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.