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Pride and Prometheus

Had both her mother and her sister Kitty not insisted upon it, Miss Mary Bennet, whose interest in Nature did not extend to the Nature of Society, would not have attended the ball in Grosvenor Square. This was Kitty’s season. Mrs. Bennet had despaired of Mary long ago, but still bore hopes for her younger sister, and so had set her determined mind on putting Kitty in the way of Robert Sidney of Detling Manor, who possessed a fortune of six thousand pounds a year, and was likely to be at that evening’s festivities. Being obliged by her unmarried state to live with her parents, and the whims of Mrs. Bennet being what they were, although there was no earthly reason for Mary to be there, there was no good excuse for her absence.

So it was that Mary found herself in the ballroom of the great house, trussed up in a silk dress with her hair piled high, bedecked with her sister’s jewels. She was neither a beauty, like her older and happily married sister Jane, nor witty, like her older and happily married sister Elizabeth, nor flirtatious, like her younger and less happily married sister Lydia. Awkward and nearsighted, she had never cut an attractive figure, and as she had aged she had come to see herself as others saw her. Every time Mrs. Bennet told her to stand up straight, she felt despair. Mary had seen how Jane and Elizabeth had made good lives for themselves by finding appropriate mates. But there was no air of grace or mystery about Mary, and no man ever looked upon her with admiration.

Kitty’s card was full, and she had already contrived to dance once with the distinguished Mr. Sidney, whom Mary could not imagine being more tedious. Hectically glowing, Kitty was certain that this was the season she would get a husband. Mary, in contrast, sat with her mother and her Aunt Gardiner, whose good sense was Mary’s only respite from her mother’s silliness. After the third minuet Kitty came flying over.

“Catch your breath, Kitty!” Mrs. Bennet said. “Must you rush about like this? Who is that young man you danced with? Remember, we are here to smile on Mr. Sidney, not on some stranger. Did I see him arrive with the Lord Mayor?”

“How can I tell you what you saw, Mother?”

“Don’t be impertinent.”

“Yes. He is an acquaintance of the Mayor. He’s from Switzerland! Mr. Clerval, on holiday.”

The tall, fair-haired Clerval stood with a darker, brooding young man, both impeccably dressed in dove gray breeches, black jackets, and waistcoats, with white tie and gloves.

“Switzerland! I would not have you marry any Dutchman—though ’tis said their merchants are uncommonly wealthy. And who is that gentleman with whom he speaks?”

“I don’t know, Mother—but I can find out.”

Mrs. Bennet’s curiosity was soon to be relieved, as the two men crossed the drawing room to the sisters and their chaperones.

“Henry Clerval, madame,” the fair-haired man said. “And this is my good friend Mr. Victor Frankenstein.”

Mr. Frankenstein bowed but said nothing. He had the darkest eyes that Mary had ever encountered, and an air of being there only on obligation. Whether this was because he was as uncomfortable in these social situations as she, Mary could not tell, but his diffident air intrigued her. She fancied his reserve might bespeak sadness rather than pride. His manners were faultless, as was his command of English, though he spoke with a slight French accent. When he asked Mary to dance she suspected he did so only at the urging of Mr. Clerval; on the floor, once the orchestra of pianoforte, violin, and cello struck up the quadrille, he moved with some grace but no trace of a smile.

At the end of the dance, Frankenstein asked whether Mary would like some refreshment, and they crossed from the crowded ballroom to the sitting room, where he procured for her a cup of negus. Mary felt obliged to make some conversation before she should retreat to the safety of her wallflower’s chair.

“What brings you to England, Mr. Frankenstein?”

“I come to meet with certain natural philosophers here in London, and in Oxford—students of magnetism.”

“Oh! Then have you met Professor Langdon, of the Royal Society?”

Frankenstein looked at her as if seeing her for the first time. “How is it that you are acquainted with Professor Langdon?”

“I am not personally acquainted with him, but I am, in my small way, an enthusiast of the sciences. You are a natural philosopher?”

“I confess that I can no longer countenance the subject. But yes, I did study with Mr. Krempe and Mr. Waldman in Ingolstadt.”

“You no longer countenance the subject, yet you seek out Professor Langdon.”

A shadow swept over Mr. Frankenstein’s handsome face. “It is unsupportable to me, yet pursue it I must.”

“A paradox.”

“A paradox that I am unable to explain, Miss Bennet.”

All this said in a voice heavy with despair. Mary watched his sober black eyes, and replied, “‘The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.’”

For the second time that evening he gave her a look that suggested an understanding. Frankenstein sipped from his cup, then spoke: “Avoid any pastime, Miss Bennet, that takes you out of the normal course of human contact. If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections, and to destroy your taste for simple pleasures, then that study is certainly unlawful.”

The purport of this extraordinary speech Mary was unable to fathom. “Surely there is no harm in seeking knowledge.”

Mr. Frankenstein smiled. “Henry has been urging me to go out into London society; had I known that I might meet such a thoughtful person as yourself I would have taken him up on it long ’ere now.”

He took her hand. “But I spy your aunt at the door,” he said. “No doubt she has been dispatched to protect you. If you will, please let me return you to your mother. I must thank you for the dance, and even more for your conversation, Miss Bennet. In the midst of a foreign land, you have brought me a moment of sympathy.”

And again Mary sat beside her mother and aunt as she had half an hour before. She was nonplussed. It was not seemly for a stranger to speak so much from the heart to a woman he had never previously met, yet she could not find it in herself to condemn him. Rather, she felt her own failure in not keeping him longer.

A cold March rain was falling when, after midnight, they left the ball. They waited under the portico while the coachman brought round the carriage. Kitty began coughing. As they stood there in the chill night, Mary noticed a hooded man, of enormous size, standing in the shadows at the corner of the lane. Full in the downpour, unmoving, he watched the town house and its partiers without coming closer or going away, as if this observation were all his intention in life. Mary shivered.

In the carriage back to Aunt Gardiner’s home near Belgravia, Mrs. Bennet insisted that Kitty take the lap robe against the chill. “Stop coughing, Kitty. Have a care for my poor nerves.” She added, “They should never have put the supper at the end of that long hallway. The young ladies, flushed from the dance, had to walk all that cold way.”

Kitty drew a ragged breath and leaned over to Mary. “I have never seen you so taken with a man, Mary. What did that Swiss gentleman say to you?”

“We spoke of natural philosophy.”

“Did he say nothing of the reasons he came to England?” Aunt Gardiner asked.

“That was his reason.”

“I should say not!”said Kitty. “He came to forget his grief! His little brother William was murdered, not six months ago, by the family maid!”

“How terrible!” said Aunt Gardiner.

Mrs. Bennet asked in open astonishment, “Could this be true?”

“I have it from Lucy Copeland, the Lord Mayor’s daughter,” Kitty replied. “Who heard it from Mr. Clerval himself. And there is more! He is engaged to be married—to his cousin. Yet he has abandoned her, left her in Switzerland and come here instead.”

“Did he say anything to you about these matters?” Mrs. Bennet asked Mary.

Kitty interrupted. “Mother, he’s not going to tell the family secrets to strangers, let alone reveal his betrothal at a dance.”

Mary wondered at these revelations. Perhaps they explained Mr.

Frankenstein’s odd manner. But could they explain his interest in her? “A man should be what he seems,” she said.

Kitty snorted, and it became a cough.

“Mark me, girls,” said Mrs. Bennet, “that engagement is a match that he does not want. I wonder what fortune he would bring to a marriage?”

In the days that followed, Kitty’s cough became a full-blown catarrh, and it was decided against her protest that, the city air being unhealthy, they should cut short their season and return to Meryton. Mr. Sidney was undoubtedly unaware of his narrow escape. Mary could not honestly say that she regretted leaving, though the memory of her half hour with Mr. Frankenstein gave her as much regret at losing the chance of further commerce with him as she had ever felt from her acquaintance with a man.

Within a week Kitty was feeling better, and repining bitterly their remove from London. In truth, she was only two years younger than Mary and had made none of the mental accommodations to approaching spinsterhood that her older sister had attempted. Mr. Bennet retreated to his study, emerging only at mealtimes to cast sardonic comments about Mrs. Bennet and Kitty’s marital campaigns. Perhaps, Mrs. Bennet said, they might invite Mr. Sidney to visit Longbourn when Parliament adjourned. Mary escaped these discussions by practicing the pianoforte and, as the advancing spring brought warm weather, taking walks in the countryside, where she would stop beneath an oak and read, indulging her passion for Goethe and German philosophy. When she tried to engage her father in speculation, he warned her, “I am afraid, my dear, that your understanding is too dependent on books and not enough on experience of the world. Beware, Mary. Too much learning makes a woman monstrous.”

