Frankenstein Darcy by Cass Grix © 2016
1806 – TWO YEARS LATER
Frankenstein Darcy left London and returned to Pemberley as soon as he heard of his father’s illness. He rode straight through, stopping only to change horses and arrived late in the evening.
The letter stated that his father had been ill for several weeks but had not wanted to bother him. He did not want to interrupt his son’s studies for a matter that would no doubt be cured by ample rest and sensible eating.
But when Mr. George Darcy was unable to communicate and seemed to be succumbing to a fever, Mrs. Reynolds intervened and informed Darcy that his father was too ill to ask him to come.
Darcy left his horse in the stables and hurried into the house. He handed his hat and gloves to a footman and took the stairs two at a time to get to the master bedroom.
His father was pale and lay on the large canopy bed with the curtains tied back.
“Father!” Darcy cried. His father stirred but his eyes did not open.
Darcy put his hand to his father’s face. Hot and damp. He had a fever.
“What has been done for him?” he demanded.
A woman, one of the servants, sitting beside him said, “He refused to send for a doctor, sir. You know how he is.”
Yes, Darcy knew. His father was an amateur scientist who prided himself on his medical skills. He thought most doctors were barbarians. He often said, “Fools, ninety-five percent of them. They know nothing of how to preserve life. Let alone create it. Why should I let them physic me when I can do better myself?”
“Has he had anything to eat or drink?”
“Yarrow tea this morning.”
Darcy nodded. That could help. He opened his father’s shirt and placed his ear on his chest to listen to his breathing. Shallow and troubled. “Get me steam,” he told the servant. “And herbs: thyme and sage. And make up a peppermint salve if there is none available.”
In the middle of the night, his father spoke. “Frankenstein?”
His father never shortened his name, as most of his acquaintances did. “Sir?” Darcy said, approaching him. “Are you better now?”
“No, I am dying.”
“Do you want me to fetch a doctor?” They were the only two people in the room, but he could wake the footman sitting on a bench in the hallway.
His father laughed weakly. “No, they would only want to bleed me and send me to my Maker a few hours earlier.” His breath was laboured and speaking took a great effort. His words were slow but deliberate.
“Surely there is something I can do.”
“Besides rubbing me down with peppermint oil? I recognize your signature fragrance.”
Darcy smiled. It was one of their common topics of conversation. His father was more interested in surgery than herbs and he thought Darcy’s praise of the virtues of peppermint excessive.
His father took a deep, shuddering breath.
“I wish you had sent for me earlier,” Darcy said.
“Waste of time. No, don’t glare at me. I have lived a good life. And I look forward to seeing your mother. If she has forgiven me.”
His father shook his head. “Too many times I put my wants above hers. I loved her dearly, but she had reason to resent me. And one more reason, for I will now do what she begged me not to do.”
Darcy frowned. His father had rarely spoken about his mother, as if it had been too painful to talk about her after her death.
His father said, “Take my necklace.” He always wore a chain around his neck that held a key.
Darcy removed the necklace. “Do you want me to open a door for you?”
“Yes. To my private laboratory.”
When Darcy was a child, he had often played in his father’s laboratory. He had been fascinated by his father’s dissection of animals and his study of electricity. But by the time he was twelve, he came home from school to find the laboratory locked. When he asked about it, his father said, “Some study is not for children.”
Darcy had been offended that his father did not trust him, but as an obedient son, he accepted his rule without question.
Over the years since then, there had been rumours that his father was conducting experiments in human dissection as well as animal. There were whispers about grave robbing. But Mr. Darcy, as Master of Pemberley and a local magistrate, was well respected throughout Derbyshire and no criminal accusations had ever been made.
Darcy held the key in his hand. Finally, he would be able to know the truth.
His father said, “It is your laboratory now, if you want it. As Master of Pemberley, you should have all the keys.”
Darcy protested. “Not Master, yet. You can get well, I know it.”
