I took you for some one else yesterday evening. That troubles me.

"I took you for some one else yesterday evening. That troubles me." from "The Signal-Man," originally Part Four of Mugby Junction (1866) by Edward Dalziel. Wood engraving. From Dickens's Christmas Stories, facing page 195. Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Passage Illustrated

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 sensation of a train coming behind me), until I found the path. It was easier to mount than to descend, and I got back to my inn without any adventure.

Punctual to my appointment, I placed my foot on the first notch of the zig-zag 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 a whisper, "that you shall not have to ask me twice what troubles me. I took you for someone else yesterday evening. That troubles me."

"That mistake?"

"No. That someone else."

"Who is it?"

"I don't know."

"Like me?"

"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." ["Two Ghost Stories," p. 190]

Commentary

In the Illustrated Library Edition of 1868, the only parts of Mugby Junction

that were illustrated were "The Boy at Mugby," the illustrations being Mahoney's Mugby Junction and Green's The Signal-Man — the latter illustrator presents the railway employee and his curious auditor to convey subtly the psychological aspect of "The Signal-Man." Whereas E. G. Dalziel in his Household Edition illustration for the tale of the preternatural focuses on the meeting of the inquisitive, flaneur-like narrator and his double, the distressed signalman, in "I took you for some one else yesterday evening. That troubles me", Sol Eytinge presents the reader with the framed-tale's climax, the appearance of the mysterious figure just before the railway accident that results in the signalman's being run down by a locomotive, in The Apparition.

In the original version of the short story as published in the Extra Christmas number (12 December 1866) for All the Year Round, the story of the haunted railway employee, "No. 1 Branch Line: The Signal-man," is the fourth of four pieces written by Dickens himself in the framed-tale Mugby Junction for the Extra Christmas Number of All the Year Round in 1866, the other three being "Barbox Brothers," "Barbox Brothers and Company," and "Main Line: The Boy at Mugby." This last piece and the techno-Gothic tale "The Signal-man" are the only two reprinted in the American Household Edition; in the British Household Edition, it appears as the second of "Two Ghost Stories" ahead of the Mugby Junction selections "Barbox Brothers" (Chapter I), "Barbox Brothers" (II), "Barbox Brothers and Company" (III) and "The Boy at Mugby" (V).

In Abbey's illustration, the gentlemanly narrator (a species of flanneur akin to the narrator of The Uncommercial Traveller essays of the 1860s) visits an isolated railway signal-station and makes the acquaintance of its functionary at his post near a tunnel in a cutting on the rail line near "Mugby" (the important railway junction of Rugby in Warwickshire). Although E. G. Dalziel in his Chapman and Hall Household Edition for this story has chosen much the same moment, his figures lack the animation of Abbey's and Green's, although his description of the physical setting is more successful. Mentally and emotionally at the edge, the hapless signal-man is apparently being haunted by some sort of spirit (he terms him merely "the Appearance") who has twice visited him, appearing under his warning light and crying, "Look out!" What the signal-man takes to be the the ghost's third visitation, which occurs shortly after the moment realised in the Abbey and Dalziel illustrations, proves fatal to the distraught railway employee. The ominous sense of the preternatural with which Dickens invests the story, so reminiscent of Dickens's collaborator Wilkie Collins, seems to be missing from these solid, three-dimensional closeups of the narrator and the stolid signal-man.

Diamond, Library, Household, and Charles Dickens Library Edition (1867, 1868, 1876, and 1910) Illustrations Relevant to "The Signal-Man" (1866)

Later Editions. Left: Sol Eyting, Junior's "The Apparition." (1867). Centre: E. A. Abbey's "'Do you see it?' I asked him." (1876). Right: James Mahoney's "Mugby Junction" (1868). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Left: Townley Green's "The Signal-Man" (1868). Right: Harry Furniss's "The Face at the Window" (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

References

Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1988.

Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories. Il. Harry Furniss. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. 2 vols.

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories from "Household Words" and "All The Year Round". Il. Fred Walker, F. A. Fraser, Harry French, E. G. Dalziel, J. Mahony [sic], Townley Green, and Charles Green. Centenary Edition. 36 vols. London: Chapman & Hall; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911. Volume Two.

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories. Il. Edward Dalziel, Harry French, F. A. Fraser, James Mahoney, Townley Green, and Charles Green. The Oxford Illustrated Dickens. Oxford, New York, and Toronto: Oxford U.P., 1956, rpt. 1989.

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories. Il. E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories from "Household Words" and "All the Year Round". Il. E. G. Dalziel. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1877. Rpt., 1892.

Schlicke, Paul, ed. "Christmas Stories." The Oxford Companion to Dickens. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1999. Pp. 100-101.

Thomas, Deborah A. Dickens and The Short Story. Philadelphia: U. Pennsylvania Press, 1982.


Last modified 12 May 2014