EVERYBODY who has read a fair amount of Kipling knows that he was a Mason. Again, everybody knows that certain of his verses and stories have a definite Masonic theme. One example is "The Mother Lodge" —that picture of his own Mother Lodge in Lahore; Lodge Hope and Perseverance, 782 E.C., of which he was Secretary before he was 21. Another is that fantastic story which is told in the offices of the Civil and Military Gazette, also at Lahore —"The Man who would be King" —in which those two European loafers, Peachey Carnehan and David Dravot adventure into the wilds of Kafiristan, where they discover the F C degree in existence and run the country, until the final tragedy, as Master Masons. These, and several entire stories in Debits and Credits, refer quite openly to Masonry in a way that is perfectly obvious to the non-Mason.
But scattered throughout his works there are a large number of other Masonic references which are not recognised as such by the outside world, because they were clearly written for the eyes of Masons alone, and only Masons can discover them. We do the same sort of thing ourselves, in phrases we use, sometimes half unconsciously. For instance, in declining a rather risky business deal, one man might say: "In my business I've learnt to be careful"; whilst another might say, "In my business I've been taught to be cautious." Both phrases mean the same thing, but —as they say on the wireless —one of the speakers was probably a Mason: was it (a) or was it (b).
And that, in effect, is what Kipling does. One suddenly comes across a phrase or an incident which has a double meaning —a private link between his Masonic reader and himself, which he knew, when he wrote it, no one else would understand. Those are the incidents and phrases I want specially to bring out in this talk; but as I also realise that no reference to Kipling as a Mason would be complete without dealing with the obvious Masonic references as well, I propose to start at the beginning —which in this case means starting at the end.
The last book Kipling wrote was his autobiography —"Something of Myself" —and the last words in it are characteristic. They end the final chapter, called, by the way, "Working Tools" in which he describes his study and its fittings "Left and right of the table were two big globes, on one of which a great airman had once outlined, in white paint, those air routes to the East and Australia which were well in use before my death." But apart from that striking ending, the charm of the book is that as you read through his life, you begin to notice that almost every little incident in that life has been transmuted into gold in one or other of his stories. For instance, "Baa Baa Black Sheep" and the early part of "The Light that Failed" are faithful and detailed reproductions of his unhappy early childhood. "Stalky and Co," as everyone knows, pictures his own school, "Westward Ho-now the Imperial Services College." Stalky —otherwise General Dunsterville —is still very much alive, and readers of any of his books will appreciate that the character of Stalky was not overdrawn.
Kipling's life in Villiers Street, after he came back from India, is the foundation of the middle part of "The Light that Failed," and provides most of the characters in Brugglesmith. His early days in Lahore, on the Civil and Military Gazette, form the back-cloth for the Man who would be King. He also admits that when he was a constant visitor at Mian Mir, he found the originals of his "Soldiers Three" in the 2/5th Fusiliers, the 30th East Lancs, and a third Regiment which he describes as "a London recruited regiment of skilful dog stealers." I quote the exact description of the last regiment as a matter of local interest, because they were the 31st East Surreys.
The point of all those instances, and many others I've not mentioned, is that Kipling, a true journalist, wrote of things as they happened, as and when he saw them, and then passed on to use fresh material as his experiences enlarged and varied. As a result, once you know his life, you can place almost any isolated story in its correct period simply by the internal evidence.
But there is one incident which, unlike all the other, he didn't simply use once and then cast aside. This is how he describes that incident in "Something of Myself " :-
"In 1885 I was made a Freemason by dispensation (Lodge Hope and Perseverance 782 E.C.) being under age, because the Lodge hoped for a good Secretary. They did not get him, but I helped, and got the Father to advise, on decorating the bare walls of the Masonic Hall with hangings, after the prescription of Solomons Temple. Here I met Muslims, Sikhs, members of the Araya and Bramo Samaj, and a Jew Tyler, who was priest and butcher to his little community in the City. So yet another world opened to me which I needed."
That's the pencil sketch. Now see how faithfully he reproduced Lodge Hope and Perseverance —not Hope and Perseverance Lodge, when he wrote the Mother Lodge some years later —even to the "bare walls of the Masonic Hall"; —let me repeat the rough sketch in prose again :-
"Here I met Muslims, Sikhs, members of the Araya and Bramo Samaj, and a Jew Tyler, who was ripest and butcher to his little community in the City.
