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


Daniel P. Thompson

"Love's but an ague that's revers'd,—
Whose hot fit takes the patient first;—
That after burns with cold as much
As iron in Greenland does the touch."

Nature, it is sometimes said, often smiles auspiciously on those undertakings which are fraught with important benefactions to man. When the birds flew to the right, the chickens fed well, and Sol unveiled his smiling features, then, and then only would the sagacious old Romans commence any important undertaking. In what direction the birds flew, on the morning that our two friends set forth on their journey, it was not noticed; but certain it is, that the numerous brood of dame Jenks' chickens manifested no lack of appetite on that memorable occasion: and a bright October's sun burst smilingly through the thick and humid mantle of mist and fog that had closely wrapt, through the night, the head waters of the sluggish Otter, as they applied the string to the back of old Cyclops, and rattled off on their intended enterprise. The learned Boaz had been duly boxed and shipped aboard their partnership vehicle, and a stock of provisions laid in, consisting of baked meats and bread for the biped, and soft corn, sweet apples, and oats, for the quadruped portion of this distinguished party, which might have served a company of Bedouins for crossing the great desert of Africa. They did not strike immediately into the main road leading to the west, but by common consent took a by-road which passed through a thinly inhabited part of the country, and, after a circuit of some half dozen miles, came into the direct road to New-York. This aberation, indeed, cost old Cyclops four or five additional miles' travel, but it enabled them wholly to avoid the village of examination-memory, which our hero had resolved should never again enjoy the light of his presence, and thus saved him from the violation of vows that both he and his friend, in the present instance, seemed equally anxious to preserve inviolate.

Nothing of particular interest happened to our travellers during their first day's journey. Having their provisions with them, and not expecting to reap any emoluments by the exhibition of Boaz while in Vermont, or accumulate much by their exertions as pharmacopolists till they had reached a more gullable people than those jacks-at-alltrades and professions, the inhabitants of the Green-Mountains, they stopped at neither private house or tavern during the day; and at night, after a diligent day's drive, they found themselves in the vicinity of the Hudson, and many miles within that great political bee-hive, the State of New-York, where a numerous array of proud and luxurious queen-bees are generously allowed all the honey for governing the `workies.'

About dark they hauled up at the door of a kind of farmer's tavern, situated adjacent to a pine plain, which was now on fire, while the country for some miles round was enveloped in a dense cloud of smoke, through which a thousand lights from stump and tree were beginning to twinkle with the gathering shades of the approaching evening. The landlord, an easy, though rather of a sneaking looking personage, came out, with his pipe in his mouth, and greeted our travellers as they drove up to the door. Our hero immediately leaped out of the waggon, and, with a dignity of demeanor suitable to his elevated standing in masonry, returned the salutation of the host, while at the same time, seizing the hand of the latter, he gave him a hearty grasp. "What a d—l of a grip you have, stranger!" said the landlord, as wincing with pain he withdrew his own passive hand from the vice-like squeeze of Timothy's fingers—"You must be a southerner, I guess, for they always shake hands with a fellow whether they have ever seen him before or not; but they don't knudge in among a body's knuckles so, as I knows of."— `Ah! he has never been admitted to the glorious light of masonry,' thought Timothy, with a sigh.

"Landlord," said Jenks, now taking upon himself the character of spokesman, "we should like to put up with you to-night provided we can pay you in our way, and we are willing to give you an excellent bargain."

`Your way?' asked the other, giving a suspicious glance at the waggon, `your way!—what mought that be, if I may be so bold?'

"Why," replied Jenks, "we have a live bear for show, and"—

`A live bear!' peevishly interrupted the man—`Pho! pish! pshaw!'

"Yes, a fine one! but hear me," said Jenks, somewhat abashed at the other's sneers—"hear me through: we ask twenty-five cents a person for a sight, and if you will keep us, you, and all your family, shall see the animal, which, I presume, will amount to much more than the reckoning; so you will be making quite a spec!"

`A curious spec that!' said the landlord—`I would give about three skips of a flea to see your bear—I was out to a great hunt on the mountains the other day, and help'd kill four as loud bears as ever was seen: But I won't ax any thing better than money for your keeping; and that you have enough of, I'll warrant.—Come, come, none of your Yankee tricks for me—I used to be a Yankee myself once, and understand a thing or two about their contrivances to get along on the road.'

