Twice Told Tales HTML version

A Rill From The Town-Pump
(SCENE, the corner of two principal streets,[1]
the TOWN-PUMP talking through its nose.)
[1] Essex and Washington streets, Salem.
Noon by the north clock! Noon by the east! High noon, too, by these hot sunbeams,
which full, 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 tough time of it! And
among all the town-officers chosen at 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? 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 to the board of health. 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 posted
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. 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 keep
people out of the gutters. At this sultry noontide I am cupbearer to the parched populace,
for whose benefit an iron goblet is chained to my waist. Like a dramseller on the mall at
muster-day, I cry aloud to all and sundry in my plainest accents and at the very tiptop of
my voice.
Here it is, gentlemen! Here is the good liquor! Walk up, 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!
It were a pity if all this outcry should draw no customers. 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 that 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
burnt 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 of mine.—Welcome, most rubicund sir!
You and I have been great strangers hitherto; nor, to confess the truth, will my nose be