Facing Down Doctors and Dragons

16 11 2006

Have YOU intelligence and courage enough for the study of dragons? Enough even to believe and be curious, for a start?

Dragonology: The Dragon’s Eye
By Dugald A. Steer


Your father suggested that you might like to stay with Uncle Algernon, but we have talked things over and decided that it is time for you to get to know our old friend Dr. Ernest Drake. He has a house in Sussex and a little shop in London that he keeps as a sort of hobby. I have asked him to meet you at Waterloo if he can. If for any reason he is not there to meet you, you can find his shop quite easily by going to Trafalgar Square and walking up St. Martin’s Lane until you see a street called Wyvern Way. You can’t miss the shop because there is a large sign with his name on it hanging above the door.

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The scientific study of dragons requires intelligence and courage above all else, as young dragonologists find out soon enough.”

—Dr. Drake’s Dragon Diary, January 1842

 

In July of 1882, I was twelve years old and had never heard of Dr. Ernest Drake. I had certainly never met a dragon . . . This was the second summer that our parents had failed to meet us on short notice. The year before, there had been another mysterious emergency that had seen us packed off to Uncle Algernon’s. Life there had been so monotonous that I had been almost glad to get back to boarding school.

“Who’s Dr. Drake?” I asked.

“Don’t you remember him?” said Beatrice. “He came to visit us when Father was ill. He has an enormous moustache that gets soup in it. All he ever talks about is dragons. Uncle Algernon told me that he has dangerous ideas and that we shouldn’t listen to people like him if we want to grow up to be intelligent members of society.

I didn’t remember clearly. I had a vague impression of a jolly man with a big moustache coming to stay with us when I was five. I remembered pretending to be an iguanodon and chasing him round the garden while he laughed. But I had no idea his name was Drake.

Is he a real doctor?” I asked.

“No,” said Beatrice. “I think he’s a dragocologist or something. But I’m sure he got Father the job in India. I hate him.

“At least he sounds better than Uncle Algernon,” I said.

We looked round the station. There were a lot of porters carrying luggage and people hurrying to catch trains, but no men with enormous moustaches, apart from a couple of guards.

“You see,” said Beatrice after we had been waiting for an hour. “He hasn’t even bothered to turn up and meet us. I expect he’s too busy with his dragons.”

“Does he really know about them?” I asked.

Beatrice laughed. “No one really knows about dragons, Daniel. They don’t exist.

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