“I knew well enough what some of the great Forces are capable of doing. Yes, unless it should prove to be one of the cases of the more terrible Saiitii Manifestations, we were almost certain of safety, so long as we kept to our order within the Pentacle.”
William Hope Hodgson, “The House Among the Laurels.”
You could not call it a reunion, Jessop thought. A reunion was for formal associations whereas their gatherings had always been informal and sporadic. Outside the flat in Cheyne Walk they had scarcely known one another. Jessop, now he came to think of it, had no clear understanding of how they had come together in the first place. Now, of course, the flat was gone. Its lessee Jessop had not seen for the entire four years of war. Would he turn up tonight, he wondered – Carnacki – at Taylor’s yellow brick villa in Putney? To be honest, answering that question was Jessop’s sole motivation in accepting the invitation. It came on a postcard, the invitation, which Jessop considered a nice touch.
Jessop had had that unthinkable thing, a good war. He worked in shipping, specifically the importation into England of essential foodstuffs from the Empire. The depredations of Kaiser Bill’s Unterseeboots had forced ship owners to more than double their charges, allowing land-based go-betweens like Jessop to treble theirs. Not that Jessop regretted the return of peace. No, no: Jessop had daughters and his daughters needed husbands, preferably whole and in full possession of their faculties but – such had been the carnage in the sucking black morass of Flanders – presentable in public and fully functional in matters conjugal would more than suffice.
Had Taylor sons, Jessop wondered? He had checked the casualty lists in the newspapers, as everyone did, but Taylor was such a common name. He had spotted Arkright’s boy. The lack of a ‘w’ in the surname had snagged his eye. Lieutenant Roderick J, eldest son of the Honourable Reginald and Mrs Arkright, fallen at Neuve Chapelle, March 1915. Jessop had sent condolences. Poor old Dodgson, their scribe, the Minutes Secretary of their ad hoc supper parties, had half his head blown off at Second Cambrai. The poor luckless devil, killed barely a month before the Armistice.
As for Carnacki, the original host, the fellow who had, for whatever reason, brought them together – what had he done for the last four years? Not a lot of call, Jessop would have thought, for a professional ghost finder in wartime.