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


Daniel P. Thompson

"Tityre, tu patulæ recubans sub tegmine fagi."


Dark and fearful were the troubled visions of our hero after he had retired to his pillow for rest on that memorable night when the awful mysteries of Masonry were uncurtained to his view. Scenes of the most thrilling horror, in their thousand rapid and startling mutations, were continually rising, with terrible vividness, to his mind, and haunting his distracted fancy. He now seemed falling, for days and months, down, down, some bottomless abyss— now suddenly arrested in his swift descending course by a tremendous jerk from a rope, which, fastened around his neck, had run out its length, and now brought him to the end of his tether—now slowly hauled up through the same gloomy passage, attended by winged monsters, flapping their great pinions about his head, as they labored upwards along this vault of darkness and terror; and now quickly transported to the middle of a vast, interminable plain, where the sky was immediately overcast—storms arose—his ears were stunned by frightful peals of thunder—streams of vivid lightning overpowering his vision, and scorching his hair and garments, were flashing around him, and kindling up the combustible plain to a general conflagration; while he was beset on every side by a troop of tormenting fiends, who, armed with sharp spears, and clothed with aprons woven, warp and woof, with living serpents, and fringed with their hissing heads, thronged thickly about him—some stripping off all his clothes, dancing on before him and holding them up to his grasp, yet forever eluding it; and others constantly running by his side, howling, goading and stinging him in every part; while bleeding and blistered, he vainly endeavored to escape, and strove on, in unutterable agony, through the scorching and burning regions, hoarsely crying for water, and begging for his clothes,—for his shirt—even a shirt!—

"I have brought you a shirt, Brother Peacock," said a voice at his bed-side. He started from his disturbed slumbers at the word, which, in seeming echo to his own deep mutterings, now fell on his ear. "Where—where am I? Who are you?" he hurriedly and fiercely exclaimed, looking wildly around him.—"Are they gone?" `What gone?' said the voice. "Them awful—Oh!—Ah!—Why, it is only Jenks—Yes, yes, I remember now, I went home with you last night; but O, Jenks, what a dream I have had! And then, to think of last night at the lodge-room!" `Come, come,' said Jenks, `you are like a puppy with his eyes just opened,—every thing looks strange and terrible,— a cat seems to him as big as a yearling, and the little fool will bristle up and yelp at his own shadow. But never mind; we will make a man of you yet. I will explain all to you in good time. I have got a decentish sort of shirt here, which I rather guess you had better put on,' he continued, looking down on the stained remnant of what was yesterday our hero's best India cotton shirt, the choice freedom gift of his mother, still pertinaciously clinging in shreds to the limbs of the owner, as if loath to break off so old a friendship: `and I think I could tie up that old one you have on in your handkerchief, and throw it into the swamp going home, or burn it or something, so it should not lead to any discoveries of what we do in the lodge-room. But come, rouse up, man! Our breakfast is about ready. I have got to be off to-day; but I shall be going by Joslin's in a day or two, when I will call, and we will have some talk together.' So saying, he left the room.

Timothy now attempted to rise, but so sore and stiff was he in every joint, from what he had last night gone through in the masonic gymnastics of initiation, that he found himself somewhat in the condition of that hapless South-American animal, whose movements are so painful, that it is said to utter a scream of agony at every feeble bound it makes in its progress. After several trials, however, with as many interjectional grunts, he succeeded in getting on to the floor and dressing himself: after which, he found way to a cool spring in the door-yard:—its pure bubbling waters seemed to his parched throat sweet as the Pierian fountain to the thirsty aspirants of Parnassus; and had it been that consecrated spring, Pope's direction, "Drink deep," would never have been more faithfully followed. He then went into the breakfast-room where the family were already assembled and waiting his presence.

"Is the gentleman unwell this morning?" asked Mrs. Jenks, glancing from the pale, haggard features of Timothy to her husband. Jenks smiled and said nothing. "O, ho! I had forgotten," said she—"you were both at the lodge last night—that accounts for all—I have seen newmade Masons before, I believe."

`My wife,' observed Jenks, with a knowing wink to Timothy, `my wife don't like masonry very well.'

