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Chapter Eighteen
After the dust had settled on the road, Ada and Jeeter came back into the yard. Mother Lester still lay there, her face mashed on the hard white sand. From the corner of the house, Ellie May looked at what had appened. "Is she dead yet?" Ada asked, looking at Jeeter. "She don't make no sound and she don't move. I don't reckon she could stay alive with her face all mashed like that." Jeeter did not answer her. He was too busy thinking of his hatred for Bessie to bother with anything else. He took another look at the grandmother and walked across the yard and around to the back of the house. Ada went to the porch and stood there looking back at Mother Lester several minutes, then she walked inside and shut the door. Mother Lester tried to turn over so she could get up and go into the house. She could not move either her arms or her legs without unbearable pain, and her head felt as if it had been cracked open. The automobile had struck her with such force that she did not know what had hit her. Both of the left wheels had rolled over her, one of them across her back and the other on her head. She had not known what had happened. More than anything else she wanted to get up and lie down on her bed. She struggled with a final effort to raise her head and shoulders from the hard sand, and she managed to turn over. After that she lay motionless. When he had finished getting a fresh drink of water at the well, Jeeter walked out into the broom-sedge, kicking the ground with the toes of his shoes to find out how dry it was. He believed the soil held just the right amount of moisture needed for plowing, but he wanted to be sure of it, because he was confident that he could borrow a mule somewhere and begin plowing and planting early the following week. While he walked around in the waist-high broom-sedge, Lov was racing down the tobacco road, hatless and out of breath. Lov began shouting to Jeeter as soon as he reached the front yard, and Jeeter ran out of the sedge to meet him and find out what the trouble was. Lov was dressed in his dirty black overalls, the pair he wore at the chute when he shovelled coal into the scoops. His hat had blown off when he started running to Jeeter's, and he had not waited to go back and pick it up. Lov's fiery red air stood almost straight up; ordinarily, it was falling down over his forehead and getting into his eyes. He saw the old grandmother lying in the yard and he slowed down to look at her, but he did not linger there. He ran until he was face to face with Jeeter. "What you doing down here at this time of day, Lov?" Jeeter said. "Why ain't you working at the chute?" Lov did not speak for several minutes. He had to wait until he could regain his breath. He sat on the ground, and Jeeter squatted on his heels beside him. They were not far from the well. Ellie May was standing beside the stand drinking from the bucket when Lov reached Jeeter, but she did not run away immediately. She waited until Lov sat down, so she could hear what he had to tell Jeeter. "What's the matter, Lov?" Jeeter asked. "What happened down at the chute that made you run here so fast?" "Pearl--Pearl--she run off!" "Run where to?" Jeeter said calmly, disappointed because it was not something of more interest to him. "Where'd Pearl run to, Lov?" "She's gone to Augusta!" "Gone to Augusta!" Jeeter said, straightening up. "I thought maybe she just went off in the woods somewhere for a spell, like she was always doing. Reckon what she run off to Augusta for?" "I don't know," Lov said, "but I reckon she just up and went. I don't know what else she done it for. I didn't hurt her none this morning. I didn't do nothing to her, except throw her down on the bed. She got loose from me, and I ain't seen her since." "What was you trying to do to her?" "Nothing. I was only going to tie her up with some plow-lines to see if I could do it I figured she'd have to stay m the bed if I tied her there I was going to loose pretty soon." "How you know she's run off to Augusta? Maybe she just went off in the woods somewhere again. Did she tell you she was going to run off to Augusta?" "She didn't say nothing to me." "Then what makes you think she went up there, instead of going off in the woods somewhere?" "I didn't even know she was running off up there till Jones Peabody came by the chute and told me he met her up near Augusta when he was coming back to Fuller with an empty lumber truck. He said he stopped and asked her where she was going, and if I knowed she'd left home, but she wouldn't talk to him. He said she looked like she was near about scared to death. He came and told me about it the first thing. He said he knowed I wouldn't know about it." "Pearl, she was just like Lizzie Belle. Lizzie Belle up and went to Augusta just like that!" He snapped his fingers, jerking his head to one side. "I didn't know nothing about it till I seen her up there on the street once. I asked her what made her run off without saying nothing to her Ma and me about it, but she wouldn't talk none. I thought all the time that she was staying out in the woods somewhere for a while, but I knowed it was Lizzie Belle the first time I looked at her. She had on some stylish clothes and a hat, but they didn't fool me. I knowed it was Lizzie Belle, even if she wouldn't talk to me. She was working in a cotton mill across the river from there, all that time. I knowed then why she up and went there, because Ada told me. Ada said Lizzie Belle wanted to have some stylish clothes and a hat to wear, and she run off up there to work in a cotton mill so she could get them kind of things herself." "Pearl never said nothing to me about wanting a stylish dress and a hat," Lov said. "I make a dollar a day at the chute, and I could have bought her a dress and a hat if she had told me she wanted them. But Pearl never said nothing to me--she never said nothing to nobody. She slept on that dum pallet on the floor and wouldn't answer my requests when I told her to do something I wanted done." "I reckon about the best thing you can do, Lov, is to let her be. She wasn't satisfied living down here on the tobacco road, and if you was to bring her back, she'd run off again twice as quick. She's just like Lizzie Belle and Clara and the other gals. I can't recall all of their names right now, but it was every durn one of them, anyhow, They all wanted some stylish clothes. They wasn't satisfied with the pretty calico and gingham their Ma sewed for them. Well, Ada ain't satisfied neither, but she can't do nothing about it. That's how the gals took after their Ma. I sort of broke Ada of wanting to go off and do that. She don't talk no more about buying of stylish clothes and a hat, except a dress to die in and be buried in. She talks about getting a stylish dress to die in, but she ain't going to get it, and she knows she ain't. She'll die and be buried in the ground wearing that yellow calico she's got on now. I broke Ada of wanting to run off, but them gals was more than I could take care of. There was too durn many of them for only one man to break. They just up and went." "Maybe she'll come back," Lov said. "Reckon she'll come back, Jeeter?" "Who--Pearl? Well, I wouldn't put no trust in it. Lizzie Belle went off and she ain't never come back. None of the other gals came back, neither." "I sort of hate to lose her, for some reason or another. She was a pretty little girl--all them long yellow curls hanging down her back always made me hate the time when she'd grow up and be old. I used to sit on the porch and watch her through the window when she was comb lug and brushing her hair in the bedroom--" "That sure ain't no lie," Jeeter said. "Pearl had the prettiest yellow hair of any gal I ever saw. It was a plumb shame that she was so bad about wanting to stay by herself all the time, because I used to want to have her around me. I wish Ada had been that pretty. Even w............
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