The Diary of Percy Cavor
13th December 1795 (Morning)
Bole Manor, the Village of Wold Newton, Yorkshire.
I met the others who make up the party at breakfast. They are, I note thankful for the privacy I am afforded by this journal, an eclectic and somewhat daunting group of individuals a number of whom, if I was not a guest and hence obliged to act as a gentleman, I would be right persuaded to avoid. Such is the state of nervousness they have engendered that I am beset by an almost overwhelming inclination to run from his house.
But I must not allow such hysterical emotions to have ascendancy.
I reference the principal in our strange ménage first. Doctor Manfred von Frankenstein is a small man, pale and wan in countenance, who complains interminably of the cold, making many and very public criticisms of the drafts – of which there are many – in Bole Manor. He came to breakfast swathed in a long scarf and wearing woollen mittens, which he removed only reluctantly in order that he might manipulate his fork more correctly. His opinion of English cuisine is similarly scathing being very suspicious of the sausages he was served. Young though he is – I estimate that is not yet five-and-twenty – there is an unpleasant arrogance about him, exemplified by the way he wears his shirt collar, the wings coming high up on his cheeks giving him a disdainful look. He smells abominably too, perfumed by a rancid mingling of pomposity and piety.
I disliked the man on sight and manoeuvred myself to sit as far from him as the dining table would allow.
Unfortunately the result of this stratagem was to place me in the chair next to that occupied by William Jekyll, a man, I suspect, who has been overly influenced by the lunatics he attends. Jekyll, it transpires, is visiting surgeon at Eavesham Asylum, an establishment situate fifteen miles north of London where he ministers to the incorrigibly mad. It would appear these onerous – and according to Jekyll, thankless – responsibilities have imbued the man with an alarming number of tics and twitches. He sat on his chair forever fidgeting and sniffing like some recalcitrant schoolboy, ceaselessly dabbing his handkerchief to his mouth and flicking at his cuffs. I will not sit next to him again.
Professor Yuri Andreevich Petrov in contrast is calmness personified. He is tall and well-made, deports himself in a most dignified manner and though a Russian possesses excellent English (unlike Frankenstein’s which is distorted by a heavy German accent). I like Petrov and have decided in future I will favour his company above all others (with the exception of the delightful Lady Hortense, of course).
I leave the most peculiar guest until last. Peculiar but enigmatic: the Countess Mircalla Karnstein came to the breakfast room as though dressed for a funeral, being swathed from her hat to her shoes in the deepest and most uncompromising black. Her gown, although fashionably close cut, was made from a satin of such profound ebony that it seemed to ensnare the light in the room. Her face was covered by a veil of black tulle that fell from a small pill box hat that sat rakishly to the side of her head. With her face and features masked so effectively it was impossible to tell the age of the woman, but by the way she held herself and by the energetic manner in which she emphasised her conversation with her hands, I have determined that she is young rather than old: perhaps around thirty years of age. The Countess did not eat and neither did she engage me in conversation, but though I had no intercourse with the woman, I nevertheless felt a great unease at being in her company.
These, Dear Journal, are the dramaticus personae with whom I will pass the next few days, days I anticipate with a burgeoning dread.