On my return, I found the following letter from my father:—
"My dear Victor,
"You have probably waited impatiently for a letter to fix the date of you_eturn to us; and I was at first tempted to write only a few lines, merel_entioning the day on which I should expect you. But that would be a crue_indness, and I dare not do it. What would be your surprise, my son, when yo_xpected a happy and glad welcome, to behold, on the contrary, tears an_retchedness? And how, Victor, can I relate our misfortune? Absence canno_ave rendered you callous to our joys and griefs; and how shall I inflict pai_n my long absent son? I wish to prepare you for the woeful news, but I kno_t is impossible; even now your eye skims over the page to seek the word_hich are to convey to you the horrible tidings.
"William is dead!—that sweet child, whose smiles delighted and warmed m_eart, who was so gentle, yet so gay! Victor, he is murdered!
"I will not attempt to console you; but will simply relate the circumstance_f the transaction.
"Last Thursday (May 7th), I, my niece, and your two brothers, went to walk i_lainpalais. The evening was warm and serene, and we prolonged our wal_arther than usual. It was already dusk before we thought of returning; an_hen we discovered that William and Ernest, who had gone on before, were no_o be found. We accordingly rested on a seat until they should return.
Presently Ernest came, and enquired if we had seen his brother; he said, tha_e had been playing with him, that William had run away to hide himself, an_hat he vainly sought for him, and afterwards waited for a long time, but tha_e did not return.
"This account rather alarmed us, and we continued to search for him unti_ight fell, when Elizabeth conjectured that he might have returned to th_ouse. He was not there. We returned again, with torches; for I could no_est, when I thought that my sweet boy had lost himself, and was exposed t_ll the damps and dews of night; Elizabeth also suffered extreme anguish.
About five in the morning I discovered my lovely boy, whom the night before _ad seen blooming and active in health, stretched on the grass livid an_otionless; the print of the murder's finger was on his neck.
"He was conveyed home, and the anguish that was visible in my countenanc_etrayed the secret to Elizabeth. She was very earnest to see the corpse. A_irst I attempted to prevent her but she persisted, and entering the roo_here it lay, hastily examined the neck of the victim, and clasping her hand_xclaimed, `O God! I have murdered my darling child!'
"She fainted, and was restored with extreme difficulty. When she again lived, it was only to weep and sigh. She told me, that that same evening William ha_eased her to let him wear a very valuable miniature that she possessed o_our mother. This picture is gone, and was doubtless the temptation whic_rged the murderer to the deed. We have no trace of him at present, althoug_ur exertions to discover him are unremitted; but they will not restore m_eloved William!
"Come, dearest Victor; you alone can console Elizabeth. She weeps continually, and accuses herself unjustly as the cause of his death; her words pierce m_eart. We are all unhappy; but will not that be an additional motive for you, my son, to return and be our comforter? Your dear mother! Alas, Victor! I no_ay, Thank God she did not live to witness the cruel, miserable death of he_oungest darling!
"Come, Victor; not brooding thoughts of vengeance against the assassin, bu_ith feelings of peace and gentleness, that will heal, instead of festering, the wounds of our minds. Enter the house of mourning, my friend, but wit_indness and affection for those who love you, and not with hatred for you_nemies.
"Your affectionate and afflicted father,
"Geneva, May 12th, 17—."
Clerval, who had watched my countenance as I read this letter, was surprise_o observe the despair that succeeded the joy I at first expressed o_eceiving new from my friends. I threw the letter on the table, and covered m_ace with my hands.
"My dear Frankenstein," exclaimed Henry, when he perceived me weep wit_itterness, "are you always to be unhappy? My dear friend, what has happened?"
I motioned him to take up the letter, while I walked up and down the room i_he extremest agitation. Tears also gushed from the eyes of Clerval, as h_ead the account of my misfortune.
"I can offer you no consolation, my friend," said he; "your disaster i_rreparable. What do you intend to do?"
"To go instantly to Geneva: come with me, Henry, to order the horses."
During our walk, Clerval endeavoured to say a few words of consolation; h_ould only express his heartfelt sympathy. "Poor William!" said he, "dea_ovely child, he now sleeps with his angel mother! Who that had seen hi_right and joyous in his young beauty, but must weep over his untimely loss!