"And what woman would?" she tartly replied. "You go to your lodge-meetings every few nights, leaving your families alone and unprotected—your wives and children perhaps sick, or suffering for the want of the money you are squandering in your midnight carousals; and when you come reeling home, the only comfort they receive for a long and lonely night of tears and anxiety, is to be told, in answer to their inquiries, concerning the employment of your cruel absence, `You can't know—you are not worthy to be made acquainted with this part of your husband's secrets!"'

`My wife,' said Jenks, `don't appear to know that masonry takes the wives of Masons under its special protectection, and that their poor widows are always provided for by her charities.'

"Charity! Poor widows!" retorted she,—"they may well be called poor; for Mason's widows generally are poor enough. And what is the amount of the mighty charities they receive at your hands? After their husbands have spent all their property by neglecting their business to attend to their masonry, paying out their money, or by bad habits they first acquire at the lodge-room, then if they die and leave penniless widows—well, what then? Why, the lodge will be so very charitable as to pay back to those widows, perhaps, one tenth part of what they have been the sole means of robbing them: And this they call charity!"

`O wonderful!' replied Jenks—`And then the horrors of being left alone a few hours, and the tears'—

"Yes!" retorted the nettled dame—"yes, the tears: If there is any affection between a man and his wife, masonry does more to destroy it, and break up that mutual confidence which is necessary to preserve it, than any one thing I can mention. And if all the tears that have been, and will be, shed by Masons' wives, on account of their husbands' masonry, could be collected into a running stream, it would carry a saw-mill from this hour to the day of judgement!"

`Come, come, wife,' said Jenks, `I think you have said quite enough for once.'

"Enough of truth for your conscience, I presume," replied the fair belligerent, determined to have the last word in the argument.

Timothy wondered much to hear such irreverent invectives against masonry so boldly expressed by the wife of a brother Mason. He had supposed that all wives were proud of the honor of having masonic husbands; for he knew his mother was so. Still there were some of the observations he had just heard which tallied so well with what he had already seen of masonry, that he felt a little staggered, and could not prevent his conscience from secretly giving a response to many of the lady's remarks. But the sneering way in which Jenks laughed off these remarks of his wife, soon convinced him that there was no truth in them, and that they were the effects of the woman's ignorance, or arose from some freak or prejudice she had taken against masonry, so the matter passed off without again entering his mind.

After breakfast was over, and brotherly adieus had been exchanged between Jenks and Timothy, the latter mounted his horse and rode homeward. Many, and somewhat sober were his reflections, as he slowly pursued his solitary way over the same road which he yesterday passed with feelings as different from what they now were as the speed of his horse in the two cases. His thoughts recurred to the fearful trials he had gone through, and all the strange scenes of the lodge-room. To his yet darkened mind, they seemed to him nothing but vague mysteries, strangely blending the trivial and odd with the solemn and terrible. The sun had indeed shone out, but the dark rolling clouds had not yet passed entirely from the field of his fancy, and the ravages of the storm were yet too recent on his feelings to allow him to contemplate the late scenes of the lodge-room with much pleasure.

On the following day Jenks called at Joslin's, but being somewhat in a hurry, he proposed to Timothy that they should meet in a certain field, about equidistant from their respective residences, on the next Sunday, when the promised explanations and instructions in Masonry should be given. Timothy, however, rather objected to a meeting on Sunday; for his mother, who was a church woman, and a strict observer of the Sabbath, notwithstanding her odd notions about rank and family distinction, had always taught him that the seventh day of the week should never be devoted to worldly matters; and never having been taught any better since he left his paternal roof, the proposal to spend this day in the manner contemplated struck him unfavorably. He accordingly stated his objections candidly, and proposed another day for the intended meeting.

