your online library and language lab
Contents > Author > Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley > Frankenstein 12 1797- 1851
Previous Next

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Frankenstein 12
printer friendly version
Chapter 12

"I lay on my straw, but I could not sleep. I thought of the
occurrences of the day. What chiefly struck me was the gentle manners
of these people, and I longed to join them, but dared not. I
remembered too well the treatment I had suffered the night before from
the barbarous villagers, and resolved, whatever course of conduct I
might hereafter think it right to pursue, that for the present I would
remain quietly in my hovel, watching and endeavouring to discover the
motives which influenced their actions.

"The cottagers arose the next morning before the sun. The young woman
arranged the cottage and prepared the food, and the youth departed
after the first meal.

"This day was passed in the same routine as that which preceded it.
The young man was constantly employed out of doors, and the girl in
various laborious occupations within. The old man, whom I soon
perceived to be blind, employed his leisure hours on his instrument or
in contemplation. Nothing could exceed the love and respect which the
younger cottagers exhibited towards their venerable companion. They
performed towards him every little office of affection and duty with
gentleness, and he rewarded them by his benevolent smiles.

"They were not entirely happy. The young man and his companion often
went apart and appeared to weep. I saw no cause for their unhappiness,
but I was deeply affected by it. If such lovely creatures were
miserable, it was less strange that I, an imperfect and solitary being,
should be wretched. Yet why were these gentle beings unhappy? They
possessed a delightful house (for such it was in my eyes) and every
luxury; they had a fire to warm them when chill and delicious viands
when hungry; they were dressed in excellent clothes; and, still more,
they enjoyed one another's company and speech, interchanging each day
looks of affection and kindness. What did their tears imply? Did they
really express pain? I was at first unable to solve these questions,
but perpetual attention and time explained to me many appearances which
were at first enigmatic.

"A considerable period elapsed before I discovered one of the causes of
the uneasiness of this amiable family: it was poverty, and they
suffered that evil in a very distressing degree. Their nourishment
consisted entirely of the vegetables of their garden and the milk of
one cow, which gave very little during the winter, when its masters
could scarcely procure food to support it. They often, I believe,
suffered the pangs of hunger very poignantly, especially the two
younger cottagers, for several times they placed food before the old
man when they reserved none for themselves.

"This trait of kindness moved me sensibly. I had been accustomed,
during the night, to steal a part of their store for my own
consumption, but when I found that in doing this I inflicted pain on
the cottagers, I abstained and satisfied myself with berries, nuts, and
roots which I gathered from a neighbouring wood.

"I discovered also another means through which I was enabled to assist
their labours. I found that the youth spent a great part of each day
in collecting wood for the family fire, and during the night I often
took his tools, the use of which I quickly discovered, and brought home
firing sufficient for the consumption of several days.

"I remember, the first time that I did this, the young woman, when she
opened the door in the morning, appeared greatly astonished on seeing a
great pile of wood on the outside. She uttered some words in a loud
voice, and the youth joined her, who also expressed surprise. I
observed, with pleasure, that he did not go to the forest that day, but
spent it in repairing the cottage and cultivating the garden.

"By degrees I made a discovery of still greater moment. I found that
these people possessed a method of communicating their experience and
feelings to one another by articulate sounds. I perceived that the
words they spoke sometimes produced pleasure or pain, smiles or
sadness, in the minds and countenances of the hearers. This was indeed
a godlike science, and I ardently desired to become acquainted with
it. But I was baffled in every attempt I made for this purpose. Their
pronunciation was quick, and the words they uttered, not having any
apparent connection with visible objects, I was unable to discover any
clue by which I could unravel the mystery of their reference. By great
application, however, and after having remained during the space of
several revolutions of the moon in my hovel, I discovered the names
that were given to some of the most familiar objects of discourse; I
learned and applied the words, `fire,' `milk,' `bread,' and `wood.' I
learned also the names of the cottagers themselves. The youth and his
companion had each of them several names, but the old man had only one,
which was `father.' The girl was called `sister' or `Agatha,' and the
youth `Felix,' `brother,' or `son.' I cannot describe the delight I
felt when I learned the ideas appropriated to each of these sounds and
was able to pronounce them. I distinguished several other words
without being able as yet to understand or apply them, such as `good,'
`dearest,' `unhappy.'

"I spent the winter in this manner. The gentle manners and beauty of
the cottagers greatly endeared them to me; when they were unhappy, I
felt depressed; when they rejoiced, I sympathized in their joys. I saw
few human beings besides them, and if any other happened to enter the
cottage, their harsh manners and rude gait only enhanced to me the
superior accomplishments of my friends. The old man, I could perceive,
often endeavoured to encourage his children, as sometimes I found that
he called them, to cast off their melancholy. He would talk in a
cheerful accent, with an expression of goodness that bestowed pleasure
even upon me. Agatha listened with respect, her eyes sometimes filled
with tears, which she endeavoured to wipe away unperceived; but I
generally found that her countenance and tone were more cheerful after
having listened to the exhortations of her father. It was not thus
with Felix. He was always the saddest of the group, and even to my
unpractised senses, he appeared to have suffered more deeply than his
friends. But if his countenance was more sorrowful, his voice was more
cheerful than that of his sister, especially when he addressed the old

