Jack London. The Golden Poppy (part 8)
«I will pay you for them,» said a gentleman, at another time. (I had just relieved him of an armful.) I felt a sudden shame, I know not why, unless it be that his words had just made clear to me that a monetary as well as an aesthetic value was attached to my flowers. The apparent sordidness of my position overwhelmed me, and I said weakly: «I do not sell my poppies. You may have what you have picked.» But before the week was out I confronted the same gentleman again. «I will pay you for them.» he said. «Yes,» I said, «you may pay me for them. Twenty dollars, please.» He gasped, looked at me searchingly, gasped again, and silently and sadly put the poppies down. But it remained, as) usual, for a woman to attain the sheerest pitch of audacity. When I declined payment and demanded my plucked beauties, she refused to give them up. «I picked these poppies,» she said, «and my time is worth money. When you have paid me for MY time you may have them.» Her cheeks flamed rebellion, and her face, withal a pretty one, was set and determined. Now, I was a man of the hill tribes, and she a mere woman of the city folk, and though it is not my inclination to enter into details, it is my pleasure to state that that bunch of poppies subsequently glorified the bungalow and that the woman departed to the city unpaid. Anyway, they were my poppies.
«They are God’s poppies,» said the Radiant Young Radical, democratically shocked at sight of me turning city folk out of my field. And for two weeks she hated me with a deathless hatred. I sought her out and explained. I explained at length. I told the story of the poppy as Maeterlink has told the life of the bee. I treated the question biologically, psychologically, and sociologically. I discussed it ethically and aesthetically. I grew warm over it, and impassioned; and when I had done, she professed conversion, but in my heart of hearts I knew it to be compassion.
I fled to other friends for consolation. I retold the story of the poppy. They did not appear supremely interested. I grew excited. They were surprised and pained. They looked at me curiously. «It ill-befits your dignity to squabble over poppies,» they said. «It is unbecoming.»
Read in Russian — Джек Лондон. Золотой мак. Часть 8