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Chapter 21

  • I was soon introduced into the presence of the magistrate, an old benevolen_an with calm and mild manners. He looked upon me, however, with some degre_f severity, and then, turning towards my conductors, he asked who appeared a_itnesses on this occasion.
  • About half a dozen men came forward; and, one being selected by th_agistrate, he deposed that he had been out fishing the night before with hi_on and brother-in-law, Daniel Nugent, when, about ten o'clock, they observe_ strong northerly blast rising, and they accordingly put in for port. It wa_ very dark night, as the moon had not yet risen; they did not land at th_arbour, but, as they had been accustomed, at a creek about two miles below.
  • He walked on first, carrying a part of the fishing tackle, and his companion_ollowed him at some distance.
  • As he was proceeding along the sands, he struck his foot against something an_ell at his length on the ground. His companions came up to assist him, and b_he light of their lantern they found that he had fallen on the body of a man,
  • who was to all appearance dead. Their first supposition was that it was th_orpse of some person who had been drowned and was thrown on shore by th_aves, but on examination they found that the clothes were not wet and eve_hat the body was not then cold. They instantly carried it to the cottage o_n old woman near the spot and endeavoured, but in vain, to restore it t_ife. It appeared to be a handsome young man, about five and twenty years o_ge. He had apparently been strangled, for there was no sign of any violenc_xcept the black mark of fingers on his neck.
  • The first part of this deposition did not in the least interest me, but whe_he mark of the fingers was mentioned I remembered the murder of my brothe_nd felt myself extremely agitated; my limbs trembled, and a mist came over m_yes, which obliged me to lean on a chair for support. The magistrate observe_e with a keen eye and of course drew an unfavourable augury from my manner.
  • The son confirmed his father's account, but when Daniel Nugent was called h_wore positively that just before the fall of his companion, he saw a boat,
  • with a single man in it, at a short distance from the shore; and as far as h_ould judge by the light of a few stars, it was the same boat in which I ha_ust landed. A woman deposed that she lived near the beach and was standing a_he door of her cottage, waiting for the return of the fishermen, about a_our before she heard of the discovery of the body, when she saw a boat wit_nly one man in it push off from that part of the shore where the corpse wa_fterwards found.
  • Another woman confirmed the account of the fishermen having brought the bod_nto her house; it was not cold. They put it into a bed and rubbed it, an_aniel went to the town for an apothecary, but life was quite gone.
  • Several other men were examined concerning my landing, and they agreed that,
  • with the strong north wind that had arisen during the night, it was ver_robable that I had beaten about for many hours and had been obliged to retur_early to the same spot from which I had departed. Besides, they observed tha_t appeared that I had brought the body from another place, and it was likel_hat as I did not appear to know the shore, I might have put into the harbou_gnorant of the distance of the town of —— from the place where I ha_eposited the corpse.
  • Mr. Kirwin, on hearing this evidence, desired that I should be taken into th_oom where the body lay for interment, that it might be observed what effec_he sight of it would produce upon me. This idea was probably suggested by th_xtreme agitation I had exhibited when the mode of the murder had bee_escribed. I was accordingly conducted, by the magistrate and several othe_ersons, to the inn. I could not help being struck by the strange coincidence_hat had taken place during this eventful night; but, knowing that I had bee_onversing with several persons in the island I had inhabited about the tim_hat the body had been found, I was perfectly tranquil as to the consequence_f the affair. I entered the room where the corpse lay and was led up to th_offin. How can I describe my sensations on beholding it? I feel yet parche_ith horror, nor can I reflect on that terrible moment without shuddering an_gony. The examination, the presence of the magistrate and witnesses, passe_ike a dream from my memory when I saw the lifeless form of Henry Clerva_tretched before me. I gasped for breath, and throwing myself on the body, _xclaimed, "Have my murderous machinations deprived you also, my deares_enry, of life? Two I have already destroyed; other victims await thei_estiny; but you, Clerval, my friend, my benefactor—"
  • The human frame could no longer support the agonies that I endured, and I wa_arried out of the room in strong convulsions. A fever succeeded to this. _ay for two months on the point of death; my ravings, as I afterwards heard,
  • were frightful; I called myself the murderer of William, of Justine, and o_lerval. Sometimes I entreated my attendants to assist me in the destructio_f the fiend by whom I was tormented; and at others I felt the fingers of th_onster already grasping my neck, and screamed aloud with agony and terror.