"I could mention innumerable instances which, although slight, marked
the dispositions of these amiable cottagers. In the midst of poverty
and want, Felix carried with pleasure to his sister the first little
white flower that peeped out from beneath the snowy ground. Early in
the morning, before she had risen, he cleared away the snow that
obstructed her path to the milk-house, drew water from the well, and
brought the wood from the outhouse, where, to his perpetual
astonishment, he found his store always replenished by an invisible
hand. In the day, I believe, he worked sometimes for a neighbouring
farmer, because he often went forth and did not return until dinner,
yet brought no wood with him. At other times he worked in the garden,
but as there was little to do in the frosty season, he read to the old
man and Agatha.

"This reading had puzzled me extremely at first, but by degrees I
discovered that he uttered many of the same sounds when he read as when
he talked. I conjectured, therefore, that he found on the paper signs
for speech which he understood, and I ardently longed to comprehend
these also; but how was that possible when I did not even understand
the sounds for which they stood as signs? I improved, however,
sensibly in this science, but not sufficiently to follow up any kind of
conversation, although I applied my whole mind to the endeavour, for I
easily perceived that, although I eagerly longed to discover myself to
the cottagers, I ought not to make the attempt until I had first become
master of their language, which knowledge might enable me to make them
overlook the deformity of my figure, for with this also the contrast
perpetually presented to my eyes had made me acquainted.

"I had admired the perfect forms of my cottagers--their grace, beauty,
and delicate complexions; but how was I terrified when I viewed myself
in a transparent pool! At first I started back, unable to believe that
it was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror; and when I became
fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was
filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification.
Alas! I did not yet entirely know the fatal effects of this miserable

"As the sun became warmer and the light of day longer, the snow
vanished, and I beheld the bare trees and the black earth. From this
time Felix was more employed, and the heart-moving indications of
impending famine disappeared. Their food, as I afterwards found, was
coarse, but it was wholesome; and they procured a sufficiency of it.
Several new kinds of plants sprang up in the garden, which they
dressed; and these signs of comfort increased daily as the season

"The old man, leaning on his son, walked each day at noon, when it did
not rain, as I found it was called when the heavens poured forth its
waters. This frequently took place, but a high wind quickly dried the
earth, and the season became far more pleasant than it had been.

"My mode of life in my hovel was uniform. During the morning I
attended the motions of the cottagers, and when they were dispersed in
various occupations, I slept; the remainder of the day was spent in
observing my friends. When they had retired to rest, if there was any
moon or the night was star-light, I went into the woods and collected
my own food and fuel for the cottage. When I returned, as often as it
was necessary, I cleared their path from the snow and performed those
offices that I had seen done by Felix. I afterwards found that these
labours, performed by an invisible hand, greatly astonished them; and
once or twice I heard them, on these occasions, utter the words `good
spirit,' `wonderful'; but I did not then understand the signification
of these terms.

"My thoughts now became more active, and I longed to discover the
motives and feelings of these lovely creatures; I was inquisitive to
know why Felix appeared so miserable and Agatha so sad. I thought
(foolish wretch!) that it might be in my power to restore happiness to
these deserving people. When I slept or was absent, the forms of the
venerable blind father, the gentle Agatha, and the excellent Felix
flitted before me. I looked upon them as superior beings who would be
the arbiters of my future destiny. I formed in my imagination a
thousand pictures of presenting myself to them, and their reception of
me. I imagined that they would be disgusted, until, by my gentle
demeanour and conciliating words, I should first win their favour and
afterwards their love.

"These thoughts exhilarated me and led me to apply with fresh ardour to
the acquiring the art of language. My organs were indeed harsh, but
supple; and although my voice was very unlike the soft music of their
tones, yet I pronounced such words as I understood with tolerable ease.
It was as the ass and the lap-dog; yet surely the gentle ass whose
intentions were affectionate, although his manners were rude, deserved
better treatment than blows and execration.

"The pleasant showers and genial warmth of spring greatly altered the
aspect of the earth. Men who before this change seemed to have been
hid in caves dispersed themselves and were employed in various arts of
cultivation. The birds sang in more cheerful notes, and the leaves
began to bud forth on the trees. Happy, happy earth! Fit habitation
for gods, which, so short a time before, was bleak, damp, and
unwholesome. My spirits were elevated by the enchanting appearance of
nature; the past was blotted from my memory, the present was tranquil,
and the future gilded by bright rays of hope and anticipations of joy."


Previous Next

10986883 visitors
· 8908 texts · 2350 recordings · 957 authors · 194 readers

· Home · Index · Audio Clips · Links · Feedback · About Us · Contact Us ·

Copyright © All Rights Reserved.

Warning: Unknown: Your script possibly relies on a session side-effect which existed until PHP 4.2.3. Please be advised that the session extension does not consider global variables as a source of data, unless register_globals is enabled. You can disable this functionality and this warning by setting session.bug_compat_42 or session.bug_compat_warn to off, respectively in Unknown on line 0