"A windy place!"
"Yes it mostly is sir."
"And looks comfortless indeed!"
"Yes it generally does sir."
"Is it a rainy night still?"
"Open the door. I'll get out."
"You'll have sir" said the guard glistening with drops of wet
and looking at the tearful face of his watch by the light of his
lantern as the traveller descended "three minutes here."
"More I think.--For I am not going on."
"Thought you had a through ticket sir?"
"So I have but I shall sacrifice the rest of it. I want my
"Please to come to the van and point it out sir. Be good enough to
look very sharp sir. Not a moment to spare."
The guard hurried to the luggage van and the traveller hurried
after him. The guard got into it and the traveller looked into it.
"Those two large black portmanteaus in the corner where your light
shines. Those are mine."
"Name upon 'em sir?"
"Stand clear sir if you please. One. Two. Right!"
Lamp waved. Signal lights ahead already changing. Shriek from
engine. Train gone.
"Mugby Junction!" said the traveller pulling up the woollen muffler
round his throat with both hands. "At past three o'clock of a
tempestuous morning! So!"
He spoke to himself. There was no one else to speak to. Perhaps
though there had been any one else to speak to he would have
preferred to speak to himself. Speaking to himself he spoke to a
man within five years of fifty either way who had turned grey too
soon like a neglected fire; a man of pondering habit brooding
carriage of the head and suppressed internal voice; a man with many
indications on him of having been much alone.
He stood unnoticed on the dreary platform except by the rain and by
the wind. Those two vigilant assailants made a rush at him. "Very
well" said he yielding. "It signifies nothing to me to what
quarter I turn my face."
Thus at Mugby Junction at past three o'clock of a tempestuous
morning the traveller went where the weather drove him.
Not but what he could make a stand when he was so minded for
coming to the end of the roofed shelter (it is of considerable
extent at Mugby Junction) and looking out upon the dark night with
a yet darker spirit-wing of storm beating its wild way through it
he faced about and held his own as ruggedly in the difficult
direction as he had held it in the easier one. Thus with a steady
step the traveller went up and down up and down up and down
seeking nothing and finding it.
A place replete with shadowy shapes this Mugby Junction in the
black hours of the four-and-twenty. Mysterious goods trains
covered with palls and gliding on like vast weird funerals
conveying themselves guiltily away from the presence of the few
lighted lamps as if their freight had come to a secret and unlawful
end. Half-miles of coal pursuing in a Detective manner following
when they lead stopping when they stop backing when they back.
Red-hot embers showering out upon the ground down this dark avenue
and down the other as if torturing fires were being raked clear;
concurrently shrieks and groans and grinds invading the ear as if
the tortured were at the height of their suffering. Iron-barred
cages full of cattle jangling by midway the drooping beasts with
horns entangled eyes frozen with terror and mouths too: at least
they have long icicles (or what seem so) hanging from their lips.
Unknown languages in the air conspiring in red green and white
characters. An earthquake accompanied with thunder and lightning
going up express to London. Now all quiet all rusty wind and
rain in possession lamps extinguished Mugby Junction dead and
indistinct with its robe drawn over its head like Caesar.
Now too as the belated traveller plodded up and down a shadowy
train went by him in the gloom which was no other than the train of
a life. From whatsoever intangible deep cutting or dark tunnel it
emerged here it came unsummoned and unannounced stealing upon
him and passing away into obscurity. Here mournfully went by a
child who had never had a childhood or known a parent inseparable
from a youth with a bitter sense of his namelessness coupled to a
man the enforced business of whose best years had been distasteful
and oppressive linked to an ungrateful friend dragging after him a
woman once beloved. Attendant with many a clank and wrench were
lumbering cares dark meditations huge dim disappointments
monotonous years a long jarring line of the discords of a solitary
and unhappy existence.
The traveller recalled his eyes from the waste into which they had
been staring and fell back a step or so under the abruptness and
perhaps the chance appropriateness of the question.
