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The Adventures of Timothy Peacock, Esquire; or, Freemasonry Practically Illustrated
Daniel P. Thompson
"Come let us prepare, We brethren that are."—
Our Hero, the present Thrice Illustrious TIMOTHY PEACOCK, Esquire, was born in a small village in the interior of Rhode Island. His father and mother were deserters from a British fleet. They had, however, once seen brighter days than this circumstance might seem to imply; for Mr. Peacock, at one time, had the honor to write himself Chief Butcher to His Majesty George III., London. Mrs. Peacock, before she united her destinies to those of the honored father of our hero—that union which was to bestow upon the New World the brightest masonic star that ever illumined the wondering hemisphere of the West—Mrs. Peacock, I say, was called the Billingsgate Beauty. They very mackerels she sold might shrink from a comparison with the plumpness of her person, and the claws of her own lobsters were nothing in redness to the vermillion of her cheeks. She made, as may well be supposed, sad devastation among the hearts of the gallant young fish-mongers.—Oystermen, clam-cryers, carpers, shrimpers and all—all fell before the scorching blaze of her optical artillery. But she would have mercy on none of them; she aspired to a higher destiny; and her laudable ambition was rewarded with the most flattering success; for she soon saw herself the distinguished lady of Peletiah Peacock, Chief Butcher to His Majesty. But how she became the envy of many a dashing butcheress, by the splendor of her appearance,—how her husband flourished, and how he fell, and was driven from the stalls of royalty,—how he took leave of the baffled bum-bailiffs of his native city, enlisted on board a man of war, and sailed for America, with permission for his loving rib to accompany him,—how they both deserted at a New England port, at which the vessel had touched, and were housed in a friendly hay-stack in the neighborhood till the search was over and vessel departed,—and, finally, how they travelled over land till they reached the smiling village where they found their abiding domicil, belongs, perhaps, to the literati of Britain to relate. They have, and of right ought to have, the first claim on the achievements of their countrymen with which to fill the bright pages of their country's biography; and to them then let us graciously yield the honor of enshrining his memory with those of their Reverend `Fiddlers' and truth-telling `Trollopes.' Far be it from me to rob them of the glory of this theme.—Mine is a different object; and I shall mention no more of the deeds of the father than I conceive necessary to elucidate the history of the son, whose brilliant career I have attempted, with trembling diffidence, to sketch in the following unworthy pages.
The place where the Peacocks had fixed their permanent residence was, as before intimated, a small village in the state of Rhode Island. This village, I beg leave to introduce to the reader, under the significant appellation of Mugwump, a word which being duly interpreted means (unless my etymology is sadly at fault) much the same as Mah-hah-bone—which last, after a most laborious and learned research, I have fortunately discovered to signify nothing in particular; though, at the same time, I am perfectly aware that both these terms are used at the present day, vulgarly and masonically, as synonymous with greatness and strength. But to our story: Mr. Peacock had no sooner become fairly settled than he began to devise the ways and means for a future independence; and such was his assiduity to business, and such his financial wisdom derived from lessons of sad experience in the old world, that his exertions in the new soon began to count brightly; and the third anniversary of his entry into Mugwump found him the owner of a snug little establishment devoted to public entertainment, under the sign of a bull-dog, which he lucklessly selected in memory of a faithful animal of that species that had once backed a writ for him, that is, had given him bail by holding back a sheriff by the tail of the coat till his master could shift for himself—I say lucklessly, for the malicious and unfriendly took occasion from this circumstance to christen Mr. Peacock's inn by the name of the Doggery; and hence unjustly sprung that epithet now extensively applied to low grog-shops, sluttish taverns, &c. In this situation, however, notwithstanding these attempted disparagements of the envious, Mr. Peacock soon had thriven to such a degree as to be able to bid defiance to all the constables and sheriffs this side of London.—Indeed he now began to be reckoned a man of some pecuniary consequence. This was indeed a source of much pride and gratification to Mrs. Peacock, who began, both by precept and example, to enlighten her ignorant neighbors in matters of London gentility; but was it sufficient to satisfy the mind of one of Mr. Peacock's endowments—of one whose honored name and avocation was once coupled with the Majesty of England? By no means!—He wished only a competence; and this attained, his ambition began to soar to higher honors than the mere possession of sordid lucre, in this land of republican simplicity, will bestow. But how to gain these honors and arrive at his former dignity of station was a subject that often sadly puzzled his mind. The people of his adopted country entertained such singular notions respecting the qualifications they required of those who should ask promotion at their hands, that he soon perceived that any attempt to gain their civil distinctions would be fruitless, and he turned his attention to a different object. He had heard much, both in this and his own country, of the sublime order of Freemasonry—of its titles, its grades, its honors, its talismanic powers in ensuring escapes from pursuing enemies, its advantages in putting its possessors directly into the highway of office and power, and, above all, its wonderful secret, which the brotherhood had so often defied the whole world to discover. "Ah! this must be something," said he, as he pondered on the subject, "this is something that these leveling Yankees have not yet laid their hands on.