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Chapter Sixteen
Three hours had already been spent in trying to sell the load of blackjack. Apparently there was not a man in Augusta who wanted to buy it. At some of the houses Jeeter went to, the people at first said they needed wood, but after they had asked him how much he wanted for it they were suspicious. Jeeter told them he was asking only a dollar, and then they asked him if he were selling split pine at that small price. He had to explain that it was blackjack, and not even sawn into stove lengths. The next thing he knew the door was slammed in his face, and he had to go to the next house and try again. At a little after six o'clock the wood was still piled on the back seat of the car, and no buyer was in sight. Jeeter began stopping people on the streets in a final and desperate effort to dispose of the wood at fifty cents; but the men and women he approached took one look at the blackjack piled on the car and walked off, evidently thinking it was a joke of some kind. Nobody was foolish enough to buy blackjack when pine wood burned better and was less trouble to use. "I don't know what we're going to do," Jeeter told Bessie. "It's getting almost too late to go back home, and nobody wants to buy wood no more. I used to sell it with no effort any time I brought a load up here." Dude said he was hungry, and that he wanted to go Somewhere and eat. Sister Bessie had half a dollar; Jeeter had nothing. Dude, of course, had nothing. Jeeter had planned to sell the wood for a dollar, and then to buy some meat and meal to take home to eat; but he did not know what to do now. He turned to Bessie questioningly. "Maybe we better start back toward Fuller," she said. "I can buy two gallons of gasoline, and that ought to be enough," "Ain't we going to eat nothing?" Dude said. "My poor belly is as dry as the drought." "Maybe we could sell something else," Jeeter said, looking at the automobile. "I don't know what we has to sell, though." "We ain't going to sell my new auto automobile," Bessie said quickly. "It was brand new only yesterday. That's one thing nobody ain't going to sell." Jeeter looked the car over from front to back. "No, I wouldn't think of doing nothing like that. But you know, Bessie, maybe we could sell a wee biddy piece of it, sort of." He walked around the car and grasped the spare tire and wheel in his hands. He shook it violently. "It's near about loose, anyhow," he said. "It wouldn't hurt the new car none, Bessie." "Well, I reckon we got to," she said slowly. "That tire and wheel ain't doing us no good, noway. We can't ride on but four of them at a time, and five is a big waste." They drove around the block until they found a garage. Jeeter went in and made inquiry. A man came out, took the tire and wheel off, and rolled it through the garage door. Jeeter came walking briskly across the street, holding out several green notes. He counted them one by one before Bessie and Dude. "Ain't we lucky folks, though?" he said. "How much money did it bring?" she asked. "He said three dollars was more than enough, but that much sounded like a heap of money to me. And here it is! Ain't they pretty and new, though? Out there at Fuller all the money I ever saw was just about ready to fall apart, it was that worn out. Up here in Augusta the people has got good money." The next stop was a small grocery store. Jeeter got out and bought a large sack of soda crackers and two pounds of yellow cheese. He came back to the car and offered the food to Dude and Bessie. They all broke off chunks of cheese and stuffed their mouths full of crackers. "Just help yourself, Bessie," he said. "Take all you want. Run your hand in the poke and eat until you is full. Dude, there, might hog it all if you don't take care of your own wants." Jeeter was feeling fine. It was the first time since he could remember that he had been to Augusta and could get something to eat when he wanted it. He smiled at Bessie and Dude, and waved to people passing along the street. When a woman passed, he took off his hat and bowed. "Augusta is a fine place," he said. "All these people here is just like us. They is rich, but that don't make no difference to me. I like everybody now." "Where is we going now?" Bessie said. "There's a place to sleep right above the store," Jeeter said. "Supposing we sleep in there to-night, and then tomorrow morning sell the wood--ain't that what we ought to do?" Dude liked the suggestion, but Bessie hesitated. It looked to her as if it might cost a lot of money to spend the night in the hotel. "Maybe it will cost too much," she said. "You go upstairs and see how much it costs." Jeeter stuffed another handful of crackers and cheese in his mouth, and went up the flight of stairs where the hotel was. There was a small sign over the door, dimly lighted, which said it was a hotel. "They'll let us stay for fifty cents apiece," he