The voyage came to an end. We landed, and proceeded to Paris. I soon found
that I had overtaxed my strength and that I must repose before I could
continue my journey. My father's care and attentions were indefatigable, but
he did not know the origin of my sufferings and sought erroneous methods to
remedy the incurable ill. He wished me to seek amusement in society. I
abhorred the face of man. Oh, not abhorred! They were my brethren, my fellow
beings, and I felt attracted even to the most repulsive among them, as to
creatures of an angelic nature and celestial mechanism. But I felt that I had
no right to share their intercourse. I had unchained an enemy among them whose
joy it was to shed their blood and to revel in their groans. How they would,
each and all, abhor me and hunt me from the world, did they know my unhallowed
acts and the crimes which had their source in me!
My father yielded at length to my desire to avoid society and strove by
various arguments to banish my despair. Sometimes he thought that I felt
deeply the degradation of being obliged to answer a charge of murder, and he
endeavoured to prove to me the futility of pride.
"Alas! My father," said I, "how little do you know me. Human beings, their
feelings and passions, would indeed be degraded if such a wretch as I felt
pride. Justine, poor unhappy Justine, was as innocent as I, and she suffered
the same charge; she died for it; and I am the cause of this--I murdered her.
William, Justine, and Henry--they all died by my hands."
My father had often, during my imprisonment, heard me make the same assertion;
when I thus accused myself, he sometimes seemed to desire an explanation, and
at others he appeared to consider it as the offspring of delirium, and that,
during my illness, some idea of this kind had presented itself to my
imagination, the remembrance of which I preserved in my convalescence. I
avoided explanation and maintained a continual silence concerning the wretch I
had created. I had a persuasion that I should be supposed mad, and this in
itself would for ever have chained my tongue. But, besides, I could not bring
myself to disclose a secret which would fill my hearer with consternation and
make fear and unnatural horror the inmates of his breast. I checked,
therefore, my impatient thirst for sympathy and was silent when I would have
given the world to have confided the fatal secret. Yet, still, words like
those I have recorded would burst uncontrollably from me. I could offer no
explanation of them, but their truth in part relieved the burden of my
Upon this occasion my father said, with an expression of unbounded wonder, "My
dearest Victor, what infatuation is this? My dear son, I entreat you never to
make such an assertion again."
"I am not mad," I cried energetically; "the sun and the heavens, who have
viewed my operations, can bear witness of my truth. I am the assassin of those
most innocent victims; they died by my machinations. A thousand times would I
have shed my own blood, drop by drop, to have saved their lives; but I could
not, my father, indeed I could not sacrifice the whole human race."
The conclusion of this speech convinced my father that my ideas were deranged,
and he instantly changed the subject of our conversation and endeavoured to
alter the course of my thoughts. He wished as much as possible to obliterate
the memory of the scenes that had taken place in Ireland and never alluded to
them or suffered me to speak of my misfortunes.
As time passed away I became more calm; misery had her dwelling in my heart,
but I no longer talked in the same incoherent manner of my own crimes;
sufficient for me was the consciousness of them. By the utmost self-violence I
curbed the imperious voice of wretchedness, which sometimes desired to declare
itself to the whole world, and my manners were calmer and more composed than
they had ever been since my journey to the sea of ice.
A few days before we left Paris on our way to Switzerland, I received the
following letter from Elizabeth:
"My dear Friend,
"It gave me the greatest pleasure to receive a letter from my uncle dated at
Paris; you are no longer at a formidable distance, and I may hope to see you
in less than a fortnight. My poor cousin, how much you must have suffered! I
expect to see you looking even more ill than when you quitted Geneva. This
winter has been passed most miserably, tortured as I have been by anxious
suspense; yet I hope to see peace in your countenance and to find that your
heart is not totally void of comfort and tranquillity.