—This looks indeed a little like old England." In short his curiosity became awakened, his ambition fired to possess the key to this labyrinth of mystery, this great secret treasury of honors and advantages, and he firmly resolved to become a member of this wonderful fraternity. With this determination he applied for admission into a lodge in a neighboring village, it being the only one then in the vicinity. But here alas! his commendable ambition was doomed to suffer defeat and disappointment.—When the important day arrived on which he expected to be initiated, great indeed was his mortification and surprize to be informed that he could not be admitted, as "all was not clear." "It is all very clear to me," replied Mr. Peacock, after the first shock of his surprize was a little over, "it is all very clear to me; but you are all most wilfully out of your wits I can tell ye. I have led as honest a life, both in this country and England, as the fattest of ye, and as to knuckling to a pack of scurvy dimecrats, I'll let ye know I sha'nt;—so, good bye, and be d—d to ye!" After giving these aproned heralds of his defeat this spirited reply, he went home to sleep off his indignation. Sleep however could do but little towards assuaging so bitter a disappointment; and the next day he set off to visit a neighboring farmer, with whom he was intimate, for the purpose of unburdening his troubled feelings. This person, who was called Bill Botherem, on account of his propensity for hoaxing, (his real name being William Botherworth) had been a sailor till about the age of twenty, when, after having seen considerable of the world, and made something handsome in several lucky ventures at sea, he relinquished that kind of life, and purchasing a farm in the vicinity of Mugwump, settled down, and now led a jolly life, keeping bachelor's hall to board himself and his workmen. Mr. Peacock, who had contracted a sort of confidential intimacy with Bill, because he could talk about London, or because he had been a liberal customer, or both, having heard from his own lips that he had been a Mason, though afterwards expelled for some trick or other played off on a brother Mason—Mr. Peacock, I say, considered that he would be the most suitable person to whom he could communicate his difficulties, and at the same time the most capable adviser in putting him in a way of overcoming them, and accomplishing his still ardent desire of becoming a Mason. With this purpose in view, he called on his merry friend, and, withdrawing him a little from his workmen, he candidly related the whole story of his troubles and wishes. Botherem listened to the tale of Mr. Peacock's wrongs with deep attention—sympathized with him in his disappointment, and bestowed many hearty curses on the stupidity of those who could reject a man who would have been such an honor to their society. And, after musing awhile, he told Mr. Peacock that he should advise him not to go near the fellows any more, or make application to any other lodge, but if he wished to become a Mason he had better be initiated privately by some friendly Mason. "Privately!" said Peacock, "I did not know it could be managed in that way." "O, nothing easier," rejoined Botherem, (his eyes beginning to dance in anticipation of the sport of such a process) "nothing easier, Mr. Peacock—you may as well be taken in privately as publicly; and when you have once received the secret by a private initiation, I will venture to say you will be as wise as the best of them." Mr. Peacock, overjoyed at this information, sprang up and exclaimed, "Then, Bill, you shall be the man what shall do it, by the Lord Harry!" Botherem, with some hesitation, consented to the proposition; and it was soon arranged that the ceremony should be performed that very evening at Botherem's house, where no women or other evesdroppers or cowans would be about to pry into their proceedings. Botherem was to send off his workmen and call in such masonic friends as he might wish to assist him in the performance; and the candidate was to come alone about dark, when every thing should be in readiness for the ceremony. All things being thus settled, Mr. Peacock departed, exulting in the thought that the wish nearest his heart was now so near its accomplishment. When Botherem was left alone, he began to be somewhat startled at his own project, lest it be productive of serious consequences to himself should he really initiate the man into the secrets of Masonry; for he well understood the fiery vengeance of the fraternity in case of detection. But his desire to see so fine a piece of sport, as he conceived this would be, at length prevailed over his scruples, and he determined to proceed; varying, however, by way of caution, the usual ceremonies of a regular initiation so far, that while he gave the candidate the full spirit of Freemasonry, he would keep from him so much of the letter as would exonerate him from the charge of divulging the true secrets, which he believed to consist of grips, pass-words, &c. By pursuing this course, he supposed he should be doing ample justice to the candidate, while he could himself escape with impunity, should the transaction ever reach the ears of the fraternity,—a supposition, alas! in which the sequel well shows how fatally he was mistaken.
