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


Daniel P. Thompson

Intry, mintry, cutry corn,
Apple seed and apple thorn;
Wier, brier, limber lock,
Three geese in a flock.

Nursery Ballad.

On the second morning after leaving the great emporium of trade, and the patroness of mobs and shaved bears, our travellers arrived safe and sound, in purse and limb, at the busy mart of Fort Orange, as Albany was called by the original Dutch settlers. Leaving Timothy in a sort of Dutch doggery, or sailor's hotel, situated near the wharf, Jenks immediately went in search of the friend to whom he had proposed to introduce the former. He soon returned, however, with the news that this friend was absent from the city. In this dilemma he advised Timothy to put himself on his own resources for an introduction into society, telling him if he would rig himself up with a new suit of clothes, and take lodgings in some fashionable hotel with a well furnished bar, he could find no difficulty in becoming acquainted with the brotherhood. The two friends then took a formal and tender leave of each other, after a mutual promise of correspondence by letter till Timothy should rejoin the other in a few months, the next spring at the farthest, under his hospitable roof in the Green-Mountains.

Our hero felt much regret at first in being separated from his friend, and thus suddenly deprived of his company and council. But lack of a just confidence in himself being never a very prominent defect in our hero's character, he now felt, therefore, but little hesitation in putting himself at once in the way of public notice. In accordance with the suggestion of Jenks, and more perhaps in compliance with the dictates of his own feelings, he determined in the first place to obtain that by no means uncurrent pass-port to good society, a fine suit of apparel. He therefore took his bundle in his hand and went directly in search of a merchant tailor. Having found one he at once stated his wish to purchase a genteel suit of clothes. The man eying Timothy an instant, observed, "he presumed he had none that would fit," and was about turning away when his eye glancing on a roll of bank bills which our hero was holding in his fingers, he suddenly recollected "a suit or two that would doubtless suit to a hair." "It was surprising," he said, "that he should have forgotten them." Suit after suit was then produced by this vulgar fraction of humanity, and a bargain was soon completed to the mutual satisfaction of both parties. And Timothy, having enrobed himself in his new purchase, and made his toilet with suitable care in a private room furnished him by the now very accommodating tailor, immediately set out to look up a boarding house. After going the rounds of the public houses awhile, and making all necessary inquiries, he at length took lodgings in a popular hotel in the best part of the city, which eminently possessed the requisites mentioned by Jenks, it being celebrated as a house of choice liquors, and as a resort of all those who justly appreciate them. Timothy's next object was to form some masonic acquaintance. And in this he was peculiarly fortunate. At the dinner table, to which he was soon summoned after engaging his board he threw out the usual masonic sign as he lowered his empty glass from his lips, and had the pleasure of seeing it answered by a young gentleman who sat opposite to him. As soon as the company rose from the table Timothy made a sign or beck to this newly discovered brother, and was followed by him, though with evident reluctance, to the room which the landlord had assigned to the former. They were no sooner alone in the room than this person observed that "he regretted very much the low state of the funds of his lodge, and he was fearful that little or nothing could be spared at that time, still however he was always willing to hear a brother's story." Timothy, as soon as he could find a place to break in upon his alarmed brother, proceeded to inform him that he had no desire to draw on the charities of his brethren, but having a few hundred dollars at his command, and being very desirous to perfect himself in Masonry, he knew of no way in which he could spend his money more profitably or pleasantly; and all the assistance he desired was such introductions to the brethren of the place as would be necessary in pursuing this object. The merchant, for he proved to be a young merchant of the city, on hearing that no draft was to be made on his charity, as he seemed rather hastily to have anticipated, immediately broke through the atmosphere of restraint and repulsiveness in which he had enveloped himself on entering the room, and suddenly became very sociable and friendly. He highly commended our hero's intention of pursuing such a noble study as Masonry. He greatly respected such people, he observed, and always felt bound to sell them goods much cheaper than he sold them to others. His name he said was Van Stetter, and his store was in — street, where he was ever extremely happy to see his friends.

A general understanding having thus been effected between Timothy and Van Stetter, they fell to conversing on other topics; and before they had been together one hour they had become, by the strength of the mystic tie, not only familiar acquaintances but sworn friends. The merchant then arose, and repeating his friendly offers, and promising to furnish a supply of masonic books as soon as Timothy should wish to commence his studies, bid the latter a good day and departed. Much did our hero congratulate himself, when the other was gone, on his good fortune in thus happily securing so valuable an acquaintance; and he could not help again blessing, and admiring anew, that glorious institution which could so soon convert an entire stranger into a faithful friend.

