The Celestial Omnibus
"Eustace! Eustace!" she said, hurriedly, "tell me everything - every single thing."
Slowly he sat up - till then he had lain on his back.
"Oh Rose," he whispered, and, my curiosity being aroused, I moved nearer to hear what he was going to say. As I did so, I caught sight of some goats' footmarks in the moist earth beneath the trees.
"Apparently you have had a visit from some goats," I observed. "I had no idea they fed up here."
Eustace laboriously got on to his feet and came to see; and when he saw the footmarks he lay down and rolled on them, as a dog rolls in dirt.
After that there was a grave silence, broken at length by the solemn speech of Mr. Sandbach.
"My dear friends," he said, "it is best to confess the truth bravely. I know that what I am going to say now is what you are all now feeling. The Evil One has been very near us in bodily form. Time may yet discover some injury that he has wrought among us. But, at present, for myself at all event
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The best way to enjoy these stories is like that of an experienced traveler to foreign lands. The mature wanderer knows that you cannot demand the country change itself for you, but that one must adapt to the country to discover its riches and wonders. True enjoyment takes work.
There truly are riches and wonders in this collection of six short stories, but to appreciate their essence, one is going to have to give up the hard boiled cynicism of the 21st century and embrace the romance, mystery, and pure wonder of fin de siècle Great Britain. The mature reader who will let Forster speak for himself is surely in for a treat. In these tales you will meet a spoiled young man whose life is changed by a visit from an ancient god (The Story of a Panic), question whether life is a rat race or maybe something more (The Other Side of the Hedge). If you are willing to pay for the ticket, you'll visit a land where the works of great authors (if not the authors themselves) have a Heaven all their own (The Celestial Omnibus) and that classic myths can be repeated again and again (Other Kingdom) to great tragic effect. You'll also meet an irreverent faun who becomes the best friend of a reverent clergyman (The Curate's Friend) and discover that the call to wonder can be found in the strangest places (The Road from Colonus) as well as the price that must be paid to ignore it.
So pack your bags and get ready for a trip. The ticket is free, but if you truly have a soul that is sensitive to what C. S. Lewis called the numinous, like all good travelers, you may bring back more from the trip than what you left with.
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