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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsHouse - Chapter 13. Editor Woodsit A True Friend
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House - Chapter 13. Editor Woodsit A True Friend Post by :caller Category :Nonfictions Author :Eugene Field Date :May 2012 Read :3476

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House - Chapter 13. Editor Woodsit A True Friend


One morning--it was a Thursday morning, as I distinctly recall--I was much surprised to find that work upon the house had practically been suspended. I was sure there could not have been a strike, for I told the workmen at the beginning that whenever they felt as if they were not getting enough pay they must come to me about it and I would raise their wages. They had already been to me three times and received an increase of pay each time. So I felt moderately secure against a strike. Uncle Si explained the situation briefly.

"The plasterers were to have begun today," said he, "but there is no water for them; so I had to send them away."

"No water?" I cried. "No water? Then tell me, I pray, why this noble front yard of ours has been converted into a dreary waste by those vandals with their spades and picks? Why is that deep, wide, ragged ditch still yawning in our faces and threatening the death of every tree at whose roots it crawls? And why did I pay Sibley the plumber forty-five dollars last Saturday night, if it were not for the laying of water pipe in that hideous ditch? No water, indeed!"

"It is nobody's fault but the city's," explained Uncle Si. "The pipe is all laid and nothing remains but for the city to make the connection with the main in the street. You see _we can't tap the main; that is for the city to do."

"Then why does n't the city do it?" I asked.

Uncle Si shrugged his shoulders.

"The city _ought to do a good many things it _does n't do," said he. "They promised to have that main tapped at eight o'clock last Monday morning, and here it is ten o'clock Thursday morning and not a drop of water on the place! There is n't any use kicking, for those politicians down at the City Hall do things their own way and take their own time doing 'em!"

I saw that argument with Uncle Si meant simply a waste of time, so I determined to go down-town to the City Hall myself to see whether no eloquence or indignation of my own would move the derelict officers to a performance of their duty. On the train I fell in with Mr. Leet, who was on his way to his place of business. He had not seen me since our purchase of the Schmittheimer property, and he took this first occasion to congratulate me upon what he called one of those bargains which occur at rare intervals in a century. Finding me in a felicitous mood, Mr. Leet went on to say that the property we already possessed would be enhanced in value an hundred-fold and would be rendered marketable instantaneously by the further acquisition of the twenty-five feet adjoining it upon the north.

"Yes," said I, "Mr. Doller spoke to me about that twenty-five-foot strip some time ago."

"Aha, so Doller has been approaching you, has he?" said Mr. Leet, softly. "Well, Doller is very cunning--very cunning, indeed. But he has nothing to do with the _north strip. _He owns the twenty-five feet to the _south of your property, the piece fronting on Sandpile Terrace, and a very malarious location it is, too. I pledge you my word, Mr. Baker, I have seen mosquitos hovering over that Doller strip at night as big as bats!"

I could neither deny nor affirm the truth of this assertion.

"My twenty-five-foot strip to the north," continued Mr. Leet, "is high and dry and sightly. The view it commands of the Water Works is indescribably fine. You are surely practical enough to see, Mr. Baker, that by purchasing that strip and throwing it in with yours you will have a subdivision fronting upon Dandelion Place which would offer unparalleled inducements to the seeker after suburban property. What is more," added Mr. Leet in a confidential whisper, "it would not surprise me a bit if there were coal deposits in the twenty-five-foot strip of mine. I have very distinct suspicions, but the paramount importance of my other business interests has prevented me from making the investigation which might enrich me beyond all calculation. Now, you have time, and if you feel disposed to take that property I 'll let you have it at the merely nominal price of one hundred and twenty-five dollars a front foot."

This seemed reasonable enough, particularly when I considered the chances of there being a coal mine on the property. However, as I had told Mr. Doller, so I now told Mr. Leet: I would first have to speak to Alice about the matter. Then I confided to Mr. Leet the object of my mission down-town. Presumably in the hope of insuring and clinching my devotion to his interests as represented in his twenty-five-foot lot, Mr. Leet manifested solicitude in my behalf and inveighed bitterly against the shiftlessness of the municipal administration as illustrated in the neglect to tap the water main for the benefit of my property.