What experience of the world had they ever allowed her? Rebuffed, Mary wrote to Elizabeth about the abrupt end of Kitty’s latest assault on marriage, and her subsequent ill temper, and Elizabeth wrote back inviting her two younger sisters to come visit Pemberley.

Mary was overjoyed to have the opportunity to escape her mother and see something more of Derbyshire, and Kitty seemed equally willing. Mrs. Bennet was not persuaded when Elizabeth suggested that nearby Matlock and its baths might be good for Kitty’s health (no man would marry a sickly girl), but she was persuaded by Kitty’s observation that, though it could in no way rival London, Matlock did attract a finer society than sleepy Meryton, and thus offered opportunities for meeting eligible young men of property. So in the second week of May, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet tearfully loaded their last unmarried daughters into a coach for the long drive to Derbyshire. Mrs. Bennet’s tears were shed because their absence would deprive Kitty and Mary of her attentions, Mr. Bennet’s for the fact that their absence would assure him of Mrs. Bennet’s.

The two girls were as ever delighted by the grace and luxury of Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s ancestral estate. Darcy was kindness itself, and the servants attentive, if, at the instruction of Elizabeth, less indulgent of Kitty’s whims and more careful of her health than the thoroughly cowed servants at home. Lizzy saw that Kitty got enough sleep, and the three sisters took long walks in the grounds of the estate. Kitty’s health improved, and Mary’s spirits rose. Mary enjoyed the company of Lizzy and Darcy’s eight-year-old son William, who was attempting to teach her and Darcy’s younger sister Georgiana to fish. Georgiana pined after her betrothed, Captain Broadbent, who was away on crown business in the Caribbean, but after they had been there a week, Jane and her husband Mr. Bingley came for an extended visit from their own estate thirty miles away, and so four of the five Bennet sisters were reunited. They spent many cordial afternoons and evenings. Both Mary and Georgiana were accomplished at the pianoforte, though Mary had come to realize that her sisters tolerated more than enjoyed her playing. The reunion of Lizzy and Jane meant even more time devoted to Kitty’s improvement, with specific attention to her marital prospects, and left Mary feeling invisible. Still, on occasion she would join them and drive into Lambton or Matlock to shop and socialize, and every week during the summer a ball was held in the assembly room of the Old Bath Hotel, with its beeswax-polished floor and splendid chandeliers.

On one such excursion to Matlock, Georgiana stopped at the milliners while Kitty pursued some business at the butcher’s shop—Mary wondered at her sudden interest in Pemberley’s domestic affairs—and Mary took William to the museum and circulating library, which contained celebrated cabinets of natural history. William had told her of certain antiquities unearthed in the excavation for a new hotel and recently added to the collection.

The streets, hotels, and inns of Matlock bustled with travelers there to take the waters. Newly wedded couples leaned on one another’s arms, whispering secrets that no doubt concerned the alpine scenery. A crew of workmen was breaking up the cobblestone street in front of the hall, swinging pickaxes in the bright sun. Inside she and Will retreated to the cool quiet of the public exhibition room.

Among the visitors to the museum Mary spied a slender, well-dressed man at one of the display cases, examining the artifacts contained there. As she drew near, Mary recognized him. “Mr. Frankenstein!”

The tall European looked up, startled. “Ah—Miss Bennet?”

She was pleased that he remembered. “Yes. How good to see you.”

“And this young man is?”

“My nephew, William.”

At the mention of this name, Frankenstein’s expression darkened. He closed his eyes. “Are you not well?” Mary asked.

He looked at her again. “Forgive me. These antiquities call to mind sad associations. Give me a moment.”

“Certainly,” she said. William ran off to see the hall’s steam clock. Mary turned and examined the contents of the neighboring cabinet.

Beneath the glass was a collection of bones that had been unearthed in the local lead mines. The card lettered beside them read: Bones, resembling those of a fish, made of limestone.

Eventually Frankenstein came to stand beside her. “How is it that you are come to Matlock?” he inquired.

“My sister Elizabeth is married to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, of Pemberley. Kitty and I are here on a visit. Have you come to take the waters?”

“Clerval and I are on our way to Scotland, where he will stay with friends, while I pursue—certain investigations. We rest here a week. The topography of the valley reminds me of my home in Switzerland.”

“I have heard it said so,” she replied. Frankenstein seemed to have regained his composure, but Mary wondered still at what had awakened his grief. “You have an interest in these relics?” she asked, indicating the cabinets.

“Some, perhaps. I find it remarkable to see a young lady take an interest in such arcana.” Mary detected no trace of mockery in his voice.

“Indeed, I do,” she said, indulging her enthusiasm. “Professor Erasmus Darwin has written of the source of these bones:

“Organic life beneath the shoreless waves

Was born and nurs’d in ocean’s pearly caves;

First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,

Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;

These, as successive generations bloom,

New powers acquire and larger limbs assume;

Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,

And breathing realms of fin and feet and wing.

“People say this offers proof of the Great Flood. Do you think, Mr. Frankenstein, that Matlock could once have been under the sea? They say these are creatures that have not existed since the time of Noah.”

“Far older than the Flood, I’ll warrant. I do not think that these bones were originally made of stone. Some process has transformed them. Anatomically, they are more like those of a lizard than a fish.”

“You have studied anatomy?”

Mr. Frankenstein tapped his fingers upon the glass of the case. “Three years gone by it was one of my passions. I no longer pursue such matters.”

“And yet, sir, you met with men of science in London.”

“Ah—yes, I did. I am surprised that you remember a brief conversation, more than two months ago.”

“I have a good memory.”

“As evidenced by your quoting Professor Darwin. I might expect a woman such as yourself to take more interest in art than science.”

“Oh, you may rest assured that I have read my share of novels. And even more, in my youth, of sermons. Elizabeth is wont to tease me for a great moralizer. ‘Evil is easy,’ I tell her, ‘and has infinite forms.’”

Frankenstein did not answer. Finally he said, “Would that the world had no need of moralizers.”

Mary recalled his warning against science from their London meeting. “Come, Mr. Frankenstein. There is no evil in studying God’s handiwork.”

“A God-fearing Christian might take exception to Professor Darwin’s assertion that life began in the sea, no matter how poetically stated.” His voice became distant. “Can a living soul be created without the hand of God?”

“It is my feeling that the hand of God is everywhere present.” Mary gestured toward the cabinet. “Even in the bones of this stony fish.”

“Then you have more faith than I, Miss Bennet—or more innocence.”

Mary blushed. She was not used to bantering in this way with a gentleman. In her experience, handsome and accomplished men took no interest in her, and such conversations as she had engaged in offered little of substance other than the weather, clothes, and town gossip. Yet she saw that she had touched Frankenstein, and felt something akin to triumph.

They were interrupted by the appearance of Georgiana and Kitty, entering with Henry Clerval. “There you are!” said Kitty. “You see, Mr. Clerval, I told you we would find Mary poring over these heaps of bones!”

“And it is no surprise to find my friend here as well,” said Clerval.

Mary felt quite deflated. The party moved out of the town hall and in splendid sunlight along the North Parade. Kitty proposed, and the visitors acceded to, a stroll on the so-called Lovers’Walk beside the river. As they walked along the gorge, vast ramparts of limestone rock, clothed with yew trees, elms, and limes, rose up on either side of the river. William ran ahead, and Kitty, Georgiana, and Clerval followed, leaving Frankenstein and Mary behind. Eventually they came in sight of the High Tor, a sheer cliff rearing its brow on the east bank of the Derwent. The lower part was covered with small trees and foliage. Massive boulders that had fallen from the cliff broke the riverbed below into foaming rapids. The noise of the waters left Mary and Frankenstein, apart from the others, as isolated as if they had been in a separate room. Frankenstein spent a long time gazing at the scenery. Mary’s mind raced, seeking some way to recapture the mood of their conversation in the town hall.

“How this reminds me of my home,” he said. “Henry and I would climb such cliffs as this, chase goats around the meadows, and play at pirates. Father would walk me though the woods and name every tree and flower. I once saw a lightning bolt shiver an old oak to splinters.”

