Selected Short Fiction

Selected Short Fiction by Charles Dickens

Book: Selected Short Fiction by Charles Dickens Read Free Book Online
Authors: Charles Dickens
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.
    â€˜What is the matter?’ I asked the men.
    â€˜Signalman killed this morning, sir.’
    â€˜Not the man belonging to that box?’
    â€˜Yes, sir.’
    â€˜Not the man I know?’
    â€˜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.’
    â€˜O! how did this happen, how did this happen?’ I asked, turning from one to another as the hut closed in again.
    â€˜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:
    â€˜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 could call.’
    â€˜What did you say?’
    â€˜I said, Below there! Look out! Look out! For God’s sake clear the way!’
    I started.
    â€˜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 it, point out the coincidence that the warning of the Engine-Driver included, not only the words which the unfortunate Signalman 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.


The Election for Beadle
    A GREAT event has recently occurred in our parish. A contest of paramount interest has just terminated; a parochial convulsion has taken place. It has been succeeded by a glorious triumph, which the country - or at least the parish - it is all the same - will long remember. We have had an election; an election for beadle. The supporters of the old beadle system have been defeated in their stronghold, and the advocates of the great new beadle principles have achieved a proud victory.
    Our parish, which, like all other parishes, is a little world of its own, has long been divided into two parties, whose contentions, slumbering for a while, have never failed to burst forth with unabated vigour, on any occasion on which they could by possibility be renewed. Watching-rates, 1 lighting-rates, paving-rates, sewer‘s-rates, church-rates, poor’s-rates - all sorts of rates, have been in their turns the subjects of a grand struggle; and as to questions of patronage, the asperity and determination with which they have been contested is scarcely credible.
    The leader of the official party - the steady advocate of the churchwardens, and the unflinching supporter of the overseers - is an old gentleman who lives in our row. He owns some half a dozen houses in it, and always walks on the opposite side of the way, so that he may be able to take in a view of the whole of his property at once. He is a tall, thin, bony man, with an interrogative nose, and little restless perking eyes, which appear to have been given him for the sole purpose of peeping into other people’s affairs with. He is deeply impressed with the importance of our parish business, and prides himself, not a little,

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