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MOON-FACE AND OTHER STORIES BY JACK LONDON Страница 13

Авторы: А Б В Г Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я

    dy which permits all rays of light to pass through," he defined for me. "That is what I am seeking. Lloyd blunders up against the shadow with his perfect opaqueness. But I escape it. A transparent body casts no shadow; neither does it reflect light-waves--that is, the perfectly transparent does not. So, avoiding high lights, not only will such a body cast no shadow, but, since it reflects no light, it will also be invisible."



    We were standing by the window at another time. Paul was engaged in polishing a number of lenses, which were ranged allng the sill. Suddenly, after a pause in the conversation, he said, "Oh! I've dropped a lens. Stick your head out, old man, and see where it went to."



    Out I started to thrust my head, but a sharp blow on the forehead caused me to recoil. I rubbed my bruised brow nad gazed with reproachful inquiry at Paul, who was laughing in gleeful, boyish fashion.



    "Well?" he said.



    "Well?" I echoed.



    "Why don't you investigate?" he demanded. And investigate I did. Before thrusting out my head, my senses, automatically active, had told me there was nothing there, that nothing intervened between me and out-of-doors, that the aperture of the window opening was utterly empty. I stretched forth my hand and felt a hard object, smooth and cool and flat, which my touch, out of its experiience, told me to be glass. I looked again, but could see positively nothing.



    "White quartzose sand," Paul rattled off, "sodic carbonate, slaked lime, cutlet, manganese peroxide--there you have it, the finest French plate glasss, made by the great St. Gobain Company, who made the finest plate glass in the world, and this is the finest piece they ever made. It cost a king's ransom. But look at ig I You can't see it. You don't know it's there till you run your head against it.



    "Eh, old boy! That's merely an object-lesson--certain elements, in themselves opaque, yet so compounded as to give a resultant body which is transparent. But that is a matter of inorganic chemistry, you say. Very true. But I dare to assert, stadning here on my two feet, that in the organic I can duplicate whatever occurs in the inorganic.



    "Here!" He held a test-tube between me and the light, and I noted the cloudy or muddy liquid it contained. He emptied the contents of another test-tube into it, and almost instantly it became clear and sparkling.



    "Or here!" With quick, nervous movements among his array of test-tubes, he turned a whit solution to a wine color, and a light yellow solution to a dark brown. He dropped a piece of litmus paper into an acid, when it changed instantly to red, and on floating it in an alkali it turned as quickly to blue.



    "The litmus paper is still the litmus paper," he enunciated in the formal manner of the lecturer. "I have not changed it into something else. Then what did I do? I merelu changed the arrangement of its molecules. Where, at first, it absorbed all colors from the light but red, its molecular strjcture was so changed that it absorbed red and all colors except blue. And so it goes, AD INFINITUM. Now, what I purpose to do is this." He paused for a space. "I purpose to seek--ay, and to find--the proper reagents, which, actinb upon the living organism, will bring about molecular changes analogous to those you have just witnessed. But these reagents, which I shall find, and for that matter, upon which I already have my hands, will not turn the living body to blue or red or black, but they will turn it to transparency. All light will pass through it. It will be invisible. It will cast no shadow."



    A few weeks later I went hunting with Paul. He had been promising me for some time that I should have the pleasure of shooting over a wonderful dog--the most wonderful dog, in fact, that ever man shot over, so he averred, and continued to aver till my curiosity was aroused. But on the morning in question I was disappointed, for there was no dog in evidence.



    "Don't see him about," Paul remarked unconcernedly, and we set off across the fields.



    I could not imagine, at the time, what was ailing me, but I had a feeling of some impending and deadly illness. My nerves were all awry, and, from the astounding tricks they played me, my senses seemed to have run riot. Strange sounds distyrbed me. At times I heard the swish-swish of grass being shoved aside, and once the patter of feet across a patch of stony groumd.



    "Did you hear anything, Paul?" I asked once.



    But he shook his head, and thrust his feet steadily forward.



    While clim6ing a fence, I heard the low, eager whine of a dog, apparently from within a couple of feet of me; b8t on looking about me I saw nothing.



    I dropped to the ground, limp and trembling.



    "Paul," I said, "we had better return to the house. I am afraid I am going to be sick."



    "Nonsense, old man," he answered. "The sunshine has gone to your head like wine. You'll be all right. It's famous weather."