“Whenever I come here,” Mary blurted out, “I realize how small I am, and how great time is. We are here for only seconds, and then we are gone, and these rocks, this river, will long survive us. And through it all we are alone.”

Frankenstein turned toward her. “Surely you are not so lonely. You have your family, your sisters. Your mother and father.”

“One can be alone in a room of people. Kitty mocks me for my ‘heaps of bones.’”

“A person may marry.”

“I am twenty-eight years old, sir. I am no man’s vision of a lover or wife.”

What had come over her, to say this aloud, for the first time in her life? Yet what did it matter what she said to this foreigner? There was no point in letting some hope for sympathy delude her into greater hopes. They had danced a single dance in London, and now they spent an afternoon together; soon he would leave England, marry his cousin, and Mary would never see him again. She deserved Kitty’s mockery.

Frankenstein took some time before answering, during which Mary was acutely aware of the sound of the waters, and of the sight of Georgiana, William, and Clerval playing in the grass by the riverbank, while Kitty stood pensive some distance away.

“Miss Bennet, I am sorry if I have made light of your situation. But your fine qualities should be apparent to anyone who took the trouble truly to make your acquaintance. Your knowledge of matters of science only adds to my admiration.”

“You needn’t flatter me,” said Mary. “I am unused to it.”

“I do not flatter,” Frankenstein replied. “I speak my own mind.”

William came running up. “Aunt Mary! This would be an excellent place to fish! We should come here with Father!”

“That’s a good idea, Will.”

Frankenstein turned to the others. “We must return to the hotel, Henry,” he told Clerval. “I need to see that new glassware properly packed before shipping it ahead.”

“Very well.”

“Glassware?” Georgiana asked.

Clerval chuckled. “Victor has been purchasing equipment at every stop along our tour—glassware, bottles of chemicals, lead and copper disks. The coachmen threaten to leave us behind if he does not ship these things separately.”

Kitty argued in vain, but the party walked back to Matlock. The women and William met the carriage to take them back to Pemberley. “I hope I see you again, Miss Bennet,” Frankenstein said. Had she been more accustomed to reading the emotions of others she would have ventured that his expression held sincere interest—even longing.

On the way back to Pemberley William prattled with Georgiana. Kitty, subdued for once, leaned back with her eyes closed, while Mary puzzled over every moment of the afternoon. The fundamental sympathy she had felt with Frankenstein in their brief London encounter had been only reinforced. His sudden dark moods, his silences, bespoke some burden he carried. Mary was almost convinced that her mother was right—that Frankenstein did not love his cousin, and that he was here in England fleeing from her. How could this second meeting with him be chance? Fate had brought them together.

At dinner that evening, Kitty told Darcy and Elizabeth about their encounter with the handsome Swiss tourists. Later, Mary took Lizzy aside and asked her to invite Clerval and Frankenstein to dinner.

“This is new!” said Lizzy. “I expected this from Kitty, but not you. You have never before asked to have a young man come to Pemberley.”

“I have never met someone quite like Mr. Frankenstein,” Mary replied.

“Have you taken the Matlock waters?” Mary asked Clerval, who was seated opposite her at the dinner table. “People in the parish say that a dip in the hot springs could raise the dead.”

“I confess that I have not,” Clerval said. “Victor does not believe in their healing powers.”

Mary turned to Frankenstein, hoping to draw him into discussion of the matter, but the startled expression on his face silenced her.

The table, covered with a blinding white damask tablecloth, glittered with silver and crystal. A large epergne, studded with lit beeswax candles, dominated its center. In addition to the family members, and in order to even the number of guests and balance female with male, Darcy and Elizabeth had invited the vicar, Mr. Chatsworth. Completing the dinner party were Bingley and Jane, Georgiana, and Kitty.

The footmen brought soup, followed by claret, turbot with lobster and Dutch sauce, oyster pâté, lamb cutlets with asparagus, peas, a fricandeau à l’oseille, venison, stewed beef à la jardinière, with various salads, beetroot, French and English mustard. Two ices, cherry water and pineapple cream, and a chocolate cream with strawberries. Champagne flowed throughout the dinner, and Madeira afterward.

Darcy inquired of Mr. Clerval’s business in England, and Clerval told of his meetings with men of business in London, and his interest in India. He had even begun the study of the language, and for their entertainment spoke a few sentences in Hindi. Darcy told of his visit to Geneva a decade ago. Clerval spoke charmingly of the differences in manners between the Swiss and the English, with witty preference for English habits, except, he said, in the matter of boiled meats. Georgiana asked about women’s dress on the continent. Elizabeth allowed as how, if they could keep him safe, it would be good for William’s education to tour the continent. Kitty, who usually dominated the table with bright talk and jokes, was unusually quiet. The Vicar spoke amusingly of his travels in Italy.

Through all of this, Frankenstein offered little in the way of response or comment. Mary had put such hopes on this dinner, and now she feared she had misread him. His voice warmed but once, when he spoke of his father, a counselor and syndic, renowned for his integrity. Only on inquiry would he speak of his years in Ingolstadt.

“And what did you study in the university?” Bingley asked.

“Matters of no interest,” Frankenstein replied.

An uncomfortable silence followed. Clerval gently explained, “My friend devoted himself so single-mindedly to the study of natural philosophy that his health failed. I was fortunately able to bring him back to us, but it was a near thing.”

“For which I will ever be grateful to you,” Frankenstein mumbled.

Lizzy attempted to change the subject. “Reverend Chatsworth, what news is there of the parish?”

The vicar, unaccustomed to such volume and variety of drink, was in his cups, his face flushed and his voice rising to pulpit volume. “Well, I hope the ladies will not take it amiss,” he boomed, “if I tell about a curious incident that occurred last night!”

“Pray do.”

“So, then—last night I was troubled with sleeplessness—I think it was the trout I ate for supper, it was not right—Mrs. Croft vowed she had purchased it just that afternoon, but I wonder if perhaps it might have been from the previous day’s catch. Be that as it may, lying awake some time after midnight, I thought I heard a scraping out my bedroom window—the weather has been so fine of late that I sleep with my window open. It is my opinion, Mr. Clerval, that nothing aids the lungs more than fresh air, and I believe that is the opinion of the best continental thinkers, is it not? The air is exceedingly fresh in the alpine meadows, I am told?”

“Only in those meadows where the cows have not been feeding.”

“The cows? Oh, yes, the cows—ha, ha!—very good! The cows, indeed! So, where was I? Ah, yes. I rose from my bed and looked out the window, and what did I spy but a light in the churchyard. I threw on my robe and slippers and hurried out to see what might be the matter.

“As I approached the churchyard I saw a dark figure wielding a spade. His back was to me, silhouetted by a lamp which rested beside Nancy Brown’s grave. Poor Nancy, dead not a week now, so young, only seventeen.”

“A man?” said Kitty.

The vicar’s round face grew serious. “You may imagine my shock. ‘Halloo!’ I shouted. At that the man dropped his spade, seized the lantern and dashed round the back of the church. By the time I had reached the corner he was out of sight. Back at the grave I saw that he had been on a fair way to unearthing poor Nancy’s coffin!”

“My goodness!” said Jane.

“Defiling a grave?” asked Bingley. “I am astonished.”

Darcy said nothing, but his look demonstrated that he was not pleased by the vicar bringing such an uncouth matter to his dinner table. Frankenstein, sitting next to Mary, put down his knife and took a long draught of Madeira.

The vicar lowered his voice. He was clearly enjoying himself. “I can only speculate on what motive this man might have had. Could it have been some lover of hers, overcome with grief ?”

“No man is so faithful,” Kitty said.

“My dear vicar,” said Lizzy. “You have read too many of Mrs. Radcliffe’s novels.”

Darcy leaned back in his chair. “Gypsies have been seen in the woods about the quarry. It was no doubt their work. They were seeking jewelry.”

“Jewelry?” the vicar said. “The Browns had barely enough money to see her decently buried.”

“Which proves that whoever did this was not a local man.”

Clerval spoke. “At home, fresh graves are sometimes defiled by men providing cadavers to doctors. Was there not a spate of such grave robbings in Ingolstadt, Victor?”

Frankenstein put down his glass. “Yes,” he said. “Some anatomists, in seeking knowledge, will abandon all human scruple.”

“I do not think that is likely to be the cause in this instance,” Darcy observed. “Here there is no university, no medical school. Doctor Phillips, in Lambton, is no transgressor of civilized rules.”