After having digested his plan of operations, Botherem called his men together, (having no notion of calling in other aid) and swearing them to secrecy, revealed to them his whole scheme. Entering with great spirit into the project of their leader, they went to work with all their might to finish their tasks in time to make the necessary preparations for the interesting occasion. As the nature of these preparations will best be learned in a description of the ceremonies, it will be needless here to detail them.
At the appointed hour, Mr. Peacock, with a heart beating high with expectation, and fluttering at the thought of the lofty honors about to be conferred upon him, made his appearance at the house where the ceremonies were to be performed. A man, with a white birch bark mask on his face, and an old dried sheep-skin apron tied round his waist, and holding in his hands a pole into one end of which was fastened part of an old scythe-blade, stood at the door officiating as Tyler; and, hailing the approaching candidate, bade him wait at a distance till all was ready for his reception. At length a loud voice within the house was heard exclaiming— "Give a word and a blow, that the workmen may know, There's one asks to be made a Freemason!" A heavy blow from an axe or falling block, and a sharp report of a pistol instantly followed, and a man, masked, and otherwise strangely accoutred, soon issued from the door midst the smoke of gunpowder, and, approaching the wondering candidate, took him by the hand and led him into a dark room to prepare him for initiation. Here Botherem, as Most Worshipful Master of the ceremonies, was immediately in attendance.—"Deacon Dunderhead," said he, "place the candidate so that his nose shall point due east, while I propound the usual questions."—
"Do you sincerely desire to become a Mason?"
`To be sure—why, that is just what I come for, you know, Bill.'
"Call me Worshipful!" thundered the Master.
`Worshipful, then,' muttered the abashed candidate.
"Will you conform to all our ancient usages?" continued the master: "Will you cheerfully submit yourself to our established and dignified custom of blindfolding the candidate and stripping him even to the nether garment?"
`Why, I should not much mind about your stopping my blinkers awhile,' replied the candidate; `but as to being put under bare poles, that's too bad, by a d—d sight, Mr. Worshipful!'
"Silence!" exclaimed the Master; "for as the sun riseth in the east, and as a man sticketh an axe in a tree, so do I forbid all profane language on this solemn occasion: will you conform to this our indispensable regulation also?"
`Unless it comes too hot, Mr. Worshipful,' said the rebuked candidate, `that and all the rest on't.'
"Deacon," said the Master, "prepare the candidate for the sublime mysteries of Masonry, and let him take heed to curb his unruly member, for if he swears during the ceremonies, it will be necessary to stop and go over with every thing again." So saying, he left the room.
The candidate was now stripped to his shirt, blindfolded, and, to guard against any rising of a refractory spirit, his hands strongly tied behind him. Thus prepared, he was led to the door of the initiating room, when, after the customary raps within and without, he was admitted, and stationed on one side of the door. There the Master and his men, all masked and duly aproned, stood arranged round the room in a circle, some holding old tin pails, some brass kettles, some loaded pistols, and one an old drum.
The Master now stepped forward and said, "Brother, you are now in the sanctorum totororum of Solomon's temple, but you are not yet invested with the secrets of Masonry, nor do I know whether you ever will be, till I know how you withstand the amazing trials and dangers that await you—trials, the like of which, none but our Grand Master, Hiram Abiff, ever experienced." Saying this, he turned to the man stationed as Warden at the south gate, and exclaimed,
"Now Jubelo! now Jubelo! Be ready with your first dread wo, Which those who'd win must never shun,— So now for Number One!"
