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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 7 (November 1, 1929)

Our Women's Section

page 51

Our Women's Section

The Grey-Eyed Lady

It was a hot afternoon in January—one of those still, burning days that make the traveller in New Zealand imagine that he is in the heart of the African veldt. The little dusty red station lay panting beneath the pitiless sun. Across the plains stretched the silver thread of the railway track—away towards the cool mountains rising in the distance. A perfect stillness reigned, broken only by the occasional bark of a dog and the melancholy bleating of sheep.

Dick Kinross leant across the gate and gazed with unseeing eyes into the deserted street, cursing himself—cursing everyone—the fate that had compelled him to bury himself there in the heart of the plains—the failure, complete and tragic, of his thirty-five years. He looked down at the half-obliterated plate on the verandah post and smiled bitterly. “Dr. Richard Kinross, M.D., F.R.C.S.“—what irony lay in those magic letters! How he had dreamed in his student days—philanthropic youthful dreams of a life devoted to the suffering of mankind—and now—the drunken doctor of Wai-waka—scorned by the few white inhabitants and adored by the Maoris, whose ills he healed with a magic hand, still cool and steady—still the hand of a surgeon.

He sat down on the unswept verandah and sighed. His had been the usual story—he had loved a girl, worked slavishly to win her—obtained his F.R.C.S. at Edinburgh, and rushed back to New Zealand, eager and successful. She had married his brother, there seems very little of the tragic in this—yet to Dick his life was over. He congratulated them, hid his misery, and drank heavily. Now he was almost forgotten—buried away in the little township of Wai-waka—living, untidy, dishevelled and savage, among Maoris and drovers—hating all mankind, and especially all womenkind.

He was sitting there hopelessly on the dirty verandah, head down, half asleep, in the burning sun. Suddenly the sound of hoofs clattering along the street roused him from his reverie—a Maori lad sprang from his trembling, sweating horse, flung the reins over the gate-post, and called “Where is the white doctor?” Kinross slouched down the overgrown path. “Hallo,” he said, “what do you want, sonnie?” He had grown to love the Maoris, and his eyes softened at the sight of the panting brown lad, covered with dust, evidently worn out from a hard ride in the scorching sun. “The doctor,” gasped the boy; “Boss very ill. The missus say ‘Nepi—ride like the devil—fetch the white doctor from Wai-waka!'” He sank down on the pavement. “Come quick—the boss he die,” he panted.

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Kinross lifted the dirty little figure gently, carried him into the untidy room and placed him in his own shabby arm-chair. “Nepi, my son,” he said, “drink this, and tell me what is the matter with the boss.” He bent down and managed to gather from the somewhat incoherent and picturesque description of the young Maori that his master was in the last stages of delirium tremens. “Him scream, curse like the devil—hit missus plenty hard,” said the boy. Kinross packed a few things hastily in his bag, meanwhile calling orders to his servant in the kitchen to saddle two horses. “Come Nepi, I'm afraid you'll have to go with me. I haven't way idea of the way. How far is it?”

Watching The Trains Go By. A train emerging from a tunnel on the “R.S.R.” Model Railway, Kimberley Road, Epsom, Auckland. This interesting miniature railway was described in our September issue.

Watching The Trains Go By.
A train emerging from a tunnel on the “R.S.R.” Model Railway, Kimberley Road, Epsom, Auckland. This interesting miniature railway was described in our September issue.

“‘Bout thirty miles,” answered the boy, jumping up and tossing the matted hair from his-dark eyes. “Me ready.”

“Good lad,” said Kinross, “we will have to ride like two devils to get there before dark.”

The sheep station lay at the bottom of a wide valley on the coast. Great trees hid it from view, and to Kinross there seemed something almost sinister about their screening shadows. Perhaps it was the moonlight, perhaps the thought of the raving man lying there, perhaps merely a fancy; but it seemed to him that a tragedy lay there behind those trees. Down the valley he rode with the Maori boy, over the turf wet with dew, towards the station. They were greeted by a veritable uproar from the dogs who leapt round them as they rode along the uneven track and into the spacious yard. Darkness prevented Kinross from forming any clear idea of the place, but his first impression was of an old rambling farmhouse, numerous sheds and outhouses, trees, trees everywhere, and the sighing of the wind.

A man in shirt sleeves helped him to dismount, and called a boy to take his horse to the stables. He was a tall, lean fellow, brown, curiously ugly. with a pair of the bluest eyes in the world—evidently a shepherd. “Thank God you've come, doctor,” he said, leading Kinross into the kitchen, where several men sat at a long table playing cards or smoking in silence. Everyone rose awkwardly as Kinross entered—perfect silence fell upon the company. It seemed that the arrival of a stranger was an absolutely outstanding event for these shepherds, living away in the hills, far from the civilised world.

