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Page 157

CHAPTER IX - Casa de las Cuentas

to him, and the first attacker fleeing abjectly, in terror. One or the other always abject.
They were a strange puzzle to Kate. She felt something must be done. She herself was inspired to help. So she had the two girls for an hour a day, teaching them to read, to sew, to draw. Maria wanted to learn to read: that she did want. For the rest, they began well. But soon, the regularity and the slight insistence of Kate on their attention made them take again that peculiar invisible jeering tone, something peculiar to the American Continent. A quiet, invisible, malevolent mockery, a desire to wound. They would press upon her, trespassing upon her privacy, and with a queer effrontery, doing all they could to walk over her. With their ugly little wills, trying to pull her will down.
`No, don't lean on me, Concha. Stand on your own feet.'
The slight grin of malevolence on Concha's face, as she stood on her own feet. Then:
`Do you have lice in your hair, Nina?'
The question asked with a peculiar, subtle, Indian insolence.
`No,' said Kate, suddenly angry. `And now go! Go! Go away from me! Don't come near me.'
They slunk out, abject. So much for educating them.
Kate had visitors from Guadalajara - great excitement. But while the visitors were drinking tea with Kate on the veranda, at the other side of the patio, full in view, Juana, Concha, Maria and Felipa, a cousin of about sixteen, squatted on the gravel with their splendid black hair down their backs, displaying themselves as they hunted in each other's hair for lice. They wanted to be full in view. And they were it. They wanted the basic fact of lice to be thrust under the noses of those white people.
Kate strode down the veranda.
,If you must pick lice,' she said in a shaking voice to Juana, shaking with anger, `pick them there, in your own place,where you can't be seen.'
One instant, Juana's black inchoate eyes gleamed with a malevolent ridicule, meeting Kate's. The next instant, humble and abject, the four with their black hair down their backs slunk into the recess out of sight.
But it pleased Juana that she had been able to make Kate's

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