There was Rundle, Station Master, and Beazeley of the Rail
And 'Ackmann, Commissariat, and Donkin of the Tail
And Blake, Conductor Sergeant (our Master twice-was 'e)
With 'im that kep' the Europe shop —old Framjee Eduljee.
Outside: Sergeant? Sir! Salute! Salaam!
Inside: Brother! and it didn't do no 'arm.
We met upon the Level and we parted on the Square
And I was Junior Deacon in my Mother Lodge out there.
We's Bola Natt, Accountant, and Saul, the Aden Jew.
And Din Mahommed, draughtsman of the Survey Office, too.
There was Babu Chuckerbutty, and Amir Singh, the Sikh
And Castro, from the fitting sheds —the Roman Catholick
We 'adn't good regalia, and our Lodge was old and bare
But we knew the Ancient Landmarks, and we kep' them to a hair
And looking on it backwards, it often strikes me thus,
There ain't such things as infidels —except perhaps it's us.
For monthly, after Labour, we'd all sit down and smoke
We dursen't give no banquits, lest a Brother's caste be broke
And man and man got talkin', religion and the rest
And every man comparin' the God he knew the best.
So man an' man got talkin' and not a Brother stirred
Till mornin' waked the parrots and that dam brain fever bird
We'd say 'twas mighty curious, and we'd all ride home to bed
With Mohammed, God, and Shiva changing pickets in our 'ed.
Full oft, on Gov'ment service, this roving foot hath pressed
And borne fraternal greetings to Lodges East and West
Accordin' as commanded, from Kohat to Singapore
But I wish that I might see them in my Mother Lodge once more."
Before I go on, I want you to let your minds dwell for a moment on those verses, and realise how perfectly Kipling paints a picture of an Indian Lodge in the nineties. To begin with, there is that phrase in the refrain: "We met upon the Level and we parted on the Square."
In those days the Lectures were as familiar to the Masons as the actual Ceremonies, and if you refer to the opening questions and answers in the First Section of the First Lecture, you will find the quotation :-
Q. As F & A M's, how did you and I first meet? A. On the Square.
Q. How do we hope to part? A. On the Level.
The exact ritual quotation therefore should have been "We parted on the Level and we met upon the Square," but I think you'll agree that Kipling's version is more musical and smoother; so that although he admits to an early habit of not verifying his, references, there's no doubt that in this case the inversion was deliberate.
Then there's another familiar touch: "We dursn't give no Banquits lest a Brothers caste be broke." I remember being advanced in Mark Masonry, some 27 years ago in Meerut, the Lodge being mainly composed of native lawyers —men, of course, of good caste. We had a banquet, it's true, but the Hindoos preserved their caste by dining at a separate table, well away from the remaining small minority, and so placed that our shadows could not fall across it. Towards the end of the banquet, I, as Can, was honoured by having some of their food brought to me (after they had finished, because anything I touched would have to be thrown away, in any case). The food in question consisted mainly of native curry and Ghi, —ghi being native butter, which, if not actually rancid, was definitely a border line case; so you can imagine how I appreciated the "honour."
The last portion of all, in the Mother Lodge, is that verse about bearing fraternal greeting" —"accordin' as commanded." It used to be a regular practice in Lodges overseas, for each visitor to stand in his place in Lodge, after the Third rising, and give "Hearty Greetings, W.M. from Lodge Light in the Himalayas 1448 E.C. —Lodge Mayo 1413 E.C. —and so on. After the last war Grand Lodge vetoed this custom, but in the Debits and Credits volume, in one of the several Masonic stories dealing with the war-time Lodge of Instruction working under Faith and Works 5837, Kipling gives this idea of their effect:-
"Listen to the greetings. They'll be interesting."
"The crack of the great gavel brought us to our feet, after some surging and plunging among the cripples. Then the Battery Sergeant Major —in a trained voice —delivered hearty and fraternal greetings to Faith and Works from his tropical district and Lodge. The others followed, without order, in every tone between a grunt and a squeak. I heard 'Hauraki,' 'Inyanga-Umbezi,' 'Aloha,' 'Southern Lights' (from somewhere Punta Arenas way), 'Lodge of Rough Ashlars ' —and that Newfoundland Naval Brother looked it —two or three stars of something or other, half a dozen cardinal virtues, variously arranged, hailing from Klondyke to Kalgoorlie, one Military Lodge on one of the fronts, thrown in with a severe Scots burr by my friend of the head bandages, and the rest as mixed as the Empire itself."