Being now fairly settled, and every thing appearing bright before him, Timothy's first care was to write a long letter to his parents, informing them of his singular good fortune, and of his present determination to remain for the present in Albany in order to become a great man in Masonry, which would perhaps take him till the next spring to accomplish. Having performed this pleasing task, and dispatched his letter by mail, he spent several of the following days in viewing the different parts of the city, and its various curiosities, before sitting down to those important studies in which he felt conscious he was destined shortly to become a great and distinguished adept.

In the course of a few days Van Stetter, who had been absent on business most of the time since the introduction above mentioned, called at Timothy's room and brought him a large supply of masonic books; and at the same time informed him that the lodge of which he was a member held a meeting that evening, and gave him an invitation to attend as a visiting brother. Timothy was overjoyed at this gratifying intelligence and thankfully accepted the kind invitation of his friend. Accordingly at the appointed hour, they repaired to the lodge-room. Here they found a goodly number of the brethren assembled, although the lodge was not yet called to order. This gave Timothy an excellent opportunity of being personally introduced to most of the members, by all of whom he was received and treated with many flattering attentions. And not a little elated were his feelings by such a reception from men of the appearance and consequence of those by whom he was now surrounded. He felt that glow of inward complacency which is ever experienced by modest merit when treated according to its conscious worth; and he perceived at once how greatly he had been underrated by the world. But now he had at last got into that sphere for which his high endowments had designed him, and from which he had been kept only by his inauspicious fortune that had thrown him among those who were incapable of appreciating his merits. Equally gratifying likewise was this meeting to our hero in other respects. The gifted promptitude with which the work of the lodge was performed—the splendour of the furniture, the rich dresses, and the dazzling decorations of the members, together with the convivial elegance of the refreshments, did not fail to make a lively impression on the mind of one who, as yet, had seen only the interior of an ill-furnished lodge-room in the Green-Mountains; and he went home filled with renewed love and veneration for the mystic beauties of divine Masonry.

In about a week after the lodge meeting above mentioned, a meeting of the Temple Royal Arch Chapter was holden at Temple Lodge Room in the city; and Timothy, at the suggestion of his friend, Van Stetter, preferred his application to that body for receiving the Royal Arch degree. Having presented his credentials from the Lodge, where he was initiated and received the subordinate degrees, to several of his masonic acquaintance, he was by their recommendations balloted in; and, as there was another applicant for the degree present, it was proposed to make up the team, as it is beautifully termed in masonic technics, by a volunteer, and exalt both the candidates that very evening. The imagination of Timothy had long dwelt with rapture on the happy hour which was to make him a Royal Arch Mason, and now as that much desired event was at hand, his feelings and fancy were wrought up to the highest pitch of expectation; and it was with the most trembling anxiety, and fearful interest that he entered upon this new and untried scene in the vast labyrinth of masonic wonders. Yet he manfully submitted to the ceremonials; and as brightly as he had pictured to himself the glories of this degree he found the reality still more splendid and impressive. But I will not attempt to describe the deep and mingled emotions, the rapid alternations of fear, amazement and admiration which took possession of his breast as he passed through those august and awful ceremonies—as he now encountered the living arch, formed by the conjoined hands of two long rows of the brethren, and thus compassing numerous manual cross-chains which rose and fell like so many saw-gates, over the impeded path of the low-stooping candidate who strove on beneath in all the bother and agony of a poor wretch running the gauntlet, sometimes cuffed and buffetted, sometimes knocked back, sometimes pitched forward, and sometimes entirely overthrown and kept scrambling on his back, like some luckless mud-turtle in the hands of a group of mischievous urchins, till the sport had lost its charms of novelty for the tittering brotherhood— as he now took the rough and rugged rounds of his dark and perplexing pilgrimage, sometimes hobbling over net-ropes, chairs and benches, sometimes tumbling headlong over heaps of wood and faggots, and sometimes compelled to dodge, curl down his head, hop up, or dance about, to save his pate and shins from clubs, brick-bats and cannon balls, that fell and flew about the room in all directions on the breaking down of the walls of Jerusalem—as now he was lowered down into the dark, subterraneous vault to find the sacred ark, in the shape of an old cigar-box, and was scorched,suffocated, and blown almost sky high by a terrible explosion of burning gun-powder—as now he kneeled at the altar to take the voluntary oath, under the pressure of sharp instruments and uplifted swords—as he now listened to the deep toned and solemn prayer of the High Priest—and, in fine, as now he was admitted to the light, and beheld the splendid furniture of the lodge-room, the gorgeous robes of scarlet and purple of the Council, the white garments and glittering breast-plate of the High Priest, and the crimson habiliments of the Grand King, wearing the awful mitre, inscribed, "Holiness to the Lord."

