I am pleased to be able to report that I have been received here in Baden with a courtesy that I could scarcely have dared to expect! After a trifling difficulty in the matter of translation, my letters of introduction to the Grand Duke have served me well, and there has been no difficulty at all in my gaining access to the collection at the university.
The specimen itself is everything I might have hoped, after so many years of waiting for the opportunity to see it. Such an exquisite state of preservation! Such clarity of detail! Both elongated forefingers are clearly to be seen. It is most assuredly not a marine creature, as has been so often been asserted. I have no hesitation in concurring with the conclusions of M. Cuvier that this animal is a flying reptile. His nomenclature – Ptero-dactyle (from the Greek, pteron daktulos) – I also most gladly endorse.
Even you, Sister, must understand the significance of this discovery, and the uses that might be made of it by the unscrupulous. Any sensible God-fearing man mustrecognise the sacred doctrine of the immutability of species: that in the beginning God created the creatures of the air, the sea and the field, and that since that time new genera have neither come into being nor old genera died out. And yet there are those who argue that the existence of fossils such as M. Cuvier’s Ptero-dactyle imply the opposite: that by some occult mechanism new species come into existence whilst other creatures of God’s creation mysteriously cease to be! You must see what damage this does to natural faith, and I am resolved to fight it with every resource available to me.
I am determined, therefore. Upon my return to England, I shall seek out patronage and charter a ship. My researches have led me to believe that the Ptero-dactyle will most likely be found on the island of New Guinea, for it is an utterly unexplored wilderness where I understand that there are natives there who report sightings of flying reptiles they call ‘ropen’. This island, therefore, will be the object of my expedition, and as a Gentleman of Science and a Man of Faith I vow that I will make of this undertaking my life’s work.
Your respectful brother,
Helen Angove began her working life as an electrical engineer on the south coast of England, took a brief detour as a pricing analyst for an electricity supply company (which was as much fun as it sounds) and then veered off in a different direction altogether by becoming a priest in the Church of England. Now, however, she is living with her husband and two children in Southern California, and is against all the dictates of common sense exploring the possibility of writing as a viable career choice.
Most people believe that Helen’s obsession with the Regency era of British history is due to the fact that she is a Jane Austen fanatic, but this is actually only part of the truth. In fact, she is the reincarnation of Austen’s niece, Fanny Knight. Her current habit of setting everything she writes in the early nineteenth century is purely a cold-blooded and mercenary attempt to use her unequalled knowledge of her erstwhile Aunt’s social milieu to cash in on the Austen mania so prevalent in contemporary society.