Read THE LINT: CHAPTER II of The Bishop of Cottontown A Story of the Southern Cotton Mills , free online book, by John Trotwood Moore, on ReadCentral.com.

BEN BUTLER

Bud was now in a seventh heaven. He was riding behind Ben Butler, the greatest horse in the world, and talking to the Bishop, the only person who ever heard the sound of his voice, save in deprecatory and scary grunts.

It was touching to see how the old man humored the simple and imposed-upon creature at his side. It was beautiful to see how, forgetting himself and his sermon, he prepared to entertain, in his quaint way, this slave to the slubbing machine.

Bud looked fondly at the Bishop then admiringly at Ben Butler. He drew a long breath of pure air, and sitting on the edge of the seat, prepared to jump if necessary; for Bud was mortally afraid of being in a runaway, and his scared eyes seemed to be looking for the soft places in the road.

“Bishop,” he drawled after a while, “huc-cum you name sech a hoss” pointing to the old roan “sech a grand hoss, for sech a man sech a man as he was,” he added humbly.

“Did you ever notice Ben Butler’s eyes, Bud?” asked the old man, knowingly.

“Blind,” said Bud sadly, shaking his head “too bad too bad great great hoss!”

“Yes, but the leds, Bud that hoss, Ben Butler there, holds a world’s record he’s the only cock-eyed hoss in the world.”

“You don’t say so that critter! cock-eyed?” Bud laughed and slapped his leg gleefully. “Didn’t I always tell you so? World’s record great great!”

Then it broke gradually through on Bud’s dull mind.

He slapped his leg again. “An’ him his namesake he was cock-eyed, too I seed him onct at New ’Leens.”

“Don’t you never trust a cock-eyed man, Bud. He’ll flicker on you in the home-stretch. I’ve tried it an’ it never fails. Love him, but don’t trust him. The world is full of folks we oughter love, but not trust.”

“No I never will,” said Bud as thoughtfully as he knew how to be “nor a cock-eyed ’oman neither. My wife’s cock-eyed,” he added.

He was silent a moment. Then he showed the old man a scar on his forehead: “She done that last month busted a plate on my head.”

“That’s bad,” said the Bishop consolingly “but you ortenter aggravate her, Bud.”

“That’s so I ortenter least-wise, not whilst there’s any crockery in the house,” said Bud sadly.

“There’s another thing about this hoss,” went on the Bishop “he’s always spoony on mules. He ain’t happy if he can’t hang over the front gate spoonin’ with every stray mule that comes along. There’s old long-eared Lize that he’s dead stuck on if he c’u’d write he’d be composin’ a sonnet to her ears, like poets do to their lady love’s callin’ them Star Pointers of a Greater Hope, I reck’n, an’ all that. Why, he’d ruther hold hands by moonlight with some old Maria mule than to set up by lamplight with a thoroughbred filly.”

“Great great!” said Bud slapping his leg “didn’t I tell you so?”

“So I named him Ben Butler when he was born. That was right after the war, an’ I hated old Ben so an’ loved hosses so, I thought ef I’d name my colt for old Ben maybe I’d learn to love him, in time.”

Bud shook his head. “That’s agin nature, Bishop.”

“But I have, Bud sho’ as you are born I love old Ben Butler.” He lowered his voice to an earnest whisper: “I ain’t never told you what he done for po’ Cap’n Tom.”

“Never heurd o’ Cap’n Tom.”

The Bishop looked hurt. “Never mind, Bud, you wouldn’t understand. But maybe you will ketch this, listen now.”

Bud listened intently with his head on one side.

“I ain’t never hated a man in my life but what God has let me live long enough to find out I was in the wrong dead wrong. There are Jews and Yankees. I useter hate ’em worse’n sin but now what do you reckon?”

“One on ’em busted a plate on yo’ head?” asked Bud.

“Jesus Christ was a Jew, an’ Cap’n Tom jined the Yankees.”

“Bud,” he said cheerily after a pause, “did I ever tell you the story of this here Ben Butler here?”

Bud’s eyes grew bright and he slapped his leg again.

