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The Adventures of Timothy Peacock, Esquire; or, Freemasonry Practically Illustrated

CHAPTER VI

Daniel P. Thompson


"Wunder-wurkeinge."

Old Masonic Manuscript.

The long wished day, which was to reveal to our hero those hidden wonders so impenetrably concealed from the profane and vulgar, at length arrived. With restless impatience and quivering anxiety did he wait the proper hour for his departure to meet his appointment at the place of his proposed initiation. And no sooner had it arrived than he mounted his nag, and, with his initiation fee snugly deposited in his pocket, rode off for the residence of Jenks, the friend, who, as before mentioned, had agreed to introduce him. The distance was about five miles; but his horse, although it was a murky evening in July, either through consciousness that he was bound on an errand of no ordinary import, or in consequence of those birchen incentives to speed that were freely administered at almost every step by his impetuous rider, flew over the rough road with the velocity of the wind, and in one half hour stood reeking in sweat at the place of his destination. Jenks, already in waiting at the door, received Timothy with all the kindness of anticipated brotherhood. As soon as the mutual greetings were over, the two immediately set out for the house where the lodge was to hold its meeting. This was a new two-story wooden building, into which the owner had lately moved. Although the house was only partially finished, yet a `rum pole,' as it is sometimes called, had been raised, and the building was already occupied as a tavern. The landlord, himself a Mason, had agreed to consecrate his hall to the use of his brethren, and the approaching meeting was the first opportunity they had found to dedicate it to its mystic purposes. The members of the lodge having mostly assembled when Timothy and Jenks arrived, the former was left alone in the bar-room, while the latter went into the hall, proposing to return for the candidate as soon as all was ready for his reception. This was a moment of the most thrilling and fearful suspense to our hero, tremblingly alive as he was to the overwhelming interests of the occasion. He tried to occupy his mind during the absence of his friend, which seemed an age, by now looking out of the window and watching the movements of the gathering clouds as they came over, deepening the shades of the approaching evening,— now vacantly gazing at the turkies, taking roost in the yard,—now pacing the room and pulling up his well starched collar, and now hurriedly counting his fingers, to kill the lagging moments, and allay the fever of his excited expectation.

At last, however, Jenks came, and informed him, that the committee appointed to consider his case had reported faverably; the vote of the lodge had been taken, and "all was found clear:" he might therefore now follow to the preparation room. This room was no other than the kitchen garret, which, being on a level with the hall, and communicating with the same by a door at one end of it, was now to be used for this purpose through necessity, as that part of the hall originally designed for a preparation room was not yet sufficiently finished to answer for the present initiation. To this garret the candidate was now conducted, through the kitchen, and up the kitchen stairs— that being the only way of getting into the room without going through the hall, which the candidate must not yet be permitted to enter. The garret having been darkened for the occasion, the candidate and his conductor, after getting up stairs, groped along, feeling their way by taking hold of the rafters above them, towards the hall door, frequently stumbling over the loose boards of which the floor, in some places single, in some double or treble, was composed, placed there for the double purpose of seasoning and answering for a temporary flooring. The masonic reader may here perhaps pause to demur to the fitness of our preparation room as being too liable to attract the attention of the inmates of the kitchen below, and thus lead to an exposure to the eyes of prying curiosity; but all this had been prudently foreseen, and the difficulty obviated, by the landlord who had contrived to have his wife and daughter, the only females of the family, go out on a visit that afternoon, with the intimation that they need not return till dark, before which it was supposed the ceremonies of the preparation room would be over.

As soon as Timothy had been stationed near the door leading into the lodge-room, he was left to himself. In a short time however Jenks returned, accompanied by several others, one of whom was the Senior Deacon of the lodge, who now approached the candidate, and questioned him as follows:

"Do you sincerely declare upon your honor, before these gentlemen, that unbiassed by friends, uninfluenced by unworthy motives, you freely and voluntarily offer yourself a candidate for the mysteries of Masonry?"

`I say yes,' replied Timothy, `to all but that about being biassed by friends—my father advised me to join, and Mr. Jenks here'—

"Why, Sir," hastily interrupted the Deacon, "you don't pretend that your friends used improper influence to induce you to join, do you?"