But I'm getting ahead of my chronology. There's another illustration of Masonry as it was in the nineties in "The Rout of the White Huzzars," published in his earliest volume of stories Plain Tales from the Hills."
The Masonic reference is quite incidental, but it's told in a way that makes it intelligible to the Mason, but so in keeping with the rest of the story that it arouses no suspicion —which is the point I want to bring out. The tale describes how a martinet Colonel nearly causes a mutiny in the White Huzzars by ordering their favourite, the old drum horse, to be cast, and how some bright young sparks, led by Lieut. Hogan-Yale, hid the old horse, killed another in its stead, and then turned the old original drum horse loose in the horse lines at twilight, decked with phosphorescent paint, and ridden by something resembling a skeleton. Result, panic on the part of the White Huzzars, and the ultimate reinstatement of the old drum horse. The story ends like this:-
"A week later, Hogan Yale received an extraordinary letter from someone who signed himself, 'Secretary, Charity and Zeal, 3709 E.C.,' and asked for 'the return of our skeleton, which we have reason to believe is in your possession.'
"' Who the deuce is this lunatic who trades in bones,' said Hogan Yale.
"'Beg your pardon Sir,' said the Band Sergeant, 'but the skeleton is with me, and I'll return it if you'll pay carriage to the Civil Lines. There's a coffin with it, Sir.'
"Hogan Yale smiled and handed two rupees to the Band Sergeant, saying: 'Write the date on the skull, will you.'
"'If you doubt the story, and know where to go, you can see the date on the skeleton.'"
Still keeping to the Indian period, and the early Lahore days, I suppose "With the Main Guard" —in "Soldiers Three" —is the earliest instance of Kipling's skill —and tremendous cheek —in introducing Masonry into his stories in such a subtle way that the outsider would never notice it. You will remember that in this story Mulvaney is describing the hand to hand fighting in one of the Afghan wars, in a narrow gut between two hills, with the two British companies jammed right up against the Afghan reserve, each side trying to cut its way through.
The o,/c Company, Capt. Crook, can't even get free space to use his sword —and then a set of familiar phrases leaps out of the page :--
"'Knee to knee,' sings out Crook wid a laugh, whin the rush of ourcomin'in to the gut stopped, and he was huggin'a hairy great Pathan neither bein' able to do anything to the other —though both was wishful. 'Breast to Breast,' he says, as the Tyrone was pushing us forward closer and closer.
"'And hand over Back,' says a Sergeant who was behind. I saw a sword lick past Crook's ear, and the Pathan was tuk in the apple of his throat, like a pig in Dromeen fair.
"'Thank you, Brother Inner Guard,' says Crook, cool as a cucumber widout salt. 'I wanted that room.'"
To you, as Masons, this sounds pretty barefaced; but I can assure you that when I read this tale for the first time, long before I was initiated, the only part that struck me as unusual was the reference to the "Inner Guard" —and I thought that had some Army reference to Guard duties. To show you how the layman can miss the most obvious Masonic reference, there is the well-known instance —in print —of the misguided critic who reviewed "The Man who would be King." But before I give you that instance, perhaps I had better make the story clearer by reading just one extract, in which Dravot discovers the existence of the Fellow Crafts degree:-
"Peachey." says Dravot, "we don't want to fight no more. The Craft's the trick, so help me," and he brings forward that same chief I left at Bashkai —Billy Fish, we called him, because he was so like Billy Fish that drove the big tank engine on the Bolan in the old days.
"Shake hands with him," says Dravot, and I shook hands and nearly dropped, for Billy Fish gave me the Grip. I said nothing, but tried him with the Fellow Craft Grip. He answers all right, and I tried the Masters Grip, but that was a slip. "A Fellow Craft he is," I says to Dan. "Does he know the Word? —"He does," says Dan and all the priests know. They can work a Fellow Crafts Lodge in a way that's very like ours, and they've cut the marks on the rocks, but they don't know the Third Degree and they've come to find out. A God and a Grand Master of the Craft am I, and a Lodge in the Third Degree I will open.
