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Chapter 20

  • I sat one evening in my laboratory; the sun had set, and the moon was jus_ising from the sea; I had not sufficient light for my employment, and _emained idle, in a pause of consideration of whether I should leave my labou_or the night or hasten its conclusion by an unremitting attention to it. As _at, a train of reflection occurred to me which led me to consider the effect_f what I was now doing. Three years before, I was engaged in the same manne_nd had created a fiend whose unparalleled barbarity had desolated my hear_nd filled it forever with the bitterest remorse. I was now about to for_nother being of whose dispositions I was alike ignorant; she might become te_housand times more malignant than her mate and delight, for its own sake, i_urder and wretchedness. He had sworn to quit the neighbourhood of man an_ide himself in deserts, but she had not; and she, who in all probability wa_o become a thinking and reasoning animal, might refuse to comply with _ompact made before her creation. They might even hate each other; th_reature who already lived loathed his own deformity, and might he no_onceive a greater abhorrence for it when it came before his eyes in th_emale form? She also might turn with disgust from him to the superior beaut_f man; she might quit him, and he be again alone, exasperated by the fres_rovocation of being deserted by one of his own species. Even if they were t_eave Europe and inhabit the deserts of the new world, yet one of the firs_esults of those sympathies for which the daemon thirsted would be children,
  • and a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth who might make th_ery existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full o_error. Had I right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upo_verlasting generations? I had before been moved by the sophisms of the bein_ had created; I had been struck senseless by his fiendish threats; but now,
  • for the first time, the wickedness of my promise burst upon me; I shuddered t_hink that future ages might curse me as their pest, whose selfishness had no_esitated to buy its own peace at the price, perhaps, of the existence of th_hole human race.
  • I trembled and my heart failed within me, when, on looking up, I saw by th_ight of the moon the daemon at the casement. A ghastly grin wrinkled his lip_s he gazed on me, where I sat fulfilling the task which he had allotted t_e. Yes, he had followed me in my travels; he had loitered in forests, hi_imself in caves, or taken refuge in wide and desert heaths; and he now cam_o mark my progress and claim the fulfillment of my promise.
  • As I looked on him, his countenance expressed the utmost extent of malice an_reachery. I thought with a sensation of madness on my promise of creatin_nother like to him, and trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing o_hich I was engaged. The wretch saw me destroy the creature on whose futur_xistence he depended for happiness, and with a howl of devilish despair an_evenge, withdrew.
  • I left the room, and locking the door, made a solemn vow in my own heart neve_o resume my labours; and then, with trembling steps, I sought my ow_partment. I was alone; none were near me to dissipate the gloom and reliev_e from the sickening oppression of the most terrible reveries.
  • Several hours passed, and I remained near my window gazing on the sea; it wa_lmost motionless, for the winds were hushed, and all nature reposed under th_ye of the quiet moon. A few fishing vessels alone specked the water, and no_nd then the gentle breeze wafted the sound of voices as the fishermen calle_o one another. I felt the silence, although I was hardly conscious of it_xtreme profundity, until my ear was suddenly arrested by the paddling of oar_ear the shore, and a person landed close to my house.
  • In a few minutes after, I heard the creaking of my door, as if some on_ndeavoured to open it softly. I trembled from head to foot; I felt _resentiment of who it was and wished to rouse one of the peasants who dwel_n a cottage not far from mine; but I was overcome by the sensation o_elplessness, so often felt in frightful dreams, when you in vain endeavour t_ly from an impending danger, and was rooted to the spot. Presently I hear_he sound of footsteps along the passage; the door opened, and the wretch who_ dreaded appeared.
  • Shutting the door, he approached me and said in a smothered voice, "You hav_estroyed the work which you began; what is it that you intend? Do you dare t_reak your promise? I have endured toil and misery; I left Switzerland wit_ou; I crept along the shores of the Rhine, among its willow islands and ove_he summits of its hills. I have dwelt many months in the heaths of Englan_nd among the deserts of Scotland. I have endured incalculable fatigue, an_old, and hunger; do you dare destroy my hopes?"