`O, no,' replied Timothy; `but falsifications are exceptionabilities, and I thought you was going to make me say'—

"Ah, Sir," again interrupted the Deacon, "you said no, I think, to the last question: The answer will do, will it not, Brethren?" `We conclude so, Brother,' was the reply. The Deacon then proceeded.—

"Do you sincerely declare upon your honor that you are prompted to solicit the principles Masonry by a favorable opinion conceived of the institution—a desire of knowledge, and a sincere wish of being serviceable to your fellow-creatures?"

`Yes, I do,' eagerly replied Timothy. Here Jenks seeing the probability that the candidate would need considerable prompting, stepped up to his side and jogged him to be quiet.

"Do you," continued the Deacon, "sincerely declare that you will cheerfully conform to all the ancient established usages and customs of the fraternity?"

`Why, yes—it is conjecturable I shall,' replied Timothy, in a half hesitating, half jocular tone and manner, `though the d—l a bit do I know what they are: Suppose you first explicate and expound them a little.' "Say you do," impatiently whispered Jenks in his ear. `I do then,' said Timothy.

The Deacon then went into the lodge to report the answers of the candidate, while those remaining proceeded to strip him of his clothes; but not understanding the meaning of the movement, and not much relishing being taken in hand in this manner, he suddenly started and twisted himself out of their hands, demanding what they were going to do, & bidding them beware of putting tricks upon one who could throw any two of them at a back-hug, side-hold, rough-and-tumble, or any other way—a threat which he probably could, and would have made good, (for he was no slouch at athletics) had they persisted at that moment while under the impression, as he was, that this movement was no part of the ceremony, but a mere trick or joke attempted by way of interlude to pass away the time till the Deacon returned. But Jenks again interfered, and after many persuasions and the most positive assurances that this was really part of the ceremonies, induced him to consent to let them proceed. He then rather grumblingly submitted himself again into their hands, observing that he "supposed it was all right, but what the sublime art of masonry could possibly have to do with pulling down a fellow's breeches, was beyond the expansion of his comprehensibilities to discover." He was then divested of all his clothing except his shirt, which was turned down round the neck and shoulders so that the left breast was left bare. They then incased his legs in an old pair of woolen drawers, which, on account of the candidate's unusual crural dimensions, reached no farther down than about midleg; and bound a black silk handkerchief so snugly about his eyes as to make an impervious blindfold. His right foot was next placed into an old shoe, which in masonic parlance is called "the slipper;" while a rope, of several yards in length, was tied with a noose around his neck. These important ceremonies being in due form completed, all the attendant brethren retired into the lodge-room, except the Senior Deacon, who was here left in charge of the candidate. This officer then taking hold of the end of the rope, or cable-tow, as it is termed in the technics of masonry, made towards the hall door, and reaching out his right hand, while with his left pulling upon the rope round the neck of the candidate, he gave with his mallet, or gavel, three loud knocks on the door, which were instantly answered by three still louder knocks from within; while at the same moment the door was partly opened, and a harsh, sharp voice hurriedly cried out, "Who comes there, who comes there, who comes there?" All this was the work of an instant, and the noise thereby produced falling so suddenly, so unexpectedly, and with such a rapid succession of confused and startling sounds on the ears of the candidate, he involuntarily bolted with the quickness of thought, several feet backwards;—which movement straightening the rope, and causing the Deacon to hang on stiffly at the other end, at once threw the two into a position much resembling two boys pulling sticks. As soon as the poor blind and alarmed candidate had time to rally his scattered ideas, after being brought into this situation, a sudden fancy shot through his brain that they were going to hang him; and, like a led pig, that has hung back almost to choaking, he suddenly made another desperate lunge backwards, when, as the evil genius of masonry would have it, the Deacon unluckily let go his hold, and the poor candidate came down on his rearwards on a place in the floor, which happened to be of but one thickness of boards, with such violence, that every thing gave way before him, and he was precipitated with a loud crash down into the kitchen, and landed, with the shock of thunder, on the floor. Just at that moment, as bad luck would again have it, Susan, the landlord's daughter, a sturdy girl of sixteen, had come home, and was in the act of hanging up her bonnet when this strange vision fell on her astounded senses. She turned round and gave one wild, fixed stare upon Timothy, who with a loud grunt had floundered on to his feet, and now stood in his red drawers, with his face concealed by the black bandage, and so tied with large bows behind as to resemble horns, with his cable-tow hanging down his back, and with his mouth distended with the grin of a baboon thrown into the air. She gave one wild look on this appalling figue, and bolted like an arrow through the door. Scarcely, however, had she reached the yard, when some movement of our hero striking her ear, and leading her to suppose the monster was at her heels, fear seized her afresh, and deprived the poor girl of all power of getting forward, and, like a sheep or a rabbit frightened by a dog, she continued for some time leaping up with prodigious bounds into the air without gaining an inch in advance, throwing up her hands with a pawing kind of motion towards the heavens, and eagerly exclaiming, "O Lord! take me right up into the skies! O, Lordy! O, Lordy!" She soon however recovered her powers of progression, and with all her speed made towards the barn where her two brothers were pitching off a load of hay, screaming at every step, "O, murder! murder! save me! save me, Ben! The devil is come! The devil is in the house! O, save me—save me!"