"It's against all law," I says, "holding a Lodge without warrant from anyone; and you know we never held office in any Lodge,"
Anyway, they open the Lodge, and this is what happens:-
"The minute Dravot puts on the Master's apron that the girls had made for him, the priest fetches a howl, and tries to overturn the stone that Dravot was sitting on. ' It's all up now,' I says. 'That comes of meddling with the Craft without warrant.' Dravot never winked all eye, not when ten priests took and tilted over the Grand Master's Chair —which was to say, the stone of Imbra. The priest begins; rubbing the bottom end of it and presently he shows all the other priests the Master's Mark, same as was on Dravot's apron, cut into the stone. Not even the priests of the temple of Imbra knew it was there.
"'Luck again,' says Dravot across the Lodge to me. 'They say it's the missing mark that no one could understand the why of.' Then he bangs the butt of his gun for a gavel and says: 'By virtue of the authority vested in me by my own right hand and the help of Peachey, I declare myself Grand Master of all Freemasonry in Kafiristan in this the Mother Lodge of the country.' At that he puts on his crown and I puts on mine —I was doing Senior Warden —and we opens the Lodge in most ample form."
This, of course, is Masonry obvious to any layman, but apparently the critic I mentioned just now didn't appreciate it. At the beginning of this story, the narrator (Kipling) meets Peachey Carnehan at a desert junction in Rajputana, and is instructed how to find Dravot and give him a message. Peachey backs his appeal in an odd way: "You'll give him my message," he says, "for the sake of my mother as well as your own."
Remember this was in Kipling's earlier days, when the literary pundits regarded him as a precocious stripling who required chastening for the good of his soul. And so the critic seized on this phrase, and played with it at some length. "In that phrase," he points out, "Kipling's literary judgment forsakes him. He strikes an excruciatingly false note —false in sentiment and judgment, in that appeal 'for the sake of their respective mothers.' How unlikely, and how futile," he says.
You can imagine how Kipling himself, and every other Mason who read it, must have chuckled at that criticism. To appreciate the completeness of the "sell," let me quote the whole passage:-
"The idea is that Carnehan wants most urgently to get this message to Dravot, who can be found at Marwar junction, and so he takes a chance —not a very long chance in the India of those days —that the casual acquaintance he has met may be a Mason. And he finds out like this
"'I ask you as a stranger going to the West,' he said with emphasis.
"'Where have you come from,' said I.
"'From the East,' says he, 'and I'm hoping you'll give him the message on the Square —for the sake of my Mother as well as your own.'
"Englishmen are not usually softened by appeals to the mothers, but for certain reasons —which will be fully apparent —I saw fit to agree."
In those days, as no doubt many of you know, one of the opening gambits with a suspected Mason was "How old is your Mother" —the answer being the name and number of your Mother Lodge. If an obvious reference like that revealed nothing to the layman —not even to the lay critic —how safe were the subtleties of other stories! Take "The Captive" for instance —a story of the South African war, from "Traffics and Discoveries," where you get the first mention of that doughly American inventor, Laughton O. Zigler. He is discovered as a prisoner of war, and, in conversation, tells the story of his famous gun, which, in despair of the red tape of the British War Office, he finally uses against them, on the side of the Boers, to prove its worth. The British capture his gun, and the scene opens with the narrator (Kipling) approaching the prisoners bathing parade, with a bundle of newspapers as a bribe.
"At the edge of the beach, cross-legged, undressed to his sky blue Army shirt, I saw a lean ginger haired man, on guard over a dozen heaps of clothing.
"'Excuse me, Mister,' he said without turning (and the speech betrayed his nationality), 'would you mind keeping away from those garments? I've been elected janitor —on the Dutch vote.'
"'Have you any use for papers,' says the visitor.
"'Have I any use! Why, that's the Noo York postmark! The American Tyler of all things created. Do you subscribe to that.'
"'I'm on the freerlist,' said the visitor nodding. He extended his blue tanned hand with that Oriental Spaciousness which distinguishes the native born American, and met the visitor's grip expertly. 'I can only say that you've treated me like a Brother.'