At this declaration, which conveyed the startling intelligence that their host was a fellow-countryman, our travellers concluded to say no more about Boaz by way of paying their fare, but to put up on the offered conditions; so, after seeing Cyclops well stabled and fed, and Boaz safely locked up in the barn, they all went into the house, and entered into conversation.

"Would it not," said Timothy, as the landlord left the room for a moment, "would it not, Brother Jenks, be more complaisant with the dignity of our station to take some hot digestibles to-night? My appetite begins to be somewhat excruciating, and I propound that we take a supper like gentlemen."

`My appetite, under such circumstances, would have been as keen as yours before I was married, I presume, Timothy,' replied the other, glancing, with a comical smile, at a rosy-cheeked girl in the next room, on whom our hero's eyes had been all the while rivited, `and as it is, I have no objection to what you say.'

The landlord then entering the room, a supper was accordingly bespoken, and while it was in preparation the garrulous host took a seat with his guests, and resumed his discourse.

"So, you are from old Varmount, you say," began mine host. "Well, I was original born in Cornetercut."

`Ah!' said Jenks, `then I don't wonder you understand so much about Yankee contrivances, as you call them: Did you ever follow the business of pedling?'

"Not by a jug-full, Mister," replied the other—"I never was one of your wooden nutmeg fellers, I'll warrant it.— But I peddled love and larnin to some purpose when I fust come to York State, I tell ye—he-he he!"

`Why, how was that?' asked Jenks.

"I was goin' to tell you," said the host.—"As soon as I got my edifercation parfect, I steered for York State, and teached in one of the low counties among the Dutch till I got acquainted with a young wider with an only darter, when we soon struck up a bargain, and moved up to this farm, which fell to her as her portion out of her father's estate, and here we all are, pretty well to do in the world, as you may say."

`We don't make our fortunes quite so easy as that in Vermont,' observed Jenks.

"No," rejoined the other, "I never could see how you all contrive to live in that cold, barren, out-of-the-way region. Why, I once travelled a piece into the Green-Mountains about the middle of June, and going by a log-hut, I saw a man planting potatoes with his great coat on,—it was then about ten oclock in the forenoon.—At sundown I returned by the same place, & found the man to work digging his potatoes up again.—So, thinking this was rather queerish, I stopped and axed him what he was doing that for, when he said he didn't dare to trust his potatoes in the ground over night for fear they would freeze! he did, as true as my name is Jonas Bidwell—he-he he!"

`Was that,' retorted Jenks, somewhat nettled at the taunt thus thrown at his native state, as well as at the boisterous and self-applauding laugh of the landlord at his happy delivery of this witty story, `was that about the time when the Yorkers were so anxious to possess `this cold, barren, out-of-the-way place,' that they came on in large numbers and tried to drive the owners from their farms, so that they could live there themselves, but getting handsomely basted with beech clubs, or beech-sealed as it was called, retreated as fast as their legs would carry them, leaving the Green-Mountain Boys to enjoy the sour grapes to themselves?'

"I don't know any thing about that," said the landlord, still chuckling at his own story—"but the potatoes—he-he he!"

`But the Beech-Sealers,' rejoined Jenks, imitating the tone of the other—`what a cold, barren place Vermont has ever since been with the Yorkers!—ha-ha ha!'

Just at this moment the landlady, a short, fat, chubby figure, that would have rolled down a hill one way as well as the other, came waddling into the room, stopping every two or three steps to take breath, or a fresh puff at her pipe,—"Shonas!" said she, addressing her husband, as she dropped into her chair with a force that shook the whole house,—"Shonas! Pe Cot! You look tam vell here in ter house ven ter vire ish purnin all mine vinter crain up! I can take care dese Cot tam Yankee petlars ash petter ash you.—So pe off to vatch ter vire all night, or ter hell take yer!"

The obedient husband, who had sunk into silence the moment his bigger half made her appearance, no sooner heard the promulgation of this ukase than he took his hat and sneaked out of the house to his appointed task. The landlady then entertained our travellers with many a story about her farm, which "Shonas," she said, "a coot fellow enough, help her carry on;" and enlarged with much apparent interest on her stock of cattle, giving even the pedigree of her calves and colts, and finally wound up the history of her prospects by saying, "Tank mine Cot, I havn't seen ter pottom of mine milk-tup dese twenty years!"