To die so miserably; to feel the murderer's grasp! How much more a murdere_hat could destroy radiant innocence! Poor little fellow! one only consolatio_ave we; his friends mourn and weep, but he is at rest. The pang is over, hi_ufferings are at an end for ever. A sod covers his gentle form, and he know_o pain. He can no longer be a subject for pity; we must reserve that for hi_iserable survivors."
Clerval spoke thus as we hurried through the streets; the words impresse_hemselves on my mind and I remembered them afterwards in solitude. But now, as soon as the horses arrived, I hurried into a cabriolet, and bade farewel_o my friend.
My journey was very melancholy. At first I wished to hurry on, for I longed t_onsole and sympathise with my loved and sorrowing friends; but when I dre_ear my native town, I slackened my progress. I could hardly sustain th_ultitude of feelings that crowded into my mind. I passed through scene_amiliar to my youth, but which I had not seen for nearly six years. Ho_ltered every thing might be during that time! One sudden and desolatin_hange had taken place; but a thousand little circumstances might have b_egrees worked other alterations, which, although they were done mor_ranquilly, might not be the less decisive. Fear overcame me; I dared n_dvance, dreading a thousand nameless evils that made me tremble, although _as unable to define them. I remained two days at Lausanne, in this painfu_tate of mind. I contemplated the lake: the waters were placid; all around wa_alm; and the snowy mountains, `the palaces of nature,' were not changed. B_egrees the calm and heavenly scene restored me, and I continued my journe_owards Geneva.
The road ran by the side of the lake, which became narrower as I approached m_ative town. I discovered more distinctly the black sides of Jura, and th_right summit of Mont Blanc. I wept like a child. "Dear mountains! my ow_eautiful lake! how do you welcome your wanderer? Your summits are clear; th_ky and lake are blue and placid. Is this to prognosticate peace, or to moc_t my unhappiness?"
I fear, my friend, that I shall render myself tedious by dwelling on thes_reliminary circumstances; but they were days of comparative happiness, and _hink of them with pleasure. My country, my beloved country! who but a nativ_an tell the delight I took in again beholding thy streams, thy mountains, and, more than all, thy lovely lake!
Yet, as I drew nearer home, grief and fear again overcame me. Night als_losed around; and when I could hardly see the dark mountains, I felt stil_ore gloomily. The picture appeared a vast and dim scene of evil, and _oresaw obscurely that I was destined to become the most wretched of huma_eings. Alas! I prophesied truly, and failed only in one single circumstance, that in all the misery I imagined and dreaded, I did not conceive th_undredth part of the anguish I was destined to endure. It was completely dar_hen I arrived in the environs of Geneva; the gates of the town were alread_hut; and I was obliged to pass the night at Secheron, a village at th_istance of half a league from the city. The sky was serene; and, as I wa_nable to rest, I resolved to visit the spot where my poor William had bee_urdered. As I could not pass through the town, I was obliged to cross th_ake in a boat to arrive at Plainpalais. During this short voyage I saw th_ightning playing on the summit of Mont Blanc in the most beautiful figures.
The storm appeared to approach rapidly, and, on landing, I ascended a lo_ill, that I might observe its progress. It advanced; the heavens wer_louded, and I soon felt the rain coming slowly in large drops, but it_iolence quickly increased.
I quitted my seat, and walked on, although the darkness and storm increase_very minute, and the thunder burst with a terrific crash over my head. It wa_choed from Saleve, the Juras, and the Alps of Savoy; vivid flashes o_ightning dazzled my eyes, illuminating the lake, making it appear like a vas_heet of fire; then for an instant every thing seemed of a pitchy darkness, until the eye recovered itself from the preceding flash. The storm, as i_ften the case in Switzerland, appeared at once in various parts of th_eavens. The most violent storm hung exactly north of the town, over the par_f the lake which lies between the promontory of Belrive and the village o_opet. Another storm enlightened Jura with faint flashes; and another darkene_nd sometimes disclosed the Mole, a peaked mountain to the east of the lake.
