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January 23, 2012

A Man of Science

a tale by Candy Korman

The men were celebrating. Pushing the Americans back at Queenston Heights on the Niagara front was, no doubt, a decisive moment in the combat, but there was no telling what turns the war would take.

Benjamin allowed himself the luxury of a daydream. He imagined his return to London and Rosalynn. As the second son, he thought a career in the military was his one viable option, as he was ill suited to the Church, but in his heart and soul he was a man of science. After the war, he knew he must follow his dream.

He would return home, resign his commission and find a way to become a gentleman scholar. He knew it was his destiny and, if Rosalynn could convince her father, they would marry and finance a modest household with their combined, if less-than-stellar, annual incomes. He need only to survive the battles to come and the passage home.

Benjamin patted his breast pocket. The whispered, crinkly sound of the single sheet of paper assured him of her love. He could recite each line of her letter, and kept the paper close to his heart as other men at war might carry a lock of their sweetheart’s hair. Rosalynn was not a typical girl. She had a sharp mind, and interests in biology and geology that nearly equaled his own. The other officers assumed that her letter was full of romantic poetry or sweet reminders of home, but Rosalynn wrote of a remarkable scientific discovery.

 

Dearest Benjamin:

I am putting pen to paper, still in the breathless excitement of this wondrous day. Had I not seen the creature’s skull with my own eyes, I’d have been sure it was a legend, a bedtime story about a monster, designed to frighten little children into obedience, but it is real. The ancient, fossilized skull is unlike any beast I have ever seen. Nothing, not even the images in your many books detailing the anatomy of beasts from far-away lands, comes close to this odd monster. I saw the exhibit at the Museum of Natural Curiosities and found myself surrounded by the most eminent gentlemen of the Royal Academy of Science and the Geological Society of London. I longed for you, and longed to see you among those intelligent minds.

The creature’s skull was found by a young girl on the cliffs of Lyme just last year. I learned that the specimen was purchased from her by a local gentleman, and that William Bullock then bought it for his collection of marvels. The poor girl, Mary Anning, was paid enough to feed her family for a year, but given little credit by the gentlemen scholar. The men assume her find to be an accident of luck. Although my inquiries on the subject have yielded facts to the contrary, for this uneducated peasant is a genius of a curious type, with a keen eye and the bravery required to unearth such a find amidst the danger of falling rocks.

Benjamin dear, I had my notebook and made copious sketches, for I surely want to share this experience with you. Of course, I was not entirely welcomed by the gentlemen. One had the audacity to instruct me on the relative value of drawing such monsters when a more ladylike subject would be flowers. Oh, how little of me he knows. My flower drawings are meant only to accompany your treatise on hybrid roses.

Please examine the two sketches at the bottom of this page. The skull is a replica, in miniature scale, of the sketches I am using to render a watercolor for your return, and the rose is a symbol of my enduring affection and devotion.

Come home safe and soon.

Your devoted Rosalynn.

 

Benjamin looked toward the men in his command and hoped that Major General Isaac Brock would keep them safe. He longed to go home, resign his commission and follow his destiny in science in the company of his beloved Rosalynn.

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