The Greatest of These


                          "The Greatest of These"

MASTER         "The Lodge will be from Labour to Refreshment until the sound 
               of the Gavel." (Raps once)

REPORTER       (Rises from seat near the South,hurries importantly to East)
               "Thought you'd never give us a rest,Worshipful! Minutes are 
               such a bore. I'm Tibbits, a reporter for the St. Anne Gazette. 
               You don't know me, but I'm a member of this Lodge.

MASTER         (Dryly) "Oh yes, I know you. We had some trouble getting your
               dues, I recall...."

REPORTER       (Nervously) "Never mind that -- mere slip of the memory, I 
               assure you."

MASTER         "Yes, I know. Your memory fails every year."

REPORTER       "But about this assignment of mine. I want to know...

MASTER         "What assignment?"

REPORTER       (Impatiently) "I'm telling you! Got a new City Editor and he 
               has heard that this is the only Lodge in the world which ever 
               buried a woman. I want the facts."

MASTER         (Scornfully) "You are a member of this Lodge and do not know 
               St. Anne's geatest tradition?"

REPORTER       (Defensively) "Well I don't come very often....."

MASTER         "Know anything of the history of the town of St. Anne?"

REPORTER       (Straightens up and recites rapidly, as if from memory) 
               "Greatest little town in the middlewest, four banks, nine 
               churches, seven schools, three factories, sixty-four 
               bootleggers....no,I don't mean that --- make it sixty-four 
               leading citizens...." 

MASTER         "That's not history --- that's fiction. Do you know any of the
               early history of St. Anne?"

REPORTER       "Now let's see... settled in the 1840's, typical middle western
               frontier town - gamblers,saloons,shooting. Vigilantes,horse
               thieves,town women, dance hall girls,hangings,
               hunters,trappers,all that sort of thing...."

MASTER         (Interupts with a smile) " I see you are very well informed. 
               The story you want begins in 1843, when a number of Masons in 
               the new frontier town secured a charter...."

REPORTER       (Hastily) "Wait. Wait till I get my working tools. (Hunts in 
               all pockets, finally finds a pencil behind his ear. Drags 
               yellow paper from his pocket and leans over the Master's 
               Pedistal to scribble.) "Now go ahead...."

MASTER         (Continuing) "A number of Masons got together and formed St.
               Anne's Lodge. My Grandfather, Colonel Sedgewick, was the first
               Master. My father was Master and now I am Master..."

REPORTER       (Interupts) " Listen, I don't want your family history --- get 
               to the woman."


MASTER         "Oh yes, the woman. She was called Virginia Bess, and by all
               acounts she wasn't any better than she should have been. Just a
               dance hall girl. She was said to be young and pretty but she
               drank and gambled and sold herself to any man who wanted 
               her...." 

REPORTER       (Writes rapidly) " I know a lot like that (laugh).."

MASTER         It seems she had a quarrel with the saloon keeper who employed
               her. She took a knife to him, and a trapper pulled his gun and
               shot her. She fell out of the saloon, down the steps,and died 
               in the street.

REPORTER       (Repeating as he writes) "Died -- in -- street."

MASTER         "My Grandfather, Colonel Sedgwick, dismounted from his horse as
               the Sheriff examined her to be sure she was dead. On the girl's
               neck they found a chain, and on the chain,a Masonic charm...."

REPORTER       "Oh, have you still got it? Make a swell picture."

MASTER         "stop interupting -- I've got to call on in a minute. Colonel
               Sedgwick called the Lodge together and took up contributions to
               bury the girl. According to the story they gave her,if not a
               Masonic burial, at least a burial with all the Lodge on hand. 
               She was a Mason's daughter, and so they did for her the best 
               that the could."

REPORTER       "Nice story -- now about the charm...."

MASTER         "The Lodge sent it back to her father. They found his address 
               in her things. He lived in Alexandria, Virginia -- many,many
               days journey as journeys went in those days. He wrote a fine 
               letter to the Lodge, thanking them.... it's in that frame near 
               the South." (pointing) "You can copy it, if you want to"

REPORTER       "Thanks Worshipful. Now I want to ask...."

MASTER         (interupting) "Sorry -- we have important -- and very sad --
               business. Excuse me now...." (Raps,calling the Lodge to Labour)
               (Reporter hurries to framed letter near the South, which he
               copies silently, while the next two speechs are made. Then he
               sits down near the South.) 

TREASURER      (Rises and salutes)

MASTER         "Brother Treasurer Cummings"

TREASURER      "Worshipful. I hate to say this, but it's duty. The mortgage on
               this hall, $4,200, comes due day after tomorrow. Two years
               interest is in arrears, We have less than $200 in the Treasury,
               and that,I understandthe committee on Br. Withers appeal for 
               aid will recommend that we so spend,what are we going to do?"