“Well,” said the old man, brightening up into one of his funny moods, “you know my first wife was named Kathleen Kathleen Galloway when she was a gal, an’ she was the pretties’ gal in the settlement an’ could go all the gaits both saddle an’ harness. She was han’som’ as a three-year-old an’ cu’d out-dance, out-ride, out-sing an’ out-flirt any other gal that ever come down the pike. When she got her Sunday harness on an’ began to move, she made all the other gals look like they were nailed to the roadside. It’s true, she needed a little weight in front to balance her, an’ she had a lot of ginger in her make-up, but she was straight and sound, didn’t wear anything but the harness an’ never teched herself anywhere nor cross-fired nor hit her knees.”

“Good great!” said Bud, slapping his leg.

“O, she was beautiful, Bud, with that silky hair that ’ud make a thoroughbred filly’s look coarse as sheep’s wool, an’ two mischief-lovin’ eyes an’ a heart that was all gold. Bud Bud” there was a huskiness in the old man’s voice “I know I can tell you because it will never come back to me ag’in, but I love that Kathleen now as I did then. A man may marry many times, but he can never love but once. Sometimes it’s his fust wife, sometimes his secón’, an’ often it’s the sweetheart he never got but he loved only one of ’em the right way, an’ up yander, in some other star, where spirits that are alike meet in one eternal wedlock, they’ll be one there forever.”

“Her daddy, old man Galloway, had a thoroughbred filly that he named Kathleena for his daughter, an’ she c’ud do anything that the gal left out. An’ one day when she took the bit in her teeth an’ run a quarter in twenty-five seconds, she sot ’em all wild an’ lots of fellers tried to buy the filly an’ get the old man to throw in the gal for her keep an’ board.”

“I was one of ’em. I was clerkin’ for the old man an’ boardin’ in the house, an’ whenever a young feller begins to board in a house where there is a thoroughbred gal, the nex’ thing he knows he’ll be ”

“Buckled in the traces,” cried Bud slapping his leg gleefully, at this, his first product of brilliancy.

The old man smiled: “‘Pon my word, Bud, you’re gittin’ so smart. I don’t know what I’ll be doin’ with you so ‘riginal an’ smart. Why, you’ll quit keepin’ an old man’s company like me. I won’t be able to entertain you at all. But, as I was sayin’, the next thing he knows, he’ll be one of the family.”

“So me an’ Kathleen, we soon got spoony an’ wanted to marry. Lots of ‘em wanted to marry her, but I drawed the pole an’ was the only one she’d take as a runnin’ mate. So I went after the old man this a way: I told him I’d buy the filly if he’d give me Kathleen. I never will forgit what he said: ’They ain’t narry one of ’em for sale, swap or hire, an’ I wish you young fellers ‘ud tend to yo’ own business an’ let my fillies alone. I’m gwinter bus’ the wurl’s record wid ’em both Kathleena the runnin’ record an’ Kathleen the gal record, so be damn to you an’ don’t pester me no mo’.’”

“Did he say damn?” asked Bud aghast that such a word should ever come from the Bishop.

“He sho’ did, Bud. I wouldn’t lie about the old man, now that he’s dead. It ain’t right to lie about dead people even to make ’em say nice an’ proper things they never thought of whilst alive. If we’d stop lyin’ about the ungodly dead an’ tell the truth about ’em, maybe the livin’ ‘ud stop tryin’ to foller after ’em in that respect. As it is, every one of ’em knows that no matter how wicked he lives there’ll be a lot o’ nice lies told over him after he’s gone, an’ a monument erected, maybe, to tell how good he was. An’ there’s another lot of half pious folks in the wurl it ‘ud help kind o’ sissy pious folks that jus’ do manage to miss all the fun in the world an’ jus’ are mean enough to ketch hell in the nex’. Get religion, but don’t get the sissy kind. So I am for tellin’ it about old man Galloway jus’ as he was.

“You orter heard him swear, Bud it was part of his religion. An’ wherever he is to-day in that other world, he is at it yet, for in that other life, Bud, we’re just ourselves on a bigger scale than we are in this. He used to cuss the clerks around the store jus’ from habit, an’ when I went to work for him he said:

“‘Young man, maybe I’ll cuss you out some mornin’, but don’t pay no ‘tention to it it’s just a habit I’ve got into, an’ the boys all understand it.’

