Short summary - Dr. Ox's Experiment
Jules Gabriel Verne
A satirical story about a cruel experiment on the inhabitants of an entire city.
The town of Kikandon is located in Flanders, near Bruges, it is about a thousand years old. It is not on the maps, the number of its inhabitants is just over 2 thousand. Of the sights there is an old castle, a town hall, a tower clock with a fight. The town produces whipped cream and candies, famous in the country. The architecture is medieval with narrow streets and pointed gothic buildings. The last war was several centuries ago, there are no everyday problems here.
“You can’t positively say anything bad about the inhabitants of West Flanders. These people are respectable, reasonable, thrifty, .. although they have somewhat backward views ... ... in Kikandon there is neither trade nor industry, and ... the town does just fine without them ... The circle of their (residents) interests is very limited, and they lead a quiet and peaceful existence, .. are distinguished by calmness, moderation, .. phlegm ... ".
It was in this town that incredible and miraculous events took place.
It was always quiet in the burgomaster's house, "as ... in a shelter for the deaf and dumb. ... they didn’t walk here, but glided, they didn’t talk, but whispered ... ... silence reigned, as in a deserted desert ... ".
Burgomaster Van Trikass and his assistant Nikloss solved the city's pressing issues. Following the example of his predecessors from the Van Trickass family, the burgomaster, extremely conservative and slow, avoided any definite decisions and considered it the height of prudence.
“... Mayor Van Tricass is the personification of phlegm. Never in his life had anger and other passions made his heart beat violently... ...a dignified burgomaster, apathetic, imperturbable, indifferent... was quite a suitable person to rule the city of Kykandon and its imperturbable inhabitants. Indeed, the city was no less calm than Van Trickasse's house.
The heroes discussed all the city's problems, without solving a single one, so as not to rush. When discussing the lighting of the city streets, they were glad that the visiting Dr. Oks himself would carry it out and pay for it. Soon the city will be illuminated by an unknown oxyhydric gas.
Police Commissioner Passof informed the mayor that two respectable citizens had quarreled in the house of Dr. Oks, and this was a challenge for a quiet town where this had never happened.
Dr. Oks - chemist, physicist, physiologist - arrived in the city 5 months ago, accompanied by his assistant Gideon Egen. He was the complete opposite of the locals, he felt the vitality, energy, ambition. He spoke a lot and loudly, so he made a good impression on the Kykandonians. The city administration approved his urban lighting project at his own expense, he prepared the infrastructure for this. "... the city will be illuminated not by vulgar lighting gas ... but by the newest gas, which is twenty times brighter - oxyhydric gas, formed by mixing oxygen with hydrogen."
In a conversation between the doctor and an assistant at the gas plant, it became clear that they were planning a grandiose experiment on the gullible inhabitants of the town and that its consequences are unknown. Scientists are indifferent to the danger to people, since they are science enthusiasts.
The burgomaster and his adviser visited Dr. Ox's factory to inquire about yesterday's incident. The conversation began, as usual, leisurely, with all respect. But suddenly the mayor and councilor became agitated, lost their usual restraint. They almost shouted at the doctor, were rude and threatened, but he, meanwhile, looked at them slyly and answered ironically. As soon as the guests left the plant, prudence returned to them again, the pulse returned to normal. They noticed that the dialogue was diplomatic and that the doctor was a pleasant person.
“One should not think that in this extraordinary city young hearts did not beat at all: no, they beat, but rather slowly. There they got married and got married ... but they did it slowly. Future spouses ... wanted to study each other, and this study lasted at least ten years ... Rarely, a wedding took place earlier than this period ... ".
The burgomaster's daughter and the adviser's son loved each other and occasionally met on the banks of the river. The dates were quite chaste and, of course, without any liberties.
Works on conducting gas to the houses were in full swing. The doctor and his assistant were omnipresent. Using his own technology, the doctor was already producing gas, which might seem strange, since the final installation of pipes and equipment had not yet been completed. Everyone was expecting a theatrical performance in order to see the new fashionable lighting with their own eyes, as pipes were still brought into the theater.
The bizarre theater was built in Kykandong for 7 centuries, so it combined many styles in its architecture. In the same way, performances, mostly operas, took place here slowly. "... in truth, no composer would have recognized his work, before all the tempos were changed."
One act lasted an average of 3 hours, so the whole play was performed at about 3 pm for 3 weeks, since the performances were 1 time per week. The public got used to this slow rhythm and loved it, and the artists adapted for good pay.
That evening they gave Meyerbeer's Huguenots. The performance began slowly and solemnly, as usual in Kykandong, but soon the audience noticed that the musicians were playing somehow very quickly, not always listening to the singing of the artists. Now the artists have accelerated, not always getting into the music. The conductor at first tried to bring order to the music with smooth movements, but soon succumbed to the general nervous excitement and drove the orchestra at an accelerated pace. The audience was also infected with this mood, gradually falling into ecstasy, jumping up from their seats, shouting, singing along.