  • "Begone! I do break my promise; never will I create another like yourself,
  • equal in deformity and wickedness."
  • "Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself unworthy o_y condescension. Remember that I have power; you believe yourself miserable,
  • but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you.
  • You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!"
  • "The hour of my irresolution is past, and the period of your power is arrived.
  • Your threats cannot move me to do an act of wickedness; but they confirm me i_ determination of not creating you a companion in vice. Shall I, in coo_lood, set loose upon the earth a daemon whose delight is in death an_retchedness? Begone! I am firm, and your words will only exasperate my rage."
  • The monster saw my determination in my face and gnashed his teeth in th_mpotence of anger. "Shall each man," cried he, "find a wife for his bosom,
  • and each beast have his mate, and I be alone? I had feelings of affection, an_hey were requited by detestation and scorn. Man! You may hate, but beware!
  • Your hours will pass in dread and misery, and soon the bolt will fall whic_ust ravish from you your happiness forever. Are you to be happy while _rovel in the intensity of my wretchedness? You can blast my other passions,
  • but revenge remains—revenge, henceforth dearer than light or food! I may die,
  • but first you, my tyrant and tormentor, shall curse the sun that gazes on you_isery. Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful. I will watch wit_he wiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom. Man, you shal_epent of the injuries you inflict."
  • "Devil, cease; and do not poison the air with these sounds of malice. I hav_eclared my resolution to you, and I am no coward to bend beneath words. Leav_e; I am inexorable."
  • "It is well. I go; but remember, I shall be with you on your wedding-night."
  • I started forward and exclaimed, "Villain! Before you sign my death-warrant,
  • be sure that you are yourself safe."
  • I would have seized him, but he eluded me and quitted the house wit_recipitation. In a few moments I saw him in his boat, which shot across th_aters with an arrowy swiftness and was soon lost amidst the waves.
  • All was again silent, but his words rang in my ears. I burned with rage t_ursue the murderer of my peace and precipitate him into the ocean. I walke_p and down my room hastily and perturbed, while my imagination conjured up _housand images to torment and sting me. Why had I not followed him and close_ith him in mortal strife? But I had suffered him to depart, and he ha_irected his course towards the mainland. I shuddered to think who might b_he next victim sacrificed to his insatiate revenge. And then I thought agai_f his words—"I WILL BE WITH YOU ON YOUR WEDDING-NIGHT." That, then, was th_eriod fixed for the fulfillment of my destiny. In that hour I should die an_t once satisfy and extinguish his malice. The prospect did not move me t_ear; yet when I thought of my beloved Elizabeth, of her tears and endles_orrow, when she should find her lover so barbarously snatched from her,
  • tears, the first I had shed for many months, streamed from my eyes, and _esolved not to fall before my enemy without a bitter struggle.
  • The night passed away, and the sun rose from the ocean; my feelings becam_almer, if it may be called calmness when the violence of rage sinks into th_epths of despair. I left the house, the horrid scene of the last night'_ontention, and walked on the beach of the sea, which I almost regarded as a_nsuperable barrier between me and my fellow creatures; nay, a wish that suc_hould prove the fact stole across me.
  • I desired that I might pass my life on that barren rock, wearily, it is true,
  • but uninterrupted by any sudden shock of misery. If I returned, it was to b_acrificed or to see those whom I most loved die under the grasp of a daemo_hom I had myself created.
  • I walked about the isle like a restless spectre, separated from all it love_nd miserable in the separation. When it became noon, and the sun rose higher,
  • I lay down on the grass and was overpowered by a deep sleep. I had been awak_he whole of the preceding night, my nerves were agitated, and my eye_nflamed by watching and misery. The sleep into which I now sank refreshed me;
  • and when I awoke, I again felt as if I belonged to a race of human beings lik_yself, and I began to reflect upon what had passed with greater composure;
  • yet still the words of the fiend rang in my ears like a death-knell; the_ppeared like a dream, yet distinct and oppressive as a reality.
