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The Adventures of Timothy Peacock, Esquire; or, Freemasonry Practically Illustrated
Daniel P. Thompson
"There is no doubt but Morgan richly deserved his fate."
Many were the strange faces—strange to the citizens generally, though not to the brotherhood—which were seen in the different parts of the town on the day following the conclave described in the preceding chapter: For many distinguished for the eminence they had attained on the mystic ladder, coming on various pretences from the neighboring towns and cities, had here now assembled to assist their brethren in their deliberations, and in concerting and carrying into effect all those provisional measures for secrecy and safety which might be required for ensuring the present and ultimate success of their fearful undertaking.
It was nearly sunset when Botherworth arrived in the place. After putting up, and taking some refreshment, at a public house, he immediately repaired to the quarters of Rodgers, the commercial correspondent of whom we have already made mention. That gentleman, however, though apprised of Botherworth's arrival within a few moments from the time it happened, as were most of the combination of which the former, as the reader may have already suspected, was an active member, not wishing to meet the latter till about dark, both because it would not comport with that part of the plan of operations which had been assigned to his management, and because he was unwilling to risk his countenance with so much concealed beneath it, in a confronted meeting by full day light, had now just stepped out, having left word that he should return in a short time to attend upon such as might call in his absence, or wait on them at their lodgings. On learning this from the person in attendance, Botherworth slowly sauntered back to his hotel, and amused himself with a newspaper till it became too dark to allow of his reading any longer by day-light. He then arose and left the house with the view of going a second time in search of Rodgers. He had proceeded but a few rods, however, when he was met by the person in question. At the first sight of this man, Botherworth made, he knew not why, an involuntary start, recoiling from his approaching person as from the contact of a viper, and felt for the instant all those dark and fearful sensations of vague apprehension, which the last evening at home he had so unaccountably experienced, again rushing over him; but making a strong effort to repel these unwelcome intruders, he soon succeeded in so far mastering these feelings, as to salute Rodgers with considerable show of cordiality. His greeting was returned by the other with equal attempts at cordiality, but with an air and manner no less embarrassed and hesitating, though arising from causes far different, as the conscience of the latter but too plainly informed him.
The mutual civilities and common-place questions usual on such occasions being over, Rodgers carelessly observed that his partner had just returned, as he had learned a few minutes before, from an excursion to the neighboring port, and had probably brought news with him which would be interesting to them both, and perhaps necessary to know before coming to any determination on the business which had caused their present meeting: he would therefore propose a walk, if agreeable, to his partner's residence, which was situated, he said, in an opposite part of the town. Botherworth, readily assenting to this plausible proposal, and not being acquainted with the situation of the house in question, immediately gave himself up to the guidance of the other, and they proceeded leisurely along, frequently pausing, at the suggestion of Rodgers, to inspect the new buildings which they passed in their route, late improvements in the streets, and such other objects as the latter could find for enlisting the attention of his companion, and consequently for delaying their progress. Upon all these Rodgers now seemed uncommonly communicative, and, as Botherworth thought, strangely disposed to linger. In this dilatory manner they proceeded on, the latter expecting every moment when they should arrive at the place of destination, till they had reached the very outskirts of the town, and it had become quite too dark for further observation on the objects around them. Botherworth mentioning both of these circumstances to his companion, asked him if they had passed the residence of his partner. On which Rodgers replied that the evening was so pleasant that he had gone somewhat out of their direct route for the purpose of observing and pointing out the novelties which were always springing up in a town of that size, and they had now got considerably beyond the place; but they would immediately return by the shortest course. So saying, and taking the arm of his still unsuspecting companion, Rodgers turned about, and, with a quickened pace, struck into another street leading back into the most populous part of the town. In this way they passed rapidly on, frequently making short turns, and crossing into other streets, till Botherworth (it now having become very dark, and he not being familiarly acquainted with this part of the town) became wholly at a loss as to the street they were traversing: when all at once, Rodgers, who had all along been extremely sociable, and was now in the midst of a ludicrous story, suddenly turned into the yard of a tall building, and, with a sort of hurried motion, pulling the other along with him, and interrupting himself only to say, in a quick, parenthelical tone, "Here-here—this is the place," made directly up to the open door, and unceremoniously entered.
