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

THE FLOCK

The Bishop’s flock consisted of two distinct classes: Cottontowners and Hillites.

“There’s only a fair sprinklin’ of Hillites that lives nigh about here,” said the Bishop, “an’ they come because it suits them better than the high f’lutin’ services in town. When a Christian gits into a church that’s over his head, he is soon food for devil-fish.”

The line of demarcation, even in the Bishop’s small flock, was easily seen. The Hillites, though lean and lanky, were swarthy, healthy and full of life. “But Cottontown,” said the Bishop, as he looked down on his congregation “Cottontown jes’ naturally feels tired.”

It was true. Years in the factory had made them dead, listless, soulless and ambitionless creatures. To look into their faces was like looking into the cracked and muddy bottom of a stream which once ran.

Their children were there also little tots, many of them, who worked in the factory because no man nor woman in all the State cared enough for them to make a fight for their childhood.

They were children only in age. Their little forms were not the forms of children, but of diminutive men and women, on whose backs the burden of earning their living had been laid, ere the frames had acquired the strength to bear it.

Stunted in mind and body, they were little solemn, pygmy peoples, whom poverty and overwork had canned up and compressed into concentrated extracts of humanity. The flavor the juices of childhood had been pressed out.

“’N no wonder,” thought the Bishop, as he looked down upon them from his crude platform, “for them little things works six days every week in the factory from sun-up till dark, an’ often into the night, with jes’ forty minutes at noon to bolt their food. O God,” he said softly to himself, “You who caused a stream of water to spring up in the wilderness that the life of an Ishmaelite might be saved, make a stream of sentiment to flow from the heart of the world to save these little folks.”

Miss Patsy Butts, whose father, Elder Butts of the Hard-shell faith, owned a fertile little valley farm beyond the mountain, was organist. She was fat and so red-faced that at times she seemed to be oiled.

She was painfully frank and suffered from acute earnestness.

And now, being marriageable, she looked always about her with shy, quick, expectant glances.

The other object in life, to Patsy, was to watch her younger brother, Archie B., and see that he kept out of mischief. And perhaps the commonest remark of her life was:

“Maw, jus’ look at Archie B.!”

This was a great cross for Archie B., who had been known to say concerning it: “If I ever has any kids, I’ll never let the old’uns nuss the young’uns. They gits into a bossin’ kind of a habit that sticks to ’em all they lives.”

To-day Miss Patsy was radiantly shy and happy, caused by the fact that her fat, honest feet were encased in a pair of beautiful new shoes, the uppers of which were clasped so tightly over her ankles as to cause the fat members to bulge in creases over the tops, as uncomfortable as two Sancho Panzas in armor.

“Side-but’ners,” said Mrs. Butts triumphantly to Mrs. O’Hooligan of Cottontown, “side-but’ners I got ’em for her yistiddy the fust that this town’s ever seed. La, but it was a job gittin’ ’em on Patsy. I had to soak her legs in cold water nearly all night, an’ then I broke every knittin’ needle in the house abut’nin’ them side but’ners.

“But fashion is fashion, an’ when I send my gal out into society, I’ll send her in style. Patsy Butts,” she whispered so loud that everybody on her side of the house heard her “when you starts up that olé wheez-in’ one gallus organ, go slow or you’ll bust them side-but’ners wide open.”

When the Bishop came forward to preach his sermon, or talk to his flock, as he called it, his surplice would have astonished anyone, except those who had seen him thus attired so often. A stranger might have laughed, but he would not have laughed long the old man’s earnestness, sincerity, reverence and devotion were over-shadowing. Its pathos was too deep for fun.

Instead of a clergyman’s frock he wore a faded coat of blue buttoned up to his neck. It had been the coat of an officer in the artillery, and had evidently passed through the Civil War. There was a bullet hole in the shoulder and a sabre cut in the sleeve.