Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters, p.1Suzanne Weyn
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Also by Suzanne Weyn
FROM THE PERSONAL DIARY OF
June 15, 1798
What unbearable guilt! I am the most wretched man alive — a blasted tree, shattered. I am abhorrent to even myself.
My gentle and good wife, Hildy, dead. Only nineteen years of age and already gone from my arms, defeated in her struggle to give birth to our sweet tiny girls, Giselle and Ingrid. I imagine them blooming into beauties, reproducing Hildy’s luscious dark hair, violet eyes, and avid intellect. But this I shall never witness myself. In years to come they may well curse my name, but I am compelled to abandon my daughters, and pray that they do not suffer too greatly. To claim them as my own would be to endanger their very existence. Who knows what this fiend I have created is capable of?
Tonight, by moonlight, I will head toward the Swiss mountains with the intent of drawing the Monster away from Ingolstadt, and thereby keep him from learning that this night I have become the father of twin girls.
Castle Frankenstein, Gairsay Island
August 21, 1800
For two long years the fiend has hounded me. I thought I could keep ahead of him but it is no use. He finally caught up with me on the slopes of Mount Montanvert and took me to his wretched hovel. He told me of his life these last years and I was amazed at how he had educated himself and yet grown so cold and hard in his emotional state. In that hovel, he presented his demand: “Make me a mate or I will destroy you.”
I shuddered at the hideousness of his request but he added a threat to ensure my cooperation. “I will work at your destruction, nor finish until I have desolated your heart, so that you shall curse the hour of your birth.” This he swore to do if I would not promise to make him a bride. To prove he was capable of such fiendishness, the Monster revealed it was he who had killed my younger brother, William, just as I had suspected.
I was right to fear his wrath and move as far away from my precious twin daughters as possible. How happy I am that he does not know of their existence.
March 15, 1801
I have arrived this week by boat to Castle Frankenstein, left to me by my mother, Caroline Beaufort Frankenstein, who was a relative of its previous owner. The castle is believed to be built by the fierce Viking conqueror Sweyn. It is massive, and with its decaying stone walls, it appears to be one of this small, rugged island’s oldest structures.
I have avoided the Monster’s request lo these many months as I studied to make an improvement on the form of this new female creature, but the time has finally come to comply, lest the fiend grow impatient and unleash the murderous spree he has sworn to undertake.
This castle will be the ideal location for a laboratory and especially suited to my pursuits because a secret underground tunnel of ingenious engineering connects it to an even smaller, more deserted island — a most tantalizing discovery!
The other day I followed the tunnel through a cavernous underground space, and from there was able to scale the rock wall that opened into a meager hut on the oversized rock they call Sweyn Holm, that overlooks a crashing ocean. I knew immediately that I had found the perfect site for my purposes — the construction of a female companion as demanded by the Monster, who dogs my every step. This is the promise he has extracted from me. In exchange he vows to retreat with his companion to South America, never to threaten me or those I love again.
The sooner I embark on this unholy travesty, the more quickly I can return to reclaim my girls. I am told they are now living with Hildy’s widowed father, the Baron Von der Wien, in Ingolstadt. I will convince him that I can provide Ingrid and Giselle with a wonderful life once the Monster has left. I will even wed again to provide them with a stepmother. There is nothing I will not do for my daughters.
April 8, 1801
I am immersed in solitude and miserable beyond utterance. The female I have built is an exquisite creature with abundant black hair and a radiant complexion, graceful in form and visage. Yet when I look upon her — her curls tossed over the end of the table, her eyelids shimmering over their sockets as though at any moment they will open to reveal sparkling orbs — it is not pride but engulfing shame that consumes me.
How could I have not seen it until this very moment? But without doubt it is so.
I have, without conscious intent, re-created my Hildy! I have built a bride not for the Monster, but for myself!
Only now do I shed the tears I was too frantic to cry when I first learned of Hildy’s death.
I feel the Creature out there, lurking. I have felt him there in the periphery of my life from the moment I created him six years ago, when I was merely a lad of nineteen. The Monster has shadowed me throughout this trip and I know now he is still near — closer than ever — awaiting his bride.
I will not give him my Hildy!
Before I let him love my darling, I will destroy her. She is my greatest achievement and yet I must exterminate her. My eyes blinded by hot tears, I raise my surgeon’s hacksaw to annihilate this assemblage of organs, nerve, and flesh before I am tempted to bring it to life and love it utterly.
April 10, 1801
The Monster is in a rage! He now knows I have broken my vow to build him a companion. I have hacked his would-be wife into pieces and thrown them into the wild Irish Sea.
The Monster has once more sworn vengeance on all I love, this time with renewed and terrible commitment.
