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

AN ANSWER TO PRAYER

Then the old man remembered that he was making Bud suffer with his own sorrow, and when Bud looked at him again the Bishop had wiped his eyes on the back of his hand and was smiling.

Ben Butler, unknown to either, had come to a standstill.

The Bishop broke out in a cheery tone:

“My, how far off the subject I got! I started out to tell you all about Ben Butler, and and how he come in answer to prayer,” said the Bishop solemnly.

Bud grinned: “It muster been, ‘Now I lay me down to sleep.’”

The Bishop laughed: “Well I’ll swun if he ain’t sound asleep sho’ ‘nuff.” He laughed again: “Bud, you’re gittin’ too bright for anything. I jes’ don’t see how the old man’s gwinter talk to you much longer ’thout he goes to school agin.”

“No Ben Butler is a answer to prayer,” he went on.

“The trouble with the world is it don’t pray enough. Prayer puts God into us, Bud we’re all a little part of God, even the worst of us, an’ we can make it big or let it die out accordin’ as we pray. If we stop prayin’ God jes’ dies out in us. Of course God don’t answer any fool prayer, for while we’re here we are nothin’ but a bundle of laws, an’ the same unknown law that moves the world around makes yo’ heart beat. But God is behind the law, an’ if you get in harmony with God’s laws an’ pray, He’ll answer them. Christ knowed this, an’ there was some things that even He wouldn’t ask for. When the Devil tempted Him to jump off the top of the mountain. He drawed the line right there, for He knowed if God saved Him by stoppin’ the law of gravitation it meant the wreck of the world.”

“Bud,” he went on earnestly, “I’ve lived a long time an’ seed a heap o’ things, an’ the plaines’ thing I ever seed in my life is that two generations of scoffers will breed a coward, an’ three of ’em a thief, an’ that the world moves on only in proportion as it’s got faith in God.

“I was ruined after the war broken busted ruined! An’ I owed five hundred dollars on the little home up yander on the mountain. When I come back home from the army I didn’t have nothin’ but one old mare, a daughter of that Kathleena I told you about. I knowed I was gone if I lost that little home, an’ so one night I prayed to the Lord about it an’ then it come to me as clear as it come to Moses in the burnin’ bush. God spoke to me as clear as he did to Moses.”

“How did he say it?” asked Bud, thoroughly frightened and looking around for a soft spot to jump and run.

“Oh, never mind that,” went on the Bishop “God don’t say things out loud He jes’ brings two an’ two together an’ expects you to add ’em an’ make fo’. He gives you the soil an’ the grain an’ expects you to plant, assurin’ you of rain an’ sunshine to make the crop, if you’ll only wuck. He comes into yo’ life with the laws of life an’ death an’ takes yo’ beloved, an’ it’s His way of sayin’ to you that this life ain’t all. He shows you the thief an’ the liar an’ the adulterer all aroun’ you, an’ if you feel the shock of it an’ the hate of it, it’s His voice tellin’ you not to steal an’ not to lie an’ not to be impure. You think only of money until you make a bad break an’ loose it all. That’s His voice tellin’ you that money ain’t everything in life. He puts opportunities befo’ you, an’ if you grasp ’em it’s His voice tellin’ you to prosper an’ grow fat in the land. No, He don’t speak out, but how clearly an’ unerringly He does speak to them that has learned to listen for His voice!

“I rode her across the river a hundred miles up in Marshall County, Tennessee, and mated her to a young horse named Tom Hal. Every body knows about him now, but God told me about him fust.

“Then I knowed jes’ as well as I am settin’ in this buggy that that colt was gwinter give me back my little home an’ a chance in life. Of course, I told everybody ‘bout it an’ they all laughed at me jes’ like they all laughed at Noah an’ Abraham an’ Lot an’ Moses, an’ if I do say it Jesus Christ. But thank God it didn’t pester me no more’n it did them.”

“Well, the colt come ten years ago an’ I named him Ben Butler cause I hated old Ben Butler so. He had my oldest son shot in New Orleans like he did many other rebel prisoners. But this was God’s colt an’ God had told me to love my enemies an’ do good to them that did wrong to me, an’ so I prayed over it an’ named him Ben Butler, hopin’ that God ‘ud let me love my enemy for the love I bore the colt. An’ He has.”

Bud shook his head dubiously.

“He showed me I was wrong, Bud, to hate folks, an’ when I tell you of po’ Cap’n Tom an’ how good Gen. Butler was to him, you’ll say so, too.

“From the very start Ben Butler was a wonder. He came with fire in his blood an’ speed in his heels.

“An’ I trained him. Yes from the time I was Gen. Travis’ overseer I had always trained his hosses. I’m one of them preachers that believes God intended the world sh’ud have the best hosses, as He intended it sh’ud have the best men an’ women. Take all His works, in their fitness an’ goodness, an’ you’ll see He never ’lowed for a scrub an’ a quitter anywhere. An’ so when He gave me this tip on Ben Butler’s speed I done the rest.

“God gives us the tips of life, but He expects us to make them into the dead cinches.

“Oh, they all laughed at us, of course, an’ nicknamed the colt Mister Isaacs, because, like Sarah’s son, he came in answer to prayer. An’ when in his two-year-old form, I led him out of the stable one cold, icy day, an’ he was full of play an’ r’ared an’ fell an’ knocked down his hip, they said that ’ud fix Mister Isaacs.

“But it didn’t pester me at all. I knowed God had done bigger things in this world than fixin’ a colt’s hip, an’ it didn’t shake my faith. I kept on prayin’ an’ kept on trainin’.

“Well, it soon told. His hip was down, but it didn’t stop him from flyin’. As a three-year-old he paced the Nashville half mile track in one-one flat, an’ though they offered me then an’ there a thousand dollars for Ben Butler, I told ’em no, he was God’s colt an’ I didn’t need but half of that to raise the mortgage, an’ he’d do that the first time he turned round in a race.

“I drove him that race myself, pulled down the five hundred dollar purse, refused all their fine offers for Ben Butler, an’ me an’ him’s been missionaryin’ round here ever since.”

“Great hoss great!” said Bud, his eyes sparkling, “allers told you so! Think I’ll get out and hug him.”

This he did while the Bishop sat smiling. But in the embrace Ben Butler planted a fore foot on Bud’s great toe. Bud came back limping and whimpering with pain.

“Now there, Bud,” said the Bishop, consolingly. “God has spoken to you right there.”

“What ’ud He say?” asked Bud, looking scary again.

“Why, he said through Nature’s law an’ voice that you mustn’t hug a hoss if you don’t want yo’ toes tramped on.”

“Who must you hug then?” asked Bud.

“Yo’ wife, if you can’t do no better,” said the Bishop quietly.

“My wife’s wussern a hoss,” said Bud sadly “she bites. I’m sorry you didn’t take that thar thousan’ dollars for him,” he said, looking at his bleeding toe.

“Bud,” said the old man sternly, “don’t say that no mo’. It mou’t make me think you are one of them selfish dogs that thinks money’ll do anything. Then I’d hafter watch you, for I’d know you’d do anything for money.”

Bud crawled in rather crest-fallen, and they drove on.