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Chapter Ten
Dude waited outside the garage and looked at the new automobile on display in the show window. Bessie had gone inside. Dude had said he would stay on the street and look through the window a while. Bessie waited in the middle of the floor several minutes before any one came out of the back room to ask what she wanted. Presently a salesman walked over to her and asked her if she wanted anything. He noticed that there was something unusual about her nose the moment he first saw her. "I came to buy a new Ford," she said. The salesman was so busy looking down into her nostrils that he had to ask her to repeat what she said. "I came to buy a new Ford." "Have you got any money?" He glanced around to see if any of the other men were in the room. He wanted them to take a good look at Bessie's nose. "I've got enough to buy a new automobile if it don't cost more than eight hundred dollars." He looked up into her eyes for the first time. It was hard to believe from her appearance that she had as much as a penny. "How'd you get it?" he said. "The Lord provides for me. He always provides for His children." "He ain't never sent me nothing, and I been here thirty years now. You must be on the inside some way." The salesman laughed at what he had said, and looked down into Bessie's nostrils again. "That's because you don't put your trust in the Lord." "You ain't got that much money sure enough, have you?" Bessie took the check-book from her skirt pocket and showed it to him. While he was looking at the name of the bank and the balance to her account tabulated on the stub, she walked to the door and motioned to Dude to come inside. "Who's that?" the man said. "Is he your kid?" "That's Dude Lester. Everybody's heard of the Lester's on the tobacco road. Me and Dude is going to get married to-day. As soon as we can get the new automobile we're going to ride around to the courthouse and get leave to marry." The salesman shoved the check-book into her hands, and ran to the door of the office. "Come here quick, Harry!" he said. "I got a real sight to show you." An older man came out of the office and walked over to where Bessie and the salesman stood. "What's up?" he said, glancing from one to the other. "This woman here is going to marry that kid, Harry--what do you know about that! Have you ever seen anything like it before?" The older man asked Dude how old he was. Dude was about to tell him that he was sixteen when Bessie pushed him behind her. "That's none of your business, how old he is. I want to buy a new automobile. That's what I came here for. I walked five miles this morning to get here, too." The' two men were whispering to each other when she had finished talking. The older one looked at her face, and when he saw the two large round holes in her nose, he stepped forward and tried to see down into her nostrils. Bessie covered her nose with her hand. "Good God!" he said. "Ain't it a sight, though?" the salesman said. "Has she got any money?" Harry asked him. "Don't waste no time fooling with her if she ain't. There's a lot of them just like her who come in here from the country and never buy nothing." "She's got a check-book from the Farmers' Bank in Augusta, and she said she's got eight hundred dollars in her account. The stub shows it, too." "Better call them up and find out about it first," Harry said. "She might be telling the truth, and she might be lying. Some of them people out in the country do some tricky things sometimes. She might have found the check-book and filled it out herself." They went back into the office talking about Bessie's nose, and closed the door. After the salesman had called the bank, they came out again where Bessie and Dude were waiting. "How much do you want to pay for a car?" the salesman said. "Eight hundred dollars," Bessie told him. Harry nudged the salesman with his elbow. "Now, this is a nice little job here," he said, leaning against the fender of a new touring model. "It's eight hundred dollars. You can drive it away to-day, if you want to. You won't have to wait for the tags. I'll get them for you some time next week. You can drive a new car anywhere in the State for seven days while you are waiting for the tags to come from Atlanta." They winked at each other; every time they wanted to put over a quick sale they told that lie about the registration laws. Dude went to the car and blew the horn several times. The tone of it pleased him, and he grinned at Bessie. "Do you like it, Dude?" "Ain't nothing wrong with it," he said, blowing the horn again. "We'll take that one," Bessie said, pointing at the car. "Let's see your check-book," the other man said, jerking it out of Bessie's hand before she could give it to him. He took the check-book, tore out a blank, and hastily filled it out for eight hundred dollars. While the man was writing the check for Bessie to sign before she could change her mind or leave the garage, the salesman was again trying to look down into her nose. He had never seen anything like it before in all his life. "Sign your name here," she was told. "I always have to make my mark," she said. "What's your name?" "Sister Bessie Rice." "You must be a woman preacher," the man said. "Ain't you one?" "I preach and pray, both." She touched the end of the pen while an "x" was crossed after her name on the check. "The automobile's yours," she was told. "Is the boy going to drive it home for you?" "Wait a minute," Bessie said. "I clear forgot about praying--let's all kneel down on the floor and have a little prayer before the trade is made." "It's all over with now," one of them said. "No it ain't, neither," Bessie insisted. "It ain't over till the Lord sends his blessings on it." The two men laughed at her insistence, but Bessie had already knelt down on the floor and Dude was getting down on his knees beside the automobile. The two men stood behind her so they would not have to kneel on the floor. "Dear God, we poor sinners kneel down in this garage to pray for a blessing on this new automobile trade, so You will like what me and Dude is doing. This new automobile is for me and Dude to ride around in and do the work You want done for You in this sinful country. You ought to make us not have wrecks with it, so we won't get hurt none. You don't want us to get killed, right when we're starting out to preach the gospel for You, do You? And these two men here who sold the new car to us need your blessing, too, so they can sell automobiles for the best good. They is sinful men just like all the rest of us, but I know they don't aim to be, and You ought to bless their work and show them how to sell people new automobiles for the best good, just like You would do if You was down here selling automobiles Yourself, in Fuller. That's all. Save us from the devil and make a place for us in heaven. Amen." Dude was the first to get on his feet. He jumped up and blew the horn six or seven long blasts. The two men came around in front of Bessie, wiping the perspiration from their faces, and laughing at Dude and Bessie. They looked at her nose again until she put her hand over it. Dude and Bessie got into the automobile and sat down. Dude blew the horn again several times. "Wait a minute," the salesman said. "We'll have to roll it outside first and fill up the tank with gas. You can't drive it like it is now." Bessie got out, but Dude refused to leave the horn and steering wheel. He sat where he was and guided the car through the door while the men pushed. After the gasoline had been pumped into the tank, Dude started the engine and got ready to leave. Bessie got in again, sitting in the centre of the back seat. "Where you going now?" the salesman asked Bessie. "To get married?" "We're going around to the courthouse to get leave of the county," she said. "Then we'll get married." The two men whispered to each other. "Did you ever see a nose like that before, Harry?" "Not when I was sober." "Look at them two big round holes running down into her face--how does she keep it from raining down in there, you reckon?" "I'll be damned if I know. Maybe she puts cork stoppers in them to keep the water out. She would have to do something like that in a hard shower." Bessie leaned over and prodded Dude. "Drive off, Dude," she said. "Ain't no sense in staying here no more." Dude put the car into gear and turned the gasoline on. Being unaccustomed to the new model, he did not know how to gauge the amount of gasoline, and the car jerked off so quickly that it almost lifted itself off the ground. The two men jumped out of the way just in time to keep from being hit by the fender. Bessie showed Dude which way to turn to find the courthouse. When they reached it, Dude got out reluctantly and followed Bessie inside. He wanted to stay in the car and blow the horn, but Bessie said he had to go with her to get the license. The Clerk's office was found ............
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