Columbine is the daughter of Professor Horace S. Duskywing, head of the department of Invertebrate Studies at Hanover, an eminent Lepidopterist, and in 1869 elected chairman of the Society of Kentucky Lepidopterists.
Columbine's mother is the Lady Acadia Hairstreak, a woman of wealth and a notorious social butterfly of the lower Ohio river. A longstanding question among the society of the Ohio river is how the dusty Professor Duskywing ever managed to beguile the lovely Lady Acadia to be his bride. Maybe Columbine being a seven month child had something to do with it...
Not having strong maternal instincts, Lady Acadia left most of the childrearing to her husband; a gentle academic with a vague fondness for this unexpected daughter. He provided few rules of behavior, a shocking oversight in Victorian society. He expected obedience, respect, and curiosity; he gave affection, and unlimited use of the university libraries.
From an early age, Columbine could be found sitting, crosslegged as often as not, on the dusty floor of the library, nose buried in some book of natural history or exploration. Marco Polo! Amerigo Vespucci! James Cook! Charles Darwin! Great stories of discovery, but no women.
Dust motes shimmered in the pale light of the one window in the library, but Columbine did not see them dancing. No women. Couldn't women discover a continent, or a new species, or sail around the world? There was Ida Laura Pfeiffer, the Austrian woman who had traveled (twice!) around the world, documenting plants, minerals, and mollusks as she traveled, but no other woman on these library shelves.
What might she discover, Columbine mused. The Giant Rat of Sumatra, Kraken of the Arctic ocean, Blue Mountains Panthers in the Australian Blue mountains? Maybe the famed Rainbow Snails of Yellowwood Forest...
Quite unexpectedly, Columbine's mother realized that at 18, Columbine was quite a lovely girl, in spite of her shockingly unconventional behavior. The only interest that Lady Acadia ever bestowed on her offspring was to plan her coming out season and ball, much to Columbine's dismay. Columbine simply could not bear to be squeezed into a corset, and paraded to polite society like a prize broodmare. Ugh!
So quietly, on a clear but moonless night, Columbine packed a small rucksack with her precious books on invertebrate zoology, journal, magnifiers, a spare shirt and a bar of soap, and some jewelry she would never wear. Dressed as a laborer, she climbed out her bedroom window with the false dawn, and headed North. Looking for Rainbow Snails and Adventure!
Looks like she found them!
Check out the links throughout the post :-)