"Yet I fear that the same feelings now exist that made you so miserable a year
ago, even perhaps augmented by time. I would not disturb you at this period,
when so many misfortunes weigh upon you, but a conversation that I had with my
uncle previous to his departure renders some explanation necessary before we
Explanation! You may possibly say, What can Elizabeth have to explain? If you
really say this, my questions are answered and all my doubts satisfied. But
you are distant from me, and it is possible that you may dread and yet be
pleased with this explanation; and in a probability of this being the case, I
dare not any longer postpone writing what, during your absence, I have often
wished to express to you but have never had the courage to begin.
"You well know, Victor, that our union had been the favourite plan of your
parents ever since our infancy. We were told this when young, and taught to
look forward to it as an event that would certainly take place. We were
affectionate playfellows during childhood, and, I believe, dear and valued
friends to one another as we grew older. But as brother and sister often
entertain a lively affection towards each other without desiring a more
intimate union, may not such also be our case? Tell me, dearest Victor. Answer
me, I conjure you by our mutual happiness, with simple truth--Do you not love
"You have travelled; you have spent several years of your life at Ingolstadt;
and I confess to you, my friend, that when I saw you last autumn so unhappy,
flying to solitude from the society of every creature, I could not help
supposing that you might regret our connection and believe yourself bound in
honour to fulfil the wishes of your parents, although they opposed themselves
to your inclinations. But this is false reasoning. I confess to you, my
friend, that I love you and that in my airy dreams of futurity you have been
my constant friend and companion. But it is your happiness I desire as well as
my own when I declare to you that our marriage would render me eternally
miserable unless it were the dictate of your own free choice. Even now I weep
to think that, borne down as you are by the cruellest misfortunes, you may
stifle, by the word honour, all hope of that love and happiness which would
alone restore you to yourself. I, who have so disinterested an affection for
you, may increase your miseries tenfold by being an obstacle to your wishes.
Ah! Victor, be assured that your cousin and playmate has too sincere a love
for you not to be made miserable by this supposition. Be happy, my friend; and
if you obey me in this one request, remain satisfied that nothing on earth
will have the power to interrupt my tranquillity.
"Do not let this letter disturb you; do not answer tomorrow, or the next day,
or even until you come, if it will give you pain. My uncle will send me news
of your health, and if I see but one smile on your lips when we meet,
occasioned by this or any other exertion of mine, I shall need no other
"Geneva, May 18th, 17--"
This letter revived in my memory what I had before forgotten, the threat of
the fiend--"I will be with you on your wedding-night!" Such was my sentence,
and on that night would the daemon employ every art to destroy me and tear me
from the glimpse of happiness which promised partly to console my sufferings.
On that night he had determined to consummate his crimes by my death. Well, be
it so; a deadly struggle would then assuredly take place, in which if he were
victorious I should be at peace and his power over me be at an end. If he were
vanquished, I should be a free man. Alas! What freedom? Such as the peasant
enjoys when his family have been massacred before his eyes, his cottage burnt,
his lands laid waste, and he is turned adrift, homeless, penniless, and alone,
but free. Such would be my liberty except that in my Elizabeth I possessed a
treasure, alas, balanced by those horrors of remorse and guilt which would
pursue me until death.
Sweet and beloved Elizabeth! I read and reread her letter, and some softened
feelings stole into my heart and dared to whisper paradisiacal dreams of love
and joy; but the apple was already eaten, and the angel's arm bared to drive
me from all hope. Yet I would die to make her happy. If the monster executed
his threat, death was inevitable; yet, again, I considered whether my marriage
would hasten my fate. My destruction might indeed arrive a few months sooner,
but if my torturer should suspect that I postponed it, influenced by his
menaces, he would surely find other and perhaps more dreadful means of
revenge. He had vowed to be with me on my wedding-night, yet he did not
consider that threat as binding him to peace in the meantime, for as if to
show me that he was not yet satiated with blood, he had murdered Clerval
immediately after the enunciation of his threats. I resolved, therefore, that
if my immediate union with my cousin would conduce either to hers or my
father's happiness, my adversary's designs against my life should not retard
it a single hour.
