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THE CELESTIAL OMNIBUS I
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The boy who resided at Agathox Lodge1, 28, Buckingham Park Road, Surbiton, had often been puzzled by the old sign-post that stood almost opposite. He asked his mother about it, and she replied that it was a joke, and not a very nice one, which had been made many years back by some naughty young men, and that the police ought to remove it. For there were two strange things about this sign-post: firstly, it pointed2 up a blank alley3, and, secondly4, it had painted on it in faded characters, the words, "To Heaven."
 
"What kind of young men were they?" he asked.
 
"I think your father told me that one of them wrote verses, and was expelled from the University and came to grief in other ways. Still, it was a long time ago. You must ask your father about it. He will say the same as I do, that it was put up as a joke."
 
"So it doesn't mean anything at all?"
 
She sent him upstairs to put on his best things, for the Bonses were coming to tea, and he was to hand the cake-stand.
 
It struck him, as he wrenched5 on his tightening6 trousers, that he might do worse than ask Mr. Bons about the sign-post. His father, though very kind, always laughed at him—shrieked7 with laughter whenever he or any other child asked a question or spoke8. But Mr. Bons was serious as well as kind. He had a beautiful house and lent one books, he was a churchwarden, and a candidate for the County Council; he had donated to the Free Library enormously, he presided over the Literary Society, and had Members of Parliament to stop with him—in short, he was probably the wisest person alive.
 
Yet even Mr. Bons could only say that the sign-post was a joke—the joke of a person named Shelley.
 
"Off course!" cried the mother; "I told you so, dear. That was the name."
 
"Had you never heard of Shelley?" asked Mr. Bons.
 
"No," said the boy, and hung his head.
 
"But is there no Shelley in the house?"
 
"Why, yes!" exclaimed the lady, in much agitation9. "Dear Mr. Bons, we aren't such Philistines10 as that. Two at the least. One a wedding present, and the other, smaller print, in one of the spare rooms."
 
"I believe we have seven Shelleys," said Mr. Bons, with a slow smile. Then he brushed the cake crumbs11 off his stomach, and, together with his daughter, rose to go.
 
The boy, obeying a wink12 from his mother, saw them all the way to the garden gate, and when they had gone he did not at once return to the house, but gazed for a little up and down Buckingham Park Road.
 
His parents lived at the right end of it. After No. 39 the quality of the houses dropped very suddenly, and 64 had not even a separate servants' entrance. But at the present moment the whole road looked rather pretty, for the sun had just set in splendour, and the inequalities of rent were drowned in a saffron afterglow. Small birds twittered, and the breadwinners' train shrieked musically down through the cutting—that wonderful cutting which has drawn13 to itself the whole beauty out of Surbiton, and clad itself, like any Alpine14 valley, with the glory of the fir and the silver birch and the primrose15. It was this cutting that had first stirred desires within the boy—desires for something just a little different, he knew not what, desires that would return whenever things were sunlit, as they were this evening, running up and down inside him, up and down, up and down, till he would feel quite unusual all over, and as likely as not would want to cry. This evening he was even sillier, for he slipped across the road towards the sign-post and began to run up the blank alley.
 
The alley runs between high walls—the walls of the gardens of "Ivanhoe" and "Belle16 Vista17" respectively. It smells a little all the way, and is scarcely twenty yards long, including the turn at the end. So not unnaturally18 the boy soon came to a standstill. "I'd like to kick that Shelley," he exclaimed, and glanced idly at a piece of paper which was pasted on the wall. Rather an odd piece of paper, and he read it carefully before he turned back. This is what he read:
 
S. AND C.R.C.C.
Alteration19 in Service.
Owing to lack of patronage20 the Company are regretfully compelled to suspend the hourly service, and to retain only the
 
Sunrise and Sunset Omnibuses,
which will run as usual. It is to be hoped that the public will patronize an arrangement which is intended for their convenience. As an extra inducement, the Company will, for the first time, now issue
 
Return Tickets!
(available one day only), which may be obtained of the driver. Passengers are again reminded that no tickets are issued at the other end, and that no complaints in this connection will receive consideration from the Company. Nor will the Company be responsible for any negligence21 or stupidity on the part of Passengers, nor for Hailstorms, Lightning, Loss of Tickets, nor for any Act of God.
 
