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or, the Modern Prometheus
by Mary Shelley

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Chapter 24

My present situation was one in which all voluntary thought

was swallowed up and lost. I was hurried away by fury;

revenge alone endowed me with strength and composure; it moulded

my feelings and allowed me to be calculating and calm at periods

when otherwise delirium or death would have been my portion.

My first resolution was to quit Geneva forever; my country,

which, when I was happy and beloved, was dear to me, now,

in my adversity, became hateful. I provided myself with a sum of money,

together with a few jewels which had belonged to my mother, 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 endured

all the hardships which travellers in deserts and barbarous countries

are wont to meet. How I have lived I hardly know; many times

have I stretched my failing limbs upon the sandy plain

and prayed for death. But revenge kept me alive; I dared not die

and leave my adversary in being.

When I quitted Geneva my first labour was to gain some clue

by which I might trace the steps of my fiendish enemy. But my plan

was unsettled, and I wandered many hours round the confines of the town,

uncertain what path I should pursue. As night approached

I found myself at the entrance of the cemetery 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, which were gently agitated by the wind;

the night was nearly dark, and the scene would have been solemn

and affecting even to an uninterested observer. The spirits

of the departed seemed to flit 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 quickly gave way

to rage and despair. They were dead, and I lived; their murderer also lived,

and to destroy him I must drag out my weary existence. I knelt on the grass

and kissed the earth and with quivering lips exclaimed,

"By the sacred earth on which I kneel, by the shades that wander near me,

by the deep and eternal grief that I feel, I swear; and by thee, O Night,

and the spirits that preside over thee, to pursue the daemon

who caused this misery, until he or I shall perish in mortal conflict.

For this purpose I will preserve my life; to execute this dear revenge

will I again behold the sun and tread the green herbage of earth,

which otherwise should vanish from my eyes forever. And I call on you,

spirits of the dead, and on you, wandering ministers of vengeance,

to aid and conduct me in my work. Let the cursed and hellish monster

drink deep of agony; let him feel the despair that now torments me."

I had begun my adjuration with solemnity and an awe which almost assured me

that the shades of my murdered friends heard and approved my devotion,

but the furies possessed me as I concluded, and rage choked my utterance.

I was answered through the stillness of night by a loud and fiendish laugh.

It rang on my ears long and heavily; the mountains re-echoed it,

and I felt as if all hell surrounded me with mockery and laughter.

Surely in that moment I should have been possessed by frenzy

and have destroyed my miserable existence but that my vow was heard

and that I was reserved for vengeance. The laughter died away,

when a well-known and abhorred voice, apparently close to my ear,

addressed me in an audible whisper, "I am satisfied, miserable wretch!

You have determined to live, and I am satisfied."

I darted towards the spot from which the sound proceeded,

but the devil eluded my grasp. Suddenly the broad disk of the moon

arose and shone full upon his ghastly and distorted shape

as he fled 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 strange chance,

I saw the fiend enter by night and hide himself in a vessel

bound for the Black Sea. I took my passage in the same ship,

but he escaped, I know not how.

Amidst the wilds of Tartary and Russia, although he still evaded me,

I have ever followed in his track. Sometimes the peasants,

scared by this horrid apparition, informed me of his path;

sometimes he himself, who feared that if I lost all trace of 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 huge step on the

white plain. To you first entering on life, to whom care is new

and agony unknown, how can you understand what I have felt and still feel?

Cold, want, and fatigue were the least pains which I was destined to endure;

I was cursed by some devil and carried about with me my eternal hell;

yet still a spirit of good followed and directed my steps

and when I most murmured would suddenly extricate me

from seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Sometimes, when nature,

overcome by hunger, sank under the exhaustion, a repast was prepared for me

in the desert that restored and inspirited me. The fare was, indeed,

coarse, such as the peasants of the country ate, but I will not doubt

that it was set there by the spirits that I had invoked to aid me.

Often, when all was dry, the heavens cloudless, and I was parched by thirst,

a slight cloud would bedim the sky, shed the few drops that revived me,

and vanish.

I followed, when I could, the courses of the rivers; but the daemon

generally avoided these, as it was here that the population of the country

chiefly collected. In other places human beings were seldom seen,

and I generally subsisted on the wild animals that crossed my path.