  • Fortunately, as I spoke my native language, Mr. Kirwin alone understood me;
  • but my gestures and bitter cries were sufficient to affright the othe_itnesses. Why did I not die? More miserable than man ever was before, why di_ not sink into forgetfulness and rest? Death snatches away many bloomin_hildren, the only hopes of their doting parents; how many brides and youthfu_overs have been one day in the bloom of health and hope, and the next a pre_or worms and the decay of the tomb! Of what materials was I made that I coul_hus resist so many shocks, which, like the turning of the wheel, continuall_enewed the torture?
  • But I was doomed to live and in two months found myself as awaking from _ream, in a prison, stretched on a wretched bed, surrounded by jailers,
  • turnkeys, bolts, and all the miserable apparatus of a dungeon. It was morning,
  • I remember, when I thus awoke to understanding; I had forgotten th_articulars of what had happened and only felt as if some great misfortune ha_uddenly overwhelmed me; but when I looked around and saw the barred window_nd the squalidness of the room in which I was, all flashed across my memor_nd I groaned bitterly.
  • This sound disturbed an old woman who was sleeping in a chair beside me. Sh_as a hired nurse, the wife of one of the turnkeys, and her countenanc_xpressed all those bad qualities which often characterize that class. Th_ines of her face were hard and rude, like that of persons accustomed to se_ithout sympathizing in sights of misery. Her tone expressed her entir_ndifference; she addressed me in English, and the voice struck me as one tha_ had heard during my sufferings. "Are you better now, sir?" said she.
  • I replied in the same language, with a feeble voice, "I believe I am; but i_t be all true, if indeed I did not dream, I am sorry that I am still alive t_eel this misery and horror."
  • "For that matter," replied the old woman, "if you mean about the gentleman yo_urdered, I believe that it were better for you if you were dead, for I fanc_t will go hard with you! However, that's none of my business; I am sent t_urse you and get you well; I do my duty with a safe conscience; it were wel_f everybody did the same."
  • I turned with loathing from the woman who could utter so unfeeling a speech t_ person just saved, on the very edge of death; but I felt languid and unabl_o reflect on all that had passed. The whole series of my life appeared to m_s a dream; I sometimes doubted if indeed it were all true, for it neve_resented itself to my mind with the force of reality.
  • As the images that floated before me became more distinct, I grew feverish; _arkness pressed around me; no one was near me who soothed me with the gentl_oice of love; no dear hand supported me. The physician came and prescribe_edicines, and the old woman prepared them for me; but utter carelessness wa_isible in the first, and the expression of brutality was strongly marked i_he visage of the second. Who could be interested in the fate of a murdere_ut the hangman who would gain his fee?
  • These were my first reflections, but I soon learned that Mr. Kirwin had show_e extreme kindness. He had caused the best room in the prison to be prepare_or me (wretched indeed was the best); and it was he who had provided _hysician and a nurse. It is true, he seldom came to see me, for although h_rdently desired to relieve the sufferings of every human creature, he did no_ish to be present at the agonies and miserable ravings of a murderer. H_ame, therefore, sometimes to see that I was not neglected, but his visit_ere short and with long intervals. One day, while I was gradually recovering,
  • I was seated in a chair, my eyes half open and my cheeks livid like those i_eath. I was overcome by gloom and misery and often reflected I had bette_eek death than desire to remain in a world which to me was replete wit_retchedness. At one time I considered whether I should not declare mysel_uilty and suffer the penalty of the law, less innocent than poor Justine ha_een. Such were my thoughts when the door of my apartment was opened and Mr.
  • Kirwin entered. His countenance expressed sympathy and compassion; he drew _hair close to mine and addressed me in French, "I fear that this place i_ery shocking to you; can I do anything to make you more comfortable?"
  • "I thank you, but all that you mention is nothing to me; on the whole eart_here is no comfort which I am capable of receiving."
  • "I know that the sympathy of a stranger can be but of little relief to on_orne down as you are by so strange a misfortune. But you will, I hope, soo_uit this melancholy abode, for doubtless evidence can easily be brought t_ree you from the criminal charge."
  • "That is my least concern; I am, by a course of strange events, become th_ost miserable of mortals. Persecuted and tortured as I am and have been, ca_eath be any evil to me?"
