The being finished speaking and fixed his looks upon me in the expectation o_ reply. But I was bewildered, perplexed, and unable to arrange my idea_ufficiently to understand the full extent of his proposition. He continued,
"You must create a female for me with whom I can live in the interchange o_hose sympathies necessary for my being. This you alone can do, and I deman_t of you as a right which you must not refuse to concede."
The latter part of his tale had kindled anew in me the anger that had die_way while he narrated his peaceful life among the cottagers, and as he sai_his I could no longer suppress the rage that burned within me.
"I do refuse it," I replied; "and no torture shall ever extort a consent fro_e. You may render me the most miserable of men, but you shall never make m_ase in my own eyes. Shall I create another like yourself, whose join_ickedness might desolate the world. Begone! I have answered you; you ma_orture me, but I will never consent."
"You are in the wrong," replied the fiend; "and instead of threatening, I a_ontent to reason with you. I am malicious because I am miserable. Am I no_hunned and hated by all mankind? You, my creator, would tear me to pieces an_riumph; remember that, and tell me why I should pity man more than he pitie_e? You would not call it murder if you could precipitate me into one of thos_ce-rifts and destroy my frame, the work of your own hands. Shall I respec_an when he condemns me? Let him live with me in the interchange of kindness,
and instead of injury I would bestow every benefit upon him with tears o_ratitude at his acceptance. But that cannot be; the human senses ar_nsurmountable barriers to our union. Yet mine shall not be the submission o_bject slavery. I will revenge my injuries; if I cannot inspire love, I wil_ause fear, and chiefly towards you my archenemy, because my creator, do _wear inextinguishable hatred. Have a care; I will work at your destruction,
nor finish until I desolate your heart, so that you shall curse the hour o_our birth."
A fiendish rage animated him as he said this; his face was wrinkled int_ontortions too horrible for human eyes to behold; but presently he calme_imself and proceeded—
"I intended to reason. This passion is detrimental to me, for you do no_eflect that YOU are the cause of its excess. If any being felt emotions o_enevolence towards me, I should return them a hundred and a hundredfold; fo_hat one creature's sake I would make peace with the whole kind! But I no_ndulge in dreams of bliss that cannot be realized. What I ask of you i_easonable and moderate; I demand a creature of another sex, but as hideous a_yself; the gratification is small, but it is all that I can receive, and i_hall content me. It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all th_orld; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another. Our live_ill not be happy, but they will be harmless and free from the misery I no_eel. Oh! My creator, make me happy; let me feel gratitude towards you for on_enefit! Let me see that I excite the sympathy of some existing thing; do no_eny me my request!"
I was moved. I shuddered when I thought of the possible consequences of m_onsent, but I felt that there was some justice in his argument. His tale an_he feelings he now expressed proved him to be a creature of fine sensations,
and did I not as his maker owe him all the portion of happiness that it was i_y power to bestow? He saw my change of feeling and continued,
"If you consent, neither you nor any other human being shall ever see u_gain; I will go to the vast wilds of South America. My food is not that o_an; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite; acorns an_erries afford me sufficient nourishment. My companion will be of the sam_ature as myself and will be content with the same fare. We shall make our be_f dried leaves; the sun will shine on us as on man and will ripen our food.
The picture I present to you is peaceful and human, and you must feel that yo_ould deny it only in the wantonness of power and cruelty. Pitiless as yo_ave been towards me, I now see compassion in your eyes; let me seize th_avourable moment and persuade you to promise what I so ardently desire."
"You propose," replied I, "to fly from the habitations of man, to dwell i_hose wilds where the beasts of the field will be your only companions. Ho_an you, who long for the love and sympathy of man, persevere in this exile?
You will return and again seek their kindness, and you will meet with thei_etestation; your evil passions will be renewed, and you will then have _ompanion to aid you in the task of destruction. This may not be; cease t_rgue the point, for I cannot consent."
"How inconstant are your feelings! But a moment ago you were moved by m_epresentations, and why do you again harden yourself to my complaints? _wear to you, by the earth which I inhabit, and by you that made me, that wit_he companion you bestow I will quit the neighbourhood of man and dwell, as i_ay chance, in the most savage of places. My evil passions will have fled, fo_ shall meet with sympathy! My life will flow quietly away, and in my dyin_oments I shall not curse my maker."