Here finding themselves in what appeared to be a broad space-way, or passage leading to other parts of the building, they continued to advance forward, groping their way through the almost utter darkness before them, till they had proceeded some fifteen or twenty feet from the entrance, when Botherworth, wondering that no light was to be seen in any direction, and thinking that things wore a rather strange appearance for a private dwelling, began to pause and hesitate about proceeding any farther. Just at this moment a slight bustle from behind attracted his attention, and partly turning his head he distinctly heard the sound of slowly turning hinges: and whirling suddenly round, he imperfectly distinguished some persons cautiously pushing to, and closing the door, behind which, in a dark corner of the space, they appeared to have been standing in concealment. Scarcely had he time to rally his thoughts, before Rodgers, now relinquishing his arm and stepping out of his reach, gave a sharp rap on the wall with his cane. Botherworth's suspicions being now thoroughly aroused, he sternly demanded of Rodgers what building this was, and what was the meaning of all these singular movements. But before he received any reply, and while repeating the question in a louder and more startled tone of voice, a man suddenly appeared with a light at the head of a broad flight of stairs leading up from the space-way to a large hall on the second floor, and began to descend, holding the lamp in one hand and a glittering poniard in the other, while his person was invested with all the showy insignia of one of the higher orders of masonry. Botherworth gazed on the scene now unfolded to his eyes, in mute amazement. At the entrance through which he had passed into the building, stood two men, one just in the act of withdrawing the key from the door which he had locked on the inside, and both armed with the same weapons and clothed with the same badges as worn by the brother who appeared in the opposite direction. Rodgers was standing at the further end of the space-way, pretending to be looking for some door or place for escape, and affecting great flurry and surprise, as if they had got into a wrong building by mistake: while the man coming down stairs, having paused about midway, now stood fumbling and trying to unfold a paper which he held in his hands. A moment of profound silence ensued, in which all parties stood gazing at each other in deep surprise or awkward embarrassment. Botherworth, however, who now saw the whole truth at a glance, was not long in giving utterance to the rising tempest of his emotions. "Treacherous wretch!" he exclaimed, with bitter energy, turning his eyes, fiercely sparkling with indignation, and throwing out his clenched fist towards the mute and shrinking form of Rodgers, "treacherous wretch! is this the game you have been playing all the while to decoy me into this pit-fall! Speak, villain!" he continued, uplifting his arm and advancing toward the dumb-founded and trembling betrayer, "speak, perfidious, doubly damned villian, or I will"—
`Stop, stop, sir,' cried one of the men at the door, rushing quickly between them, `this course will not avail you here.'
"Here!—where?" exclaimed Botherworth, turning roughly on the intruder, "and who are you, to assume the right of interfering in our private quarrels?"
`Where you are, and who we are, these badges will well inform you,' retorted the other, pointing to their aprons, `and as for this man, whom you are so harshly assailing, he has done but his duty, as the business we have with you, sir, will shortly show you. Brother,' he continued, motioning to the man on the stairs, `why delay to execute your mission?'
"Is your name William Botherworth?" now asked the latter, in some trepidation, descending the remaining steps, yet keeping at a respectful distance from the person addressed.
`And supposing it is, what then, sir?' said Botherworth scornfully, in reply.
"Then, in that case, and you seem to admit the fact," replied this doughty minister of the mystic mission, holding out the paper which quivered in his hand like the leaf of an aspen, "then, sir, I have here a summons for you, in behalf of our Venerable Council, above assembled, and by order of our Most Potent Grand Master, to appear before them, and answer unto certain matters and charges then and there to be preferred against you, of which you may not fail to comply."
Botherworth, after sending an anxious glance round the apartment and scrutinizing anew the looks and persons of those around him, as if searching for some avenue of escape, or weighing the chances of overpowering his captors in a sudden onset, and seemingly rejecting such expedients as hopeless, at length, in a tone of mingled submission and defiance, observed, `Well, be it so—I see I am ensnared, and in your power, and what I am compelled to do, I may as well do unconstrained—I will go in, but if the liberty of speech is not also denied me, they shall hear some truths, though all the mock King Solomons in the country should be present.'
