That same morning, Ernestina wakes in a bad mood. When Charles calls at ten, he learns that she’s unwell and wants to rest. He can return for tea that afternoon. He tells Sam to bring Ernestina some flowers and take the day off. Charles has no trouble filling his free time, as Lyme is in an area of stone called blue lias, which, despite its unattractiveness, holds many fossils. Charles has already visited the Old Fossil Shop in Lyme, which was founded by a woman who has found many excellent fossils but has never gotten due credit for it.
The presence of fossils around Lyme gives it a sense of being haunted by` the past, or even living on the basis of what has come before rather than what might make the most sense in the present. In mentioning the proprietress of the Old Fossil Shop, Fowles acknowledges a common trend in science—women have often made important discoveries for which they get no credit.
However, Charles specializes in petrified sea urchins, of which the shop has few specimens. These fossils are called tests or sand dollars. They helped to confirm the theory of evolution, but they’re also beautiful and hard to find. Perhaps Charles is attracted to them because he has so much time to fill, but he also says that they’ve been scientifically neglected. He’s heard that he’ll find tests west of Lyme, so he goes again to the Cobb. There are fishermen and visitors strolling by the ocean, but Charles doesn’t see the woman who was there the day before. He sets off along the beach.
Charles is closely associated with Darwin’s theory of evolution not only because he believes in it, but also because the fossils he collects give evidence for its truth. He’s actively looking for proof of the past’s influence on the present, though he won’t realize until later how powerful the past’s influence on his own life is. The fact that Charles even looks for Sarah on the Cobb suggests that he’s already more interested in her than he wants to admit.
Charles is wearing nailed boots, canvas gaiters, a long coat, a canvas hat, and a large rucksack containing numerous supplies. Modern people can’t understand the Victorians’ methodical nature, or why Charles doesn’t understand that he’s ridiculously overprepared. The difference between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is the commitment to duty. People as overequipped as Charles set the foundations of modern science. They can tell that convention and religion aren’t adequately explaining the world, and that they must discover more about it. Modern humans think there’s nothing left to discover.
Here Fowles gestures to the common tendency to laugh at or dismiss people of previous centuries for their odd or erroneous beliefs and ways of life. He points out that no matter how strange the Victorians may seem, they made important contributions to the modern world. He again characterizes the Victorians as dedicated to duty above all, and though he may condemn this impulse later, it has undeniably produced positive results as well negative ones.
One shouldn’t laugh at Charles, even as he slips on the boulders. Birds fly ahead of him, and he comes upon rock pools that make him wonder momentarily whether he should take up marine biology instead. In a very human moment, he makes sure he’s alone, takes off his shoes and socks, and catches a little crab. The modern reader might despise Charles for not having a specialization, but in his time, natural history isn’t associated with fantasy and sentimentality. In fact, Darwin’s works are successful because they’re the product of generalization. Amateurs like Charles should be generalists and ignore anyone who tries to confine them.
Though Charles has scientific goals for this expedition, he also allows himself to enjoy the beauty of the world around him in a more emotional than scientific way. Fowles points out various ways in which Victorian science is different from modern science, and he emphasizes the fact that the differences are productive ones—generalization would make modern scientists scoff, but Darwin couldn’t have created one of the most important theories of science without it.
Charles calls himself a Darwinist even though he doesn’t entirely understand Darwin. Darwin upset the Linnaean ladder of nature, which was based on the idea that new species are never created. Instead, Linnaeus was obsessed with classifying everything that exists, and he eventually went mad since he couldn’t accept that life was constantly changing. Even though Charles knows that the Linnaean mindset is rubbish, he sees in the layers of rock a comforting orderliness of life, in which divine laws ensure the survival of the fittest. He thinks of himself as one of the fittest. However, he fails to realize that the creation of new species means that old ones must go extinct. Though he’s very aware of death on a small scale, he can’t fathom extinction.
Linnaeus’s fate seems to be invoked as a warning to the Victorians not to be obsessed with maintaining the status quo and the conventions that go with it. The fact that the Linnaean mindset tempts Charles shows that Victorians find reassurance in social order and hierarchy. Charles seems quite pretentious in his assumption that he’s one of the fittest humans, whose offspring will help dictate the biological future of the species. Undoubtedly his confidence comes from his class status, which has also resulted in a good education.
Charles finds a large piece of rock with clear fossil impressions on it. He decides to give it to Ernestina that afternoon, feeling that he’ll be doing his duty by carrying this heavy stone back to her. He suddenly realizes that it’s already two o’clock, and he’ll have to return by way of the cliff because the tide has cut off the way he came. He takes the path up the cliff too fast to punish himself for dawdling, and when he reaches the top he cools himself at a stream.
Notably, Charles brings a fossil back to Ernestina not because he wants to make her happy by doing so, but because he thinks it’s the right thing to do. He tries to be a very disciplined person, as seen when he tries to punish himself for taking too much time enjoying the beach.