Jenks, however, firmly combatted these fastidious scruples of our hero, as he termed them, and told him he had hoped he was above minding these old womanish superstitions. Still Timothy could not entirely conquer his doubts on the subject; and in this I think he was, in a good degree, excusable; for it must be recollected he had but just been initiated, and had not enjoyed as yet scarcely any opportunity of being enlightened by the true principles of masonic philosophy; and when it is considered how deeply early impressions, however erroneous, become engrafted on the heart, I do not think it at all strange that he could not divest himself at once of all these notions which he had been taught to believe correct. Finding his companion still in hesitation on the subject, Jenks, therefore, to remove all further scruples, now informed him that masonry was the very handmaid of religion—indeed it was religion itself, and all the religion that was needed to give a man a passport to heaven; consequently, whatever time was spent in studying masonry, was, in fact, devoted to religious employment, which was the object of the Sabbath, aswas admitted by all the most rigidly pious. But what was more than all, he said, the control of this day peculiarly belonged to the craft, as it was a day of their own establishing; for to masonry, and to masonry alone, the world were indebted for the consecration of the Sabbath. This was put beyond all dispute by the unerring records of masonic history, which, in the words of the learned Preston, Brother Webb, and many other great Masons, expressly says, that "In six days God made the world, and rested on the seventh: the seventh, therefore, our ancient brethren consecrated." Of course this day, being one of their own making, must be the rightful property of the order, and, although they could do what they pleased with it, yet it could be spent no way so suitably as in the study of their art.

Such were the forcible arguments used, and the unanswerable facts cited by Jenks, in enlightening his pupil in the path of his mystic duties, and teaching the extent of his privileges as regarded the observance of the Sabbath. And, although these were abundantly sufficient to enforce conviction on all except the most obdurate of uninitiated heretics, yet there is another curious fact relative to the ancient history of this day, thus clearly traced to masonic origin, which he might have added, and which I cannot persuade myself here to pass unnoticed, it being, as I conceive, a fact of the most momentous import to the glory of the institution, as not only showing the connexion between masonry and the Sabbath, but figuring forth the greatness and divine exaltation of the former, more strikingly perhaps, than any one occurrence related within the whole compass of its marvelous history: Josephus, that authentic ancient historian, informs us that there was a certain river in Palestine that stayed its current and rested on the seventh day, in observance, as he supposed, of the Sabbath. Now if this day was established and consecrated by masonry alone, does not the plainest reason dictate that it was the institution itself, and not the day it had established, that this pious and considerate river thus stayed its course to reverence? Or was not this worship in fact, thus apparently bestowed on the object created, clearly intended for the creator? Nothing, it appears to me, can be more certain than that such was the fact. How stupendous the thought! To what a magnificent pitch of exaltation then has that institution arrived, to which the works of nature thus bow in reverence,—to which the otherwise forever rolling rivers of the earth are held in quiet subjection, resting in their rapid courses at her omnipotent behests!

But to return from this digression—Timothy no sooner learned that such was the case with regard to the connexion between Masonry and the Sabbath than he magnanimously yielded his scruples, and, handsomely apologizing for his ignorance of the facts just stated by his superior in the art, cheerfully consented to the proposed meeting.

Accordingly, on the following Sunday, he repaired on foot and alone to the appointed place of meeting. Jenks was already on the ground awaiting his arrival. After the customary greetings were exchanged, they seated themselves on the grass under the spreading branches of a large beach tree which grew on the margin of the field, affording an excellent shade to screen them from the sultry rays of a July sun. The field which they had thus selected for their masonic rendezvous adjoined a deep piece of woods which extended back unbroken to the mountains, and, being more than a half mile distant from any dwelling-house, furnished a secure retreat against all cowans and evesdroppers, without the aid of a Tyler. Here in this silent and sequestered spot, our two friends, stretched on their grassy bed beneath their cooling covert, proceeded to the business of their appointment. Jenks then producing an old worn pamphlet, went on to read and explain the ceremonies of initiation, which, he said, in its main outlines, represented, as was supposed by the learned men of their order, the creation of the world; because when all was darkness, God said "Let there be light, and there was light." The candidate, he concluded, represented Adam, who came out of the darkness naked, and was admitted to the light, and became endowed with noble faculties, as was the case with all admitted to the glorious light of Masonry.

"But do you suppose, Jenks," said Timothy, "that God led Adam round with a rope tied to his neck, before he let him see the light?"

