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Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein

By Richard Brinsley Peake


A Gothic Chamber in the House of Frankenstein.

Fritz discovered in a Gothic arm-chair, nodding asleep. During the symphony of the song, he starts, rubs his eyes, and comes forward.

Air -- Fritz

Oh, dear me! what's the matter?
How I shake at each clatter.
   My marrow
   They harrow.
Oh, dear me! what's the matter?
   If mouse squeaks, or cat sneezes,
Cricket chirps, or cock wheezes,
   Then I fret,
   In cold sweat.
Ev'ry noise my nerves teazes;
Bless my heart -- heaven preserve us!
I declare I'm so nervous.
   Ev'ry knock
   Is a shock.
I declare I'm so nervous!
I'm so nervous.
Fritz. Oh, Fritz, Fritz, Fritz! what is it come to! you are frightened out of your wits. Why did you ever leave your native village! why couldn't you be happy in the country with an innocent cow for your companion (bless its sweet breath!) instead of coming here to the city of Geneva to be hired as a servant! (Starts.) What's that? -- nothing. And then how complimentary! Master only hired me because he thought I looked so stupid! Stupid! ha, ha, ha! but am I stupid though? To be sure Mr. Frankenstein is a kind man, and I should respect him, but that I thinks as how he holds converse with somebody below with a long tail, horns, and hoofs, who shall be nameless. (Starts again.) What's that! Oh, a gnat on my nose! Oh, anything frightens me now -- I'm so very nervous! I spill all my bread and milk when I feed myself at breakfast! Lauk, Lauk! In the country, if a dog brayed or a donkey barked ever so loud, it had no effect upon Me. (Two distinct loud knocks, L.H. -- Fritz jumps.) Oh, mercy! I jump like a maggot out of a cheese! How my heart beats!

Cler. (Without, L.H.) Fritz, Fritz! open the door, Fritz!

Fritz. Yes, It's only Mr. Clerval, master's friend, who is going to marry Miss Elizabeth, master's sister. (Opens side door, L.H.)

Enter Clerval.

How d'ye do, sir!

Cler. Good morning, Fritz! Is Mr. Frankenstein to be seen?

Fritz. I fear not, sir, he has as usual been fumi -- fumi -- fumi--

Cler. Fumigating.

Fritz. Yes, sir -- fumigating; thank'ee, sir -- fumigating all night at his chemistry. I have not dared disturb him.

Cler. Mr. Frankenstein pursues his study with too much ardour.

Fritz. And what can be the use of it, Mr. Clerval? Work, work, work -- always at it. Now, putting a case to you. Now, when I was in the country, with my late cow (she's no more, poor thing!) if I had set to and milked her for a fortnight together, day and night, without stopping, do you think I should have been any the better tor it? I ask you as a gentleman and a scholar.

Cler. Ha, ha, ha! Certainly not!

Fritz. Nor my cow neither, poor cretur. (Wipes his eyes.) Excuse my crying -- she's defunct, and I always whimper a little when I think on her; and my wife lives away from me, but I don't care so much for that. Oh! Mr. Clerval, between ourselves -- hush! didn't you hear a noise! -- between ourselves, I want to unbosom my confidence.

Cler. Well!

Fritz. Between ourselves -- there's nobody at the door, is there? -- (Crosses to L.H. door.) -- No! well, between ourselves, Mr. Clerval, I have been so very nervous since I came to this place.

Cler. Pshaw!

Fritz. Nay, don't "Pshaw!" till you've heard me out. Oh, Mr. Clerval! I'll tell you. One night Mr. Frankenstein did indulge himself by going to bed. He was worn with fatigue and study. I had occasion to go into his chamber. He was asleep, but frightfully troubled; he groaned and ground his teeth setting mine on edge. "It is accomplished!" said he. Accomplished! I knew that had nothing to do with me, but I listened. He started up in his sleep, though his eves were opened and dead as oysters, he cried, "It is animated -- it rises -- walks!" Now my shrewd guess, sir, is that, like Dr. Faustus, my master is raising the Devil.

