Frankenstein

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Chapter1

1 I am by birth a Genevese, and my family is one of the most disting uished of that republic. My ancestor s had been for many ye ars cou nsello rs and syndi cs, a nd my father had filled several public si tuations wi th honour and r eputation. He was respected by all who knew him for his integrity and indefatigable attention to public business. He passed his younger days perpetually occupied by the affairs of hi s country; a variety of circumstances had prevented his marrying early, nor was it until the decline of life that he became a husband and the father of a family. As the circumstances of hi s marr iage illustrate his character, I cannot refrain from relating them. One of his most intimate friends was a merchant who, from a flourishing state, fell, throug h numerous mischances, into poverty. This man, whose name w as Beaufort, was of a proud and unbending disposition and could not bear to live in poverty and oblivion in the same country where h e had formerly been distinguished for his rank and magnificence. Having paid his debts, therefore, in the most honourable manner, he retreat ed with his daughter to the town of Lucerne, where h e li ved unknown and in 27 of 345 Frankenstein wretchedness. My fathe r loved Beaufort with the truest friendship and was deeply grieved by his retreat in these unfortunate circumstances. He bitterly deplored the fal se pride which led his friend to a cond uct so li ttle worthy of the affection that uni ted them . He lost no time in endeavouring to seek him out, with the hope of persuading him to begin the worl d again through hi s credit and assista nce. Beaufort had taken effectual measures to conceal himself, and it was ten months before my father discovered his abode. Overjoy ed at this discovery, he hastened to the house, which wa s situated in a mean street near the Reuss. Bu t wh en he entered, misery an d despair alone welcomed him. B eaufort had saved but a very small sum of money from the wreck of his fortunes, b ut it was sufficient to provide him with sustenance for some month s, and in the mea ntime he ho ped to procure some respectable employment in a merchant? s house. The interval was, consequentl y, spent in inaction; his grief only became more deep and rankling when he had leisure for reflection, and at length it took so fast hold of his mind that at the end of th ree months he lay on a bed o f sickness, incapable of any exertion . 28 of 345 Frankenstein His daughte r attended him with the greatest tenderness, but she saw with despair that their little fund w as rapidly decreasing and that there was no other prospect of support. But Caroline Beaufor t possessed a mi nd of an uncommon mould, and her courag e rose to support her in her adversity. She procured plain work; she plaited straw and by various means contrived to earn a pittance scarcely sufficient to support life. Several months passed in this manner . Her father grew worse; her t ime was more entirely o ccupied in attending him; her means of sub sistence decreased; and in the tenth month her father died in her arms, leaving her an orphan and a begga r. This last blow overcame her, and she knelt by Beaufort?s coffin w eeping bitterly, when my father entered the chamber. He came like a protecting spirit to the poor girl, who committed herself to his care; and after the interment of his friend he conducted her to Geneva and placed her under t he protection of a relation. Tw o years after th is event Caroline became his wife. There was a considerable difference between th e ages of my parents, but thi s circumstance seemed to unite them only closer in bonds of devoted affection. The re was a sense of justice in my father?s upright mind which rendered it necessary that he should approve highly to love 29 of 345 Frankenstein strongly. Perhaps during former yea rs he had suffered fro m the late-discovered unw orthiness of one beloved and so was dispose d to set a greater value on tried worth. There was a show of gratitude and wo rship in his attachment to my mother, differing wholly from the doting fondness of age, for it was inspired by reverence for her virtues and a desire to be the mean s of, in some degree, reco mpensing her for the sorrows she had endured, but which gave inexpressible grace to his behaviour to her. Everyt hing was made to yi eld to her wishes and her convenience. He strove to shelter her, as a fair exoti c is sheltered by the gardener, from every rougher wind and to surround her with all tha t could tend to exci te p leasurable emotion in her soft and benevolent mind. Her health, and even the tranquillity of her hitherto constant spirit, had been shaken by what she had gone through. During the two years that had elapsed previous to their mar riage my father had gradually relinquished all his public functions; and immediately after their union they sought the pleasant climate of I taly, and the change of scene and interest attendant on a tour through that l and of wonders, as a restorative for her weak ened frame. From Italy they visited Germany and France. I, their eldest child, was born at Naples, and as an infant 30 of 345 Frankenstein accompanied them in their rambles. I remained for several