“‘Glad you told me,’ I said, lookin’ him square in the eye ’one confidence deserves another. I’ve got a nasty habit of my own, but I hope you won’t pay no ‘tention to it, for it’s a habit, an’ I can’t help it. I don’t mean nothin’ by it, an’ the boys all understand it, but when a man cusses me I allers knock him down do it befo’ I think’ I said ’jes’ a habit I’ve got.’

“Well, he never cussed me all the time I was there. My stock went up with the old man an’ my chances was good to get the gal, if I hadn’t made a fool hoss-trade; for with old man Galloway a good hoss-trade covered all the multitude of sins in a man that charity now does in religion. In them days a man might have all the learnin’ and virtues an’ graces, but if he cudn’t trade hosses he was tinklin’ brass an’ soundin’ cymbal in that community.

“The man that throwed the silk into me was Jud Carpenter the same feller that’s now the Whipper-in for these mills. Now, don’t be scared,” said the old man soothingly as Bud’s scary eyes looked about him and he clutched the buggy as if he would jump out “he’ll not pester you now he’s kept away from me ever since. He swapped me a black hoss with a star an’ snip, that looked like the genuine thing, but was about the neatest turned gold-brick that was ever put on an unsuspectin’ millionaire.

“Well, in the trade he simply robbed me of a fine mare I had, that cost me one-an’-a-quarter. Kathleen an’ me was already engaged, but when old man Galloway heard of it, he told me the jig was up an’ no such double-barrel idiot as I was shu’d ever leave any of my colts in the Galloway paddock that when he looked over his gran’-chillun’s pedigree he didn’t wanter see all of ’em crossin’ back to the same damned fool! Oh, he was nasty. He said that my colts was dead sho’ to be luffers with wheels in their heads, an’ when pinched they’d quit, an’ when collared they’d lay down. That there was a yaller streak in me that was already pilin’ up coupons on the future for tears and heartaches an’, maybe a gallows or two, an’ a lot of uncomplimentary talk of that kind.

“Well, Kathleen cried, an’ I wept, an’ I’ll never forgit the night she gave me a little good-bye kiss out under the big oak tree an’ told me we’d hafter part.

“The old man maybe sized me up all right as bein’ a fool, but he missed it on my bein’ a quitter. I had no notion of being fired an’ blistered an’ turned out to grass that early in the game. I wrote her a poem every other day, an’ lied between heats, till the po’ gal was nearly crazy, an’ when I finally got it into her head that if it was a busted blood vessel with the old man, it was a busted heart with me, she cried a little mo’ an’ consented to run off with me an’ take the chances of the village doctor cuppin’ the old man at the right time.

“The old lady was on my side and helped things along. I had everything fixed even to the moon which was shinin’ jes’ bright enough to carry us to the Justice’s without a lantern, some three miles away, an’ into the nex’ county.

“I’ll never forgit how the night looked as I rode over after her, how the wild-flowers smelt, an’ the fresh dew on the leaves. I remember that I even heard a mockin’-bird wake up about midnight as I tied my hoss to a lim’ in the orchard nearby, an’ slipped aroun’ to meet Kathleen at the bars behin’ the house. It was a half mile to the house an’ I was slippin’ through the sugar-maple trees along the path we’d both walked so often befo’ when I saw what I thought was Kathleen comin’ towards me. I ran to meet her. It wa’n’t Kathleen, but her mother an’ she told me to git in a hurry, that the old man knew all, had locked Kathleen up in the kitchen, turned the brindle dog loose in the yard, an’ was hidin’ in the woods nigh the barn, with his gun loaded with bird-shot, an’ that if I went any further the chances were I’d not sit down agin for a year. She had slipped around through the woods just to warn me.

“Of course I wanted to fight an’ take her anyway kill the dog an’ the old man, storm the kitchen an’ run off with Kathleen in my arms as they do in novels. But the old lady said she didn’t want the dog hurt it being a valuable coon-dog, and that I was to go away out of the county an’ wait for a better time.