I had money with me and gained the friendship of the villagers

by distributing it; or I brought with me some food that I had killed,

which, after taking a small part, I always presented to those

who had provided me with fire and utensils for cooking.

My life, as it passed thus, was indeed hateful to me,

and it was during sleep alone that I could taste joy. O blessed sleep!

Often, when most miserable, I sank to repose, and my dreams lulled me

even to rapture. The spirits that guarded me had provided these moments,

or rather hours, of happiness that I might retain strength

to fulfil my pilgrimage. Deprived of this respite, I should have sunk

under my hardships. During the 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 the silver tones of my Elizabeth's voice,

and beheld Clerval enjoying health and youth. Often,

when wearied by a toilsome march, I persuaded myself that I was dreaming

until night should come and that I should then enjoy reality

in the arms of my dearest friends. What agonizing fondness

did I feel for them! How did I cling to their dear forms,

as sometimes they haunted even my waking hours, and persuade myself

that they still lived! At such moments vengeance, that burned within me,

died in my heart, and I pursued my path towards the destruction

of the daemon more as a task enjoined by heaven, as the mechanical 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 the trees or cut in stone

that guided me and instigated my fury. "My reign is not yet over"--

these words were legible in one of these inscriptions--

"you live, and my power is complete. Follow me; I seek the everlasting ices

of the north, where you will 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; we have yet to wrestle for our lives,

but many hard and miserable hours must you endure until that period

shall arrive."

Scoffing devil! Again do I vow vengeance; again do I devote thee,

miserable fiend, to torture and death. Never will I give up my search

until he or I perish; and then with what ecstasy shall I join my Elizabeth

and my departed friends, who even now prepare for me the reward

of my tedious toil and horrible pilgrimage!

As I still pursued my journey to the northward, the snows thickened

and the cold increased in a degree almost too severe to support.

The peasants were shut up in their hovels, and only a few of the most hardy

ventured forth to seize the animals whom starvation had forced

from their hiding-places to seek for prey. The rivers were covered with ice,

and no fish could be procured; and thus I was cut off

from my chief article of maintenance.

The triumph of my enemy increased with the difficulty of my labours.

One inscription that he left was in these words: "Prepare!

Your toils only begin; wrap yourself in furs and provide food,

for we shall soon enter upon a journey where your sufferings

will satisfy my everlasting hatred."

My courage and perseverance were invigorated by these scoffing words;

I resolved not to fail in my purpose, and calling on heaven to support me,

I continued with unabated fervour to traverse immense deserts,

until the ocean appeared at a distance and formed the utmost boundary

of the horizon. Oh! How unlike it was to the blue seasons of the south!

Covered with ice, it was only to be distinguished from land

by its superior wildness and ruggedness. The Greeks wept for joy

when they beheld the Mediterranean from the hills of Asia,

and hailed with rapture the boundary of their toils. I did not weep,

but I knelt down and with a full heart thanked my guiding spirit

for conducting 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 know not

whether the fiend possessed the same advantages, but I found that,

as before I had daily lost ground in the pursuit, I now gained on him,

so much so that when I first saw the ocean he was but one day's journey

in advance, and I hoped to intercept him before he should reach the beach.

With new courage, therefore, I pressed on, and in two days

arrived at a wretched hamlet on the seashore. I inquired of the inhabitants

concerning the fiend and gained accurate information. A gigantic monster,

they said, had arrived the night before, armed with a gun and many pistols,

putting to flight the inhabitants of a solitary cottage through fear

of his terrific appearance. He had carried off their store of winter food,

and placing it in a sledge, to draw which he had seized

on a numerous drove of trained dogs, he had harnessed them,

and the same night, to the joy of the horror-struck villagers,

had pursued his journey across the sea in a direction that led to no land;

and they conjectured that he must speedily be destroyed

by the breaking of the ice or frozen by the eternal frosts.

On hearing this information I suffered a temporary access of despair.

He had escaped me, and I must commence a destructive

and almost endless journey across the mountainous ices of the ocean,

amidst cold that few of the inhabitants could long endure and which I,

the native of a genial and sunny climate, could not hope to survive.

Yet at the idea that the fiend should 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 dead hovered round and instigated me

to toil and revenge, I prepared for my journey.

I exchanged my land-sledge for one fashioned for the inequalities

of the frozen ocean, and purchasing a plentiful stock of provisions,

I departed from land.