"The most aggravatingly exasperating part of it all," says I, "is that I am a Republican and have been one for thirty years. Moreover, I am a reformer, having helped to organize the Civic Federation and having served for somewhat more than a year as chairman of the Special Committee on Ash Barrels and Garbage Boxes in the third precinct of the Twenty-fifth Ward. I made several addresses during the last campaign in advocacy of civil-service reform and all those other reforms which are invariably advocated and promised by the party which is not in power but wants to be. In the thirty years that I have been a Republican I have never asked a favor of my party, and it does seem just a bit ungrateful that the Republican reform municipal administration which I helped to elect should seize with apparent avidity upon its first opportunity to snub me by refusing to tap the public water main in front of my property."

"You should see Mayor Speedy about it," suggested Mr. Leet.

"I thought of doing so," said I, "but as I had already determined to approach him with reference to changing the name of Mush Street to Clarendon Avenue, I concluded that I ought not to call upon him with this complaint about the water. I particularly wish to avoid all appearance of hampering the administration with importunities and complaints of a personal nature."

"A man of your reputation," said Mr. Leet, "should certainly have the strongest kind of a pull at the City Hall."

"You may not believe it," said I, "but I do not know a man in the City Hall. I visit the place but twice a year, and my dealings on those occasions are restricted to a haughty young foreigner, who graciously permits me to pay him the amount of my water tax and then waves me to another foreigner who in turn waves me to the door. No, I have no influence at the City Hall, and as I was telling Editor Woodsit last week--"

"Do you know Editor Woodsit?" asked Mr. Leet, interrupting me.

"Indeed I do," said I; "he has promised to print my essay on the nebular hypothesis of Professor Lecouvrier as soon as his contract with the monometallist college professors expires. He is one of the most intimate friends I have."

"Then he is just the one to fix that City Hall matter for you," said Mr. Leet. "Woodsit is the most potent political influence in the midst of us."

It was hard to understand why a potent political influence should be invoked in order to secure the tapping of a water main. However, I determined to enlist the cooeperation of my journalistic friend. Twenty or thirty people were waiting outside Editor Woodsit's door. This number included noted clergymen, poets, authors, politicians, jurists, merchants, etc., etc. By some means or another, Editor Woodsit learned I was among the waiting throng, and he sent for me to come in. His private office is spacious and elegantly furnished. The walls are hung with splendid tapestries and costly oil paintings. Over Editor Woodsit's desk appears the legend, "The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword." Near the desk are rows of nickel-plated tubes, about six feet in height and two feet in diameter; the lids or covers to these tubes are opened by means of a keyboard in front of the editor. The tubes themselves contain the heads of the departments of the State and municipal governments.

"What you tell me pains me deeply," said Mr. Woodsit, after he heard my story. "But there is no need of going to the City Hall about it; the matter can be attended to here. I never trifle with underlings when the responsible heads are at hand."

Editor Woodsit reached over and touched a button on the keyboard; it was button No. 9. Immediately the lid or top of tube No. 9 flew open and the head and face of a man appeared; it was the head and face of Commissioner Dent.

"This friend of mine," said Editor Woodsit, sternly, "complains that he can't get your department to connect the pipe with the water main in front of his property. My friend is a Republican, Dent, and he is a reformer. What excuse have you to offer for neglecting him?"

Commissioner Dent turned very pale and he vainly tried to stammer an apology.

"This is a pretty kind of reform!" cried Editor Woodsit, savagely. "If a similar complaint occurs again I shall have your case investigated by my legal and spiritual counsellor, Joshua Selah, and may be have you impeached. Now see that Mr. Baker's reasonable demands are complied with at once."

With these words Editor Woodsit touched another button, and the head and face of Commissioner Dent disappeared and the top closed down over the box. It was all the work of two or three minutes, and it was certainly the most marvellous experience I had ever met with. My wonderment increased when I learned an hour later, upon my arrival home, that less than fifteen minutes (as I figure it) after I left Editor Woodsit's office an employe of Commissioner Dent's department came galloping up to my place on a foam-flecked steed, and, vaulting from his saddle, unswung his melting-furnace, soldering-irons, and other tools, and, quicker than you could say a pater noster, tapped the water main and made the desired connection with the pipe that fed my premises.

"I guess you must have a pull at the City Hall," said Uncle Si; and then he went on to tell me how people who have no pull have to wait weeks, sometimes, before their just requirements are answered by the municipal authorities. If what Uncle Si tells me is true I cannot be too glad that I have what is even more efficacious than a pull at the City Hall--a friend in Editor Woodsit.

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