The Signalman


The Signalman

Charles Dickens's ghost story in which a lonely signalman is haunted by a hooded figure who seems to warn of danger.


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Transcript


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DISTANT ENGINE

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WHISTLE BLOWS

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Hello!

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Below there!

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Hello!

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Below!

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Is...

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Is there any path by which I may come down and speak with you?

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WHISTLE BLOWS >

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Is there a path?

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Thank you. I'll come down.

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Ah! Here we are.

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This must be a very lonesome spot to occupy, I should think.

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I saw you from above.

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I couldn't help watching.

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Forgive the intrusion, but I felt I had to know how you...

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That light, it's part of your charge, I should say, is it not?

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Don't you know that it is?

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You look at me as if you had some dread of me.

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I assure you there's nothing to fear. Nothing at all to fear.

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I am simply a man.

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FLAPPING >

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I have spent much of my life shut up within narrow limits.

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I've been confined, but now I am free.

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Why do you stare at me like that, man?

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I was doubtful whether I'd seen you before.

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Seen me? Where?

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Where?

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There?

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Why?

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What should I do there?

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My good fellow, I was never there in my life.

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You may swear it.

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Yes, I...

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I think I may.

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Yes...

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..I'm sure I may.

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It's cold.

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It's not the work, sir, it's the responsibility.

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-I should have thought...

-There's not enough work here to tax the muscles or brain of a child.

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No, it's the responsibility, the duty.

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You seem to have things pretty much at your command.

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I believe I do, sir, but it never stops, do you see? It's always there to be done. It's never finished.

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And these months of late, I...

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Yes.

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BELL RINGS

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BELL RINGS AGAIN

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CLANGING

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-There you are, sir, that's my work. Nothing of interest to anyone but myself.

-I am interested.

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So little to do with so much depending on it.

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I wonder what you do with your mind, in between your duties, I mean.

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You cannot spend your whole life reflecting on your responsibilities.

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Well, yes, sir, I use my mind, though there's precious little profit in it.

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You see those books? I've been trying to teach myself mathematics - fractions, decimals, algebra.

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-You're a scholar then?

-Indeed I'm not, sir, no.

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No, I've no head for figures. I never had as a boy. I make a poor figure as a mathematics scholar.

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Then why?

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Well, it's the time, sir.

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I've all the time in the world to fill and nothing to do with the knowledge when I have it.

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Mathematics will do as well as anything else.

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It serves to pass...

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HOLLOW RING

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Is everything as it should be?

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I believe so.

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Tell me, do you spend all your hours of duty down here...

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..between these cold, dark walls?

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I'm accustomed to it.

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In the early days, I'd sometimes find a bit of slack time to climb up into the sunlight,

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but the work was always here to draw me down. I'd listen for the bell, you see.

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My face would be in the sun, but my mind would be down here in the dark

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and the shadows.

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I think the mind makes its own places, sir.

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You speak - forgive me - like a man of education.

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Oh, I was at one time, sir. A student of natural philosophy.

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But what does that tell us? Nothing.

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No motion without cause, a reason for everything. I found myself dissatisfied with it.

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-BELL RINGS

-Make yourself comfortable, sir.

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ENGINE ROARS

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You've been asleep.

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Don't worry, you have no responsibilities here.

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Forgive me.

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You have no call to be here. And being here, there's no charge on you to do this or that.

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Sleep or wake, nothing will suffer for it.

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What brought you here?

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I was drawn here.

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Drawn? Yes, I...

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HOLLOW RING

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-That bell...

-Yes?

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An accident on this stretch of the line must be a terrible thing.

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In the tunnel, say.

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The tunnel collision is the worst to be feared.

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Your nightmares would go hard to equal it.

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The wreckage becomes hideously compressed so they can find space.

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If fire breaks out, the tunnel and its ventilating shafts become furnace flues.

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You cannot see in the dark to get the wreckage and the bodies out.

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The screams of the injured and dying...

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echo in a most...

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persistent way.

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It's the shape of the tunnel, you see, sir.

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But you can only do your duty.

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Oh, yes, sir.

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And you have all this.

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This place of peace.

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-And you have no desires to go elsewhere?

-I have not.

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Then I almost believe I have met with a contented man.

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Well, I must leave you now.

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It's a fair walk to the inn.

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-I believe I used to be a contented man, sir, but I'm troubled, I'm troubled.

-With what?

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-What is your trouble?

-It's difficult to impart, difficult to speak of,

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but if you pay me another visit, I'll try to tell you.

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I intend to make you another visit. When shall it be?

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I go off duty early in the morning, but I'm on again at 10 o'clock tomorrow night.

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-I shall come at 11.

-Thank you, sir.

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I'll show you my white light till you've found your way.

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When you've found it,

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don't...don't call out.

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And when you come tomorrow night, don't call out.

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Very well.

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Let me ask you one question, sir.