But these scenes of almost oppressive sublimity were occasionally relieved by those of a lighter character; and the comic and amusing, like sunshine through a summer's cloud, often broke beautifully in to enliven and diversify the performance.

As the old Jewish guide who personates Moses leading the children of Israel through the wilderness, under the masonic title of Principal Sojourner, now conducted the hoodwinked candidates through or rather over the semblant wilderness of the lodge-room, consisting, as before intimated, of heaps of wood, brush, chairs and benches, the company, bating the unavoidable affliction of battered shins and broken noses, met with many amusing adventures. On arriving at each of the guarded passes on their rout, or veils as they are technically called, the guide was compelled to give certain pass-words before they were suffered to proceed. But Moses, being now somewhat old, and having grown rather rusty in the use of these words, it having been about a thousand years since he had used them much, was often sadly puzzled to recollect them, and made many diverting mistakes in endeavoring to give them at the places where they were required. "I am that I am," being the pass-words for the first veil, Moses, as he approached the master, exclaimed in his Jewish brogue, "What a ram I am?" The master shook his head. "I am dat ram, den," said the improving guide—`No!' said the master. "Well den," said Moses, "I am dat I ram"— not quite—"I am dat I am." `Right, worthy pilgrims, ' said the master, `proceed on your way. I see you have the true pass-words. You will find many difficulties to encounter. Your next pass-words are Shem, Ham and Japhet—don't forget them.' Thus permitted to proceed, they pursued their journey and soon arrived at the next veil. But here again, alas for the memory of poor old Moses—the pass-words, which he had been so strictly charged to remember, had quite escaped him; but the old sojourner had no notion of giving up in despair, and accordingly he at once put his wits to the trumps in trying to stumble again on the words of this masonic Se same. And soon beginning to rally his scattered ideas, and remembering the pass-words consisted of the names of three men of scriptural notoriety, he, with that inimitable humour and drollery with which Masonry has here so appositely invested his character, now cried out to the master, " She shake, Me shake and Abed-we-go." But the master gave him so stern a look of rebuke that it threw him at first into some confusion. Soon recovering, however, he hammed and hawed once or twice, and, in a subdued tone of voice, said, "Shadrach, Meshack and Abednigo ." `No! no!' said the master.

"Well, it was some tree peoples I be sure," said the guide scratching his head and looking round in obvious perplexity, "it was, let me see, it was, `Shem, Japhet and Bacon-leg."'

The master still shook his head, but with a look of more encouragement.

"It was den, it was Shem, Japhet and Ham which be de same nor bacon-leg."

"Try again, worthy pilgrim," said the softening master.

"Oh! Ah!" exclaimed Moses with urekaen rapture, "I have it now, it was `Shem, Ham and Japhet."'

Such is a faint sample of the scintillations of wit and the bright flashes of thought and fancy that were made to sparkle and shine through this splendid performance; and accompanied as these chaste and innocent sallies always were by the most exhilerating shouts of laughter and applause from the surrounding companions, it failed not to render the scene one of indescribable interest.

Nor were other parts of the performance much less replete with interest and instructive amusement. After the finding of the long lost ark, the opening of that sacred vessel, and the discovery of the bible in the presence of the council, who make the walls of the lodge-room resound with hallelujahs of rejoicing on the occasion; the detection of a substance which the High Priest "guesses, presumes and finally declares to be manna," comprised a scene alike delightful to the curious, the thoughtless and the learned. And then the closing, the closing act of this magnificent drama! the marching in a circle of the gay and glittering companions—the three times three raising of the arms, stamping of the feet and spatting of the hands— the breaking off into tripple squads and the raising of the Royal or Living Arch, chanting in deep toned cadences beneath its apex of bumping heads, that sublime motto of metrical wisdom—

"As we three did agree The sacred word to keep, And as we three did agree The sacred word to search, So we three do agree To close this Royal Arch."

