Spring

Day 15 and the half way point for NaNoWriMo.  Wish I had twice the words I have.  But it’s coming along anyway.

Spring came in quite ominously with rain and wind and the greyest of days and starless nights.  There were very few days of walking by the lake or strolling the gardens.  There had been talk at the beginning of her stay, that Agatha would lodge in the main house, but upon her arrival it was agreed that she should remain in the cottage to care for her father.  This turned out for the best, for Elizabeth and Agatha each made a point of leaving to visit the other daily, and so had a change of scenery.  The boys ran about the main house, upsetting everyone with their noise, but not as much as when they ran outside and brought back in all manner of mud and detritus.  Ernest was twice his younger brother’s age, yet still played with William, though perhaps a little less in the last year, but as there were no other boys to be had, young or old, neither had much choice in their companion.

When May arrived, and brought with it sun and warmth, everyone escaped the indoors.  Strolls and afternoons of plein air painting could resume and the boys could run at will.

One morning, when Ernest was refusing to play, William went out to inspect what was left of his previous year’s architecture and made an exciting discovery.

“There’s someone living in my fort,” he declared at lunch.  “Someone’s living in my old fort, the one past the broken stone wall.  It lasted all winter and somebody’s living in it.”

“How do you know?” asked Elizabeth.

“He made a bed out of leaves and he put some in the walls so the wind won’t get through.

“Really!  Do you know who it is?  Maybe it’s an ogre or a troll.”

“It’s a man.  Ogres and trolls don’t exist.”  William did not like being treated like a child.  “Maybe it was robbers hiding out.”

“Oh dear, I hope we’re not in danger.”  Elizabeth winked at Agatha.  “Well, do you want to bring him some food, some bread or cheese maybe?  A man needing to sleep outside in one of your forts is probably hungry.”

“Oh yes,  we should do that.  Maybe some cake.  I think he would like cake.”  A beggar was no less exciting to the boy than a robber.  What was important was that his fort had not only survived the winter, but it was deemed sound enough to be lived in.

“There is no one living in your old fort.  And even if there was, he wouldn’t be there still.”  Ernest was very much an older brother.

“There was someone in my fort.  And even if he left we should still leave some cake.  Just in case he comes back or someone else needs to use it.”

“A piece of bread should suffice I think,” interjected his father.  “If a man is hungry he will be just as thankful for a piece of bread as for a piece of cake, and it will not be too rich for his system.”

“Yes father.”  William took some bread from the table and ran out of the room without asking to be excused.  His father watched him depart, shaking his head.

“I wish you wouldn’t encourage him like that Elizabeth.  The wind has obviously blown leaves into one of his little hovels and now he thinks he is a master builder and people live in his homes.  What happens when some rodent carries away his bread?  Is he going to keep bringing my food to his imaginary tenant?”

“I would not worry yourself too much Mr. Frankenstein,” said Agatha.  “He will likely have forgotten about it come dinner time.”

“Not likely Miss DeLacey.  My sons rarely let an idea go.”

The rest of the lunch time conversation revolved around how very bright William was and how remarkable and complex his numerous woodland structures were.  It was agreed by all that the boy had a brilliant future ahead of him.

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Winter

Day 14 and I have 2 drafts going here, as I work on something from two different ends.  So I have a higher word count than what is here.

The blind woman was right to laugh at the creature.  To make such a journey at that time of year was a foolish endeavour.  Especially as he remained without clear direction.  He tried to make note of the way the woman pointed and with fall becoming old and winter on its way, made his way into the mountains.

The mountains themselves were not a problem for him, in fact his body seemed to be made for them.  The weather was something else though.  Weather in mountainous terrain is a fickle and erratic companion.  It would present you with a seemingly fair day and then turn into blizzard, blizzard would suddenly cease and become gentle snow.  And wind danced and tore its way through every valley, crevice and passage.  Keeping any sense of direction with visibility so often fleeting was a challenge, as was not being buried.  Fortunately, man had left his mark even in what appeared to be the most remote locations.  Small shacks would appear where no other sign of life could be observed, so although he often had to rely on small caves and rocky overhangs for shelter, he was also shielded from weather in far more civilized surroundings.  When he had the good fortune to find such shelter and it contained matches he would spend a few days warming himself and resting before continuing.