This last observation our travellers better understood when they sat down to supper, which in the meanwhile had been announced as ready, and which consisted, among other things, of bonnyclabber, a favorite dish with the Dutch. They, it is said, always keep a tub in one corner of the pantry, for the purpose of making and keeping this sine qua non of their tables; it being manufactured by adding every day a quantity of new milk, always leaving, when they use out of it, (unless forced by necessity to use the whole) a portion of the old in the bottom of the tub to turn these daily additions into this delectable beverage. Hence the Dutchman's thermometer of prosperity is his milk-tub.

At supper, our travellers were attended by the landlady's daughter, to whom allusion has before been made.— Nature, as regarded the family stock, here seemed to be in a process of rapid improvement, without being very badly cramped for room for her operations; for the daughter, in features, was to the mother, after making every reasonable allowance for the ravages of time, as Hebe to Hecate. But aside from this, and difference of diameter, if a gauger's term be admissible in this connection, the girl was a chip of the old block, which she abundantly proved by retorting all the jokes cracked upon her by her guests with a spirit equalled only by the refinement and delicacy of her language. Our hero being the young man of the party, and having been somewhat smitten from the first by her appearance withal, particularly attempted to display his gallantry; all of which she met with such jocose freedom that he proceeded with her to the highest pitch of sociability; and, by the time that supper was over, and the table cleared off, he began to feel, as she turned her little twinkling black eyes upon him, rather queer about the inwards. Jenks now going out to see to old Cyclops and Boaz, left our enamored swain to the enjoyment of more privacy with his spanking sweetheart—an opportunity which he did not fail to improve; and soon getting into a romp with her, he became emboldened to throw out hints which most damsels, who reckon themselves among the household of Diana, might have perhaps resented. Not so, however, with the lively Katreen; for she, like most of her country-women, I believe, not holding to restricting the liberty of debate on one subject more than another, met Timothy more than half way in all his advances; and, as far as words were concerned, fairly beat him on his own ground. By the time they had been performing their domestic waltz half an hour or so, our hero could have sworn he was in love, with as clear a conscience as Uncle Toby had done before him, after the rubbing operation by the soft hand of Widow Wadman. By the way, I wonder if the fashionable dances, known by the appellation of waltzes, did not originate in a hint taken from Uncle Toby's courtship. I can think of no other supposition so probable when the similar operations and results of the two performances are fairly considered.

Jenks now coming in, deprived Timothy of further opportunity of prosecuting his suit at this time, and of making some direct propositions which he was about to do when thus interrupted in his amorous parlance, and which, he had no doubt would be favorably received.

It was now bed-time, and our hero was reluctantly compelled to retire with Jenks, leaving his conquest, as he believed, on the very point of its achievement. Their sleeping apartment was one of the front rooms of the house, the other front room being used as the bar-room, while a long room in the rear of these, answering the purpose of kitchen, bed, and dining-room, completed the ground work of the building, which was of one story with a Dutch roof, and a long, low piazza in front.

As soon as our travellers were by themselves in their sleeping-room, Jenks at once proceeding to disrobe himself, began talking on the subject of their journey, while Timothy, taking a chair, and, without seeming to heed the observations of his companion, sat some time silent and abstracted. On perceiving this, the former inquired the cause; and, after pumping and rallying him awhile, succeeded in reviving his usual ingenuousness, and making him confess the reason of his sudden entrancement. Just at this time, our hero, with the quick ears of love, caught the sounds of the footsteps of his fair one in the chamber above him bustling about in preparation for bed. The ancients represented the god of love as blind—a wight, of course, who never looked before he leaped. By this, nothing more was intended, doubtless, than that he was considered a rash, short-sighted and foolish fellow; but I have frequently suspected, from his so often deliberately instigating his devotees to acts which result in their total discomfiture, and from the design so often apparent in the mischief which he seems to delight in occasioning, that this deity is much more of a knave than a numb-skull; and that this, after all, is the only reason why

"The course of true love never did run smooth."

Timothy, having noticed that there were several windows in the roof of the house within reaching distance of the top of the piazza, and knowing that one of these must open from the chamber of his charmer, now formed the chivalrous project of scaling the outward walls which enclosed the bright prize of his affections. This resolution was no sooner taken than communicated to his companion.

"These Dutch minxes," coolly observed the latter, "are clear pepper-pots for grit; and if this one should happen to take a snuff at your climbing up to her window, Tim, I would not warrant your pate from all damage short of money."

`O, no trouble there,' said the other eagerly, `for I have ascertained for an intense certainty that she has taken a most amorous conviction for me.'