What could be more grand, more imposing and beautiful! Our hero stood wrapt in admiration at the spectacle. The early associations of his childhood rushed instantly on his mind; for he here at once beheld the origin, as well as the combined beauties of those exquisite little juvenile dramas which have ever been the praise and delight of succeeding generations:

"Come Philander let's be a marching."

And again that other no less beautiful one, where the resemblance is still more striking—

"You nor I nor no man knows How oats, peas, beans and barley grows, Thus the farmer sows his peas, Thus he stands and takes his ease, He stamps his foot, he spats his hands, He wheels about, and thus he stands."

In this degree also, besides the invaluable acquisition of the long lost word which is here regained, the key to the ineffable characters or Royal Arch Cypher, and many other secrets of equally momentous consequence, our hero gained much historical information which was equally new and important, and which served to correct some erroneous impressions which he had derived from those uncertain authorities, the common uninitiated historians. It was here he learned for the first time the interesting circumstance that the bible was discovered and preserved by Zerubbabel and his companions, all Royal Arch Masons; and consequently that but for Masonry all Christendom would even to this day have been groping in pagan darkness. Here also was brought to light the astounding fact that Moses, as before intimated, lived to the unparalleled age of about one thousand years! This fact which is obtained only through the medium of Masonry, he inferred with indisputable certainty from that part of the degree which represents Moses present and yet hale and hearty, at the destruction or breaking down of the walls of Jerusalem, and indeed for years after, which every chronologist knows would make him of the age I have mentioned. These two facts alone, if nothing else were contained in this degree, would be sufficient to render it of incalculable importance; but these were but as a drop of the bucket compared with the great arcana of hidden knowledge which was here unfolded, and all of it too of equal importance and authenticity of the specimens just given. Deeply indeed did the thirsty soul of Timothy drink in the treasured beauties of this concealed fountain of light and wisdom. All that he had before seen of the glories of Freemasonry fell far short, in his opinion, of the mingled beauty, wisdom and magnificence of this closing act in the great and stupendous drama of ancient Freemasonry. Nor was he at all singular in this opinion. Other great men have considered this degree the same, as I am gratified to learn from a recent work by my acute and accomplished masonic cotemporary, Mr. W. L. Stone, who considers this degree "far more splendid and effective than either of its predecessors;" while of those predecessors, or inferior degrees, he says they "impressed lessons on his mind which he hopes will never be effaced." Thus we here see one of those singular and striking coincidences which will often happen in the views and impressions which have been entertained on the same point by two such minds as those of our hero, and the unbiased author above quoted, when they would have no means of knowing the opinions entertained by each other.

But as beautiful and perfect as our hero considered this noble degree, there was yet one little scene which he believed to be capable of improvement. It was that in which the High Priest, on opening the discovered ark, finds a substance which he and the Council, after tasting, smelling and divers other evidences of doubt, concluded to be manna. Now the improvements suggested, consisted in calling up old Moses, who was then on the spot to settle the question at once, whether the substance was manna or not; for he, it will be recollected, was the very person who put it in the ark, eight or nine hundred years before, when he and his people were in the wilderness, feeding on this same manna, of course he would at once determine whether this was the same kind of stuff which formerly served for the fish, flesh, fowl, bread and pudding, of his breakfast, dinner and supper. This suggested improvement, however, in which I have the happiness to concur with my hero, is now submitted to the craft with the most humble deference, but should it meet with their approbation, and especially that of my friend Mr. Stone, they and he are heartily welcome to the suggestion; and I shall wait with some anxiety for the appearance of the next edition of the work of that author, to see whether he considers the proposed alteration, worthy of adoption. But to return to our hero. How was his mind raised and expanded by the scenes of this glorious evening! A few months before, he would have thought, in his ignorance, the use of that awful epithet, "I am that I am," in the manner above described, to be nothing less than the most daring impiety, and the representation of God in the burning bush, the height of blasphemous presumption. But now, he the more admired the privileges of that institution which permits its sons to do that with impunity, and even praise, which in the rest of the world would be audacious and criminal. And he could not help looking with pity on the condition of all those yet out of the pale of the masonic sanctum sanctorum. For he was now fully satisfied that all wisdom, virtue and religion are here concentrated. And he felt himself immeasurably exalted above the rest of mankind, like one of the superior beings in full fellowship with God, whom he had just seen represented as one mingling in the ceremonies of the lodge-room.

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