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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Frankenstein 06
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Chapter 6

Clerval then put the following letter into my hands. It was from
my own Elizabeth:

"My dearest Cousin,

"You have been ill, very ill, and even the constant letters of dear
kind Henry are not sufficient to reassure me on your account. You are
forbidden to write--to hold a pen; yet one word from you, dear Victor,
is necessary to calm our apprehensions. For a long time I have thought
that each post would bring this line, and my persuasions have
restrained my uncle from undertaking a journey to Ingolstadt. I have
prevented his encountering the inconveniences and perhaps dangers of so
long a journey, yet how often have I regretted not being able to
perform it myself! I figure to myself that the task of attending on
your sickbed has devolved on some mercenary old nurse, who could never
guess your wishes nor minister to them with the care and affection of
your poor cousin. Yet that is over now: Clerval writes that indeed
you are getting better. I eagerly hope that you will confirm this
intelligence soon in your own handwriting.

"Get well--and return to us. You will find a happy, cheerful home and
friends who love you dearly. Your father's health is vigorous, and he
asks but to see you, but to be assured that you are well; and not a
care will ever cloud his benevolent countenance. How pleased you would
be to remark the improvement of our Ernest! He is now sixteen and full
of activity and spirit. He is desirous to be a true Swiss and to enter
into foreign service, but we cannot part with him, at least until his
elder brother returns to us. My uncle is not pleased with the idea of
a military career in a distant country, but Ernest never had your
powers of application. He looks upon study as an odious fetter; his
time is spent in the open air, climbing the hills or rowing on the
lake. I fear that he will become an idler unless we yield the point
and permit him to enter on the profession which he has selected.

"Little alteration, except the growth of our dear children, has taken
place since you left us. The blue lake and snow-clad mountains--they
never change; and I think our placid home and our contented hearts are
regulated by the same immutable laws. My trifling occupations take up
my time and amuse me, and I am rewarded for any exertions by seeing
none but happy, kind faces around me. Since you left us, but one
change has taken place in our little household. Do you remember on
what occasion Justine Moritz entered our family? Probably you do not;
I will relate her history, therefore in a few words. Madame Moritz,
her mother, was a widow with four children, of whom Justine was the
third. This girl had always been the favourite of her father, but
through a strange perversity, her mother could not endure her, and
after the death of M. Moritz, treated her very ill. My aunt observed
this, and when Justine was twelve years of age, prevailed on her mother
to allow her to live at our house. The republican institutions of our
country have produced simpler and happier manners than those which
prevail in the great monarchies that surround it. Hence there is less
distinction between the several classes of its inhabitants; and the
lower orders, being neither so poor nor so despised, their manners are
more refined and moral. A servant in Geneva does not mean the same
thing as a servant in France and England. Justine, thus received in
our family, learned the duties of a servant, a condition which, in our
fortunate country, does not include the idea of ignorance and a
sacrifice of the dignity of a human being.

"Justine, you may remember, was a great favourite of yours; and I
recollect you once remarked that if you were in an ill humour, one
glance from Justine could dissipate it, for the same reason that
Ariosto gives concerning the beauty of Angelica--she looked so
frank-hearted and happy. My aunt conceived a great attachment for her,
by which she was induced to give her an education superior to that
which she had at first intended. This benefit was fully repaid;
Justine was the most grateful little creature in the world: I do not
mean that she made any professions I never heard one pass her lips, but
you could see by her eyes that she almost adored her protectress.
Although her disposition was gay and in many respects inconsiderate,
yet she paid the greatest attention to every gesture of my aunt. She
thought her the model of all excellence and endeavoured to imitate her
phraseology and manners, so that even now she often reminds me of her.

"When my dearest aunt died every one was too much occupied in their own
grief to notice poor Justine, who had attended her during her illness
with the most anxious affection. Poor Justine was very ill; but other
trials were reserved for her.