The boys hearing this outcry, leaped from the load, and ran out eagerly crying, "What's the matter—what's the matter?" "Oh, Ben!" replied the breathless and affrighted girl, "Oh, Ben, the devil is in our house! Oh! Oh! Oh!" "What the darnation do you mean?" exclaimed Ben.— "Suke, you are crazy!" "O, I ain't—I ain't nother," she cried with histerical sobs—"it is the devil—I seed him with his black face, and horns, and tail a rod long! How he looked! Oh! oh! boo-hoo-hoo!" "I snore!" exclaimed the youngest boy, with glaring eyes, and teeth chattering like a show-monkey in January, "I snore! Ben, where's dad?" "Jock!" said the oldest boy, flourishing his pitchfork and courageously making towards the house, "you come on with your fork—by golly! we'll fix him!" So saying, Ben, followed by his brother, pushed forward to the scene of action, both proceeding with their forks presented, ready to receive his majesty of the black face and long tail upon the tines as soon as they should meet him. When they came near the door they proceeded more cautiously, stopping to peep in at a distance; but seeing nothing, they soon grew bolder, and the elder one fairly put his head within the door. Here all was quiet and nothing to be seen. They then went in, searched about the room, looked out of the windows, and passed into the lower rooms of the other part of the house, without finding any breach or hole where his majesty could have come in or gone out, or indeed discovering any thing that could in the least account for their sister's fright. The Masons they knew were in the hall; but they never dreamed that the apparition could have had any connexion with the proceedings of the lodge room. They therefore concluded that it was all poor Susan's imagination that had caused such a fuss, and getting her in, they called her a darn fool to be scart at nothing. But she still persisting strongly in her story, they soon gave it up that it must have been the devil; and their mother coming home soon after, and hearing the story, still added to their fears by expressing her belief that it was a bona fide satanic visitation; and as soon as it was dusk, they lit up a candle, and all sat down close together in fear and wonderment, without going out of doors till the Masons broke up; and even then they received no new light on the subject; for the landlord was silent on the affair, being quite willing to let it go as it stood, lest the truth might be discovered. It therefore became the settled opinion of not only the family but the neighborhood, except the brethren, that the devil actually made his appearance on that eventful evening, and thousands were the conjectures as to the nature of his errand. So much for the devil in red drawers, hoodwinked and cable-towed. Let us now return to the lodge-room.

No sooner had the accident just related happened, than several of the brethren rushed out of the hall, and, while some carefully took up and replaced the broken board by another so as to leave no clue to the disaster, others ran down, and seizing the candidate, now bruised, sore and bewildered, hastily forced him up stairs and hurried him into the lodge-room, where they were on the point of receiving him, when this luckless interruption took place.

