Today we present the short story "Doctor Heidegger's Experiment" by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Here is Barbara Klein with the story.
That very unusual man, old Doctor Heidegger, once invited four friends to meet him in his office.
There were three white-bearded gentlemen, Mister Medbourne, Colonel Killigrew, and Mister Gascoigne.
And, there was a thin old lady whose husband had died, so she was called the Widow Wycherly. They were all sad old creatures who had been unfortunate in life.
As a young man, Mister Medbourne had lost all his money in a badly planned business deal.
Colonel Killigrew had wasted his best years and health enjoying the pleasures of women and drink.
Mister Gascoigne was a ruined politician with an evil past.
As for the Widow Wycherly, tradition tells us that she was once a great beauty.
But shocking stories about her past had led the people of the town to reject her. So, she lived very much alone.
It is worth stating that each of these three men were early lovers of the Widow Wycherly.
And they had once been on the point of killing each other over her.
"My dear old friends," said Doctor Heidegger, "I would like your help in one of my little experiments." He motioned for them to sit down.
Doctor Heidegger's office was a very strange place. The dark room was filled with books, cobwebs, and dust.
An old mirror hanging between two bookcases was said to show the ghosts of all the doctor's dead patients.
On another wall hung a painting of the young woman Doctor Heidegger was to have married long ago. But she died the night before their wedding after drinking one of the doctor's medicines.
The most mysterious object in the room was a large book covered in black leather. It was said to be a book of magic.
On the summer afternoon of our story, a black table stood in the middle of the room.
On it was a beautiful cut-glass vase. Four glasses were also on the table.
Doctor Heidegger was known for his unusual experiments. But his four guests did not expect anything very interesting.
The doctor picked up his black leather book of magic. From its pages he removed a dried-up old rose.
"This rose," said the doctor, "was given to me fifty-five years ago by Sylvia Ward, whose painting hangs on this wall. I was to wear it at our wedding. Would you think it possible that this ancient rose could ever bloom again?"
"Nonsense!" said the Widow Wycherly with a toss of her head.
"You might as well ask if an old woman's lined face could ever bloom again."
"See!" answered Doctor Heidegger. He reached for the vase and threw the dried rose into the water it contained.
Soon, a change began to appear. The crushed and dried petals moved and slowly turned from brown to red.
And there was the rose of half a century looking as fresh as when Sylvia Ward had first given it to her lover.
"That is a very pretty trick," said the doctor's friends. "What is the secret?"
"Did you ever hear of the Fountain of Youth?" asked Doctor Heidegger. "The Spanish explorer Ponce De Leon went in search of it centuries ago. But he was not looking in the right place.
If I am rightly informed, the famous Fountain of Youth is in southern Florida. A friend of mine has sent me the water you see in the vase."
The doctor filled the four glasses with water from the Fountain of Youth. The liquid produced little bubbles that rose up to the silvery surface.
The old guests agreed to drink the water, although they did not believe in its power.
"Before you drink, my friends," the doctor said, "you should draw up a few general rules as guidance before you pass a second time through the dangers of youth.
You have had a lifetime of experience to direct you. Think what a shame it would be if the wisdom of your experiences did not act as a guide and teacher."
The doctor's four friends answered him with a laugh. The idea that they would ever repeat the mistakes of their youth was very funny.
"Drink, then," said the doctor. "I am happy that I have so well chosen the subjects of my experiment."
They raised the glasses to their lips. If the liquid really was magical, it could not have been given to four human beings who needed it more.
They seemed as though they had never known youth or pleasure. They looked like they had always been the weak, unhappy creatures who were bent over the doctor's table.
They drank the water. There was an almost immediate improvement among the guests.
A cheerful glow like sunshine brightened their faces. They looked at one another imagining that some magic power had really started to smooth the lines on their faces.
"Quick! Give us more of this wondrous water!" they cried. "We are younger, but we are still too old!"
"Patience!" said Doctor Heidegger who watched the experiment with scientific coolness.
"You have been a long time growing old. Surely you could wait half an hour to grow young!"
Again he filled their glasses. The four guests drank the liquid in one swallow.
As the liquid passed down their throats it seemed to change their whole systems. Their eyes grew clear and bright. Their hair turned from silver to darker shades.