For the Direction.
Now he had never seen this notice before, nor could he imagine where the omnibus went to. S. of course was for Surbiton, and R.C.C. meant Road Car Company. But what was the meaning or the other C.? Coombe and Maiden22, perhaps, of possibly "City." Yet it could not hope to compete with the South-Western. The whole thing, the boy reflected, was run on hopelessly unbusiness-like lines. Why no tickets from the other end? And what an hour to start! Then he realized that unless the notice was a hoax23, an omnibus must have been starting just as he was wishing the Bonses good-bye. He peered at the ground through the gathering24 dusk, and there he saw what might or might not be the marks of wheels. Yet nothing had come out of the alley. And he had never seen an omnibus at any time in the Buckingham Park Road. No: it must be a hoax, like the sign-posts, like the fairy tales, like the dreams upon which he would wake suddenly in the night. And with a sigh he stepped from the alley—right into the arms of his father.
 
Oh, how his father laughed! "Poor, poor Popsey!" he cried. "Diddums! Diddums! Diddums think he'd walky-palky up to Evvink!" And his mother, also convulsed with laughter, appeared on the steps of Agathox Lodge. "Don't, Bob!" she gasped25. "Don't be so naughty! Oh, you'll kill me! Oh, leave the boy alone!"
 
But all that evening the joke was kept up. The father implored26 to be taken too. Was it a very tiring walk? Need one wipe one's shoes on the door-mat? And the boy went to bed feeling faint and sore, and thankful for only one thing—that he had not said a word about the omnibus. It was a hoax, yet through his dreams it grew more and more real, and the streets of Surbiton, through which he saw it driving, seemed instead to become hoaxes27 and shadows. And very early in the morning he woke with a cry, for he had had a glimpse of its destination.
 
He struck a match, and its light fell not only on his watch but also on his calendar, so that he knew it to be half-an-hour to sunrise. It was pitch dark, for the fog had come down from London in the night, and all Surbiton was wrapped in its embraces. Yet he sprang out and dressed himself, for he was determined28 to settle once for all which was real: the omnibus or the streets. "I shall be a fool one way or the other," he thought, "until I know." Soon he was shivering in the road under the gas lamp that guarded the entrance to the alley.
 
To enter the alley itself required some courage. Not only was it horribly dark, but he now realized that it was an impossible terminus for an omnibus. If it had not been for a policeman, whom he heard approaching through the fog, he would never have made the attempt. The next moment he had made the attempt and failed. Nothing. Nothing but a blank alley and a very silly boy gaping29 at its dirty floor. It was a hoax. "I'll tell papa and mamma," he decided30. "I deserve it. I deserve that they should know. I am too silly to be alive." And he went back to the gate of Agathox Lodge.
 
There he remembered that his watch was fast. The sun was not risen; it would not rise for two minutes. "Give the bus every chance," he thought cynically31, and returned into the alley.
 
But the omnibus was there.