I cannot guess how many days have passed since then,

but I have endured misery which nothing but the eternal sentiment

of a just retribution burning within my heart could have enabled me

to support. Immense and rugged mountains of ice often

barred up my passage, and I often heard the thunder of the ground sea,

which threatened my destruction. But again the frost came

and made the paths of the sea secure.

By the quantity of provision which I had consumed, I should guess

that I had passed three weeks in this journey; and the continual

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 soon have sunk beneath this misery.

Once, after the poor animals that conveyed me had with incredible toil

gained the summit of a sloping ice mountain, and one,

sinking under his fatigue, died, I viewed the expanse before me with anguish,

when suddenly my eye caught a dark speck upon the dusky plain.

I strained my sight to discover what it could be and uttered a wild cry

of ecstasy when I distinguished a sledge and the distorted proportions

of a well-known form within. Oh! With what a burning gush did hope

revisit my heart! Warm tears filled my eyes, which I hastily wiped away,

that they might not intercept the view I had of the daemon;

but still my sight was dimmed by the burning drops, until,

giving way to the emotions that oppressed me, I wept aloud.

But this was not the time for delay; I disencumbered the dogs

of their dead companion, gave them a plentiful portion of food,

and after an hour's rest, which was absolutely necessary,

and yet which was bitterly irksome to me, I continued my route.

The sledge was still visible, nor did I again lose sight of it

except at the moments when for a short time some ice-rock concealed it

with its intervening crags. I indeed perceptibly gained on it,

and when, after nearly two days' journey, I beheld my enemy at no

more than a mile distant, my heart bounded within me.

But now, when I appeared almost within grasp of my foe,

my hopes were suddenly extinguished, and I lost all trace of him

more utterly than I had ever done before. A ground sea was heard;

the thunder of its progress, as the waters rolled and swelled

beneath me, became every moment more ominous and terrific.

I pressed on, but in vain. The wind arose; the sea roared; and,

as with the mighty shock of an earthquake, it split and cracked

with a tremendous and overwhelming sound. The work was soon finished;

in a few minutes a tumultuous sea rolled between me and my enemy,

and I was left drifting on a scattered piece of ice

that was continually lessening and thus preparing for me a hideous death.

In this manner many appalling hours passed; several of my dogs died,

and I myself was about to sink under the accumulation of distress

when I saw your vessel riding at anchor and holding forth to me

hopes of succour and life. I had no conception that vessels

ever came so far north and was astounded at the sight.

I quickly destroyed part of my sledge to construct oars,

and by these means was enabled, with infinite fatigue,

to move my ice raft in the direction of your ship. I had determined,

if you were going southwards, still to trust myself to the mercy

of the seas rather than abandon my purpose. I hoped to induce you

to grant me a boat with which I could pursue my enemy.

But your direction was northwards. You took me on board

when my vigour was exhausted, and I should soon have sunk

under my multiplied hardships into a death which I still dread,

for my task is unfulfilled.

Oh! When will my guiding spirit, in conducting me to the daemon,

allow me the rest I so much desire; or must I die, and he yet live?

If I do, swear to me, Walton, that he shall not escape,

that you will seek him and satisfy my vengeance in his death.

And do I dare to ask of you to undertake my pilgrimage,

to endure the hardships that I have undergone? No; I am not so selfish.

Yet, when I am dead, if he should appear, if the ministers of vengeance

should conduct him to you, swear that he shall not live--

swear that he shall not triumph over my accumulated woes and survive

to add to the list of his dark crimes. He is eloquent and persuasive,

and once his words had even power over my heart; but trust him not.

His soul is as hellish 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 thrust your sword into his heart.

I will hover near and direct the steel aright.

Walton, in continuation.

August 26th, 17--

You have read this strange and terrific story, Margaret;

and do you not feel your blood congeal with horror, like that

which even now curdles mine? Sometimes, seized with sudden agony,

he could not continue his tale; at others, his voice broken,

yet piercing, uttered with difficulty the words so replete with anguish.

His fine and lovely eyes were now lighted up with indignation,

now subdued to downcast sorrow and quenched in infinite wretchedness.

Sometimes he commanded his countenance and tones and related

the most horrible incidents with a tranquil voice, suppressing every mark

of agitation; then, like a volcano bursting forth,

his face would suddenly change to an expression of the wildest rage

as he shrieked out imprecations on his persecutor.