"My dear widow, you are lovely!" cried Colonel Killigrew, who watched as the signs of age disappeared from her face.
The widow ran to the mirror.
The three men started to behave in such a way that proved the magic of the Fountain of Youth's water.
Mister Gascoigne's mind turned to political topics. He talked about nationalism and the rights of the people. He also told secrets softly to himself.
All this time Colonel Killigrew had been shouting out happy drinking songs while his eyes turned towards the curvy body of the Widow Wycherly.
Mister Medbourne was adding dollars and cents to pay for a proposed project.
It would supply the East Indies with ice by linking a team of whales to the polar icebergs.
As for the Widow Wycherly, she stood in front of the mirror greeting her image as a friend she loved better than anything in the world.
"My dear old doctor," she cried, "please give me another glass!"
The doctor had already filled the glasses again. It was now near sunset and the room was darker than ever. But a moon-like light shined from within the vase.
The doctor sat in his chair watching. As the four guests drank their third glass of water, they were silenced by the expression on the doctor's mysterious face.
The next moment, the exciting rush of young life shot through their blood. They were now at the happy height of youth.
The endless cares, sadness, and diseases of age were remembered only as a troubled dream from which they had awoken.
"We are young!" they cried.
The guests were a group of happy youngsters almost crazy with energy. They laughed at the old-fashioned clothing they wore. They shouted happily and jumped around the room.
The Widow Wycherly - if such a young lady could be called a widow - ran to the doctor's chair and asked him to dance.
"Please excuse me," answered the doctor quietly. "My dancing days were over long ago. But these three young men would be happy to have such a lovely partner."
The men began to argue violently about who would dance with her. They gathered around the widow, each grabbing for her.
Yet, by a strange trick owing to the darkness of the room, the tall mirror is said to have reflected the forms of three old, gray men competing for a faded, old woman.
As the three fought for the woman's favor, they reached violently for each other's throats.
In their struggle, they turned over the table. The vase broke into a thousand pieces. The Water of Youth flowed in a bright stream across the floor.
The guests stood still. A strange coldness was slowly stealing over them all.
They looked at Doctor Heidegger who was holding his treasured rose. The flower was fading and drying up once more.
The guests looked at each other and saw their looks changing back. "Are we grown old again so soon?" they cried.
In truth they had. The Water of Youth had powers that were only temporary.
"Yes, friends, you are old again," the doctor said. "And the Water of Youth lies wasted on the ground. But even if it flowed in a river at my door, I still would not drink it. This is the lesson you have taught me!"
But the doctor's four friends had learned no such lesson. They decided at that moment to travel to Florida and drink morning, noon, and night from the Fountain of Youth.
You have heard the American Story "Doctor Heidegger's Experiment" by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Your story teller was Barbara Klein. I'm Mario Reiter.
Listen again next week for another American Story in VOA Special English.
1.be worth doing 值得做某事
There had not seemed to be anything worth doing.
2.in search of 寻找
It was a place to which genteel families came in search of health and quiet.
3.draw up 草拟
They agreed to draw up a formal agreement.
4.owing to 由于
Owing to staff shortages, there was no restaurant car on the train.
5.learn a lesson 吸取教训
It is hoped that you can learn a lesson from this accident.