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1 lodge q8nzj     
v.临时住宿,寄宿,寄存,容纳;n.传达室,小旅馆
参考例句:
  • Is there anywhere that I can lodge in the village tonight?村里有我今晚过夜的地方吗?
  • I shall lodge at the inn for two nights.我要在这家小店住两个晚上。
2 pointed Il8zB4     
adj.尖的,直截了当的
参考例句:
  • He gave me a very sharp pointed pencil.他给我一支削得非常尖的铅笔。
  • She wished to show Mrs.John Dashwood by this pointed invitation to her brother.她想通过对达茨伍德夫人提出直截了当的邀请向她的哥哥表示出来。
3 alley Cx2zK     
n.小巷,胡同;小径,小路
参考例句:
  • We live in the same alley.我们住在同一条小巷里。
  • The blind alley ended in a brick wall.这条死胡同的尽头是砖墙。
4 secondly cjazXx     
adv.第二,其次
参考例句:
  • Secondly,use your own head and present your point of view.第二,动脑筋提出自己的见解。
  • Secondly it is necessary to define the applied load.其次,需要确定所作用的载荷。
5 wrenched c171af0af094a9c29fad8d3390564401     
v.(猛力地)扭( wrench的过去式和过去分词 );扭伤;使感到痛苦;使悲痛
参考例句:
  • The bag was wrenched from her grasp. 那只包从她紧握的手里被夺了出来。
  • He wrenched the book from her hands. 他从她的手中把书拧抢了过来。 来自《简明英汉词典》
6 tightening 19aa014b47fbdfbc013e5abf18b64642     
上紧,固定,紧密
参考例句:
  • Make sure the washer is firmly seated before tightening the pipe. 旋紧水管之前,检查一下洗衣机是否已牢牢地固定在底座上了。
  • It needs tightening up a little. 它还需要再收紧些。
7 shrieked dc12d0d25b0f5d980f524cd70c1de8fe     
v.尖叫( shriek的过去式和过去分词 )
参考例句:
  • She shrieked in fright. 她吓得尖叫起来。
  • Li Mei-t'ing gave a shout, and Lu Tzu-hsiao shrieked, "Tell what? 李梅亭大声叫,陆子潇尖声叫:“告诉什么? 来自汉英文学 - 围城
8 spoke XryyC     
n.(车轮的)辐条;轮辐;破坏某人的计划;阻挠某人的行动 v.讲,谈(speak的过去式);说;演说;从某种观点来说
参考例句:
  • They sourced the spoke nuts from our company.他们的轮辐螺帽是从我们公司获得的。
  • The spokes of a wheel are the bars that connect the outer ring to the centre.辐条是轮子上连接外圈与中心的条棒。
9 agitation TN0zi     
n.搅动;搅拌;鼓动,煽动
参考例句:
  • Small shopkeepers carried on a long agitation against the big department stores.小店主们长期以来一直在煽动人们反对大型百货商店。
  • These materials require constant agitation to keep them in suspension.这些药剂要经常搅动以保持悬浮状态。
10 philistines c0b7cd6c7bb115fb590b5b5d69b805ac     
n.市侩,庸人( philistine的名词复数 );庸夫俗子
参考例句:
  • He accused those who criticized his work of being philistines. 他指责那些批评他的作品的人是对艺术一窍不通。 来自辞典例句
  • As an intellectual Goebbels looked down on the crude philistines of the leading group in Munich. 戈培尔是个知识分子,看不起慕尼黑领导层不学无术的市侩庸人。 来自辞典例句
11 crumbs crumbs     
int. (表示惊讶)哎呀 n. 碎屑 名词crumb的复数形式
参考例句:
  • She stood up and brushed the crumbs from her sweater. 她站起身掸掉了毛衣上的面包屑。
  • Oh crumbs! Is that the time? 啊,天哪!都这会儿啦?
12 wink 4MGz3     
n.眨眼,使眼色,瞬间;v.眨眼,使眼色,闪烁
参考例句:
  • He tipped me the wink not to buy at that price.他眨眼暗示我按那个价格就不要买。
  • The satellite disappeared in a wink.瞬息之间,那颗卫星就消失了。
13 drawn MuXzIi     
v.拖,拉,拔出;adj.憔悴的,紧张的
参考例句:
  • All the characters in the story are drawn from life.故事中的所有人物都取材于生活。
  • Her gaze was drawn irresistibly to the scene outside.她的目光禁不住被外面的风景所吸引。
14 alpine ozCz0j     
adj.高山的;n.高山植物
参考例句:
  • Alpine flowers are abundant there.那里有很多高山地带的花。
  • Its main attractions are alpine lakes and waterfalls .它以高山湖泊和瀑布群为主要特色。
15 primrose ctxyr     
n.樱草,最佳部分,
参考例句:
  • She is in the primrose of her life.她正处在她一生的最盛期。
  • The primrose is set off by its nest of green.一窝绿叶衬托着一朵樱草花。
16 belle MQly5     
n.靓女
参考例句:
  • She was the belle of her Sunday School class.在主日学校她是她们班的班花。
  • She was the belle of the ball.她是那个舞会中的美女。