"And then he tells the story of his gun in action. 'The way we worked Lodge was this,' and then he describes how he loosed off at them at 8.42 a.m., and how, in about half an hour, the British moved out against him. 'Lying down and firing till 11.45 a.m. or maybe High Noon. Then we'd go from labour to refreshment, resoomin' at 2 p.m. and battling till tea time.'"
You see how ingeniously all those phrases we know so well are dovetailed in to the dialogue, so neatly that they have a perfectly natural meaning as well as a Masonic one. There's another very good example of this in a later story, "The Dog Heryey," published in 1914. It deals with the daughter of a rascally doctor, who patched up dipsomaniacs, insured their lives heartily in his favour, and then turned them loose on the world "with an appetite." One of them, a yachtsman, has fallen in love with the daughter, who, by the way, owns an ugly dog with an odd characteristic —it squints. The narrator of the story, who knows both the girl —and the dog —is the yachtsman's guest on board, and is trying to humour his host during what he first believes to be an attack of the "jim james." The host thinks he sees a dog, and the narrator, of course, pretends that he sees it too:-
"'What's the dog like?' I asked.
"'Ah! That is comforting of you! Most men walk through them to show me they aren't real. As if I didn't know! But you're different. Anybody could see that with half an eye.' He stiffened and pointed,
'Damn it all, the dog sees it too —with half an ... Why! He knows you! Do you know him?'
"'How can I tell if he isn't real,' I insisted.
"'But you can! ... I beg your pardon, old man, but you see, you do know the dog. I'll prove it. What's the dog doing? You know.' A tremor shook him, and he placed his hand on my knees and whispered:
"'I'll letter or halve it with you. You begin.'
"'S,' said I; to humour; for a dog would most likely be standing or sitting, or maybe scratching or sniffing or staring.
"'Q,' be went on, and I could feel the heat of his shaking hand.
"'U,' I said. There was no other letter possible, but I was shaking too.
"'I' —'N' -- T —I —N —G he ran out. There! That proves it!"
You see how the spelling of the word, by keeping up the suspense, only appears to be a dramatic intensification of the story; and it fits in so naturally that the non-Mason would see nothing. Besides giving direct quotations from the ritual, there are several instances in which Kipling paraphrases it —but once again this is done in such a way that while the elect recognise it at once, the outside world only see it as a relevant part of the story. A good instance of this —not in story, but in verse —is that early ballad "The Sons of the Widow." It was written at the time Queen Victoria had entirely withdrawn herself from public affairs, after the death of Prince Consort, and was known throughout the Empire as the Widow of Windsor. The verses are frankly Jingo and Imperialistic in tone, and start off like this:-
'Ave you 'eard of the Widow at Windsor,
With an Hairy gold crown on 'er'ed.
She 'as ships on the foam, she 'as millions at 'ome
And she pays us pore beggars in red.
and the first refrain runs :-
Then 'eres to the Widow at Windsor
And 'eres to the stores and the guns.
The men and the 'orses, that make up the forces
Of Missis Victorier's sons.
The second refrain, however, reminds us of the close connection between the Army in India and Masonry in India:-
Then 'eres to the Lodge of the Widow
From the Poles to the Tropics it runs.
The Lodge that we tile with the rank and the file
And open in form with the guns.
and having introduced the Masonic motif, you can almost see Kipling's mind working. Missis Victorier's sons. . . . Sons of the widow of Windsor.... Sons of the Widow —All Master Masons are Brothers to HAB who was a Widow's Son. . . . And so, in the last refrain, you get the phrase with a double meaning this time. To the general reader, it fits perfectly with what has gone before; but to the Mason it recalls those poor and distressed Sons of the Widow, who are not necessarily in the Army. Here it is:-
Then 'eres to the Sons of the Widow
Wherever, 'owever they roam,
'Eres all they desire, and if they require
A speedy return to their 'ome."
Who but a Mason would realise that this was the Tyler's Toast.
"There's another, parody rather than a paraphrase of the ritual in one of his many Machinert stories, '.007,' a tale of the marshalling yards —of Pennsylvania —in which the plot unfolds mainly in conversation between various railway engines. .007, the newcomer, is being badgered by the older engines, like a new boy at school. The rudest of the lot is a big express freight engine, the Great Mogul, who's so rude that even Poney, the little shunting engine, thinks he's gone too far. 'Split my tubes,' says Poney, but that ain't acting polite to a new member of the Brotherhood.'
