For Love of Palaeontology
They met in the Dinosaur Hall of the Natural History Museum. She stood in front of the most perfectly preserved Diplodocus carnegii skeleton ever discovered and covered it with her thumb, her thick-rimmed glasses perched on the top of her head as she screwed one eye shut for focus and sketched what she saw. He was content to sit on the benches for hours, waiting for his imagination to flesh out the ancient beast’s bones and make them move.
It did not take them long to become nodding acquaintances; perhaps they could already read in each other that love for all things lost and mysterious and remote that they felt themselves. In the event, it was she who made the first move, leaving her (finally completed) sketch on his usual seat and hiding out of sight just as she saw him approach down the corridor leading from the marine exhibit.
The sketch did what his imagination had struggled so hard to achieve: here the gap of immeasurable time had been overleaped, and the beast was present in all its proper life and glory.
He knew who it must be from; he had noticed her, with her drawing pad and her intent stare. He felt he ought to offer a gift in return, and thought on the matter overnight. The next day, as he saw her standing in her accustomed spot, he walked up behind her, cleared his throat to pluck up some reserve of courage, and said:
“In 1877 a massive femur bone was unearthed in Colorado. If we assume that the rest of the animal was to the same scale, then it would have been one hundred and ninety feet long, making it by far the largest creature ever to walk the earth. However, the femur vanished without a trace soon after its discovery, and no other trace of this remarkable creature has ever been found.”
They both felt there were worse things they could do with their time than sit and have coffee for an hour.