`I know not how that may have been, Brother Timothy,' replied Jenks, `but at all events, I think there is a striking resemblance between the events of the creation and the ceremonies of an initiation; and we have it from our ancient books that Adam was made a Mason almost as soon as he was created.'

"Our first father Adam, deny it who can, A Mason was made, as soon as a man."

This proving satisfactory to the mind of Timothy, Jenks then proceeded to explain all the grips and tokens of the first degree; after which he taught our hero the art or mystery of halving and spelling Boaz. He next explained the meaning of the several emblems of this degree, such as the three great lights of masonry, representing the sun, moon, and Master of the lodge.—The square and compass, which teach the brethren in such a beautiful and definite manner to square their actions towards one another, whatever sharp corners may thus be made to jostle against the ribs of the luckless uninitiated— to circumscribe their conduct within due bounds, allowing such extent to be fixed to that convenient epithet as their own good judgement and circumstances shall dictate,—all of which thus furnish a great moral guide to the man as well as the Mason—far superior, as many pious and intelligent of the brethren aver, to the Savior's golden rule, "Do unto others," &c., the latter being, as they say, too indefinite for a practical guide by which to regulate their conduct, or rather, we suppose, too general in its application to suit the system of ethics peculiar to this exalted fraternity. And finally he took up the lectures at large, by which Timothy obtained the valuable information that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, as beautifully shadowed forth in the respective stations of the Master and Senior Warden of the lodge,—that the twenty-four inch gauge, or rule, properly represents the twenty-four hours of the day, and was for that reason made just of that length, and not, as is supposed by the unenlightened, because twelve inches make a foot, and a measure of an even or unbroken number of feet is most convenient,—that Chalk, Charcoal and Earth, represent Freedom, Fervency and Zeal, because chalk is free to be broken, or rubbed off—charcoal is hot when it is burning, and the earth is zealous to bring forth, &c. &c. All this, and a thousand other equally striking and instructive emblematical illustrations of this degree were impressed on his understanding in the course of these scientific lectures, expanding his mind with a new stock of useful knowledge.

Having in this manner gone through his explanations of the more prominent points of the lectures, Jenks now took a general view of the principles they inculcated, and the important instruction they afforded to the young aspirant of this noble science. In short, he so eloquently portrayed the many beauties of this degree, that Timothy began to catch some bright gleams of the true light of masonry. Although, to be sure, he had always supposed that the sun rose in the east and set in the west, and that charcoal was apt to be hot when it was burning, yet he never before dreamed that meaning of such deep import lay hidden under these simple facts; but the veil of his natural blindness being now removed, he perceived the great wisdom they contained—a wisdom which was impenetrably concealed from the world, and, consequently, of which he must have forever been deprived, had he never been admitted into the portals of this glorious temple of light, and put in possession of the "art of finding out new arts, and winning the faculty of Abrac."

It now occurring to our hero that he had promised, under the most dreadful penalties, never to reveal, by writing, printing, or otherwise, any of the secrets of masonry, he asked Jenks how the book they then were reading came to be printed, as it appeared to contain most of the secrets and ceremonies of the degree he had taken.

Jenks replied, that this book, which was called Jachin and Boaz, was doubtless a correct and perfect system of masonry at the time it was first published, although not strictly so in all respects now, as many improvements, and some alterations in their signs and pass-words, to prevent the uninitiated from getting into the lodge, had since been made: still, being mainly correct, it was often used in the lodges in lecturing, and might be profitably studied by all young Masons. As to its publication, it was done by a perjured wretch who had violated his oath by writing and publishing it; and it was generally understood among the craft that he had paid the just forfeit by the loss of his life.

This last remark led Timothy to ask if all who revealed the secrets of masonry were served in the same way.

