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IV. — A RILL FROM THE TOWN PUMP.
1. Noon by the north clock! noon by the east! High noon, too, by these hot sunbeams which fall, scarcely aslope, upon my head, and almost make the water bubble and smoke in the trough under my nose. Truly, we public characters have a rough time of it! And among all the public characters chosen at the March meeting, where is he that sustains, for a single year, the burden of such manifold duties as are imposed in perpetuity upon the Town Pump?
2. The title of “ town treasurer” is rightfully mine, as guardian of the best treasure that the town has. The overseers of the poor ought to make me their chairman, since I provide bountifully for the pauper, without expense to him that pays taxes. I am at the head of the fire-department, and one of the physicians of the board of health.
3. As a keeper of the peace, all water-drinkers will confess me equal to the constable. I perform some of the duties of the town clerk, by promulgating public notices when they are pasted on my front. To speak within bounds, I am the chief person of the municipality, and exhibit, moreover, an admirable pattern to my brother officers, by the cool, steady, upright, downright, and impartial discharge of my business, and the constancy with which I stand to my post.
4. Summer or winter, nobody seeks me in vain ; for all day long I am seen at the busiest corner, just above the market, stretching out my arms to rich and poor
alike; and at night I hold a lantern over my head, both to show where I am and to keep people out of the gutters.
5. At this sultry noontide I am cup-bearer to the parched populace, for whose benefit an iron goblet is chained to my waist. Like a dram-seller on the mall, at muster-day I cry aloud to all and sundry in my plainest accents, and at the very tip-top of my voice, “Here it is, gentlemen! here is the good liquor! Walk
walk up, gentlemen! walk up! walk up! Here is the superior stuff! Here is the unadulterated ale of Father Adam - better than Cognac, Hollands, Jamaica, , strong beer, or wine of any price. Here it is, by the hogshead or the single glass, and not a cent to pay ! - Walk up, gentlemen! walk up, and help yourselves !”
6. It were a pity if all this outcry should draw no customers. Here they come !
Here they come! A hot day, gentlemen! ! Quaff, and away again, so as to keep yourselves in a nice, cool sweat! You, my friend, will need another cupful, to wash the dust out of your throat, if it be as thick there as it is on your cowhide shoes. I see you have trudged half a score of miles to-day, and, like a wise man, have passed by the taverns and stopped at the running brooks and well-curbs. Otherwise, betwixt heat without and fire within, you would have been burned to a cinder, or melted down to nothing at all, in the fashion of a jelly-fish! Drink, and make room for that other fellow who seeks my aid to quench the fiery fever of last night's potations — which he drained
from no cup
7. Welcome, most rubicund sir! You and I have been great strangers hitherto; nor, to express the truth, will my nose be anxious for a closer intimacy, till the fumes of your breath be a little less potent. Mercy on you, man! the water absolutely hisses down your redhot gullet, and is converted quite to steam. Fill again, and tell me, on the word of an honest toper, did you ever, in cellar, tavern, or any kind of a dram-shop, spend the price of your children's food for a swig half so delicious ? Now, for the first time these ten years, you know the flavor of cold water. Good-by, and whenever you are thirsty, remember that I keep a constant supply at the old stand.
8. Who next?— Oh, my little friend, you are let loose from school, and come hither to scrub your blooming face, and drown the memory of certain taps of the ferule, and other schoolboy troubles, in a draught from the Town Pump. Take it, pure as the current of your young life. Take it, and may your heart and tongue never be scorched with a fiercer thirst than now! There, my dear child ! put down the cup, and yield your place to this elderly gentleman, who treads so tenderly over the stones that I suspect he is afraid of breaking them.
9. What! he limps by without so much as thanking me, as if my hospitable offers were meant only for people who have no wine cellars. Well, well, sir! no harm done, I hope! Go, draw the cork, tip the decanter; but when your great toe shall set you a-roaring, it will be no affair of mine. If gentlemen love the pleasant titillation of the gout, it is all one to the Town