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Chapter 19

  • London was our present point of rest; we determined to remain several month_n this wonderful and celebrated city. Clerval desired the intercourse of th_en of genius and talent who flourished at this time, but this was with me _econdary object; I was principally occupied with the means of obtaining th_nformation necessary for the completion of my promise and quickly availe_yself of the letters of introduction that I had brought with me, addressed t_he most distinguished natural philosophers.
  • If this journey had taken place during my days of study and happiness, i_ould have afforded me inexpressible pleasure. But a blight had come over m_xistence, and I only visited these people for the sake of the informatio_hey might give me on the subject in which my interest was so terribl_rofound. Company was irksome to me; when alone, I could fill my mind with th_ights of heaven and earth; the voice of Henry soothed me, and I could thu_heat myself into a transitory peace. But busy, uninteresting, joyous face_rought back despair to my heart. I saw an insurmountable barrier place_etween me and my fellow men; this barrier was sealed with the blood o_illiam and Justine, and to reflect on the events connected with those name_illed my soul with anguish.
  • But in Clerval I saw the image of my former self; he was inquisitive an_nxious to gain experience and instruction. The difference of manners which h_bserved was to him an inexhaustible source of instruction and amusement. H_as also pursuing an object he had long had in view. His design was to visi_ndia, in the belief that he had in his knowledge of its various languages,
  • and in the views he had taken of its society, the means of materiall_ssisting the progress of European colonization and trade. In Britain onl_ould he further the execution of his plan. He was forever busy, and the onl_heck to his enjoyments was my sorrowful and dejected mind. I tried to concea_his as much as possible, that I might not debar him from the pleasure_atural to one who was entering on a new scene of life, undisturbed by an_are or bitter recollection. I often refused to accompany him, allegin_nother engagement, that I might remain alone. I now also began to collect th_aterials necessary for my new creation, and this was to me like the tortur_f single drops of water continually falling on the head. Every thought tha_as devoted to it was an extreme anguish, and every word that I spoke i_llusion to it caused my lips to quiver, and my heart to palpitate.
  • After passing some months in London, we received a letter from a person i_cotland who had formerly been our visitor at Geneva. He mentioned th_eauties of his native country and asked us if those were not sufficien_llurements to induce us to prolong our journey as far north as Perth, wher_e resided. Clerval eagerly desired to accept this invitation, and I, althoug_ abhorred society, wished to view again mountains and streams and all th_ondrous works with which Nature adorns her chosen dwelling-places. We ha_rrived in England at the beginning of October, and it was now February. W_ccordingly determined to commence our journey towards the north at th_xpiration of another month. In this expedition we did not intend to follo_he great road to Edinburgh, but to visit Windsor, Oxford, Matlock, and th_umberland lakes, resolving to arrive at the completion of this tour about th_nd of July. I packed up my chemical instruments and the materials I ha_ollected, resolving to finish my labours in some obscure nook in the norther_ighlands of Scotland.
  • We quitted London on the 27th of March and remained a few days at Windsor,
  • rambling in its beautiful forest. This was a new scene to us mountaineers; th_ajestic oaks, the quantity of game, and the herds of stately deer were al_ovelties to us.
  • From thence we proceeded to Oxford. As we entered this city our minds wer_illed with the remembrance of the events that had been transacted there mor_han a century and a half before. It was here that Charles I had collected hi_orces. This city had remained faithful to him, after the whole nation ha_orsaken his cause to join the standard of Parliament and liberty. The memor_f that unfortunate king and his companions, the amiable Falkland, th_nsolent Goring, his queen, and son, gave a peculiar interest to every part o_he city which they might be supposed to have inhabited. The spirit of elde_ays found a dwelling here, and we delighted to trace its footsteps. If thes_eelings had not found an imaginary gratification, the appearance of the cit_ad yet in itself sufficient beauty to obtain our admiration. The colleges ar_ncient and picturesque; the streets are almost magnificent; and the lovel_sis, which flows beside it through meadows of exquisite verdure, is sprea_orth into a placid expanse of waters, which reflects its majestic assemblag_f towers, and spires, and domes, embosomed among aged trees.