“He is scarcely a transgressor of his own threshold,” said Lizzy. “One must call him a day in advance to get him to leave his parlor.”

“Rest assured, there are such men,” said Frankenstein. “I have known them. My illness, as Henry has described to you, was in some way my spirit’s rebellion against the understanding that the pursuit of knowledge will lead some men into mortal peril.”

Here was Mary’s chance to impress Frankenstein. “Surely there is a nobility in risking one’s life to advance the claims of one’s race. With how many things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquiries?”

“Then I thank God for cowardice and carelessness, Miss Bennet,” Frankenstein said, “One’s life, perhaps, is worth risking, but not one’s soul.”

“True enough. But I believe that science may demand our relaxing the strictures of common society.”

“We have never heard this tone from you, Mary,” Jane said.

Darcy interjected, “You are becoming quite modern, sister. What strictures are you prepared to abandon for us tonight?” His voice was full of the gentle condescension with which he treated Mary at all times.

How she wished to surprise them! How she longed to show Darcy and

Lizzy, with their perfect marriage and perfect lives, that she was not the simple old maid they thought her. “Anatomists in London have obtained the court’s permission to dissect the bodies of criminals after execution. Is it unjust to use the body of a murderer, who has already forfeited his own life, to save the lives of the innocent?”

“My uncle, who is on the bench, has spoken of such cases,” Bingley said.

“Not only that,” Mary added. “Have you heard of the experiments of the Italian scientist Aldini? Last summer in London at the Royal College of Surgeons he used a powerful battery to animate portions of the body of a hanged man. According to the Times, the spectators genuinely believed that the body was about to come to life!”

“Mary, please!” said Lizzy.

“You need to spend less time on your horrid books,” Kitty laughed. “No suitor is going to want to talk with you about dead bodies.”

And so Kitty was on their side, too. Her mockery only made Mary more determined to force Frankenstein to speak. “What do you say, sir? Will you come to my defense?”

Frankenstein carefully folded his napkin and set it beside his plate. “Such attempts are not motivated by bravery, or even curiosity, but by ambition. The pursuit of knowledge can become a vice deadly as any of the more common sins. Worse still, because even the most noble of natures are susceptible to such temptations. None but he who has experienced them can conceive of the enticements of science.”

The vicar raised his glass. “Mr. Frankenstein, truer words have never been spoken. The man who defiled poor Nancy’s grave has placed himself beyond the mercy of a forgiving God.”

Mary felt charged with contradictory emotions. “You have experienced such enticements, Mr. Frankenstein?”

“Sadly, I have.”

“But surely there is no sin that is beyond the reach of God’s mercy? ‘To know all is to forgive all.’”

The vicar turned to her. “My child, what know you of sin?”

“Very little, Mr. Chatsworth, except of idleness. Yet I feel that even a wicked person can have the veil lifted from his eyes.”

Frankenstein looked at her. “Here I must agree with Miss Bennet. I have to believe that even the most corrupted nature is susceptible to grace. If I did not think this were possible, I could not live.”

“Enough of this talk,” insisted Darcy. “Vicar, I suggest you mind your parishioners, including those in the churchyard, more carefully. But now I, for one, am eager to hear Miss Georgiana play the pianoforte. And perhaps Miss Mary and Miss Catherine will join her. We must uphold the accomplishments of English maidenhood before our foreign guests.”

On Kitty’s insistence, the next morning, despite lowering clouds and a chill in the air that spoke more of March than late May, she and Mary took a walk along the river.

They walked along the stream that ran from the estate toward the Derwent. Kitty remained silent. Mary’s thoughts turned to the wholly unsatisfying dinner of the previous night. The conversation in the parlor had gone no better than dinner. Mary had played the piano ill, showing herself to poor advantage next to the accomplished Georgiana. Under Jane and Lizzy’s gaze she felt the folly of her intemperate speech at the table. Frankenstein said next to nothing to her for the rest of the evening; he almost seemed wary of being in her presence.

She was wondering how he was spending this morning when, suddenly turning her face from Mary, Kitty burst into tears.

Mary touched her arm. “Whatever is the matter, Kitty?”

“Do you believe what you said last night?”

“What did I say?”

“That there is no sin beyond the reach of God’s mercy?”

“Of course I do! Why would you ask?”

“Because I have committed such a sin!” She covered her eyes with her hand. “Oh, no, I mustn’t speak of it!”

Mary refrained from pointing out that, having made such a provocative admission, Kitty could hardly remain silent—and undoubtedly had no intention of doing so. But Kitty’s intentions were not always transparent to Mary.

After some coaxing and a further walk along the stream, Kitty was prepared finally to unburden herself. It seemed that, from the previous summer she had maintained a secret admiration for a local man from

Matlock, Robert Piggot, son of the butcher. Though his family was quite prosperous and he stood to inherit the family business, he was in no way a gentleman, and Kitty had vowed never to let her affections overwhelm her sense.

But, upon their recent return to Pemberley, she had encountered Robert on her first visit to town, and she had been secretly meeting with him when she went into Matlock on the pretext of shopping. Worse still, the couple had allowed their passion to get the better of them, and Kitty had given way to carnal love.

The two sisters sat on a fallen tree in the woods as Kitty poured out her tale. “I want so much to marry him.” Her tears flowed readily. “I do not want to be alone, I don’t want to die an old maid! And Lydia—Lydia told me about—about the act of love, how wonderful it was, how good Wickham makes her feel. She boasted of it! And I said, why should vain Lydia have this, and me have nothing, to waste my youth in conversation and embroidery, in listening to Mother prattle and Father throw heavy sighs. Father thinks me a fool, unlikely ever to find a husband. And now he’s right!” Kitty burst into wailing again. “He’s right! No man shall ever have me!” Her tears ended in a fit of coughing.

“Oh, Kitty,” Mary said.

“When Darcy spoke of English maidenhood last night, it was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears. You must get Father to agree to let me marry Robert.”

“Has he asked you to marry him?”

“He shall. He must. You don’t know how fine a man he is. Despite the fact that he is in trade, he has the gentlest manners. I don’t care if he is not well born.”

Mary embraced Kitty. Kitty alternated between sobs and fits of coughing. Above them the thunder rumbled, and the wind rustled the trees. Mary felt Kitty’s shivering body. She needed to calm her, to get her back to the house. How frail, how slender her sister was.

She did not know what to say. Once Mary would have self-righteously condemned Kitty. But much that Kitty said was the content of her own mind, and Kitty’s fear of dying alone was her own fear. As she searched for some answer, Mary heard the sound of a torrent of rain hitting the canopy of foliage above them. “You have been foolish,” Mary said, holding her.

“But it may not be so bad.”

Kitty trembled in her arms, and spoke into Mary’s shoulder. “But will you ever care for me again? What if Father should turn me out? What will I do then?”

The rain was falling through now, coming down hard. Mary felt her hair getting soaked. “Calm yourself. Father would do no such thing. I shall never forsake you. Jane would not, nor Lizzy.”

“What if I should have a child!”

Mary pulled Kitty’s shawl over her head. She looked past Kitty’s shoulder to the dark woods. Something moved there. “You shan’t have a child.”

“You can’t know! I may!”

The woods had become dark with the rain. Mary could not make out what lurked there. “Come, let us go back. You must compose yourself. We shall speak with Lizzy and Jane. They will know—”

Just then a flash of lightning lit the forest, and Mary saw, beneath the trees not ten feet from them, the giant figure of a man. The lightning illuminated a face of monstrous ugliness: Long, thick, tangled black hair. Yellow skin the texture of dried leather, black eyes sunken deep beneath heavy brows. Worst of all, an expression hideous in its cold, inexpressible hunger. All glimpsed in a split second; then the light fell to shadow.

Mary gasped, and pulled Kitty toward her. A great peal of thunder rolled across the sky.

Kitty stopped crying. “What is it?”

“We must go. Now.” Mary seized Kitty by the arm. The rain pelted down on them, and the forest path was already turning to mud.

Mary pulled her toward the house, Kitty complaining. Mary could hear nothing over the drumming of the rain. But when she looked over her shoulder, she caught a glimpse of the brutish figure, keeping to the trees, but swiftly, silently moving along behind them.

“Why must we run?” Kitty gasped.

“Because we are being followed!”

“By whom?”

“I don’t know!”

Behind them, Mary thought she heard the man croak out some words:

“Halt! Bitter!”

They had not reached the edge of the woods when figures appeared ahead of them, coming from Pemberley. “Miss Bennet! Mary! Kitty!”

