Chapter Five - Buckland

They called themselves the Linnean Society.

And innocuous sounding name.

"I'm just going to the Linnean Society" a man would say to his wife, "science, y'now," knowing that the feeble minds of women would find even the concept of science too hard to understand. And he would depart into the gloomy fogs of London, to visit that ... place.

At first sight, the building the society owned was modest, well- designed and in the fashion of architectural taste. On entering, a visitor would find nothing amiss. A well-appointed library which contained many works of science, meeting places where such high matters would be discussed. But if a visitor spent longer there, and was not lulled into false security by his surroundings, and was observant, he might question such appearances.

He would notice that many of the men who entered through the imposing doorway eschewed the library or the meeting places, shunned those who occupied them, and made instead for the back of the building, past the imposing staircase of the main hallway, towards those parts of the building occupied by members of the menial classes.

Had he the courage to follow one of these fellows, he would have been led to a door, cunningly concealed behind the panelling of a small larder by which the nether regions of the building were approached.

And had he clutched his courage close to his chest, and followed down the steep and narrow stair, his breath bated, his heart pounding, the true heart of this "Society" would have been revealed to his astonished eye.

Imagine a cavern, the roof vaulted, the walls draped in rich, voluptuous fabrics. Imagine tables piled with fine foods from all over the earth, piled in wasteful heaps. Imagine glittering chandeliers casting their light on the denizens of this den of iniquity.

Imagine the "music" which emanated from a small group of ragged players in one corner, it's driving, baleful rhythms as insistent as a stone bashed repeatedly against the skull. Such a stone as gathers no moss.

Imagine, if you can, the writhing bodies of the dancers, their flesh barely covered by the diaphanous material of their scant clothing.

It was on such a scene that the eye of this narrative alights, a night of vileness and evil lusts, brooded over by a familiar figure.

Darwin, his figure thickened by the gratification of his carnal appetites. The scars of illness caught through acts of sexual depravity in South American brothels now concealed behind a prodigious beard. Reclining on a padded chair at the head of one of the long tables, his shirt unbuttoned , his clothing awry, a glass of brandy clutched in his clawed hand.

"We still need Owen" "But why?" "We need his skill and knowledge, his authority in all matters of science." "But he may discover the truth." "If so, we will silence him." "But why Owen? Why not Mantell? Or Buckland?"

He leaned forward, stroked for a moment the naked flesh of the young woman who lay on the table before him but with a sudden sweep of his arm threw her to the floor. She cried out in pain, but her cries were ignored by such a company. He took from a pocket a small packet, and opened it carefully on the polished surface. Taking a small silver spoon, he raised a quantity of the fine white powder to his face, sniffed it vigorously, than lay back again, his eyes bright.

"Mantell is already one of us, and if this is discovered our cause may be damaged. Buckland is an old man now. For all his Christian convictions" and the tone Darwin used showed contempt rather than respect "he is of little consequence."

Perhaps it was the brandy that spoke, perhaps it was the last vestige of true feeling lingering in a distant corner of his mind. What unfolded would tell a different tale.

William Buckland, Dean of St Paul's, devoted Churchman yet a True Christian (™), rallied resistance against the plots of the evilutionists. His passionate sermons, his erudite addresses in the Hallowed Halls of Science, began to have their effect.

The tide was turning.

"This is a matter of evidence" thundered Buckland in his address to the Royal British Science Association "and the evidence shows that there was a great catastrophe which overwhelmed the earth. The Flood, the Flood of which the Bible tells us. This why we find these old bones, these bones of a creation corrupted by evil which was overthrown to make way for our modern world. These bones, these monsters of the deep, these Ichthyosauri and Plesiosauri, these Pterodactyls with their leathery wings, these terrible lizards which strode the face of the primaeval planet. Overthrown by the deluge, buried by the Flood, locked into the rocks to be discovered by our picks and hammers."