After a short pause, to see whether the candidate was hurt, as well as to recover from the fright and confusion into which they had been thrown, they, on finding that no serious damage had been done, now repaired to their respective stations that the ceremony might proceed. The Worshipful Master then bid the candidate "enter with heed and in God's name." A short prayer was next repeated, when the candidate, after a few unimportant questions and answers, was again taken in hand for the purpose of performing the customary ceremony of being led by the cable-tow three times round the lodge-room. The brethren by this time having fairly recovered from their alarm, were now, as they thought of the late affair, and looked on the poor blind candidate, beginning to be seized with much merrier emotions. And as he was led along, his wo-begone countenance wincing at every step, as if he expected every instant some new calamity to befal him, and lifting high his feet, like a new-yoked hog, in fear of more accidents from faithless floors, his shirt sadly torn, and his drawers so disordered as to lead to some corporeal developements of masterly conformation, his appearance produced no little sensation among the assembled brotherhood.—Some were seen compressing their mouths and screwing their lips together to prevent the escape of the threatened explosion of laughter,—some snapping their fingers in silent glee, and some holding their sides, and writhing and bending nearly double through the convulsive effects of suppressed risibility: and in a moment more, the contagion seizing the whole company, the hall shook and resounded with a universal burst of half-smothered laughter. Even the Right Worshipful Master, who was then reading a passage from the open Bible before him, found such difficulty in commanding the tones of his quavering voice, that he was forced to run hurriedly over the remainder of the passage, and no sooner had he reached the last word than he bro't the book together with a hasty slap, and gave himself up to the uncontrolable gust of emotions that was every where raging around him. As soon, however, as the Master could succeed in assuming a face of sober dignity, and in quelling the tumult, the Junior Deacon brought the candidate, now blushing almost through the black handkerchief over his face at his own degradation, to a station near the altar. The sharp points of the compass were then presented to his naked breast, accompanied with some other of the usual ceremonies, previous to administering the oath. He was next ordered and assisted to kneel on his left knee, while his hands were placed in due form, one under, and the other on the open Bible, on which were laid the square and compass. After this, the Worshipful Master approached, and told him that he was now in the proper place and situation to receive the oath of Entered Apprentice, and desired him, if willing to take it, to say over the words, repeating them exactly as they were given off to him. The Master then proceeded to tell over the first clause of the oath, which Timothy, after some hesitation, repeated. They then went on with the rest of the obligation, which was in the like manner, told over and repeated, until they came to the last clause, "Binding myself under no less penalty than to have my throat cut across from ear to ear, my tongue torn out by the roots, and my body buried in the rough sands of the sea, at low-water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours—so help me God;" when the candidate, who, after all that had befel him, was not so much bewildered as to quite lose his own notions about things, or so subdued as to be ready to submit to any thing which he might think for the moment to be of questionable propriety, suddenly started upon his feet, and in a sort of desperate and determined tone exclaimed, "What! have my own throat cut! and ask God to help do it? I'll be exploded first!" This unexpected scrupulousness and refusal of the candidate, whom they supposed to have been too much tamed by the events of the evening to cause them any further trouble, occasioned a momentary confusion among the brethren, and brought Jenks, his old prompter, immediately to his side. The latter then used and exhausted all his powers of coaxing to induce the still stubborn and determined candidate to repeat the clause in question; but, finding that his entreaties were of no effect, he resorted to menaces, threatening to turn him out naked into the street if he refused to complete the oath. But this, instead of producing the desired effect, only made the candidate more turbulent, and he instantly retorted, "Do it, if you want to smell my fist!—I can abolish a dozen of you!" At the same time suiting the action to the word, he sprang forward, flourishing his clenched fist with such fearful violence, that all hands, for the safety of their heads, were obliged to leap out of his reach, while with his left hand he made a desperate pull on the bandage over his eyes. But the quick eyes of the brethren catching this last movement, a half dozen of them sprang upon him in an instant, and, forcibly holding his arms, put him down in his former position, in despite of his furious struggles to get free. Here they held him down by force till his breath and strength were fairly exhausted by the violence of his efforts. They then, with the sharp points of the compass and sword, began to prick him, first on one side, then on the other, until, through pain, exhaustion and vexation, he sunk down and burst out into a loud boo-hoo—blubbering like a hungry boy for his bread and butter. Jenks, now taking advantage of this softened mood, immediately renewed his exertions, and by a little soothing and persuasion, soon brought the poor subdued candidate to consent to take the remainder of the oath, which was instantly administered, lest with recovering strength he should renew his opposition; and thus ended this troublesome part of the ceremony.

