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. There can't be a doubt about it, I should think. THE question of the day at Rum is drainage.' Rum, let me tell you, is built on three or four rivers, of which the chief and largest is the Stench. At an enormous cost it was brought through the centre of the city by an artificial channel, into which the stream was diverted from its natural course. The improvement was never thought of until the city was built, or it might have saved expense to have built portions of the city on either bank. The Stench, I need hardly mention, is a tidal river: for eight hours each day, the bed of the river is scarcely covered by water, while its banks are altogether exposed. Two of the smaller streams flow into the Stench, just above its entrance into the heart of the city; and the third, which is simply an open sewer (jocosely called the Mudlark), passes transversely through the left quarter of the city, and joins the large river about the middle of the town.
Here is complication enough to rouse the vigilant Authorities. They have built three fever hospitals within the last four years; but it is expected that by striking at the root of the evil these will in time become useless; meanwhile they are erecting a fourth. which has become absolutely necessary.
The fact is, the water is very bad at Rum : there is no disguising it; and why disguise it ? and what good can come of disguising it? and wherefore does every
one wish to disguise it? But disguise is no longer possible : a sub-committee (there are ninety-five subcommittees at the present moment sitting in the city of Rum), appointed five years ago, reported six months since that certain impurities were found in the water submitted to them for analysis, and generally, that the water was cursedly bad. The waterworks, which supply the whole town (by Act of Parliament) with water, were unfortunately erected (owing to some trifling mistake in the plans) just below the Town, on the Stench. And this the sub-committee noticed in their report with regret, and they hinted that the question might at a future period arise as to whether it would not be well, either to rebuild the city below the waterworks, or to erect new waterworks above the city.
The truth having been elicited that the water was bad, the question arose whether it might not be worse? And on this point a sub-committee sat for 304 days, reporting that, though they couldn't say it couldn't, they thought it was hardly possible it could; which, strange as it may appear, was considered very satisfactory, and the question was shelved.
So, so,' says the nimble reader, putting forward his leg to trip me up, not so fast, master : you have just told us that it was only six months ago that the water was reported as bad ; a committee was then appointed to inquire if it could be worse ; it sat for 304 days; and you, sir, pretend to give us its decision now, i.e. within 182} days.' Gentle reader, you have never been in Rum: I learnt the result of that subcommittee's labours (and much more, as you will see) by the Telescopic Telegraph Company (Very Limited), which is now in capital working order at Rum.
Between ourselves, it was through seeing the excel. lence of this plan of telescopic telegraphy that I was partially converted to the opinions of the great Crackjawcus, the learned Professor of Demonology at Rum. He holds (as your men of science are all well aware) that everything which ever is to happen has already happened; and that nothing fresh ever will happen. Therefore he argues that what we call the future is already in esse and fixed; in a word, has come to pass only we have not yet reached it. We move, as it were, along a gallery hung with pictures, and as we stand in front of any particular painting we call that one the present : surely, cry the Crackjawcians triumphantly, surely you do not mean to assert that the pictures you have passed by and those which you have not yet reached are less existent, or less present in point of actual being than the painting before which you happen to be standing? And so the practicability of a Telescopic Telegraph was demonstrated and irrefutably established; and so a company was formed for its erection and working; and so the memorandum and articles of association of the company were settled by the great Mr. Farsight, and, when the name of Crackjawcus appeared as managing director, you may imagine that every share was soon bought up, and none were to be had for love or money in the city of Rum.
I trust that every candid reader will admit that this digression was absolutely forced upon me.
The Authorities of Rum having learned by the means I have pointed out the decision or indecision of the sub-committee on the question, “Could the water be worse?' the next inquiry was, “Could the water be better?' on which point it was held that no committee need report, as it had been already reported that the water was bad; but a sub-committee with unusual powers sat upon this question, “How could the water be improved ?'
You must not suppose when I wrote the remark just now, that Rum must be a wonderfully populous city,' that that was the first time I ever made the observation. I used to say it to myself as often as I walked about its streets during the six weeks and one hour that I was there; because they were during the whole time burying their dead by hundreds daily in large pits outside the town walls.
By the labours of the sub-committee which had discovered the impurities of the water, the present committee, appointed to entertain the question of its im
provement, had a clue, which in a couple of days the Chairman made plain to all his co-committeemen. His point was this, 'If there are impurities in the water, they must get there.' And he suggested 39 preliminary questions as to the impurities : as for example
Who were the impurities ?
&c. &c. &c. The last question being, ‘Could they be changed into purities?'
The sub-committee was soon unhappily split into two great factions; the one headed by the Chairman maintaining with some show of reason that the question of the whole 39 was 'How did the impurities get into the water?' the other stoutly asserting that nothing was of such importance as the discovery
Whether (and if yes, why) the impurities liked being there?' with a view, I presume, to a compromise.
Good sense as usual carried the day, and it was resolved by the Chairman's casting vote (which, strange to say, he gave in favour of his own view), that the committee should first seek to discover how the impurities got into the water.'
No sub-committee had ever been so much talked of in the city of Rum.
The question arose incidentally, “Could the sub