His tale is connected and told with an appearance of the simplest truth,

yet I own to you that the letters of Felix and Safie, which he showed me,

and the apparition of the monster seen from our ship,

brought to me a greater conviction of the truth of his narrative

than his asseverations, however earnest and connected.

Such a monster has, then, really existence! I cannot doubt it,

yet I am lost in surprise and admiration. Sometimes I endeavoured

to gain from Frankenstein the particulars of his creature's formation,

but on this point he was impenetrable.

"Are you mad, my friend?" said he. "Or whither

does your senseless curiosity lead you? Would you also create for yourself

and the world a demoniacal enemy? Peace, peace! Learn my miseries

and do not seek to increase your own."

Frankenstein discovered that I made notes concerning his history;

he asked to see them and then himself corrected and augmented them

in many places, but principally in giving the life and spirit

to the conversations he held with his enemy. "Since you have preserved

my narration," said he, "I would not that a mutilated one

should go down to posterity."

Thus has a week passed away, while I have listened to the strangest tale

that ever imagination formed. My thoughts and every feeling of my soul

have been drunk up by the interest for my guest which this tale

and his own elevated and gentle manners have created.

I wish to soothe him, yet can I counsel one so infinitely miserable,

so destitute of every hope of consolation, to live? Oh, no!

The only joy that he can now know will be when he composes

his shattered spirit to peace and death. Yet he enjoys one comfort,

the offspring of solitude and delirium; he believes that when in dreams

he holds converse with his friends and derives from that communion

consolation for his miseries or excitements to his vengeance,

that they are not the creations of his fancy, but the beings themselves

who visit him from the regions of a remote world. This faith

gives a solemnity to his reveries that render them to me

almost as imposing and interesting as truth.

Our conversations are not always confined to his own history and misfortunes.

On every point of general literature he displays unbounded knowledge

and a quick and piercing apprehension. His eloquence is forcible

and touching; nor can I hear him, when he relates a pathetic incident

or endeavours to move the passions of pity or love, without tears.

What a glorious creature must he have been in the days of his prosperity,

when he is thus noble and godlike in ruin! He seems to feel his own worth

and the greatness of his fall.

"When younger," said he, "I believed myself destined

for some great enterprise. My feelings are profound, but I possessed

a coolness of judgment that fitted me for illustrious achievements.

This sentiment of the worth of my nature supported me when others

would have been oppressed, for I deemed it criminal to throw away

in useless grief those talents that might be useful to my fellow creatures.

When I reflected on the work I had completed, no less a one

than the creation of a sensitive and rational animal, I could not rank myself

with the herd of common projectors. But this thought, which supported me

in the commencement of my career, now serves only to plunge me lower

in the dust. All my speculations and hopes are as nothing,

and like the archangel who aspired to omnipotence, I am chained

in an eternal hell. My imagination was vivid, yet my powers of analysis

and application were intense; by the union of these qualities

I conceived the idea and executed the creation of a man. Even now

I cannot recollect without passion my reveries while the work was incomplete.

I trod heaven in my thoughts, now exulting in my powers,

now burning with the idea of their effects. From my infancy

I was imbued with high hopes and a lofty ambition; but how am I sunk!

Oh! My friend, if you had known me as I once was, you would not recognize me

in this state of degradation. Despondency rarely visited my heart;

a high destiny seemed to bear me on, until I fell, never,

never again to rise."

Must I then lose this admirable being? I have longed for a friend;

I have sought one who would sympathize with and love me. Behold,

on these desert seas I have found such a one, but I 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 intentions

towards so miserable a wretch; but when you speak of new ties

and fresh affections, think you that any can replace those who are gone?

Can any man be to me as Clerval was, or any woman another Elizabeth?

Even where the affections are not strongly moved by any superior excellence,

the companions of our childhood always possess a certain power

over our minds which hardly any later friend can obtain.

They know our infantine dispositions, which, however they may be

afterwards modified, are never eradicated; and they can judge of our actions

with more certain conclusions as to the integrity of our motives.

A sister or a brother can never, unless indeed such symptoms

have been shown early, suspect the other of fraud or false dealing,

when another friend, however strongly he may be attached, may,

in spite of himself, be contemplated with suspicion. But I enjoyed friends,

dear not only through habit and association, but from their own merits;

and wherever I am, the soothing voice of my Elizabeth and the conversation

of Clerval will be ever whispered in my ear. They are dead,

and but one feeling in such a solitude can persuade me to preserve my life.

