It was with some trepidation and consternation that I beheld the tattered parcel, which lay on my desk before me.
Before attempting to open it, I scrutinised the package carefully. It was well wrapped in heavy brown paper and secured with jute twine. It was addressed to me, Dr. Karl Schmidt, in care of Philadelphia Medical College, where I am professor of human anatomy. The return address was only partly legible. I could discern “Dr. Josef Eisenstadt…Heidelberg, Deutschland.” Ah, my old college friend from Heidelberg University! But some twenty years had passed, and I had heard little from him since graduation. I hadn’t even known that he was aware of my emigration to America.
My curiosity was piqued as, with unsteady hand, I cut through the heavy twine with my pocketknife and tore through the unyielding paper wrapping. Inside, I found several large, well-worn notebooks of the finest Morocco leather, and a crisp white envelope marked, “Dr. Schmidt. Private.” The note inside read:
“Heidelberg, 20 April
My dear Dr. Schmidt:
I must beg your pardon if I seem intrusive by contacting you after so many years’ silence…
I will get to the point directly, as I know you must be wondering about the meaning of this letter and the books, which accompany it.
Do you recall during our university days hearing tales of the unfortunate Victor Frankenstein and the work in which he was involved? Believe me, my dear colleague, they were more than tales!
The journals of Herr Frankenstein of Geneva are now in front of you. They had been given to his cousin Albrecht Frankenstein for safekeeping shortly before Victor’s tragic demise toward the end of the last century. Recently Albrecht, now elderly and a resident of Heidelberg brought them to me at the university, entrusting me with their preservation. As you know, however, as professor of Greek here, I am a man of arts and letters, not of the sciences.
Having seen several notices of your work in human anatomy in newspapers and periodicals here, I realise that you probably more than anyone may be able to glean some knowledge from the books. I have perused the journals but little. From a perfunctory glance I found, however, the scientific formulae contained therein are quite beyond my admittedly limited scope.
I trust that you, on the other hand, will find them interesting reading, if nothing else. I must ask of you but one favour in regard to them. As they were given to me in the strictest confidence, please let no one else know that you possess them, or that they exist at all. Under these conditions, I wish you good reading.
All the best to you.
Prof. Josef Eisenstadt”
As I put down the letter, with anxious eyes, I turned my attention to the journals. They numbered seven in all, and were of such exceedingly fine quality, that I knew they had belonged to a man of considerable means, and taste.
Each of the volumes was embossed in gold with “Dr. V. Frankenstein, Geneva” on the cover. Below this, a faded white label with the book number had been neatly affixed. I picked up the journal marked “Book 1”, and promptly replaced it on my desk. Before continuing, however, I prepared a light meal and a pot of tea, as I had an undeniable feeling that once I picked up Book 1 again, it would be a rather long time before I put it down...
© 2006 Christopher Boucher