“The distraught orchestra is unable to continue. The conductor's baton was smashed into splinters, with such force it hit the music stand. The strings on the violins are torn, the necks are twisted. Entering into a rage, the timpani player broke his timpani ... ... and the ill-fated trumpeter tries in vain to pull out his hand, which he stuffed deep into the bowels of the pipe!
The performance ended in almost a scandal for a record 18 minutes instead of the previous 6 hours. Coming out of the theater into the fresh air, the audience soon calmed down and sedately went home.
The next morning, everyone vaguely remembered yesterday's farce. In the confusion, many things were lost, which had never happened before, and the burgomaster did not find his wig. The townspeople were embarrassed to discuss the scandalous performance, which in the morning seemed almost an orgy. Van Trickasse thought hard about what had happened, which made him feel sick, because he thought for the first time in many decades. He felt that something disturbing and inexplicable was happening in the city, he even suspected some kind of epidemic.
Moreover, if in everyday life the townspeople “… were still silent, inert, it was not life, but some kind of vegetation. … the heart beats evenly, the brain is in a state of hibernation, the pulse remains the same as in the good old days…”, then their social life has changed dramatically. As soon as the Kykandonians gathered in the municipal premises: the town hall, the exchange, the court, the church, the library, they immediately ignited. An hour later they found fault with each other, after two they were arguing, later they were shouting and fighting. Upon returning home, the excitement subsided and people no longer remembered why they broke spears.
In addition to the mayor, the police commissioner also thought about a strange craze. He also anxiously expected what this strange excitement of fellow countrymen would lead to, “if this fever seizes private homes, if an epidemic ... breaks out on the streets of the city. Then the end of imperturbable peace, no one will forgive insults, and, seized with nervous excitement, the townspeople will all fight among themselves. The Commissioner's fears were soon justified.
A ball was held at the local banker Kollert. “It is known what the Flemish festivities are, peaceful and calm, with beer and syrups instead of wine. Conversations about the weather, about views of the harvest ... from time to time a dance, slow and measured, like a minuet ... in which the dancers ... keep at a respectful distance from each other - these are the balls in Kykandon.
Having begun decorously and decently, as always, the ball quickly turned into a noisy party, absolutely impossible here before. "…about! it was a crazy whirlwind, a frantic round dance, which, it seemed, was led by Mephistopheles himself, beating the time with a flaming firebrand. " The smooth dances turned into a "hellish gallop", which swept like a mad hurricane through the halls, salons, from the cellars to the attics of the vast house, captivating people.
Dr. Oks and his assistant agreed that the experiment was entering a decisive phase and becoming massive.
Two or three months have passed. The epidemic has intensified noticeably, covering the houses and streets of the town. Kykandon became unrecognizable. It seemed that now all the laws of nature were violated.
The character, temperament, way of thinking of the inhabitants of Kikandon have changed. No age has been spared by the disease. But the most surprising thing was that the infection spread to the world of domestic animals and plants. Trees grew with amazing speed: as soon as a seed was thrown into the ground, a green stalk rose from it, which grew by leaps and bounds. But if they all grew violently and pleased the eye, they faded and died just as quickly, exhausted and exhausted.
The same thing happened with pets. In ordinary times, they were no less phlegmatic than their owners. But over the months, the animals have changed. Dogs and cats began to show teeth and claws. They rushed at people - they severely beat them. The burgomaster had to prescribe strict supervision of the distraught domestic animals, which were becoming dangerous.
Children stopped obeying their parents, they began to flog them. The college became restless, the students could not be kept locked up. However, the teachers were also in a state of extreme excitement, which affected the educational process.
Gluttony struck the Kykandonians, their stomach became like a bottomless barrel. Appeared gastric diseases.
Van Trickasse was tormented by an insatiable thirst, so he was always drunk and almost angry. Drunk people, including very respectable people, began to meet on the streets.
The doctor Kustos had a significant increase in work: he was constantly called to the sick. All sorts of neuroses appeared - completely previously unknown diseases.
Quarrels and clashes became the most common occurrence on the streets of Kikandon, which were now teeming with people, since no one could sit at home. I had to increase the number of police officers, the prison was filled with hooligans.
Weddings began to be played often, no one was waiting for the prescribed 10 years.
To top it off, there was a duel between Franz Nikloss and young Kollert, the son of a banker. The duel broke out over the daughter of the burgomaster, with whom the young rich man fell in love and did not want to give in to her rival.
The city lost its peace, and with it the burgomaster. His decrees were not carried out, his self-respect suffered.
Public life became terribly lively, new newspapers and political parties appeared. Carried away by their eloquence, journalists and politicians were not limited to city affairs and could well invite war to their homeland. And there was a reason for it in the city for about a thousand years.
Once a cow from the neighboring city of Virgamena wandered into the territory of Kikandon. It is unlikely that this animal had time “to pluck the green, juicy grass three times,” but “... the crime was committed and properly certified in the protocol, because in that era officials had already learned to write.”
The ancient Kykandonians vowed revenge in due time: "Sooner or later the Virgamenes will get what they deserve."