His father smiled briefly. “But son, I don’t want to get well.” Every sentence was difficult for him, but he persevered and Darcy leaned closer to be able to hear him. “I am not a perfect man. In my pride and conceit, I have sinned before God, but in His mercy, I hope to rest. I have made my peace with Him. Take care of your sister.”
Georgiana. In his concern for his father, Darcy had not thought of her. “Is she here?”
His father nodded. “Upstairs. Asleep. I have spoken with her. She is a good girl.”
His father suffered another painful spasm and did not speak for several minutes. Darcy took his hand. “I don’t want you to die.”
His father gathered his strength to whisper, “You are a good man, the best son I could have ever wanted.” At this his father closed his eyes and did not speak.
Darcy held onto his hand, feeling his pulse, wishing there was something more he could do to make his father well. He was not ready to be Master of Pemberley. He was too young, too inexperienced. And how could he take care of Georgiana, become her only parent? It was much too soon for his father to die.
For an hour, his father said nothing, too weak to do more than moan or stir in his bed. Then his father suddenly opened his eyes and said, “Wickham.”
“What of him?” George Wickham was the son of his father’s steward. They were of an age, having been born only four months apart, himself the senior. They had met when they were five and had grown up together on the estate. At one time they had been friends, but Darcy did not like him now.
His father said slowly, “Wish I could see him. Marvellous young man.”
His father did not know Wickham and his vices, and Darcy would not distress him by outlining them now.
His father closed his eyes again. “Take care of him.”
“You have been more than generous to him,” Darcy said. His father had paid for Wickham’s education and had often sent him money. Money that Wickham wasted on riotous living: drinking, gambling and whoring.
“You don’t understand.” His father coughed for a minute, and when he spoke again, his words were so faint, they were difficult to discern. “Second son to me. My responsibility and now yours.”
Darcy could not believe what he was hearing. Was Wickham his father’s bastard? They bore the same first name, but Darcy had thought that a coincidence. His father had always had a soft spot for him. But had he slept with his steward’s wife? The thought mad him want to vomit.
Especially when his own mother had been a saint: beautiful, intelligent, and kind, and Wickham’s mother had been coarse, fat, and unlettered. She had died when he and Wickham were children.
Darcy said carefully, “Is George Wickham your son?”
His father sighed and when he looked in Darcy’s eyes, Darcy saw pain, guilt and remorse. He moved his head as if nodding. “For my sins.”
“Damn you,” Darcy said fiercely and turned away. He knew people told the truth on their deathbeds, but at that moment he wished his father had died before he came home. He wished his father were dead and buried so he would not have to know what kind of man he truly was. He felt as if the man lying in the bed had just murdered his father – his true father, the man he had almost worshiped as a child.
He left the room, too angry to speak. The motion woke the liveried footman who was sitting on a bench outside the door. “Sir?” the young man asked.
“Go sit with the master,” Darcy ordered. As he walked quickly to the library, he heard his father call out, “Frankenstein!” but he did not turn back.
* * *
The morning light was like a dagger in his eye straight through to his brain. Darcy rubbed his face and groaned. It had been years since he had drunk whiskey on an empty stomach, but he recognized the signs.
Gradually he became aware of his surroundings. He was in the library, sprawled out on one of the couches. His coat and waistcoat on the floor. Cravat somewhere. He sat up, loosely remembering the events of the night before.
His father dying. Telling him about Wickham.
He winced. Heavens, what a blow. Wickham his half-brother? No wonder he had drunk too much.
And his father? What of him?
Now, in the miserable light of day, with a throbbing headache, Darcy was more sympathetic to the sins of the flesh. Perhaps it had just been a weak moment. Could he forgive a man for a mistake made more than twenty years before?
In his favour, his father had tried to make amends by providing for Wickham. Darcy wondered if Wickham Senior had known the truth, that he had been hired as steward because of his wife’s child.
In addition, George Darcy had devoted years of his life to charitable works, possibly as a penance.
