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

THE WHIPPER-IN

When the mill opened the next day, there was work for Jud Carpenter. He came in and approached the superintendent’s desk briskly.

“Well, suh, hu’ many to-day?” he asked.

Kingsley looked over his list of absentees.

“Four, and two of them spinners. Carpenter, you must go at once and see about it. They are playing off, I am sure.”

“Lem’me see the list, suh,” and he ran his eye over the names.

“Bud Billings plague his old crotchety head . He kno’s that machine’s got to run, whether no. Narthin’s the matter with him bet a dollar his wife licked him last night an’ he’s mad about it.”

“That will do us no good,” said Kingsley “what he is mad about. That machine must be started at once. The others you can see afterwards.”

Carpenter jerked his slouch hat down over his eyes and went quickly out.

In half an hour he was back again. His hat was off, his face was red, his shaggy eyebrows quivered with angry determination, as, with one hand in the collar of the frightened Bud, he pulled the slubber into the superintendent’s presence.

Following her husband came Mrs. Billings a small, bony, wiry, black-eyed woman, with a firmly set mouth and a perpetual thunder-cloud on her brow perhaps the shadow of her coarse, crow-black hair.

While Jud dragged him, she carried a stick and prodded Bud in the rear. Nor was she chary in abuse.

Jerked into the superintendent’s presence, Bud’s scared eyes darted here and there as if looking for a door to break through, and all the time they were silently protesting. His hands, too, joined in the protest; one of them wagged beseechingly behind appealing to his spouse to desist the other went through the same motion in front begging Jud Carpenter for mercy.

But not a word did he utter not even a grunt did he make.

They halted as quickly as they entered. Bud’s eyes sought the ceiling, the window, the floor, anywhere but straight ahead of him.

His wife walked up to the superintendent’s desk she was hot and flushed. Her small black eyes, one of which was cocked cynically, flashed fire, her coarse hair fell across her forehead, or was plastered to her head with perspiration.

It was pathetic to look at Bud, with his deep-set, scared eyes. Kingsley had never heard him speak a word, nor had he even been able to catch his eye. But he was the best slubber in the mill tireless, pain-staking. His place could not be filled.

Bud was really a good-natured favorite of Kingsley and when the superintendent saw him, scared and panting, his tongue half out, with Jud Carpenter’s hand still in his collar, he motioned to Jud to turn him loose.

“Uh uh ” grunted Jud “ he will bolt sho!”

Kingsley noticed that Bud’s head was bound with a cloth.

“What’s the matter, Bud?” he asked kindly.

The slubber never spoke, but glanced at his wife, who stood glaring at him. Then she broke out in a thin, drawling, daring, poor-white voice a ring of impertinence and even a challenge in it:

“I’ll tell you’uns what’s the matter with Bud. Bud Billings is got what most men needs when they begin to raise sand about their vittels for nothin’. I’ve busted a plate over his head.”

She struck an attitude before Kingsley which plainly indicated that she might break another one. It was also an attitude which asked: “What are you going to do about it?”

Bud nodded emphatically a nod that spoke more than words. It was a positive, unanimous assertion on his part that the plate had been broken there.

“Ne’ow, Mister Kingsley, you know yo’se’f that Bud is mighty slow mouthed he don’t talk much an’ I have to do his talkin’ fur him. Ne’ow Bud don’t intend for to be so mean” she added a little softer “but every month about the full of the moon, Bud seems to think somehow that it is about time fur him to make a fool of hisse’f again. He wouldn’t say nothin’ fur a month he is quiet as a lam’ an’ works steady as a clock then all to once the fool spell ’ud hit him an’ then some crockery ’ud have to be wasted.

“They ain’t no reason for it, Mister Kingsley Bud cyant sho’ the rappin’ of yo’ finger fur havin’ sech spells along towards the full of the moon. Bud cyant tell you why, Mister Kingsley, to save his soul ’cept that he jes’ thinks he’s got to do it an’ put me to the expense of bustin’ crockery.

“I stood it mighty nigh two years arter Bud and me was spliced, thinkin’ maybe it war ther bed-bugs a-bitin’ Bud, long towards the full of the moon. So I watched that pint an’ killed ’em all long towards the first quarter with quicksilver an’ the white of an egg. Wal, Bud never sed a word all that month. He never opened his mouth an’ he acted jes’ lak a puf’fec’ gentleman an’ a dutiful dotin’ husband (Bud wiped away a tear) until the time come for the fool spell to hit ’im, an ’all to once you never seed sech a fool spell hit a man befo’.