years their only child. Much as they were attached to each other, they seemed to draw inexhaustible stores of affection from a very mine of love to bestow them upon me. My mo ther?s tender caresses and my father?s smile of benevolent pleasure while regardin g me are my first recollections. I was their plaything and their idol, and something b etter?their child, the i nnocent and helpless creature bestowed on th em by heaven, whom to bring up to good, and whose future lot it was in their hands to direct to happiness or misery, according as they fulfilled their duties towards me. With this deep consciousness o f what they owed towards the being to which they had given life, added to the active spirit of tenderness th at animated both, it may be imagin ed that while during every hour of my infant life I received a lesson of patience, of charity, and of self-control, I was so guided by a silken cord that all seemed but one train of enjoyment to me. For a long time I was their only care. My mother had much desire d to have a daughter, but I con tinued their single offspr ing. When I was about five years old, while making an excursion b eyond the frontiers of Italy, they passed a we ek on the shores of the Lake of Como. Their benevolent dispositi on o ften made th em enter the cottage s 31 of 345 Frankenstein of the poor. This, to my moth er, was more than a duty; i t was a necessity, a passi on?remembering what she had suffered, and how she had been relieved?for her to act in her turn the guardian angel to the afflicted. During one of their walks a poor cot in th e foldings of a vale attracted their notice as being singularly disconsol ate, while the number of half-clothed children gathered about it spoke of penury in its worst shape. On e day, when my father had gone by himself to Mi lan, my mo ther, accompanied by me, visited this abode. She found a peasant and his wife, hard working, bent down by care and labour, distributing a scanty meal to five hungry babes. Among these there was one which a ttracted my mother far above all the rest. She appeared of a different stock. The four others were da rk- eyed, hardy little vagrants; this child was thin and very fair. Her hair was the brigh test living gold, and despite the poverty of her clothing, seemed to set a crown of distinction on her head. Her brow was clear and ample, her blue eyes cloudless, and her lips and the moulding of her face so expressive of se nsibility and sweetness that none could behold her without looking on her as of a distinct speci es, a being heave n-sent, and bearing a celestial stamp in all her features. 32 of 345 Frankenstein The peasant woman, perceiving that my mother fixed eyes of wonder and admiration on this lovely girl, eagerl y communicated her history. She was not her child, but the daughter of a Milanese nobleman. Her mother was a German and had died on giving her birth. The infant had been placed with these good people to nurse: they were better off then. They had not been long married, and their eldest child was but just born. The father of their charge was one of those Italians nursed in the memory of the antique glor y of Italy ? one among the *schiavi ognor frementi*, who exerted himself to obtain the liberty of his country. He became the victim of its weakness. Whether he had died or still lingered in the dungeons of Austria was not known. His prop erty was confiscated; his child became an orphan and a begga r. She continued with her foster parents and bloomed in their rude abode, fairer than a garden rose among dark-leaved bra mbles. When my father ret urned from Milan, he found playing with me in the hall of our villa a child fairer than pictured cherub? a creature who seemed to shed radiance from her looks and whose for m and motions were lighter than the chamois of the hills . The apparition was soon explained. With his pe rmission my mother prevailed on her rustic g uardians to yield their charge to her. They 33 of 345 Frankenstein were fond o f the sweet orphan. Her presence ha d seemed a blessing to them, but i t would be unfair to he r to keep her in poverty and want when Providence afforded her such powerful protection. Th ey consulted their village priest, and the result wa s th at Eliz ab eth Lavenza became the inmate of my parents? house? my more than sister? the beautiful and adored compani on of all my occupations and my pleasures. Everyone loved Elizabeth. The passi onate and almost reverential atta chment wit h which all regarded her became, while I shared it, my pride and my delight. On the evening previous to her being brought to my home, my mother had said playfully, ?I have a pretty present for my Victor? tomorrow he shall have it.? And when, on the morrow, she presented Elizabeth to me as her promised gift, I, with childish seriousness, interpreted her words literally and looke d upon Elizabeth as mi ne?mine to protect, love, and che rish. All praises bestowed on her I received as made to a posse ssi on of my own. We called each other familiarly by the name of cousin. No word, no expression could body forth the kind of relation in which she stood to me?my more than sister, since till death she was to be mine only. 34 of 345 Frankenstein
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