MASTER         (Rises. His face grave and troubled.) "Brethren, we discussed
               this last meeting -- but no action was taken. We must do
               something tonight or St. Annes Lodge, with an honourable carrer
               of ninety four years, will be homeless,without money and may 
               have to surrender her charter. Some will say we have been 
               impovident, perhaps we should have arranged about the mortgage 
               long ago, but if we had several brothers still living now 
               would be in the cemetary. Whatever else we have done, we have 
               taken car of our own.... I am anxious for suggestions."


SECRETARY      (Rises and salutes)

MASTER         "Br. Secretary Johnson"

SECRETARY      "Worshipful, none of us can contribute enough to make up this
               mortgage fund. All of us are poor. Crops are bad. Death has 
               laid a heavby hand on our membership. The bank has carried the
               mortgage as long as it can. I don;'t see we can do anything 
               else but...."

               (Three load raps are heard at the Tylers door)

JR DEACON      "There is an alarm at the door, Worshipful"

               (The Secretary takes his seat.) MASTER "Hail the alarm"

               (The officer at the door raps from within,opens the door a 
               lttle, confers with an unseen Tiler)
     
JR DEACON      (To Master) "Visiting Brother requests a comittee, Worshipful"

MASTER         "Surely someone here can vouch for any Brother in these parts.
               Ask for the Brothers name and Lodge."

               (Officer at door again,confers with unseen Tyler)

JR DEACON      "Brother William H. Akers, Acacia Lodge, New York, Worshipful."

BR. PENDLETON  (Rises from a seat near the North-East corner,salutes.)

MASTER         "Br. Pendleton"

BR PENDLETON   (Querulously) "We don't want any visitors tonight,do we? Our
               problem is bad enough without washing dirty linen in front of
               strangers. I move we don't appoint a committee."

MASTER         (Brings down gavel sharply, frowning) " I am sorry to rule you
               out of order, Br. Pendleton, but it is for the Master, not the
               Lodge, to order or not order a committee. If St. Annes Lodge 
               must close her doors forever, we will do so with colours 
               flying. We have yet to be inhospitable to any visitor. I can't 
               imagine why a Brother from New York should want to visit us or 
               who Br. Akers may be, but I appoint Brothers Pendleton and Ash
               as a committee, with specific instructions to welcome Br. 
               Akers, if he proves himself, until I can do so. The committee 
               will retire." 

               (The committee retires)

SECRETARY      (Rises and salutes)

MASTER         "Brother Secretary Johnson"

SECRETARY      "Worshipful, let's vote the relief of Br. Withers before we --
               before -- before we do anything else. The committee report
               unanimously recommends our Brother be given his chance of life 
               at the expense of the Lodge. His Doctor says if he goes to 
               Mayo's Clinic he's got a good chance. If we don't, he'll die. 
               And we all know Brother Withers hasn't any money...."


A VOICE        (From the far Northwest corner) "Have we a right to spend our
               money for that when we owe on this building?"

MASTER         (Raps sharply) " I don't know who spoke and I don't wish to.
               Brethren who wish to discuss anything before this Lodge will 
               rise and address the East and be recognized before speaking. 
               Proceed Brother Secretary."

SECRETARY      " I would move the necessary appropriation to send Brother
               Withers to the Mayo's to save his life if we can."

ALL Characters "Second the motion, Worshipful"

MASTER         "You have heard the motion. Is there any discussion?"

BROTHER WILLIS (Rises and salutes)

MASTER         "Brother Willis"

BR.WILLIS      " I yield to no-one in willingness to give relief to the
               distressed. But I believe we have no right to spend money for
               relief when we owe a debt. I cannot believe the Almighty will
               prosper us if we spend the money in the treasury on Br. Withers
               when we should pay the mortgage." (Sits down)

BR LAWRENCE    (Rises and salutes with difficulty. Leans on his cane.)

MASTER         "Brother Lawrence"

BR LAWRENCE    (He stands waveringly, tottering on his feet.) " I have greater
               faith than was just expressed. We are taught that "The Greatest
               of these is charity" The Great Architect would prosper none of 
               us if we refused Br. Withers our aid. But if we did, the 
               pitiful sum in the treasury would not pay the mortgage. The 
               hall is ample security for the debt. The bank will not loose." 
               (He totters into his seat)

MASTER         " Is there any further discussion? If not -- all those in 
               favour will signify by the ancient voting sign of a Mason."

