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Page 159

CHAPTER IX - Casa de las Cuentas

todo - you know, Nina, the gringos and the gringuitos take away everything ...'
The gringos are the Americans. But Kate herself was included by Juana in the gringuitos: the white foreigners. The woman was making another sliding, insolent attack.
`It is possible,' said Kate coldly. `But tell me what I take away from Mexico.'
`No, Nina, no !' The subtle smile of satisfaction lurked under the bronze tarnish of Juana's face. She had been able to get at the other woman, touch the raw. `I don't speak of you, Nina!' But there was too much protest in it.
Almost, they wanted to drive her away: to insult her and drag her down and make her want to go away. They couldn't help it. Like the Irish, they could cut off their nose to spite their face.
The backward races!
At the same time there was a true pathos about them. Ezequiel had worked for a man for two months, building a house, when he was a boy of fourteen, in order to get a.rerape. At the end of the two months, the man had put him off, and he had not got the serape: had never got it. A bitter disappointment.
But, then, Kate was not responsible for that. And Juana seemed almost to make her so.
A people without the energy of getting on, how could they fail to be hopelessly exploited. They had been hopelessly and cruelly exploited, for centuries. And their backbones were locked in malevolent resistance.
`But,' as Kate said to herself, `I don't want to exploit them. Not a bit. On the contrary, I am willing to give more than I get. But that nasty insinuating insultingness is not fair in the game. I never insult them. I am so careful not to hurt them. And then they deliberately make these centipede attacks on me, and are pleased when I am hurt.'
But she knew her own Irish at the game. So she was able to put Juana and the girls away from her, and isolate herself from them. Once they were put away, their malevolence subsided and they remembered what Kate wanted. While she stayed amiable, they forgot. They forgot to sweep the patio, they forgot to keep themselves clean. Only when they were shoved back, into isolation, did they remember again.

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