“What you reckin’ Bud done, Mister Kingsley? Bud Billins thar, what did he do? Got mad about his biscuits it’s the funny way the fool spell allers hits him, he never gits mad about anything but his biscuits. Why I cud feed Bud on dynamite an’ he’d take it all right if he cu’d eat it along with his biscuits. Onct I put concentrated lye in his coffee by mistake. I’d never knowed it if the pup hadn’t got some of it by mistake an’ rolled over an’ died in agony. I rushed to the mill thinkin’ Bud ud’ be dead, sho’ but he wa’nt. He never noticed it. I noticed his whiskers an’ eyebrows was singed off an’ questioned ’im ’bout it and he ’lowed he felt sorter quare arter he drunk his coffee, an’ full like, an’ he belched an’ it sot his whiskers an’ eyebrows a-fiah, which ther same kinder puzzled him fur a while; but it must be biscuits to make him raise cain. It happened at the breakfas’ table. Mind you, Mister Kingsley, Bud didn’t say it to my face no, he never says anything to my face but he gits up an’ picks up the cat an’ tells ther cat what he thinks of me his own spliced an’ wedded wife sland’in’ me to the cat.”

She shook her finger in his face “You know you did, Bud Billins an’ what you reckin he told ther cat, Mister Kingsley told her I was a a ”

She gasped she clinched her fist. Bud dodged an’ tried to break away.

“Told him I was a a heifer!”

Bud looked sheepishly around he tried even to run, but Jud Carpenter held him fast. She shook her finger in his face. “I heard you say it, Bud Billins, you know I did an’ I busted a plate over yo’ head.”

“But, my dear Madam,” said Kingsley, “that was no reason to treat him so badly.”

“Oh, it wa’nt?” she shrieked “to tattle-tale to the house-cat about yo’ own spliced an’ wedded wife? In her own home an’ yard her that you’ve sworn to love an’ cherish agin bed an’ board ter call her a heifer?”

She slipped her hand under her apron and produced a deadly looking blue plate of thick cheap ware. Her eyes blazed, her voice became husky with anger.

“An’ you don’t think that was nothin’?” she shrieked.

“You don’t understand me, my dear Madam,” said Kingsley quickly. “I meant that it was no reason why you should continue to treat him so after he has suffered and is sorry. Of course you have got to control Bud.”

She softened and went on.

“Wal it was mighty nigh a year befo’ Bud paid any mo’ ’tention to the cat. The full moon quit ‘fectin’ him he even quit eatin’ biscuits. Then the spell commenced to come onct a year an’ he cu’dn’t pass over blackberry winter to save his life. Mind you he never sed anything to me about it, but one day he ups an’ gits choked on a chicken gizzerd an’ coughs an’ wheezes an’ goes on so like a fool that I ups with the cheer an’ comes down on his head a-thinkin’ I’d make him cough it up. I moût a bin a little riled an’ hit harder’n I orter, but I didn’t mean anything by it, an’ he did cough it up on my clean floor, an’ I’m willin’ to say agin’ I was a little hasty, that’s true, in callin’ him a lop-sided son of a pigeon-toed monkey, for Bud riled me mighty. But what you reckin he done?”

She shook her finger in his face again. Bud tried to run again.

“You kno’ you done it, Bud Billins I followed you an’ listened when you tuck up the cat an’ you whispered in the cat’s year that your spliced an’ wedded wife was a a she devil!”

“It tuck two plates that time, Mister Kingsley that’s the time Bud didn’t draw no pay fur two weeks.

“Wal, that was over a year ago, an’ Bud he’s been a behavin’ mighty well, untwell this mornin’. It’s true he didn’t say much, but he sed ‘nuff fur me to see ther spell was acomin’ on an’ I’d better bust it up befo’ it got into his blood an’ sot ’im to cultivate the company of the cat. I seed I had to check the disease afore it got too strong, fur I seed Bud was tryin’ honestly to taper off with them spells an’ shake with the cat if he cu’d, so when he kinder snorted a little this mornin’ because he didn’t have but one aig an’ then kinder began to look aroun’ as if he was thinkin’ of mice, I busted a saucer over his head an’ fotched ‘im too, grateful la’k an’ happy, to be hisse’f agin. I think he’s nearly c’wored an’ I’m mighty glad you is, Bud Billins, fur it’s costin’ a lot of mighty good crockery to c’wore you.

“Now you all jes’ lem’me ’lone, Mister Kingsley lem’me manage Bud. He’s slo’ mouthed as I’m tellin’ you, but he’s gittin’ over them spells an’ I’m gwinter c’wore him if I hafter go into the queensware bus’ness on my own hook. Now, Bud Billins, you jes’ go in there now an’ go to tendin’ to that slubbin’ machine, an’ don’t you so much as look at a cat twixt now an’ next Christmas.”

Bud needed no further admonition. He bolted for the door and was soon silently at work.