"There being a capital 'B' to Brotherhood,' one naturally looks for more, and gets it. Poney explains to .007, when the millionaires luxury express thunders by, that it's drawn by the Purple Emperor, doing 75 miles per hour. 'Yes, sir,' says Poney. 'Seventy-five an hour. But he'll talk to you in the round house just as democratic as I would. He's Master of our Lodge. I'll introduce you some day.' The introduction comes in due course, but in the meantime the pride of the big freight engine, the Great Mogul, has had a great fall. He runs off the track, scatters his expensive freight in a field, and has to be pulled back on the rails by .007. When the round house have done commenting on this feat, to the glory of .007 and the detriment of the Great Mogul, the Purple Emperor arrives. 'Let me make you two gentlemen acquainted,' says Poney. 'This is our Purple Emperor, kid, whom you were admiring last night. This is our new Brother Worshipful Sir,, with most of his mileage ahead of him; but so far as a serving Brother can, I'll answer for him.' 'Happy to meet you,' said the Purple Emperor, with a glance round the crowded house, 'I guess there are enough of us to form a full meeting. H'm! By virtue of the authority in me vested as Head of The Road, I hereby declare and pronounce No. .007 a full and accepted Brother of the Amalgamated Brotherhood of Locomotives, and as such entitled to all shop, switch, tank, track, and round house privileges throughout my jurisdiction, in the Degree of Superior Flyer. At a convenient time, I myself will communicate to you the Song and Signal of the Degree, whereby you may be recognised on the darkest night. Take your stall, newly entered Brother amongst Locomotives!'"
This of course is not actual Ritual, but a very close imitation, and although "declare and pronounce" came out of the Book of Common Prayer —another of Kipling's sources of inspiration —the rest may fairly be credited to the Obligation in the 1st degree.
When Kipling settled in Sussex and produced those two wonderful fairy tales for children and grown-ups called "Puck of Pooks Hill," and "Rewards and Fairies," he still found opportunities for sly Masonic references, and as the stories are period pieces, his Masonry conforms to the period. In the Roman stories in "Puck," for instance, the cult of Masonry which he found in the British legions in India is matched by the cult of Mithras in the Roman Legions on the Great Wall. There are several references, but here is a typical one, from "Winged Hats," where Parnesius, the Roman centurian, who is narrating the story to the children, tells how he rescued one of the invading Danes who had been washed ashore.
"'As I stooped, I saw he wore such a chain as I wear' —Pamesius raised his hand to his neck. Therefore, when he could speak, I addressed to him a certain question which can only be answered in a certain manner. He answered with the necessary Word —the Word that belongs to the degree of Gryphons in the science of Mithras, my God."
In "Rewards and Fairies" there's a story called "The Wrong Thing" which is told by an operative Mason in the time of Henry VII. Dan and Una, the two children who act as compare and commere, as it were, both in "Puck" and "Rewards," are in Mr. Springett's workshop, where the old gentleman has been telling them how he built the village hall, not for profit, but for the joy of the work as a Craftsman. Then Hal of the Draft appears, known to the children as a Tudor workman but of course unknown to Mr. Springett.
"'Be you the builder of the village Hall? 'Hal asks Mr. Springett "'I be,' was the answer, 'but if yon want a job. . . .' "Hal laughed. 'No, faith,' he said; 'only the Hall is as good and honest a piece of work as I've ever run my rule over, and being born hereabouts, and being reckoned a Master amongst Masons, and Accepted as a Master Mason, I made bold to pay my respects for the builder.' "'Ah —Um!' —Mr. Springett looked important. 'I be a bit rusty, but I'll try ye."'
He asked Hal several curious questions, and the answers seemed to please him, for he motioned him to sit down. Whilst I'm on this volume of "Rewards and Fairies," there's another extract I want to give yon, which might not be intelligible to everyone but which has always puzzled me very much, because Kipling never went through the Chair of any Lodge. The story, "Brother Square Toes," is told as usual to Dan and Una; this time, by Pharaoh, a gypsy Frenchman who went to America at the time of George Washington, was adopted by two Indian chiefs, and as a boy, was taken by them to listen in to a conference at which they hoped to learn Washington's intentions as regards war with England. They learn it; and when the rest of his Council have left and they face Washington alone, they salute him. (We all know, of course, that Washington was a Mason.)