On one such occasion he found the structure to be occupied, although its ice covered tenant had obviously expired some time ago.  Grey and frozen and alone, a bearded old man lay crumpled on the floor between his cot and his table.  The creature crouched beside the sad corpse and examined what looked to be a perfectly ordinary man.  He pondered what might induce someone who appeared to have all the advantages required to be accepted into society to leave it for so remote a location and why he would be without a companion.  Perhaps this was where the creature should stay himself, a hermit, the shack now being vacant.  He took the dead man out and lay him near a stand of stunted trees.  He could think of nothing to cover him with, so he simply stood and said a prayer in the way he had heard the DeLaceys pray.  He believed that one prayed on such occasions.  The cabin had matches and a sizable stack of wood piled beside one wall.  With some struggle he eventually lit a fire under a large frozen pot of stew and then watched as the surrounding frost slowly dissipated and the room turned from white to gold.  To stay would not be too unpleasant.  He spent that night in a bed under four blankets.  The next morning he had hot soup and a slice of cake from a tin for breakfast.  He felt rich.  After two weeks of this luxury however, he decided he had tired of it.  He found himself a new set of clothes, no better fitting than his last but cleaner and in better condition, a hat and scarf, and a sack to put some crackers and tinned fish in.  Unfortunately the many bottled fruits and vegetables that were obviously meant to last the winter had cracked and burst in the cold, but he was happy with the provisions he had.  He also brought with him a blanket and of course the three notebooks that outlined his sad beginnings.  He left for Geneva.

The creature hummed as he walked in what he hoped was the right direction.  The days were getting longer and he had never owned so much.

The Frankenstein family considered leaving the house at Belrive to winter in their long neglected Geneva home, but it was decided that they would remain where they were.  Only Elizabeth and Agatha were disappointed.  They were looking forward to winter balls and concerts.  Along with other company.  But their disappointment wasn’t  too great.  It was much more picturesque by the lake and the chance of their attending any great event was quite remote.  Even in the city the Frankensteins kept very much to themselves.

Victor’s letters were becoming longer and more regular.  The promise of a fall return had been delayed to a spring one, but only because he and Henry seemed to be busy with various things.  It was agreed by all that Victor seemed to be fully recovered and sounding like his former self again.  Elizabeth wished the same could be said of Justine, who would for a day or two appear and perform her duties quite appropriately and then fall back into a malaise.  But really, this was no different than Victor when his recovery was in its infancy.  There was surely promise.  Elizabeth decided that the noisy, Italian prayers that she had secretly used for Victor should now be dedicated to the health and sanity of Justine.

Journeying

Day 12 and a few more words, though I am going to have to try to go to bed a decent hour tonight.

An address provides no direction to a stranger unfamiliar with a land.  The creature knew enough that he would have to leave one country for another, that he was now in Germany and that the Geneva in the address he owned was in Switzerland, but he did not know where one lay in relation to the other, nor how to differentiate them.  There were certainly no instructions in the journals he carried, their geography being strictly of the biological.  And sign posts, when they did exist, were only for the most local points of interest.  Nothing said Germany ends here or ends just over there; Switzerland coming.  He meandered a great many weeks sometimes going this way and sometimes that, but managed somehow to go the right way more than wrong.  The journey was not a pleasant one, it was cold and he still had only his original costume, augmented by a found cloak.  His spirit was even less pleasant and he spent many a night howling at his misfortunate lot.  This distemper could not be maintained however, and somewhere in the midst of his quest, surrounded by countryside sometimes pretty, sometimes stark, but always majestic, his dark mood lightened and the snow became less bothersome and more magical, the harshness of the wind merely an observation, not a complaint.  He began to appreciate the body that had been bestowed him, grotesque as it was, for it endured all manner of hardship and required little to sustain it.

When  he grew tired of not knowing where he was he ventured closer to civilization.  He encountered a group of children whom he chased away with a roar, but no mob came to find and torment him.  He ventured even closer still.  A blind, old man had been kind to him in the past.  He thought to find another person with the same sightless affliction and see if they could assist in some way.  Within a few days of deciding on this course he came across a large woman sitting on a stool in the front of a disheveled cottage nimbly peeling potatoes, her face held up to the warming sun while she worked.  As he could see no one else present to abuse him he approached her and asked where he was.  She replied with the name of the village and laughed when he asked if this was in Germany.

“You are in Bavaria.”

She laughed even louder when he explained he wanted Switzerland and then scolded him for attempting such a trip with winter approaching.  But sightless or not she seemed know the direction he should be travelling.  She pointed in the general direction of the border with no indication of its distance and then offered some bread for the journey, laughing yet again at his folly.  He gratefully accepted.