“Tell the missus the doctor is here,” ordered the man who had met Kinross in the yard, with a significant glance towards a tremendous giant who sprawled in a corner. He shuffled out reluctantly, and the men began to mutter together, casting curious glances at the doctor, who stood impatiently waiting, utterly weary. He noticed an atmosphere of gloom about the whole place, even in the cheery kitchen, where a huge fire blazed—it seemed that the shadow of death lay there. After quite a quarter of an hour Kinross began to be annoyed. “Why the devil do you send for a doctor, make him ride like hell, merely to watch you play cards?” he said, angrily. “Where is the boss?” The men regarded him curiously.

“Much better let him die, the drunkard!” growled one.

“Johnson!” Everyone turned quickly towards the door. “How dare you speak like that about your master!”

Often afterwards Dick Kinross would think of her as she seemed to him then, standing in the doorway, imperious, icy and terribly tired, cowing a roomful of rough shepherds with her cool eyes and husky voice. “Where is your husband?” he asked curtly. Even now he could hardly bear the sight of a woman—much less of a beautiful one. She did not answer, but stepped back into the dimly lighted passage. Kinross followed, closing the door carefully. Even in page 53 the half-light he was struck by the immensity of the place—numerous passages, closed doors, signs of wealth everywhere. His mysterious guide, without troubling to glance round, walked in front of him in silence, opened a door, and said coldly, “Here is my husband!” Dick, accustomed to misery, heard the anguish and despair behind those words. Suddenly he felt an immense pity for this woman—a pity which was to increase during that dreadful night, which was to be his salvation.

The Holiday Season. Railway girls ready for a trip to Tongariro National Park.

The Holiday Season.
Railway girls ready for a trip to Tongariro National Park.

A dim light cast fitful flickers on the walls of the room. It seemed to Dick to be full of shadows and nameless whispering shades. There, on the bed, lay the figure of something that had once been a man—now a pitiful and ghastly wreck. Dick started back, shielding his eyes from a sight in a manner ill-befitting a doctor. He seemed to see himself lying there, raving and cursing all men. The woman stood silently in the shadows, watching. Dick did what he could for his patient, and pulling up a chair sat down by the bed, to watch the life ebb slowly away from a fellow creature. Often the man shrieked wildly, and tried to leap from the bed. She, the silent lady, came over and covered him again, smoothing the tumbled sheets always coldly, without a flicker of compassion for the suffering man who lay there.

As the night crept on, she brought a chair and food for the doctor. Dick watched her silently as she bent over her husband, while he cursed her, and felt again a sudden wave of great pity. There was, after all, someone else in the world who had suffered far more than he had—this cold and beautiful woman, who had watched her husband drinking himself to death—who had endured years of hell alone with a man, whom Kinross heard afterwards, had been notorious for his brutality. During that night, as they sat by the bedside, listening to the rain on the leaves, and the ravings of the dying man, Dick learned something of her life, something of its tragedy, for words were unnecessary.

Suffering forms a bond of intimacy more quickly than joy. She had met David Armstrong in England, after two weeks had married him, and come to live upon his sheep-station in New Zealand, full of hope and eager to begin a new life. Fragile, exquisite, and wealthy was the wife whom Armstrong brought back, and jealously guarded from the world—he seemed to take a delight in very slowly and very surely breaking her heart.

Just at dawn, as the storm died down outside, and the world became quiet, David Armstrong died. Dick rose very wearily, but in his soul was a great happiness. “You must go to bed at once,” he said to the girl, and her tired grey eyes smiled for an instant into his. “Thank you—for everything,” she said and held out her hand to him. Dr. Richard Kinross, F.R.C.S., grasped it, and in doing so set his foot once more upon the ladder which leads to success and happiness.

He rode away up the valley with Nepi, the Maori lad. At the crest of the hill he took off his hat. “Good-bye, my grey-eyed lady,” he said, for Romance does not die even in the dark souls of Life's “failures.”

A few months afterwards they were married, Dick and his lady of the cool grey eyes. The shadows lay far behind them, and ahead stretched a path bright with sunshine.

* * *

This evening saw I o'er the town
A mist, lovely and frail
As a cloud of incense.
And stars, in pity pale,
Looked dimly down.
Sagacious eyes
Of Paradise,
Calm as benediction.

Mountain Sports. Resting on top of Mt. Ruapehu, North Island.

Mountain Sports.
Resting on top of Mt. Ruapehu, North Island.

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How to enjoy your Swim

Summer is coming, long bright days and fun for everyone. We are all looking forward to our first dip in the briny, and our first sunbath. Don't stay in too long, otherwise you will lose all the benefit and all the fun of your swim—about ten minutes is quite sufficient, unless you happen to be one of those “favoured few” who are more at home in the salt sea waves than anywhere else.

