Chapter Four - The Voyage of ... Death!

Captain Fitzroy leaned against the door of his tiny cabin. He clutched his Bible, his source of strength, his support through the ordeals he had been forced to endure over the past months and years.

When the Beagle set sail he had welcomed the prospect of the company of an educated. God-fearing gentleman on the long voyage which lay ahead. At first, he had been attracted to young Charlie, though not in a way which was in any respect sexual, of course. His first impression was that he was personable, articulate and of gentlemanly bearing, though the rather shifty eyes suggested a weakness of character.

"Still" mused Fitzroy "there's nothing there that time spent with the Bible won't put right."

Then the was the luggage. Trunk after trunk, taking up valuable space he had set aside for the Bibles he was going to give to the heathen savages they would encounter.

"Natural history supplies" Darwin had explained.

But when the voyage had started, Fitzroy discovered Darwin's mania for death. Any bird or animal, every living thing in God's creation was a target for Darwin's gun.

"Specimens" he told Fitzroy "I need specimens. I have a ... theory. I need specimens to prove it"

The slaughter carried on relentlessly. The deck of the ship, whose cleanliness was a source of great pride to its captain was constantly awash with the blood of slaughtered creatures, and the stains, which could not be eradicated, matched the stains on Fitzroy's conscience. How could he have so misjudged another human being? And one with a degree in Divinity who had studied the Bible. The very act of such study should have cleansed the mind of this ... .and Fitzroy hesitated internally before using the term ... monster.

But this was not the worst of it. There was the drinking. There was the womanising, and the suspicion of even darker, more evil acts. As the stinking carcases gathered in the hold, the stinking corruption of Darwin's mind became ever clearer.

Being a gentleman, Fitzroy was served his dinner each evening in his dinning room, separate from the common men and boys who made up his crew. Darwin, though his pretensions to gentility were severely compromised by his behaviour, ate with him. He drank throughout the meal, and few meals did not involve the consumption of a whole bottle of the brandy to which he seemed addicted.

"Common sense" his words slurred with drink "common sense tells us that the Bible can not be read as a literal account of creation" he would say, taunting the Captain, who gritted his teeth as he suppressed the noble Christian rage which told him to draw his cutlass and smite this evil offender against God's words. Many times in his later years he asked himself how different the world would have been had he given way to this impulse. Would the canker of heresy been cut out at source? Or was this part of a wider plot to overthrow True Christianity (ô)? What could the actions of a single individual, no matter how inspired and to in the face of this awful conspiracy?

But the voyage was almost over now. The ship, it's hold stuffed with the carcases of thousands of the beasts and birds of God's creations, it's decks stained with their blood, was nearing the port of Bristol whence it had set out three years previously. A strange and terrible cargo, but one which paled into insignificance compared to the utter depravity and corruption of the mind which lay behind its acquisition.

Fitzroy, in his cabin, clutching his Bible for comfort. 'The smaller of the cabins,' he thought 'Darwin insisted on occupying the greater. But I am the Captain. I have responsibilities to the ship and the crew. It was stolen from me.'

He recalled a scene in South America. For once the bones which Darwin had collected were not those of living animals, cut from their bleeding bodies, the poor hearts still beating in the final throes of agonising death in which Darwin exulted, but those of victims of the Great Flood, those of strange creatures the like of which no longer walks the earth.

"I'll show them to Owen" Darwin had said, "He'll know what they are".

"Yes," though Fitzroy "Owen will know".

Richard Owen, whose great intellect outshone Darwin's as the Sun outshines the stars of the night sky. Fitzroy took comfort from the thought that Darwin's intellectually vacuous musings would be dismissed by the world of True Science (ô) under Owen's guidance. It was typical of the weakness of Darwin's character that he relied so heavily on the learning of others, though he corrupted and twisted it to suit his own ends.

Then there was that other time.

Darwin, his clawed hand clutching the naked breast of a young heathen savage, taunting Fitzroy.

"Come on Fitz" he cried "There's enough here for both of us"

The naked, wanton savage on his other arm barred her teeth at him in imitation of a smile of the civilised races. Fitzroy averted his eyes from this wanton display of heathen nudity. There was not even a bodice to rip. It was a measure of his despair that even the thought of a ripped bodice bought him comfort. Why could these creatures not cover their nakedness in a civilised manner? He had given them Bibles from his diminishing store in the hope that some semblance of civilised, Christian behaviour would be gained from the Book, but they had treated it with bemused contempt. Evidently Darwin had already planted his corruption in their minds.

"They are all going to die soon anyway, " Darwin shouted "they are lesser races which civilised man has the imperative to extinguish under my theory"

It was cold, and snow fell from a grey sky, the flakes melting on the naked flesh of the savage beauties. Fitzroy turned away, the bile rising in his throat, and returned to his cabin and to his Bible.