He came across another group of children whom he chased away with his roar.  They dropped the sticks they were collecting and ran, but the joviality of his earlier provider seemed to infect her entire hamlet, for their screams turned into laughter and then they stopped in conference in front of him.  With no chase to continue, he stopped also and observed them as, in unison, they all looked over to him and charged.  He ran, laughing a deep baritone laugh, impressed with the bravery held in such small packaging.  When he went beyond what they obviously thought their territory, the pack slowed and returned to the job of collecting kindling.  He gave a cordial wave and walked on, diverting his route only slightly, listening to their fading conversations and laughing to himself.  The last of his darkness lifted and as evening approached he found himself humming one of Mr. DeLacey’s old tunes.  He was flat, but no matter.

Wanderings of the Creature

Day 11 and another short installment.  This one is after yesterday’s and before the previous.  (Later note, no this should go before yesterday’s installment.  It makes it clearer that the creature is not in Ingolstadt.)

It took some months for the desolate creature to recover from the heartbreak that had been his birth.  Upon discovering that he was unwanted and despised by a maker he wanted only to love he left Ingolstadt carrying nothing but the ill fitting clothes he still wore and three volumes of notes that he had found in the laboratory and felt to be his.  Illiterate as he was he knew nothing of their written contents, but he recognized the drawings to be of his form or others like him.  Often when at rest he would gaze upon the pages and slide his fingers along the writing trying to somehow open up its mysteries through touch and wonder if his creator had made more like him.

He did not know where he wandered, had no idea of geography or borders or really of earth and sky.  He simply walked from place to place, shoeless and aching, while his mind slowly cleared itself of the dark veil of his sorrow and started to make sense of its surroundings.  He discovered water quenched thirst and the various scraps he could find or harvest satiated hunger.  He discovered rain was usually cold and the sun was usually warm.  Being winter, he had more rain than sun, but he also discovered that trees when thick enough could shelter.

He walked through town, village and wood, mostly at night, fearing being seen.  The few encounters he had suffered made it clear that people were best avoided.  The pain those first weeks of ramblings was great.  He was, of course, a man pieced together and so much of him hurt.  At every stitched up seam and in every borrowed organ.

For all his misfortunes though, he began to realize the beauty and wonders of the place he had been brought into.  It is one of those strange quirks of fate that those who know mostly sorrow can find joy in the smallest of pleasures while those who know nothing but abundance and comfort can never be satisfied.  The poor creature, for all his wretchedness, enjoyed every new discovery, every bird song and naked tree, every sunset and babbling brook.

It was in this state of happy exploration, as spring and new joys approached, that he had come upon the DeLaceys and their plight.  It had not been his intention at first to stay, but as it became clear that the leanto on the side of their cottage could provide not only shelter, but a place in which to observe a real family and its doings he could not leave.  He had learned about many things in his travels but he had  learned nothing of human ways.  Plus he sensed in them disappointments as weighty as his own.  He stayed and watched and learned.  And of course, he loved.  This family provided him with so much and he did all he could to return this great favour, becoming secret guardian to them.  They had been driven from their original home, stripped of what was theirs for crimes that were not their own and so he felt a deep fellowship with them.  When his beloved adopted family turned on him that terrible day he revealed himself his heart was broken anew.  He took his books and fled, filled once more with that terrible dark despair.

This time though, when he stopped to rest and was in a mood to look at the writings thoughtfully, he could decipher meaning in them.  Thanks to his time with the DeLaceys the letters within no longer hid their secrets from him.  His cold and ghoulish history became known to him, but something more important became known, a most important piece of information.  An address was written on the first page of each volume, his creator’s address.  Not the address of where he had been — he knew those characters to be different — but the address of the Frankenstein family home.  His wandering would no longer be without direction or object.  He did not know how long it would take, for walking was his only transport, but he would find this place and he would find this man and he would show him that his creation was worthy of all those gruesome efforts so long ago.  It did not occur to him that this father of his may still be where he left him, but assumed that they had both escaped the home of their individual horrors.

No, he would find his estranged creator.  He would no longer be alone, but be loved.

And if his creator did not love him then he would kill him.

Agatha Arrives

Day 9 and on what should be a day with lots of time I of course found myself with lots to do and so much I wanted to change from yesterday.

But here we go. . .

The DeLaceys arrived on a Tuesday morning with the mail.  Elizabeth and her father along with the two younger Frankensteins were ready out front to greet them.  The cart had not yet come to a full stop before Agatha DeLacey, surprised all present, by leaping off and running to Elizabeth.