17 vista jLVzN     
n.远景,深景,展望,回想
参考例句:
  • From my bedroom window I looked out on a crowded vista of hills and rooftops.我从卧室窗口望去,远处尽是连绵的山峦和屋顶。
  • These uprisings come from desperation and a vista of a future without hope.发生这些暴动是因为人们被逼上了绝路,未来看不到一点儿希望。
18 unnaturally 3ftzAP     
adv.违反习俗地;不自然地;勉强地;不近人情地
参考例句:
  • Her voice sounded unnaturally loud. 她的嗓音很响亮,但是有点反常。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • Her eyes were unnaturally bright. 她的眼睛亮得不自然。 来自《简明英汉词典》
19 alteration rxPzO     
n.变更,改变;蚀变
参考例句:
  • The shirt needs alteration.这件衬衣需要改一改。
  • He easily perceived there was an alteration in my countenance.他立刻看出我的脸色和往常有些不同。
20 patronage MSLzq     
n.赞助,支援,援助;光顾,捧场
参考例句:
  • Though it was not yet noon,there was considerable patronage.虽然时间未到中午,店中已有许多顾客惠顾。
  • I am sorry to say that my patronage ends with this.很抱歉,我的赞助只能到此为止。
21 negligence IjQyI     
n.疏忽,玩忽,粗心大意
参考例句:
  • They charged him with negligence of duty.他们指责他玩忽职守。
  • The traffic accident was allegedly due to negligence.这次车祸据说是由于疏忽造成的。
22 maiden yRpz7     
n.少女,处女;adj.未婚的,纯洁的,无经验的
参考例句:
  • The prince fell in love with a fair young maiden.王子爱上了一位年轻美丽的少女。
  • The aircraft makes its maiden flight tomorrow.这架飞机明天首航。
23 hoax pcAxs     
v.欺骗,哄骗,愚弄;n.愚弄人,恶作剧
参考例句:
  • They were the victims of a cruel hoax.他们是一个残忍恶作剧的受害者。
  • They hoax him out of his money.他们骗去他的钱。
24 gathering ChmxZ     
n.集会,聚会,聚集
参考例句:
  • He called on Mr. White to speak at the gathering.他请怀特先生在集会上讲话。
  • He is on the wing gathering material for his novels.他正忙于为他的小说收集资料。
25 gasped e6af294d8a7477229d6749fa9e8f5b80     
v.喘气( gasp的过去式和过去分词 );喘息;倒抽气;很想要
参考例句:
  • She gasped at the wonderful view. 如此美景使她惊讶得屏住了呼吸。
  • People gasped with admiration at the superb skill of the gymnasts. 体操运动员的高超技艺令人赞叹。 来自《现代汉英综合大词典》
26 implored 0b089ebf3591e554caa381773b194ff1     
恳求或乞求(某人)( implore的过去式和过去分词 )
参考例句:
  • She implored him to stay. 她恳求他留下。
  • She implored him with tears in her eyes to forgive her. 她含泪哀求他原谅她。
27 hoaxes ea0488d8f4cb869a1f4df34e03161062     
n.恶作剧,戏弄( hoax的名词复数 )v.开玩笑骗某人,戏弄某人( hoax的第三人称单数 )
参考例句:
  • The disc jockey, a young separatist named Pierre Brassard, has made his name with such hoaxes. 这位名叫彼埃尔 - 布拉萨尔的音乐节目主持人,是一名年轻的分离主义者,以制造这类骗局闻名。 来自百科语句
  • This chain-letter hoaxes, has mutated over the years. 这一骗局多年来在互联网上不断发展和变异。 来自互联网
28 determined duszmP     
adj.坚定的;有决心的
参考例句:
  • I have determined on going to Tibet after graduation.我已决定毕业后去西藏。
  • He determined to view the rooms behind the office.他决定查看一下办公室后面的房间。
29 gaping gaping     
adj.口的;张口的;敞口的;多洞穴的v.目瞪口呆地凝视( gape的现在分词 );张开,张大
参考例句:
  • Ahead of them was a gaping abyss. 他们前面是一个巨大的深渊。
  • The antelope could not escape the crocodile's gaping jaws. 那只羚羊无法从鱷鱼张开的大口中逃脱。 来自《简明英汉词典》
30 decided lvqzZd     
adj.决定了的,坚决的;明显的,明确的
参考例句:
  • This gave them a decided advantage over their opponents.这使他们比对手具有明显的优势。
  • There is a decided difference between British and Chinese way of greeting.英国人和中国人打招呼的方式有很明显的区别。
31 cynically 3e178b26da70ce04aff3ac920973009f     
adv.爱嘲笑地,冷笑地
参考例句:
  • "Holding down the receiver,'said Daisy cynically. “挂上话筒在讲。”黛西冷嘲热讽地说。 来自英汉文学 - 盖茨比
  • The Democrats sensibly (if cynically) set about closing the God gap. 民主党在明智(有些讽刺)的减少宗教引起的问题。 来自互联网


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