"It may be as you suppose," rejoined Jenks, "for I saw that you and she were as thick as two cats in a bag, in the supper-room; but have you thought, Brother Timothy, of the possibility of your violating your masonic obligations if you go on in this affair? How do you know that this girl is not a Master Mason's daughter?"

`Why!' replied our hero, `I gave the old man as derogatory a grip as ever was given to a brother, when we first met him at the door, and he returned it no more than the most dormant cowan in existence!'

"Well, but her own father," said Jenks, "is dead—perhaps he was a Mason."

`Allowing your conjectural supposition to be true,' observed the other, somewhat staggered, `do you think the obligation was meant to be amplified and distended to a Mason's wife or daughter after he is dead?'

"I rather think," replied the elder votary of mystic morality, "that the obligation does not bind us, in this respect, after a brother's death; though it doubtless would extend to a brother's widow in a matter of charity. But you are on sure ground for another reason, which I guess you never thought of, Timothy.—The oath says, `you shall not violate a brother Master's wife, sister or daughter, knowing them to be such.'—Now, when you don't know that a woman is a relation to a brother of such a degree, you can't of course infringe on your obligation, whatever you may do. So you see you are safe in this case; but I thought I would see how you would get along with my questions. Thus you see that our obligations, when you come to look at their true meaning, are not so rigid after all; for even at the worst, this caution applies only to Masters' relations; and as to the female connections of Entered Apprentices and Fellow-Crafts, I know of nothing in masonry that forbids us to meddle with them if we wish,— much less as regards all the rest of the sex who have not the honor to be related to Masons of any degree; for to enjoy ourselves with these is, I take it, one of the privileges that masonry bestows on her trusty followers."

Timothy, who had been somewhat startled by the naming of his masonic obligations, and once or twice perplexed by the questions thus unexpectedly put to him on the subject which occupied his mind, was now happily relieved from his doubts and misgivings by the explanation of his more experienced masonic friend, and, entirely coinciding with the latter in opinion respecting the latitude which his obligations implied, began in earnest to think of his nocturnal enterprise.

As soon, therefore, as all was quiet below, of which he was soon assured by hearing the old lady pitch the pipes of her nasal melody, he crept carefully out of the front door, and, after taking a hasty observation at the heights to be surmounted, and the situation of the window that opened into his fancied Elysium, he began to climb a post of the piazza. This, after a hard struggle, he happily effected. Being now on the top of the piazza, which was almost flat, he found no difficulty in walking along till he came under the window in question. Here he paused to consider what might be the most suitable manner of making known his presence to the fair object of his visit. As soon as he had made up his mind upon this delicate, though important subject, and screwed up his courage to the sticking point, he reached up, and, taking hold of the window stool, and bracing his feet against the steep slant of the roof beneath it as he mounted, raised himself till he could look into the window, which, it being a warm night, the unsuspicious occupant had fortunately left open. "Now," said Timothy, in a whispered ejaculation, "now may the gods of love and masonry inspire me." And, for the double purpose of awakening the respectful admiration of his charmer by making known his masonic quality, and at the same time enrapturing her with the melody of verse, he commenced chanting, in the soft, winning accents of love, one of those delicate and beautiful little stanzas of masonic poesy which are forever the pride and boast of mystic minstrelsy—

"To Masons and to Masons' bairns, And women both with wit and charms Who love to lie in Masons' arms."

"The bitches! I wish they were dead—caterwauling round the house all night," muttered the half-roused sleeper, between dreaming and thinking.

Our hero, feeling somewhat mortified in finding that his own sweet notes should be mistaken by his drowsy inamorata for the music of some nocturnal band of feline performers, and perceiving by her snoring that she was again relapsing into slumber, resolved to regale her ears with a livelier strain, though with a text no less beautiful and appropriate:—

"Then round the circle let the glass, Yet in the square, convivial pass; And when the sun winds o'er the lea Each lass shall have her jubilee."

"That aint the cats!" exclaimed the damsel in tones of alarm, starting up in her bed,—"what's that in the window! Who are you?"

`O it is I,' replied Timothy, with a most affectionate simpering of voice—`it is only I, the gentleman who had the connubial conversation with you in the supper-room, and could not rest for thinking of the pelucid embellishments of your charms.'

"And what," replied the girl, who had become thoroughly awake during this gallant speech, "and what, Mr. Pelucid Embellishment, do you want here? It strikes me that you won't be much more apt to rest, if you stay here long, than you would in your own room where you ought to be."

