The story called The Sound Machine” was written by Roald Dahl in 1949. In the story a man, Klausner by name, invents a machine capable of hearing extremely high notes and recording the presence of inaudible sound vibrations in the air. By and by Klausner begins to understand where the sounds come from. In the episode you're going to read, Klausner shares his discovery with Doctor Scott.
THE SOUND MACHINE
Klausner heard the telephone buzzing at the other end, and then the click of a lifted receiver and a man’s voice, a sleepy voice, saying: “Hullo. Yes.”
“Dr. Scott?” he said.
“Dr. Scott. You must come at once — quickly, please.”
“Who is it speaking?”
“Klausner here, and you remember what I told you last night about my experiment with sound...”
“Yes, yes, of course, but what’s the matter? Are you ill?”
“No, I’m not ill, but...”
“It’s half past six in the morning,” the Doctor said, “and you call me, but you are not ill.”
“Please come. Come quickly. I want someone to hear it. It’s driving me mad! I can’t believe it...”
“All right then. I’ll come.”
Soon the Doctor arrived, little black bag in hand.
“Well,” the Doctorsaid. “Well, what’s the trouble?”
“Come with me, Doctor. I want you to hear it. It’s over the road in the park.”
The Doctor looked at him. There was no sign of madness or hysteria; he was merely disturbed and excited.
They went across the road into the park and Klausner led the way to the great beech tree at the foot of which stood the long black box of the machine - and the axe. Klausner gave the Doctor a pair of earphones and asked him to listen carefully. After that Klausner bent down and flicked the switch on the panel of the machine; then he picked up the axe. “Can you hear anything?” he said to the Doctor.
“Just a humming noise. What are you waiting for?” the Doctor asked. “Nothing.” Klausner answered and then he lifted the axe and swung it at the tree, and as he swung he thought he felt a movement of the ground on which he stood. He felt a slight shifting of the earth beneath his feet as though the roots of the tree were moving underneath the soil, but it was too late to check the blow and the axe blade struck the tree and wedged deep into the wood. At that moment, high overhead, there was the cracking sound and they both looked up and the Doctor cried, “Watch out! Run, man! Quickly, run!”
The Doctor had ripped off the earphones and was running away fast, but Klausner stood spellbound, staring up at the great branch, sixty feet long at least, that was bending slowly downwards, breaking and crackling and splintering at its thickest point, where it joined the main trunk of the tree. The branch came crushing down and Klausner leapt aside just in time. It fell upon the machine and smashed it into pieces.
“Great heavens!” shouted the Doctor as he came running back. “That was a near one! I thought it had got you!”
Klausner was staring at the tree. His large head was leaning to one side and upon his smooth white face there was a tense, horrified expression. Slowly he walked up to the tree. “Did you hear it?” he said, turning to the Doctor. His voice was barely audible.
The Doctor was still out of breath from the running and excitement. “Hear what?”
“In the earphones. Did you hear anything when the axe struck?”
The Doctor began to rub the back ofhis neck. “Well,” he said, “as a matter of fact...” He paused and frowned and bit his lower lip. “No, I'm not sure. I couldn’t be sure. I don’t suppose I had the earphones for more than a second af-terthe axe struck.”
“Yes, yes, but what did you hear?”
“I don’t know,” the Doctor said. “I don’t know what I heard. Probably the noise of the branch breaking. I was more interested in getting out of the way.” The Doctor certainly seemed nervous. He moved his feet, shrugged his shoulders and turned to go.
1. What was the function of Klausner’s sound machine?
2. What did Klausner think he heard with the help of this device?
3. Why did the Doctor agree to come at half past six, though Klausner claimed he wasn’t ill, and why did he bring his little black bag?
4. What kind of experiment did Klausner want to make? Did he succeed?
5. Why did KJausner stare at the tree with “a tense, horrified expression”? What did he think was the reason for the branch to break?
6. Do you think the Doctor heard anything unusual in the earphones? What could he hear if Klausner was right?
7. Do you think Klausner was mad? Is it possible that plants can react to pain or coming danger?
8. Do you think all the mysteries of the natural world have been solved? Which of them haven’t?