"One by one, her brothers and sister died; and her mother, with the
exception of her neglected daughter, was left childless. The
conscience of the woman was troubled; she began to think that the
deaths of her favourites was a judgement from heaven to chastise her
partiality. She was a Roman Catholic; and I believe her confessor
confirmed the idea which she had conceived. Accordingly, a few months
after your departure for Ingolstadt, Justine was called home by her
repentant mother. Poor girl! She wept when she quitted our house; she
was much altered since the death of my aunt; grief had given softness
and a winning mildness to her manners, which had before been remarkable
for vivacity. Nor was her residence at her mother's house of a nature
to restore her gaiety. The poor woman was very vacillating in her
repentance. She sometimes begged Justine to forgive her unkindness,
but much oftener accused her of having caused the deaths of her
brothers and sister. Perpetual fretting at length threw Madame Moritz
into a decline, which at first increased her irritability, but she is
now at peace for ever. She died on the first approach of cold weather,
at the beginning of this last winter. Justine has just returned to us;
and I assure you I love her tenderly. She is very clever and gentle,
and extremely pretty; as I mentioned before, her mien and her
expression continually remind me of my dear aunt.

"I must say also a few words to you, my dear cousin, of little darling
William. I wish you could see him; he is very tall of his age, with
sweet laughing blue eyes, dark eyelashes, and curling hair. When he
smiles, two little dimples appear on each cheek, which are rosy with
health. He has already had one or two little WIVES, but Louisa Biron
is his favourite, a pretty little girl of five years of age.

"Now, dear Victor, I dare say you wish to be indulged in a little
gossip concerning the good people of Geneva. The pretty Miss Mansfield
has already received the congratulatory visits on her approaching
marriage with a young Englishman, John Melbourne, Esq. Her ugly
sister, Manon, married M. Duvillard, the rich banker, last autumn. Your
favourite schoolfellow, Louis Manoir, has suffered several misfortunes
since the departure of Clerval from Geneva. But he has already
recovered his spirits, and is reported to be on the point of marrying a
lively pretty Frenchwoman, Madame Tavernier. She is a widow, and much
older than Manoir; but she is very much admired, and a favourite with

"I have written myself into better spirits, dear cousin; but my anxiety
returns upon me as I conclude. Write, dearest Victor,--one line--one
word will be a blessing to us. Ten thousand thanks to Henry for his
kindness, his affection, and his many letters; we are sincerely
grateful. Adieu! my cousin; take care of your self; and, I entreat
you, write!

"Elizabeth Lavenza.

"Geneva, March 18, 17--."

"Dear, dear Elizabeth!" I exclaimed, when I had read her letter: "I
will write instantly and relieve them from the anxiety they must feel."
I wrote, and this exertion greatly fatigued me; but my convalescence
had commenced, and proceeded regularly. In another fortnight I was
able to leave my chamber.

One of my first duties on my recovery was to introduce Clerval to the
several professors of the university. In doing this, I underwent a
kind of rough usage, ill befitting the wounds that my mind had
sustained. Ever since the fatal night, the end of my labours, and the
beginning of my misfortunes, I had conceived a violent antipathy even
to the name of natural philosophy. When I was otherwise quite restored
to health, the sight of a chemical instrument would renew all the agony
of my nervous symptoms. Henry saw this, and had removed all my
apparatus from my view. He had also changed my apartment; for he
perceived that I had acquired a dislike for the room which had
previously been my laboratory. But these cares of Clerval were made of
no avail when I visited the professors. M. Waldman inflicted torture
when he praised, with kindness and warmth, the astonishing progress I
had made in the sciences. He soon perceived that I disliked the
subject; but not guessing the real cause, he attributed my feelings to
modesty, and changed the subject from my improvement, to the science
itself, with a desire, as I evidently saw, of drawing me out. What
could I do? He meant to please, and he tormented me. I felt as if he
had placed carefully, one by one, in my view those instruments which
were to be afterwards used in putting me to a slow and cruel death. I
writhed under his words, yet dared not exhibit the pain I felt.
Clerval, whose eyes and feelings were always quick in discerning the
sensations of others, declined the subject, alleging, in excuse, his
total ignorance; and the conversation took a more general turn. I
thanked my friend from my heart, but I did not speak. I saw plainly
that he was surprised, but he never attempted to draw my secret from
me; and although I loved him with a mixture of affection and reverence
that knew no bounds, yet I could never persuade myself to confide in
him that event which was so often present to my recollection, but which
I feared the detail to another would only impress more deeply.