In this state of mind I wrote to Elizabeth. My letter was calm and
affectionate. "I fear, my beloved girl," I said, "little happiness remains for
us on earth; yet all that I may one day enjoy is centred in you. Chase away
your idle fears; to you alone do I consecrate my life and my endeavours for
contentment. I have one secret, Elizabeth, a dreadful one; when revealed to
you, it will chill your frame with horror, and then, far from being surprised
at my misery, you will only wonder that I survive what I have endured. I will
confide this tale of misery and terror to you the day after our marriage shall
take place, for, my sweet cousin, there must be perfect confidence between us.
But until then, I conjure you, do not mention or allude to it. This I most
earnestly entreat, and I know you will comply."
In about a week after the arrival of Elizabeth's letter we returned to Geneva.
The sweet girl welcomed me with warm affection, yet tears were in her eyes as
she beheld my emaciated frame and feverish cheeks. I saw a change in her also.
She was thinner and had lost much of that heavenly vivacity that had before
charmed me; but her gentleness and soft looks of compassion made her a more
fit companion for one blasted and miserable as I was.
The tranquillity which I now enjoyed did not endure. Memory brought madness
with it, and when I thought of what had passed, a real insanity possessed me;
sometimes I was furious and burnt with rage, sometimes low and despondent. I
neither spoke nor looked at anyone, but sat motionless, bewildered by the
multitude of miseries that overcame me.
Elizabeth alone had the power to draw me from these fits; her gentle voice
would soothe me when transported by passion and inspire me with human feelings
when sunk in torpor. She wept with me and for me. When reason returned, she
would remonstrate and endeavour to inspire me with resignation. Ah! It is well
for the unfortunate to be resigned, but for the guilty there is no peace. The
agonies of remorse poison the luxury there is otherwise sometimes found in
indulging the excess of grief.
Soon after my arrival my father spoke of my immediate marriage with Elizabeth.
I remained silent.
"Have you, then, some other attachment?"
"None on earth. I love Elizabeth and look forward to our union with delight.
Let the day therefore be fixed; and on it I will consecrate myself, in life or
death, to the happiness of my cousin."
"My dear Victor, do not speak thus. Heavy misfortunes have befallen us, but
let us only cling closer to what remains and transfer our love for those whom
we have lost to those who yet live. Our circle will be small but bound close
by the ties of affection and mutual misfortune. And when time shall have
softened your despair, new and dear objects of care will be born to replace
those of whom we have been so cruelly deprived."
Such were the lessons of my father. But to me the remembrance of the threat
returned; nor can you wonder that, omnipotent as the fiend had yet been in his
deeds of blood, I should almost regard him as invincible, and that when he had
pronounced the words "I shall be with you on your wedding-night," I should
regard the threatened fate as unavoidable. But death was no evil to me if the
loss of Elizabeth were balanced with it, and I therefore, with a contented and
even cheerful countenance, agreed with my father that if my cousin would
consent, the ceremony should take place in ten days, and thus put, as I
imagined, the seal to my fate.
Great God! If for one instant I had thought what might be the hellish
intention of my fiendish adversary, I would rather have banished myself for
ever from my native country and wandered a friendless outcast over the earth
than have consented to this miserable marriage. But, as if possessed of magic
powers, the monster had blinded me to his real intentions; and when I thought
that I had prepared only my own death, I hastened that of a far dearer victim.
As the period fixed for our marriage drew nearer, whether from cowardice or a
prophetic feeling, I felt my heart sink within me. But I concealed my feelings
by an appearance of hilarity that brought smiles and joy to the countenance of
my father, but hardly deceived the ever-watchful and nicer eye of Elizabeth.
She looked forward to our union with placid contentment, not unmingled with a
little fear, which past misfortunes had impressed, that what now appeared
certain and tangible happiness might soon dissipate into an airy dream and
leave no trace but deep and everlasting regret.
