I would suppose.
He took me into his box, where there was a fire, a desk for an
official book in which he had to make certain entries, a telegraphic
instrument with its dial, face, and needles, and the little bell of
which he had spoken. On my trusting that he would excuse the
remark that he had been well educated, and (I hoped I might
say without offence), perhaps educated above that station, he ob-
served that instances of slight incongruity in such wise would rarely
be found wanting among large bodies of men; that he had heard
MUGBY JUNCTION 53
it was so in workhouses, in the police force, even in that last
desperate resource, the army; and that he knew it was so, more
or less, in any great railway staff. He had been, when young (if
I could believe it, sitting in that hut, — he scarcely could), a stu-
dent of natural philosophy, and had attended lectures; but he
had run wild, misused his opportunities, gone down, and never
risen again. He had no complaint to offer about that. He had
made his bed, and he lay upon it. It was far too late to make an-
All that I have here condensed he said in a quiet manner, with
his grave, dark regards divided between me and the fire. He
threw in the word, 'Sir,' from time to time, and especially when
he referred to his youth, — as though to request me to understand
that he claimed to be nothing but what I found him. He was
several times interrupted by the little bell, and had to read of!
messages, and send replies. Once he had to stand without the
door, and display a flag as a train passed, and make some verbal
communication to the driver. In the discharge of his duties, I ob-
served him to be remarkably exact and vigilant, breaking off his
discourse at a syllable, and remaining silent until what he had to
do was done.
In a word, I should have set this man down as one of the safest
of men to be employed in that capacity, but for the circumstance
that while he was speaking to me he twice broke off with a fallen
colour, turned his face towards the little bell when it did not
ring, opened the door of the hut (which was kept shut to excludt»
the unhealthy damp), and looked out towards the red light neai
the mouth of the tunnel. On both of those occasions, he came
back to the fire with the inexplicable air upon him which I had
remarked, without being able to define, when we were so far
Said I, when I rose to leave him, 'You almost make me think
that I have met with a contented man.'
(I am afraid I must acknowledge that I said it to lead him on.)
'I believe I used to be so,' he rejoined, in the low voice in which
he had first spoken; 'but I am troubled, sir, I am troubled."
He would have recalled the words if he could. He had said
them, however, and I took them up quickly.
'With what? What is your trouble?'
'It is very difficult to impart, sir. It is very, very difficult to
54 MUGBY JUNCTION
speak of. If ever you make me another visit, I will try to tell you.'
^But I expressly intend to make you another visit. Say, when
shall it be?'
'I go off early in the morning, and I shall be on again at ten to-
morrow night, sir.'
'I will come at eleven.'
'He thanked me, and went out at the door with me. 'I '11 show
my white light, sir,' he said, in his peculiar low voice, 'till you have
found the way up. When you have found it, don't call out! And
when you are at the top, dont call out!'
His manner seemed to make the place strike colder to me, but
I said no more than, 'Very well.'
'And when you come down to-morrow night, don't call out! Let
me ask you a parting question. What made you cry, "Halloa!
Below there!" to-night?'
'Heavens knows,' said I. 'I cried something to that effect — '
'Not to that effect, sir. Those were the very words. I know
'Admit those were the very words. I said them, no doubt, be-
cause I saw you below.'
'For no other reason?'
'What other reason could I possibly have?'
'You had no feeling that they were conveyed to you in any
He wished me good night, and held up his light. I walked by
the side of the down Line of rails (with a very disagreeable sensa-
tion of a train coming behind me) until I found the path. It was
easier to mount that to descend, and I got back to my inn with-
out any adventure.
Punctual to my appointment, I placed my foot on the first
notch of the zigzag next night, as the distant clocks were striking
eleven. He was waiting for me at the bottom, with his white light
on. 'I have not called out,' I said, when we came close together;
'may I speak now?' 'By all means, sir.' 'Good night, then, and
here 's my hand.' 'Good night, sir, and here 's mine.' With that
we walked side by side to his box, entered it, closed the door,
and sat down by the fire.
'I have made up my mind, sir,' he began, bending forward
as soon as we were seated, and speaking in a tone but a little above
MUGBY JUNCTION 55
a whisper, 'that you shall not have to ask me twice what troubles
me. I took you for some one else yesterday evening. That
'No. That some one else.'
'Who is it?'
'I don't know.'