  • I enjoyed this scene, and yet my enjoyment was embittered both by the memor_f the past and the anticipation of the future. I was formed for peacefu_appiness. During my youthful days discontent never visited my mind, and if _as ever overcome by ennui, the sight of what is beautiful in nature or th_tudy of what is excellent and sublime in the productions of man could alway_nterest my heart and communicate elasticity to my spirits. But I am a blaste_ree; the bolt has entered my soul; and I felt then that I should survive t_xhibit what I shall soon cease to be—a miserable spectacle of wrecke_umanity, pitiable to others and intolerable to myself.
  • We passed a considerable period at Oxford, rambling among its environs an_ndeavouring to identify every spot which might relate to the most animatin_poch of English history. Our little voyages of discovery were often prolonge_y the successive objects that presented themselves. We visited the tomb o_he illustrious Hampden and the field on which that patriot fell. For a momen_y soul was elevated from its debasing and miserable fears to contemplate th_ivine ideas of liberty and self sacrifice of which these sights were th_onuments and the remembrancers. For an instant I dared to shake off my chain_nd look around me with a free and lofty spirit, but the iron had eaten int_y flesh, and I sank again, trembling and hopeless, into my miserable self.
  • We left Oxford with regret and proceeded to Matlock, which was our next plac_f rest. The country in the neighbourhood of this village resembled, to _reater degree, the scenery of Switzerland; but everything is on a lowe_cale, and the green hills want the crown of distant white Alps which alway_ttend on the piny mountains of my native country. We visited the wondrou_ave and the little cabinets of natural history, where the curiosities ar_isposed in the same manner as in the collections at Servox and Chamounix. Th_atter name made me tremble when pronounced by Henry, and I hastened to qui_atlock, with which that terrible scene was thus associated.
  • From Derby, still journeying northwards, we passed two months in Cumberlan_nd Westmorland. I could now almost fancy myself among the Swiss mountains.
  • The little patches of snow which yet lingered on the northern sides of th_ountains, the lakes, and the dashing of the rocky streams were all familia_nd dear sights to me. Here also we made some acquaintances, who almos_ontrived to cheat me into happiness. The delight of Clerval wa_roportionably greater than mine; his mind expanded in the company of men o_alent, and he found in his own nature greater capacities and resources tha_e could have imagined himself to have possessed while he associated with hi_nferiors. "I could pass my life here," said he to me; "and among thes_ountains I should scarcely regret Switzerland and the Rhine."
  • But he found that a traveller's life is one that includes much pain amidst it_njoyments. His feelings are forever on the stretch; and when he begins t_ink into repose, he finds himself obliged to quit that on which he rests i_leasure for something new, which again engages his attention, and which als_e forsakes for other novelties.
  • We had scarcely visited the various lakes of Cumberland and Westmorland an_onceived an affection for some of the inhabitants when the period of ou_ppointment with our Scotch friend approached, and we left them to travel on.
  • For my own part I was not sorry. I had now neglected my promise for some time,
  • and I feared the effects of the daemon's disappointment. He might remain i_witzerland and wreak his vengeance on my relatives. This idea pursued me an_ormented me at every moment from which I might otherwise have snatched repos_nd peace. I waited for my letters with feverish impatience; if they wer_elayed I was miserable and overcome by a thousand fears; and when the_rrived and I saw the superscription of Elizabeth or my father, I hardly dare_o read and ascertain my fate. Sometimes I thought that the fiend followed m_nd might expedite my remissness by murdering my companion. When thes_houghts possessed me, I would not quit Henry for a moment, but followed hi_s his shadow, to protect him from the fancied rage of his destroyer. I fel_s if I had committed some great crime, the consciousness of which haunted me.
  • I was guiltless, but I had indeed drawn down a horrible curse upon my head, a_ortal as that of crime.
  • I visited Edinburgh with languid eyes and mind; and yet that city might hav_nterested the most unfortunate being. Clerval did not like it so well a_xford, for the antiquity of the latter city was more pleasing to him. But th_eauty and regularity of the new town of Edinburgh, its romantic castle an_ts environs, the most delightful in the world, Arthur's Seat, St. Bernard'_ell, and the Pentland Hills compensated him for the change and filled hi_ith cheerfulness and admiration. But I was impatient to arrive at th_ermination of my journey.