The figures resolved themselves into Darcy and Mr. Frankenstein. Darcy carried a cloak, which he threw over them. “Are you all right?” Frankenstein asked.

“Thank you!” Mary gasped. “A man. He’s there,” she pointed, “following us.”

Frankenstein took a few steps beyond them down the path. “Who was it?” Darcy asked.

“Some brute. Hideously ugly,” Mary said.

Frankenstein came back. “No one is there.”

“We saw him!”

Another lighting flash, and crack of thunder. “It is very dark, and we are in a storm,” Frankenstein said.

“Come, we must get you back to the house,” Darcy said. “You are wet to the bone.”

The men helped them back to Pemberley, trying their best to keep the rain off the sisters.

Darcy went off to find Bingley and Clerval, who had taken the opposite direction in their search. Lizzy saw that Mary and Kitty were made dry and warm. Kitty’s cough worsened, and Lizzy insisted she must be put to bed. Mary sat with Kitty, whispered a promise to keep her secret, and waited until she slept. Then she went down to meet the others in the parlor.

“This chill shall do her no good,” Jane said. She chided Mary for wandering off in such threatening weather. “I thought you had developed more sense, Mary. Mr. Frankenstein insisted he help to find you, when he realized you had gone out into the woods.”

“I am sorry,” Mary said. “You are right.” She was distracted by Kitty’s plight, wondering what she might do. If Kitty were indeed with child, there would be no helping her.

Mary recounted her story of the man in the woods. Darcy said he had seen no one, but allowed that someone might have been there. Frankenstein, rather than engage in the speculation, stood at the tall windows staring across the lawn through the rain toward the tree line.

“This intruder was some local poacher, or perhaps one of those gypsies,” said Darcy. “When the rain ends I shall have Mr. Mowbray take some men to check the grounds. We shall also inform the constable.”

“I hope this foul weather will induce you to stay with us a few more days, Mr. Frankenstein,” Lizzy ventured. “You have no pressing business in Matlock, do you?”

“No. But we were to travel north by the end of this week.”

“Surely we might stay a while longer, Victor,” said Clerval. “Your research can wait for you in Scotland.”

Frankenstein struggled with his answer. “I don’t think we should prevail on these good people any more.”

“Nonsense,” said Darcy. “We are fortunate for your company.”

“Thank you,”Frankenstein said uncertainly. But when the conversation moved elsewhere, Mary noticed him once again staring out the window. She moved to sit beside him. On an impulse, she said to him, sotto voce, “Did you know this man we came upon in the woods?”

“I saw no one. Even if someone was there, how should I know some English vagabond?”

“I do not think he was English. When he called after us, it was in German. Was this one of your countrymen?”

A look of impatience crossed Frankenstein’s face, and he lowered his eyes. “Miss Bennet, I do not wish to contradict you, but you are mistaken. I saw no one in the woods.”

Kitty developed a fever, and did not leave her bed for the rest of the day. Mary sat with her, trying, without bringing up the subject of Robert Piggot, to quiet her.

It was still raining when Mary retired, to a separate bedroom from the one she normally shared with Kitty. Late that night, Mary was wakened by the opening of her bedroom door. She thought it might be Lizzy to tell her something about Kitty. But it was not Lizzy.

Rather than call out, she watched silently as a dark figure entered and closed the door behind. The remains of her fire threw faint light on the man as he approached her. “Miss Bennet,” he called softly.

Her heart was in her throat. “Yes, Mr. Frankenstein.”

“Please do not take alarm. I must speak with you.” He took two sudden steps toward her bed. His handsome face was agitated. No man, in any circumstances remotely resembling these, had ever broached her bedside. Yet the racing of her heart was not entirely a matter of fear.

“This, sir, is hardly the place for polite conversation,” she said. “Following on your denial of what I saw this afternoon, you are fortunate that I do not wake the servants and have you thrown out of Pemberley.”

“You are right to chide me. My conscience chides me more than you ever could, and should I be thrown from your family’s gracious company it would be less than I deserve. And I am afraid that nothing I have to say to you tonight shall qualify as polite conversation.” His manner was greatly changed; there was a sound of desperation in his whisper. He wanted something from her, and he wanted it a great deal.

Curious, despite herself, Mary drew on her robe and lit a candle. She made him sit in one of the chairs by the fire and poked the coals into life. When she had settled herself in the other, she said, “Go on.”

“Miss Bennet, please do not toy with me. You know why I am here.”

“Know, sir? What do I know?”

He leaned forward, earnestly, hands clasped and elbows on his knees. “I come to beg you to keep silent. The gravest consequences would follow your revealing my secret.”


“About—about the man you saw.”

“You do know him!”

“Your mockery at dinner convinced me that, after hearing the vicar’s story, you suspected. Raising the dead, you said to Clerval—and then your tale of Professor Aldini. Do not deny it.”

“I don’t pretend to know what you are talking about.”

Frankenstein stood from his chair and began to pace the floor before the hearth. “Please! I saw the look of reproach in your eyes when we found you in the forest. I am trying to make right what I put wrong. But I will never be able to do so if you tell.”To Mary’s astonishment, she saw, in the firelight, that his eyes glistened with tears.

“Tell me what you did.”

And with that the story burst out of him. He told her how, after his mother’s death, he longed to conquer death itself, how he had studied chemistry at the university, how he had uncovered the secret of life. How, emboldened and driven on by his solitary obsession, he had created a man from the corpses he had stolen from graveyards and purchased from resurrection men. How he had succeeded, through his science, in bestowing it with life.

Mary did not know what to say to this astonishing tale. It was the raving of a lunatic—but there was the man she had seen in the woods. And the earnestness with which Frankenstein spoke, his tears and desperate whispers, gave every proof that, at least in his mind, he had done these things. He told of his revulsion at his accomplishment, how he had abandoned the creature, hoping it would die, and how the creature had, in revenge, killed his brother William and caused his family’s ward Justine to be blamed for the crime.

“But why did you not intervene in Justine’s trial?”

“No one should have believed me.”

“Yet I am to believe you now?”

Frankenstein’s voice was choked. “You have seen the brute. You know that these things are possible. Lives are at stake. I come to you in remorse and penitence, asking only that you keep this secret.” He fell to his knees, threw his head into her lap, and clutched at the sides of her gown.

Frankenstein was wholly mistaken in what she knew; he was a man who did not see things clearly. Yet if his story were true, it was no wonder that his judgment was disordered. And here he lay, trembling against her, a boy seeking forgiveness. No man had ever come to her in such need.

She tried to keep her senses. “Certainly the creature I saw was frightening, but to my eyes he appeared more wretched than menacing.”

Frankenstein lifted his head. “Here I must warn you—his wretchedness is mere mask. Do not let your sympathy for him cause you ever to trust his nature. He is the vilest creature that has ever walked this earth. He has no soul.”

“Why then not invoke the authorities, catch him, and bring him to justice?”

“He cannot be so easily caught. He is inhumanly strong, resourceful, and intelligent. If you should ever be so unlucky as to speak with him, I warn you not to listen to what he says, for he is immensely articulate and satanically persuasive.”

“All the more reason to see him apprehended!”

“I am convinced that he can be dealt with only by myself.”

Frankenstein’s eyes pleaded with her. “Miss Bennet—Mary—you must understand. He is in some ways my son. I gave him life. His mind is fixed on me.”

“And, it seems, yours on him.”

Frankenstein looked surprised. “Do you wonder that is so?”

“Why does he follow you? Does he intend you harm?”

“He has vowed to glut the maw of death with my remaining loved ones, unless I make him happy.” He rested his head again in her lap.

Mary was touched, scandalized, and in some obscure way aroused. She felt his trembling body, instinct with life. Tentatively, she rested her hand on his head. She stroked his hair. He was weeping. She realized that he was a physical being, a living animal, that would eventually, too soon, die. And all that was true of him was true of herself. How strange, frightening, and sad. Yet in this moment she felt herself wonderfully alive.

“I’ll keep your secret,” she said.

He hugged her skirts. In the candle’s light, she noted the way his thick, dark hair curled away from his brow.

“I cannot tell you,” he said softly, “what a relief it is to share my burden with another soul, and to have her accept me. I have been so completely alone. I cannot thank you enough.”

He rose, kissed her forehead, and was gone.