'I don't know. I never saw the face. The left arm is across the
face, and the right arm is waved, — violently waved. This way.'
I followed his action with my eyes, and it was the action of an
arm gesticulating, with the utmost passion and vehemence, 'For
God's sake, clear the way!'
'One moonlight night,' said the man, 'I was sitting here, when
I heard a voice cry, "Halloa! Below there!" I started up, looked
from that door, and saw this Some one else standing by the red
light near the tunnel, waving as I just now showed you. The voice
seemed hoarse with shouting, and it cried, "Look out! Look out!"
And then again, "Halloa! Below there! Look out!" I caught
up my lamp, turned it on red, and ran towards the figure, calling,
"What 's wrong? What has happened? Where?" It stood just
outside the blackness of the tunnel. I advanced so close upon it
that I wondered at its keeping the sleeve across its eyes. I ran
right up at it, and had my hand stretched out to pull the sleeve
away, when it was gone.'
'Into the tunnel?' said I.
'No. I ran on into the tunnel, five hundred yards. I stopped,
and held my lamp above my head, and saw the figures of the
measured distance, and saw the wet stains stealing down the walls
and trickling through the arch. I ran out again faster than I had
run in (for I had a mortal abhorrence of the place upon me), and
I looked all round the red light with my own red light, and I
went up the iron ladder to the gallery atop of it, and I came down
again, and ran back here. I telegraphed both ways, "An alarm
has been given. Is anything wrong?" The answer came back, both
ways, "All well." '
Resisting the slow touch of a frozen finger tracing out my spine,
I showed him how that this figure must be a deception of his
sense of sight; and how that figures, originating in disease of the
delicate nerves that minister to the functions of the eye, were
56 MUCBY junction
known to have often troubled patients, some of whom had become
conscious of the nature of their affliction, and had even proved it
by experiments upon themselves. 'As to an imaginary cry,' said I,
'do but listen for a moment to the wind in this unnatural valley
while we speak so low, and to the wild harp it makes of the tele-
That was all very well, he returned, after we had sat listen-
ing for a while, and he ought to know something of the wind and
the wires, — he who so often passed winter nights there, alone and
watching. But he would beg to remark that he had not finished.
I asked his pardon, and he slowly added these words, touching
my arm, —
"Within six hours after the Appearance, the memorable accident
on this Line happened, and within ten hours the dead and wounded
were brought along through the tunnel over the spot where the
figure had stood.'
A disagreeable shudder crept over me, but I did my best against
it. It was not to be denied, I rejoined, that this was a remark-
able coincidence, calculated deeply to impress his mind. But it
was unquestionable that remarkable coincidences did continually
occur, and they must be taken into account in dealing with such
a subject. Though to be sure I must admit, I added (for I thought
I saw that he was going to bring the objection to bear upon me),
men of common sense did not allow much for coincidences in mak-
ing the ordinary calculations of life.
He again begged to remark that he had not finished.
I again begged his pardon for being betrayed into interruptions.
'This,' he said, again laying his hand upon my arm, and glancing
over his shoulder with hollow eyes, 'was just a year ago. Six or
seven months passed, and I had recovered from the surprise and
shock, when one morning, as the day was breaking, I, standing
at the door, looked towards the red light, and saw the spectre
again.' He stopped, with a fixed look at me.
'Did it cry out?'
'No. It was silent.'
'Did it wave its arm?'
'No. It leaned against the shaft of the light, with both hands
before the face. Like this.'
Once more I followed his action with my eyes. It was an action
MUGBY JUNCTION 57
of mourning. I have seen such an attitude in stone figures on
'Did you go up to it?'
'I came in and sat down, partly to collect my thoughts, partly
because it had turned me faint. When I went to the door again,
daylight was above me, and the ghost was gone.'
'But nothing followed? Nothing came of this?'
He touched me on the arm with his forefinger twice or thrice,
giving a ghastly nod each time: —
'That very day, as a train came out of the tunnel, I noticed,
at a carriage window on my side, what looked like a confusion
of hands and heads, and something waved. I saw it just in time
to signal the driver, Stop I He shut off, and put his brake on,
but the train drifted past here a hundred and fifty yards or more.
I ran after it, and, as I went along, heard terrible screams and
cries. A beautiful young lady had died instantaneously in one of
the compartments, and was brought in here, and laid down on
this floor between us.'
Involuntarily I pushed my chair back, as I looked from the
boards at which he pointed to himself.