  • "Nothing indeed could be more unfortunate and agonizing than the strang_hances that have lately occurred. You were thrown, by some surprisin_ccident, on this shore, renowned for its hospitality, seized immediately, an_harged with murder. The first sight that was presented to your eyes was th_ody of your friend, murdered in so unaccountable a manner and placed, as i_ere, by some fiend across your path."
  • As Mr. Kirwin said this, notwithstanding the agitation I endured on thi_etrospect of my sufferings, I also felt considerable surprise at th_nowledge he seemed to possess concerning me. I suppose some astonishment wa_xhibited in my countenance, for Mr. Kirwin hastened to say, "Immediately upo_our being taken ill, all the papers that were on your person were brought me,
  • and I examined them that I might discover some trace by which I could send t_our relations an account of your misfortune and illness. I found severa_etters, and, among others, one which I discovered from its commencement to b_rom your father. I instantly wrote to Geneva; nearly two months have elapse_ince the departure of my letter. But you are ill; even now you tremble; yo_re unfit for agitation of any kind."
  • "This suspense is a thousand times worse than the most horrible event; tell m_hat new scene of death has been acted, and whose murder I am now to lament?"
  • "Your family is perfectly well," said Mr. Kirwin with gentleness; "an_omeone, a friend, is come to visit you."
  • I know not by what chain of thought the idea presented itself, but i_nstantly darted into my mind that the murderer had come to mock at my miser_nd taunt me with the death of Clerval, as a new incitement for me to compl_ith his hellish desires. I put my hand before my eyes, and cried out i_gony, "Oh! Take him away! I cannot see him; for God's sake, do not let hi_nter!"
  • Mr. Kirwin regarded me with a troubled countenance. He could not hel_egarding my exclamation as a presumption of my guilt and said in rather _evere tone, "I should have thought, young man, that the presence of you_ather would have been welcome instead of inspiring such violent repugnance."
  • "My father!" cried I, while every feature and every muscle was relaxed fro_nguish to pleasure. "Is my father indeed come? How kind, how very kind! Bu_here is he, why does he not hasten to me?"
  • My change of manner surprised and pleased the magistrate; perhaps he though_hat my former exclamation was a momentary return of delirium, and now h_nstantly resumed his former benevolence. He rose and quitted the room with m_urse, and in a moment my father entered it.
  • Nothing, at this moment, could have given me greater pleasure than the arriva_f my father. I stretched out my hand to him and cried, "Are you, then,
  • safe—and Elizabeth—and Ernest?" My father calmed me with assurances of thei_elfare and endeavoured, by dwelling on these subjects so interesting to m_eart, to raise my desponding spirits; but he soon felt that a prison canno_e the abode of cheerfulness.
  • "What a place is this that you inhabit, my son!" said he, looking mournfull_t the barred windows and wretched appearance of the room. "You travelled t_eek happiness, but a fatality seems to pursue you. And poor Clerval—"
  • The name of my unfortunate and murdered friend was an agitation too great t_e endured in my weak state; I shed tears. "Alas! Yes, my father," replied I;
  • "some destiny of the most horrible kind hangs over me, and I must live t_ulfil it, or surely I should have died on the coffin of Henry."
  • We were not allowed to converse for any length of time, for the precariou_tate of my health rendered every precaution necessary that could ensur_ranquillity. Mr. Kirwin came in and insisted that my strength should not b_xhausted by too much exertion. But the appearance of my father was to me lik_hat of my good angel, and I gradually recovered my health.
  • As my sickness quitted me, I was absorbed by a gloomy and black melanchol_hat nothing could dissipate. The image of Clerval was forever before me,
  • ghastly and murdered. More than once the agitation into which thes_eflections threw me made my friends dread a dangerous relapse. Alas! Why di_hey preserve so miserable and detested a life? It was surely that I migh_ulfil my destiny, which is now drawing to a close. Soon, oh, very soon, wil_eath extinguish these throbbings and relieve me from the mighty weight o_nguish that bears me to the dust; and, in executing the award of justice, _hall also sink to rest. Then the appearance of death was distant, althoug_he wish was ever present to my thoughts; and I often sat for hours motionles_nd speechless, wishing for some mighty revolution that might bury me and m_estroyer in its ruins.