Mary paced her room, trying to grasp what had just happened. A man who had conquered death? A monster created from corpses? Such things did not happen, certainly not in her world, not even in the world of the novels she read. She climbed into bed and tried to sleep, but could not. The creature had vowed to kill all whom Frankenstein loved. Mary remembered the weight of his head upon her lap.

The room felt stiflingly hot. She got up, stripped off her nightgown, and climbed back between the sheets, where she lay naked, listening to the rain on the window.

Kitty’s fever worsened in the night, and before dawn Darcy sent to Lambton for the doctor. Lizzy dispatched an urgent letter to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, and the sisters sat by Kitty’s bedside through the morning, changing cold compresses from her brow while Kitty labored to breathe. When Mary left the sick room, Frankenstein approached her. His desperation of the previous night was gone. “How fares your sister?”

“I fear she is gravely ill.”

“She is in some danger?”

Mary could only nod.

He touched her shoulder, lowered his voice. “I will pray for her, Miss Bennet. I cannot thank you enough for the sympathy you showed me last night. I have never told anyone—”

Just then Clerval approached them. He greeted Mary, inquired after Kitty’s condition, then suggested to Frankenstein that they return to their hotel in Matlock rather than add any burden to the household and family. Frankenstein agreed. Before Mary could say another word to him in private, the visitors were gone.

Doctor Phillips arrived soon after Clerval and Frankenstein left. He measured Kitty’s pulse, felt her forehead, examined her urine. He administered some medicines, and came away shaking his head. Should the fever continue, he said, they must bleed her.

Given how much thought she had spent on Frankenstein through the night, and how little she had devoted to Kitty, Mary’s conscience tormented her. She spent the day in her sister’s room. That night, after Jane had retired and Lizzy fallen asleep in her chair, she still sat up, holding Kitty’s fevered hand. She had matters to consider. Was Kitty indeed with child, and if so, should she tell the doctor? Yet even as she sat by Kitty’s bedside, Mary’s mind cast back to the feeling of Frankenstein’s lips on her forehead.

In the middle of the night, Kitty woke, bringing Mary from her doze. Kitty tried to lift her head from the pillow, but could not. “Mary,” she whispered. “You must send for Robert. We must be married immediately.”

Mary looked across the room at Lizzy. She was still asleep.

“Promise me,” Kitty said. Her eyes were large and dark.

“I promise,” Mary said.

“Prepare my wedding dress,” Kitty said. “But don’t tell Lizzy.”

Lizzy awoke then. She came to the bedside and felt Kitty’s forehead. “She’s burning up. Get Dr. Phillips.”

Mary sought out the doctor, and then, while he went to Kitty’s room, pondered what to do. Kitty clearly was not in her right mind. Her request ran contrary to both sense and propriety. If Mary sent one of the footmen to Matlock for Robert, even if she swore her messenger to silence, the matter would soon be the talk of the servants, and probably the town.

It was the sort of dilemma that Mary would have had no trouble settling, to everyone’s moral edification, when she was sixteen. She hurried to her room and took out paper and pen:

I write to inform you that one you love, residing at Pemberley House, is gravely ill. She urgently requests your presence. Simple human kindness, which from her description of you I do not doubt you possess, let alone the duty incumbent upon you owing to the compact that you have made with her through your actions, assure me that we shall see you here before the night is through.

Miss Mary Bennet

She sealed the letter and sought out one of the footmen, whom she dispatched immediately with the instruction to put the letter into the hand of Robert Piggot, son of the Matlock butcher.

Dr. Phillips bled Kitty, with no improvement. She did not regain consciousness through the night. Mary waited. The footman returned, alone, at six in the morning. He assured Mary that he had ridden to the Piggot home and given the letter directly to Robert. Mary thanked him.

Robert did not come. At eight in the morning Darcy sent for the priest. At nine-thirty Kitty died.

On the evening of the day of Kitty’s passing, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet arrived, and a day later Lydia and Wickham—it was the first time Darcy had allowed Wickham to cross the threshold of Pemberley since they had become brothers by marriage. In the midst of her mourning family, Mary felt lost. Jane and Lizzy supported each other in their grief. Darcy and Bingley exchanged quiet, sober conversation. Wickham and Lydia, who had grown fat with her three children, could not pass a word between them without sniping, but in their folly they were completely united.

Mrs. Bennet was beyond consoling, and the volume and intensity of her mourning was exceeded only by the degree to which she sought to control every detail of Kitty’s funeral. There ensued a long debate over where Kitty should be buried. When it was pointed out that their cousin Mr. Collins would eventually inherit the house back in Hertfordshire, Mrs. Bennet fell into despair: who, when she was gone, would tend to her poor Kitty’s grave? Mr. Bennet suggested that Kitty be laid to rest in the churchyard at Lambton, a short distance from Pemberley, where she might also be visited by Jane and Bingley. But when Mr. Darcy offered the family vault at Pemberley, the matter was quickly settled to the satisfaction of both tender hearts and vanity.

Though it was no surprise to Mary, it was still a burden for her to witness that even in the gravest passage of their lives, her sisters and parents showed themselves to be exactly what they were. And yet, paradoxically, this did not harden her heart toward them. The family was together as they had not been for many years, and she realized that they should never be in the future except on the occasion of further losses. Her father was grayer and quieter than she had ever seen him, and on the day of the funeral even her mother put aside her sobbing and exclamations long enough to show a face of profound grief, and a burden of age that Mary had never before noticed.

The night after Kitty was laid to rest, Mary sat up late with Jane and Lizzy and Lydia. They drank Madeira and Lydia told many silly stories of the days she and Kitty had spent in flirtations with the regiment. Mary climbed into her bed late that night, her head swimming with wine, laughter, and tears. She lay awake, the moonlight shining on the counterpane through the opened window, air carrying the smell of fresh earth and the rustle of trees above the lake. She drifted into a dreamless sleep. At some point in the night she was half awakened by the barking of the dogs in the kennel. But consciousness soon faded and she fell away.

In the morning it was discovered that the vault had been broken into and Kitty’s body stolen from her grave.

Mary told the stablemaster that Mrs. Bennet had asked her to go to the apothecary in Lambton, and had him prepare the gig for her. Then, while the house was in turmoil and Mrs. Bennet being attended by the rest of the family, she drove off to Matlock. The master had given her the best horse in Darcy’s stable; the creature was equable and quick, and despite her inexperience driving, Mary was able to reach Matlock in an hour.

All the time, despite the splendid summer morning and the picturesque prospects which the valley of the Derwent continually unfolded before her, she could not keep her mind from whirling through a series of distressing images—among them the sight of Frankenstein’s creature as she had seen him in the woods.

When she reached Matlock she hurried to the Old Bath Hotel and inquired after Frankenstein. The concierge told her that he had not seen Mr. Frankenstein since dinner the previous evening, but that Mr. Clerval had told him that morning that the gentlemen would leave Matlock later that day. She left a note asking Frankenstein, should he return, to meet her at the inn, then went to the butcher shop.

Mary had been there once before, with Lizzy, some years earlier. The shop was busy with servants purchasing joints of mutton and ham for the evening meal. Behind the counter, Mr. Piggot senior was busy at his cutting board, but helping one of the women with a package was a tall young man with thick brown curls and green eyes. He flirted with the house servant as he shouldered her purchase, wrapped in brown paper, onto her cart.

On the way back into the shop, he spotted Mary standing unattended. He studied her for a moment before approaching. “May I help you, miss?”

“I believe you knew my sister.”

His grin vanished. “You are Miss Mary Bennet.”

“I am.”

The young man studied his boots. “I am so sorry what happened to Miss Catherine.”

Not so sorry as to bring you to her bedside before she died, Mary thought. She bit back a reproach and said, “We did not see you at the service. I thought perhaps the nature of your relationship might have encouraged you to grieve in private, at her graveside. Have you been there?”

He looked even more uncomfortable. “No. I had to work. My father—”

Mary had seen enough already to measure his depth. He was not a man to defile a grave, in grief or otherwise. The distance between this small-town lothario—handsome, careless, insensitive—and the hero

Kitty had praised, only deepened Mary’s compassion for her lost sister. How desperate she must have been. How pathetic.

As Robert Piggot continued to stumble through his explanation, Mary turned and departed.

She went back to the inn where she had left the gig. The barkeep led her into a small ladies’ parlor separated from the taproom by a glass partition. She ordered tea, and through a latticed window watched the people come and go in the street and courtyard, the draymen with their percherons and carts, the passengers waiting for the next van to Manchester, and inside, the idlers sitting at tables with pints of ale. In the sunlit street a young bootblack accosted travelers, most of whom ignored him. All of these people alive, completely unaware of Mary or her lost sister. Mary ought to be back with their mother, though the thought turned her heart cold. How could Kitty have left her alone? She felt herself near despair.