'True, sir. True. Precisely as it happened, so I tell it you.'
I could think of nothing to say, to any purpose, and my mouth
was very dry. The wind and the wires took up the story with a
long lamenting wail.
He resumed. 'Now, sir, mark this, and judge how my mind is
troubled. The spectre came back a week ago. Ever since, it has
been there, now and again, by fits and starts.'
^At the light?'
'At the Danger-light.'
'What does it seem to do?'
He repeated, if possible with increased passion and vehemence,
that former gesticulation of, 'For God's sake, clear the way!'
Then he went on. 'I have no peace or rest for it. It calls to
me, for many minutes together, in an agonised manner, "Below
there! Look out! Look out!" It stands waving to me. It rings
my little bell — '
I caught at that. 'Did it ring your bell yesterday evening when
I was here, and you went to the door?'
58 MUGBY JUNCTION
'Why, see,' said I, 'how your imagination misleads you. My
eyes were on the bell, and my ears were open to the bell, and if
I am a living man, it did not ring at those times. No, nor at any
other time, except when it was rung in the natural course of physi-
cal things by the station communicating with you.'
He shook his head. 'I have never made a mistake as to that
yet, sir. I have never confused the spectre's ring with the man's.
The ghost's ring is a strange vibration in the bell that it derives
from nothing else, and I have not asserted that the bell stirs to
the eye. I don't wonder that you failed to hear it. But / heard it.'
'And did the spectre seem to be there, when you looked out?'
'It WAS there.'
He repeated firmly: 'Both times.'
'Will you come to the door with me, and look for it now?'
He bit his under lip as though he were somewhat unwilling, but
arose. I opened the door, and stood on the step, while he stood
in the doorway. There was the Danger-light. There was the dis-
mal mouth of the tunnel. There were the high, wet stone walls
of the cutting. There were the stars above them.
'Do you see it?' I asked him, taking particular note of his face.
His eyes were prominent and strained, but not very much more
so, perhaps, than my own had been when I had directed them
earnestly towards the same spot.
'No,' he answered. 'It is not there.'
'Agreed,' said I.
We went in again, shut the door, and resumed our seats. I was
thinking how best to improve this advantage, if it might be called
one, when he took up the conversation in such a matter-of-course
way, so assuming that there could be no serious question of fact
between us, that I felt myself placed in the weakest of positions.
'By this time you will fully understand, sir,' he said, 'that what
troubles me so dreadfully is the question. What does the spectre
I was not sure, I told him, that I did fully understand.
'What is its warning against?' he said, ruminating, with his
eyes on the fire, and only by times turning them on me. 'What
is the danger? Where is the danger? There is danger overhang-
ing somewhere on the Line. Some dreadful calamity will happen.
MUGBY JUNCTION 59
It is not to be doubted this third time, after what has gone be-
fore. But surely this is a cruel haunting of me. What can / do?'
He pulled out his handkerchief, and wiped the drops from
his heated forehead.
'If I telegraph Danger, on either side of me, or un both, I
can give no reason for it,' he went on, wiping the palms of his
hands. 'I should get into trouble, and do no good. They would
think I was mad. This is the way it would work. — Message:
''Danger! Take carel" Answer: ''What Danger? Where?"
Message: "Don't know. But, for God's sake, take care!" They
would displace me. What else could they do?'
His pain of mind was most pitiable to see. It was the mental
torture of a conscientious man, oppressed beyond endurance
by an unintelligible responsibility involving life.
'When it first stood under the Danger-light,' he went on, putting
his dark hair back from his head, and drawing his hands outward
across and across his temples in an extremity of ferverish distress,
'why not tell me where that accident was to happen, — if it must
happen? Why not tell me how it could be averted, — if it could
have been averted? When on its second coming it hid its face,
why not tell me, instead, "She is going to die. Let them keep her
at home"? If it came, on those two occasions, only to show mc
that its warnings were true, and so to prepare me for the third,
why not warn me plainly now? And I, Lord help me I A mere
poor signal-man on this solitary station! Why not go to some-
body with credit to be believed, and power to act?'