These words were no sooner uttered than whang! went an old horse-pistol, followed by such a tremendous din from the rattling of old tin pails, brass kettles, and drum, as made the house ring again, and the poor candidate shook in every joint like a man in an ague fit. All was soon still, however; and an open pan filled with hot embers, with a grid-iron over it, was now placed on the floor; when four of the acting brethren, taking the candidate by the arms and legs, held him over the pan, and gradually lowered him down till his seat touched the grid-iron, which in the mean while had become somewhat too warm for parts of so sensitive a nature; for they no sooner came in contact with the iron than the candidate floundered and leaped from the arms of the brethren, exclaiming, "Zounds and fury! do ye want to scorch a fellow's t'other end off? I will wait till h-ll is burnt down before I'll be a Mason, if this is the way!" "The spell is broken," cried the Master, "the candidate has uttered unseemly and profane language; and the ceremony must be repeated.—It is necessary he should feel the torture before he can be permitted to behold the glorious light of Masonry." They then took the struggling candidate in hand again, and by dint of coaxing, induced him to submit himself once more to the fiery ordeal of masonic purification. But, alas! this attempt was attended with no happier results than the other; for, on touching the grid-iron, his old habit (I regret to say it) again beset him, and bounding like a parched pea, he once more broke out into the most unmasonic expressions. The ceremony of course had to be yet again repeated; and it was not till the fourth trial that he was brought to the use of such exclamations as were adjudged not inconsistent with the rule adopted on the occasion. This part of the ceremony being concluded, the candidate was put in motion on his journey round the lodge-room; and when, as they approached the Warden at the west gate, the Worshipful Master stepped forth and exclaimed,
"O Jubela! O Jubela! The man you wanted here survey— Approaching for the second wo! So now for Number Two!"
In an instant two pistols were let off in rapid succession, and the mingled din of pails, kettles, drum, and the shouts of the brethren were still louder than before on the stunned ears of the affrighted candidate, who at the same time received the usual blow from the acting Jubela of the performance; nor was this all or the worst part of Number Two, which he was doomed to encounter: For after the noise had ceased, he was again taken in hand.—His last remaining garment was now stripped off, and he was placed on his hands and knees on the floor, with his rearwards pointed due west, to symbolize the winds, doubtless, that after the deluge, wafted the glorious art westward, till it at length reached our own favored hemisphere. As soon as the candidate's position was duly adjusted in this manner, the Deacon, stationed and prepared for the purpose, dashed a full pail of cold water directly on the premises that had just suffered so cruelly from an opposite element, (these being the parts for which Masonry is supposed to entertain a particular predilection.) Starting from the shock, the poor candidate leaped, howling like a shot mastiff, to the wall, and gave vent to his feelings in some of those unmasonic exclamations which had already cost him so much to subdue. This, according to the rigid rules of the Worshipful Master, led to a repetition of the watery wo, till the hapless victim of this mystic deluge, sighing and gasping for breath like a drowning puppy, became so subdued by the water-cooling process, that he most piteously begged for mercy;—when the rule, though violated to the last drenching, was graciously dispensed with. The candidate was then rubbed down with a cloth, and dressed in all his clothes—still, however, remaining blindfolded. He was then led up to the old drum, placed in the middle of the floor to serve for an altar, when, being made to kneel beside it, an old copy of Gulliver's Travels was duly placed under his hands and properly adjusted on the drum-head: After which, he was made to repeat, while the Worshipful Master administered, the following obligation:
"You solemnly swear, that you will never divulge the mighty secret which has been, and is about to be revealed to you. You swear without equivocation, hesitation, mental reservation, or explanation, that you will never tell, spell, sell, hint, print or squint it, nor the same ever write, indict, or recite, whatever your plight, whether placed under locks, put in the stocks, or reduced to starvation. In short, you swear never to reveal these, the great mysteries of Masonry, which are equalled only in truth and wisdom by the wonderful Book on which you swear to preserve them. You sacredly and solemnly swear it—you swear it singly, you swear it doubly and trebly—you swear it up hill and down hill, forward and backward, slanting and perpendicular, side-ways, end-ways, and all ways—you swear it by your eyes, nose, mouth, ears, tongue, gizzard and grunnet,— yea, by every part, piece, portion and parcel of your body, singed or unsinged, washed or unwashed—you swear it by the sun, moon, stars, earth, fire, water, snow, rain, hail, wind, storm, lightning and thunder.—All this, by all these, you swear, under no less penalty than to be drawn, naked and tail foremost, forty-nine times through dry crabtree fences—be shut up a month in a den of skunks, hedgehogs and rattlesnakes, with clam-shells and vinegar for your only food and drink—run fourteen miles barefoot in January, and be tarred and feathered and kicked and cowskinned from Mugwump to Passamaquoddy and back again. So help you Nebuchadnezzar and St. Nicholas, and keep you steadfast in the same. So mote it be—so mote it be. Amen."