This is how Pharaoh describes the salute:-
"'I saw my Chief's war bonnets sinking down and down. Then they made that sign which no Indian makes outside of the Medicine Lodges; a sweep of the right hand just clear of the dust, and an inbend of the right knee at the same time —and those proud eagle feathers almost touched his boot top.'
"'What did it mean? said Dran. "'Mean! 'Pharaoh cried. 'Why, it's what you ... what we ... it's the Sachems way of sprinkling the sacred corn in front of ... Oh, it's a piece of Indian compliment really, and it signifies that you're a very big Chief.'"
Rulers in the Craft will agree with me that it does! Finally, I want to give you some idea of Kipling's views on the teachings of Freemasonry, which he details in one of his later works, that collection of tales known as "Debits and Credits." In this volume, he writes quite openly about Masonry, making it the introduction and background of two of his stories, and the main theme of one of them. That one is the first of the series, and is called, "In the Interests of the Brethren." In the hope that some of you may not have read it, I'll try and give you a precis.
The story starts with a description of Kipling's meeting with Mr. Burges, in his tobacconists' shop:-
"We shook hands, and 'What's your name,' we both asked together.
"His name was Lewis Holrod Burges, of Burges & Son, as I might have seen above the door —but Son had been killed in Egypt.
"(It was then that he told me of Son Lewis's death, and why the boy had been christened Lewis.)
" . . . One morning, a wounded Canadian came into the shop and disturbed our little committee.
"'Say! 'he began loudly, 'are you the right place?'
"'Who sent you,' Mr. Burges demanded.
"'A man from Messines; but that ain't the point. I've got no Certificates nor papers nor nothing, you understand. I left my Lodge owing 'em seventeen dollars back dues. But this man at Messines told me it wouldn't make any odds with you.'
"'It doesn't,' said Mr. Burges. 'We meet to-night at 7 p.m.'
"'The man's face fell a yard. 'Hell!' said he,' but I'm in hospital -I can't get leaf.'
"'And Tuesdays and Fridays at 3 p.m.,' Mr. Burges added promptly. 'You'll have to be proved, of course.'
"'Guess I can get by that all right,' was the cheery reply. 'Toodsday, then.'
"He limped off, beaming."
(As a result of this conversation, the narrator gets an invitation to tea, and Lodge afterwards.) . . .
"At tea time Mr. Burges was dressed as for church, and wore gold prince-nez in lieu of the silver spectacles. I blessed my stars that I had thought to change into decent clothes.
"'Yes, we owe that much to the Craft,' he assented. 'All Ritual is fortifying. Ritual's a natural necessity for mankind. I abhor slovenly Ritual anywhere. By the way, would you mind assisting at the examinations is there are many Visiting Brothers to-night? You'll find some of them very rusty, but it's the Spirit, not the Letter, that giveth life.'
"We stumbled up a porch and entered a carefully decorated anteroom hung around with Masonic prints. I noticed Peter Gilkes and Barton Wilson, fathers of 'Emulation' working, in the place of honour; Kneller's Christopher Wren; Dunkerley, with his own FitzGeorge book plate below and the bend sinister on the Royal Arms; and a beautifully framed set of Grand Masters from Anthony Sayers down. I have never seen a Lodge room better fitted. From mosaicked floor to appropriate ceiling, from curtain to pillar, implements to seats, seats to lights, and little carved music loft at one end, every detail was perfect in particular kind and general design. I said what I thought of them all, many times over.
"'I told you I was a Ritualist,' said Mr. Burges. 'look at those carved corn sheaves and grapes on the back of these Wardens' chairs. That's the old tradition —before Masonic furnishers spoilt it I picked up that pair in Stepney ten years ago —the same time I got the gavel This was of ancient yellowed ivory, cut all in one piece out of some tremendous tusk '
"'That came from the Gold Coast,' he said. 'It belonged to a Military Lodge there in 1794.'"
. . . (In the examination room, the narrator finds that the Brethren 'come all shapes,' with one exception.)
"I mistrusted an enormous Sergeant Major of Heavy Artillery, who struck me as much too glib, so I sent him on to Bro. Lemming, who discovered he was a Past District Grand Officer.'"
