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Contents > Author > Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley > Frankenstein 13 1797- 1851
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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Frankenstein 13
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Chapter 13

"I now hasten to the more moving part of my story. I shall relate
events that impressed me with feelings which, from what I had been,
have made me what I am.

"Spring advanced rapidly; the weather became fine and the skies
cloudless. It surprised me that what before was desert and gloomy
should now bloom with the most beautiful flowers and verdure. My
senses were gratified and refreshed by a thousand scents of delight and
a thousand sights of beauty.

"It was on one of these days, when my cottagers periodically rested
from labour--the old man played on his guitar, and the children
listened to him--that I observed the countenance of Felix was
melancholy beyond expression; he sighed frequently, and once his father
paused in his music, and I conjectured by his manner that he inquired
the cause of his son's sorrow. Felix replied in a cheerful accent, and
the old man was recommencing his music when someone tapped at the door.

"It was a lady on horseback, accompanied by a country-man as a guide.
The lady was dressed in a dark suit and covered with a thick black
veil. Agatha asked a question, to which the stranger only replied by
pronouncing, in a sweet accent, the name of Felix. Her voice was
musical but unlike that of either of my friends. On hearing this word,
Felix came up hastily to the lady, who, when she saw him, threw up her
veil, and I beheld a countenance of angelic beauty and expression. Her
hair of a shining raven black, and curiously braided; her eyes were
dark, but gentle, although animated; her features of a regular
proportion, and her complexion wondrously fair, each cheek tinged with
a lovely pink.

"Felix seemed ravished with delight when he saw her, every trait of
sorrow vanished from his face, and it instantly expressed a degree of
ecstatic joy, of which I could hardly have believed it capable; his
eyes sparkled, as his cheek flushed with pleasure; and at that moment I
thought him as beautiful as the stranger. She appeared affected by
different feelings; wiping a few tears from her lovely eyes, she held
out her hand to Felix, who kissed it rapturously and called her, as
well as I could distinguish, his sweet Arabian. She did not appear to
understand him, but smiled. He assisted her to dismount, and
dismissing her guide, conducted her into the cottage. Some
conversation took place between him and his father, and the young
stranger knelt at the old man's feet and would have kissed his hand,
but he raised her and embraced her affectionately.

"I soon perceived that although the stranger uttered articulate sounds
and appeared to have a language of her own, she was neither understood
by nor herself understood the cottagers. They made many signs which I
did not comprehend, but I saw that her presence diffused gladness
through the cottage, dispelling their sorrow as the sun dissipates the
morning mists. Felix seemed peculiarly happy and with smiles of
delight welcomed his Arabian. Agatha, the ever-gentle Agatha, kissed
the hands of the lovely stranger, and pointing to her brother, made
signs which appeared to me to mean that he had been sorrowful until she
came. Some hours passed thus, while they, by their countenances,
expressed joy, the cause of which I did not comprehend. Presently I
found, by the frequent recurrence of some sound which the stranger
repeated after them, that she was endeavouring to learn their language;
and the idea instantly occurred to me that I should make use of the
same instructions to the same end. The stranger learned about twenty
words at the first lesson; most of them, indeed, were those which I had
before understood, but I profited by the others.

"As night came on, Agatha and the Arabian retired early. When they
separated Felix kissed the hand of the stranger and said, `Good night
sweet Safie.' He sat up much longer, conversing with his father, and
by the frequent repetition of her name I conjectured that their lovely
guest was the subject of their conversation. I ardently desired to
understand them, and bent every faculty towards that purpose, but found
it utterly impossible.

"The next morning Felix went out to his work, and after the usual
occupations of Agatha were finished, the Arabian sat at the feet of the
old man, and taking his guitar, played some airs so entrancingly
beautiful that they at once drew tears of sorrow and delight from my
eyes. She sang, and her voice flowed in a rich cadence, swelling or
dying away like a nightingale of the woods.

"When she had finished, she gave the guitar to Agatha, who at first
declined it. She played a simple air, and her voice accompanied it in
sweet accents, but unlike the wondrous strain of the stranger. The old
man appeared enraptured and said some words which Agatha endeavoured
to explain to Safie, and by which he appeared to wish to express that she
bestowed on him the greatest delight by her music.

"The days now passed as peaceably as before, with the sole alteration
that joy had taken place of sadness in the countenances of my friends.
Safie was always gay and happy; she and I improved rapidly in the
knowledge of language, so that in two months I began to comprehend most
of the words uttered by my protectors.