Cler. Fritz, you are simple; drive such impressions from your mind. You must not mis-construe your master's words in a dream. Do you never dream?

Fritz. (Mournfully.) I dream about my cow sometimes.

Cler. Your master is a studious chemist -- nay, as I sometimes suspect, an alchemist.

Fritz. Eh! Ah, I think he is. What is an alchemist, Mr. Clerval?

Cler. Does he not sometimes speak of the art of making gold?

Fritz. Lauk, sir! do you take Mr. Frankenstein for a coiner?

Cler. Did you never hear him make mention of the grand elixir which can prolong life to immortality?

Fritz. Never in all my life.

Cler. Well, go -- find out if it is possible I can see him. I will not detain him.

(Clerval crosses to L.H.)

Fritz. Yes, sir. Oh, that laboratory! I've got two loose teeth, and I am afraid I shall lose them, for whenever I go up towards that infernal place my head shakes like a dice-box! (Goes to R. H.) Oh, mercy! what's that? Two shining eyes -- how they glisten! Dear, dear, why I declare it's only the cat on the stairs. Puss, puss, pussy! How you frightened me, you young dog, when you know I am so very nervous!

[Exit Fritz, R.H.

Cler. Frankenstein, friend of my youth, how extraordinary and secret are thy pursuits! -- how art thou altered by study! Strange, what a hold has philosophy taken of thy mind -- but thou wert always enthusiastic and of boundless ambition. But Elizabeth -- the fair Elizabeth, his sister -- what a difference in disposition! Everyone adores her. Happy Clerval, to be now the possessor of Elizabeth, who, unconscious of her beauty, stole thy heart away!

Song -- Clerval

Ere witching love my heart possest,
And bade my sighs the nymph pursue,
Calm as the infant's smiling rest,
No anxious hope nor fear it knew.

But doom'd -- ah! doom'd at last to mourn,
What tumults in that heart arose!
An ocean tumbling, wild, and torn
By tempests from its deep repose.

Yet let me not the virgin blame,
As tho' she wish'd my heart despair,
How could the maid suspect a flame,
Who never knew that she was fair.
-- But Frankenstein approaches.

Enter Frankenstein, thoughtfully, R.H., shown in by Fritz, who exits, L.H.

My dear friend!

Frank. Clerval! Cler. Frankenstein, how ill you appear -- so pale! You look as if your night-watchings had been long and uninterrupted.

Frank. I have lately been so deeply engaged in one occupation that I have not allowed myself sufficient rest. But how left you my sister, Elizabeth?

Cler. Well, and very happy, only a little uneasy that she sees you so seldom.

Frank. Aye; I am engaged heart and soul in the pursuit of a discovery -- a grand, unheard-of wonder! None but those who have experienced can conceive the enticements of science; he who looks into the book of nature, finds an inexhaustible source of novelty, of wonder, and delight. What hidden treasures are contained in her mighty volume -- what strange, un-dreamed-of mysteries!

Cler. But some little respite -- your health should be considered.

Frank. (Abstracted.) After so much time spent in painful labour, to arrive at last at the summit of my desires, would be indeed a glorious consummation of my toils!

(Frankenstein crosses to L.H.)

Cler. How wild and mysterious his abstractions -- he heeds me not!

Frank. This discovery will be so vast, so overwhelming, that all the steps by which I have been progressively led will be obliterated, and I shall behold only the astounding result.

Cler. Frankenstein!

Frank. Ha! (To Clerval.) I see by your eagerness that you expect to be informed of the secret with which I am acquainted. That cannot be.

Cler. I do not wish to pry into your secrets, Frankenstein. I am no natural philosopher; my imagination is too vivid for the details of science. If I contemplate, let it be the charms of your fair sister, Elizabeth. My message hither now -- I wish to fix the day for our nuptials. But we must be certain, on so important and happy an event, that we shall enjoy the society of our Frankenstein.

Frank. Pardon me, Clerval! My first thoughts should recur to those dear friends whom I most love, and who are so deserving of my love -- name the day?