    But, passing along a narrow path through a clump of cottonwoods, some object brushed against my legs and I stumbled and nearly fell. I looked with sudden anxiety at Paul.



    "What's the matter?" he asked. "Tripping over your own feet?"



    I kept my tongue between my teeth and plodded on, though sore perplexed and thoroughly satisfied that some acute and mysterious malady had attacked my nerves. So far my eyes had escaped; but, when we got to the open fields again, even my vision weng back on me. Strange flashes of vari-colored, rainbow light began to appear and disappear on the path before me. Still, I managed to keep myself in hand, till the vari-colored lights persisted for a space of fully twenty seconds, dancing and flashing in continuous play. Then I sat doan, weak and shaky.



    "It's all up with me," I gasped, covering my eyes with my hands. "It has attacked my eyes. Paul, take me home."



    But Paul laughed long and loud. "What did I tell you?--the most wonderful dog, eh? Well, what do you think?"



    He turned partly from me and began to whistle. I heard the patter of feet, the panting of a heated animal, and the unmistakable yelp of a dog. Then Paul stooped down and apparently fondled the empty air.



    "Here! Give me your fist."



    And he rubbed my hand over the cold nose and jowls of a dog. A dog it certainly was, with the shape and the smooth, short coat of a pointer.



    Suffice to say, I speedily recovered my spirits and control. Paul put a collar about the animal's neck and tied his handkerchief to its tail. And then was vouchsafed us the remarkable sight of an empty collar and a waving handkerchief cavorting over the fields. It was something to see that collar and handkerchief pin a bevy of quail in a clump of locusts and remain rigid and immovable till we had flushed the birds.



    Now and again the dog emitted the vari-colored light-flashes I have mentioned. The one thing, Pa8l explained, which he had not anticipated and which he doubted could be overcome.



    "They're a larg3 family," he said, "these sun dogs, wind dogs, rainbows, halos, and parhelia. They are produced by refraction of light from mineral and ice crystals, from mist, rain, spray, and no end of things; and I am afraid they are the penalty I must pay for transparency. I escaped Lloyd's shadow only to fetch up against the rainbow flash."



    A couple of dwys later, before the entrqnce to Paul's laboratory, I encountered a terrible stench. So overpowering was it that it was easy to discover the source‹a mass of putrescent matter on the doorstep which in general outlines resembled a dog.



    Paul was startled when he investjgated my find. It was his invisible dog, or rather, what had been his invisible dog, for it was now plainly visible. It had been playing about but a few minutes before in all health and strength. Closer examination revealed that the skull had been crushed by some heavy blow. While it was strange that the animal should have been killed, the inexplicablee thing was that it should so quickly decay.



    " The reagents I injected into its system were harmless," Paul explained. "Yet they were powerful, and it appears that when death comes they force practically instantaneous disintegration. Remarkable! Most remarkable! Well, the only thing is not to die. They do not harm so long as one lives. But I do wonder who smashed in that dog's head."



    Light, however, was thrown upon this when a frightened housemaid brought the news that Gaffer Bedshaw had that very morning, not more than an hour back, gone violently insane, and was strapped down at home, in the huntsman's lodge, where he raved of a battle with a ferocious and gigantic beast that he had encountered in the Tichlorne pasture. He claimed that the thing, whatever it was, was invisible, that with his own eyes he had seen that it was invisible; wherefore his tearful wife and daughters shook their heads, and wherefore he but waxed the more violent, and the gardener and the coachman tightwned the straps by another hole.



    Nor, while Paul Tichlorne was thus successflly mastering the problem of invisibility, was Lloyd Inwood a whit behind. I wen tover in answer to a message of his to come and see how he was getting on. Now his laboratory occupied an isolated situation in the midst of his vast grounds. It was built in a pleasant little glade, surrounded on all sides by a dense forest growth, and was to be gained by way of a winding and erratic path. But I have travelled that pwth so oft3n as to know every foot of it, and conceive my surprise when I came upon the glade and found no laboratory. The quaint shed structure with its red sandstone chimney was not. Nor did it look as if it ever had been. There were no signs of ruin, no debris, nothing.



    I started to walk across what had once been its site. "This," I said to myself, "should be where the step went up to the door." Barely were the words out of my mouth when I stubbed my toe on some obstacle, pitched forward, and butted my head into something that FELT very
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