. . . When they get into the Lodge room, Kipling decides, at long last, to give the uninstructed and popular world —i.e. the great bulk of his readers —some sort of an idea is to what it's all about. This is how he does it:-
"Now a Lodge of Instruction is mainly a parade ground for Ritual. It cannot initiate or confer degrees, but is limited to rehearsals and lectures. Worshipful Brother Burges, resplendent in Solomon's Chair, briefly told the visiting Brethren how welcome they were and always would be, and asked them to vote what ceremony should be rendered for their instruction. When the decision was announced, be wanted to know whether any Visiting Brethren would take the duties of Lodge officers. They protested bashfully that they were too rusty. When the visitors had been coaxed to supply the necessary officers, a ceremony was rehearsed. Brother Burges forbade the regular members to prompt. The Visitors had to work entirely by themselves, but on the Battery Sergeant-Major taking a hand, he was ruled out as of too exalted rank. They floundered badly after that support was withdrawn. . . ."
"When the amateurs, rather red and hot, had finished, they demanded an exhibition working of their bungled ceremony by Regular Brethren of the Lodge. Then I realised for the first time what word-and-gesture-perfect Ritual can be brought to mean. . . ."
"Presently Bro. Burges touched on a point which had given rise to some diversity of Ritual. He asked for information. 'Well, in Jamaica Worshipful Sir,' a Visiting Brother began, and explained how they worked the detail in his parts. Another and another joined in from different quarters of the Lodge (and the world)." . . . "
(After the greetings, which I read to you earlier, the Brethren are played and sung out to, the quaint tune of the 'Entered Apprentices' Song.'
"The Brother (a big boned clergyman) that I found myself next to at table, told me the custom was a 'fond thing, vainly invented' on the strength of some old legend. He laid down that Masonry should be regarded as 'an intellectual abstraction.' An officer of Engineers disagreed with him and told us how in Flanders, a year before, some ten or twelve Brethren held Lodge in what was left of a church. Save for the emblems of mortality and plenty of rough ashlars, there was no furniture.
"'I warrant you weren't a bit the worse for that,' said the clergyman. 'The idea should be enough, without the trappings.'
"'But it wasn't,' said the other. 'We took a lot of trouble to make our regalia out of camouflage stuff we'd pinched, and we manufactured our jewels from old metal. It kept us happy for weeks."'
So the conversation goes round the table, in the way that only Kipling can describe it. I should like to read more of it, because, to my mind, it is the most arresting part of this and all the other Masonic stories in this volume. In Kipling's hands, it shows us that the essential fraternal communion takes place after Lodge, at what we, somewhat wistfully nowadays, term the Banquet. That is where, if we do our job properly, we seniors can see that our Brethren make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge; and that is why the verses at the beginning of this story are called "Banquet Night." Like all the "Songs from Books," they are a summary or commentary, from a different angle, on the story which follows.
Let me prove it by repeating them:-
Once in so often, King Solomon said,
Watching his quarrymen drill the stone,
We will club our garlic and wine and bread
And banquet together beneath my Throne.
And all the Brethren shall come to that mess
As Fellow Craftsmen-no more and no less.
Send a swift shallop to Hiram of Tyre
Floating and felling our beautiful trees
Say that the Brethren and I desire
Talk with our Brethren who use the seas.
And we shall be happy to meet them at mess
As Fellow Craftsmen —no more and no less.
Carry this message to Hiram Abif
Excellent Master of forge and mine
I and the Brethren would like it, if
He and the Brethren will come to dine.
Garments of Bozrah or morning dress
As Fellow Craftsmen —no more and no less.
God gave the Hyssop and Cedar their place
Also the Bramble, the Fig, and the Thorn.
But that is no reason to black a man's face,
Because he is not what he hasn't been born.
And, as touching the Temple, I hold and profess
We are Fellow Craftsmen, no more and no less.
The Quarries are hotter than Hiram's forge
No one is safe from the dog whip's reach
Its mostly snowing up Lebanon gorge
And its always blowing on Joppa beach.
But, once in so often, the messenger brings
Solomon's mandate: "Forget these things.
Brother to Beggars and Fellow to Kings
Companion of Princes —forget these things,
Fellow Craftsman, forget these things."
And to-day, brethren, after five years of war and destruction, those words are still true. Once in so often, we too, in Masonry, are permitted to —forget these things.