Remarkable Creatures

Free Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Book: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tracy Chevalier
Tags: Fiction, Literary, Historical
would want with curies, nor why she was willing to have anything to do with me. Joe didn’t get the same feeling when he found a cury as Miss Elizabeth and I did, like we were discovering a new world. Even now, with something as amazing as the crocodile, he was quick losing his excitement and only seeing the problems. I wanted to go to Miss Elizabeth not only because she could help us, but because she would be as thrilled as I was.
    We stayed a long time, chipping at the croc with my hammer and talking about what to do. We spent so long there that the tide cut us off and we had to climb over the cliffs back to Lyme—not easy with baby in my arms. Poor mite. He died the following summer. I always wondered if it weakened him, being taken upon beach in the cold. Of course, so many of Mam’s babies died that it were no surprise he didn’t last. But I could have stayed inside with him and gone the next day to see the croc. That’s how fossil hunting is: It takes over, like a hunger, and nothing else matters but what you find. And even when you find it, you still start looking again the next minute, because there might be something even better waiting.
    I hadn’t ever seen anything better than what Joe found that day, though. That brought the lightning straight through me, as if waking me from a long sleep. I was glad to see it. I just wished I had discovered it rather than Joe. It was a surprise to everyone that Joe found such an unusual specimen, for it weren’t in his nature to look out for something new. That was what I was good at. I tried not to be jealous, but it was hard. Soon enough, people forgot it was Joe who found the croc and made it my croc. I didn’t stop them, and Joe didn’t seem to mind. He was happy to step back from it and just be plain Joe Anning rather than a hunter who could find a monster. It was hard for him, being part of a family so talked about and judged. If he could have stopped being an Anning, I think he would have. Since he couldn’t, he kept his thoughts to himself.
     
     
     
    NEXT MORNING WE TOOK Miss Elizabeth to see the skull. It were one of those clear, cold days that makes all the rocks look crisp, though it didn’t last long, the winter sun just skimming the horizon past Lyme Bay. Despite the cold, Miss Elizabeth needed no convincing, but come out straightaway, though their servant Bessy muttered and Miss Margaret twittered that they had guests coming soon. Now I was getting older I’d begun to find Miss Margaret a little silly, preferring the quietness of Miss Louise or the tartness of Miss Elizabeth. Miss Elizabeth didn’t care about guests, but wanted to see the monster.
    When we reached the end of Church Cliffs, I almost gasped at how clear its peculiar outline was in the cliff face. Miss Elizabeth was silent. She took off her nice gloves and put on the work gloves with the tips cut off so that she could run her fingers along its long, pointy snout and its great jumble of teeth. At the end where the jaws were hinged, she prized off a flake of stone. “Look,” she said, “there is a slight upturn of its mouth where it seems to be smiling. Do you recall that in the drawing I showed you of the crocodile in Cuvier’s book?”
    “Yes, ma’am. But look at its eye!” I used my hammer to tap carefully and reveal more of the ring of bones that overlapped like giant fish scales round an empty center where the eyeball must have been once.
    Miss Elizabeth stared. “Are you sure that is the eye?” She seemed disturbed by it.
    “Don’t know what else it could be,” Joe said.
    “That is not how the eye looked in Cuvier’s drawing.”
    “Maybe this one had a problem with its eye,” I suggested. “Like a disease. Or maybe the Frenchman drew it wrong.”
    Miss Elizabeth snorted. “Only a girl like you would dare question the work of the world’s finest zoological anatomist.”
    I frowned. I didn’t like this Cuvier.
    Thankfully Miss Elizabeth didn’t dwell on my

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