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| Home | Reading Room Frankenstein


or, the Modern Prometheus
by Mary Shelley

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Chapter 14

"Some time elapsed before I learned the history of my friends.

It was one which could not fail to impress itself deeply on my mind,

unfolding as it did a number of circumstances, each interesting

and wonderful to one so utterly inexperienced as I was.

"The name of the old man was De Lacey. He was descended

from a good family in France, where he had lived for many years

in affluence, respected by his superiors and beloved by his equals.

His son was bred in the service of his country, and Agatha

had ranked with ladies of the highest distinction. A few months

before my arrival they had lived in a large and luxurious city

called Paris, surrounded by friends and possessed of every enjoyment

which virtue, refinement of intellect, or taste, accompanied

by a moderate fortune, could afford.

"The father of Safie had been the cause of their ruin.

He was a Turkish merchant and had inhabited Paris for many years,

when, for some reason which I could not learn, he became obnoxious

to the government. He was seized and cast into prison

the very day that Safie arrived from Constantinople to join him.

He was tried and condemned to death. The injustice of his sentence

was very flagrant; all Paris was indignant; and it was judged

that his religion and wealth rather than the crime alleged against him

had been the cause of his condemnation.

"Felix had accidentally been present at the trial; his horror

and indignation were uncontrollable when he heard the decision

of the court. He made, at that moment, a solemn vow to deliver him

and then looked around for the means. After many fruitless attempts

to gain admittance to the prison, he found a strongly grated window

in an unguarded part of the building, which lighted the dungeon

of the unfortunate Muhammadan, who, loaded with chains,

waited in despair the execution of the barbarous sentence.

Felix visited the grate at night and made known to the prisoner

his intentions in his favour. The Turk, amazed and delighted,

endeavoured to kindle the zeal of his deliverer by promises

of reward and wealth. Felix rejected his offers with contempt,

yet when he saw the lovely Safie, who was allowed to visit her father

and who by her gestures expressed her lively gratitude, the youth

could not help owning to his own mind that the captive possessed

a treasure which would fully reward his toil and hazard.

"The Turk quickly perceived the impression that his daughter had made

on the heart of Felix and endeavoured to secure him more entirely

in his interests by the promise of her hand in marriage so soon

as he should be conveyed to a place of safety. Felix was too delicate

to accept this offer, yet he looked forward to the probability

of the event as to the consummation of his happiness.

"During the ensuing days, while the preparations were going forward

for the escape of the merchant, the zeal of Felix was warmed

by several letters that he received from this lovely girl,

who found means to express her thoughts in the language of her lover

by the aid of an old man, a servant of her father who understood French.

She thanked him in the most ardent terms for his intended services

towards her parent, and at the same time she gently deplored her own fate.

"I have copies of these letters, for I found means, during my residence

in the hovel, to procure the implements of writing; and the letters

were often in the hands of Felix or Agatha. Before I depart

I will give them to you; they will prove the truth of my tale;

but at present, as the sun is already far declined,

I shall only have time to repeat the substance of them to you.

"Safie related that her mother was a Christian Arab, seized

and made a slave by the Turks; recommended by her beauty,

she had won the heart of the father of Safie, who married her.

The young girl spoke in high and enthusiastic terms of her mother,

who, born in freedom, spurned the bondage to which she was now reduced.

She instructed her daughter in the tenets of her religion

and taught her to aspire to higher powers of intellect

and an independence of spirit forbidden to the female followers

of Muhammad. This lady died, but her lessons were indelibly impressed

on the mind of Safie, who sickened at the prospect of again returning

to Asia and being immured within the walls of a harem,

allowed only to occupy herself with infantile amusements,

ill-suited to the temper of her soul, now accustomed to grand ideas

and a noble emulation for virtue. The prospect of marrying a Christian

and remaining in a country where women were allowed to take

a rank in society was enchanting to her.

"The day for the execution of the Turk was fixed, but on the night

previous to it he quitted his prison and before morning was distant

many leagues from Paris. Felix had procured passports in the name

of his father, sister, and himself. He had previously communicated

his plan to the former, who aided the deceit by quitting his house,

under the pretence of a journey and concealed himself, with his daughter,

in an obscure part of Paris.

"Felix conducted the fugitives through France to Lyons

and across Mont Cenis to Leghorn, where the merchant had decided

to wait a favourable opportunity of passing into some part

of the Turkish dominions.