Preparations were made for the event, congratulatory visits were received, and
all wore a smiling appearance. I shut up, as well as I could, in my own heart
the anxiety that preyed there and entered with seeming earnestness into the
plans of my father, although they might only serve as the decorations of my
tragedy. Through my father's exertions a part of the inheritance of Elizabeth
had been restored to her by the Austrian government. A small possession on the
shores of Como belonged to her. It was agreed that, immediately after our
union, we should proceed to Villa Lavenza and spend our first days of
happiness beside the beautiful lake near which it stood.
In the meantime I took every precaution to defend my person in case the fiend
should openly attack me. I carried pistols and a dagger constantly about me
and was ever on the watch to prevent artifice, and by these means gained a
greater degree of tranquillity. Indeed, as the period approached, the threat
appeared more as a delusion, not to be regarded as worthy to disturb my peace,
while the happiness I hoped for in my marriage wore a greater appearance of
certainty as the day fixed for its solemnisation drew nearer and I heard it
continually spoken of as an occurrence which no accident could possibly
Elizabeth seemed happy; my tranquil demeanour contributed greatly to calm her
mind. But on the day that was to fulfil my wishes and my destiny, she was
melancholy, and a presentiment of evil pervaded her; and perhaps also she
thought of the dreadful secret which I had promised to reveal to her on the
following day. My father was in the meantime overjoyed, and, in the bustle of
preparation, only recognised in the melancholy of his niece the diffidence of
After the ceremony was performed a large party assembled at my father's, but
it was agreed that Elizabeth and I should commence our journey by water,
sleeping that night at Evian and continuing our voyage on the following day.
The day was fair, the wind favourable; all smiled on our nuptial embarkation.
Those were the last moments of my life during which I enjoyed the feeling of
happiness. We passed rapidly along; the sun was hot, but we were sheltered
from its rays by a kind of canopy while we enjoyed the beauty of the scene,
sometimes on one side of the lake, where we saw Mont Saleve, the pleasant
banks of Montalegre, and at a distance, surmounting all, the beautiful Mont
Blanc, and the assemblage of snowy mountains that in vain endeavour to emulate
her; sometimes coasting the opposite banks, we saw the mighty Jura opposing
its dark side to the ambition that would quit its native country, and an
almost insurmountable barrier to the invader who should wish to enslave it.
I took the hand of Elizabeth. "You are sorrowful, my love. Ah! If you knew
what I have suffered and what I may yet endure, you would endeavour to let me
taste the quiet and freedom from despair that this one day at least permits me
"Be happy, my dear Victor," replied Elizabeth; "there is, I hope, nothing to
distress you; and be assured that if a lively joy is not painted in my face,
my heart is contented. Something whispers to me not to depend too much on the
prospect that is opened before us, but I will not listen to such a sinister
voice. Observe how fast we move along and how the clouds, which sometimes
obscure and sometimes rise above the dome of Mont Blanc, render this scene of
beauty still more interesting. Look also at the innumerable fish that are
swimming in the clear waters, where we can distinguish every pebble that lies
at the bottom. What a divine day! How happy and serene all nature appears!"
Thus Elizabeth endeavoured to divert her thoughts and mine from all reflection
upon melancholy subjects. But her temper was fluctuating; joy for a few
instants shone in her eyes, but it continually gave place to distraction and
The sun sank lower in the heavens; we passed the river Drance and observed its
path through the chasms of the higher and the glens of the lower hills. The
Alps here come closer to the lake, and we approached the amphitheatre of
mountains which forms its eastern boundary. The spire of Evian shone under the
woods that surrounded it and the range of mountain above mountain by which it
The wind, which had hitherto carried us along with amazing rapidity, sank at
sunset to a light breeze; the soft air just ruffled the water and caused a
pleasant motion among the trees as we approached the shore, from which it
wafted the most delightful scent of flowers and hay. The sun sank beneath the
horizon as we landed, and as I touched the shore I felt those cares and fears
revive which soon were to clasp me and cling to me for ever.