So saying, he motioned to his keepers his readiness to attend them to the hall; when two of them immediately closed in on each side of him, after the manner of the guards of a prisoner, and, while the less stout-hearted brother, who had acted as grand summonser on the occasion, nimbly mounted before them to herald their coming to the council, they all ascended the stairs, leaving Rodgers (who was, it seemed to be understood, having now fulfilled his part in the drama, to be excused from any farther attendance) alone to his own enviable reflections on the noble and generous part he had acted towards his confiding acquaintance. On reaching the hall door, one of the brothers gave the appropriate rap, which was immediately answered by another within, when, after waiting a few moments, the door opened, and they were ushered into the same spacious lodge-room mentioned in the foregoing chapter.
Here a scene, in which the splendid, the grotesque and the terrible, were strangely blended, now burst with over-powering brightness on the dazzled and unexpecting senses of Botherworth. The lodge had been opened with the imposing and fearful degree of Elected Knights of Nine, as being, in the opinion of the brotherhood, more appropriate than any other to the important occasion which had called them together. The hall, intended to represent the audience chamber of King Solomon, who is said, by the standard historians of the craft, to have instituted, in his wisdom and mercy, this tragical order of knighthood, was decorated with hangings of white and scarlet, pictured in flames, as typical, probably, of the leading characteristics of the degree, like the fiery and torture-painted robes worn by the victims of the Inquisition on their way to the stake. Nine bright lights in the east and eight in the west sent forth their steady streams of reflecting light, and filled the room with the most dazzling effulgence. The Most Potent Grand Master, personating Solomon, was seated in the east under a purple canopy, embroidered with skeletons, death's heads and cross-bones, with a table before him covered with black, dressed out in all his royal robes, with a crown on his head and a glittering sceptre in his hand. While the brethren, arranged in formidable array on either side of the throne, and clad in the deepest black with broad ribbons of the same color pending from their shoulders, and terminating in tasselled dagger sheaths, with aprons of white, but sprinkled with blood and painted with the figures of bloody heads and arms, holding bloody daggers, and with broad brimmed hats on their heads, slouched over their eyes, now stood with drawn poniards in their uplifted hands, fiercely scowling at the new comer at the door, and looking like a gang of bandits just interrupted in some bloody achievement with the gory evidences of their unholy deeds freshly reeking upon them. The whole presenting a scene to the unapprised spectator, as wild and incongruous, as it was terrific and revolting. A spectacle more calculated perhaps to inspire awe, to dazzle and appal, than any one to be met with, in the whole round of masonic machinery, and a spectacle indeed, before which even the naturally fearless Botherworth could not keep his stout heart from quailing.
After a few moments of profound silence, maintained apparently in order that the imposing scene before him might have its full effect on the mind of the prisoner, the brethren, at some slight signal from the throne, all sunk back into their seats, crossing their legs at the knee and resting their heads on their right hands;—when the Master knocked eight and one with the handle of his poniard which was instantly repeated by the Grand Warden in the west, and then by all the brethren together. The noise of this instructive ceremony having died away, and all again become hushed in silence, the Grand Master, laying aside the poniard and elevating his sceptre, looked round the Council and said: "Elected Knights and Princes of Jerusalem present, let the accused now be presented before our tribunal of justice and mercy." The two brother Knights, who conducted Botherworth into the room, and who still retained their places at his side, now led the latter forward near the middle of the floor and directly in front of the throne; when the Most Potent, in the deep and passionless tones of a judge, addressed him as follows:
"William Botherworth—you stand charged of wantonly and wickedly violating the sacred obligations which you have voluntarily taken never to reveal, except to a brother, the secrets and mysteries of our divine institution, by communicating the same to one of the profane and uninitiated. You are also accused of having, in an early period in your life, set at nought the sacred injunctions of our institution by a pretended initiation of one seeking the true light, wherein our awful solemnities were impiously turned into ridicule and mockery, and our order greatly scandalized. To these dreadful allegations which have been fully substantiated to us and of which we have proofs at hand, what do you plead in defence, and what reasons offer, why the ancient usages of our honorable fraternity should not be conformed to, touching the punishment of so heinous and high-handed offences?"