The tide was turning. The conceit that the earth was very ancient, that essential element which would allow the anti-Christian, anti- Science conspiracies of Darwin and his gang to flourish, had been planted in the minds of many men. The French, that race of cowardly plotters against freedom, had given notable assistance. Their depraved aristocracy, led by figures such as the ignoble Cuvier, seeing the opportunity for sowing the unrest on which their race thrived had inveigled their way into the highest bastions of British science. But the distrust of the true inheritors of the spirit of noble Saxon race for their natural simian foe meant that they made little headway.

Owen still reigned. Buckland, though old, was a figure of authority whose words swayed the hearts of men and the minds of scientists.

"We must silence Buckland" It was Cuvier who spoke. "We must allow the Lamarkian theory to prevail". "Lamarckian?" Darwin growled. "I won't allow that. It was my grandfather's invention. I intend to name it after that old monster." "Nevertheless" Cuvier continued" we must silence Buckland." Darwin took another deep draught of brandy. "Leave it to me," he said "I have an idea."

For a while it seemed that the TRUTH (™) had won. "Buckland, my friend" Darwin could exert charm when the occasion demanded it, and Buckland, true and trusting, yielded easily to it. "You must visit me. It seems that we are almost neighbours. I have recently purchased a new estate near Oxford, not far from your own lodgings. It would honour me if you were to come for dinner. There are some matters of natural history on which I would value your opinion."

"Capital fellow, that Darwin" Buckland remarked to Owen later that day "he has a fine knowledge of some aspects of science."

"Perhaps" Owen mused, "perhaps." His honesty prevented him from engaging in tittle-tattle, but rumours of plagiarism had come to his ears. "Still," he thought, "Darwin will never amount to more than a barnacle on the great ship of science. He is of little consequence. That ship will continue, unless we encounter some reef. A coral reef, perhaps."

And so it unfolded. It was a fine day, the rain quite moderate,. Buckland had led Darwin on a short walk through the counties of Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire as a prelude to the evening meal, and they now returned.

"Better to use the back entrance by the kitchens. Our boots are somewhat dirty, and traipsing mud through the main entrance would distress my wife."

On a table by the side of the door lay a row of small, furry corpses. "These may interest you," Darwin said, "they are a kind of mole exclusively found in these parts. I would value your opinion." "Yes of course" Buckland responded eagerly. Darwin detected the quick gleam in his eye, and smiled internally.

He knew of Buckland's gastronomic predelictions.

Buckland turned up at Darwin's door a few days later. "Do you have any more of those moles? They are a fascinating subject for study." "Of course." Darwin provided him with another few corpses. "as many as you like. After all, it doesn't matter if they are driven to extinction."

And so it continued. A few moles at first. Then more and more. Buckland was there almost every day.


"No more moles, Buckland" Darwin said. "they are all gone." "No more moles!" cried Buckland. "What am I to do without these moles to ... study."

From there, the collapse was quick and complete. Buckland, his mind confused, his words incoherent, lapsed into insanity. He had been eliminated.

"But how?" Cuvier asked. "In my travels in South America," Darwin smiled and evil smile " I encountered many strange things. The natives of that land chew the leaves of a plant to reduce hunger, and increase endurance. I have produced a powerful distillate from that plant which can enslave the mind."

He sipped his brandy thoughtfully.

"We all know of Buckland's gastronomic habits. He eats things which not even members of your race would stomach. Rat, armadillo, camel, even flies, But he has a particular fondness for moles. So the moles with which I provided him were infused with my distillate. He succumbed quickly to the drug. Its withdrawal is what led to his insanity."

"Such an evil mind" Cuvier spoke "you might almost be a Frenchman!"

"Not that, " Darwin responded, "never that."

"However," he continued, "we might make use of this substance. It's sale could yield large profits, especially if contained in some form more generally considered palatable than the body of a mole. A suggary fluid, gassy perhaps. We could call it coca-molar."

First posted 20th March 2007
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