"Pretty nice speech," said the New Brother, sitting down beside the Old Tiler. "You know, I think I'd like to go in line."
"Indeed, it was a very good speech. The boy has the makings of a real Past Master," smiled the Old Tiler. "But about going in line -- don't forget the process hurts."
"Hurts? I don't believe I get you exactly."
"Probably not. When you have been longer in the lodge, you will recognize a certain similarity about all speeches from newly elected and installed Masters. They all think the same way. As soon as they get near the east they begin to think what they can do for the lodge and how they can make it better. They make high plans and do a lot of brain work, and then they tell the lodge about it. I wonder it never occurs to any of them how conceited they are when they are first elected."
"Conceited? Why, young Jamison isn't conceited; he's a nice, modest chap."
"Sure he is! But he tells you all the things he is going to do, quite forgetting that a long line of predessors have not succeeded in doing them. They talk that way with the world and the lodge at their feet, and both to be conquered."
"But neither ever is conquered. Every Past Master has done all he knew to make this the best lodge in the world. It's a pretty good lodge at that, but it isn't what it might be—if we were all perfect. As any Master's year slips along and he finds that the attendance isn't much better than it was, and the degree work just as lacking in beauty as it had ever been because this, that, and the other officer, with the best intentions but no equipment, is making a spectacle of himself, he finds that the process of becoming a Past Master hurts, and hurts badly."
"Most Past Masters are worth a lot more to the lodge as Past Masters than as Masters because of the lessons they learn while Master which they didn't know before. And Jamison has the makings of a fine Past Master; one who will think and work, and be a genuine asset to the lodge."
"But Jamison will improve the degree work -— he has a lot of plans——"
"He'll try. But, my brother, you can't make men over. All our officers are pretty fixed in their ways. They do the best that is in them to do. They are earnest, lovable, conscientious men. They struggle to learn the work, letter perfect. But God makes some men orators, and to some he gives a sing-song voice which would ruin the most beautiful words in the language; and we have our share of them. Jamison won't be able to change them, hard as he may try."
"Do you think he shouldn't try, then?"
"Heaven forbid! Of course he should try. We should all try. The officers should try, and do try. But if we all succeeded in our straining after perfection, there wouldn't be any fun left in the world at all, or any glory in Masonry. In a perfect world Masonry would have no place. Since Masonry is in existence to make men better, if all men were best it wouldn't be needed.
"No, Brother, it's a good thing for the lodge that Jamison can't make this a perfect lodge of perfect Masons. If he could, we wouldn't have any excuse for being. But if he didn't try, he wouldn't be the good man that he is."
"Well, I am amazed," said the New Brother. "You have such peculiar ideas——"
"I am an old, old tiler," grinned the Old Tiler. "I have watched them go up to the east with high hopes and great plans for years and years. And I have seen them step down at the end of their year, happy to be out of the chair, deeply sorry they couldn't do what they tried to do, disillusioned as to the capacity of one man to change a thousand men, worried that they haven't carried the old lodge farther on the road."
"But years have taught me that it is given to very few of us to set many stones in the structure of Masonry. We are lucky if we set one brick right—if, indeed, we can bring one stone which is good work, true work, square work; to the structure, and receive therefor a Mason's wages, we have done well."
"And that is what Jamison will do. He won't succeed in making fifty more men come to the lodge this year than came last. He won't stage a degree any better than a dozen Masters before him have staged. He won't have any more calls for charity than many have had. He won't have any better candidates or any better taught entered apprentices or fellowcrafts than others have had. He will just go along with the lodge, and guide it and direct it and do the best he can, but, unless he is the one man in a hundred, he won't do any more than all of them who trod that road before him could do."
"Then you think he'll be a failure?"
"Decidedly not! I think he'll be a success. For he will try: try earnestly, try hard, think, labor and struggle with his job. And at the end of a year he will have set one stone in this lodge, at much cost to himself. He will make himself into a good Past Master, a man who knows his lodge, who understands its membership, who is able to think fast and work hard, a man who loves his order and his jewel. The one thing he can do best for this lodge is to make himself into a good Past Master—and if he does that, he will find, in after years, that it paid, even if it did hurt."
"I—I don't know that I want to go in line," said the New Brother, thoughtfully, as he walked away.