If I were engaged in any high undertaking or design, fraught

with extensive utility to my fellow creatures, then could I live

to fulfil it. But such is not my destiny; I must 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, September 2nd

I write to you, encompassed by peril and ignorant whether I am

ever doomed to see again dear England and the dearer friends that

inhabit it. I am surrounded by mountains of ice which admit of

no escape and threaten every moment to crush my vessel. The brave fellows

whom I have persuaded to be my companions look towards me for aid,

but I have none to bestow. There is something terribly appalling

in our situation, yet my courage and hopes do not desert me.

Yet it is terrible to reflect that the lives of all these men

are endangered through me. If we are lost, my mad schemes are the cause.

And what, Margaret, will be the state of your mind? You will not hear

of my destruction, and you will anxiously await my return. Years will pass,

and you will have visitings of despair and yet be tortured by hope.

Oh! My beloved sister, the sickening failing of your heart-felt expectations

is, in prospect, more terrible to me than my own death. But you

have a husband and lovely children; you may be happy. Heaven bless you

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 were a possession

which he valued. He reminds me how often the same accidents

have happened to other navigators who have attempted this sea,

and in spite of myself, he fills me with cheerful auguries.

Even the sailors feel the power of his eloquence; when he speaks,

they no longer despair; he rouses their energies,

and while they hear his voice they believe these vast mountains of ice

are mole-hills which will vanish before the resolutions of man.

These feelings are transitory; each day of expectation delayed

fills them with fear, and I almost dread a mutiny caused by this despair.

September 5th

A scene has just passed of such uncommon interest that,

although it 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 imminent danger

of being crushed in their conflict. The cold is excessive,

and many of my unfortunate comrades have already found a grave

amidst this scene of desolation. Frankenstein has daily declined in health;

a feverish fire still glimmers in his eyes, but he is exhausted,

and when suddenly roused to any exertion, he speedily sinks again

into apparent lifelessness.

I mentioned in my last letter the fears I entertained of a mutiny.

This morning, as I sat watching the wan countenance of my friend--

his eyes half closed and his limbs hanging listlessly--

I was roused by half a dozen of the sailors, who demanded admission

into the cabin. They entered, and their leader addressed me.

He told me that he and his companions had been 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,

but they feared that if, as was possible, the ice should dissipate

and a free passage be opened, I should be rash enough to continue my voyage

and lead them into fresh dangers, after they might happily

have surmounted this. They insisted, therefore, that I should engage

with a solemn promise that if the vessel should be freed

I would instantly direct my course southwards.

This speech troubled me. I had not despaired, nor had I yet conceived

the idea of returning if set free. Yet could I, in justice,

or even in possibility, refuse this demand? I hesitated before I answered,

when Frankenstein, who had at first been silent, and indeed

appeared hardly to have force enough to attend, now roused himself;

his eyes sparkled, and his cheeks flushed with momentary vigour.

Turning towards the men, he said, "What do you mean? What do you demand

of your captain? Are you, then, so easily turned from your design?

Did you not call 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 every new incident

your fortitude was to be called forth and your courage exhibited,

because danger and death surrounded it, and these you were to brave

and overcome. For this was it a glorious, for this was it an honourable

undertaking. You were hereafter to be hailed as the benefactors

of your species, your names adored as belonging to brave men

who encountered death for honour and the benefit of mankind.

And now, behold, with the first imagination of danger, or, if you will,

the first mighty and terrific trial of your courage, you shrink away

and are content to be handed down as men who had not strength enough

to endure cold and peril; and so, poor souls, they were chilly

and returned to their warm firesides. Why, that requires

not this preparation; ye need not have come thus far

and dragged your captain to the shame of a defeat merely

to prove yourselves cowards. Oh! Be men, or be more than men.

Be steady to your purposes and firm as a rock. This ice is not made

of such stuff as your hearts may be; it is mutable and cannot withstand you

if you say that it shall not. Do not return to your families

with the stigma of disgrace marked on your brows. Return as heroes

who have fought and conquered and who know not what it is

to turn their backs on the foe."

He spoke this with a voice so modulated to the different feelings

expressed in his speech, with an eye so full of lofty design

and heroism, that can you wonder that these men were moved?

