Home > Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match

Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match
Author: Sally Thorne

 


Prologue


Here is a little-known fact: houses are proud of their observational skills.

A well-maintained house perfectly understands the weather, local gossip, who is an esteemed caller or an unwanted visitor, and, above all, they know their inhabitants.

A smart London town house on a prominent street will know the contents of love letters hidden beneath a pillow on its second floor. A humble cottage, with a clean-swept stone floor and a new log in the fireplace, knows what’s for dinner next Tuesday. Will you need a coat today? Ask your house. Which chambermaid is in love with that soulful-eyed footman? There are no secrets.

But if neglect is involved, a house tends to grow sullen. And our story begins with a very disillusioned country house named Blackthorne Manor, owned by the Frankenstein family for ten generations. Located a brisk trot from Salisbury village, England, this house was built in a grand gothic style, with buttresses, arches, gargoyles, and stained glass aplenty. Blackthorne’s windows had not been cleaned since Alphonse and Caroline Frankenstein died—that is to say, in precisely eleven years. Now, everything the house wished to know required a squint, and the surrounding estate appeared as a blur of yews, horses, a free-roaming pig, and apple trees growing heavy with fruit destined to rot. These views were not noticed by the occupants, and there were rarely any visitors.

A fresh coat of black paint on the sills was an outlandish, impossible daydream.

Blackthorne was suffering from weakened awareness, a general sourness of spirit, and it had very little of interest to observe, but perhaps things were about to change. Strange work past midnight had been occurring out in the barn—pardon, the “laboratory.”

What were the last two remaining Frankensteins doing out there?

The older boy—no, Victor was a man now, and fond of his own reflection, and he raised his sister through her adolescence as best he could. He laughed at half of her jokes, teased her for every failing and flaw, tossed coins to her when she was sad, hugged her once a year, and informed her when he wouldn’t be home at night. He used to come back stinking of ladies and liquor but now preferred leaning on doorframes, rereading letters from someone called Lizzie. Blackthorne had a notion that Victor was a “genius”: a clever chap, who made sure everyone else knew it. He wanted to be remembered by history, or some such nonsense. Those genius hands would be far more impressive holding a rake, attending to those mounds of dead leaves on the northern wall.

The girl—Angelika, now twenty-four years old, and even prettier than the portrait of her dearly departed mama, Caroline—had turned plaiting her own hair into a meditative half-day activity, after which she would take a half-day bath. She had the talent of an artisan when asked to sew something, but she walked past the unraveled hems of the window curtains. Even with its capabilities diminished, Blackthorne Manor knew how badly Angelika suffered during those years when her brother rode off at dusk. She cried like a pup into her pillow, and she tagged along at his heels now. Unlike Victor, she had no one special to love her, and her longing filled the house like steam.

Blackthorne Manor knew this much: dearly departed Caroline and Alphonse Frankenstein had left their children too soon, and although the coffers were brimming with gold, Victor and Angelika suffered from the same neglect as their inherited house. Tender love and care were needed, as a matter of utmost urgency.

Things did not look promising, however. The Frankenstein children slept, ate, spent without thought, and acted very merry, but their lives were choked by ivy, and sadness.

“Orphan,” Victor whispered to himself as he put on his father’s coat.

“Orphan,” Angelika whispered to her reflection, pulling her own hair tighter.

It would take something, someone, or a miracle, to change this present state of affairs.

 

 

Chapter One


Salisbury, England, 1814

Angelika Frankenstein knew what physical qualities her ideal man should have; unfortunately, she had to find those attributes at the morgue. She and her brother were in the doorway of the basement, like two customers about to stroll into a fruit market. Laid out on tables were around thirty corpses.

“I never get used to the stench,” Victor Frankenstein remarked through his shirt cuff. “Be quick and choose.”

“I’m always quick,” Angelika replied into her perfume-soaked handkerchief. “Why would I want to linger?”

“Because you want to make sure you choose the best-looking.”

Angelika was aghast. “I do not.”

“What’s the price tonight, Helsaw?” Victor asked the morgue attendant in a raised voice.

Helsaw sat outside the doorway on an upturned pail, biting his thumbnail in loud snips. “A shilling each,” he said to Victor, then spat on the ground.

Victor considered it. “Any room for negotiation? Two corpses for a shilling?”

Helsaw nodded in the direction of their tied horses. “You both jingled when you hit the ground. Don’t like it, go elsewhere.”

Victor grinned. “All right. I’ll pay anything.”

“You’re such a good negotiator, Vic,” Angelika praised sweetly.

His smile turned evil. “Quiet, Jelly, or I’ll send you to an orphan house.”

“I’m twenty-four. They’ll never take me.” What would their parents have thought of these late-night activities?

Helsaw provided the siblings with a lantern each and heaved a sigh. “Bickering already. It’s a long wait tonight, lads,” he told the growing queue of medical students. They muttered and lit their pipes.

Inside, Angelika addressed her brother again. “I am only doing this to put my name in medical history, alongside yours.”

“You are so terribly noble,” Victor scoffed, picking up a corpse’s arm to bend and straighten it. “You help me because you’re bored out of your wits.”

“You can’t do this without me, and you know it.” She waited for his nod. “I wish we were traveling again.”

Victor gave her a narrowed glance. “Give up. I hate living out of luggage, with no laboratory. When Lizzie arrives, I’m home forever.”

“Forever?” Angelika picked up a dead man’s cold hand, and interlaced her fingers with his. Then, she rotated the wrist joint. She might be living without love, forever? She’d be a white-haired old lady, still living as her brother’s ward? “If you had done your duty as older brother and guardian, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

Victor replied, “I’ve introduced you to every unmarried man I’ve ever met. I’ve struck up conversations in theaters with men you thought were your destiny. I’ve sat through fortune-teller visits. I’ve delivered anonymous love notes and objected at a wedding. I once helped you perform a spell under the full moon. It was absolutely unscientific, but I did it.”

He did sound very close to tearing his hair out.

Angelika forged on. “My point is, you haven’t helped me for a long while. The moment you saw Lizzie, you forgot about my goals. I think you forgot how to spell your own name.”

“This, from a girl whose name is spelled with a k instead of a c. Here’s a little suggestion for you,” Victor said as he pressed around on a man’s rib cage. “Men do not like being asked questions from a preprepared list. My friend from school, Joseph, said meeting you was like being interviewed for the position of junior footman.”

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