  • We left Edinburgh in a week, passing through Coupar, St. Andrew's, and alon_he banks of the Tay, to Perth, where our friend expected us. But I was in n_ood to laugh and talk with strangers or enter into their feelings or plan_ith the good humour expected from a guest; and accordingly I told Clerva_hat I wished to make the tour of Scotland alone. "Do you," said I, "enjo_ourself, and let this be our rendezvous. I may be absent a month or two; bu_o not interfere with my motions, I entreat you; leave me to peace an_olitude for a short time; and when I return, I hope it will be with a lighte_eart, more congenial to your own temper."
  • Henry wished to dissuade me, but seeing me bent on this plan, ceased t_emonstrate. He entreated me to write often. "I had rather be with you," h_aid, "in your solitary rambles, than with these Scotch people, whom I do no_now; hasten, then, my dear friend, to return, that I may again feel mysel_omewhat at home, which I cannot do in your absence."
  • Having parted from my friend, I determined to visit some remote spot o_cotland and finish my work in solitude. I did not doubt but that the monste_ollowed me and would discover himself to me when I should have finished, tha_e might receive his companion. With this resolution I traversed the norther_ighlands and fixed on one of the remotest of the Orkneys as the scene of m_abours. It was a place fitted for such a work, being hardly more than a roc_hose high sides were continually beaten upon by the waves. The soil wa_arren, scarcely affording pasture for a few miserable cows, and oatmeal fo_ts inhabitants, which consisted of five persons, whose gaunt and scragg_imbs gave tokens of their miserable fare. Vegetables and bread, when the_ndulged in such luxuries, and even fresh water, was to be procured from th_ainland, which was about five miles distant.
  • On the whole island there were but three miserable huts, and one of these wa_acant when I arrived. This I hired. It contained but two rooms, and thes_xhibited all the squalidness of the most miserable penury. The thatch ha_allen in, the walls were unplastered, and the door was off its hinges. _rdered it to be repaired, bought some furniture, and took possession, a_ncident which would doubtless have occasioned some surprise had not all th_enses of the cottagers been benumbed by want and squalid poverty. As it was,
  • I lived ungazed at and unmolested, hardly thanked for the pittance of food an_lothes which I gave, so much does suffering blunt even the coarses_ensations of men.
  • In this retreat I devoted the morning to labour; but in the evening, when th_eather permitted, I walked on the stony beach of the sea to listen to th_aves as they roared and dashed at my feet. It was a monotonous yet ever-
  • changing scene. I thought of Switzerland; it was far different from thi_esolate and appalling landscape. Its hills are covered with vines, and it_ottages are scattered thickly in the plains. Its fair lakes reflect a blu_nd gentle sky, and when troubled by the winds, their tumult is but as th_lay of a lively infant when compared to the roarings of the giant ocean.
  • In this manner I distributed my occupations when I first arrived, but as _roceeded in my labour, it became every day more horrible and irksome to me.
  • Sometimes I could not prevail on myself to enter my laboratory for severa_ays, and at other times I toiled day and night in order to complete my work.
  • It was, indeed, a filthy process in which I was engaged. During my firs_xperiment, a kind of enthusiastic frenzy had blinded me to the horror of m_mployment; my mind was intently fixed on the consummation of my labour, an_y eyes were shut to the horror of my proceedings. But now I went to it i_old blood, and my heart often sickened at the work of my hands.
  • Thus situated, employed in the most detestable occupation, immersed in _olitude where nothing could for an instant call my attention from the actua_cene in which I was engaged, my spirits became unequal; I grew restless an_ervous. Every moment I feared to meet my persecutor. Sometimes I sat with m_yes fixed on the ground, fearing to raise them lest they should encounter th_bject which I so much dreaded to behold. I feared to wander from the sight o_y fellow creatures lest when alone he should come to claim his companion.
  • In the mean time I worked on, and my labour was already considerably advanced.
  • I looked towards its completion with a tremulous and eager hope, which I dare_ot trust myself to question but which was intermixed with obscure foreboding_f evil that made my heart sicken in my bosom.