               (The Lodge unanimously votes aye)

               "Contrary,same sign"

               "Motion is unanimously carried and it is so ordered.."

               (Three loud raps at the Tyler's door)

               "Hail the alarm"

JR.DEACON      (Opens door, confers with Tyler,closes door, addresses master)
               "Committee with a visiting Brother, Worshipful."

MASTER         "Admit the committee and the visiting Brother."

               (Committee enters and escorts Br. Akers to the Alter."


BR PENDELTON   "Worshipful Master, I take pleasure in presenting to you and
               through you to the members of St. Annes Lodge, Br. William H.
               Akers, a member of Acacia Lodge of New York City, whom upon
               examination we find to be a Master Mason.

MASTER         "Brother Akers, St. Annes Lodge welcomes all visitors to her
               communications. But you come at an evil hour for us and the
               entertainment we can offer you is but sad, we are faced with a
               difficult question of a mortgage we cannot pay. I am sorry we
               have not the pleasure of your presence upon some happier
               occasion. The committee will show you to a seat and later
               introduce you to the brethren.."

BR. AKERS      "Thankyou Worshipful Master," (The committee seat him near the
               South. Brthren on either side of him shake hands with him.)

MASTER         Has any brother anything to offer towards the solution of our
               sorrowful problem? (Waits expectantly, no one speaks) "If not 
              ,I will be compelled to entertain a motion...." (Brother 
               Lawrence rises slowly, salutes, and leans on his cane) "Brother
               Lawrence....."

BR. LAWRENCE   (Slowly, with dignity) " Worshipful Master, before engaging in
               any great and important undertaking, Masons are taught to 
               invoke the blessing of the Diety. I think we should ask the 
               Supreme Architect of the Universe for help, St. Annes Lodge is 
               old and honourable. Never have we turned a deaf ear to a cry 
               for help. Tonight we have shown all men and Masons that we 
               take care of our own. Many a good man and true has nelt at 
               that Altar" (he gestures toward it) " and the world has been 
               the better that they have. Any I believe - Aye,I believe in 
               the promise given us - it is written: 'Ask and ye shall 
               receive; seek and ye shall find;knock and it shall be opened 
               unto you' And I believe that the prophecy which hangs on our 
               walls" (gestures towards framed letter) "is a true prophecy 
               and that the Great Architect of the Universe has us in his 
               holy keeping...." (he hestitates. The Master rises to his 
               feet. Br. Lawrence continues.) 

               "Wait Worshipful, I am not through...." (Hobbles across the 
               Lodge to the South, slowly and painfully;staggers. Brother 
               Akers springs forward to aid him. Brother Lawrence speaks to 
               Br. Akers) 


               "I thank you Br. Akers. I want to do this alone."

               (Wavers to the South, takes the framed letter from the wall,
               totters back to stand in front of the Altar,facing the Master)

               "Worshipful Master, I will read again the old,old letter 
               written to your grandfather before your father was born."

               (He puts the letter on the Altar, adjusts his glasses, leans on
               the cane with one hand, holds frame in other and reads aloud.)

               (Again lays framed letter on the Altar. Leans forward
               slowly,painfully, until his hands rest on the Altar. His cane
               slips from his hand and clatters to the floor. Prays)


               "Almighty Father, we lay this prophecy upon our Altar - Thy
               Altar. If it is Thy will, make it to come true -- now -- that
               St. Annes Lodge may not perish from the earth. We ask it in 
               the name and under the providence of the All Seeing Eye..... 
               Amen." 

All CHARACTERS (Solemnly as nearly in unison as possible) "So mote it be"

               (Brother Lawrence stands quietly,leaning on the Altar
               waiting....)

BR AKERS       (in a low voice) "Does the man expect a miracle?"

               (Brother Lawrence straightens, slowly, painfully. Picks frame
               from Altar,reaches for cane. His eyes are half closed. 
               Stumbles. fall.drops frame, which crashed to floor, breaks 
               glass and frame. Several Brethren, including the visiting 
               Brother Akers, spring to help him. Murmurs of sympathy, 
               guestions "Are you hurt?" etc. ad lib. Akers picks up letter. 
               Gradually all except Akers seat themselves, satisfied old 
               brother is not hurt. Brother Akers now stands before the Altar 
               where Brother Lawrence stood, staring at the letter. shakes 
               head, passes fingers across face as if sweeping cobwebs from 
               eyes.) 

MASTER         " Brother Akers will you be seated?"

               (Waits 10 seconds -- no answer. With more emphasis) "Brother
               Akers, will you not be seated please?"

               (Waits 10 seconds. -- No answer, Akers shakes,as if with a
               chill; hands are palsied, holding the letter. Anxiously
               concerned, Master continues.)

