This is an excerpt of a short story I am writing for SPASS, intended to both inspire the proper Victorian tone and to provide background for my persona- Erasmus Pulver, Adjunct Professor of ArcanoGeography at Miskatonic University in Arkham.
Notes from the Journal of Professor Erasmus Pulver
It has fallen to me to be the Expedition chronicler and cartographer, which tasks I accepted readily- being by inclination and training an historian with special interest in geography. As your humble correspondent, then, I will begin with a portentous meeting on April the 18th, 1886, in the Masters Hall at Miskatonic University in Arkham town.
Dr. Hiram Cairnhill, a forthright and dashing gentleman who had captained a regiment of infantry during the great paroxysm of violence which had lately plagued our nation, had called for a gathering of certain persons from the University for the purpose of discussing the continued absence of Professor Michael Harriman. Professor Harriman, who had the Chair of Archaeology, had departed some three years previous on a University sponsored expedition to search for evidence of a rumored fallen civilization in the boundless forests of the Congo Free State, in central Africa. The good Professor was now more than a year overdue, and the University had received no word from him since a messenger had arrived by fast steamer more than two years past, advising that the Expedition was bound for the confluence of the Congo and the Lulonga rivers. He had written that certain rumors of haunted lands to the east of the Lulonga had drawn his curiosity.
Dr. Cairnhill, though not a member of the University, was nonetheless a very influential citizen of Arkham and a good friend to Professor Harriman, which status gave him considerable latitude with Professor Leahy- Master of Mathematics and President of Miskatonic University. At Dr. Cairnhill’s request, Professor Leahy had assembled members of the faculty whom he deemed had an interest in the subject or might prove useful. So it was that I- merely an Adjunct Professor of ArcanoGeography under Dr. Woodson’s Chair of History- was invited to join the august body.
Aside from the principals already mentioned, those present included the Head of the Language Department, Dr. Garapay; Professor Galding, the Adjunct Professor of Physics; Mr. Jeremiah Stone, Dean of Archaeology and protégé of Professor Harriman; Dr. Henry Williams, our esteemed Professor Emeritus and Guest Lecturer in History; and Mr. Ian Melton, a visiting member of the Royal Geographic Society.
Dr. Cairnhill spoke at length of his frustration in gaining useful information from what passed for the authorities in either Belgium or the Congo Free State concerning the fate or whereabouts of Professor Harriman and the Expedition. He had at last grown concerned enough to entreat Professor Leahy for permission to lead another expedition to locate and, hopefully, rescue Professor Harriman’s Expedition.
Professor Leahy shook his head solemnly in denial. The University did not have the financial resources to mount another assault on the Dark Continent. Dr. Cairnhill’s face clouded over at the news, but he accepted the fact with a short nod in lieu of the emotional outburst he no doubt repressed.
“Not what I wanted to hear, Leahy,” he said frankly. “But not unexpected, for all that. Might I have what non-monetary support you feel is appropriate- if I can find a source of funding?
Professor Leahy smiled graciously and agreed. We were fast approaching the end of the scholastic season, and a mission of rescue and research to Africa would provide excellent real world experience for many junior faculty and senior students. Also, I suspect, Professor Leahy was unwilling to refuse Dr. Cairnhill, whose concern for his friend was clearly written upon his face.
“Thank you, Professor,” the good Doctor said with a smile. “I shall gather the necessary funds, which I believe can be had before the end of studies in June. I will rely upon you to gather a likely company of men whose skills and education might see good service.” With that, Dr. Cairnhill donned his hat and cloak and bid us good evening. He was as good as his word, and returned to Miskatonic on the 20th of May with funding from the Royal Geographic Society, the Adventurer’s Club of Boston, and the Governor of Massachusetts- a special dispensation from the legislature.
From the moment of Dr. Cairnhill’s return, I nearly became lost in the frenzied preparations for departure. Dr. Cairnhill and Mr. Melton interviewed dozens of faculty and staff, and more than a hundred students before winnowing the number down to twelve. From the faculty, Professor Galding and I were joined by Mr. Victor Whaley, from the Languages Department. Dr. Cairnhill also chose Mr. Simon Wise, the University carpenter and a former cavalry officer. The students chosen were all husky lads of good character, seniors all, with knowledge and skills of possible use in our quest.
Tom Delacourt was a Texan who had been a student of Professor Harriman’s. His short stature had precluded inclusion in Professor Harriman’s ill-fated expedition, but his knowledge of Professor Harriman’s peculiar sub-specialty of Archaeology was thought to outweigh whatever disadvantage might result from his slight build.
Joachim Reynolds was only an indifferent student, but he was a past master of all manner of boating. Mr. Melton felt certain his skills would be of vital import in the rain forests of central Africa.
Mortimer Jackson, a native of Arkham, had been recommended by Dr. Garapay as the best student of African Languages at Miskatonic. He spoke Swahili and Kikongo, as well as several less esoteric languages, and was keenly interested in ancient scripts. Both Dr. Cairnhill and Mr. Melton were pleased to have him.
Carl Jensen was a towering student from Denmark, who was an excellent archer and fencer. He was said to be just as tough as the Vikings he so closely resembled.
David Smythe was the son of a former Governor of Louisiana. He was a talented artist, and Dr. Cairnhill felt his skills would prove useful for cataloging any interesting discoveries which the expeditions was likely to make. Mr. Melton was not pleased with the choice of young Mr. Smythe, feeling that he was unlikely to bear up well under the pressures of the journey. I confess to sharing this impression, having noted Smythe’s tendency toward drink and smoke and other, more dangerous habits during his tenure at Miskatonic.
John Clarke was nearly passed over. He was quite skilful in his chosen field of Biology, but his studies at Miskatonic had tended less toward a focus on one specialty and more toward a wide variety of subjects. Mr. Melton was keen to have him along, but Dr. Cairnhill was not of like mind. It was only after the few remaining biology students had failed to measure up that Dr. Cairnhill reluctantly agreed to Clarke’s inclusion.
With the Expedition members decided upon, Dr, Cairnhill and Mr. Melton embarked upon procuring supplies and other logistical details of the undertaking. We were all issued Winchester repeating rifles and Colt revolvers, and the bulk of May into the early part of June saw the entire Expedition make weekly trips to the quarry northeast of Arkham for target practice. Young Tom Delacourt proved to be a crack shot, easily the best among us.
On the morning of the 13th of June, we gathered in the library for one last meeting before setting off. Dr. Cairnhill and Mr. Melton had elected to sail immediately for England for the purpose of perusing the maps at the Royal Geographic Society before steaming southward to the mouth of the Congo. Mr. Whaley, joined by young Mr. Jackson and John Clarke, would then travel overland to Brazzaville to hire bearers. Mr. Melton had repeatedly warned that the natives south of the Congo River were not particularly trustworthy, so hiring bearers in southern Gabon was warranted. The rest of the Expedition would travel to Leopoldville by train. Once a team of twenty bearers had been secured, Mr. Whaley and his two young charges would hire passage across the river to Leopoldville. Mr. Melton put great store in hiring a guide in Leopoldville. He had a man in mind, but there was no way to be certain this Mr. Calhoun would be available until we arrived.
After a few toasts of farewell, we waved our goodbyes to Miskatonic University and Arkham, and we set sail for Adventure.