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.