They looked at one another and were unable to reply. I spoke;

I told them to retire and consider of what had been said,

that I would not lead them farther north if they strenuously desired

the contrary, but that I hoped that, with reflection,

their courage would return.

They retired and I turned towards my friend, but he was sunk in languor

and almost deprived of life.

How all this will terminate, I know not, but I had rather die

than return shamefully, my purpose unfulfilled. Yet I fear

such will be my fate; the men, unsupported by ideas of glory and honour,

can never willingly continue to endure their present hardships.

September 7th

The die is cast; I have consented to return if we are not destroyed.

Thus are my hopes blasted by cowardice and indecision;

I come back ignorant and disappointed. It requires more philosophy

than I possess to bear this injustice with patience.

September 12th

It is past; I am returning to England. I have lost my hopes

of utility and glory; I have lost my friend. But I will endeavour

to detail these bitter circumstances to you, my dear sister;

and while I am wafted towards England and towards you,

I will not despond.

September 9th, the ice began to move, and roarings like thunder

were heard at a distance as the islands split and cracked

in every direction. We were in the most imminent peril,

but as we could only remain passive, my chief attention was occupied

by my unfortunate guest whose illness increased in such a degree

that he was entirely confined to his bed. The ice cracked behind us

and was driven with force towards the north; a breeze sprang

from the west, and on the 11th the passage towards the south

became perfectly free. When the sailors saw this and that their return

to their native country was apparently assured, a shout of tumultuous joy

broke from them, loud and long-continued. Frankenstein, who was dozing,

awoke and 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 lead them

unwillingly to danger, and I must return."

"Do so, if you will; but I will not. You may give up your purpose,

but mine is assigned to me by heaven, and I dare not. I am weak,

but surely the spirits who assist my vengeance will endow me

with sufficient strength." Saying this, he endeavoured

to 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

that life was entirely extinct. At length he opened his eyes;

he breathed with difficulty and was unable to speak. The surgeon gave him

a composing draught and ordered us to leave him undisturbed.

In the meantime he told me that my friend had certainly

not many hours to live.

His sentence was pronounced, and I could only grieve and be patient.

I sat by his bed, watching him; his eyes were closed,

and I thought he slept; but presently he called to me in a feeble voice,

and bidding me come near, said, "Alas! The strength I relied on is gone;

I feel that I shall soon die, and he, my enemy and persecutor,

may still be in being. Think not, Walton, that in the last moments

of my existence I feel that burning hatred and ardent desire of revenge

I once expressed; but I feel myself justified in desiring the death

of my adversary. During these last days I have been occupied

in examining my past conduct; nor do I find it blamable.

In a fit of enthusiastic madness I created a rational creature

and was bound towards him to assure, as far as was in my power,

his happiness and well-being. This was my duty, but there was another

still paramount to that. My duties towards the beings of my own species

had greater claims to my attention because they included a greater proportion

of happiness or misery. Urged by this view, I refused, and I did right

in refusing, to create a companion for the first creature.

He showed unparalleled malignity and selfishness in evil;

he destroyed my friends; he devoted to destruction beings

who possessed exquisite sensations, happiness, and wisdom; nor do I know

where this thirst for vengeance may end. Miserable himself that

he may render no other wretched, he ought to die.

The task of his destruction was mine, but I have failed.

When actuated by selfish and vicious motives, I asked you

to undertake my unfinished work, and I renew this request now,

when I am only induced by reason and virtue.

"Yet I cannot ask you to renounce your country and friends

to fulfil this task; and now that you are returning to England,

you will have little chance of meeting with him. But the consideration

of these points, and the well balancing of what you may esteem your duties,

I leave to you; my judgment and ideas are already disturbed

by the near approach of death. I dare not ask you to do what I think right,

for I may still be misled by passion.

"That he should live to be an instrument of mischief disturbs me;

in other respects, this hour, when I momentarily expect my release,

is the only happy one which I have enjoyed for several years.

The forms of the beloved dead flit before me, and I hasten to their arms.

Farewell, Walton! Seek happiness in tranquillity and avoid ambition,

even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself

in science and discoveries. Yet why do I say this? I have myself

been blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed."