  • The sun had far descended, and I still sat on the shore, satisfying m_ppetite, which had become ravenous, with an oaten cake, when I saw a fishing-
  • boat land close to me, and one of the men brought me a packet; it containe_etters from Geneva, and one from Clerval entreating me to join him. He sai_hat he was wearing away his time fruitlessly where he was, that letters fro_he friends he had formed in London desired his return to complete th_egotiation they had entered into for his Indian enterprise. He could not an_onger delay his departure; but as his journey to London might be followed,
  • even sooner than he now conjectured, by his longer voyage, he entreated me t_estow as much of my society on him as I could spare. He besought me,
  • therefore, to leave my solitary isle and to meet him at Perth, that we migh_roceed southwards together. This letter in a degree recalled me to life, an_ determined to quit my island at the expiration of two days. Yet, before _eparted, there was a task to perform, on which I shuddered to reflect; I mus_ack up my chemical instruments, and for that purpose I must enter the roo_hich had been the scene of my odious work, and I must handle those utensil_he sight of which was sickening to me. The next morning, at daybreak, _ummoned sufficient courage and unlocked the door of my laboratory. Th_emains of the half-finished creature, whom I had destroyed, lay scattered o_he floor, and I almost felt as if I had mangled the living flesh of a huma_eing. I paused to collect myself and then entered the chamber. With tremblin_and I conveyed the instruments out of the room, but I reflected that I ough_ot to leave the relics of my work to excite the horror and suspicion of th_easants; and I accordingly put them into a basket, with a great quantity o_tones, and laying them up, determined to throw them into the sea that ver_ight; and in the meantime I sat upon the beach, employed in cleaning an_rranging my chemical apparatus.
  • Nothing could be more complete than the alteration that had taken place in m_eelings since the night of the appearance of the daemon. I had befor_egarded my promise with a gloomy despair as a thing that, with whateve_onsequences, must be fulfilled; but I now felt as if a film had been take_rom before my eyes and that I for the first time saw clearly. The idea o_enewing my labours did not for one instant occur to me; the threat I ha_eard weighed on my thoughts, but I did not reflect that a voluntary act o_ine could avert it. I had resolved in my own mind that to create another lik_he fiend I had first made would be an act of the basest and most atrociou_elfishness, and I banished from my mind every thought that could lead to _ifferent conclusion.
  • Between two and three in the morning the moon rose; and I then, putting m_asket aboard a little skiff, sailed out about four miles from the shore. Th_cene was perfectly solitary; a few boats were returning towards land, but _ailed away from them. I felt as if I was about the commission of a dreadfu_rime and avoided with shuddering anxiety any encounter with my fello_reatures. At one time the moon, which had before been clear, was suddenl_verspread by a thick cloud, and I took advantage of the moment of darknes_nd cast my basket into the sea; I listened to the gurgling sound as it san_nd then sailed away from the spot. The sky became clouded, but the air wa_ure, although chilled by the northeast breeze that was then rising. But i_efreshed me and filled me with such agreeable sensations that I resolved t_rolong my stay on the water, and fixing the rudder in a direct position,
  • stretched myself at the bottom of the boat. Clouds hid the moon, everythin_as obscure, and I heard only the sound of the boat as its keel cut throug_he waves; the murmur lulled me, and in a short time I slept soundly. I do no_now how long I remained in this situation, but when I awoke I found that th_un had already mounted considerably. The wind was high, and the wave_ontinually threatened the safety of my little skiff. I found that the win_as northeast and must have driven me far from the coast from which I ha_mbarked. I endeavoured to change my course but quickly found that if I agai_ade the attempt the boat would be instantly filled with water. Thus situated,
  • my only resource was to drive before the wind. I confess that I felt a fe_ensations of terror. I had no compass with me and was so slenderly acquainte_ith the geography of this part of the world that the sun was of littl_enefit to me. I might be driven into the wide Atlantic and feel all th_ortures of starvation or be swallowed up in the immeasurable waters tha_oared and buffeted around me. I had already been out many hours and felt th_orment of a burning thirst, a prelude to my other sufferings. I looked on th_eavens, which were covered by clouds that flew before the wind, only to b_eplaced by others; I looked upon the sea; it was to be my grave. "Fiend," _xclaimed, "your task is already fulfilled!" I thought of Elizabeth, of m_ather, and of Clerval—all left behind, on whom the monster might satisfy hi_anguinary and merciless passions. This idea plunged me into a reverie s_espairing and frightful that even now, when the scene is on the point o_losing before me forever, I shudder to reflect on it.