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What bid you say, "Hello, below there," this evening?

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Heaven knows.

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-I said something to that effect.

-Not to that effect. Those are the words.

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I said them, no doubt, because I saw you below.

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You have no feeling that they were conveyed to you in any...supernatural way?

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No.

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Then I'll wish you goodnight, sir, and Godspeed.

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DISTANT WHISTLE BLOWS

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DISTANT ENGINE

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'The tunnel collision is the worst to be feared.'

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ENGINE ROARS

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'Don't call out.

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'Don't call out.

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'Don't call out.'

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BIRDSONG

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You see, I've not called out.

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May I speak now?

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By all means, sir.

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Goodnight then,

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and here's my hand.

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Goodnight, sir, and here's mine.

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I've made up my mind, sir, you shall not have to ask me twice what troubles me.

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I took you for someone else last night.

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That troubles me.

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That mistake?

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That...someone else.

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Who is it?

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I...

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-I don't know.

-Like me?

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I don't know. I never saw his face.

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The left arm is across the face and the right arm is waved.

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Violently waved.

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This way.

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As if to say...

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for God's sake, clear the way.

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One foggy night...

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I was sitting here

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watching the patterns in the fire...

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..and I heard a voice.

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Hello.

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Below there.

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Hello!

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Below there!

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Hello! Below there!

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What's wrong? What's happened?

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Come out! Come out!

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What? Where?

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Come out! Look out!

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Come out!

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Look out!

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BELL RINGS

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ALL THREE BELLS RING

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All well. All well.

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"All well" you telegraphed?

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I telegraphed both ways.

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"All well."

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I'm sure that this figure must be a deception.

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A deception of your sense of sight, I mean.

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A minor ailment of one of the delicate nerves that minister to the functions of the eye.

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I assure you, I have known many such cases, and the impairment is not permanent.

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-Experiment has proved these things to be so.

-Experiment?

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We must look to our rational faculties for an explanation.

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If we abandon reason,

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how do we consider this imaginary cry?

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Do but listen for a moment to the wind in this unnatural valley.

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HOWLING WIND Even now as we speak.

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The...

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wild harp it makes of the telegraph wires.

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I know that sound well enough, sir.

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Well then.

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Still I have not finished.

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Within six hours,

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after the appearance...

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..the memorable accident on this line occurred.

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WHISTLE BLOWS

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HE WHISTLES

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ENGINE ROARS

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WHISTLE BLOWS

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CRASH!

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DISTANT WAILING AND COUGHING

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'And within ten hours, the dead and wounded were brought along through the tunnel

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'over the spot where the figure had stood.'

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Stretchers in here!

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WHEEZING

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CLANGING

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A remarkable coincidence, my friend.

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But no more than that.

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We are men of good sense.

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We must seek to understand the world by rational means.

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But we can allow coincidence. I think we can.

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But still I have not finished.

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That was just a year ago.

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Six or seven months past, and I'd recovered from the surprise and the shock,

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when one morning,

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'just as the day was breaking,

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'I stood at the door

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'..and looked towards the red light.'

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HOLLOW RING

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What is it?

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What is it?

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Where is the danger?

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Tell me what to do.

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Answer!

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What is it?

0:24:210:24:23

What can I do?

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ENGINE ROARS

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WHISTLE BLOWS

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SCREAMING

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SCREECHING BRAKES

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'It's true, sir.

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'They brought her in and they laid her down on this floor between us.'

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It's true, sir, true.

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Precisely as it happened, so I tell you.

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BELL RINGS

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Now, sir, mark this...

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..the spectre came back a week ago.

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And it's been there now and again by fits and starts.

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At the light?

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At the danger light.

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What does it seem to do?

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You know what it does.

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I've shown you.

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Besides...

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..it does this.

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I have no rest, no peace for it.

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It calls me for minutes together.

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An agonised shout.

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"Below there!

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"Look out! Look out!"

0:27:020:27:04

It stands there waving to me, rings my little bell.

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Twice, yesterday evening, while I was here.

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You knew. What do you know of this?!

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Nothing, my friend, I assure you.

0:27:140:27:16

I simply observed you and made rational deductions.

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And I must tell you that that bell did not ring.

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My eyes were on the bell, my ears were on the bell

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and it never rang.

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Except in the natural course of things.

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By the station communicating with you, I mean.

0:27:300:27:33

No, no, no, I never confuse the spectre's ring with the man's.

0:27:330:27:37

The ghost's ring, sir, has a strange vibration in the bell that it derives from nothing else.

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I've not asserted that the bell stirs to the eye.

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I don't wonder that you fail to hear it, if you speak the truth,

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but I HEARD IT.

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And did the spectre seem to be there when you looked out?

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It WAS there.

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-Both times?

-Both times.

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Will you come to the door with me now and look for it?

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Do you see it?

0:28:190:28:21

I do not see it now.