To this Jenks replied, that any mason who divulged the secrets would undoubtedly die for the crime; for, if he did not kill himself, as their traditions informed them some ancient traitors had had the good conscience to do when guilty of this crime, means would soon be taken to put such a wretch out of existence. But, he said, Timothy would much better understand these things when he was exalted to the higher degrees, which, it was to be hoped, he would soon take; for as yet he had seen comparatively nothing of the glories of masonry which, at every degree as the candidate advanced along this great highway of light and knowledge, were more and more brightly unfolded to his view. Jenks then drew such a glowing picture of the honors and advantages of the higher degrees, that our hero, who confessed to himself that his mind was not wholly filled with what he had seen in the first degree, soon resolved to make another attempt to advance in this bright road to perfection, and especially so when he was informed that he had passed through the worst of the terrors, while all the pleasures of the mystic Paradise, since he was now fairly within its gates, remained to be enjoyed.

It was therefore arranged between them that Timothy, at the next lodge meeting, should make application for taking the two next higher degrees, provided he could raise the requisite fees for the purpose; and he was to take home the book, and carefully keeping it from all eyes, make it his study till the next meeting of the lodge, that he might be the better prepared for his intended exaltation.

Having spent many hours under this delightful shade, in this pleasing and instructive manner, the two friends were now about to separate, when an incident occurred, which, having an immediate bearing on the subsequent destinies of our hero, we shall proceed to relate, as is our duty to do in every thing that has conspired to affect his remarkable fortunes, however trivial it may appear at this stage of our narrative, or unworthy the dignity of the historian of so renowned a personage.

When our friends were on the point of separating, as I have mentioned, they were suddenly startled by a loud cracking of the bushes behind the old brush-fence that extended along the border of the woods, at the distance of about ten rods from the tree under which they were standing. The noise was soon repeated, and now plainly appeared to proceed from the irregular steps or bounds of some heavy, slow-going quadruped on the approach towards them, while the sounds of the cracking brush were followed, as the creature occasionally paused in his course, by a sort of wheezing grunt, or blowing, not unlike that of a hog suddenly falling into the water. Now, although cowardice was no part of our hero's character, yet possessing, in common with all other men, the instinct of selfpreservation, he soon felt a queer sensation of the blood creeping over him as these ominous sounds struck his ear— his hair, too, suddenly grew refractory, and began to rise in rebellion against the crown of his hat, and he prudently suggested to Jenks, in the firmest terms that he was able to command, the propriety of losing no time in putting a little more distance between them and such suspicious noises. The latter, however, who was more accustomed to the animals of the woods, only uttered an impatient `pshaw!' at our hero's timely suggestions, and bidding him remain where he was, went forward to reconnoitre that part of the woods from which these singular sounds proceeded. After creeping up to the fence and peering thro' awhile, Jenks quickly retreated, and cutting, with his jackknife, a couple of good shelalahs on his way back, he came up to Timothy, and with great glee told him that there was an old bear with two small cubs slowly making their way towards the clearing, with the intention, doubtless, of entering the field, which was covered with wheat, then in the milk. At this intelligence our hero's all-overishness alarmingly increased, and like a good general, he quickly cast his eyes round to discover and fix upon the best way by which to effect a safe retreat, and seizing his friend by the arm, pulled him along several steps, eagerly pointing towards the nearest house, while his teeth (his tongue just at that time being strangely forgetful of its office) made a most chattering appeal to the obdurate heart of the other, and did their best to second their owner's pantomimic request for immediate flight. "Pooh! pooh!" coolly replied Jenks, "a pretty story if two such chaps as you and I should run for an old bear and two little scary cubs! Here, take one of these clubs, and stand by like a man.—They will soon be over the fence, and if we can frighten off the old one, perhaps we can catch or kill one or both the young ones.—Follow me, and make no noise." So saying, Jenks, with Timothy following almost mechanically at his heels, led the way into the grain to a station from which they could sally out and cut off the retreat of the bears. Here stooping down, they awaited the approach of the foe in silence. In a few moments a loud cracking was heard in the old fence; and immediately after, a rustling among the grain told them that the objects of their solicitude were fairly in the field. "Keep cool, Tim," whispered Jenks, carefully raising himself till he could peep over the grain, "keep perfectly cool—wait till they get a little further into the field. There, then! come on now, and do as you see me!"