But there were darker things even than this. On one occasion Darwin disappeared for several days, returning with eyes bright, consumed by an inner fire.

"I have been shown great secrets" he imparted to Fitzroy after dinner, when the brandy had loosened his tongue. "Secrets which will give me power over man and nature."

"What manner of secrets?" Fitroy asked.

"Some call it ... witchcraft. Others may call it science. I call it ... power." He took from his pocket a small package and unfolded it on the table.

"What is that?" Fitroy asked.

"The natives have a name for it which I may not impart to you." He took a pinch of the yellowish powder, and held it up to the candle flame. "It gives visions"

His breath carried the powder into the flame, which flared with a blue light. A heady vapour filled the cramped cabin. Fitroy felt his head begin to spin. He tried to get to his feet, but Darwin's hand restrained him.

"Wait" he commanded.

And Fitzroy waited, unable to resist the command, his mind now under the control of Darwin's will, and the evil potion he had used.

" I could turn you into a willing disciple now" he said. "I chose not to. It will give me greater pleasure to allow your will to remain free."

He laughed, a soft, sinister laugh.

"It will make no difference to my mission."

There were less reprehensible aspects to Darwin's character. He was a fine shot, and understood that it is the duty of every True Christian (™) to bear firearms and to use them at every opportunity, though even here his lack of moral fibre showed. When the ship was approached by a tribe of naked savages, Darwin prevented the Captain from shooting a few to show them the moral superiority of the Christian races, and insisted on attempting ... intercourse with them.

But his habit of taking showers on deck. Though somewhat twisted by the internal depravity, the sight of the slim, muscular body wreathed in a transparent sheen of water, glistening in the tropical sun brought a sudden swelling to Fitzroy's throat.

"How dare he" he muttered to himself "how dare he disport himself in this way. How dare he tempt a True Christian (™) with this show of flesh." He descended to his cramped quarters and sought comfort in the Book.

But now the voyage was over, and the Beagle was at rest at last. Most of the contents of the hold had been unloaded and was piled somewhat untidily as befits the corrupt use to which it would be put ready for collection. From the vantage point of the window of his tiny cabin Fitzroy could see and hear what transpired on the quayside.

A coach arrived, drawn by four black horses, it's livery black, driven by a coachman in a black cape. It moved with unnatural quietness, an ungodly stealth in its movements, the wheels coated in some unnatural substance which suppressed the noise natural to that of a coach on cobbles. A tall, black-clad figure descended from the coach.

"Lyell" cried Darwin "capital to see you."

"Darwin," the response was a single word, the tone level and chilling.

"Mission accomplished" Darwin's voice descended to a quieter tone, and Fitzroy had to strain his ears to hear what followed.

"So you have collected that which we agreed," Lyell, though composed, sounded strained. "Your grandfather and I placed much trust in you when we sent you on this voyage."

"How is my grandfather?"

"He died last year," Lyell responded.

"Oh? Was it a painful death?" Darwin's voice sounded indifferent.

"Whatever pain he suffered in his death is as nothing to the pain he is now enduring."

"Good" Darwin responded. "I hated the old man"

"You are more alike that you think" Lyell sounded amused. "He hated you, as he hated all men, and is why he sought to corrupt mankind. Smith may have started this business, but the name of Erasmus Darwin will go down in history as the one who took Smith's heresy and fraudulent conceptions into the full light of the sun and it's place in the downfall of mankind."

Lyell looked at the mound of cases.

"So where are they?" he asked.

"Where are what?"

"The finches"

There was a silence.

"The finches?" Darwin's voice trembled.

"You fool!"

Fitzroy watched as Lyell stepped towards Darwin, his hand upraised, and strike the young man across the check. Darwin fell to the cobbles, holding his hand to his bleeding lip.

"You forgot the finches? Were you too preoccupied with whoring and drinking to remember the purpose of this mission?"

Darwin rose to his feet, his eyes fixed on the older man.

"My grandfather is dead" he said in a clear and level voice. "You were never more than his lieutenant."

"So who is to be our leader in that case? A stripling who is more interested in whores and brandy than our sacred cause?"

"Better that than an old man who has lost respect for his betters. This 'stripling' is taking over the family business."

"Over my dead body."

"Very well." Darwin raised his arm. "Give my regards to Erasmus"

A single shot rang out.

"I'll deal with the finches later."

The man turned and looked up, his eyes on Fitzroy's.

"Fitz, old man." His voice carried a quiet authority which it had lacked previously "just in case you are thinking of reporting this matter to the Runners, be aware that Lyell was never here. Several important men of science and business will tell them that he was attending a dinner in Edinburgh this evening. Tragically he was set upon by footpads and murdered."

"God will punish you!" cried the Captain. "he sees all, and judges all."

Darwin winced, but then shrugged his shoulders. He spat on the ground.

"So much for God." His voice was flat and emotionless. " I reject him."