[This section starts at the end of the original’s fifteenth chapter. I guess it would take the place of the original’s sixteenth chapter. The italicized parts are lifted word-for-word from the original section. The regular font parts are the interventions.]
“The old man paused and then continued, ‘If you will unreservedly confide to me the particulars of your tale, I perhaps may be of use in undeceiving them. I am blind and cannot judge of your countenance, but there is something in your words which persuades me that you are sincere. I am poor and an exile, but it will afford me true pleasure to be in any way serviceable to a human creature.’
“‘Excellent man! I thank you and accept your generous offer. You raise me from the dust by this kindness; and I trust that, by your aid, I shall not be driven from the society and sympathy of your fellow creatures.’
“‘Heaven forbid! Even if you were really criminal, for that can only drive you to desperation, and not instigate you to virtue. I also am unfortunate; I and my family have been condemned, although innocent; judge, therefore, if I do not feel for your misfortunes.’
“‘How can I thank you, my best and only benefactor? From your lips first have I heard the voice of kindness directed towards me; I shall be for ever grateful; and your present humanity assures me of success with those friends whom I am on the point of meeting.’
“‘May I know the names and residence of those friends?’
“I paused. This, I thought, was the moment of decision, which was to rob me of or bestow happiness on me for ever. I struggled vainly for firmness sufficient to answer him, but the effort destroyed all my remaining strength; I sank on the chair and sobbed aloud. At that moment I heard the steps of my younger protectors. I had not a moment to lose, but seizing the hand of the old man, I cried, ‘Now is the time! Save and protect me! You and your family are the friends whom I seek. Do not you desert me in the hour of trial!’
“‘Great God!’ exclaimed the old man. ‘Who are you?’
“At that instant the cottage door was opened, and Felix, Safie, and Agatha entered. Who can describe their horror and consternation on beholding me? Agatha fainted, and Safie, unable to attend to her friend, rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father, to whose knees I clung, in a transport of fury, he dashed me to the ground and struck me violently with a stick. I might have torn him limb from limb, as the lion rends the antelope. But my heart sank within me as with bitter sickness, and I refrained from any movement. His blows had but little effect on my frame, but each angry, snarling attack shattered my heart into a finer and finer dust. After a time, I turned to watch him ready the next blow, and, though overcome by pain and anguish, found the strength to raises my hand and hold the stick aloft. He howled with eyes crazed and terrified like a hounded cat. I averted my head and wept bitterly into the crook of my free arm.”
“‘Felix!, what is going on?’ demanded the old man in a firm but calm and even voice. “A monster, father! The monster! Are you alright? I saw him attack you. But …”
“‘He did not attack me. He requested my protection; our protection. And now?’”
“I looked up, tears soaking my coarse, uneven features. I felt Safie’s tiny hand on my lumpy shoulder. I saw Felix’s rage turn to mystification. ‘What are you?’, he implored of me, ‘What are you?’
“‘I don’t know!’ I cried, ‘I don’t know! But I am lonely.’
“The old man leaned towards my voice, ‘You have come in peace. You have not harmed us. You do not deserve violence and you will get no more violence from us.’
“‘Oh thank you!,’ I gushed. ‘Thank you!’ The heavens opened before me; God’s dove descended: I was permitted inside the kingdom of human fellowship and would henceforth be a man among men; no longer must I wander the world alone. Though Felix had landed his blows with ten times the strength he otherwise possessed, they had scarcely stung my thick hide and square bulk. One touch from Safie’s soft, sympathetic hand, then gently patting my shoulder, would’ve been ample recompense for a thousand such hen pecks. As I rolled off of my side and sat upright, Felix offered me his hand, still trembling with emotion, in an awkward but sincere apology.
I felt finally free, infinitely more free than any wild roaming animal or heedless berserker — I was free to know and be known by human hearts and minds; free to share myself with others and so expand my being into the collective conversation and endeavor, free to accept my responsibility and stand by my word, free to be a human person.
“‘Where did you come from, friend?’ Asked the old man.
“‘You’ll not believe the truth I have to tell! But let your sighted relatives describe my countenance, and perhaps then will you will credit the possibility of my impossible story: I was not born, but wrought by a human mind and hand.’
“‘What? How can that be? Let me feel your face. Let me try to understand.’
“I slowly rose to my feet, crossed the space in a stride, and sunk to my knees before him, carefully taking his hands in mine and setting them upon my face. His fingers recoiled in a frantic palsy as they took in the dimensions and contours. ‘I don’t understand this. Who could create such a being? And where is your creator now? I do not understand.’