还有位干瘪老太婆威彻利寡妇 。他们全都上了年纪，郁郁多愁，一辈子时乖运舛 。
但长期以来深居简出，因为上流社会对她飞短流长，名誉欠佳 。她独自居住 。
“亲爱的老朋友们，”海大夫打手势请诸位落座 。“我想请你们帮我完成一个小实验 。”
海大夫的书房非比寻常 。这屋子阴暗破旧，蛛网垂垂，灰尘厚厚 。
书橱对面装饰着一幅年轻女郎的画像；这是很久之前海德格大夫的结婚对象 。小姐误吞恋人一剂药，婚礼前夜芳魂悠悠出窍 。
这座书房怪中之怪是一部笨重硕大的书籍，黑皮装帧 。据说此书具有魔法 。
上头搁一只玻璃花瓶，造形优美，精雕细刻 。桌上还摆着四只香槟酒杯 。
海大夫古里古怪，其怪行早已造就上千奇闻 。但是他的四位客人并不期待发生任何有趣的事情 。
海大夫拿起他的黑皮魔法书 。他从书页当中取出一朵枯萎的玫瑰 。
“这朵玫瑰，”海大夫叹道，“这朵凋败的玫瑰是西尔维亚·沃德五十五年前送给我的，她的肖像就挂在那边 。我本来要把这玫瑰戴在胸前，出席我俩的婚礼 。现在，你们认为让这朵半个世纪之前的玫瑰重新开放可不可能啊？”
“瞧好了！”海大夫应声道 。他揭开花瓶，把枯花投进瓶中的水里 。
很快奇妙的变化出现了 。干皱的花瓣舒展开来变为深红色 。
“听说过‘青春泉’么，”海大夫问，“西班牙探险家庞塞·德·利昂，两三百年前出发去找的那条 。但他没找对地方 。
要是我消息确实的话，应该位于佛罗里达半岛南部 。有个熟人给我送来这么一瓶，就在那个瓶子里 。”
海大夫给四只酒杯斟满青春泉 。这泉水显然充满气体，杯底不断有气泡往上升，在表面形成银色的水雾 。
大夫的四位老友发出无力的笑声 。听这主意有多荒唐，谁还不知道一失足成千古恨，再也不会迷失方向了 。
众人将杯子举至唇边 。这泉水若果真具有海大夫所说的妙用，没比这四个人更需要它的了 。
四个人饮干泉水 。几个人的外表顿时大变 。
好似一缕快乐阳光使他们神清气爽，精神大振 。众人你看我，我看你，感到有种神奇的力量真的抹平了时光老人早就深深刻在他们脸上的沟纹 。
“你们变老为时已久 。你们肯定可以多等半小时恢复青春 。”
他再次将酒杯斟满青春泉 。四位客人就急不可耐抓起杯子一饮而尽 。
甚至泉水犹在喉间，浑身就起了变化 。眼睛变得又明又亮，白发颜色变深 。
加斯科因先生心头涌起一大堆政治问题 。他时而唾沫四溅地满嘴爱国主义、人权 。时而狡黠地窃窃耳语 。
大夫再次把杯子斟满 。此刻，日落西山，室内比之前更昏暗 。不过瓶中发出一种如同月光的璀灿 。
大夫坐在椅子上看着他们 。客人们喝下第三杯泉水，客人们就对大夫神秘的表情满怀敬畏 。
眨眼功夫，年轻的生命喷薄奔涌 。他们已回到快乐的青春年华 。
四个人又成为无忧无虑的年轻人，被旺盛的精力弄得神魂颠倒 。他们大声嘲笑自己过时的衣饰 。旋即四个人一齐高兴地大叫，在屋里蹦来跳去 。
“请原谅，”大夫心平气静，“我跳舞的日子早过啦 。不过，这几位快乐的年轻人会乐意奉陪阁下 。”
男人们开始激烈地争论谁和她跳舞 。三个人将她团团围住，每一个都激动地抓住她 。
然而，屋内光线昏昏，他们又一身老派衣裳，产生了错觉 。大镜子中反射出来的却是三个衰朽不堪的干老头，可笑地争夺一个衣冠不整皮包骨头的老婆子 。
他们把桌子撞翻在地，玻璃花瓶哗啦跌成无数碎片 。青春泉水也在地板上淌成小溪 。
他们看着海大夫握着那朵五十年前的玫瑰 。花儿再次凋谢、枯萎 。
客人们看着彼此的样貌开始变老 。“咱们又变老啦，这么快呀？”众人伤心不已 。
的确 。青春泉的神力比美酒更短暂 。
“是的，朋友们，你们又老啦 。”海大夫道，“青春泉全都糟蹋在地板上啦 。但愿不这样，因为即使这泉水流到我家门口，我也不会弯腰去喝它一口 。这就是你们给我的教训！”
然而四位客人自己才不会汲取教训 。他们当机立断，要去佛罗里达远征，守住青春泉，从早晨到中午到夜晚，开怀痛饮 。
我们今天的美国故事叫做《海德格大夫的实验》，作者纳撒尼尔·霍桑 。演播芭巴拉·克莱恩 。我是马里奥·瑞特 。