Графични страници
PDF файл

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


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

Welcoine, most rubicund sir! You and I have been great strangers hitherto; nor, to confess 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 red-hot gullet, and is converted quite to steam in the miniature Tophet which you mistake for a stomach. 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. Who next? O 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 paving-stones, that I suspect he is afraid of breaking them. 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,

cup of mine.

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 afiäir of mine. If gentlemen love the pleasant titillation of the gout, it is all one to the Town-Pump. This thirsty dog, with his red tongue lolling out, does not scorn my hospitality, but stands on his hind-legs, and laps eagerly out of the trough. See how lightly he capers away again! Jowler, did your worship ever have the gout ? ...

“Your pardon, good people! I must interrupt my stream of eloquence, and spout forth a stream of water to replenish the trough for this teamster and his two yoke of oxen, who have come from Topsfield, or somewhere along that way. No part of my business is pleasanter than the watering of cattle. Look! how rapidly they lower the water-mark on the sides of the trough, till their capacious stomachs are moistened with a gallon or two apiece, and they can afford time to breathe it in with sighs of calm enjoyment. Now they roll their quiet eyes around the brim of their monstrous drinking-vessel. An ox is your true toper.

“ Ahem! Dry work this speechifying, especially to an unpracticed orator. I never conceived till now what toil the temperance lecturers undergo for my sake. Hereafter, they shall have the business to themselves. Do, some kind Christian, pump a stroke or two, just to wet my whistle. Thank you, sir! My dear hearers, when the world shall have been regenerated by my instrumentality, you will collect your useless vats and liquorcasks into one great pile, and make a bonfire in honor of the Town-Pump. And when I shall have decayed, like my predecessors, then, if you revere my memory, let a marble fountain, richly sculptured, take my place upon the spot. Such monuments should be erected everywhere, and inscribed with the names of the distinguished champions of my cause."

One o'clock! Nay, then, if the dinner-bell begins to speak, I may as well hold my peace. Here comes a pretty young girl of my acquaintance, with a large stone pitcher for me to fill. May she draw a husband while drawing her water, as Rachel did of old!“ Hold out your vessel, my dear! There it is, full to the brim : so now run home, peeping at your sweet image in the pitcher as you go; and forget not in a glass of my own liquor to drink SUCCESS TO THE Town-PUMP!'"

From “ Twice-told Tales.”



A MAN OF FANCY made an entertainment at one of his castles in the air, and invited a select number of distinguished personages to favor him with their presence. The mansion, though less splendid than many that have been situated in the same region, was, nevertheless, of a magnificence such as is seldom witnessed by those acquainted only with terrestrial architecture. Its strong foundations and massive walls were quarried out of a ledge of heavy and somber clouds which had hung brooding over the earth, apparently as dense and ponderous as its own granite, throughout a whole autumnal day. Perceiving that the general effect was gloomy, so that the airy castle looked like a feudal fortress, or à monastery of the middle ages, or a state-prison of our own times, rather than the home of pleasure and repose which he intended it to be, the owner, regardless of expense, resolved to gild the exterior from top to bottom. Fortunately, there was just then a flood of evening sunshine in the air. This being gathered up, and poured abundantly upon the roof and walls, imbued them with a kind of solemn cheerfulness; while the cupolas and pinnacles were made to glitter with the purest gold, and all the hundred windows gleamed with a glad light, as if the edifice itself were rejoicing in its heart. And now, if the people of the lower world chanced to be looking upward out of the turmoil of their petty perplexities, they probably mistook the castle in the air for a heap of sunset clouds, to which the magic of light and shade had imparted the aspect of a fantastically-constructed mansion. To such beholders it was unreal, because they lacked the imaginative faith. Had they been worthy to pass within its portal, they would have recognized the truth, that the dominions which the spirit conquers for itself among unrealities become a thousand times more real than the earth whereon they stamp their feet, saying, “This is solid and substantial: this may be called a fact.”

At the appointed hour, the host stood in his great saloon to receive the company.