With a slight quivering of the lip and tremulousness of the voice, but with a firm and undaunted countenance, Botherworth, looking slowly round on the portentous faces of the brotherhood, and settling his keen and indignant eye on the Master, replied:
`Most Worshipful Master, and you gentlemen, abettors, or Knights, or whatever title you, or either of you may please to assume, to sit in judgement upon me, addmitting all the facts set forth in your charges, the truth of which you assume to have been already established against me, though I have never been confronted with my accusers, or allowed even the shadow of hearing or trial—admitting I have confidentially communicated to an individual the secrets or ceremonies of an institution from which I have been long ago expelled—admitting all this, I hold myself justified and blameless in the act. I account myself absolved from the obligations which you say I have violated—obligations which I never voluntarily or understandingly took, but which were forced upon me, trembling under the often applied torture of sharp pointed instruments, and confused and bewildered by the new and startling objects around me—obligations which, even in any circumstances, those imposing them had no just right or authority to administer,— which in themselves, are immoral and illegal, enjoining as they do, in many parts of them, acts contrary to the laws of the land and prohibited by the precepts of revelation, and which, therefore ought not, and cannot be binding on the conscience or conduct of those who unfortunately become subjected to their unjust and soul-damning enthralment. And having violated no law of my country— contravened no rule of morality or any way infringed upon the rights of individuals, I deny, fearlessly deny, the right of your institution, to which I owe no allegiance, to arraign, and bring me to judgement, and I will hold myself amenable to none of your tribunals.'
"Perjured wretch!" exclaimed the Master, kindling in resentment for the insulted dignity of his sacred office, and shocked at the audacious heresies of the accused,— "perjured wretch! dare you in the same breath confess your sacred oaths violated, and exult in your unatoned guilt? We are not wanting in authority to judge, or power to execute. Tamper not with the sword of justice, for it is not slow in vengeance. Villain! fear and tremble!"
`I fear you not,' resumed Botherworth, in the same undismayed and reckless tone, `I neither fear your authority, or tremble at your threatenings. I will say nothing of the singular and volume-speaking fact that I now stand a guarded prisoner before you, in a free country, and in the heart of a christianized and intelligent community, arrested by no legal authority, and retained in duress by those who have no right to control my actions. I will say nothing of the base and detestable plan of deceit and treachery, by which I was entrapped and brought into this place by one of your number, acting doubtless under commission from this illustrious Council. I will say nothing of these, for they flow directly from that system of darkness and iniquity which are the Jachin and Boaz, the very pillars and keystone of your boasted institution—they are but the legitimate fruits of those fearful oaths which require of the poor blinded and haltered candidate, at the very threshold of your pagan temple, to give his sanction to murder and suicide; and which go on enjoining, as he advances step by step along its bewildering labyrinths of moral pollution, the same connivance or commission of acts of a deeper and deeper turpitude, till at length he finds himself, as the occasions arise, doubly, trebly, and irretrievably sworn to the participation or execution of half the foul deeds to be found in the whole dark catalogue of crime! I will not trouble you with a further recital of my private opinions of the character of your institution, nor of those settled and honest convictions which long ago forced me to the choice of burning my Bible and rejecting its law of universal love, charity and forgiveness, or of discarding forever my masonry with its whole system of selfish favoritism, iniquity and vengeance,—and which, I need not tell you, resulted in the determination to retain the former and renounce the latter. I will not detain you, as well I might, with arguments and allegations like these. But, in answer to your question when you ask what reasons I have to offer why the ancient usages of your order should not be conformed to respecting my punishment, I again repeat, that no law either human or divine has given you jurisdiction over me. I again boldly deny your right to judge or control me. I fearlessly impeach your pretended authority, and, aware as I am of the fearful doom which a conformity to those usages would involve—of the dark and murderous designs which your menaces imply, I bid you beware how you attempt to execute your hellish purposes. I bid you beware how you lay a finger upon me for evil. The loud cry of murder will reach beyond the walls of your infernal conclave, and summon up a host to my aid. But should you succeed in the foul designs which you are plotting against me, I bid you remember the prophetic warning which I now give you—my blood will not long be unavenged; but crying up from the ground, will be answered in the judgement of heaven, which will soon smite your proud fabric to the dust, and lay open to a hooting and exasperated world your ridiculous mummeries, your unhallowed and impious mysteries, and your bloody register of crimes!'
As Botherworth closed this audacious speech, arraigning with such daring mockery the exalted purity and justice of the divine institution of masonry, and bidding defiance to its heaven-delegated authority with such high-handed insults, there was a deep and general commotion in the Council. Dark and sullen looks of hatred and detestation, and quick and fiery glances of indignation were every where bent on the blaspheming speaker, and, accompanied by the heaving breast, the short, suppressed breathings, and the low, broken mutterings of out-breaking wrath, now but too plainly indicated the determined and unanimous purposes of the outraged and agitated brotherhood.
