mind had sustained.

Ever since the fatal night, the end of my labours, and the beginning

of my misfortunes, I had conceived a violent antipathy

even to the name of natural philosophy. When I was otherwise

quite restored to health, the sight of a chemical instrument

would renew all the agony of my nervous symptoms. Henry saw this,

and had removed all my apparatus from my view. He had also changed

my apartment, for he perceived that I had acquired a dislike

for the room which had previously been my laboratory. But these cares

of Clerval were made of no avail when I visited the professors.

M. Waldman inflicted torture when he praised, with kindness and warmth,

the astonishing progress I had made in the sciences. He soon perceived

that I disliked the subject, but not guessing the real cause,

he attributed my feelings to modesty and changed the subject

from my improvement to the science itself, 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 view those instruments which were

to be afterwards used in putting me to a slow and cruel death.

I writhed under his words yet dared not exhibit the pain I felt.

Clerval, whose eyes and feelings were always quick in discerning

the sensations of others, declined the subject, alleging, in excuse,

his total ignorance; and the conversation took a more general turn.

I thanked my friend from my heart, but I did not speak. I saw plainly

that he was surprised, but he never attempted to draw my secret from me;

and although I loved him with a mixture of affection and reverence

that knew no bounds, yet I could never persuade myself to confide to him

that event which was so often present to my recollection but which I feared

the detail to another would only impress more deeply.

M. Krempe was not equally docile; and in my condition at that time,

of almost insupportable sensitiveness, his harsh, blunt encomiums

gave me even more pain than the benevolent approbation of M. Waldman.

"D--n the fellow!" cried he. "Why, M. Clerval, I assure you

he has outstripped us all. Ay, stare if you please; but it is

nevertheless true. A youngster who, but a few years ago, believed

in Cornelius Agrippa as firmly as in the Gospel, has now set himself

at the head of the university; and if he is not soon pulled down,

we shall all be out of countenance. Ay, ay," continued he,

observing my face expressive of suffering, "M. Frankenstein is modest,

an excellent quality in a young man. Young men should be diffident

of themselves, you know, M. Clerval; I was myself when young;

but that wears out in a very short time."

M. Krempe had now commenced a eulogy on himself, which happily

turned the conversation from a subject that was so annoying to me.

Clerval had never sympathized in my tastes for natural science,

and his literary pursuits differed wholly from those which had occupied me.

He came to the university with the design of making himself complete master

of the Oriental languages, as thus he should open a field

for the plan of life he had marked out for himself. Resolved to pursue

no inglorious career, he turned his eyes towards the East

as affording scope for his spirit of enterprise. The Persian,

Arabic, and Sanskrit languages engaged his attention,

and I was easily induced to enter on the same studies.

Idleness had ever been irksome to me, and now that I wished to fly

from reflection and hated my former studies, I felt great relief

in being the fellow pupil with my friend, and found not only instruction

but consolation in the works of the Orientalists. I did not,

like him, attempt a critical knowledge of their dialects,

for I did not contemplate making any other use of them

than temporary amusement. I read merely to understand their meaning,

and they well repaid my labours. Their melancholy is soothing,

and their joy elevating, to a degree I never experienced

in studying the authors of any other country. When you read

their writings, life appears to consist in a warm sun and a garden of roses,

in the smiles and frowns of a fair enemy, and the fire that consumes

your own heart. How different from the manly and heroical poetry

of Greece and Rome!

Summer passed away in these occupations, and my return to Geneva

was fixed for the latter end of autumn; but being delayed

by several accidents, winter and snow arrived, the roads

were deemed impassable, and my journey was retarded

until the ensuing spring. I felt this delay very bitterly,

for I longed to see my native town and my beloved friends.

My return had only been delayed so long from an unwillingness

to leave Clerval in a strange place before he had become acquainted

with any of its inhabitants. The winter, however, was spent cheerfully,

and although the spring was uncommonly late, when it came

its beauty compensated for its dilatoriness.

The month of May had already commenced, and I expected the letter daily

which was to fix the date of my departure, when Henry proposed

a pedestrian tour in the environs of Ingolstadt, that I might bid

a personal farewell to the country I had so long inhabited.

I acceded with pleasure to this proposition: I was fond of exercise,

and Clerval had always been my favourite companion in the rambles

of this nature that I had taken among the scenes of my native country.

We passed a fortnight in these perambulations; my health and spirits

had long been restored, and they gained additional strength

from the salubrious air I breathed, the natural incidents of our progress,

and the conversation of my friend. Study had before secluded me

from the intercourse of my fellow creatures and rendered me unsocial,

but Clerval called forth the better feelings of my heart;

he again taught me to love the aspect of nature and the cheerful faces

of children. Excellent friend! How sincerely did you love me

and endeavour to elevate my mind until it was on a level with your own!

A selfish pursuit had cramped and narrowed me until your gentleness

and affection warmed and opened my senses; I became the same happy creature

who, a few years ago, loved and beloved by all, had no sorrow or care.

When happy, inanimate nature had the power of bestowing on me

the most delightful sensations. A serene sky and verdant fields

filled me with ecstasy. The present season was indeed divine;

the flowers of spring bloomed in the hedges, while those of summer

were already in bud. I was undisturbed by thoughts which

during the preceding year had pressed upon me, notwithstanding

my endeavours to throw them off, with an invincible burden.

Henry rejoiced in my gaiety and sincerely sympathized in my feelings;

he exerted himself to amuse me, while he expressed the sensations

that filled his soul. The resources of his mind on this occasion

were truly astonishing; his conversation was full of imagination,

and very often, in imitation of the Persian and Arabic writers,

he invented tales of wonderful fancy and passion. At other times

he repeated my favourite poems or drew me out into arguments,

which he supported with great ingenuity.

We returned to our college on a Sunday afternoon; the peasants were dancing,

and everyone we met appeared gay and happy. My own spirits were high,

and I bounded along with feelings of unbridled joy and hilarity.



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