  • The season of the assizes approached. I had already been three months i_rison, and although I was still weak and in continual danger of a relapse, _as obliged to travel nearly a hundred miles to the country town where th_ourt was held. Mr. Kirwin charged himself with every care of collectin_itnesses and arranging my defence. I was spared the disgrace of appearin_ublicly as a criminal, as the case was not brought before the court tha_ecides on life and death. The grand jury rejected the bill, on its bein_roved that I was on the Orkney Islands at the hour the body of my friend wa_ound; and a fortnight after my removal I was liberated from prison.
  • My father was enraptured on finding me freed from the vexations of a crimina_harge, that I was again allowed to breathe the fresh atmosphere and permitte_o return to my native country. I did not participate in these feelings, fo_o me the walls of a dungeon or a palace were alike hateful. The cup of lif_as poisoned forever, and although the sun shone upon me, as upon the happ_nd gay of heart, I saw around me nothing but a dense and frightful darkness,
  • penetrated by no light but the glimmer of two eyes that glared upon me.
  • Sometimes they were the expressive eyes of Henry, languishing in death, th_ark orbs nearly covered by the lids and the long black lashes that fringe_hem; sometimes it was the watery, clouded eyes of the monster, as I first sa_hem in my chamber at Ingolstadt.
  • My father tried to awaken in me the feelings of affection. He talked o_eneva, which I should soon visit, of Elizabeth and Ernest; but these word_nly drew deep groans from me. Sometimes, indeed, I felt a wish for happines_nd thought with melancholy delight of my beloved cousin or longed, with _evouring maladie du pays, to see once more the blue lake and rapid Rhone,
  • that had been so dear to me in early childhood; but my general state o_eeling was a torpor in which a prison was as welcome a residence as th_ivinest scene in nature; and these fits were seldom interrupted but b_aroxysms of anguish and despair. At these moments I often endeavoured to pu_n end to the existence I loathed, and it required unceasing attendance an_igilance to restrain me from committing some dreadful act of violence.
  • Yet one duty remained to me, the recollection of which finally triumphed ove_y selfish despair. It was necessary that I should return without delay t_eneva, there to watch over the lives of those I so fondly loved and to lie i_ait for the murderer, that if any chance led me to the place of hi_oncealment, or if he dared again to blast me by his presence, I might, wit_nfailing aim, put an end to the existence of the monstrous image which I ha_ndued with the mockery of a soul still more monstrous. My father stil_esired to delay our departure, fearful that I could not sustain the fatigue_f a journey, for I was a shattered wreck—the shadow of a human being. M_trength was gone. I was a mere skeleton, and fever night and day preyed upo_y wasted frame. Still, as I urged our leaving Ireland with such inquietud_nd impatience, my father thought it best to yield. We took our passage o_oard a vessel bound for Havre-de-Grace and sailed with a fair wind from th_rish shores. It was midnight. I lay on the deck looking at the stars an_istening to the dashing of the waves. I hailed the darkness that shut Irelan_rom my sight, and my pulse beat with a feverish joy when I reflected that _hould soon see Geneva. The past appeared to me in the light of a frightfu_ream; yet the vessel in which I was, the wind that blew me from the deteste_hore of Ireland, and the sea which surrounded me told me too forcibly that _as deceived by no vision and that Clerval, my friend and dearest companion,
  • had fallen a victim to me and the monster of my creation. I repassed, in m_emory, my whole life—my quiet happiness while residing with my family i_eneva, the death of my mother, and my departure for Ingolstadt. I remembered,
  • shuddering, the mad enthusiasm that hurried me on to the creation of m_ideous enemy, and I called to mind the night in which he first lived. I wa_nable to pursue the train of thought; a thousand feelings pressed upon me,
  • and I wept bitterly. Ever since my recovery from the fever I had been in th_ustom of taking every night a small quantity of laudanum, for it was by mean_f this drug only that I was enabled to gain the rest necessary for th_reservation of life. Oppressed by the recollection of my various misfortunes,
  • I now swallowed double my usual quantity and soon slept profoundly. But slee_id not afford me respite from thought and misery; my dreams presented _housand objects that scared me. Towards morning I was possessed by a kind o_ightmare; I felt the fiend's grasp in my neck and could not free myself fro_t; groans and cries rang in my ears. My father, who was watching over me,
  • perceiving my restlessness, awoke me; the dashing waves were around, th_loudy sky above, the fiend was not here: a sense of security, a feeling tha_ truce was established between the present hour and the irresistible,
  • disastrous future imparted to me a kind of calm forgetfulness, of which th_uman mind is by its structure peculiarly susceptible.