Книга Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Содержание - 17 Rescue in Minusland
'I suppose you guessed,' Mr Wonka went on, 'what happened to all those Oompa-Loompas in the Testing Room when I was experimenting with Wonka-Vite. Of course you did. They disappeared and became Minuses just like your Grandma Georgina. The recipe was miles too strong. One of them actually became Minus eighty-seven! Imagine that!'
'You mean he's got to wait eighty-seven years before he can come back?' Charlie asked.
'That's what kept bugging me, my boy. After all, one can't allow one's best friends to wait around as miserable Minuses for eighty-seven years …'
'And get subtracted as well,' said Charlie. 'That would be frightful.'
'Of course it would, Charlie. So what did I do? "Willy Wonka," I said to myself, "if you can invent Wonka-Vite to make people younger, then surely to goodness you can also invent something else to make people older!"'
'Ah-ha!' cried Charlie. 'I see what you're getting at. Then you could turn the Minuses quickly back into Pluses and bring them home again.'
'Precisely, my dear boy, precisely – always supposing, of course, that I could find out where the Minuses had gone to!'
The Elevator plunged on, diving steeply toward the centre of the Earth. All was blackness outside now. There was nothing to be seen.
'So once again,' Mr Wonka went on, 'I rolled up my sleeves and set to work. Once again I squeezed my brain, searching for the new recipe … I had to create age … to make people old … old, older, oldest … "Ha-ha!" I cried, for now the ideas were beginning to come. "What is the oldest living thing in the world? What lives longer than anything else?"'
'A tree,' Charlie said.
'Right you are, Charlie! But what kind of a tree? Not the Douglas Fir. Not the Oak. Not the Cedar. No no, my boy. It is a tree called the Bristlecone Pine that grows upon the slopes of Wheeler Peak in Nevada, U.S.A. You can find Bristlecone Pines on Wheeler Peak today that are over four thousand years old! This is fact, Charlie. Ask any dendrochronologist you like (and look that word up in the dictionary when you get home, will you, please?). So that started me off. I jumped into the Great Glass Elevator and rushed all over the world collecting special items from the oldest living things …
A PINT OF SAP FROM A 4000-YEAR-OLD BRISTLECONE PINE
THE TOE-NAIL CLIPPINGS FROM A 168-YEAR-OLD RUSSIAN FARMER
CALLED PETROVITCH GREGOROVITCH
AN EGG LAID BY A 200-YEAR-OLD TORTOISE BELONGING TO THE KING OF
THE TAIL OF A 51-YEAR-OLD HORSE IN ARABIA
THE WHISKERS OF A 36-YEAR-OLD CAT CALLED CRUMPETS
AN OLD FLEA WHICH HAD LIVED ON CRUMPETS FOR 36 YEARS
THE TAIL OF A 207-YEAR-OLD GIANT RAT FROM TIBET
THE BLACK TEETH OF A 97-YEAR OLD GRIMALKIN LIVING IN A CAVE ON
THE KNUCKLEBONES OF A 700-YEAR-OLD CATTALOO FROM PERU …
… All over the world, Charlie, I tracked down very old and ancient animals and took an important little bit of something from each one of them – a hair or an eyebrow or sometimes it was no more than an ounce or two of the jam scraped from between its toes while it was sleeping. I tracked down THE WHISTLE-PIG, THE BOBOLINK, THE SKROCK, THE POLLY-FROG, THE GIANT CURLICUE, THE STINGING SLUG AND THE VENOMOUS SQUERKLE who can spit poison right into your eye from fifty yards away. But there's no time to tell you about them all now, Charlie. Let me just say quickly that in the end, after lots of boiling and bubbling and mixing and testing in my Inventing Room, I produced one tiny cupful of oily black liquid and gave four drops of it to a brave twenty-year-old Oompa-Loompa volunteer to see what happened.'
'What did happen?' Charlie asked.
'It was fantastic!' cried Mr Wonka. 'The moment he swallowed it, he began wrinkling and shrivelling up all over and his hair started dropping off and his teeth started falling out and, before I knew it, he had suddenly become an old fellow of seventy-five! And thus, my dear Charlie, was Vita-Wonk invented!'
'Did you rescue all the Oompa-Loompa Minuses, Mr Wonka?'
'Every single one of them, my boy! One hundred and thirty-one all told! Mind you, it wasn't quite as easy as all that. There were lots of snags and complications along the way… . Good heavens! We're nearly there! I must stop talking now and watch where we're going.'
Charlie realized that the Elevator was no longer rushing and roaring. It was hardly moving at all now. It seemed to be drifting. 'Undo your straps,' Mr Wonka said. 'We must get ready for action.' Charlie undid his straps and stood up and peered out. It was an eerie sight. They were drifting in a heavy grey mist and the mist was swirling and swishing around them as though driven by winds from many sides. In the distance, the mist was darker and almost black and it seemed to be swirling more fiercely than ever over there. Mr Wonka slid open the doors. 'Stand back!' he said. 'Don't fall out, Charlie, whatever you do!'
The mist came into the Elevator. It had the fusty reeky smell of an old underground dungeon. The silence was overpowering. There was no sound at all, no whisper of wind, no voice of creature or insect, and it gave Charlie a queer frightening feeling to be standing there in the middle of this grey inhuman nothingness – as though he were in another world altogether, in some place where man should never be.
'Minusland!' whispered Mr Wonka. 'This is it, Charlie! The problem now is to find her. We may be lucky … and there again, we may not!'
Rescue in Minusland
T don't like it here at all,' Charlie whispered. 'It gives me the willies.'
'Me, too,' Mr Wonka whispered back. 'But we've got a job to do, Charlie, and we must go through with it.'
The mist was condensing now on the glass walls of the Elevator making it difficult to see out except through the open doors.
'Do any other creatures live here, Mr Wonka?'
'Plenty of Gnoolies.'
'Are they dangerous?'
'If they bite you, they are. You're a gonner, my boy, if you're bitten by a Gnooly.'
The Elevator drifted on, rocking gently from side to side. The grey-black oily fog swirled around them.
'What does a Gnooly look like, Mr Wonka?' 'They don't look like anything, Charlie. They can't.' 'You mean you've never seen one?'
'You can't see Gnoolies, my boy. You can't even feel them … until they puncture your skin … then it's too late. They've got you.'
'You mean … there might be swarms of them all around us this very moment?' Charlie asked.
'There might,' said Mr Wonka.
Charlie felt his skin beginning to creep. 'Do you die at once?' he asked.
'First you become subtracted … a little later you are divided … but very slowly … it takes a long time … it's long division and it's very painful. After that, you become one of them.'
'Couldn't we shut the door?' Charlie asked.
'I'm afraid not, my boy. We'd never see her through the glass. There's too much mist and moisture. She's not going to be easy to pick out anyway.'
Charlie stood at the open door of the Elevator and stared into the swirling vapours. This, he thought, is what hell must be like … hell without heat … there was something unholy about it all, something unbelievably diabolical … It was all so deathly quiet, so desolate and empty … At the same time, the constant movement, the twisting and swirling of the misty vapours, gave one the feeling that some very powerful force, evil and malignant, was at work all around … Charlie felt a jab on his arm! He jumped! He almost jumped out of the Elevator! 'Sorry,' said Mr Wonka. 'It's only me.'
'Oh-h-h!' Charlie gasped. 'For a second, I thought …'
'I know what you thought, Charlie … And by the way, I'm awfully glad you're with me. How would you like to come here alone … as I did … as I had to … many times?'