M. Krempe was not equally docile; and in my condition at that time, of
almost insupportable sensitiveness, his harsh blunt encomiums gave me
even more pain than the benevolent approbation of M. Waldman. "D--n
the fellow!" cried he; "why, M. Clerval, I assure you he has outstript
us all. Ay, stare if you please; but it is nevertheless true. A
youngster who, but a few years ago, believed in Cornelius Agrippa as
firmly as in the gospel, has now set himself at the head of the
university; and if he is not soon pulled down, we shall all be out of
countenance.--Ay, ay," continued he, observing my face expressive of
suffering, "M. Frankenstein is modest; an excellent quality in a young
man. Young men should be diffident of themselves, you know, M.
Clerval: I was myself when young; but that wears out in a very short

M. Krempe had now commenced an eulogy on himself, which happily turned
the conversation from a subject that was so annoying to me.

Clerval had never sympathized in my tastes for natural science; and his
literary pursuits differed wholly from those which had occupied me. He
came to the university with the design of making himself complete
master of the oriental languages, and thus he should open a field for
the plan of life he had marked out for himself. Resolved to pursue no
inglorious career, he turned his eyes toward the East, as affording
scope for his spirit of enterprise. The Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit
languages engaged his attention, and I was easily induced to enter on
the same studies. Idleness had ever been irksome to me, and now that I
wished to fly from reflection, and hated my former studies, I felt
great relief in being the fellow-pupil with my friend, and found not
only instruction but consolation in the works of the orientalists. I
did not, like him, attempt a critical knowledge of their dialects, for
I did not contemplate making any other use of them than temporary
amusement. I read merely to understand their meaning, and they well
repaid my labours. Their melancholy is soothing, and their joy
elevating, to a degree I never experienced in studying the authors of
any other country. When you read their writings, life appears to
consist in a warm sun and a garden of roses,--in the smiles and frowns
of a fair enemy, and the fire that consumes your own heart. How
different from the manly and heroical poetry of Greece and Rome!

Summer passed away in these occupations, and my return to Geneva was
fixed for the latter end of autumn; but being delayed by several
accidents, winter and snow arrived, the roads were deemed impassable,
and my journey was retarded until the ensuing spring. I felt this
delay very bitterly; for I longed to see my native town and my beloved
friends. My return had only been delayed so long, from an
unwillingness to leave Clerval in a strange place, before he had become
acquainted with any of its inhabitants. The winter, however, was spent
cheerfully; and although the spring was uncommonly late, when it came
its beauty compensated for its dilatoriness.

The month of May had already commenced, and I expected the letter daily
which was to fix the date of my departure, when Henry proposed a
pedestrian tour in the environs of Ingolstadt, that I might bid a
personal farewell to the country I had so long inhabited. I acceded
with pleasure to this proposition: I was fond of exercise, and Clerval
had always been my favourite companion in the ramble of this nature
that I had taken among the scenes of my native country.

We passed a fortnight in these perambulations: my health and spirits
had long been restored, and they gained additional strength from the
salubrious air I breathed, the natural incidents of our progress, and
the conversation of my friend. Study had before secluded me from the
intercourse of my fellow-creatures, and rendered me unsocial; but
Clerval called forth the better feelings of my heart; he again taught
me to love the aspect of nature, and the cheerful faces of children.
Excellent friend! how sincerely you did love me, and endeavour to
elevate my mind until it was on a level with your own. A selfish
pursuit had cramped and narrowed me, until your gentleness and
affection warmed and opened my senses; I became the same happy creature
who, a few years ago, loved and beloved by all, had no sorrow or care.
When happy, inanimate nature had the power of bestowing on me the most
delightful sensations. A serene sky and verdant fields filled me with
ecstasy. The present season was indeed divine; the flowers of spring
bloomed in the hedges, while those of summer were already in bud. I
was undisturbed by thoughts which during the preceding year had pressed
upon me, notwithstanding my endeavours to throw them off, with an
invincible burden.

Henry rejoiced in my gaiety, and sincerely sympathised in my feelings:
he exerted himself to amuse me, while he expressed the sensations that
filled his soul. The resources of his mind on this occasion were truly
astonishing: his conversation was full of imagination; and very often,
in imitation of the Persian and Arabic writers, he invented tales of
wonderful fancy and passion. At other times he repeated my favourite
poems, or drew me out into arguments, which he supported with great
ingenuity. We returned to our college on a Sunday afternoon: the
peasants were dancing, and every one we met appeared gay and happy. My
own spirits were high, and I bounded along with feelings of unbridled
joy and hilarity.


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