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Chapter Twelve
When Dude looked up, he saw that the door had been opened and that Ellie May, Ada, and the grandmother were crowding through it. He did not know what to do, but he tried to motion to them to go away. He could not see Jeeter, because Jeeter was behind him, standing half-way up in the window with his feet supported on one of the rungs of the ladder. Bessie saw Jeeter, but she could not see the others. Dude heard his grandmother groan and walk away. He could hear her feet sliding over the pine boards of the hail floor, the horse-collar shoes making an irritating sound as she went towards the front yard. He paid no more attention to the others. After a while Jeeter cleared his throat and called Bessie. She did not answer him the first time he called, nor the next. Neither she nor Dude wanted to be disturbed. When she persisted in not answering him, Jeeter climbed through the window, and walked across the room to the bed. He shook Dude by the collar until he turned around. Jeeter, however, did not have anything to say to Dude. It was Bessie he wanted to speak to. "I been thinking just now about it, Sister Bessie, and the more I think it over in my mind, the more I convince myself that you was right about what we was discussing yesterday on the porch." "What you want with me, Jeeter?" she asked. "Now, about that place in the Bible where it says if a man's eye offends God he ought to go and take it out." "That's what the Bible says," she answered. "I know It does. And that's what's worrying my soul so bad right now." "But you is a religious man, Jeeter," she said. "Nothing ought to bother your conscience now. I prayed for you about them turnips you took from Lov. The Lord has forgot all about it now. He ain't going to hound you none on that account." "It ain't about the turnips. It's about cutting myself off. Now, I reckon what you said was right. I ought to go and do it." Dude turned around and tried to push Jeeter to the floor. Jeeter clung to the bedstead, and would not move away. "Why you want to do that?" Bessie said. "I been thinking about all you said so much that right now I know I ought to go ahead and cut myself off, so the Lord won't let me be tempted no more. I offended Him, and I know I ought to cut myself off so I won't do it no more. Ain't that right, Sister Bessie?" "That's right," she said. "That's what the Bible says a man ought to do when he's powerful sinful." Jeeter looked at Bessie. He pulled back the quilt so he could see her better. "Maybe I can put it off a little while, though," he said, after thinking several minutes. "Now, maybe it ain't so bad as I thought it was. This time of year puts a queer feeling into a man, and he says a lot of things he don't stop to take into account. Along about when the time to plow the land and put seed in the rows comes around, a man feels like he ain't got no control over his tongue--and don't want none. It's the same way with his actions. I feel that way every late February and early March. No matter how many children a man's got, he always wants to get more." There was a silence in the house for a long time. Ellie May and Ada made no sound in the doorway. Jeeter sat on the bed deep in thought until Dude pushed him to his feet. Dude climbed out behind him. When all of them were out in the yard again, Dude sat in the automobile and blew the horn. The women were busy wiping off the dust that had settled on the hood and fenders. The grandmother, though, did not come close to the car. She took her place behind a chinaberry tree and watched every movement of the others. Jeeter sat on his heels beside the chimney, and thought over what Sister Bessie had said in the house. He was more convinced than ever that God expected him to fix himself so he would not have any more sinful thoughts about Bessie. He decided, however, not to carry out his intentions just then. There was plenty of time left yet, he told himself, when he could go ahead and cut himself off, and so long as he did it before he offended God any more, it would be satisfactory. In the meanwhile, he would have time in which to try to convince himself more thoroughly that he should do it. There was a little fat-back on rinds left in the kitchen, and Ada had baked some cornbread. The bread had been made with meal, salt, water, and grease. All of them sat down at the table in the kitchen and ate the fat-back and cornbread............
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