His voice became fainter as he spoke, and at length, exhausted by his effort,

he sank into silence. About half an hour afterwards he attempted again

to speak but was unable; he pressed my hand feebly, and his eyes

closed forever, while the irradiation of a gentle smile passed away

from his lips.

Margaret, what comment can I make on the untimely extinction

of this glorious spirit? What can I say that will enable you

to understand the depth of my sorrow? All that I should express

would be inadequate and feeble. My tears flow; my mind

is overshadowed by a cloud of disappointment. But I journey

towards England, and I may there find consolation.

I am interrupted. What do these sounds portend? It is midnight;

the breeze blows fairly, and the watch on deck scarcely stir.

Again there is a sound as of a human voice, but hoarser; it comes

from the cabin where the remains of Frankenstein still lie.

I must arise and examine. Good night, my sister.

Great God! what a scene has just taken place! I am yet dizzy

with the remembrance of it. I hardly know whether I shall have the power

to detail it; yet the tale which I have recorded would be incomplete

without this final and wonderful catastrophe.

I entered the cabin where lay the remains of my ill-fated

and admirable friend. Over him hung a form which I cannot find words

to describe--gigantic in stature, yet uncouth and distorted

in its proportions. As he hung over the coffin, his face

was concealed by long locks of ragged hair; but one vast hand

was extended, in colour and apparent texture like that of a mummy.

When he heard the sound of my approach, he ceased to utter

exclamations of grief and horror and sprung towards the window.

Never did I behold a vision so horrible as his face, of such

loathsome yet appalling hideousness. I shut my eyes involuntarily

and endeavoured to recollect what were my duties with regard

to this destroyer. I called on him to stay.

He paused, looking on me with wonder, and again turning towards

the lifeless form of his creator, he seemed to forget my presence,

and every feature and gesture seemed instigated by the wildest rage

of some uncontrollable passion.

"That is also my victim!" he exclaimed. "In his murder my crimes

are consummated; the miserable series of my being is wound to its close!

Oh, Frankenstein! Generous and self-devoted being! What does it avail

that I now ask thee to pardon me? I, who irretrievably destroyed thee

by destroying all thou lovedst. Alas! He is cold, he cannot answer me."

His voice seemed suffocated, and my first impulses, which had suggested

to me the duty of obeying the dying request of my friend

in destroying his enemy, were now suspended by a mixture

of curiosity and compassion. I approached this tremendous 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 of the tempest

of his passion. "Your repentance," I said, "is now superfluous.

If you had listened to the voice of conscience and heeded

the stings of remorse before you had urged your diabolical

vengeance to this extremity, Frankenstein would yet have lived."

"And do you dream?" said the daemon. "Do you think that I was then dead

to agony and remorse? He," he continued, pointing to the corpse,

"he suffered not in the consummation of the deed. Oh!

Not the ten-thousandth portion of the anguish that was mine

during the lingering detail of its execution. A frightful selfishness

hurried me on, while my heart was poisoned with remorse.

Think you that the groans of Clerval were music to my ears?

My heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy,

and when wrenched by misery to vice and hatred, it did not endure

the violence of the change without torture such as you cannot even imagine.

"After the murder of Clerval I returned to Switzerland,

heart-broken and overcome. I pitied Frankenstein; my pity

amounted to horror; I abhorred myself. But when I discovered that he,

the author at once of my existence and of its unspeakable torments,

dared to hope for happiness, that while he accumulated wretchedness

and despair upon me he sought his own enjoyment in feelings and passions

from the indulgence of which I was forever barred, then impotent envy

and bitter indignation filled me with an insatiable thirst for vengeance.

I recollected my threat and resolved that it should be accomplished.

I knew that I was preparing for myself a deadly torture,

but I was the slave, not the master, of an impulse which I detested

yet could not disobey. Yet when she died! Nay, then I was not miserable.

I had cast off all feeling, subdued all anguish, to riot in the excess

of my despair. Evil thenceforth became my good. Urged thus far,

I had no choice but to adapt my nature to an element

which I had willingly chosen. The completion of my demoniacal design

became an insatiable passion. And now it is ended; there is my last victim!"

I was at first touched by the expressions of his misery;

yet, when I called to mind what Frankenstein had said of his powers

of eloquence and persuasion, and when I again cast my eyes

on the lifeless form of my friend, indignation was rekindled within me.

