Chapter XX. Frankenstein: Being a Letter From John Smith to Edward D. Norton, Attorney at Law
 

DEAR NED:--Wasn't there a story written once about a fellow who created some sort of a machine man without any soul that raised the very dickens and all for him? Frank--Frankenstein?--I guess that was it. Well, I've created a Frankenstein creature--and I'm dead up against it to know what to do with him.

Ned, what in Heaven's name am I going to do with Mr. John Smith? Mr. John Smith, let me tell you, is a very healthy, persistent, insistent, important person, with many kind friends, a definite position in the world, and no small degree of influence. Worse yet (now prepare for a stunning blow, Ned!), Mr. Smith has been so inconsiderate as to fall in love. Yes, he has. And he has fallen in love as absolutely and as idiotically as if he were twenty-one instead of fifty-two. Now, will you kindly tell me how Mr. John Smith is going to fade away into nothingness? And, even if he finds the way to do that, shall he, before fading, pop the question for Mr. Stanley G. Fulton, or shall he trust to Mr. Stanley G. Fulton's being able to win for himself the love Mr. John Smith fondly hopes is his?

Seriously, joking aside, I'm afraid I've made a mess of things, not only for myself, but for everybody else.

First, my own future. I'll spare you rhapsodies, Ned. They say, anyway, that there's no fool like an old fool. But I will admit that that future looks very dark to me if I am not to have the companionship of the little woman, Maggie Duff. Oh, yes, it's "Poor Maggie." You've probably guessed as much. As for Miss Maggie herself, perhaps it's conceited, but I believe she's not entirely indifferent to Mr. John Smith. How she'll like Mr. Stanley G. Fulton I have my doubts; but, alas! I have no doubts whatever as to what her opinion will be of Mr. Stanley G. Fulton's masquerading as Mr. John Smith! And I don't envy Mr. Stanley G. Fulton the job he's got on his hands to put himself right with her, either. But there's one thing he can be sure of, at least; if she does care for Mr. John Smith, it wasn't Mr. Stanley G. Fulton's money that was the bait.

Poor Maggie! (There! you see already I have adopted the Hillerton vernacular.) But I fear Miss Maggie is indeed "poor" now. She has had several letters that I don't like the looks of, and a call from a villainous-looking man from Boston--one of your craft, I believe (begging your pardon). I think she's lost some money, and I don't believe she had any extra to lose. She's as proud as Lucifer, however, and she's determined no one shall find out she's lost any money, so her laugh is gayer than ever. But I know, just the same. I can hear something in her voice that isn't laughter.

Jove! Ned, what a mess I have made of it! I feel more than ever now like the boy with his ear to the keyhole. These people are my friends- -or, rather, they are Mr. John Smith's friends. As for being mine--who am I, Smith, or Fulton? Will they be Fulton's friends, after they find he is John Smith? Will they be Smith's friends, even, after they find he is Fulton? Pleasant position I am in! What?

Oh, yes, I can hear you say that it serves me right, and that you warned me, and that I was deaf to all remonstrances. It does. You did. I was. Now, we'll waste no more time on that. I've admitted all you could say. I've acknowledged my error, and my transgression is ever before me. I built the box, I walked into it, and I deliberately shut the cover down. But now I want to get out. I've got to get out--some way. I can't spend the rest of my natural existence as John Smith, hunting Blaisdell data--though sometimes I think I'd be willing to, if it's the only way to stay with Miss Maggie. I tell you, that little woman can make a home out of--

But I couldn't stay with Miss Maggie. John Smith wouldn't have money enough to pay his board, to say nothing of inviting Miss Maggie to board with him, would he? The opening of Mr. Stanley G. Fulton's last will and testament on the first day of next November will effectually cut off Mr. John Smith's source of income. There is no provision in the will for Mr. John Smith. Smith would have to go to work. I don't think he'd like that. By the way, I wonder: do you suppose John Smith could earn--his salt, if he was hard put to it? Very plainly, then, something has got to be done about getting John Smith to fade away, and Stanley G. Fulton to appear before next November.

And I had thought it would be so easy! Early this summer John Smith was to pack up his Blaisdell data, bid a pleasant adieu to Hillerton, and betake himself to South America. In due course, after a short trip to some obscure Inca city, or down some little-known river, Mr. Stanley G. Fulton would arrive at some South American hotel from the interior, and would take immediate passage for the States, reaching Chicago long before November first.

There would be a slight flurry, of course, and a few annoying interviews and write-ups; but Mr. Stanley G. Fulton always was known to keep his affairs to himself pretty well, and the matter would soon be put down as merely another of the multi-millionaire's eccentricities. The whole thing would then be all over, and well over. But--nowhere had there been taken into consideration the possibilities of--a Maggie Duff. And now, to me, that same Maggie Duff is the only thing worth considering--anywhere. So there you are!

And even after all this, I haven't accomplished what I set out to do-- that is, find the future possessor of the Fulton millions (unless Miss Maggie--bless her!--says "yes." And even then, some one will have to have them after us). I have found out one thing, though. As conditions are now, I should not want either Frank, or James, or Flora to have them--not unless the millions could bring them more happiness than these hundred thousand apiece have brought.

Honest, Ned, that miserable money has made more--But, never mind. It's too long a story to write. I'll tell you when I see you--if I ever do see you. There's still the possibility, you know, that Mr. Stanley G. Fulton is lost in darkest South America, and of course John Smith can go to work!

I believe I won't sign any name--I haven't got any name--that I feel really belongs to me now. Still I might--yes, I will sign it

"FRANKENSTEIN."