As much as Darcy hated what his father had done in siring Wickham, he was not a complete villain.
He himself had said he was not a perfect man, that he had sinned against God.
And who had not?
Darcy had his own flaws – a resentful temper being one of them.
He sighed. He would go upstairs and apologize to his father. For whatever his father’s sins were, he should not have damned him. The state of his eternal soul was a matter between him and his Maker – no one else. Darcy, as his son, must do his duty and honour him.
He stood on shaky legs.
Georgiana entered the room, her eyes and face red with tears. She was taller than he remembered but still a child, only ten years of age. “Frank?” she called out. “Have you heard? Father is dead.”
Darcy held his arms open and she embraced him and cried.
His father was dead.
Darcy clenched his teeth. Death had robbed him of his chance to apologize. That meant his harsh words to his father were the last ones he heard. He had been unable to tell his mother that he loved her before her death, and now it was the same with his father.
No human being could have passed a happier childhood than himself. His parents were possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence. He never felt that they were tyrants, ruling over their lot according to caprice, but instead they were the agents and creators of all the many delights that he had enjoyed. Especially his father, who had introduced him to the joys of science.
And how had he rewarded him? With anger and disrespect.
Regret tasted bitter in his mouth.
“What will become of us?” Georgiana asked, finally letting him go and stepping back. “With no father and no mother?”
“I will take care of you,” Darcy promised.
“But what of your college? Your studies?”
“I will take care of you and Pemberley,” he said. “My studies can wait.”
* * *
The next few weeks were long and arduous, first with his father’s funeral and meeting with his solicitors. Surprisingly, his father’s steward’s health was also poor, a heart condition, and he died within days of his father’s death. Although it was inconvenient to hire a new steward, Darcy was relieved because he had dreaded speaking to the man he had always thought was Wickham’s father.
His father’s will provided a one-thousand-pound legacy for Wickham and a request that if he took orders, for him to be given a valuable living as soon as it became vacant.
“Is that it?” Wickham asked when Darcy gave him the money. “I had hoped for more.”
Wickham was expensively dressed with a vividly embroidered waistcoat. His cravat was starched and tied in a complicated pattern. The chain for his watch was jewelled. One thousand pounds would not last long in his pocket, Darcy thought.
He looked deep into Wickham’s eyes, wondering if he knew his true parentage. But he would not tell him if he did not know already. The last thing he wanted was Wickham deciding that he deserved even more from the estate.
“A clergyman?” Wickham asked and laughed. “Can you see me giving sermons?”
“No, I cannot.”
“Well then, why don’t you make an exchange? I am thinking of studying the law, which would be a better match for my talents, don’t you think?”
“I think you have a better chance of needing lawyers in your life rather than becoming one.”
“Oh, I am much more careful than I was when I was younger.”
“No longer trying to kill people in drunken rages?” Darcy asked. Wickham had a quick temper, often lashing out. Later, he would be sorry and apologetic. There had been several incidents when they were at college that his father’s generosity had helped to diminish.
“Trust me, the next time I want to kill someone, I will do it cold stone sober.”
Darcy shivered. Was that a threat? He knew Wickham hated him. As a child, he had resented the fact that an accident of birth made Darcy an heir to a vast estate. It is not fair, he often said. Why should you be so blessed? Are we not both equal before God? Why could we not have the same advantages?
Darcy said, “Let me speak to my solicitors and I will write back to you.”
“My address,” Wickham said with a flourish and handed him a professionally printed card.
Darcy glanced at the address. Wickham was definitely living beyond his means. “Thank you.”
Two months later, Darcy approached Mrs. Reynolds. “I am going to open my father’s laboratory. Later today, I will need to have several maids, possibly a footman to tidy it.”
“That won’t be necessary, sir.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“The laboratory is as clean as the rest of Pemberley. I run an efficient household, Mr. Darcy.”