The Master now addressing the candidate, said, "Brother, to you the secrets of Masonry are about to be unveiled; and a brighter sun never shone lustre on your eyes. Brother, what do you now most desire?" `I should like a drink of water, and then to be let out,' sobbed Timothy, taking the last question literally, and being now quite willing, in his present state of feelings, to forego any more of the secrets of masonry if he might be suffered to depart. But he soon found that this was not to be permitted; for the prompter bid him answer the question properly, and say he desired light. The question then being repeated, he submissively answered as he was bid; when the Master, giving a loud rap, and raising his voice, said, "Brethren, stretch forth your hands and assist in bringing this newmade brother from darkness to light!" This last order being followed with much bustle, and sounds portending busy preparation for some important movement, the candidate became alarmed, fearing that some other terrible trial, yet in reserve for him, was now to be experienced; and he began to breathe short, and tremble violently. The members having formed a circle around the agitated candidate, the Master, after a few moments of the most profound stillness, now broke the portentous silence by loudly exclaiming, "And God said let there be light, and there was light! " Instantly all the brethren of the lodge furiously clapped their hands; and, with one united stamp brought their uplifted feet to the floor with such a thundering shock as made the whole house tremble to its lowest foundations: while, at the same time, the bandage, which had been gradually loosened for the purpose, was suddenly snatched from the eyes of the candidate, who, shuddering with terror at the astounding din around him, and dazzled by the intenseness of the bright flood of light that burst, from total darkness, at once upon his unexpecting and astonished senses, now stood aghast with dismay and consternation; his fixed and glassy eyes glaring in dumb bewilderment on the encircled group of figures, which, to his distempered and distorting vision, seemed some strange, grim and unearthly beings, and which his wandering imagination soon converted into a band of fiends, standing ready to seize, and pitch him about in torments. Gazing a moment in mute amazement on this terrible array, he became suddenly agitated, and, rising to his full height, and collecting all his delirious energies, he, with one prodigious bound, sent himself, like a rocket, completely over the shoulders of the encircled brotherhood, and fell in a swoon at full length on the floor, leaving an atmosphere behind him but little improved by his ćrial transit. All for a while was now bustle and confusion in the lodge-room.—Some were seen running to take up the prostrate candidate—some hurrying for water and spirits to revive him—some, with one hand holding the organs of their mutinnous olfactories, to work in clearing the floor of the sad effects of masonic principles operating the wrong way; and others no less busily engaged in the process of disaromatizing, or removing their own clothes and emblematical adornments; for I grieve to say, that many a gay sash, and many a finely figured apron, here fell a sacrifice to this hapless result of the ennobling mysteries of Masonry.

At length all was again in a fair way to be restored to order. The candidate was soon brought to his senses, and finding himself not dead, and being assured moreover that the storm had now entirely passed by, he began to revive rapidly. His clothes were then brought him, and he was assisted to dress. This being done, and a glass of spirits administered by way of a restorative, the Master proceeded to complete the ceremonies, which were here made to consist only of the grip, signs and pass-words, the lecture of instructions being dispensed with for this time, owing to the weak condition of the candidate; for he was still a little wild, and occasionally visited with sudden starts and slight convulsive shudders, sometimes breaking out into a loud laugh, and at other times shedding tears.

The lodge was now closed with a prayer by the Worshipful Master; after which, the brethren were called from labor to refreshment. Bottles were then brought on, and all freely partaking, soon relaxed into cheerful chit-chat and social gaiety—some occasionally breaking out into parts of those chaste, animating, and lofty breathing songs, so peculiar to this moral and soul-gifted fraternity, and so worthy withal of that classical origin of organized Freemasonry which the learned Lawrie and other historians of the order, have, with great appearance of truth, we think, traced to the mysteries of Bachus. And while strains like the following, "Come let us prepare, We brethren that are Assembled on merry occasion; Let's drink, laugh and sing— Our wine has a spring— Here's health to an accepted Mason," with the exhilarating effects of the now rapidly circulating bottle, co-operating in their genial influences on both body and mind, the feelings of the company were soon exalted to the highest pitch of joyous excitement. A thousand lively jokes and sallies of wit, together with many a hearty laugh over the romantic events of the evening, enlivened the scene; and even the pale and exhausted candidate began to mingle slightly in the prevailing mirth, and feel, as they now broke up, that Richard would soon be himself again.

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