"Safie resolved to remain with her father until the moment

of his departure, before which time the Turk renewed his promise

that she should be united to his deliverer; and Felix remained

with them in expectation of that event; and in the meantime

he enjoyed the society of the Arabian, who exhibited towards him

the simplest and tenderest affection. They conversed with one another

through the means of an interpreter, and sometimes with the interpretation

of looks; and Safie sang to him the divine airs of her native country.

"The Turk allowed this intimacy to take place and encouraged the hopes

of the youthful lovers, while in his heart he had formed far other plans.

He loathed the idea that his daughter should be united to a Christian,

but he feared the resentment of Felix if he should appear lukewarm,

for he knew that he was still in the power of his deliverer

if he should choose to betray him to the Italian state

which they inhabited. He revolved a thousand plans by which

he should be enabled to prolong the deceit until

it might be no longer necessary, and secretly to take his daughter

with him when he departed. His plans were facilitated by the news

which arrived from Paris.

"The government of France were greatly enraged at the escape

of their victim and spared no pains to detect and punish his deliverer.

The plot of Felix was quickly discovered, and DeLacey and Agatha

were thrown into prison. The news reached Felix and roused him

from his dream of pleasure. His blind and aged father

and his gentle sister lay in a noisome dungeon while he enjoyed

the free air and the society of her whom he loved.

This idea was torture to him. He quickly arranged with the Turk

that if the latter should find a favourable opportunity for escape

before Felix could return to Italy, Safie should remain as a boarder

at a convent at Leghorn; and then, quitting the lovely Arabian,

he hastened to Paris and delivered himself up to the vengeance of the law,

hoping to free De Lacey and Agatha by this proceeding.

"He did not succeed. They remained confined for five months

before the trial took place, the result of which deprived them

of their fortune and condemned them to a perpetual exile

from their native country.

"They found a miserable asylum in the cottage in Germany,

where I discovered them. Felix soon learned that the treacherous Turk,

for whom he and his family endured such unheard-of oppression,

on discovering that his deliverer was thus reduced to poverty and ruin,

became a traitor to good feeling and honour and had quitted Italy

with his daughter, insultingly sending Felix a pittance of money

to aid him, as he said, in some plan of future maintenance.

"Such were the events that preyed on the heart of Felix

and rendered him, when I first saw him, the most miserable

of his family. He could have endured poverty, and while this distress

had been the meed of his virtue, he gloried in it; but the ingratitude

of the Turk and the loss of his beloved Safie were misfortunes

more bitter and irreparable. The arrival of the Arabian

now infused new life into his soul.

"When the news reached Leghorn that Felix was deprived

of his wealth and rank, the merchant commanded his daughter

to think no more of her lover, but to prepare to return

to her native country. The generous nature of Safie was outraged

by this command; she attempted to expostulate with her father,

but he left her angrily, reiterating his tyrannical mandate.

"A few days after, the Turk entered his daughter's apartment

and told her hastily that he had reason to believe that his residence

at Leghorn had been divulged and that he should speedily be delivered

up to the French government; he had consequently hired a vessel

to convey him to Constantinople, for which city he should sail

in a few hours. He intended to leave his daughter under the care

of a confidential servant, to follow at her leisure with the greater part

of his property, which had not yet arrived at Leghorn.

"When alone, Safie resolved in her own mind the plan of conduct

that it would become her to pursue in this emergency. A residence

in Turkey was abhorrent to her; her religion and her feelings

were alike averse to it. By some papers of her father

which fell into her hands she heard of the exile of her lover

and learnt the name of the spot where he then resided.

She hesitated some time, but at length she formed her determination.

Taking with her some jewels that belonged to her and a sum of money,

she quitted Italy with an attendant, a native of Leghorn,

but who understood the common language of Turkey,

and departed for Germany.

"She arrived in safety at a town about twenty leagues

from the cottage of De Lacey, when her attendant fell dangerously ill.

Safie nursed her with the most devoted affection, but the poor girl died,

and the Arabian was left alone, unacquainted with the language

of the country and utterly ignorant of the customs of the world.

She fell, however, into good hands. The Italian had mentioned

the name of the spot for which they were bound, and after her death

the woman of the house in which they had lived took care that Safie

should arrive in safety at the cottage of her lover."



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