It was a vast and noble room, the vaulted ceiling of which was supported by double rows of gigantic pillars that had been hewn entire out of masses of variegated clouds. So brilliantly were they polished, and so exquisitely wrought by the sculptor's skill, as to resemble the finest specimens of emerald, porplıyry, opal, and chrysolite; thus producing a delicate richness of effect which their immense size rendered not incompatible with grandeur. To each of these pillars a meteor was suspended. Thousands of these ethereal lusters are continually wandering about the firmament, burning out to waste, yet capable of impart

[ocr errors]

ing a useful radiance to any person who has the art of converting them to domestic purposes. As managed in the saloon, they are far more economical than ordinary lamplight. Such, however, was the intensity of their blaze, that it had been found expedient to cover each meteor with a globe of evening-mist; thereby muffling the too-potent glow, and soothing it into a mild and comfortable splendor. It was like the brilliancy of a powerful yet chastened imagination, - a light which seemed to hide whatever was unworthy to be noticed, and give effect to every beautiful and noble attribute. The guests, therefore, as they advanced up the center of the saloon, appeared to better advantage than ever before in their lives.

The first that entered, with old-fashioned punctuality, was a venerable figure in the costume of bygone days, with his white hair flowing down over his shoulders, and a reverend beard upon his breast. He leaned upon a staff, the tremulous stroke of which, as he set it carefully upon the floor, re-echoed through the saloon at every footstep. Recognizing at once this celebrated personage, whom it had cost him a vast deal of trouble and research to discover, the host advanced nearly three-fourths of the distance down between the pillars to meet and welcome him.

“ Venerable sir,” said the Man of Fancy, bending to the floor, “ the honor of this visit would never be forgotten were my terin of existence to be as happily prolonged as your own."

The old gentleman received the compliment with gracious condescension. He then thrust up his spectacles over his forehead, and appeared to take a critical survey of the saloon.

“Never within my recollection,” observed he,“ have I entered a more spacious and noble hall. But are you sure that it is built of solid materials, and that the structure will be permanent?”

Oh, never fear, my venerable friend !” replied the host. “In reference to a lifetime like your own, it is true, my castle may well be called a temporary edifice; but it will endure long enough to answer all the purposes for which it was erected.”

But we forget that the reader has not yet been made acquainted with the guest. It was no other than that universally-accredited character so constantly referred to in all seasons of intense cold or heat; he that remembers the hot Sunday and the cold Friday; the witness of a past age, whose negative reminiscences find their way into every newspaper, yet whose antiquated and dusky abode is so overshadowed by accumulated years, and crowded back by modern edifices, that none but the Man of Fancy could have discovered it: it was, in short, the twin-brother of Time, and great-grandsire of Mankind, and hand-and-glove associate of all forgotten men and things, — the Oldest Inhabitant. The host would willingly have drawn him into conversation, but succeeded

[ocr errors]

only in eliciting a few remarks as to the oppressive atmosphere of this present summer evening compared with one which the guest had experienced about fourscore years ago. The old gentleman, in fact, was a good deal overcome by his journey among the clouds; which, to a frame so earth-incrusted by long continuance in a lower region, was unavoidably more fatiguing than to younger spirits. He was therefore conducted to an easy-chair, well cushioned, and stuffed with vaporous softness, and left to take a little repose.

The Man of Fancy now discerned another guest, who stood so quietly in the shadow of one of the pillars, that he might easily have been overlooked.

“My dear sir," exclaimed the host, grasping him warmly by the hand, “ allow me to greet you as the hero of the evening. Pray do not take it as an empty compliment; for, if there were not another guest in my castle, it would be entirely pervaded with your presence.”

“I thank you," answered the unpretending stranger. “But, though you happened to overlook me, I have not just arrived. I came very early; and, with your permission, shall remain after the rest of the company have retired.”

And who does the reader imagine was this unobtrusive guest ? It was the famous performer of acknowledged impossibilities, a character of superhuman capacity and virtue, and, if his enemies are to be credited, of no less remarkable weaknesses and defects. With a generosity with which he alone sets us an example, we will glance merely at his nobler attributes. He it is, then, who prefers the interests of others to his own, and a humble station to an exalted one. Careless of fashion, custom, the opinions of men, and the influence of the press, he assimilates his life to the standard of ideal rectitude, and thus proves himself the one independent citizen of our free country. In point of ability, many people declare him to be the only mathematician capable of squaring the circle; the only mechanic acquainted with the principle of perpetual motion; the only scientific philosopher who can compel water to run up hill; the only writer of the age whose genius is equal to the production of an epic poem ; and finally, so various are his accomplishments, the only professor of gymnastics who has succeeded in jumping down his own throat. With all these talents, however, he is so far from being considered a member of good society, that it is the severest censure of any fashionable assemblage to affirm that this remarkable individual was present. Public orators, lecturers, and theatrical performers particularly, eschew his company. For especial reasons, we are not at liberty to disclose his name, and shall mention only one other trait, - a most singular phenomenon in natural philosophy,

« ПредишнаНапред »