"Wretch!" I said. "It is well that you come here to whine

over the desolation that you have made. You throw a torch

into a pile of buildings, and when they are consumed,

you sit 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 victim

of your malignity is withdrawn from your power."

"Oh, it is not thus--not thus," interrupted the being.

"Yet such must be the impression conveyed to you by what appears

to be the purport of my actions. Yet I seek not a fellow feeling

in my misery. No sympathy may I ever find. When I first sought it,

it was the love of virtue, the feelings of happiness and affection

with which my whole being overflowed, that I wished to be participated.

But now that virtue has become to me a shadow, and that happiness

and affection are turned into bitter and loathing despair,

in what should I seek for sympathy? I am content to suffer alone

while my sufferings shall endure; when I die, I am well satisfied

that abhorrence and opprobrium should load my memory. Once my fancy

was soothed with dreams of virtue, of fame, and of enjoyment.

Once I falsely hoped to meet with beings who, pardoning my outward form,

would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of unfolding.

I was nourished with high thoughts of honour and devotion.

But now crime has degraded me beneath the meanest animal.

No guilt, no mischief, no malignity, no misery, can be found

comparable to mine. When I run over the frightful catalogue

of my sins, I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts

were once filled with sublime and transcendent 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 associates in his desolation; I am alone.

"You, who call Frankenstein your friend, seem to have a knowledge

of my crimes and his misfortunes. But in the detail which he gave you

of them he could not sum up the hours and months of misery

which I endured wasting in impotent passions. For while

I destroyed his hopes, I did not satisfy my own desires.

They were forever ardent and craving; still I desired love

and fellowship, and I was still spurned. Was there no injustice

in this? Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all humankind

sinned against me? Why do you not hate Felix, who drove his friend

from his door with contumely? Why do you not execrate the rustic

who sought to destroy the saviour of his child? Nay, these are virtuous

and immaculate beings! I, the miserable and the abandoned,

am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on.

Even now my blood boils at the recollection of this injustice.

"But it is true that I am a wretch. I have murdered the lovely

and the helpless; I have strangled the innocent as they slept

and grasped to death his throat who never injured me

or any other living thing. I have devoted my creator, the select specimen

of all that is worthy of love and admiration among men, to misery;

I have pursued him even to that irremediable ruin. There he lies,

white and cold in death. You hate me, but your abhorrence

cannot equal that with which I regard myself. I look on the hands

which executed the deed; I think on the heart in which the imagination

of it was conceived and long for the moment when these hands

will meet my eyes, when that 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 death

is needed to consummate the series of my being and accomplish

that which must be done, but it requires my own. Do not think

that I shall be slow to perform this sacrifice. I shall quit your vessel

on the ice raft which brought me thither and shall seek

the most northern extremity of the globe; I shall collect my funeral pile

and consume to ashes this miserable frame, that its remains

may afford no light to any curious and unhallowed wretch

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 is dead

who called me into being; and when I shall be no more, the very remembrance

of us both will speedily vanish. I shall no longer see the sun or stars

or feel the winds play on my cheeks. Light, feeling, and sense

will pass away; and in this condition must I find my happiness.

Some years ago, when the images which this world affords

first opened upon me, when I felt the cheering warmth of summer

and heard the rustling of the leaves and the warbling of the birds,

and these were all to me, I should have wept to die;

now it is my only consolation. Polluted by crimes and torn

by the bitterest remorse, where can I find rest but in death?

"Farewell! I leave you, and in you the last of humankind

whom these eyes will ever behold. Farewell, Frankenstein!

If thou wert yet alive and yet cherished a desire of revenge against me,

it would be better satiated in my life than in my destruction.

But it was not so; thou didst seek my extinction, that I might not cause

greater wretchedness; and if yet, in some mode unknown to me,

thou hadst not ceased to think and feel, thou wouldst not desire

against me a vengeance greater than that which I feel.

Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior to thine,

for the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in my wounds

until death shall close them forever.

"But soon," he cried with sad and solemn enthusiasm, "I shall die,

and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries

will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly

and exult in the agony of the torturing flames. The light

of that conflagration will fade away; my ashes will be swept into the sea

by the winds. My spirit will sleep in peace, or if it thinks,

it will not surely think thus. Farewell."

He sprang from the cabin window as he said this, upon the ice raft

which lay close to the vessel. He was soon borne away by the waves

and lost in darkness and distance.



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