The Most Potent now hastily rising from his seat, with every muscle quivering with rage, and with a voice half choked with emotion, rapped furiously on the table, exclaiming, "Anathema maranatha! Anathema maranatha!"
Swift as echo came the startling raps of the brotherhood in response.
"Nekum!" cried the Master.
"Vengeance!" responded the Council.
"So mote it be!" said the Master.
"Amen, amen, amen, amen!" exclaimed the brotherhood in eager reply.
The formalities of order were now no longer attempted to be maintained in the Council; and the members, hastily leaving their places, began to scatter promiscuously over the floor of the lodge-room—some gliding stealthily out of the door, some gathering into small groups about the room and whispering together with quick and earnest, but restrained gestures—some passing in and out the preparation-room and disrobing themselves of their masonic habiliments or badges, and others with hurried, nervous steps, and excited countenances, moving to and fro in seeming preparation for some approaching event; while the low, half suppressed murmur of eager voices which ran through the hall, and the expectant looks and attitudes every where visible, seemed to indicate that the crisis was now at hand.
Botherworth was by no means unmindful of these ominous appearances; and, not being very strictly guarded at this moment, he began to edge along by degrees towards the door, which, though still effectually tyled, afforded nevertheless the only avenue for his escape from the hall. His progress, however, was quickly arrested by the watchful brotherhood, who no sooner observed the movement than they immediately gathered round the spot where he stood, some falling in between him and the door to obstruct his way, and others, with affected indifference and carelessness, jostling about his person. But Botherworth, not relishing such familiar proximity just at this time, sternly bade them stand off at their peril. This repulse had a momentary effect in making them give way; yet they soon again closed up around him, and, though awkwardly mute, still continued the same manoeuvres of frequently changing places, turning round and rubbing against his body. Becoming more and more suspicious of this singular conduct, he again attempted to disengage himself and make his way out of the crowd, when all at once one of the brethren, who, like the tiger, had been watching for a favorable opportunity to seize his prey, suddenly sprang upon him from behind, and grasped him with both arms fast round the middle. A brief but desperate struggle now ensued. With a prodigious effort, Botherworth wrenched himself from the grasp of his antagonist, and hurled him headlong to the floor: But before he could avail himself of his advantage, both of his own legs were grappled by another of his foes, and he himself was prostrated in turn. A dozen now sprang upon his body at once, and with maniac grasp confined him to the floor, while one darting to his head, passed a large pocket-handkerchief over his face, and, holding both ends, drew it forcibly through his mouth just as the stifled cry of murder was escaping his lips. Holding him in this situation till he had nearly exhausted his strength in his ineffectual struggles to get free, his victors then proceeded to disable him from making uny farther resistance. They first firmly tied his wrists together behind him—next closely pinioned his arms with a rope, one end of which was left dangling in his rear for future purposes; and lastly, so effectually gagged him as to prevent the possibility of his raising an alarm by any articulate cries for assistance. He was now helped on to his feet, and, after being threatened with instant death if he attempted to groan or make any noise, led down stairs by two of the brethren walking each side and holding their poniards to his breast, while a third holding on to the end of the rope, and armed with the same weapon to prick him if he faultered, followed behind. At the door stood a close carriage drawn up in readiness to receive the prisoner, and two of the three brothers who had been allotted the preceding evening to the last important duty, and who had now left the lodge-room for the purpose on the breaking up of the Council, were in attendance, anxiously awaiting his appearance from the hall—one of whom, having mounted the driver's seat, was now holding the reins, while the other, who was no other than our hero, was seated within to take charge of the unfortunate man on the way to the place which had been appointed by the three for the final catastrophe, and whither the third one of their number had already proceeded alone to see that all things were duly prepared, and to await the arrival of his companions.
When the keepers of Botherworth had got him to the door, they made a brief pause, and, in a quick, under-tone of voice, exchanged the pass-word with their companions in waiting. They then, after peering about a moment in the darkness to discover if any one was approaching, hastily urged him forward, forced him into the carriage, and, in willing ignorance of the identity of the brothers to whom they had delivered their charge, instantly retreated back to the recesses of their sanctum sanctorum to join their brethren in resuming the deliberations of the conclave. But having no occasion to witness the further proceedings of the rest of this illustrious assemblage, let us bid them a final adieu, and follow the fortunes of our hero, who was now about to fill the measure of his masonic glory in the closing scene of our changeful and sad-ending story.