“I retreated to the empty wall half a dozen feet from the blind man; and, seated on the wooden floor, back against the plaster wall, I pulled out your notes and reached them in Alex’s direction, ‘If you could be so kind as to read these notes written by my creator.’
“As Alex read your notes aloud, a somber hush settled over the cozy room. I could not lift my bowed head, so heavily weighed the shame of your disapprobation. Alex’s voice wavered and he paused as he reached your exclamations of disgust, your complete rejection and disavowal of me, your creation. I looked up and saw his gentle eyes sparkling, searching me questioningly, asking if he should continue. I responded with one small nod, jaw set, hands upon my knees, heart again snapped in two and gut once more kicked through my skull. Agatha sobbed. Safie stood motionless and completely silent; for a moment I wondered if she’d departed; but when I glanced up towards her, I saw a wide river of tears running over her beautiful, golden brown, heart-shaped face.
“I began to feel what it is to have one’s sorrows felt and shared by one’s fellows. I began to feel what it was not to be pitied — for pity is just a tender form of abhorrence — but to be sympathized with, accepted and cared for. My agony did not evaporate, but rather flooded out of me in all directions, becoming at once wider and thinner. No longer would I own only my own emotions. It is in the compassionate sharing of emotions — by gently sharing of mind and heart — that humans together transcend the human.
“And so began my life as a man. I’d received life from you, but no acceptance, no fellowship, no caring, no humanity.
“I consider no sacrifice too great for Safie, Agatha, Felix, and the kind old man. Owing to their generous natures and relatively comfortable arrangement, they’ve asked nothing of me but my company. I therefore considered it my first and foremost mission to discover a means by which I could improve their lot. Gardening, building projects, animal
husbandry, all manner of rough outdoors work I gladly perform for my protectors. But, in time, having discovered that my mental capacities also far outstrip the usual scope of human endowments, I’ve studied skills useful to Felix’s fledgling trading business, and it is the greatest pride of my life to know that here I am truly of assistance and that my assistance is sincerely appreciated. For it is not just fellowship and camaraderie that makes one a human, but also mutual service and collaboration.
“I’ve made this pilgrimage not to ask acceptance or friendship of you, goods I can neither desire nor trust; but only to inform you of these few essential facts: I live, I am well, your notes have been destroyed. I hold no resentment towards you, who I now understand as merely one man within a world of men. Would I have behaved more kindly to you had our roles been reversed, had I been creator and you creature? I cannot answer this, and I shall not judge you.”
The monster said no more, and I looked into his large scarred face, eyes too small and loose inside deep cadaveresque sockets, tightly closed lips like two beams charred black, the shape of his giant head pocked and dented by my unartful patchwork. I could, I thought, improve his appearance. Given a few weeks to plan and execute, I might make that face more handsome than grotesque, those limbs passably well-formed and free-flowing. His great bulk precluded a fully normal appearance, but loathsome he must not be.
He seemed to read my mind, for he gave a low laugh, and said, “I ask nothing more of you. You’ve done your baser, earthy work, Felix and his family have performed their higher, holier service, and I am satisfied with the outcome.”
Realizing that he’d not once mentioned his name, I asked him what his friends call him. “Jules — named for a friend of Agatha’s who died young, and who had also been a particular favorite of the family. A name is a magical thing. It is merely a few sounds and a scribblings, yet somehow it becomes you — it grows to describe you perfectly, to answer exactly and definitively for you. A name is a magic talisman with which even the most hideous wretch has a home in human hearts. A name — no you did not grant me that much.”
“Jules, asking your forgiveness is too grand a request. But I do beg your leniency, and I hereby pledge you and your friends my aid, should the need ever arise.’’
His head tilted to one side, lips puckering, eyes narrowing in consideration. For the first time in our conversation his kneaded brow relaxed and a gentle smile flickered up to
claim his face, filling it with merry crinkles until almost handsome, and certainly, I owed, much more his own than any I could now craft. I saw for the first time beyond the melodrama of my earlier recriminations of myself and my monster: I had erred. I’d abandoned my responsibility and endangered this unique and sensitive being and the world for which I’d failed to prepare him. But the world is more than Victor Frankenstein, and for this I am forever grateful.
Copyright: Andrew Mackenzie Watson
[Return to original Frankenstein: Beginning of Chapter 16]