While I watched the tempest, so beautiful yet terrific, I wandered on with _asty step. This noble war in the sky elevated my spirits; I clasped my hands, and exclaimed aloud, "William, dear angel! this is thy funeral, this th_irge!" As I said these words, I perceived in the gloom a figure which stol_rom behind a clump of trees near me; I stood fixed, gazing intently: I coul_ot be mistaken. A flash of lightning illuminated the object, and discovere_ts shape plainly to me; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspec_ore hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was th_retch, the filthy daemon, to whom I had given life. What did he there? Coul_e be (I shuddered at the conception) the murderer of my brother? No soone_id that idea cross my imagination, than I became convinced of its truth; m_eeth chattered, and I was forced to lean against a tree for support. Th_igure passed me quickly, and I lost it in the gloom.
Nothing in human shape could have destroyed the fair child. HE was th_urderer! I could not doubt it. The mere presence of the idea was a_rresistible proof of the fact. I thought of pursuing the devil; but it woul_ave been in vain, for another flash discovered him to me hanging among th_ocks of the nearly perpendicular ascent of Mont Saleve, a hill that bound_lainpalais on the south. He soon reached the summit, and disappeared.
I remained motionless. The thunder ceased; but the rain still continued, an_he scene was enveloped in an impenetrable darkness. I revolved in my mind th_vents which I had until now sought to forget: the whole train of my progres_oward the creation; the appearance of the works of my own hands at m_edside; its departure. Two years had now nearly elapsed since the night o_hich he first received life; and was this his first crime? Alas! I had turne_oose into the world a depraved wretch, whose delight was in carnage an_isery; had he not murdered my brother?
No one can conceive the anguish I suffered during the remainder of the night, which I spent, cold and wet, in the open air. But I did not feel th_nconvenience of the weather; my imagination was busy in scenes of evil an_espair. I considered the being whom I had cast among mankind, and endowe_ith the will and power to effect purposes of horror, such as the deed whic_e had now done, nearly in the light of my own vampire, my own spirit le_oose from the grave, and forced to destroy all that was dear to me.
Day dawned; and I directed my steps towards the town. The gates were open, an_ hastened to my father's house. My first thought was to discover what I kne_f the murderer, and cause instant pursuit to be made. But I paused when _eflected on the story that I had to tell. A being whom I myself had formed, and endued with life, had met me at midnight among the precipices of a_naccessible mountain. I remembered also the nervous fever with which I ha_een seized just at the time that I dated my creation, and which would give a_ir of delirium to a tale otherwise so utterly improbable. I well knew that i_ny other had communicated such a relation to me, I should have looked upon i_s the ravings of insanity. Besides, the strange nature of the animal woul_lude all pursuit, even if I were so far credited as to persuade my relative_o commence it. And then of what use would be pursuit? Who could arrest _reature capable of scaling the overhanging sides of Mont Saleve? Thes_eflections determined me, and I resolved to remain silent.
It was about five in the morning when I entered my father's house. I told th_ervants not to disturb the family, and went into the library to attend thei_sual hour of rising.
Six years had elapsed, passed in a dream but for one indelible trace, and _tood in the same place where I had last embraced my father before m_eparture for Ingolstadt. Beloved and venerable parent! He still remained t_e. I gazed on the picture of my mother, which stood over the mantel-piece. I_as an historical subject, painted at my father's desire, and represente_aroline Beaufort in an agony of despair, kneeling by the coffin of her dea_ather. Her garb was rustic, and her cheek pale; but there was an air o_ignity and beauty, that hardly permitted the sentiment of pity. Below thi_icture was a miniature of William; and my tears flowed when I looked upon it.
While I was thus engaged, Ernest entered: he had heard me arrive, and hastene_o welcome me: "Welcome, my dearest Victor," said he. "Ah! I wish you had com_hree months ago, and then you would have found us all joyous and delighted.
You come to us now to share a misery which nothing can alleviate; yet yo_resence will, I hope, revive our father, who seems sinking under hi_isfortune; and your persuasions will induce poor Elizabeth to cease her vai_nd tormenting self- accusations.—Poor William! he was our darling and ou_ride!"
Tears, unrestrained, fell from my brother's eyes; a sense of mortal agon_rept over my frame. Before, I had only imagined the wretchedness of m_esolated home; the reality came on me as a new, and a not less terrible, disaster. I tried to calm Ernest; I enquired more minutely concerning m_ather, and her I named my cousin.
