A Woman who had done nothing to Deserve it was the Wife of a Joiner. He was the K.G. of one Benevolent Order and the Worshipful High Guy of something else, and the Senior Warden of the Sons of Patoosh, and a lot more that she couldn’t keep track of.
When he got on all of his Pins he had Sousa put away.
Night after Night he was off to a Hall up a Dark Stairway to land some Unfortunate into the Blue Lodge or the Commandery or else Over the Hot Sands.
He carried at least twenty Rituals in his Head, and his Hands were all twisted out of Shape from giving so many different Grips.
In the Morning when he came out of the House he usually found some one waiting on the Door-Step to give him the Sign of Distress and work the fraternal Pan-Handle on him. He subscribed for the Magazines that were full of these sparkling Chapter Reports, and after that, if he had not spent all his money going to Conclaves and Grand Lodge Meetings, he paid Dues and Assessments and bought Uniforms. He had one Suit in particular, with Frogs and Cords and Gold Braid strung around over the Front of it, and then a Helmet with about a Bushel of Red Feathers. When he got into this Rig and strapped on his Jeweled Sword he wouldn’t have traded Places with Nelson A. Miles.
His Wife often said that he ought not to leave her and take up with a Goat, and that she could use on Groceries some of the Coin that he was devoting to Velvet Regalia and Emblematic Watch-Charms, but he always tried to make it Right with her by explaining that he had Insurance in most of these Whispering Organizations, so that she and the Children would come in for a whole Wad of Money. The Wife thought it was too long to wait. He seemed to be in a Fair Way to live another Century and keep on paying Assessments.
There was no use in Arguing with him. When a Man gets to be a confirmed Joiner he is not Happy unless he can get into an unlighted Room two or three Nights a Week, and wallop the Neophyte with a Stuffed Club, and walk him into a Tub of Water, and otherwise Impress him with the Solemnity of the Ordeal.
The real Joiner loves to sit up on an elevated Throne, wearing a Bib and holding a dinky Gavel, and administer a blistering Oath to the Wanderer who seeks the Privilege of helping to pay the Rent.
To a Man who does not cut very many Lemons around his own House, where they are Onto him, it is a great Satisfaction to get up in a Lodge Hall and put on a lot of Ceremonial Dog, and have the Members kneel in front of him and Salute him as the Exalted Sir Knight.
You take a Man who is Plugging along on a Salary, and who has to answer the ‘Phone and wrap up Tea all Day, and let him go out at Night and be an Exalted Sir, and it helps him to feel that he isn’t such a Nine-Spot after all.
Now this particular Joiner wanted to be up on a carpeted Dais every blessed Evening, having the Brothers march in front of him and give him the High Office. His Wife, being unacquainted with the Secrets of the Lodge Room, was unable to understand why he was so Fascinated with the Life. She was exceedingly Inquisitive and often tried to Pump him by the most Artful Methods, but of course he did not dare to Divulge or his Right Arm would have Withered and his Tongue would have Cleaved to the Roof of his Mouth, and he would have been an Outcast on the Face of the Earth, despised by all other Members of the Royal Tararum. Now and then he Talked in his Sleep, and she caught Expressions in regard to Branding him on the Other Leg or putting him back into the Coffin, and her Curiosity was intensified.
One day she read in a Veracious Newspaper that if the Left Hand of a Sleeping Person be immersed in Tepid Water, then the Sleeper will truthfully answer any Question that may be asked. She resolved to try it on her Husband. She was dying to know what they Said and Did at Lodge Meetings that would keep a Man away from Home so many Nights in the Week.
That Night after he had come home from the Odd Fellows and passed into Slumber she crept out and took a Low Advantage of him. She slid his Left Hand into a bowl of Warm Water without arousing him, and he Gave Up. He told all the Passwords, the Secret Mottoes, the Oaths, the Meaning of the Symbols and the Unwritten Work. When he had finished she had a Notion to Ring for a Night Cab and go Home to her own Family, but her Better Judgment prevailed. She concluded that she would have to continue to Live with him, no matter what she Thought of him.
She never dared to tell that she Knew, and he never Suspected. Husband never guessed why it was that when he started out for an Evening with the Skeletons and the Candidates she stood back and smiled at him more in Pity than in Anger.
MORAL: It’s a Good Thing they don’t Know.