0:28:230:28:26

It is not there.

0:28:260:28:28

Agreed.

0:28:290:28:31

You see now, sir, what troubles me so dreadfully,

0:28:420:28:45

what does this spectre mean?

0:28:450:28:48

-I'm not sure that I understand you.

-Oh, I think you do, sir.

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What is it warning me about?

0:28:510:28:52

What is the danger? Where is the danger?

0:28:520:28:55

Some dreadful calamity will happen to this line.

0:28:550:28:58

It's not to be doubted this third time.

0:28:580:29:00

Sir, this is a dreadful haunting of me, but what am I do to?

0:29:000:29:04

If I telegraph "danger", I can give no reason. They'll think I'm mad.

0:29:040:29:08

Message, "Danger. Take care."

0:29:080:29:09

Answer, "What danger? Where?"

0:29:090:29:11

Message, "Don't know, but for God's sake, take care."

0:29:110:29:14

They would displace me. What else could they do?

0:29:140:29:17

Please, my friend, you must compose yourself. I'm sure...

0:29:170:29:20

When it first stood there under the danger light,

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why did it not tell me where they accident was to happen?

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And why did it not tell me how it could be averted?

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If it must be averted.

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Why did it not tell me on the second occasion?

0:29:300:29:33

"She's going to die. Keep her at home."

0:29:330:29:36

And now, what is it to be?

0:29:360:29:38

And why me, for heaven's sake, a poor signalman on this station?

0:29:380:29:42

Why not go to somebody with credit to be believed and power to act?

0:29:420:29:46

My dear friend, you must listen to me.

0:29:460:29:48

You must compose yourself.

0:29:480:29:50

-Let us say that all these things are true.

-They ARE true.

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So be it. Very well.

0:29:550:29:57

But try to take heed of this.

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Any man who thoroughly discharges his duty must do well.

0:30:010:30:06

There is no more that you can do.

0:30:090:30:11

I have studied you these past two nights.

0:30:140:30:18

I am convinced that no man could carry out his task

0:30:180:30:21

with more attention and responsibility than you do.

0:30:210:30:24

-I hope so, sir. I do believe so.

-I'm SURE that it is so.

0:30:240:30:28

You must take comfort in this - that you understand your duty

0:30:280:30:33

and discharge it to the smallest detail.

0:30:330:30:36

These...disturbing appearances...

0:30:370:30:40

You can't be called upon to try to interpret them.

0:30:400:30:44

Believe me.

0:30:440:30:46

Take comfort in the discharge of your duty.

0:30:460:30:50

You cannot be to blame.

0:30:500:30:53

BELL RINGS

0:30:540:30:57

-I believe you are on the right of it, sir.

-I know I am.

0:31:090:31:14

I'll stick to my duty, then. Nothing else to be done.

0:31:170:31:21

I'm heartily glad to hear you say it.

0:31:210:31:25

I believe you've helped me tonight, sir, and I thank you for it.

0:31:260:31:30

-I'll willingly stay with you till dawn if you wish.

-Oh, no, sir.

0:31:300:31:35

No, I wouldn't hear of it.

0:31:350:31:38

No, I've got my work to keep me company.

0:31:400:31:43

-Perhaps you'll come again, sir.

-Indeed I will. And I shan't call out.

0:31:450:31:50

I would be grateful, sir.

0:31:500:31:53

BELL RINGS

0:32:040:32:06

Ohh...!

0:32:280:32:29

CREAKING

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HE WHISTLES CHEERILY

0:32:480:32:51

BELL RINGS

0:32:580:33:01

TRAIN APPROACHES

0:33:190:33:22

SOFT HUM

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WHISTLE BLOWS

0:34:030:34:05

Hello! Below there!

0:34:130:34:15

DOOR OPENS AND CLOSES

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TAPPING

0:34:310:34:34

Hello! Below there!

0:34:430:34:45

Hello!

0:34:470:34:49

Below there!

0:34:490:34:51

WHISTLE BLOWS

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Look out!

0:35:340:35:36

Look OUT!

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TRAIN COMES TO A HALT

0:35:510:35:53

What happened?

0:36:080:36:11

Coming round the curve of the tunnel, sir, I saw him at the end,

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like as if I saw him down the end of a perspective glass.

0:36:150:36:20

There was no time to shut off speed, sir. I knew him to be very careful.

0:36:200:36:24

He...

0:36:240:36:26

He didn't seem to heed the whistle, sir,

0:36:260:36:30

so I shut it off and I called to him.

0:36:300:36:33

What did you say to him?

0:36:330:36:36

I said, "Hello! Below there! Look out!"

0:36:360:36:40

I was waving at him!

0:36:400:36:42

"Look out!

0:36:420:36:45

"Look out! For God's sake, clear the way!"

0:36:450:36:49

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd 2005

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E-mail [email protected]

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