said. "They is pretty much crowded, and there ain't but one room vacant, but we can stay if we wants to. I sure do, don't you, Bessie? I ain't never stayed all night in a hotel before." Bessie by that time had set her heart on spending a night in a hotel in the city, and she was ready to go up the stairs when Jeeter said it would cost fifty cents for each of them. "Now you hold on tight to that money, Jeeter," she said. "That's a heap of money to lose. You don't want to let it get away from you." They walked up the narrow stairway and found themselves in a small, dusty room. It was the lobby. Half a dozen straight-backed chairs and a table were in the dimly lighted room. The man who ran the hotel took them to the table and told them to sign their names on the register. Jeeter told him they would have to make their marks. "What's your name?" he asked. "Jeeter." "Jeeter what?" "Jeeter Lester, from out near Fuller." "What's the boy's name?" "Dude's name is Dude, the same as mine." "Dude Lester?" "That's right." "And what's her name?" he asked, looking up at Bessie. Bessie smiled at him, and he looked at her legs. She hunched her left shoulder forward and hung her head downward. He looked her over again. "Her name is Mrs. Dude," Jeeter said. The man looked at Dude and then at Bessie, and smiled. He was holding the pen for them to touch while he made the cross-marks opposite their names. Jeeter gave him the money, and they were taken up another stairway to the third floor. The halls were dark, and the rooms shadowy and unventilated. He opened a door and told them to walk in. "Is this where we sleep?" Jeeter asked him. "This is the place. It's the only room I got left, too. We're pretty full to-night." "This sure is a fine place," Jeeter said. "I didn't know hotels was such fine places before. I wish Lov was here to see me now." There was only one bed in the room; it was large, fiat, and high off the floor. "I reckon we can crowd in the bed some way," Jeeter said. "I'll sleep in the middle." "There's plenty of room for all of you," the man said, "but maybe I can find another bed for one of you." He went out and shut the door. Jeeter sat down on the bed and unlaced his brogans. The dusty shoes fell with heavy thuds on the bare floor. Dude sat in the chair and looked at the room, the walls, and ceiling. The yellow plaster had dropped off in many places, and more hung loose, ready to fall the next time there was a vibration. "We might as well go to bed," Jeeter said. "Ain't no sense in sitting up." He hung his black felt hat on the bed-post and lay down. Bessie was standing before the wash-stand mirror taking down her hair. "Ada ought to see me now," Jeeter said. "I ain't never slept the night in a hotel in all my days. I bet Ada won't believe I'm telling the truth when I tell her." "You ain't got no business sleeping in bed with me and Bessie," Dude said. "You ought to get out on the floor." "Now, Dude, you wouldn't begrudge me one night's sleeping, would you? Why, Bessie, there, is all willing, ain't you, Bessie?" "You hush your mouth, Jeeter!" she said. "You make me feel so foolish when you say that!" "It's only me and you, Dude," he said. "It's not like it was somebody else. I been wanting to sleep with you and Bessie for the longest time." Some one knocked on the door and, before they could answer it, the man walked in. "What did you say your name was?" he asked Bessie. He walked over to the washstand where she stood, and waited close beside her. "Mrs. Dude--" Jeeter said. "I told you that already once." "I know--but what's her first name? You know what I mean--her girl's name." Bessie put her dress over herself before she told him. "Bessie," she said. "What do you want to know that for?" "That's all right, Bessie," he said. "That's all I wanted to know." He went out and shut the door. "These city folks has got the queerest ways," Jeeter said. "You don't never know what they is going to -ask you next." Dude took off his shoes and coat and waited for Bessie to get into bed. She had sat down on the floor to take off her shoes and stockings. Jeeter sat up in bed and waited for her to finish. A door nearby was slammed so hard that pieces of yellow plaster dropped off the ceiling to the bed and floor. Suddenly some one knocked on the door again, and it was opened immediately. This time it was a man whom they had not seen before. "Come on down the hail, Bessie," he said. He waited outside until Bessie got up from the floor and went to the door. "Me?" she said. "What you want with me?" "Come on down to this other room, Bessie. It's too crowded up here." "They must have found another bed for us," Jeeter said. "I reckon they found out that there was more beds empty than they thought there was." He and Dude watched Bessie gather up her clothes and leave the room. She carried her dress, shoes, and stockings in one ............
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