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J. Perelman
"Entertaining physics". Book 2.
Chapter 9. Reflection and refraction of light. Vision

"SPHINX"

The Story Of Edgar Allan PoE (Translated By M. A. Engelhardt. In the text made insignificant omissions.)

"In the era of the terrible rule of cholera in new York, I received an invitation from one of my relatives to spend two weeks at his secluded cottage. We would spend the time very bad, if not horrible news from the city, the resulting daily. No day, which would have brought us news of the death of someone you know. At the end we was frightened newspaper. The wind from the South, it seemed to us, was full of death. This freezing thought totally captured my soul. My master was a man more calm temperament and tried to encourage me.

At sunset a hot day I was sitting with a book in the hands of the open window, which looked on the distant hill beyond the river. My thoughts long ago are already distracted from the book to the sadness and despair that prevailed in the neighbouring town. Looking up, I accidentally looked at the bare hillside and saw something strange: a hideous monster quickly came down from the top of the hill and disappeared in the woods near his foot. In the first minute of seeing the monster, I had a doubt in his right state of my mind or at least, eyes, and only a few minutes later saw that but I rave. But if I describe this monstrosity (which I saw quite clearly, and which was seen all the time, until it was down the hill), my readers, perhaps, not so easily believe it.

Determining the size of this creature in comparison with the diameter of huge trees, I was convinced that it far exceeds the size of any ship of the line. I say ship of the line, because the shape of the monster resembled a ship: the case semidesyatichetyrehletnemu ship can give a fairly clear idea of its shape. The mouth of the animal was placed on the end of the trunk feet in sixty or seventy in length and approximately the same thickness as the body of an ordinary elephant. At the base of the trunk was a thick mass of shaggy hair, and it was given up, bending down and sideways, two gleaming tusks like a boar's, only much larger. On both sides of the trunk were placed two giant straight horns, feet in thirty or forty in length, apparently, crystal; they are dazzling shone in the sun. The body had the shape of the wedge facing the top to the ground. It was equipped with two pairs of wings, each had about 300 feet long, placed one above the other. The wings were thickly lined metal plates; each had feet ten or twelve in diameter. But the main feature of this terrible creature was the image of a dead head, occupying almost the entire surface of the breast; she suddenly looked at the dark surface of its bright white color, just painted.

While I'm with a sense of horror at this dreadful animal, particularly ominous shape on his chest, it suddenly opened its mouth and gave a loud groan... my Nerves can't stand it, and when the monster disappeared at the foot of the hill in the woods, I have no feelings fell on the floor...

When I awoke, my first impulse was to tell my friend about what I saw. After hearing me out, he first laughed, and then took a very serious look, as if he did not doubt in my insanity.

At this moment I again saw the monster and screaming pointed him out to my friend. He looked, but was assured that sees nothing, although I described in detail to him the position of the animal while it was down the hill.

I covered his face with his hands. When I took them, the monster had disappeared.

My master asked me about the appearance of the monster. When I told him everything in detail, he breathed, just getting rid of some intolerable severity, walked over to the bookcase and pulled out a textbook of natural history. Then me offering to change places, as the window it easier to see small print of the book, he sat down on the chair and open the tutorial continued:

- If you had not described to me in detail monster, I never could explain to you what it was. First of all, let me, I'll read from Otago textbook description of the genus Sphinx family of Сrepusculariae (twilight) order Lepidoptera (Lepidoptera, or butterflies) class Insecta, or insects. Here it is:

"Two pairs of membranous wings covered with small colored flake metallic luster; Horny bodies formed from elongated lower jaw; on the sides of their beginnings fluffy tentacles; the lower wings are connected with the upper strong hairs; antennae in the form of prismatic processes; abdomen pointed. The Sphinx's Head is sometimes the subject of superstitious terror among the common people because he published a sad sound and shape of the skull on the chest *".

Then he closed the book and leaned over to the window in the same position in which I was sitting, when I saw "monster".

"Yeah, that's it! - he exclaimed, - it climbs the hillside and, I admit, looks very curious. But it is not so great and not so far as you imagined, because climbing up the thread attached some spider to our window!"

* Now this butterfly belongs to the genus Acherontia. This is one of the few butterflies that are able izdava sounds - whistles, resembling a mouse squeal, and only producing sounds with the mouth organs. Her voice is quite loud, he heard many feet. In this case, it might seem to the observer especially loud because the sound source is mentally has been attributed to a very far distance (see "Entertaining physics", vol. 1, ch. X, "Curiosities of hearing").

Entertaining physics J. Perelman

 




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