After this oath was administered, the candidate was ordered to rise, and proceed to the east gate of the temple, when the Master once more proclaimed—
"O Jubelum! O Jubelum! The third and last wo now must come, Before the light reveal'd can be! So now for Number Three!"
On which Jubelum, or the Warden of this station, who stood prepared for the emergency, with an old saddle-pad in his uplifted hand, gave the candidate such a blow on the side of the head, as sent him reeling across the room; while at the same instant, whang! whang! bang! went three pistols, with the old accompaniment of jangling instruments, now tasked to their utmost for noise and racket, together with the falling of blocks, kicking over of chairs, and the deafening cheers of the company. The bandage had been snatched from the eyes of the candidate in the confusion, and he now stood bewildered, stunned and aghast amidst the tumult, staring wildly on the strange, masked figures around him, scarcely knowing where he was, or which end he stood on. But being of that happy temperament on which nothing less than dry knocks and actual applications of fire and water make any very alarming impressions, all of which being now over, he soon recovered in a good degree his self-possession. The Master then proceeded to instruct and lecture him as follows:
"Brother, I greet you: You are now a free and acceped Mason. You have now received the principal mysteries of the first degrees of Masonry. In your trials by fire and water, you represented in the one case, Grand Master Lot, and in the other Grand Master Noah, who both outlived the two devouring elements that respectively threatened them, and were more honored than all the multitudes that perished by the fire and the flood. And in the third wo you represented Old Adam, who, as traditions known only to the craft inform us, was at first only a shapeless mass of clay, which, becoming accidentally disengaged from the top of a high hill, rolled down, and was thus reduced to something like human shape, but was still senseless and dark, till, like yourself in the last trial, it was knocked into the light of existence by a blow from some unseen hand. But let me now instruct you in some of the arts of our illustrious order. There are the square and compass," he continued, producing a common iron square and compass. "By the square you must square your actions towards your masonic brethren—though as to all others, the d—l take the hindmost. By this also you are taught to move squarely, or in right lines and directly in all your comings and goings, except in going from a lodge meeting, when the rule does not always apply. And here is the compass: By this you are taught to divide out your favors to your brethren, and draw such circles as shall endow them and them only for your charities. By this also you are taught the art of making a new centre with one foot of the compass, und thus drawing a new circle when the old one fails to enclose the right number of friends, or otherwise does not answer your purpose: This is called pricking anew. These are the great emblems of Masonry, and they are full of wisdom and profit, brother; for there is scarce an act which a Mason may perform that cannot be satisfactorily measured and squared by them, which could never be done perhaps by the rules of the vulgar.
"Now for the signs and tokens.—If you would wish to discover whether any one is a Mason for the purpose of requiring his assistance, you must bring your right hand to the rear, where you have just received the mark of Masonry; and at the same time put the little finger of your left hand in your mouth, and vice versa. This is the sign by which one Mason may know another: Make this, and a brother seeing it, is bound to help you, vote for you, and do what you require. Thus you see, brother, the value and advantage of our glorious art. And now, having finished my instructions, I pronounce you a good, well-made, and worthy Mason."
The lectures being now finished, the lodge was closed, and spirits and other refreshments brought in, when all hands, after saluting brother Peacock with the most flattering greetings, sat down to the cheer; and long and merrily did the joke and bottle pass in honor of that memorable evening.
Not a little elated were the feelings of Mr. Peacock, when he awoke the next morning, by the proud consciousness of his newly acquired dignity. Though it must be confessed that these feelings were subjected to no small draw-back, in consequence of a certain soreness experienced about those parts which had been more immediately exposed to the visitation of Masonic honors. But the skillful applications of his loving partner soon relieved him of troubles of this kind, except scars which remained as lasting mementoes of his honorable service. He often spoke in praise of Masonry, and enlarged in admiration on its mysterious sublimities, which he likened to the terrors of a thunder storm, in which fire, water and thunder came mingling together in awful grandeur. Nor was he less impressed with the opinion of the advantages of the art. He was heard to say, that he would not take his best horse for the secret. So highly indeed did he estimate the value of this exalted mystery, that he firmly resolved that his expected son should one day become a Mason.—His expected son! But that important subject demands a new chapter.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014