Jack London. The Golden Poppy (part 4)
One of the city folk, a middle-aged gentleman, with white hands and shifty eyes, especially made life interesting for me. We called him the «Repeater,» what of his ways. When from the porch we implored him to desist, he was wont slowly and, casually to direct his steps toward the fence, simulating finely the actions of a man who had not heard, but whose walk, instead, had terminated of itself or of his own volition. To heighten this effect, now and again, still casually and carelessly, he would stoop and pluck another poppy. Thus did he deceitfully save himself the indignity of being put out, and rob us of the satisfaction of putting him out, but he came, and he came often, each time getting away with an able-bodied man’s share of plunder.
It is not good to be of the city folk. Of this I am convinced. There is something in the mode of life that breeds an alarming condition of blindness and deafness, or so it seems with the city folk that come to my poppy field. Of the many to whom I have talked ethically not one has been found who ever saw the warnings so conspicuously displayed, while of those called out to from the porch, possibly one in fifty has heard. Also, I have discovered that the relation of city folk to country flowers is quite analogous to that of a starving man to food. No more than the, starving man realizes that five pounds of meat is, not so good as an ounce, do they realize that five hundred poppies crushed and bunched are less beautiful than two or three in a free cluster, where the green leaves and golden bowls may expand to their full loveliness.
Less forgivable than the unaesthetic are the mercenary. Hordes of young rascals plunder me and rob the future that they may stand on street corners and retail California poppies, only five cents a bunch!» In spite of my precautions some of them made a dollar a day out of my field. One horde do I remember with keen regret. Reconnoitring for a possible dog, they applied at the kitchen door for «a drink of water, please.» Mile they drank they were besought not to pick any flowers. They nodded, wiped their mouths, and proceeded to take themselves off by the side of the bungalow. They smote the poppy field beneath my windows, spread out fan-shaped six wide, picking with both hands, and ripped a swath of destruction through the very heart of the field. No cyclone travelled faster or destroyed more completely. I shouted after them, but they sped on the wings of the wind, great regal poppies, broken-stalked and mangled, trailing after them or cluttering their wake — the most highhanded act of piracy, I am confident, ever committed off the high seas.
Read in Russian — Джек Лондон. Золотой мак. Часть 4