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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Frankenstein 10
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Chapter 10

I spent the following day roaming through the valley. I stood beside
the sources of the Arveiron, which take their rise in a glacier, that
with slow pace is advancing down from the summit of the hills to
barricade the valley. The abrupt sides of vast mountains were before
me; the icy wall of the glacier overhung me; a few shattered pines were
scattered around; and the solemn silence of this glorious
presence-chamber of imperial nature was broken only by the brawling
waves or the fall of some vast fragment, the thunder sound of the
avalanche or the cracking, reverberated along the mountains, of the
accumulated ice, which, through the silent working of immutable laws,
was ever and anon rent and torn, as if it had been but a plaything in
their hands. These sublime and magnificent scenes afforded me the
greatest consolation that I was capable of receiving. They elevated me
from all littleness of feeling, and although they did not remove my
grief, they subdued and tranquillized it. In some degree, also, they
diverted my mind from the thoughts over which it had brooded for the
last month. I retired to rest at night; my slumbers, as it were,
waited on and ministered to by the assemblance of grand shapes which I
had contemplated during the day. They congregated round me; the
unstained snowy mountain-top, the glittering pinnacle, the pine woods,
and ragged bare ravine, the eagle, soaring amidst the clouds--they all
gathered round me and bade me be at peace.

Where had they fled when the next morning I awoke? All of soul-
inspiriting fled with sleep, and dark melancholy clouded every thought.
The rain was pouring in torrents, and thick mists hid the summits of
the mountains, so that I even saw not the faces of those mighty
friends. Still I would penetrate their misty veil and seek them in
their cloudy retreats. What were rain and storm to me? My mule was
brought to the door, and I resolved to ascend to the summit of
Montanvert. I remembered the effect that the view of the tremendous
and ever-moving glacier had produced upon my mind when I first saw it.
It had then filled me with a sublime ecstasy that gave wings to the
soul and allowed it to soar from the obscure world to light and joy.
The sight of the awful and majestic in nature had indeed always the
effect of solemnizing my mind and causing me to forget the passing
cares of life. I determined to go without a guide, for I was well
acquainted with the path, and the presence of another would destroy the
solitary grandeur of the scene.

The ascent is precipitous, but the path is cut into continual and short
windings, which enable you to surmount the perpendicularity of the
mountain. It is a scene terrifically desolate. In a thousand spots
the traces of the winter avalanche may be perceived, where trees lie
broken and strewed on the ground, some entirely destroyed, others bent,
leaning upon the jutting rocks of the mountain or transversely upon
other trees. The path, as you ascend higher, is intersected by ravines
of snow, down which stones continually roll from above; one of them is
particularly dangerous, as the slightest sound, such as even speaking
in a loud voice, produces a concussion of air sufficient to draw
destruction upon the head of the speaker. The pines are not tall or
luxuriant, but they are sombre and add an air of severity to the
scene. I looked on the valley beneath; vast mists were rising from the
rivers which ran through it and curling in thick wreaths around the
opposite mountains, whose summits were hid in the uniform clouds, while
rain poured from the dark sky and added to the melancholy impression I
received from the objects around me. Alas! Why does man boast of
sensibilities superior to those apparent in the brute; it only renders
them more necessary beings. If our impulses were confined to hunger,
thirst, and desire, we might be nearly free; but now we are moved by
every wind that blows and a chance word or scene that that word may
convey to us.

We rest; a dream has power to poison sleep.
We rise; one wand'ring thought pollutes the day.
We feel, conceive, or reason; laugh or weep,
Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away;
It is the same: for, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free.
Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but mutability!

It was nearly noon when I arrived at the top of the ascent. For some
time I sat upon the rock that overlooks the sea of ice. A mist covered
both that and the surrounding mountains. Presently a breeze dissipated
the cloud, and I descended upon the glacier. The surface is very
uneven, rising like the waves of a troubled sea, descending low, and
interspersed by rifts that sink deep. The field of ice is almost a
league in width, but I spent nearly two hours in crossing it. The
opposite mountain is a bare perpendicular rock. From the side where I
now stood Montanvert was exactly opposite, at the distance of a league;
and above it rose Mont Blanc, in awful majesty. I remained in a recess
of the rock, gazing on this wonderful and stupendous scene. The sea,
or rather the vast river of ice, wound among its dependent mountains,
whose aerial summits hung over its recesses. Their icy and glittering
peaks shone in the sunlight over the clouds. My heart, which was
before sorrowful, now swelled with something like joy; I exclaimed,
"Wandering spirits, if indeed ye wander, and do not rest in your narrow
beds, allow me this faint happiness, or take me, as your companion,
away from the joys of life."