Against the backdrop of general hysteria, the issue of revenge was raised by a local lawyer. The excited society supported him furiously. "To the border!" - the townspeople yelled, planning to gather an army, overcome 3 km to Virgamen and, finally, crush the enemy. No one was embarrassed that there were no weapons or generals in the city. The protesting pharmacist was beaten, and the militant confectioner was elected to the generals.
Assistant Igen asked Dr. Ox if it was time to stop the cruel experiment, before it came to a big trouble. But the insidious doctor persisted and wanted to continue the experiment in the interests of science, while demanding that the assistant keep secrets.
The burgomaster and his assistant, in extreme excitement, not listening to each other, quarreled over the proposed war, although both advocated its beginning. They climbed the tower to inspect the surrounding fields for the deployment of troops. The higher they were above the ground, the faster their anger and rage faded away. At the observation deck, they stopped quarreling and could not remember why they had come up here. Without mentioning the war, they reconcile, remembering that they are friends. But going down, they quarreled again, and on the lower steps they fought, dragging each other by the wigs. The question of the beginning of the war was finally decided.
Upon learning of this incident, Dr. Ox could not contain his joy. He did not agree with the protests of his assistant, who was afraid of a real war. However, now they also constantly quarreled.
Burgomaster Van Tricass believed that one should not attack the enemy without warning. Therefore, he sent a parliamentarian to Virgamen, who, on behalf of the townspeople, demanded compensation for the damage done to Kykandon in 1135.
The Virgamene authorities at first did not understand what was the matter, and the parliamentarian, and then the second, were politely escorted out of the city. Then the burgomaster summoned the city's notables to write a letter, eloquent and impressive, containing an ultimatum: to make amends for the offense inflicted on the Kykandonians within twenty-four hours.
The Virginians laughed for a long time, tore up the letter and were not at all afraid of the threats, knowing how slow the neighbors were. Now the Kykandons had only to attack the frivolous neighbors, which was decided by the general meeting. “... the hall shook from furious cries, reproaches, curses. You would have thought that ... there is a bunch of obsessed or violently mad people going on here.
As soon as war was declared, the entire population of the town, including the elderly, women and children, took up arms. Every tool, blunt or sharp, has become a weapon. The army had 5 guns and one cannon of the 12th century, which had not been fired for 500 years.
There was cold steel recovered from the Museum of Antiquities - flint axes, helmets, etc. Courage, self-righteousness, hatred of foreigners and a thirst for revenge seized the motley army in the absence of a modern arsenal.
The commander-confectioner fell off his horse three times in front of the whole army. The troops were followed by a rearguard of wives, mothers, children under the command of Madame Van Tricuss. The herald blew a deafening trumpet - the army moved to the gates with warlike cries.
At that very moment, a man rushed towards the army and shouted for it to stop. “… — Crazy! he shouted. - Cancel trip! Let me turn off the tap!.. You are kind, peaceful citizens! If you are so furious, then my teacher, Dr. Ox, is to blame! This is just an experience! He deceived you: he promised to light up the city with oxyhydric gas, but he released it himself ... ".
Assistant Egen failed to finish. Doctor Ox, in indescribable fury, attacked him and silenced him with his fists. The burgomaster and the townspeople, beside themselves with rage, attacked the strangers, not listening to either one or the other. They were beaten unconscious and were about to be thrown into prison.
Suddenly there was a monstrous explosion. It seemed that all the air was on fire, and a huge flame shot up into the heavens. The Kikandon warriors fell to the ground. No one died, escaping with bruises and scratches.
As it soon became known, the gas plant exploded. Obviously, in the absence of the director and his assistant, some kind of oversight was made. The result was an explosive mixture that ignited. This event soon changed everything, but Dr. Oksa and assistant Igen disappeared without a trace.
After the explosion, peace and silence immediately settled in Kikandon, the townspeople automatically went home, and the city returned to its former existence. Nobody mentioned the war. People, animals and plants began to live their former lives.
And since then, not a single cry could be heard in Kikandon and no one argued about anything. Franz married Suzel Van Tricass about 5 years after the epidemic.
What did this mysterious Dr. Ox do? Just a fantastic experience. “Having laid pipes, he filled with the purest oxygen ... first public buildings, then private dwellings, and finally released it into the streets of Kikandon. This gas, completely colorless, odorless, inhaled in large quantities, causes a number of serious disorders in the body. A person living in an atmosphere supersaturated with oxygen becomes extremely excited and quickly burns out. But when he returns to the usual atmosphere, he returns to normal again.
Therefore, when the councilor and the burgomaster climbed the tower, where they did not have to inhale the oxygen that remained in the lower atmosphere, they came to their senses for a moment.
The explosion of the gas plant put an end to Dr. Ox's dangerous experience.
In conclusion, the author asks the question: "Is it really that valor, courage, talent, wit, imagination - all these wonderful properties of the human spirit are due only to oxygen?" The writer does not agree with this theory, even despite the cruel experiment of Dr. Oks.