When I saw him in this state, I saw that for the poor man's sake,
as well as for the public safety, what I had to do for the time was
to compose his mind. Therefore, setting aside all question of real-
ity or unreality between us, I represented to him that whoever
thoroughly discharged his duty must do well, and that at least it
was his comfort that he understood his duty, though he did not
understand these confounding Appearances. In this effort I suc-
ceeded far better than in the attempt to reason him out of his
conviction. He became calm; the occupations incidental to his
post as the night advanced began to make larger demands on his
attention: and I left him at two in the morning. I had offered to
stay through the night, but he would not hear of it.
That I more than once looked back at the red light as I ascended
60 MUGBY JUNCTION
the pathway, that I did not like the red light, and that I should
have slept but poorly if my bed had been under it, I see no reason
to conceal. Nor did I like the two sequences of the accident and
the dead girl. I see no reason to conceal that either.
But what ran most in my thoughts was the consideration how
ought I to act, having become the recipient of this disclosure? I
had proved the man to be intelligent, vigilant, painstaking, and
exact; but how long might he remain so, in his state of mind?
Though in a subordinate position, still he held a most important
'.rust, and would I (for instance) like to stake my own life on the
chances of his continuing to execute it with precision?
Unable to overcome a feeling that there would be something
treacherous in my communicating what he had told me to his
superiors in the Company, without first being plain with himself
and proposing a middle course to him, I ultimately resolved to
offer to accompany him (otherwise keeping his secret for the pres-
ent) to the wisest medical practitioner we could hear of in those
parts, and to take his opinion. A change in his time of duty would
come round next night, he had apprised me, and he would be off
an hour or two after sunrise, and on again soon after sunset. I
had appointed to return accordingly.
Next evening was a lovely evening, and I walked out early to
enjoy it. The sun was not yet quite down when I traversed the
field-path near the top of the deep cutting. I would extend my
walk for an hour, I said to myself, half an hour on and half an
hour back, and it would then be time to go to my signal-man's box.
Before pursuing my stroll, I stepped to the brink, and mechani-
cally looked down, from the point from which I had first seen
him. I cannot describe the thrill that seized upon me, when, close
at the mouth of the tunnel, I saw the appearance of a man, with
his left sleeve across his eyes, passionately waving his right arm.
The nameless horror that oppressed me passed in a moment,
for in a moment I saw that this appearance of a man was a man
indeed, and that there was a little group of other men, standing
at a short distance, to whom he seemed to be rehearsing the
gesture he made. The Danger-light was not yet lighted. Against
its, shaft, a little low hut, entirely new to me, had been made of
some wooden supports and tarpaulin. It looked no bigger than a
MUGBY JUNCTION 61
With an irresistible sense that something was wrong, — with a
flashing self-reproachful fear that fatal mischief had come of my
leaving the man there, and causing no one to be sent to overlook
or correct what he did, — I descended the notched path with all
the speed I could make.
'What is the matter?' I asked the men,
'Signal-man killed this morning, sir.'
'Nof the man belonging to that box?'
'Not the man I know?'
'You will recognize him, sir, if you knew him,' said the man
who spoke for the others, solemnly uncovering his own head, and
raising an end of the tarpaulin, 'for his face is quite composed.'
'O, how did this happen, how did this happen?' I asked, turn-
ing from one to another as the hut closed in again.
'He was cut down by an engine, sir. No man in England knew
his work better. But somehow he was not clear of the outer rail.
It was just at broad day. He had struck the light, and had the
lamp in his hand. As the engine came out of the tunnel, his back
was towards her, and she cut him down. That man drove her,
and was showing how it happened. Show the gentleman, Tom.'
The man, who wore a rough dark dress, stepped back to his
former place at the mouth of the tunnel.
'Coming round the curve in the tunnel, sir,' he said, 'I saw him
at the end, like as if I saw him down a perspective-glass. There
was no time to check speed, and I knew him to be very careful.
As he didn't seem to take heed of the whistle, I shut it off when
we were running down upon him, and called to him as loud as I
'What did you say?'
'I said, "Below there! Look out! Look out! For God's sake,
clear the way!" '
'Ah! it was a dreadful time, sir. I never left off calling to him.
I put this arm before my eyes not to see, and I waved this arm
to the last; but it was no use.'
Without prolonging the narrative to dwell on any one of its
curious circumstances more than on any other, I may, in closing
62 MUGBY JUNCTION
it, point out the coincidence that the warning of the Engine-Driver
included, not only the words which the unfortunate Signal-man
had repeated to me as haunting him, but also the words which I
myself — not he — had attached, and that only in my own mind, to
the gesticulation he had imitated.