With this he rushed furiously forward, swinging his hat and screaming at the top of his voice, and came close upon the astonished animals before they could discover, over-topped as they were by the tall, thick-standing wheat, whence this terrible out-cry came from, and on what side the storm was about to burst upon them. The old bear, however, quickly rallied, and throwing herself on her haunches, and flourishing her broad boxers, tendered battle to her antagonist in a style that would have done honor to the most eminent pugilist of christianized England. The poor cubs were immensely frightened, and, taking different directions, bounded off with all their might, one towards the beech tree, and the other, as fate would have it, directly towards Timothy, who stood like a statue, in the very place where Jenks had left him. But the instant he saw this horrid young monster making towards him, his faculties immediately rose with the occasion, and uttering such a yell as scarce ever did a hero before him, he struck a line in the direction his eye had before marked out for a retreat, and, throwing one hasty glance over his shoulder, in which he saw his friend engaged with the old bear, one cub climbing the beech, and the other close to his heels, run like a deer from the scene of action, clearing the top of the grain at every leap, and crying `help!' and `murder!' at every breath.

Meanwhile the battle was waged with manful courage on both sides by the combatants still on the field; and the issue might have been doubtful perhaps, but for the sudden movement of our hero just described: for the cub that ran towards him receiving a fresh fright from the sturdy outcries of the latter in his retreat, quickly halted, and after making several confused tacks about in the grain, finally came round in sight of its dam, and ran off into the woods. The old bear seeing this, and being satisfied with saving one of her family, or supposing both to have escaped, at once relinquished the battle, and fled in the same direction. Jenks being thus relieved in this hazardous contest, immediately bethought himself of the cub in the tree, and at once determined to secure it. With this purpose in view, he stripped some strong pieces of elm bark from a neighboring tree, and began to climb the beech, near the top of which he could soon perceive the motionless form of the cub firmly grappling the forking branches. After considerable difficulty, he came within sight of the animal, which suffered him to approach without starting, when carefully working a bark noose round its hinder legs, he firmly tied them to the trunk of the tree, and then soon succeeded in getting a pocket-handkerchief over its head, and thus finally so blinded and muffled the creature as to render it nearly harmless. This achieved, Jenks untied its legs from the tree and commenced his descent, leaving it the use of its fore paws to cling around the body of the tree as he gradually pulled it down backwards.

While Jenks was thus engaged in this slow and somewhat difficult process of bringing down his sable captive, Timothy, who had reached a neighboring house, and borrowed a gun and ammunition, hove in sight, now gallantly returning to the rescue, advancing with a sort of desperate determination in his looks, with his piece snugly bro't to his shoulder, levelled and cocked for instant aim. When within thirty or forty rods of the tree where he had left one of the enemy lodged, he halted, and shutting his eyes, boldly pulled away at the top; but his faithless gun only flashed in the pan, and he was coolly preparing to try it again, when taking a hasty glance at the tree, he perceived a rustling among the branches. No time was now to be lost; and he fell to priming and flashing with all his might, till the clicking of the lock arrested the attention of Jenks, who at the same time catching a glimpse of his friend's motions, became alarmed, and sung out lustily to him to forbear. Timothy was horror-struck at this discovery, and he began most bitterly to reproach himself for suffering his courage to carry him to such a pitch of rashness as to lead him into such a dreadful risk of killing his friend; and that friend too a masonic brother!—The thought was distracting! He was soon consoled, however, by the information that the battle was now over, and the enemy driven into the woods, except one cub which, now disabled, remained as the trophy of the victory.

Jenks soon got safely down with the cub, and secured it at the foot of the tree, when feeling curious to know by what lucky cause he had so narrowly escaped being shot at for a bear, he unloaded the musket, and found, to his surprise and amusement, that our hero had, in loading his gun, entirely overlooked the important article of powder, making some amends for this oversight however by the quantity of balls he had put in, no less than four of which Jenks found snugly wadded down at the bottom of the barrel.

The exploits of this eventful day being now brought to a close, Jenks shouldered his ursine trophy, and the two friends separated for their respective homes, both pleased with their achievements, and both thankful, though for different reasons, that they had outlived the dangers of the battle.

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