She was watching through the window as two draymen struggled to load a large square trunk onto their cart when the man directing them came from around the team of horses, and she saw it was Frankenstein. She rose immediately and went out into the inn yard. She was at his shoulder before he noticed her. “Miss Bennet!”

“Mr. Frankenstein. I am so glad that I found you. I feared that you had already left Matlock. May we speak somewhere in private?”

He looked momentarily discommoded. “Yes, of course,” he said. To the draymen he said, “When you’ve finished loading my equipment, wait here.”

“This is not a good place to converse,” Frankenstein told her. “I saw a churchyard nearby. Let us retire there.”

He walked Mary down the street to the St. Giles Churchyard. They walked through the rectory garden. In the distance, beams of afternoon sunlight shone through a cathedral of clouds above the Heights of Abraham. “Do you know what has happened?” she asked.

“I have heard reports, quite awful, of the death of your sister. I intended to write you, conveying my condolences, at my earliest opportunity. You have my deepest sympathies.”

“Your creature! That monster you created—”

“I asked you to keep him a secret.”

“I have kept my promise—so far. But it has stolen Kitty’s body.”

He stood there, hands behind his back, clear eyes fixed on her. “You find me astonished. What draws you to this extraordinary conclusion?”

She was hurt by his diffidence. Was this the same man who had wept in her bedroom? “Who else might do such a thing?”

“But why? This creature’s enmity is reserved for me alone. Others feel its ire only to the extent that they are dear to me.”

“You came to plead with me that night because you feared I knew he was responsible for defiling that town girl’s grave. Why was he watching Kitty and me in the forest? Surely this is no coincidence.”

“If, indeed, the creature has stolen your sister’s body, it can be for no reason I can fathom, or that any God-fearing person ought to pursue. You know I am determined to see this monster banished from the world of men. You may rest assured that I will not cease until I have seen this accomplished. It is best for you and your family to turn your thoughts to other matters.” He touched a strand of ivy growing up the side of the garden wall, and plucked off a green leaf, which he twirled in his fingers.

She could not understand him. She knew him to be a man of sensibility, to have a heart capable of feeling. His denials opened a possibility that she had tried to keep herself from considering. “Sir, I am not satisfied. It seems to me that you are keeping something from me. You told me of the great grief you felt at the loss of your mother, how it moved you to your researches. If, as you say, you have uncovered the secret of life, might you—have you taken it upon yourself to restore Kitty? Perhaps a fear of failure, or of the horror that many would feel at your trespassing against God’s will, underlies your secrecy. If so, please do not keep the truth from me. I am not a girl.”

He let the leaf fall from his fingers. He took her shoulders, and looked directly into her eyes. “I am sorry, Mary. To restore your sister is not in my power. The soulless creature I brought to life bears no relation to the man from whose body I fashioned him. Your sister has gone on to her reward. Nothing—nothing I can do would bring her back.”

“So you know nothing about the theft of her corpse?”

“On that score, I can offer no consolation to you or your family.”

“My mother, my father—they are inconsolable.”

“Then they must content themselves with memories of your sister as she lived. As I must do with my dear, lost brother William, and the traduced and dishonored Justine. Come, let us go back to the inn.”

Mary burst into tears. He held her to him and she wept on his breast. Eventually she gathered herself and allowed him to take her arm, and they slowly walked back down to the main street of Matlock and the inn. She knew that when they reached it, Frankenstein would go. The warmth of his hand on hers almost made her beg him to stay, or better still, to take her with him.

They came to the busy courtyard. The dray stood off to the side, and Mary saw the cartmen were in the taproom. Frankenstein, agitated, upbraided them. “I thought I told you to keep those trunks out of the sun.”

The older of the two men put down his pint and stood, “Sorry, Gov’nor. We’ll see to it directly.”

“Do so now.”

As Frankenstein spoke the evening coach drew up before the inn and prepared for departure. “You and Mr. Clerval leave today?” Mary asked.

“Yes. As soon Henry arrives from the Old Bath, we take the coach to the Lake District. And thence to Scotland.”

“They say it is very beautiful there.”

“I am afraid that its beauty will be lost on me. I carry the burden of my great crime, not to be laid down until I have made things right.”

She felt that she would burst if she did not speak her heart to him. “Victor. Will I ever see you again?”

He avoided her gaze. “I am afraid, Miss Bennet, that this is unlikely. My mind is set on banishing that vile creature from the world of men. Only then can I hope to return home and marry my betrothed Elizabeth.”

Mary looked away from him. A young mother was adjusting her son’s collar before putting him on the coach. “Ah, yes. You are affianced. I had almost forgotten.”

Frankenstein pressed her hand. “Miss Bennet, you must forgive me the liberties I have taken with you. You have given me more of friendship than I deserve. I wish you to find the companion you seek, and to live your days in happiness. But now, I must go.”

“God be with you, Mr. Frankenstein.” She twisted her gloved fingers into a knot.

He bowed deeply, and hurried to have a few more words with the draymen. Henry Clerval arrived just as the men climbed to their cart and drove the baggage away. Clerval, surprised at seeing Mary, greeted her warmly. He expressed his great sorrow at the loss of her sister, and begged her to convey his condolences to the rest of her family. Ten minutes later the two men climbed aboard the coach and it left the inn, disappearing down the Matlock high street.

Mary stood in the inn yard. She did not feel she could bear to go back to Pemberley and face her family, the histrionics of her mother. Instead she reentered the inn and made the barkeep seat her in the ladies’ parlor and bring her a bottle of port.

The sun declined and shadows stretched over the inn yard. The evening papers arrived from Nottingham. The yard boy lit the lamps. Still, Mary would not leave. Outside on the pavements, the bootblack sat in the growing darkness with his arms draped over his knees and head on his breast. She listened to the hoofs of the occasional horse striking the cobbles. The innkeeper was solicitous. When she asked for a second bottle, he hesitated, and wondered if he might send for someone from her family to take her home.

“You do not know my family,” she said.

“Yes, miss. I only thought—”

“Another port. Then leave me alone.”

“Yes, miss.” He went away. She was determined to become intoxicated. How many times had she piously warned against young women behaving as she did now? Virtue is its own reward. She had an apothegm for every occasion, and had tediously produced them in place of thought. Show me a liar, and I’ll show thee a thief. Marry in haste, repent at leisure. Men should be what they seem.

She did not fool herself into thinking that her current misbehavior would make any difference. Perhaps Bingley or Darcy had been dispatched to find her in Lambton. But within an hour or two she would return to Pemberley, where her mother would scold her for giving them an anxious evening, and Lizzy would caution her about the risk to her reputation. Lydia might even ask her, not believing it possible, if she had an assignation with some man. The loss of Kitty would overshadow Mary’s indiscretion, pitiful as it had been. Soon all would be as it had been, except Mary would be alive and Kitty dead. But even that would fade. The shadow of Kitty’s death would hang over the family for some time, but she doubted that anything of significance would change.

As she lingered over her glass, she looked up and noticed, in the now empty taproom, a man sitting at the table farthest from the lamps. A huge man, wearing rough clothes, his face hooded and in shadow. On the table in front of him was a tankard of ale and a few coppers. Mary rose, left the parlor for the taproom, and crossed toward him.

He looked up, and the faint light from the ceiling lamp caught his black eyes, sunken beneath heavy brows. He was hideously ugly. “May I sit with you?” she asked. She felt slightly dizzy.

“You may sit where you wish.” The voice was deep, but swallowed, unable to project. It was almost a whisper.

Trembling only slightly, she sat. His wrists and hands, resting on the table, stuck out past the ragged sleeves of his coat. His skin was yellowish brown, and the fingernails livid white. He did not move. “You have some business with me?”

“I have the most appalling business.” Mary tried to look him in the eyes, but her gaze kept slipping. “I want to know why you defiled my sister’s grave, why you have stolen her body, and what you have done with her.”

“Better you should ask Victor. Did he not explain all to you?”

“Mr. Frankenstein explained who—what—you are. He did not know what had become of my sister.”