As I said this I suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at some distance,
advancing towards me with superhuman speed. He bounded over the
crevices in the ice, among which I had walked with caution; his
stature, also, as he approached, seemed to exceed that of man. I was
troubled; a mist came over my eyes, and I felt a faintness seize me,
but I was quickly restored by the cold gale of the mountains. I
perceived, as the shape came nearer (sight tremendous and abhorred!)
that it was the wretch whom I had created. I trembled with rage and
horror, resolving to wait his approach and then close with him in
mortal combat. He approached; his countenance bespoke bitter anguish,
combined with disdain and malignity, while its unearthly ugliness
rendered it almost too horrible for human eyes. But I scarcely
observed this; rage and hatred had at first deprived me of utterance,
and I recovered only to overwhelm him with words expressive of furious
detestation and contempt.

"Devil," I exclaimed, "do you dare approach me? And do not you fear
the fierce vengeance of my arm wreaked on your miserable head? Begone,
vile insect! Or rather, stay, that I may trample you to dust! And,
oh! That I could, with the extinction of your miserable existence,
restore those victims whom you have so diabolically murdered!"

"I expected this reception," said the daemon. "All men hate the
wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all
living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature,
to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of
one of us. You purpose to kill me. How dare you sport thus with
life? Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the
rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave
them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death,
until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends."

"Abhorred monster! Fiend that thou art! The tortures of hell are too
mild a vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil! You reproach me with
your creation, come on, then, that I may extinguish the spark which I
so negligently bestowed."

My rage was without bounds; I sprang on him, impelled by all the
feelings which can arm one being against the existence of another.

He easily eluded me and said,

"Be calm! I entreat you to hear me before you give vent to your hatred
on my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to
increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of
anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember, thou hast made
me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine, my
joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in
opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and
docile to my natural lord and king if thou wilt also perform thy part,
the which thou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every
other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy
clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature;
I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou
drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I
alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made
me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous."

"Begone! I will not hear you. There can be no community between you
and me; we are enemies. Begone, or let us try our strength in a fight,
in which one must fall."

"How can I move thee? Will no entreaties cause thee to turn a
favourable eye upon thy creature, who implores thy goodness and
compassion? Believe me, Frankenstein, I was benevolent; my soul glowed
with love and humanity; but am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my
creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from your fellow creatures,
who owe me nothing? They spurn and hate me. The desert mountains and
dreary glaciers are my refuge. I have wandered here many days; the
caves of ice, which I only do not fear, are a dwelling to me, and the
only one which man does not grudge. These bleak skies I hail, for they
are kinder to me than your fellow beings. If the multitude of mankind
knew of my existence, they would do as you do, and arm themselves for
my destruction. Shall I not then hate them who abhor me? I will keep
no terms with my enemies. I am miserable, and they shall share my
wretchedness. Yet it is in your power to recompense me, and deliver
them from an evil which it only remains for you to make so great, that
not only you and your family, but thousands of others, shall be
swallowed up in the whirlwinds of its rage. Let your compassion be
moved, and do not disdain me. Listen to my tale; when you have heard
that, abandon or commiserate me, as you shall judge that I deserve.
But hear me. The guilty are allowed, by human laws, bloody as they
are, to speak in their own defence before they are condemned. Listen
to me, Frankenstein. You accuse me of murder, and yet you would, with
a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the
eternal justice of man! Yet I ask you not to spare me; listen to me,
and then, if you can, and if you will, destroy the work of your hands."

"Why do you call to my remembrance," I rejoined, "circumstances of
which I shudder to reflect, that I have been the miserable origin and
author? Cursed be the day, abhorred devil, in which you first saw
light! Cursed (although I curse myself) be the hands that formed you!
You have made me wretched beyond expression. You have left me no power
to consider whether I am just to you or not. Begone! Relieve me from
the sight of your detested form."

"Thus I relieve thee, my creator," he said, and placed his hated hands
before my eyes, which I flung from me with violence; "thus I take from
thee a sight which you abhor. Still thou canst listen to me and grant
me thy compassion. By the virtues that I once possessed, I demand this
from you. Hear my tale; it is long and strange, and the temperature of
this place is not fitting to your fine sensations; come to the hut upon
the mountain. The sun is yet high in the heavens; before it descends
to hide itself behind your snowy precipices and illuminate another
world, you will have heard my story and can decide. On you it rests,
whether I quit forever the neighbourhood of man and lead a harmless
life, or become the scourge of your fellow creatures and the author of
your own speedy ruin."

As he said this he led the way across the ice; I followed. My heart
was full, and I did not answer him, but as I proceeded, I weighed the
various arguments that he had used and determined at least to listen to
his tale. I was partly urged by curiosity, and compassion confirmed my
resolution. I had hitherto supposed him to be the murderer of my
brother, and I eagerly sought a confirmation or denial of this
opinion. For the first time, also, I felt what the duties of a creator
towards his creature were, and that I ought to render him happy before
I complained of his wickedness. These motives urged me to comply with
his demand. We crossed the ice, therefore, and ascended the opposite
rock. The air was cold, and the rain again began to descend; we
entered the hut, the fiend with an air of exultation, I with a heavy
heart and depressed spirits. But I consented to listen, and seating
myself by the fire which my odious companion had lighted, he thus began
his tale.


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