As soon as Timothy had seated the prisoner by his side in the carriage, securely possessed himself of the end of the rope by which he was pinioned, and sternly enjoined the strictest silence at the point of his poniard, he made a signal to his companion, and immediately they were in motion on their way out of town.
Trembling with the most painful solicitude and fearful apprehension lest something should occur to excite suspicion, or frustrate their purposes, did our hero and his trusty companion pass slowly and cautiously along the different parts of the town, and though the streets were now dark and deserted, or illumined only by here and there a light dimly twinkling through the gloom, and silent as the city of the dead except occasionally perhaps the distant and dying sounds of the receding steps of some benighted debauchee stealthily pursuing his way homeward, yet they suffered not their vigilance to abate, nor would their feelings allow them to breathe freely, till they had passed the last straggling tenement of the suburbs,—when feeling comparatively relieved from this agitating sense of insecurity and fear, they struck off into an uninhabited road, and proceeded rapidly onward to the place of destination. After a drive of about half an hour, during which the gloomy silence of the way was only broken by the deep sighs and stifled groans that sometimes involuntarily burst from the bosom of the agonized and wretched prisoner, or the rumbling of distant thunder now occasionally heard in the south, which seemed to send forth its low, deep utterance in mournful response to his sufferings, the carriage halted near an extensive sheet of water.
The brother who had acted as driver, having dismounted from his seat, and fastened his horses, now repaired to the carriage door and threw it open;—when he and our hero helped Botherworth out upon the ground, and after placing him between them, and cautiously securing their holds on his person, they turned into a narrow lane, and forced him along till they arrived at the water's edge.
Here lay a boat in which their pioneer brother was now standing, just handling the oars, and making ready to push off from the shore. The boat was a large skiff with three boards thrown across for seats, besides the low one near the stern for the oarsman, but with nothing else about it uncommon or suspicious except a fifty-six pound iron weight which lay in the bottom in the rear of the middle seat.
As soon as the brother in charge of the boat was recognized as such by his companions on shore through the official medium of the pass-word, the prisoner, after some ineffectual attempts at resistance, was dragged on board and placed on the centre cross board or high seat. Our hero took the seat in front, and his compani on the driver the one next behind the prisoner, while in rear of all, the third of the consecrated band, betook himself to the seat and office of oarsman. Thus arranged, they headed round, and immediately pushed out towards the middle of the wide expanse of sleeping waters that lay shrouded in darkness before them.
For some time they rowed on in silence, while the gloom seemed every moment growing more and more deep and impenetrable around them. When all at once a broad and lingering flash of lightning burst upon the waters in the brightness of noon-day, displaying a scene in the boat at which the brotherhood themselves startled. The oarsman with his lips in motion counting the stroaks of his oars, a calculation having been made of the number required to carry them far enough from the shore for their purpose, was now bending lustily to his work, while the large drops of persperation were falling fast from his anxious and troubled brow. The brother sitting immediately behind the prisoner, was egerly engaged in tying the end of the rope, by which the arms of the latter were confined, to the iron weight that lay between them in the bottom of the boat. While the victim himself, still unconcious of the fatal machinery preparing at his back, was glaring, with the attitudes of surprise and horror, upon the face of Timothy, whom he seemed now for the first time to have recognized as his old acquaintance; for the latter had not only kept his return a secret from all but the brotherhood, but, for reasons best known to himself, had carefully avoided confronting Botherworth in the late lodge meeting. And on thus unexpectedly discovering among his foes the person whom he had supposed some hundred miles distant—whom he had often obliged as a friend and neighbor, and to whom now, but for the connection in which he found him, he would have confidently appealed for aid in this emergency, the astonished and heart-struck man started from his seat, and gazing an instant on the rapt and lofty mien before him with a look which spake that to which the Ettu Brute of Caesar were meaningless, sunk dispairingly down with a groan of unutterable anguish as the last glimmerings of the wasting flash played faintly over the deeply depicted wo of his distorted features. A loud peal from the approaching thunder-cloud came booming over the broad face of the bay, and all again was hushed in silence and darkness.