“Are you telling me that you have seen inside the laboratory?” It would be doubly offensive if he had not been allowed inside for years when the housekeeper had.
“Oh no, not I,” she said with a nervous laugh. “The old Master would have had apoplexy, to be sure. No, Greenwood takes care of it. He always has.”
Greenwood was his father’s valet, a large, silent, scarred man. “How could he clean it when I have the key?”
“Greenwood has his own key, sir.”
Darcy was astonished, but decided that it was another aspect of his father’s character that he might never understand. Perhaps he had thought that Greenwood, a mute, would never divulge his secrets. “Very well, Mrs. Reynolds. Please have Greenwood report to me.”
In a few minutes, Greenwood joined him. He stood formally, bowed his head, and gave a grunt that Darcy assumed meant “sir.”
Greenwood’s face was ugly with deep, puckered scars across his forehead and down one cheek, but time and familiarity had reduced Darcy’s natural horror. “Greenwood, I understand that you have a key to my father’s laboratory.”
The large man nodded.
“May I see it?”
He unbuttoned his shirt with massive fingers and showed a chain and key identical to Darcy’s own.
Darcy said, “All right then, you shall accompany me.”
Together they walked downstairs, through Pemberley’s basement, past the wine cellar. The door to the laboratory was thick, dark wood. Darcy used his own key to unlock it. He hesitated a moment before opening the door. He had waited eleven years for this day, but he had delayed it for two months, not certain he was ready to learn more of his father’s secrets.
But he would rather know the truth than be afraid of the shadows, so he pushed the door open.
The laboratory was as he remembered: a large, surprisingly bright room with natural light from dozens of windows just above ground level that ringed the ceiling. There were three large tables in the centre of the room and several unnaturally high seated chairs, so a man could sit comfortably at the table rather than standing to work. The wall to the left contained two sinks and cabinets with glass doors. The cabinets were filled with bottles and equipment. There was a large collection of knives, scissors, plyers and saws.
He remembered as a child watching his father saw open the head of a horse to examine its brain and spinal column. Darcy had been fascinated rather than repulsed and his father had explained all the different parts of the body and how they worked together.
Over the years, he had watched his father dissect many different species. He had also seen him stitch up several people at Pemberley when there was an injury. Indeed, his father had performed the surgery on his abdomen when he was shot two years before and done an excellent job.
Were the rumours correct and had his father dissected humans as well? That was illegal, but many medical students paid Resurrection Men to obtain bodies.
Darcy opened several cupboards and a large trunk, fearing what he might discover, but fortunately for his peace of mind, there were no cadavers in the laboratory – and very little dust. Greenwood was an excellent housekeeper.
The back wall of the laboratory contained bookcases and to the right there was a collection of electrical equipment. The Leyden jar and friction generators were items he remembered, but there was a new contraption, which looked like a large variation of a Voltaic Pile. “Is this my father’s invention?” he asked.
“How do I use it?” Darcy asked.
Greenwood walked over to the bookcases with his halting steps and returned with a bound journal of his father’s notes. He flipped through the pages and handed him an open volume. Darcy was fascinated by the detailed drawings and the instructions. “So it stores electricity from lightning?”
“Genius.” Lightning rods had been installed at Pemberley more than fifty years earlier. It was brilliant for his father to devise a way to harness that power. But it was dangerous as well, and he supposed his father hadn’t wanted him to get shocked by playing with it without supervision. “Is that it?” he asked.
Greenwood shook his head. He walked slowly over to the bookcase and returned with another bound volume. He opened this book to an entry dated November 3, 1796. Darcy read:
A week ago, there was a robbery at Pemberley. A foreign traveller was attacked by a group of men. The traveller fought back with an axe, killing two of his assailants, but he was gravely injured. One of his arms and one of his legs were crushed, and he had head wounds as well as a stomach wound.
This was Greenwood. Darcy remembered his father telling him the story when he returned from school. He had been particularly impressed with Greenwood’s bravery and skill with the axe. Darcy smiled briefly at Greenwood and continued reading his father’s notes.