My dear friend Henry Clerval has already been murdered. I must race back to Geneva to do what I can to protect my family. I only thank the gods that I never claimed my two baby daughters. No one knows they are connected to me, and thus they remain safe.
May God bless them and keep them so always.
Pavia, Lombardy, Italy
May 17, 1815
How I miss you! I knew it would not be easy to part with my dear twin, and my heart aches to see you again. Studying here with Count Volta has been fascinating, beyond my wildest dreams. I am still amazed that Grandfather agreed to have this scientific genius tutor me. I suppose he knew I was going mad with boredom there in Ingolstadt and needed some outlet for my restless mind.
It is quite agreeable here. Aunt Gertrude’s apartment over the piazza is enchanting. Though she is not overly strict, she stays in listening distance when I entertain Anthony Verde, a young man I have met here. He is quite good-looking but speaks no German. Since my Italian i
But allow me to get to the true purpose of this letter. It is quite astonishing, as you will soon learn.
The other day a man came to Aunt Gertrude’s apartment and introduced himself as Baron Ernest Frankenstein.
The name meant nothing to me, but Aunt Gertrude blanched deadly white the moment he spoke it. Indeed, she staggered backward dramatically. If I hadn’t steadied her by the elbow, I think she might have fallen over.
I too was dizzied by Baron Frankenstein’s next revelation: He claimed to be the brother of our mysterious father!
Apparently our disgraced father was a doctor named Victor Frankenstein. He married our mother while a student at the University of Ingolstadt but disappeared without explanation on the very night of our births. Now Ernest Frankenstein says he has recently learned that Victor Frankenstein died some time ago in the Arctic Circle, a complete lunatic. For years no one knew if he was dead or alive, but in recent months the arrival in Germany of his frozen corpse (encased in a block of ice!) confirmed his death beyond doubt.
It is a lot to comprehend. I am sure you yourself are dizzy with such a flood of information after so many years of drought. To find our father — and then lose him in practically the same breath. It is hard to know how to mourn.
And that is not all. You and I, dear sister, have quite suddenly become wealthy, independent women. In addition to a monetary inheritance from our father, we are now the owners of a castle on one of the rugged, rocky islands to the north of Scotland. It is in an island chain known as the Orkneys.
Life can change in an instant, sister. Ours has.
Aunt Gertrude has taken it upon herself to write to Grandfather, informing him of the news and its details. She has also sent him a copy of the legal documents involved. But I wanted to write to you first.
I am not sure yet how I want to deal with this sudden development. It can’t be a bad thing to now have financial resources of our own. If nothing else, it frees us from having to marry one of Grandfather’s “eligible” old bachelors to secure our future.
I must run off to sleep. Because even as my head swirls with all of these new developments, the old life continues. Tomorrow we will be visited by the Englishman William Nicholson. I am most interested to learn his ideas on electrolysis, a fancy term for the decomposition of water into hydrogen and oxygen by the use of voltaic current. (Named for my amazing Count Volta, of course!)
I miss you madly. Write and let me know what you think of all this.
I remain your loving twin,
FROM THE DIARY OF
GISELLE VON DER WIEN
June 7, 1815
What an exhausting journey this has been and how relieved I am that it is finally coming to an end. Let my foolish, ignorant decisions stay back in the past, where they belong. There is no returning to Ingolstadt now that I have made my decision regarding our father’s inheritance and angered our grandfather so greatly. My humiliating behavior over Johann can now be buried forever under the ground of this new life. Daunting as this new venture may be, it is better to forget and be happy.
Soon I will see Ingrid again and meet this mysterious Baron Frankenstein on the isle of Gairsay in Orkney. I am dying to view the castle that has fallen to us by way of our inheritance from our enigmatic father.
This morning when I arrived in Kirkwall, the largest city in the biggest of the island chain, I was eager to continue on to the much less inhabited island of Gairsay, where Castle Frankenstein is located, but was informed that the sea was too wild to afford a safe crossing. And so, I had to wait until late in the afternoon today.
The captain of the small skiff I hired for the crossing is a man in his fifties named Captain Ramsay. He speaks little. His weather-beaten visage looks like it has never smiled and disapproves of all it sees.
Thankfully I have you, Diary, to write in, otherwise I would now be face-to-face with this taciturn captain as he steers this two-sailed craft, laden with the supplies he is bringing to the island. I am his only passenger.
This long journey has been an adventure in itself, as a female traveling alone attracts every sort of attention. I have learned to keep my head down, my eyes averted, and the brim of my bonnet decidedly forward so as not to make contact with strange men. A mere glance can invite all manner of unwanted conversation. I am grateful that I am nearing my destination and will once again be with my sister.