Our hero's philosophy and sense of masonic justice as stern as was the one, and as exalted and deep-rooted as was the other, were, it must be confessed, a little shaken by this unexpected incident. The thought that he was about to lift his hand against one whom he had long familiarly known as a kind and agreeable neighbor produced indeed some unpleasant sensations, and made kim for the moment almost relent of his noble purposes. But other thoughts soon came and brought with them an antidote for this excusable frailty of feeling. He thought of his insulted father whose injuries had never been avenged. He thought of the just behests of that institution to which his heart was wedded—whose sacred principles he had irrevocably adopted as his only guide of action in life, and his pass-port to heaven in the hour of death, and whose violated laws now seemed to cry aloud for vengeance on the audacious wretch who had spurned and trampled them under foot with such impious defiance. And above all, he thought of his own solemn oaths in which he had unreservedly sworn on the holy bible, invoking the everlasting God to keep him steadfast. "To sacrifice the traitors of masonry." "To be ready to inflict the same penalty (that suffered by Akirop) on all those who disclose the secrets of their degrees," and "to take vengeance on the treason by the destruction of the traitor"—and were not these sacred obligations to be regarded? What were the ordinary injunctions of the civil laws of the country to these? What indeed had they to do with him in such a case? He was entirely aloof from their prohibitions, and above their control. He was the honored subject of another, and paramount government, and under its high sanction he was now acting. And as for incurring any moral guilt by the deed he was about to commit, that was inconsistent and impossible; for in one of those sublime and exalted degrees he had taken he had been "made holy," and consequently was now placed beyond the liability of sinning. He thought of all these, and as they passed through his mind, he wondered at his momentary weakness. His bosom again became steeled, and his arm nerved for the high and enviable duty before him, and he grew impatient for the moment of its execution to arrive.
Meanwhile the thick and blackening mass of cloud in the south was rapidly approaching. Nearer and nearer fell the thunder-claps, and more and more vividly played the lightnings around the wide-stretched and lofty van of the dark, moving column—now shooting fiercely and perpendicularly down from their vapory battlements above to the face of the startled deep beneath—and now, like the fiery serpents of the fabled Tartarus, crinkling and leaping from wave to wave along the wide arena of their terriffic gambols till the whole bay was kindled into light and seemingly converted into one vast Phlegethon of flames.
The prisoner at each returning flash, during the first part of this grand and fearful scene, was observed to send many a searching and wistful look around over the face of the vacant waters. And now, finding there was no foreign vessel in sight, or any other craft indeed, to which his keepers could be taking him, as he seemed to have imagined was, at the worst, their purpose, he began to grow every moment more alarmed and restive. A cold sweat stood on his face, and his features became more and more troubled, and his eyes more wildly despairing, till his whole frame seemed to writhe in agony under the workings of his dreadful apprehensions. And, though still painfully gagged, deep and heart-rending groans, now in the accents of wo and distress, and now in the tones of supplication to his keepers, or to heaven for mercy, were continually bursting in convulsive sobs from his anguished bosom.
For many minutes the boat still shot swiftly onward in its course, with no other indication that the fast nearing storm or the increasing restlessness of the prisoner were heeded by the brethren, except in the augmented velocity with which they forced their skiff through the surging waters. But soon, however, the strokes of the oarsman began visibly to relax, while the cautious changing of postures, the fixing of feet, and the long-drawn and tremulous respirations of the band, plainly told that the awful moment was approaching. At length, in a chosen interval of darkness, the now almost motionless oars were suddenly thrown aback, and the boat brought to a stand. For one moment there was a dead and fearful pause. Our hero and his companion by the prisoner awaited with trembling nerves and suspended breaths the fatal signal from the oarsman. At last it came—the same significant word of the lodge-room—"Nekum!" In an instant our hero was upon his feet—in another his poniard was buried to the hilt in the bosom of the prisoner;—while the other, fiercely grappling at the same time one end of the seat on which the unfortunate man was writhing, and the ponderous weight to which he was fastened, hurled both together into the water. With the splashing sound descended the lightning stream in quivering flames to the spot, revealing here the hero exultingly brandishing his reeking blade aloft, and exclaiming, " Vengeance is taken!"—and there the sinking man, with the crimson current spouting up through the discoloured wave that was flowing over his convulsed and death-set features. Darkness again succeeded. Once more rose a faint bubbling groan, and all was still. The boat wheeled swiftly round for the shore, and the loud crash of thunder that followed told the requium of the hapless Botherworth, the victim of masonic vengeance!
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Last modified: March 22, 2014