"She most of all," said Ernest, "requires consolation; she accused herself o_aving caused the death of my brother, and that made her very wretched. Bu_ince the murderer has been discovered—"
"The murderer discovered! Good God! how can that be? who could attempt t_ursue him? It is impossible; one might as well try to overtake the winds, o_onfine a mountain-stream with a straw. I saw him too; he was free las_ight!"
"I do not know what you mean," replied my brother, in accents of wonder, "bu_o us the discovery we have made completes our misery. No one would believe i_t first; and even now Elizabeth will not be convinced, notwithstanding al_he evidence. Indeed, who would credit that Justine Moritz, who was s_miable, and fond of all the family, could suddenly become so capable of s_rightful, so appalling a crime?"
"Justine Moritz! Poor, poor girl, is she the accused? But it is wrongfully; every one knows that; no one believes it, surely, Ernest?"
"No one did at first; but several circumstances came out, that have almos_orced conviction upon us; and her own behaviour has been so confused, as t_dd to the evidence of facts a weight that, I fear, leaves no hope for doubt.
But she will be tried today, and you will then hear all."
He then related that, the morning on which the murder of poor William had bee_iscovered, Justine had been taken ill, and confined to her bed for severa_ays. During this interval, one of the servants, happening to examine th_pparel she had worn on the night of the murder, had discovered in her pocke_he picture of my mother, which had been judged to be the temptation of th_urderer. The servant instantly showed it to one of the others, who, withou_aying a word to any of the family, went to a magistrate; and, upon thei_eposition, Justine was apprehended. On being charged with the fact, the poo_irl confirmed the suspicion in a great measure by her extreme confusion o_anner.
This was a strange tale, but it did not shake my faith; and I replie_arnestly, "You are all mistaken; I know the murderer. Justine, poor, goo_ustine, is innocent."
At that instant my father entered. I saw unhappiness deeply impressed on hi_ountenance, but he endeavoured to welcome me cheerfully; and, after we ha_xchanged our mournful greeting, would have introduced some other topic tha_hat of our disaster, had not Ernest exclaimed, "Good God, papa! Victor say_hat he knows who was the murderer of poor William."
"We do also, unfortunately," replied my father, "for indeed I had rather hav_een for ever ignorant than have discovered so much depravity and ungratitud_n one I valued so highly."
"My dear father, you are mistaken; Justine is innocent."
"If she is, God forbid that she should suffer as guilty. She is to be trie_oday, and I hope, I sincerely hope, that she will be acquitted."
This speech calmed me. I was firmly convinced in my own mind that Justine, an_ndeed every human being, was guiltless of this murder. I had no fear, therefore, that any circumstantial evidence could be brought forward stron_nough to convict her. My tale was not one to announce publicly; it_stounding horror would be looked upon as madness by the vulgar. Did any on_ndeed exist, except I, the creator, who would believe, unless his sense_onvinced him, in the existence of the living monument of presumption and ras_gnorance which I had let loose upon the world?
We were soon joined by Elizabeth. Time had altered her since I last behel_er; it had endowed her with loveliness surpassing the beauty of her childis_ears. There was the same candour, the same vivacity, but it was allied to a_xpression more full of sensibility and intellect. She welcomed me with th_reatest affection. "Your arrival, my dear cousin," said she, "fills me wit_ope. You perhaps will find some means to justify my poor guiltless Justine.
Alas! who is safe, if she be convicted of crime? I rely on her innocence a_ertainly as I do upon my own. Our misfortune is doubly hard to us; we hav_ot only lost that lovely darling boy, but this poor girl, whom I sincerel_ove, is to be torn away by even a worse fate. If she is condemned, I neve_hall know joy more. But she will not, I am sure she will not; and then _hall be happy again, even after the sad death of my little William."
"She is innocent, my Elizabeth," said I, "and that shall be proved; fea_othing, but let your spirits be cheered by the assurance of her acquittal."
"How kind and generous you are! every one else believes in her guilt, and tha_ade me wretched, for I knew that it was impossible: and to see every one els_rejudiced in so deadly a manner rendered me hopeless and despairing." Sh_ept.
"Dearest niece," said my father, "dry your tears. If she is, as you believe, innocent, rely on the justice of our laws, and the activity with which I shal_revent the slightest shadow of partiality."