"In the meanwhile also the black ground was covered with herbage, and
the green banks interspersed with innumerable flowers, sweet to the
scent and the eyes, stars of pale radiance among the moonlight woods;
the sun became warmer, the nights clear and balmy; and my nocturnal
rambles were an extreme pleasure to me, although they were considerably
shortened by the late setting and early rising of the sun, for I never
ventured abroad during daylight, fearful of meeting with the same
treatment I had formerly endured in the first village which I entered.

"My days were spent in close attention, that I might more speedily
master the language; and I may boast that I improved more rapidly than
the Arabian, who understood very little and conversed in broken
accents, whilst I comprehended and could imitate almost every word that
was spoken.

"While I improved in speech, I also learned the science of letters as
it was taught to the stranger, and this opened before me a wide field
for wonder and delight.

"The book from which Felix instructed Safie was Volney's Ruins of
Empires. I should not have understood the purport of this book had not
Felix, in reading it, given very minute explanations. He had chosen
this work, he said, because the declamatory style was framed in
imitation of the Eastern authors. Through this work I obtained a
cursory knowledge of history and a view of the several empires at
present existing in the world; it gave me an insight into the manners,
governments, and religions of the different nations of the earth. I
heard of the slothful Asiatics, of the stupendous genius and mental
activity of the Grecians, of the wars and wonderful virtue of the early
Romans--of their subsequent degenerating--of the decline of that mighty
empire, of chivalry, Christianity, and kings. I heard of the discovery
of the American hemisphere and wept with Safie over the hapless fate of
its original inhabitants.

"These wonderful narrations inspired me with strange feelings. Was
man, indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous and magnificent, yet so
vicious and base? He appeared at one time a mere scion of the evil
principle and at another as all that can be conceived of noble and
godlike. To be a great and virtuous man appeared the highest honour
that can befall a sensitive being; to be base and vicious, as many on
record have been, appeared the lowest degradation, a condition more
abject than that of the blind mole or harmless worm. For a long time I
could not conceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow, or
even why there were laws and governments; but when I heard details of
vice and bloodshed, my wonder ceased and I turned away with disgust and

"Every conversation of the cottagers now opened new wonders to me.
While I listened to the instructions which Felix bestowed upon the
Arabian, the strange system of human society was explained to me. I
heard of the division of property, of immense wealth and squalid
poverty, of rank, descent, and noble blood.

"The words induced me to turn towards myself. I learned that the
possessions most esteemed by your fellow creatures were high and
unsullied descent united with riches. A man might be respected with
only one of these advantages, but without either he was considered,
except in very rare instances, as a vagabond and a slave, doomed to
waste his powers for the profits of the chosen few! And what was I? Of
my creation and creator I was absolutely ignorant, but I knew that I
possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property. I was, besides,
endued with a figure hideously deformed and loathsome; I was not even
of the same nature as man. I was more agile than they and could
subsist upon coarser diet; I bore the extremes of heat and cold with
less injury to my frame; my stature far exceeded theirs. When I looked
around I saw and heard of none like me. Was I, then, a monster, a blot
upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?

"I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted
upon me; I tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased with
knowledge. Oh, that I had forever remained in my native wood, nor
known nor felt beyond the sensations of hunger, thirst, and heat!

"Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind when it
has once seized on it like a lichen on the rock. I wished sometimes to
shake off all thought and feeling, but I learned that there was but one
means to overcome the sensation of pain, and that was death--a state
which I feared yet did not understand. I admired virtue and good
feelings and loved the gentle manners and amiable qualities of my
cottagers, but I was shut out from intercourse with them, except
through means which I obtained by stealth, when I was unseen and
unknown, and which rather increased than satisfied the desire I had of
becoming one among my fellows. The gentle words of Agatha and the
animated smiles of the charming Arabian were not for me. The mild
exhortations of the old man and the lively conversation of the loved
Felix were not for me. Miserable, unhappy wretch!

"Other lessons were impressed upon me even more deeply. I heard of the
difference of sexes, and the birth and growth of children, how the
father doted on the smiles of the infant, and the lively sallies of the
older child, how all the life and cares of the mother were wrapped up
in the precious charge, how the mind of youth expanded and gained
knowledge, of brother, sister, and all the various relationships which
bind one human being to another in mutual bonds.

"But where were my friends and relations? No father had watched my
infant days, no mother had blessed me with smiles and caresses; or if
they had, all my past life was now a blot, a blind vacancy in which I
distinguished nothing. From my earliest remembrance I had been as I
then was in height and proportion. I had never yet seen a being
resembling me or who claimed any intercourse with me. What was I? The
question again recurred, to be answered only with groans.

"I will soon explain to what these feelings tended, but allow me now to
return to the cottagers, whose story excited in me such various
feelings of indignation, delight, and wonder, but which all terminated
in additional love and reverence for my protectors (for so I loved, in
an innocent, half-painful self-deceit, to call them)."


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