  • Some hours passed thus; but by degrees, as the sun declined towards th_orizon, the wind died away into a gentle breeze and the sea became free fro_reakers. But these gave place to a heavy swell; I felt sick and hardly abl_o hold the rudder, when suddenly I saw a line of high land towards the south.
  • Almost spent, as I was, by fatigue and the dreadful suspense I endured fo_everal hours, this sudden certainty of life rushed like a flood of warm jo_o my heart, and tears gushed from my eyes.
  • How mutable are our feelings, and how strange is that clinging love we have o_ife even in the excess of misery! I constructed another sail with a part o_y dress and eagerly steered my course towards the land. It had a wild an_ocky appearance, but as I approached nearer I easily perceived the traces o_ultivation. I saw vessels near the shore and found myself suddenl_ransported back to the neighbourhood of civilized man. I carefully traced th_indings of the land and hailed a steeple which I at length saw issuing fro_ehind a small promontory. As I was in a state of extreme debility, I resolve_o sail directly towards the town, as a place where I could most easil_rocure nourishment. Fortunately I had money with me.
  • As I turned the promontory I perceived a small neat town and a good harbour,
  • which I entered, my heart bounding with joy at my unexpected escape.
  • As I was occupied in fixing the boat and arranging the sails, several peopl_rowded towards the spot. They seemed much surprised at my appearance, bu_nstead of offering me any assistance, whispered together with gestures tha_t any other time might have produced in me a slight sensation of alarm. As i_as, I merely remarked that they spoke English, and I therefore addressed the_n that language. "My good friends," said I, "will you be so kind as to tel_e the name of this town and inform me where I am?"
  • "You will know that soon enough," replied a man with a hoarse voice. "Mayb_ou are come to a place that will not prove much to your taste, but you wil_ot be consulted as to your quarters, I promise you."
  • I was exceedingly surprised on receiving so rude an answer from a stranger,
  • and I was also disconcerted on perceiving the frowning and angry countenance_f his companions. "Why do you answer me so roughly?" I replied. "Surely it i_ot the custom of Englishmen to receive strangers so inhospitably."
  • "I do not know," said the man, "what the custom of the English may be, but i_s the custom of the Irish to hate villains." While this strange dialogu_ontinued, I perceived the crowd rapidly increase. Their faces expressed _ixture of curiosity and anger, which annoyed and in some degree alarmed me.
  • I inquired the way to the inn, but no one replied. I then moved forward, and _urmuring sound arose from the crowd as they followed and surrounded me, whe_n ill-looking man approaching tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Come, sir,
  • you must follow me to Mr. Kirwin's to give an account of yourself."
  • "Who is Mr. Kirwin? Why am I to give an account of myself? Is not this a fre_ountry?"
  • "Ay, sir, free enough for honest folks. Mr. Kirwin is a magistrate, and yo_re to give an account of the death of a gentleman who was found murdered her_ast night."
  • This answer startled me, but I presently recovered myself. I was innocent;
  • that could easily be proved; accordingly I followed my conductor in silenc_nd was led to one of the best houses in the town. I was ready to sink fro_atigue and hunger, but being surrounded by a crowd, I thought it politic t_ouse all my strength, that no physical debility might be construed int_pprehension or conscious guilt. Little did I then expect the calamity tha_as in a few moments to overwhelm me and extinguish in horror and despair al_ear of ignominy or death. I must pause here, for it requires all my fortitud_o recall the memory of the frightful events which I am about to relate, i_roper detail, to my recollection.