Cler. On the morn after to-morrow, may I Lead the charming Elizabeth to the altar?

Frank. E'en as you will -- e'en as you will! (Aside.) The morn after to-morrow -- ere that -- my wonderful task will be completed. It will be animated! It will live -- will think!

(Crosses in deep reflection -- afterwards turns up the stage.)

Cler. (Apart.) Again in reverie! this becomes alarming -- surely his head is affected. I am bound in duty to counteract this madness, and discover the secret of his deep reflections.

(Frankenstein sits down -- musing.)

Farewell, Frankenstein! He heeds me not -- 'tis in vain to claim his notice -- but I will seek the cause, and, if possible, effect his cure. No time must be lost. Fritz must assist me, and this way he went.

[Exit Clerval.

Frank. Every moment lost, fevers me. What time have I devoted? (Rises.) Had I not been heated by an almost supernatural enthusiasm, my application to this study would have been irksome, disgusting, and almost intolerable. To examine the causes of life -- I have had re-course to death -- I have seen how the fine form of man has been wasted and degraded -- have beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life! I have seen how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain -- I paused -- analysing all the minutiae of causation as exemplified in the change of life from death -- until from the midst of this darkness, the sudden light broke in upon me! A light, so brilliant and dazzling, some miracle must have produced the flash! The vital principle! The cause of life! -- Like Prometheus of old, have I daringly attempted the formation -- the animation of a Being! To my task -- away with reflection, to my task -- to my task!

[Exit Frankenstein.

Enter Fritz and Clerval.

Fritz. Yes, there he goes again, amongst otamies, and phials, and crucibles, and retorts, and charcoal, and fire, and the Devil -- for I'm sure he's at the bottom of it, and that makes me so nervous.

Cler. Fritz, you love your master, and are, I know, a discreet servant -- but his friends and relations are all unhappy on his account. His health is rapidly sinking under the fatigue of his present labours -- will you not assist to call him back to life and to his family?

Fritz. La! I'd call out all day long, if that would do any good.

Cler. I know his mind has been devoted to abstruse and occult sciences -- that his brain has been bewildered with the wild fancies of Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, Albertus Magnus, and--

Fritz. Oh! Mr. Clerval! how can you mention such crazy tooth-breaking names? There sounds something wicked in them.

Cler. Wicked! Psha, man! they are the renowned names of the earliest experimental philosophers. The sages who promised to the hopes of the laborious alchymist the transmutation of metals and the elixir of life.

Fritz. O! Ah! indeed! Lack a daisy me!

Cler. (Aside.) I suspect this fellow is more knave than fool -- he wants a bribe. Now, sirrah! answer me with candour. What is it you like best in the world?

Fritz. Milk!

Cler. Simpleton! I mean what station of life would you covet?

Fritz. Station?

Cler. Yes. Would you like to be master of a cottage?

Fritz. What, and keep a cow? -- the very thing. Why, Mr. Clerval, you're a conjuror, and know my thoughts by heart.

Cler. Fritz, I want to discover -- but you must be prudent. ( Takes out purse and gives a florin to Fritz.) Here's an earnest of my future intentions touching the cow and cottage.

Fritz. Bodikins ! a florin ! (Examining money.)

Cler. Friend Fritz, you must some time, when Mr. Frankenstein is absent from home, admit me into his study.

Fritz. Oh, dear, I can't! -- don't take your florin back again -- (puts up money) -- for he always locks the door. To be sure, there's a little window a-top of the staircase, where I can see when he puffs up his fire.

Cler. Well, they say the end justifies the means; and in this case I admit the maxim. You can peep through that window, and inform me minutely of what you see.

Fritz. But what is to become of my nerves?

Cler. Remember your cottage--

Fritz. And the cow!

Cler. Put me in possession of the secret, and both shall be secured to you. Some one approaches.

Fritz. Mr. Clerval, I'm your man. I'm nervous, and the devil sticks in my gizzard; but the cow will drive it out again. (Starts.) What's that? Oh, nothing -- oh, dear, I'm so nervous.

[Exeunt Fritz and Clerval.