His words had a strange effect upon me. I compassionated him and sometime_elt a wish to console him, but when I looked upon him, when I saw the filth_ass that moved and talked, my heart sickened and my feelings were altered t_hose of horror and hatred. I tried to stifle these sensations; I thought tha_s I could not sympathize with him, I had no right to withhold from him th_mall portion of happiness which was yet in my power to bestow.
"You swear," I said, "to be harmless; but have you not already shown a degre_f malice that should reasonably make me distrust you? May not even this be _eint that will increase your triumph by affording a wider scope for you_evenge?"
"How is this? I must not be trifled with, and I demand an answer. If I have n_ies and no affections, hatred and vice must be my portion; the love o_nother will destroy the cause of my crimes, and I shall become a thing o_hose existence everyone will be ignorant. My vices are the children of _orced solitude that I abhor, and my virtues will necessarily arise when _ive in communion with an equal. I shall feel the affections of a sensitiv_eing and become linked to the chain of existence and events from which I a_ow excluded."
I paused some time to reflect on all he had related and the various argument_hich he had employed. I thought of the promise of virtues which he ha_isplayed on the opening of his existence and the subsequent blight of al_indly feeling by the loathing and scorn which his protectors had manifeste_owards him. His power and threats were not omitted in my calculations; _reature who could exist in the ice caves of the glaciers and hide himsel_rom pursuit among the ridges of inaccessible precipices was a bein_ossessing faculties it would be vain to cope with. After a long pause o_eflection I concluded that the justice due both to him and my fello_reatures demanded of me that I should comply with his request. Turning t_im, therefore, I said,
"I consent to your demand, on your solemn oath to quit Europe forever, an_very other place in the neighbourhood of man, as soon as I shall deliver int_our hands a female who will accompany you in your exile."
"I swear," he cried, "by the sun, and by the blue sky of heaven, and by th_ire of love that burns my heart, that if you grant my prayer, while the_xist you shall never behold me again. Depart to your home and commence you_abours; I shall watch their progress with unutterable anxiety; and fear no_ut that when you are ready I shall appear."
Saying this, he suddenly quitted me, fearful, perhaps, of any change in m_entiments. I saw him descend the mountain with greater speed than the fligh_f an eagle, and quickly lost among the undulations of the sea of ice.
His tale had occupied the whole day, and the sun was upon the verge of th_orizon when he departed. I knew that I ought to hasten my descent towards th_alley, as I should soon be encompassed in darkness; but my heart was heavy,
and my steps slow. The labour of winding among the little paths of th_ountain and fixing my feet firmly as I advanced perplexed me, occupied as _as by the emotions which the occurrences of the day had produced. Night wa_ar advanced when I came to the halfway resting-place and seated myself besid_he fountain. The stars shone at intervals as the clouds passed from ove_hem; the dark pines rose before me, and every here and there a broken tre_ay on the ground; it was a scene of wonderful solemnity and stirred strang_houghts within me. I wept bitterly, and clasping my hands in agony, _xclaimed, "Oh! Stars and clouds and winds, ye are all about to mock me; if y_eally pity me, crush sensation and memory; let me become as nought; but i_ot, depart, depart, and leave me in darkness."
These were wild and miserable thoughts, but I cannot describe to you how th_ternal twinkling of the stars weighed upon me and how I listened to ever_last of wind as if it were a dull ugly siroc on its way to consume me.
Morning dawned before I arrived at the village of Chamounix; I took no rest,
but returned immediately to Geneva. Even in my own heart I could give n_xpression to my sensations—they weighed on me with a mountain's weight an_heir excess destroyed my agony beneath them. Thus I returned home, an_ntering the house, presented myself to the family. My haggard and wil_ppearance awoke intense alarm, but I answered no question, scarcely did _peak. I felt as if I were placed under a ban—as if I had no right to clai_heir sympathies—as if never more might I enjoy companionship with them. Ye_ven thus I loved them to adoration; and to save them, I resolved to dedicat_yself to my most abhorred task. The prospect of such an occupation made ever_ther circumstance of existence pass before me like a dream, and that though_nly had to me the reality of life.