“My dearest, dearest Miss Lavenza,” she cried and hugged the startled Elizabeth, noisily planted a kiss on either cheek, then fell to her knees and hugged her skirts.  The display would be replayed throughout the day by both the Frankenstein boys so entertained were they by this show.

It would take a few more minutes for Mr. DeLacey to make his way to them, once his daughter had collected herself and returned to help him down.  It was a great relief to Elizabeth to find that there indeed was an old, blind father.  She had begun to doubt her reason as the day approached, afraid that she would be proven a naive and foolish young woman for believing in all that had been shared within her friend’s precious communications.  But here they both were, so far as she could tell, just as said.

Her father’s own misgivings seemed to have been allayed for the time, as it was he who took the old man in hand and guided him into the house for some late breakfast after their journey.  The little luggage they brought with them was sent on to the cottage, where most of the necessary repairs were already made.

The morning passed quite pleasantly with small talk about the journey and at least the one DeLacey’s opinion of the surrounding countryside which was deemed magnificent.  Afterwards the two ladies walked down to the lake where they strolled together arm in arm, while each of their fathers retired to their respective quarters for a much needed rest.  The women made an interesting pair, with Agatha half a head shorter than Elizabeth and as dark as she was fair.  Agatha turned out be more reserved than her initial outburst would indicate and did not speak much.  Indeed both of them found themselves shyer around one another than they were in their letters and were mostly silent, but they enjoyed each’s company all the same.

The families rejoined one another at what turned into a noisy and happy dinner, with adults and children alike taking part in the conversation.  And both Mr. Frankenstein and Mr. DeLacey very quickly discovered that they had acquired a new ally as each had to wave away their overly attentive daughters.

“Stop it my child.  I am perfectly capable of feeding myself.”  Mr. DeLacey was forced to say as Agatha attempted to put a fork into his hand.  He had managed to successfully slap his daughter’s hand away earlier when she went to cut his meat.

“I am just trying to help in a new situation father.  Not everything is exactly where it was in our previous home,” was her defense.

“I have been blind for a great many years and am quite accustomed to adapting my dear.  I will find my way.  Granted, I probably could not walk the hills here but in most things I am still most able.  Do you find, Mr. Frankenstein, that your children consider you quite helpless?”

“They do certainly fuss Mr. DeLacey.  I am sure if my Elizabeth had her way I would not leave my bed.  She considers me at risk of all sorts of ills.  You would think me an invalid and not just old.”

So it was the two fathers who dominated the table as they each commisserated over the lot of the older father and then with Mr. Frankenstein asking all sorts of questions about what state France had been when they last saw it and the two of them getting into excited conversation about favourite haunts and when had they been last and were they still there.  And of course, they told various family stories, interrupted occasionally with an objection from one child or another as to their portrayal.  It seemed that in looking for a companion for herself that Elizabeth had found the perfect one for her father.

It was later when they had retired to the main parlour and after some discussion of the DeLaceys’ more recent trials that Mr. Frankenstein brought up its most intriguing aspect.

“I must ask, Mr. DeLacey.  What of this monster that your daughter spoke of?  Does such a creature really exist?”

Agatha felt this to be her moment to join in the conversation and tell the tale but her father interrupted.

“Well Mr. Frankenstein, whether he be monster or man I cannot say for certain as I obviously did not see him.  It must have been late afternoon when he arrived at the cottage and asked if he may warm himself awhile.  And I would say I was aware of his having some bulk when he moved, but I cannot speak to his actual proportions.”

Agatha interjected at this point.  “Father, he must have been 10 feet, at least 9 feet at any rate.  He was gargantuan.  And I had never seen a face like his Mr. Frankenstein, yellow and gaunt, cadaverous is the word I think.  Yes, I would describe it as cadaverous.”

“Be that as it may my dear, he was very polite and well spoken.  And he seemed to be in most dire need of aid.  Having no ability to see, I must depend on other senses and I sensed nothing in his tone that would indicate a violent or malevolent character.  I would describe him in fact as meek.  Though I will say, he must have been observing us in secret for a great length of time for he alluded to some valued friends and teachers which I realized later in the conversation likely referred to us and I admit to finding that faintly disturbing.  At the same time I know that some unknown protector had been assisting us in our daily toils and had brought great relief to my family by doing so.  I believe that must have been him.  Alas, it seems we will never know for sure, for giant or not, he managed to disappear without trace.”

