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Chapter 9
Nothing is more painful to the human mind than, after the feelings have been worked up
by a quick succession of events, the dead calmness of inaction and certainty which
follows and deprives the soul both of hope and fear. Justine died, she rested, and I was
alive. The blood flowed freely in my veins, but a weight of despair and remorse pressed
on my heart which nothing could remove. Sleep fled from my eyes; I wandered like an
evil spirit, for I had committed deeds of mischief beyond description horrible, and more,
much more (I persuaded myself) was yet behind. Yet my heart overflowed with kindness
and the love of virtue. I had begun life with benevolent intentions and thirsted for the
moment when I should put them in practice and make myself useful to my fellow beings.
Now all was blasted; instead of that serenity of conscience which allowed me to look
back upon the past with self-satisfaction, and from thence to gather promise of new
hopes, I was seized by remorse and the sense of guilt, which hurried me away to a hell of
intense tortures such as no language can describe.
This state of mind preyed upon my health, which had perhaps never entirely recovered
from the first shock it had sustained. I shunned the face of man; all sound of joy or
complacency was torture to me; solitude was my only consolation--deep, dark, deathlike
My father observed with pain the alteration perceptible in my disposition and habits and
endeavoured by arguments deduced from the feelings of his serene conscience and
guiltless life to inspire me with fortitude and awaken in me the courage to dispel the dark
cloud which brooded over me. "Do you think, Victor," said he, "that I do not suffer also?
No one could love a child more than I loved your brother"--tears came into his eyes as he
spoke--"but is it not a duty to the survivors that we should refrain from augmenting their
unhappiness by an appearance of immoderate grief? It is also a duty owed to yourself, for
excessive sorrow prevents improvement or enjoyment, or even the discharge of daily
usefulness, without which no man is fit for society."
This advice, although good, was totally inapplicable to my case; I should have been the
first to hide my grief and console my friends if remorse had not mingled its bitterness,
and terror its alarm, with my other sensations. Now I could only answer my father with a
look of despair and endeavour to hide myself from his view.
About this time we retired to our house at Belrive. This change was particularly agreeable
to me. The shutting of the gates regularly at ten o'clock and the impossibility of
remaining on the lake after that hour had rendered our residence within the walls of
Geneva very irksome to me. I was now free. Often, after the rest of the family had retired
for the night, I took the boat and passed many hours upon the water. Sometimes, with my
sails set, I was carried by the wind; and sometimes, after rowing into the middle of the
lake, I left the boat to pursue its own course and gave way to my own miserable
reflections. I was often tempted, when all was at peace around me, and I the only unquiet