Jack London. The Golden Poppy (part 6)
Nevertheless, thenceforward I saved my lungs and. flourished my rifle. Also, I made fresh generalizations. To commit robbery women take advantage of their sex. Men have more respect for property than women. Men are less insistent in crime than women. And women are less afraid of guns than men. Likewise, we conquer the earth in hazard and battle by the virtues of our mothers. We are a race of land-robbers and sea-robbers we Anglo-Saxons, and small wonder, when we suckle at the breasts of a breed of women such as maraud my poppy field.
Still the pillage went on. Sirens and gun-flourishings were without avail. The city folk were great of heart and, undismayed, and I noted the habit of «repeating» was becoming general.. What booted it how often they were driven forth if each time they were permitted to carry away their ill-gotten plunder? When one has turned the same person away twice and thrice an emotion arises somewhat akin to homicide. And when one has once become conscious of this sanguinary feeling his whole destiny seems to grip hold of him and drag him into the abyss. More than once I found myself unconsciously pulling the rifle into position to get a sight on the miserable trespassers. In my sleep I slew them in manifold ways and threw their carcasses into the reservoir. Each day the temptation to shoot them in the legs became more luring, and every day I felt my fate calling to me imperiously. Visions of the gallows rose up before me, and with the hemp about my neck I saw stretched out the pitiless future of my children, dark with disgrace and shame. I became afraid of myself, and Bess went about with anxious face, privily beseeching my friends to entice me into taking a vacation. Then, and at the last gasp, came the thought that saved me: Why not confiscate? If their forays were bootless, in the nature of things their forays would cease.
The first to enter my field thereafter was a man. I was waiting for him — And, oh joy! it was the «Repeater» himself, smugly complacent with knowledge of past success. I dropped the rifle negligently across the hollow of my arm and went down to him.
«I am sorry to trouble you for those poppies,» I said in my oiliest tones; «but really, you know, I must have them.»
He regarded me speechlessly. It must have made a great picture. It surely was dramatic. With the rifle across my arm and my suave request still ringing in my ears, I felt like Black Bart, and Jesse James, and Jack Shepard, and Robin Hood, and whole generations of highwaymen.
«Come, come,» I said, a little sharply and in what I imagined was the true fashion; «I am sorry to inconvenience you, believe me, but I must have those poppies.»
Read in Russian — Джек Лондон. Золотой мак. Часть 6