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Eavesdropper

A listener. The punishment which was directed in the old lectures, at the revival of Freemasonry in 1717, to be inflicted on a detected cowan was: "To be placed under the eaves of the house in rainy weather, till the water runs in at his shoulders and out at his heels." The French inflict a similar punishment: "On le met sous une gouttiere, une pompe, ou une fontaine, jusqu' ce qu'il soit mouill depuis la tete jusqu'aux pieds," meaning They put him under the rain-spout, a pump, or a fountain, until he is drenched from head to feet. Hence a listener is called an eavesdropper. The word is not, as has by some been supposed, a peculiar Masonic term, but is common to the language. Skinner gives it in his Etymologicon, and approvingly calls it vox sane elegantissima, aptly sound word; and Blackstone (Com, mentaries iv, 13) thus defines it: Eavesdroppers, or such as listen under walls, or windows, or the eaves of a houses to hearken after discourse and thereupon to frame slanderous and mischievous tales, are a common nuisance and presentable at the court leet or are indictable at the sessions. and punishable by fine and finding sureties for their good behavior.

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