               "My dear Brother Akers. Are you in distress? Are you ill? Will
               you not be seated?"

BROTHER AKERS  (Raises head as if from a dream. Looks around Lodge
               curiously,then addresses Master)

               "Worshipful Sir, forgive me if I seem discourteous. But any man
               may be struck dumb in the presence of an uncanny coincidence. 
               It was just chance which brought me to this town tonight; my 
               train was late. I was tired and could get no berth. The 
               conductor told me there was a good hotel here...." (He 
               hesitates.) 

MASTER         "Yes, Brother Akers?"

BROTHER AKERS  "The hotel clerk told me -- again just chance -- that your 
               Lodge met tonight.... I am a lawyer. There is no doubt that 
               this is an authentic document?" (Holds up letter as he speaks)

MASTER         "Oh yes, the letter is authentic, it has been handed down from
               Master to Master, year by year. No question of it -- why?"

BROTHER AKERS  "The means taken to preserve it -- the dramatic way it came 
               into my hands -- my hands, of all those here tonight - speak of
               reality.... I do not know the story, evidently well know to 
               all of you, of which this letter is a part. But I know 
               something apparently unknown to you.... it is a wonder -- a 
               veritable miracle."
               (Again forgets audience and examines letter, back and front.)

MASTER         (After a few seconds wait.) "Will you not finish, Brother 
               Akers? Our sad business is not yet over."

BROTHER AKERS  " In the early days in this country, when the postal service 
               was very new, letters were often folded and sealed, thus 
               becoming there own envelopes. This is such a letter. It was 
               mailed in Alexandria, Virginia, August 1845. On the address 
               side of the sheet is a postage stamp. It is what is known as 
               the provisional issue of the Postmaster at Alexandria, 
               Virginia." 

               (Pauses, looks triumphantly at the Master as if announcement 
               was of high importance. Then continues.)

               "You do not understand. How could you understand? Probably none
               amoung you collect stamps, as I do... as I have ever since I 
               was a boy. I konw postage stamps. I know them well. Some 
               people call me an expert Philatelist. I know the stamp 
               catalogue from cover to cover -- perhaps you do not kbnow 
               there is such a thing as a catalogue of old postage stamps.."

               (Pauses, turns letter over,  again examines stamp, then
               continues.)

               " Had this fallen into my hands in any other way, I would have
               attempted to buy it as cheaply as possible. But, I too, have
               knelt at that Altar." ( Steps forward and lays hand on the 
               Great Lights) "And so I say to you that while I am eager to 
               draw my cheque for this letter and stamp, just as it is, for 
               five thousand dollars, my obligation as a Mason makes me tell 
               you that I know two firms and at least five collectors in this 
               country and as many abroad, who will give you six,seven, 
               eight, maybe ten thousand dollars or even more -- I don't know 
               how much more -- for that letter and stamp. This document will 
               pay your mortgage, put money in your treasury, give you a 
               fresh start...." 

MASTER         (Incredulously) "You mean -- that postage stamp is worth five
               thousand dollars? Five thousand dollars?"

BOTHER AKERS   "Just so, Worshipful. I have a catalogue in my grip. I can show
               you the item -- it is the first stamp in the United Staes
               collection."

MASTER         (Eagerly) You -- cannot be mistaken? It is really true? A 
               mistake would be cruel, cruel...."

BROTHER AKERS  : I tell you, Worshipful Sir, I have collected stamps all my
               life, I have never seen this stamp but once, and that in the
               collection of the wealthiest collector in the nation. Oh, I 
               know what you think -- that men are fools to pay for such a 
               tiny bit of paper; that stamp collectors have no sense of 
               proportion.. But you cannot make men different from what they 
               are, and the philatelist has his place in the world - if only 
               - Brother Lawrence - take care, my brother."

               (Brother Lawrence totters forward again, to stand beside 
               Brother Akers at the Altar.)

BR LAWRENCE    "Yes, stamp collectors have their place in life, if only to act
               as the instrument of the Great Architect. Oh, I know.... I 
               know. I had faith... faith...and now....now that I am old, 
               mine eyes have seen.... Oh, not a coincidence, not a 
               chance...." (He raises his hands slowly as if to give a 
               blessing.) 

BROTHER AKERS   (Surprised) :Not a coincidence, Brother Lawrence, then what is
               it?"

BR LAWRENCE    (Looks around room, a tender smile on his face. Then, wit eyes
               raised.) :Now that I am old mine eyes have seen a prayer before
               His Altar answered and the hand of Almighty God in Action."

               (Lights here to be dimmed, or put out, signifying end.)