I don’t like the way this man, the captain, keeps looking at me. Perhaps I was foolish to get into a boat with a man I don’t know, but he had a for-hire sign up and it seemed reputable enough. I’m probably worrying over nothing and will not look at him. I will occupy myself with my writing.
As we sail past the small islands I see that the landscape here is largely untamed, with high rocky cliffs overlooking crashing shores and green fields dotted with thatched cottages. I am over-heated in my long navy-blue high-waisted coat and gray fur hat. My hand muff sits at my side. I assumed a chain of islands north of Scotland and not far from Scandinavia would be cold, even though it is spring, but I was wrong; we are treated to a balmy breeze, which I am told is thanks to the largess of the Gulf Stream. The weather is unusually temperate. In fact, I will break my writing here to divest myself of these heavy garments.
June 7 (continued)
I am back, feeling much better with only my Indian-design shawl over my brocade dress. My bonnet became impossible to keep on in the misty ocean spray and wind. My hair is fast coming undone, but I don’t mind. In fact, this coming apart makes me feel newly set free from my old, mundane life back in Germany. I am ready to embark on a new journey.
Grandfather has always been grumpy, but he was becoming increasingly oppressive as my longing for independence grew by the day. It is difficult to say if it was his advancing years or my own growing maturity that was causing the trouble. At every turn, he blocked my desire to enter adult society, despite the fact that I will be seventeen in two weeks’ time. He was especially obstructive in anything that had to do with Johann, as though he felt it his duty to protect me from my own heart’s desire.
Its own foolish, foolish desire.
I still blush to recall the evening when I encountered him on the street and confessed my love to him … only to be rebuffed. He told me it was a childish fancy, although he is only eighteen to my sixteen. I have never felt so humiliated!
I loved him with my heart and soul. And he rejected them both — heart and soul. With just a few harsh words, he bled them from me, leaving a shell of a girl.
I can never face him again. Had he accepted my heart and soul, had he entwined his future with mine, I never would have left. But as soon as that part of me died — killed with the very weapon I’d handed to him — I knew I had to leave at once. And that, Diary, is why I left, under the cover of darkness, to meet Ingrid and Baron Frankenstein. It is so fortunate that this unexpected inheritance has given me a reason to leave Ingolstadt, otherwise my shame and hurt would have made my life there unbearable.
How I wish I could purge Johann from my heart, and more urgently from my mind, for he plays there endlessly, laughing in my face. I have run all this way to be free of my foolish love for a boy who never paid attention to me. Here in Gairsay I hope I can wipe the memory of him clean.
We have just entered Millburn Bay, and the rather small Gairsay Harbor has now come into view. I see no town, only a few wooden harbor buildings and one main dock.
I am too excited to write any longer and must tuck you, Dear Diary, away in my bag as I prepare to disembark. I’m anxiously awaiting a sight of Ingrid and Baron Frankenstein….
FROM THE JOURNAL OF
INGRID VON DER WIEN
June 7, 1815
The wind is so wild here! It blows and blows and blows. Everything is flying around, always! The sound of it has gotten into my head and almost
It was nearly five in the late afternoon when a small two-sailed boat entered Millburn Bay, its sails filled. Uncle Ernest (I have come to refer to Baron Frankenstein as “uncle” as he has asked me to) and I were sitting on a bench at the end of the long dock. The tails of his coat beat against the bench like a flag rapping its pole in a hard breeze. For me, just keeping hold of my black, brimmed bonnet was a challenge.
Standing, I shaded my eyes from the still bright sun, since my hat was not wide enough to do the job. “She’s here!” I cried.
“Good God! Your sister is a great beauty,” Uncle Ernest noted as Giselle waved from the bow. Men, old and young alike, are often transfixed by their first view of Giselle’s startling looks.
“And you are identical twins, you say?” he asked, looking at me critically.
It wasn’t the first time someone had noted how different Giselle and I are in personal style. And it is never to my advantage. Where we both have the same abundant, nearly black curls, hers are piled high on her head with delicate coils at her forehead. I wear mine more simply, swept back in a braid, plaited from the upper quadrant of my skull, falling down my back.
We couldn’t be more different in our manner of dress either. Giselle adores rich fabrics, stylish empire-waist dresses, and fashionable feather-trimmed bonnets, while a simple smock over a comfortable skirt and top are fine by me. (Whenever I can get by without a hat, I avoid one altogether.)
“Yes, we are exactly identical, biologically,” I confirmed as Giselle approached. Having abandoned her luggage on the dock, she held her feathered bonnet in her hand, her dark hair uncharacteristically disheveled from the wind. “But we are entirely different in personality and presentation. You’ll have no difficulty telling us apart.”
Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters by Suzanne Weyn / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes