This story is reprinted courtesy of Project Gutenberg. View the source text.
Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy, December, 1954
Nathanial Evergood was an eccentric old man
with a photographic passion for pretty girls. So
he invented a camera lens for special effects—
Welcome to MGHerron.com! I’m your host, and you’re reading a classic sci-fi short story in the public domain.
I’ve curated this set of stories personally, reprinting them here for my own enjoyment, and so others can read them too. The Golden Age of science fiction is gone… but the stories are still with us!
Have suggestions? Want to learn what makes this possible? Head over to The Best Sci-Fi Short Stories in the Public Domain.
MORE SCI-FI STORIES
- “2 B R 0 2 B” by Kurt Vonnegut
- “A Pail of Air” by Fritz Leiber
- “And All the Girls Were Nude” by Richard Magruder
- “Coming Attraction” by Fritz Leiber
- “Cry From a Far Planet” by Tom Godwin
- “Dalrymple’s Equation” by Paul W. Fairman
- “Doorstep” by Keith Laumer
- “Export Commodity” by Irving Cox, Jr.
- “In the Year 2889” by Jules Verne and Michel Verne
- “Omnilingual” by H. Beam Piper
- “Sentiment, Inc.” by Poul Anderson
- “The Day Time Stopped Moving” by Bradner Buckner
- “The Tunnel Under The World” by Frederik Pohl
- “The World That Couldn’t Be” by Clifford D. Simak
- “A Little Journey ” by Ray Bradbury
- “The Holes Around Mars” by Jerome Bixby
- “The Lost Kafoozalum” by Pauline Ashwell
- “Wall of Crystal, Eye of Night” by Algis Budrys
- “Youth” by Isaac Asimov
And All The Girls Were Nude
By Richard Magruder
Appearances oftentimes can be deceiving, and things most certainly aren’t always as they seem. Take the case of Nathanial Evergood, for instance.
The nature of this old man was such that nobody ever called him Nat, not even his closest working companions in the company’s bookkeeping department. As long as any of them had ever known Nathanial Evergood there had never been the slightest indication of any desire of his for intimacy or even friendship.
Not once had he shared a drink or lunch or relaxed conversation with anyone, so far as his associates knew. To say Nathanial was reserved is putting it mildly.
It would be more accurate to describe this little old man as dull—completely and absolutely dull. In his appearance, his dress, his speech, in every way imaginable.
But, in addition to being quite dull—as everyone knew, Nathanial Evergood was also a thoroughly evil and obscene old man, as no one knew.
Likely, the main reason no one had ever seen the inside of Nathanial’s rooms was the fear within him that his evilness and obscenity might be discovered. For Nathanial Evergood might be called a connoisseur, to slightly distort the meaning of that word. He could be called a connoisseur of femininity—from afar, and in secret, of course. An arbiter of the well-turned thigh, the rounded, dimpled bottom, the tight waist, and the high, firm bosom.
Oh, Nathanial Evergood was a connoisseur, all right. At the investigation he ventured a very rough but conservative guess that he had collected at least fifty thousand pictures of girls, in whole or in part, horizontal or vertical, semi-nude or nude, over the years.
Upon entering his living room (if that were possible), the first thing a casual observer would have noted would be the point of saturation reached by his walls in their photographic content. There were photographs of blonds and brunettes and redheads. There were pictures of thin girls, fat girls, girls with ample bosoms and girls lacking, girls holding telephones, books and ice cream cones, girls sixteen, girls twenty-five, and girls no longer girls.
There were shots in glorious color by the hundreds, originals and prints alike. But, there wasn’t among them one single view of the Grand Canyon. Nor even a solitary Indian astride a tired horse, looking pensively out over the prairie. There was a red-skinned maiden, mind you, but she wasn’t sitting a horse, and she certainly wasn’t staring laconically out over any prairie, either. Rather, she appeared to be testing with her toe the water temperature of a tree-shaded brook somewhere, and she was clad in a lone, strategically-located feather.
On the tea table, in the bookshelves, in the magazine rack, and all through his rooms, one might find other evidence of this evil and obscene old man’s preoccupation with womankind. But the kind of woman he was preoccupied with often wasn’t the kind that married dear old dad. He subscribed to every girlie publication in the country and to several in France.
So you see, Nathanial Evergood was not only a connoisseur, he was also an avid collector. There were books and there were magazines, and there was even a deck of playing cards backed with the most astounding set of pictures you ever saw. That anyone could sit down to a game of Old Maid or Snap with that deck of cards is inconceivable, to say the least. But such an evil and obscene old man as Nathanial Evergood likely never played games with his cards, anyway. He would much prefer to just sit and look at them; the reverse side, of course.
He later said he probably spent almost half his really quite meager earnings for up-to-date additions to his extensive collection. The girlie magazines, playing cards and prints he received from various mail order houses, sent, as the advertisements testified, “in a plain, unmarked envelope”.
But the other half of his collection—the photographs, mounted, unmounted, matte and glossy enlargements and contact prints—Nathanial Evergood came by in an entirely different—and somewhat novel—manner. These resulted from his ability as a fairly advanced amateur photographer. Over the years, Nathanial had acquired three fine cameras, an excellent enlarger, two contact printers, electronic flash units, interchangeable lenses, filters, sun shades and lens caps, extension tubes and tripods. In short, Nathanial Evergood was well-equipped to take photographs of just about everything.
He had the equipment, and he had the necessary technical knowledge and facility. But, invariably, he passed up the usual pictorial, architectural, human interest, interpretive and abstract photographs, even when the opportunities for truly fine shots were there. Instead, he took roll after roll, pack after pack and cartridge upon cartridge of girls. Nothing but girls. All sorts of girls. Just girls!
At the investigation Nathanial suggested that the presence of a camera, introduced on the scene in a gentlemanly and courteous manner, was enough to cause almost frenzied unlocking and unzipping by even the most demure and prudish female. “Ladies,” Nathanial said wisely, “love to have their bodies recorded for posterity.”
Oh, he was certainly a very evil and highly obscene old man—was Nathanial Evergood—if ever you saw one.
But the full import of what his evil old soul and obscene little mind contained would probably escape the casual observer, unless he happened onto a tiny cubbyhole at the back of the rooms occupied by Nathanial. This was the sanctum sanctorum, so to speak, of his thin little heart, for here Nathanial Evergood guarded jealously a secret utterly beyond belief.
He fancied himself to be something of an inventor. And he was, too—of a sort. His ardent and relentless pursuit of photographic subject matter during the years had led him into situations demanding full knowledge of his craft, from a technical rather than from an artistic point of view. Thus, this inventive turn of mind was given an able assist by his understanding of the theory, optics and chemistry of photography.
And now, he was just putting the finishing touches to the most important project in his entire life.
Basing his plan of action on the simple optical theory of astigmatism, Nathanial designed a lens. Astigmatism, he had learned, results in the human eye, as well as in manufactured lenses of certain formulae, in the failure of horizontal and vertical target lines to reach a common focus. So his lens was designed intentionally astigmatic, allowing focus to be brought on one group of target lines or another, but never on both simultaneously.
To the front of the lens mount he added a front-surfaced prism and a filter, carefully ground and tinted internally the precise color complement of human flesh. He reasoned, quite accurately as it turned out, that the prism would gather all the colors of light together and converge them at the focal plane of the lens as pure white, thus eliminating all color. But, at the same instant, the complement filter replaced last the flesh color of the object focused upon, and subsequently recorded on film.
Then, in one fell swoop, the lens allowed Nathanial to focus carefully on one group of target lines (in his case, the female form underneath its covering), automatically throwing an opposing group of lines out of focus (the covering over the female body, in his case). The prism was busily gathering together all color and converting it into pure white light, while lastly, the complementary filter replaced the color of flesh to the image, and finally to the photograph. You see the possibilities, of course. By replacing the normal lens of one fine camera with his invention, Nathanial Evergood was now equipped to photograph in rich, natural color the female form-divine, unfettered by any or all clothing.
Well, this day in particular, Nathanial Evergood stationed himself, poised like a pointer, at his window, camera in hand, invention in place, waiting impatiently for the first likely subject to appear. And, shameful as it must seem, this evil and obscene old man was quite noticeably drooling, right from one side of his pinched little mouth.
He heard the saucy click of her heels on the pavement a full thirty seconds before she swung gracefully into his myopic line of sight. She was blondish. Not too blond, understand, but just blond enough. And she was a true-blue blond at heart, if you know what I mean.
Shutter: set, at 1/200 of a second; diaphragm: f/5.6; film; Real-lifecolor; rangefinder: superimposed. Click. Click, click, click! Four shots, four beautiful pictures, in color, too, before she was gone on down the street.
With incredible speed this evil and obscene old man descended from his window perch and scuttered back to his little cubby hole. He darkened the room and unloaded the automatic sheet film holder. No attempt can be made to describe the gnawing impatience that Nathanial Evergood felt as he sloshed the sensitized emulsions through the series of solutions for the precise time required for true color rendition, as, after ninety long minutes, he washed the sheets, and finally held them up to the light for a first wide-eyed look.
She was there, alright, his swaying blond. She was there. All of her!
Well sir, after filling his eyes—and his evil little mind—with the four lovely images of the girl, Nathanial Evergood rushed to the downtown camera shop, and wrote out a large check for their entire supply of Real-lifecolor film. Then, back on the street, madly clicking, clicking, clicking. Every pretty girl that came along. Every single one!
Oh, he had a time for himself, did this evil, obscene old man.
The next day was Sunday, happily for his designing brain, and there was no work. After a full night in his cubby hole developing sheet after sheet of color film, Nathanial went to the beach and, as you must know by now, set his camera shutter clicking like a miniature machine gun.
And, again, the results were spectacular, to put it mildly. The collection grew and grew and grew, and Nathanial Evergood was never wearier, or never happier. What an evil, obscene man he was!
Now, if Nathanial had stuck to his camera and to his wonderful invention, this story might never have been written. But, evil and obscene as he was, he soon began to dream of new worlds to conquer.
Simple as it had been to apply the principle of astigmatism to photography—and with such marvelous results—why not apply this same principle to his eyeglasses? This would eliminate the annoying delay of taking pictures, then developing and viewing them. To say nothing of the terrific expense involved.
Usually, when writers say, “No sooner said than done”, it is often a gross exaggeration. But Nathanial was quick about it, nevertheless.
In short order, the problems of focus, image distortion and aberrations were ironed out, and Nathanial ventured once again out into the street to give his newest brain-child its dry-run, so to speak.
The glasses worked all right. They worked just fine. And Nathanial Evergood, in a leering ecstasy, raced up and down the streets, peering with his watery and overworked eyes this way and that, up and down, all around and back again. For the next day or so Nathanial was busy as a bee attending every beauty contest and fashion show in town, and even found time for a quick run out to the girl’s school.
The third day following the initial tests of his new seeing-eye glasses, Nathanial suddenly observed there were an uncommon lot of nicely constructed young ladies right in his own department at the office. An opportunist, if ever there was one, Nathanial thought it just might be fun to give the remarkable spectacles a chance to separate the women from the girls, and the girls from the children.
This he did and although his work suffered, he spent the better part of the day classifying the office help in various categories, and learning there were at least two ladies who fell in no classification whatsoever. It was the nicest day he had spent at the office in quite some time, he decided.
Not long after that the strain brought on by the frequent changes from his normal reading glasses to the prism spectacles became so intense that he decided there was really no good reason why he shouldn’t just wear them—the new ones, of course—all the time. The better to preserve his vision, and the better to pursue his avocation.
So, he did.
And therein lay the downfall of Nathanial Evergood.
For, you see, the climax of our story comes a month later, on a sunny July day, when Nathanial made his decision to take a short stroll among the mid-day lady shoppers downtown.
Understand, with those glasses of his, Nathanial had become so accustomed to seeing his fellow creatures au natural, as it were, that it was on the verge of becoming almost commonplace. But, evil and obscene as he was, it was still highly diverting yet.
At any rate, on this particular day, Nathanial had made his way no more than a couple of hundred feet from his front door when a heavy hand was clamped on his shoulder and a rough voice growled, “Where you think you’re going, you scrawny old buzzard? You oughta know better.”
Nathanial Evergood spun about, suddenly petrified. The uniform, of course, was invisible, and the man was no raving beauty, he’d have said. But there was no mistaking the ugly gun and the shiny badge and the authoritative tone of voice.
“I beg your pardon,” Nathanial spluttered indignantly. “Just what is the meaning of this ridiculous outrage?”
The beefy Irish cop was even more indignant, though. “Now, just look at yourself. I’ve seen absent-minded old timers parading down the street with no shoes on, or even no pants on. But just look at yourself; not a stitch on!”
Nathanial Evergood looked down at himself in sudden horrified realization, and looked back up as quickly. “But … but,” he began, “everybody else….” But then, of course, he had to stop.
Well, the upshot of it all was that the officer hauled him back into his rooms to get some clothes on before carting him down to the station house. As it was before they entered the apartment, Nathanial stood to get ten days probation or a token fine for forgetting all his clothes, Irish cops being ordinarily an understanding lot.
But, when confronted by the staggering array of unclad femininity, this Irishman flushed a deep red, spewed an amazed Irish blasphemy, and then roared like a lion.
And don’t think the officer didn’t check the evidence carefully—with the proper degree of loathing, of course—before shoving Nathanial unceremoniously down the street to call the paddy wagon. Of a certainty, things went much worse for the evil, obscene Nathanial Evergood than they might have, had not this righteously outraged policeman done his duty as he saw it.
Matter of fact, they threw the book at the old boy. But not until a thorough investigation was made, and not until several hundred outraged members of every morals, anti-delinquency and anti-vice committee in town had carefully checked and gasped over all the collected evidence. Never in the history of the city had there been such a hue and a cry aroused for the punishment of an offender.
So, Nathanial Evergood—evil and obscene as ever—got five years for possession of pornography, indecent exposure and other charges. In the words of the presiding jurist at the climax of the spectacular trial, “Such a sentence is far too lenient a punishment for a crime of such enormity.”
And, to this very day, there rests in the files of the local constabulary, the voluminous collection of Nathanial Evergood, occupying fourteen huge, well-worn cabinets, and always on display for the indignant and affronted eyes of any anti-sin committeeman who wishes to examine it.
Also taken as evidence was Nathanial’s wonderful prismatic lens and his marvelous glasses. Anytime you’re by the station house, drop into the chief’s office and, there in the open cabinet opposite his desk, you can see the venal objects. Now though, the lenses are pretty scratched and worn, but they’re still the same two inventions of that ingenious, but evil and obscene old man, Nathanial Evergood, No. 5-049,870.
And not that it makes much difference since the case is long past and closed, but it might be interesting to point out that the chief is often seen at beauty contests and fashion shows, wearing thick-lensed glasses, which, he explains, the optometrist prescribed for his failing sight. And I don’t know if it’s true or not, but they say the chief is also the biggest customer the local camera shops have for a certain product called Real-lifecolor film.
Not that it makes much difference now. Nathanial Evergood is serving his sentence out, evil and obscene as ever, and the case is long past and closed.