Orchids, it was, she liked. So much I learned.
Always, outside my shop, she hesitated, turned,
Stared at my pale green troll-flowers, again, again,
With a queer dumb resentful pain
As if their posturing airs and graces,
The malice in their shrewd Second Empire faces,
Bit into her like steel.
Orchids, at half a crown! —
Now, if she’d loved the brown
Of dear old gillyflowers, the smooth cream
Of arums, snowdrops frosted in a dream,
Or childish primroses, laughing through dew,
I’d have leaned out: "Missie, this bunch for you —
There, I know how you feel."
But orchids — half a crown —
She with her hair cut long,
And that strange steely look — yet not too strong,
Not strong enough to stand the wind and rain.
But women are like cats. Once give them milk,
And you’ve got topaz eyes, black sensuous silk
Round you for life; that small, confiding purr
You haven’t the heart to stop. That’s how I felt, with her.
Orchids, at half a crown . . . and women who
Take that from drunken sailors — and grateful, too.
I wonder, now, if she’d have thought this strange?
One slim green flower thrust out: "Here, Missie, fair exchange."