`O, celestial charmer!' exclaimed our hero, `do not cause my extraction forever! I know your internals must bleed with the most amorous propensities for my anxious condition! I am a high Mason; and

"We're true and sincere— We all love the fair— They'll trust us on any occasion."—

"Well, Sir," said Katreen coolly, "if you are one of those wise fellers that strut about with aprons as solemn as a pack of old women at a granny-gathering, I will trust you on this occasion with a secret: do you want I should tell it?"

`O, I should be extremely extatic to hear it,' replied Timothy, overjoyed at this supposed symptom of her relenting.

"Well, then," said she, in no very mild accents, "if you, Sir, don't make yourself scarce in two minutes, I'll give you something that will make you keep as long as a pickled lobster!—that's all."

`O, you lily of cruelty!' exclaimed our swain, `O, don't retard my congenial anxieties, but let me come in: I shall propagate no noise.'

"No, nor any thing else, I guess," said she, tartly; "but I shall though," she continued, leaping out of bed, "I shall though—scamp of impudence! Will you be gone?"

But Timothy, notwithstanding the ominous tones of her voice, and the rather unloving nature of her remarks, which might, perhaps, have discouraged one of a less gallant and sanguine disposition, still persisted in thinking that she was merely joking, and not believing that she could seriously be otherwise than enraptured with him, became the more emboldened as he beheld this fearless daughter of Amsterdam standing in her night-clothes beside her bed, apparently waiting his approach; and he began to make a movement to climb into her window. Perceiving this, she sharply bid him desist, or he should repent it. Timothy begged her not to speak so loud, lest she should raise the folks in the house.

"I can help myself, I thank you," she replied, "without calling any assistance; and I will do it too, to your sorrow."

Our hero hearing that she did not wish to alarm the house, and feeling no great apprehensions on any other score, now boldly began to mount the window; but scarcely had he thrust his head over the threshold of his fancied paradise, when, (shade of Dean Swift, inspire me to tell it!) the hidden reservoirs of that paradise were suddenly uncapt—a masked battery was unexpectedly opened upon the unconscious victim, and its projected torrent of liquid wrath, coming with fatal aim, met him full in the face with a force that nearly swept him from the window-stool with the shock!

"There! take that, stupid puppy!" exclaimed the gentle angel within, "and if that an't enough, I've got another in store for you. It will be quite an addition to your pelucid embellishments, I apprehend."

"Then Cupid shriek'd, and bade the house farewell."

Reader! did you ever shoot a squirrel in a tree-top? If you have, and noticed how suddenly he fell from his hold as the messengers of death reached his heart, then you may form some idea how quickly our hero dropped from the window on to the piazza below on receiving this deadly shot from the fortress of his charmer.

Almost all diseases, in this age of physiological research, have their specific remedies: and why not love among the rest? But when Byron, in his wicked wit, while treating of the antidotes of this complaint, said or sung— "But worst of all is nausea or pain About the lower regions of the bowels, Love who breathes heroically a vein, Shrinks from the application of hot towels," he must have been wholly ignorant, I think, of the efficacy of that potion which was thus promptly administered to our hero—a potion no sooner taken than his Cyprian fever, with all its hallucination and burning agonies, left him instantly and forever. The lovely and the loved one, whom, one moment before, his fancy had invested with all the charms and graces of the Houri, was now to his disenthralled senses....bah! he could not endure to think of her. His first thoughts were involuntarily employed in making this metamorphose—his second were turned to his own condition: and for the next half hour, a dark object, in form much resembling our hero, might have been seen standing in the neighboring brook, busily engaged in something, the accompanying motions of which seemed not much unlike those attending the ordinary process of washing clothes. But why longer dwell on this sad and singular catostrophe? Misapprehensions will often occur among the wisest and best; and how then could it be expected, in the present cese, that a mere country girl could perfectly understand the rights and privileges to which our hero was duly entitled by the liberal principles and blessed spirit of masonry?

Some physicians have recommended, I believe, salt water bathing for promoting sound and healthy slumbers. I much incline to second the opinion of its efficacy in this respect; and had he, who discovered this remedy, have wished to extend his fame in this particular, our hero would have freely given him a certificate in favor of the practice; for he never slept more soundly than on the night of his adventure with the lovely Katreen, the heroine of the Dutch tavern.

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