"Oh! My thoughts were not here for the moment. Yes. Yes. Those
two portmanteaus are mine. Are you a Porter?"
"On Porter's wages sir. But I am Lamps."
The traveller looked a little confused.
"Who did you say you are?"
"Lamps sir" showing an oily cloth in his hand as farther
"Surely surely. Is there any hotel or tavern here?"
"Not exactly here sir. There is a Refreshment Room here but--"
Lamps with a mighty serious look gave his head a warning roll that
plainly added--"but it's a blessed circumstance for you that it's
"You couldn't recommend it I see if it was available?"
"Ask your pardon sir. If it was -?"
"It ain't my place as a paid servant of the company to give my
opinion on any of the company's toepics"--he pronounced it more
like toothpicks--"beyond lamp-ile and cottons" returned Lamps in a
confidential tone; "but speaking as a man I wouldn't recommend my
father (if he was to come to life again) to go and try how he'd be
treated at the Refreshment Room. Not speaking as a man no I would
The traveller nodded conviction. "I suppose I can put up in the
town? There is a town here?" For the traveller (though a stay-at-
home compared with most travellers) had been like many others
carried on the steam winds and the iron tides through that Junction
before without having ever as one might say gone ashore there.
"Oh yes there's a town sir! Anyways there's town enough to put
up in. But" following the glance of the other at his luggage
"this is a very dead time of the night with us sir. The deadest
time. I might a'most call it our deadest and buriedest time."
"No porters about?"
"Well sir you see" returned Lamps confidential again "they in
general goes off with the gas. That's how it is. And they seem to
have overlooked you through your walking to the furder end of the
platform. But in about twelve minutes or so she may be up."
"Who may be up?"
"The three forty-two sir. She goes off in a sidin' till the Up X
passes and then she"--here an air of hopeful vagueness pervaded
Lamps--"does all as lays in her power."
"I doubt if I comprehend the arrangement."
"I doubt if anybody do sir. She's a Parliamentary sir. And you
see a Parliamentary or a Skirmishun--"
"Do you mean an Excursion?"
"That's it sir.--A Parliamentary or a Skirmishun she mostly DOES
go off into a sidin'. But when she CAN get a chance she's
whistled out of it and she's whistled up into doin' all as"--Lamps
again wore the air of a highly sanguine man who hoped for the best-
-"all as lays in her power."
He then explained that the porters on duty being required to be in
attendance on the Parliamentary matron in question would doubtless
turn up with the gas. In the meantime if the gentleman would not
very much object to the smell of lamp-oil and would accept the
warmth of his little room - The gentleman being by this time very
cold instantly closed with the proposal.
A greasy little cabin it was suggestive to the sense of smell of
a cabin in a Whaler. But there was a bright fire burning in its
rusty grate and on the floor there stood a wooden stand of newly
trimmed and lighted lamps ready for carriage service. They made a
bright show and their light and the warmth accounted for the
popularity of the room as borne witness to by many impressions of
velveteen trousers on a form by the fire and many rounded smears
and smudges of stooping velveteen shoulders on the adjacent wall.
Various untidy shelves accommodated a quantity of lamps and oil-
cans and also a fragrant collection of what looked like the pocket-
handkerchiefs of the whole lamp family.
As Barbox Brothers (so to call the traveller on the warranty of his
luggage) took his seat upon the form and warmed his now ungloved
hands at the fire he glanced aside at a little deal desk much
blotched with ink which his elbow touched. Upon it were some
scraps of coarse paper and a superannuated steel pen in very
reduced and gritty circumstances.
From glancing at the scraps of paper he turned involuntarily to his
host and said with some roughness:
"Why you are never a poet man?"
Lamps had certainly not the conventional appearance of one as he
stood modestly rubbing his squab nose with a handkerchief so
exceedingly oily that he might have been in the act of mistaking