I did what I could but he died on the table. I looked at the man and wished I could make him whole again, with the principles I had learned from my prior experiments. I knew I could regenerate life. With my electrical apparatus, I possessed the capacity of bestowing animation, but there would be no purpose unless his frame was in a proper form.
His leg and arm were past repair, so I used those of his murderers.
I felt this was a form of justice.
Besides, what use would they have for their limbs? It was not as if I would reanimate them, as well. And the law would not mind if the villains were buried without all their body parts.
In the end, I also replaced one ear and his stomach.
The process was complex, since it involved the intricacies of fibres, muscles and veins, and I had to work quickly, but Praise be to God, it was a success. I felt akin to the Good Samaritan who aided the man who had been set upon by thieves.
I have only two regrets. First is that upon waking, my new Creation had no voice. His throat had been damaged in the attack. If I had known, I might have replaced his vocal cords as well.
Second, I regret that I told my wife of my work. Instead of being proud of my achievement, she was horrified. Lady Anne said I was playing God and using dark arts. I tried to explain that it was merely the application of scientific knowledge, but she was adamantly opposed.
In order to preserve harmony in our marriage, I vowed to conduct no more experiments of this nature.
Darcy closed the book, stunned by what he had read. He was simultaneously amazed and horrified. To think that his father had put together a man and had brought him back to life.
So many events in his own life made sense now, such as Greenwood and his dog-like devotion to his father. He remembered a conversation he’d had with his father years before. He had noticed that one of Greenwood’s arms was shorter than the other and had commented on this oddity to his father. His father had said simply, “Good observation and attention to detail.”
“But how?” Darcy had asked. “Was he born that way?”
“No. After the accident, there was not as much useable tissue after I made the repairs.”
And then there was his mother who had never liked Greenwood. He had never heard her say it specifically, but he had noticed that she would leave a room whenever the large man entered, and she had never referred to him by name.
One time, Darcy had asked his father why he had kept Greenwood on, why he had hired a mute servant. “What else could I do?” his father answered. “His recovery took weeks. He had been robbed of everything he owned. From our rudimentary visual communication, I knew he had no family, no one to return to. I felt responsible for him. Besides, can you imagine how the world would treat him? What would have happened if I had abandoned him? I hate to think of him wandering, alone and frightened, unable to work, having to forage for food. He might become desperate and resort to crime. I thought it much better to keep him at Pemberley and train him to be my valet.”
Darcy looked at Greenwood, that gentle giant, and he could not despise his father. Life was still life, and had meaning, no matter how it was engineered. “Greenwood is not your real name, is it?” he asked.
Greenwood shook his head.
“What was your name?”
His father’s creature took a pencil and wrote with large, childish letters: Igor Kuznetsov.
Darcy smiled. No wonder his father had renamed him. He said, “May I still call you Greenwood?”
“Very good. Now that I know who you are, what you are, I understand you and my father better. As far as I am concerned, you may live at Pemberley the rest of your life.”
Greenwood smiled broadly and gave Darcy a hug that nearly crushed his ribs. The man might be slow moving, but he was strong.
“Thank you,” Darcy gasped when he was released. “I do not need a valet, for I have my own, but you can be my Assistant.”
Greenwood frowned and made a questioning noise.
“Yes, Assistant. I do not intend to follow in my father’s footsteps entirely, but I would like to study medicine, beginning with my father’s numerous notebooks.”
He was humbled by what he had learned today. He had been given a glimpse of the secrets of heaven and earth. He did not know how much was the outward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that intrigued him, but he knew that his inquiries would be directed to the metaphysical and the physical secrets of the world.
Darcy did not consider himself a genius like his father, but he believed that even a mind of moderate capacity which closely pursued one study must infallibly arrive at great proficiency in that study. Thus, into the depths of medical knowledge, he would dive with Greenwood, a modern Prometheus, by his side.