The thin lips twitched in a sardonic smile. “Poor Victor. He has got things all topsy-turvy. Victor does not know what I am. He is incapable of knowing, no matter the labors I have undertaken to school him. But he does know what became, and is to become, of your sister.” The creature tucked the thick black hair behind his ear, a sudden unconscious gesture that made him seem completely human for the first time. He pulled the hood further forward to hide his face.

“So tell me.”

“Which answer do you want? Who I am, or what happened to your sister?”

“First, tell me what happened to—to Kitty.”

“Victor broke into the vault and stole her away. He took the utmost care not to damage her. He washed her fair body in diluted carbolic acid, and replaced her blood with a chemical admixture of his own devising. Folded up, she fit neatly within a cedar trunk sealed with pitch, and is at present being shipped to Scotland. You witnessed her departure from this courtyard an hour ago.”

Mary’s senses rebelled. She covered her face with her hands. The creature sat silent. Finally, without raising her head, she managed, “Victor warned me that you were a liar. Why should I believe you?”

“You have no reason to believe me.”

You took her!”

“Though I would not have scrupled to do so, I did not. Miss Bennet, I do not deny I have an interest in this matter. Victor did as I have told you at my bidding.”

“At your bidding? Why?”

“Kitty—or not so much Kitty, as her remains—is to become my wife.”

“Your wife! This is insupportable! Monstrous!”

“Monstrous.” Suddenly, with preternatural quickness, his hand flashed out and grabbed Mary’s wrist.

Mary thought to call for help, but the bar was empty and she had driven the innkeeper away. Yet his grip was not harsh. His hand was warm, instinct with life. “Look at me,” he said. With his other hand he pushed back his hood.

She took a deep breath. She looked.

His noble forehead, high cheekbones, strong chin, and wide-set eyes might have made him handsome, despite the scars and dry yellow skin, were it not for his expression. His ugliness was not a matter of lack of proportion—or rather, the lack of proportion was not in his features. Like his swallowed voice, his face was submerged, as if everything was hidden, revealed only in the eyes, the twitch of a cheek or lip. Every minute motion showed extraordinary animation. Hectic sickliness, but energy. This was a creature who had never learned to associate with civilized company, who had been thrust into adulthood with the passions of a wounded boy. Fear, self-disgust, anger. Desire.

The force of longing and rage in that face made her shrink. “Let me go,” she whispered.

He let go her wrist. With bitter satisfaction, he said, “You see. If what I demand is insupportable, that is only because your kind has done nothing to support me. Once, I falsely hoped to meet with beings who, pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of bringing forth. Now I am completely alone. More than any starving man on a deserted isle, I am cast away. I have no brother, sister, parents. I have only Victor, who, like so many fathers, recoiled from me the moment I first drew breath. And so, I have commanded him to make of your sister my wife, or he and all he loves will die at my hand.”

“No. I cannot believe he would commit this abomination.”

“He has no choice. He is my slave.”

“His conscience could not support it, even at the cost of his life.”

“You give him too much credit. You all do. He does not think. I have not seen him act other than according to impulse for the last three years. That is all I see in any of you.”

Mary drew back, trying to make some sense of this horror. Her sister, to be brought to life, only to be given to this fiend. But would it be her sister, or another agitated, hungry thing like this?

She still retained some scraps of skepticism. The creature’s manner did not bespeak the isolation which he claimed. “I am astonished at your grasp of language,” Mary said. “You could not know so much without teachers.”

“Oh, I have had many teachers.” The creature’s mutter was rueful. “You might say that, since first my eyes opened, mankind has been all my study. I have much yet to learn. There are certain words whose meaning has never been proved to me by experience. For example: Happy. Victor is to make me happy. Do you think he can do it?”

Mary thought of Frankenstein. Could he satisfy this creature? “I do not think it is in the power of any other person to make one happy.”

“You jest with me. Every creature has its mate, save me. I have none.”

She recoiled at his self-pity. Her fear faded. “You put too much upon having a mate.”

“Why? You know nothing of what I have endured.”

“You think that having a female of your own kind will ensure that she will accept you?” Mary laughed. “Wait until you are rejected, for the most trivial of reasons, by one you are sure has been made for you.”

A shadow crossed the creature’s face. “That will not happen.”

“It happens more often than not.”

“The female that Victor creates shall find no other mate than me.”

“That has never prevented rejection. Or if you should be accepted, then you may truly begin to learn.”

“Learn what?”

“You will learn to ask a new question: Which is worse, to be alone, or to be wretchedly mismatched?” Like Lydia and Wickham, Mary thought. Like Collins and his poor wife Charlotte. Like her parents.

The creature’s face spasmed with conflicting emotions. His voice gained volume. “Do not sport with me. I am not your toy.”

“No. You only seek a toy of your own.”

The creature was not, apparently, accustomed to mockery. “You must not say these things!” He lurched upward, awkwardly, so suddenly that he upended the table. The tankard of beer skidded across the top and spilled on Mary, and she fell back.

At that moment the innkeeper entered the bar room with two other men. They saw the tableau and rushed forward. “Here! Let her be!” he shouted. One of the other men grabbed the creature by the arm. With a roar the creature flung him aside like an old coat. His hood fell back. The men stared in horror at his face. The creature’s eyes met Mary’s, and with inhuman speed he whirled and ran out the door.

The men gathered themselves together. The one whom the creature had thrown aside had a broken arm. The innkeeper helped Mary to her feet. “Are you all right, miss?”

Mary felt dizzy. Was she all right? What did that mean?

“I believe so,” she said.

When Mary returned to Pemberley, late that night, she found the house in an uproar over her absence. Bingley and Darcy both had been to Lambton, and had searched the road and the woods along it throughout the afternoon and evening. Mrs. Bennet had taken to bed with the conviction that she had lost two daughters in a single week. Wickham condemned Mary’s poor judgment, Lydia sprang to Mary’s defense, and this soon became a row over Wickham’s lack of an income and Lydia’s mismanagement of their children. Mr. Bennett closed himself up in the library. Mary told them only that she had been to Matlock. She offered no explanation, no apology. Around the town the story of her conflict with the strange giant in the inn was spoken of for some time, along with rumors of Robert Piggot the butcher’s son, and the mystery of Kitty’s defiled grave—but as Mary was not a local, and nothing of consequence followed, the talk soon passed away. That winter, Mary came upon the following story in the Nottingham newspaper.

Ghastly Events in Scotland

Our northern correspondent files the following report. In early November, the body of a young foreigner, Mr. Henry Clerval of Geneva, Switzerland, was found upon the beach near the far northern town of Thurso. The body, still warm, bore marks of strangulation. A second foreigner, Mr. Victor Frankstone, was taken into custody, charged with the murder, and held for two months. Upon investigation, the magistrate Mr. Kirwan determined that Mr. Frankstone was in the Orkney Islands at the time of the killing. The accused was released in the custody of his father, and is assumed to have returned to his home on the continent.

A month after the disposition of these matters, a basket, weighted with stones and containing the body of a young woman, washed up in the estuary of the River Thurso. The identity of the woman is unknown, and her murderer undiscovered, but it is speculated that the unfortunate may have died at the hands of the same person or persons who murdered Mr. Clerval. The woman was given Christian burial in the Thurso Presbyterian churchyard. The village has been shaken by these events, and prays God to deliver it from evil.

Oh, Victor, Mary thought. She remembered the pressure of his hand, through her dressing gown, upon her thigh. Now he had returned to Switzerland, there, presumably, to marry his Elizabeth. She hoped that he would be more honest with his wife than he had been with her, but the fate of Clerval did not bode well. And the creature still had no mate.

She clipped the newspaper report and slipped it into the drawer of her writing table, where she kept her copy of Samuel Galton’s The Natural History of Birds, Intended for the Amusement and Instruction of Children, and the Juvenile Anecdotes of Priscilla Wakefield, and a Dudley locust made of stone, and a paper fan from the first ball she had ever attended, and a dried wreath of flowers that had been thrown to her, when she was nine years old, from the top of a tree by one of the town boys playing near Meryton common.

After the death of her parents, Mary lived with Lizzy and Darcy at Pemberley for the remainder of her days. Under a pen name, she pursued a career as a writer of philosophical speculations, and sent many letters to the London newspapers. Aunt Mary, as she was called at home, was known for her kindness to William, and to his wife and children. The children teased Mary for her nearsightedness, her books, and her piano. But for a woman whose experience of the world was so slender, and whose soul it seemed had never been touched by any passion, she came at last to be respected for her understanding, her self-possession, and her wise counsel on matters of the heart.

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