“It mighty nigh broke me up, but I decided the old lady was right an’ I’d go away. But ’long towards the shank of the night, after I had put up my hoss, the moon was still shinin’, an’ I cudn’t sleep for thinkin’ of Kathleen. I stole afoot over to her house just to look at her window. The house was all quiet an’ even the brindle dog was asleep. I threw kisses at her bed-room window, but even then I cudn’t go away, so I slipped around to the barn and laid down in the hay to think over my hard luck. My heart ached an’ burned an’ I was nigh dead with love.

“I wondered if I’d ever get her, if they’d wean her from me, an’ give her to the rich little feller whose fine farm j’ined the old man’s an’ who the old man was wuckin’ fur whether the two wouldn’t over-persuade her whilst I was gone. For I’d made up my mind I’d go befo’ daylight that there wasn’t anything else for me to do.

“I was layin’ in the hay, an’ boylike, the tears was rollin’ down. If I c’ud only kiss her han’ befo’ I left if I c’ud only see her face at the winder!

“I must have sobbed out loud, for jus’ then I heard a gentle, sympathetic whinny an’ a cold, inquisitive little muzzle was thrust into my face, as I lay on my back with my heart nearly busted. It was Kathleena, an’ I rubbed my hot face against her cool cheek for it seemed so human of her to come an’ try to console me, an’ I put my arms around her neck an’ kissed her silky mane an’ imagined it was Kathleen’s hair.

“Oh, I was heart-broke an’ silly.

“Then all at onct a thought came to me, an’ I slipped the bridle an’ saddle on her an’ led her out at the back door, an’ I scratched this on a slip of paper an’ stuck it on the barn do’:

“’To old man Galloway:

“’You wouldn’t let me ‘lope with yo’ dorter, so I’ve ‘loped with yo’ filly, an’ you’ll never see hair nor hide of her till you send me word to come back to this house an’ fetch a preacher.

“‘(Signed) Hillard Watts.’”

The old man smiled, and Bud slapped his leg gleefully.

“Great great! Oh my, but who’d a thought of it?” he grunted.

“They say it ‘ud done you good to have been there the nex’ mornin’ an’ heurd the cussin’ recurd busted but me an’ the filly was forty miles away. He got out a warrant for me for hoss-stealin’, but the sheriff was for me, an’ though he hunted high an’ low he never could find me.”

“Well, it went on for a month, an’ I got the old man’s note, sent by the sheriff:

’To Hillard Watts, Wher-Ever Found.

’Come on home an’ fetch yo’ preacher. Can’t afford to loose the filly, an’ the gal has been off her feed ever since you left.

“‘Jobe Galloway.

“Oh, Bud, I’ll never forgit that home-comin’ when she met me at the gate an’ kissed me an’ laughed a little an’ cried a heap, an’ we walked in the little parlor an’ the preacher made us one.

“Nor of that happy, happy year, when all life seemed a sweet dream now as I look back, an’ even the memory of it keeps me happy. Memory is a land that never changes in a world of changes, an’ that should show us our soul is immortal, for memory is only the reflection of our soul.”

His voice grew more tender, and low: “Toward the last of the year I seed her makin’ little things slyly an’ hidin’ ’em away in the bureau drawer, an’ one night she put away a tiny half-finished little dress with the needle stickin’ in the hem just as she left it just as her beautiful hands made the last stitch they ever made on earth....

“O Bud, Bud, out of this blow come the sweetest thought I ever had, an’ I know from that day that this life ain’t all, that we’ll live agin as sho’ as God lives an’ is just an’ no man can doubt that. No no Bud, this life ain’t all, because it’s God’s unvarying law to finish things. That tree there is finished, an’ them birds, they are finished, an’ that flower by the roadside an’ the mountain yonder an’ the world an’ the stars an’ the sun. An’ we’re mo’ than they be, Bud even the tinies’ soul, like Kathleen’s little one that jes’ opened its eyes an’ smiled an’ died, when its mammy died. It had something that the trees an’ birds an’ mountains didn’t have a soul an’ don’t you kno’ He’ll finish all such lives up yonder? He’ll pay it back a thousandfold for what he cuts off here.”

Bud wept because the tears were running down the old man’s cheeks. He wanted to say something, but he could not speak. That queer feeling that came over him at times and made him silent had come again.