Both boys’ ears pricked up with talk of a monster.  “But what happened?  Where did he go?  Did you have to fight him?”

“That is the sad part of the tale my dears.  For just as I was offering my assistance to him my children arrived and chased him away.  Whatever his appearance may be, it certainly was enough to terrify them to the point that my daughter here fainted and my son struck him down and proceeded to beat him by kicking him and hitting him with a stick.  Felix’s betrothed would not come in and was quite hysterical at seeing him.”

“But didn’t the monster fight back?”  Ernest asked.

“This was of course my argument, for if monster he was, he could have torn my son from limb to limb, especially if he was of the stature that they all described, but he did not, and instead made the most terrible sound and ran off.  I feel for him to this day.”

“I suppose my brother still wishes to think him a monster because of the terrible beating he laid on him.  He does not want to think that he harmed a poor innocent,” explained Agatha.  “Felix is usually such a gentle fellow.”

“There’s no such thing as monsters!” said an indignant William.

“I assure you there is young man.”  The blind old man leaned over and seemed to look straight at this youngest of the Frankensteins.  “And when you meet one, which I am afraid all of us do eventually, you will find him or her to be most human.”

My dearest, dearest Elizabeth

second installment of Elizabeth Lavenza

So here I am on day two of National Novel Writing Month and about to make my second installment, a second letter.  And as far as I know, the final letter in the work, but things change I know.  I have already gone back and made minor changes to the first and would do more, but this is about getting it all done by the end of the month and I can take care of all that later.

So another step into the beyond. . .

My dearest, dearest Elizabeth,

If I may be so bold as to address you as such.  My saviour, my benefactress, my sweetest friend, modesty bids that I should refuse your generous offer, but pride left me years past, and what is such modesty but pride disguised.  I accept with a gratitude that no words can adequately express.

Before I go on further however, there is something I need to address.  I wish to make plain my love and regard for my sister-in-law.  I fear that my previous communication may have painted her in a poor light and that you, whose opinion I hold so highly may think ill of her.   She who has done so much for my family’s welfare and happiness and for my brother’s most especially.  Safie is a woman of great beauty in any land and even greater wealth.  A happy and comfortable future was assured her.  And yet, acting against both blood and breeding, she left behind a life of luxury and certainty to travel to a country whose customs, tradition and language were all strange to her.  With little experience beyond her family’s most confining walls she managed to glean our family’s whereabouts (this with only two individuals being aware of where we resided and under what name).  Then upon obtaining this information she set off, at great risk to her health and person, on a dangerous journey to find and join a family reduced to wretchedness.  All this to keep a years old promise made by herself and by an overly cunning father.

I recognize that in our months together many aspects of our life caused her pain, from the food she found so bland in flavour and colour, to the cold and damp of our climate, to never hearing her own tongue spoken.  And our cottage and even her and my brother’s current apartments would be humbler even than any of the quarters of her once numerous servants.  Yet, for all that she left behind, she maintained the brightest of demeanours and looked not only on my brother with pride and love, but on my father and myself also.  Is it not reasonable that after all that she endured, and the deprivations that she must surely feel daily, that she would declare herself done? That she would decide that a wretched and horrific beast such as we encountered that day was too much for her?  No, she has my brother to take care of and I hope, children to soon think of.  I do not hold her position on the matter against her, and it is only proper that Felix ally himself with her.  She is his wife and all she has done she has done for him.

Having removed that burden from myself, onto more pragmatic subjects.  Your offer to pay the passage for my father and myself is most generous, but unnecessary.  We are not entirely without means and will find our way without great hardship.  And after all you are doing for us, bearing this comparatively small cost is a joy.

A small cottage, regardless of its state, would be lovely for my father, but to then provide a room for myself seems most excessive.  I am sure I can stay with my father, unless of course you require me in the house.  I repeat my offer of before.  I am happy to work and become most capable.  I quite surprise myself at just how useful these last few years have made me.

Oh, dearest Elizabeth, I am quite beside myself with the excitement of this new adventure.  I look forward to meeting Masters William and Ernest.  And your father, Mr. Frankenstein.  And will your cousin Victor be returned?

But what I am in greatest anticipation of, is meeting you my dearest Elizabeth.  You who have become sister to me.  I hope to prove myself worthy of your love and generosity.

May the good Lord bless and keep you and yours dear sister.  I remain your most devoted, humblest and affectionate of servants,

Agatha DeLacey