I have often seen girls (and even men) lying for hours in the boiling sun in a brave endeavour to acquire that fascinating tan, symbol of outdoors and health. Many of them endure the agony of blisters—a scarlet burning skin which peels off and leaves them whiter and more “cityish” than ever, and spoils the fun of a holiday. If you want to be attractively sunburnt do it gradually, and rub a little oil (cold cream, or coconut oil if you can bear the smell) into your skin before exposing it to the rather too ardent kiss of the summer sun. (Men don't despise this vanity.) If you do this you will find that your skin becomes quite naturally a warm golden brown—not in patches.

It is a mistake to stay on the beach when the heat is almost unbearable. Few people really enjoy it, but lots pretend to. Before you go away for your holiday get one of those jolly bright sunshades—you can stick it in the sand and be under its cool shade even when it is scorching. They look so gay and festive, too, and give the sea-side such a joyous and “carefree” air. Don't forget to buy a sun-hat for each of the kiddies. You can send them off for a long day on the sands without worrying about sunstroke and freckles.

Some of us are lured by the spell of the moonlight and are tempted to try a midnight dip. The magic of the calm silver sea and the very word “moonlight” seems to cast its spell over the enterprising. We are surprised to find that the water is wonderfully warm, but after a very few minutes we are glad to rush out along the dark beach. There is something very weird and uncanny about the softly lapping waves—we long to see them laughing again in the sunshine. Now for a good “rub down,” a cup of steaming coffee, and a long sleep under the stars—feeling that after all life has its moments, though they may be few and far between. Hurrah for the holidays!

“As for me, I love the sea, the dear old sea, don't you?”

Your Tennis Frocks

Just a few words about your tennis “rig” for the summer. Materials are very cheap this season, and we can all have dozens of frocks. Make them as plain and as comfortable as ever you can. Remember that they can only be worn once, and think of the misery of ironing countless pleats! White always looks nicest on the courts —fresh, cool, and youthful — and you can wear any gay and vivid jumper or cardigan with it “No sleeves” is the request of all tennis players—a good service demands absolute freedom of arm movement. Make your skirts split or with a few side pleats, which are easy to iron and which give the necessary fullness for a true “Lenglen” leap.

Don't attempt any frills or “effects”—nothing is more out of place and in worse taste. Remember that simplicity is the keynote of style for your tennis frock.

As for shoes and stockings—white, of course. You will find that heels on your tennis shoes will make that extra set possible, and that tennis “socks” save your feet wonderfully. Again I should advise you to have plain white—no coloured bands. A shield for your eyes will improve your game and will also keep back those annoying wisps of hair (even when it is shingled).

Of course it seems hardly necessary to say this—jewellery is quite out of the question on the courts. Yet I have seen, and not infrequently, pearls, vivid beads, and even ear-rings adorning the tennis girl. There are times for these, but this is certainly not one of them!

I think many of us can condescend to follow the example of men in our sports clothes—let them be simple and useful, designed for comfort and service, and at the same time attractive and smart by their very simplicity.

The tennis season is in full swing—so now is the time to consider your wardrobe!.

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French Railway Improvements

Early in July the French State railways ran a train from Paris to Cherbourg, a distance of 230 miles, in the remarkable time of three hours and 23 minutes, including a five-minute stop at Caen (writes the Paris correspondent of the London “Times”). The average speed of this train for the whole distance was 69.6 miles an hour, excluding the five minutes spent at Caen. I understand that this run furnished useful data on which a considerable acceleration of the express passenger services will eventually be based.

The primary object of the run was to test the condition of the permanent way with a view to running the heavy boat-trains at higher speeds. The test train consisted of two or three coaches only, making a load of about 100 tons. It was hauled by a standard compound Pacific locomotive (4—6—2), weighing, with tender, 120 tons. The train carried instruments which measured the oscillation of the coaches at high speeds. From all this a complete chart of the run was obtained which showed the places where the permanent way would have to be strengthened or altered to allow higher speeds. The instruments also yielded data for the design of the new rolling stock which will be used in the high-speed trains.

The State railways hope to inaugurate their accelerated services in about two years. Special rolling stock and special locomotives are being designed. The new coaches will be all-steel, with special provision for stability. The locomotives will be of the “Mountain” type (4—8—2), which is already in use on the Nord and P.L.M. systems. They will be designed to haul a full load at an average speed of 60 miles an hour on the difficult Paris-Cherbourg route, with a maximum speed (limited by law) of 75 miles an hour. These trains will make the journey in four and a half hours instead of the present five hours.

The State railways are also experimenting with high-pressure locomotives such as those which are at present being developed in Great Britain. They have now under test a comparatively small locomotive of 800 h.p., with a boiler pressure of 900lb. to the square inch. This machine is being tested in comparison with larger locomotives of similar horse-power.

Canadian Oil-Electric Locomotive.

A successful run was recently made from Montreal to Toronto by the Canadian National Railways’ new oil-electric locomotive. This new type of locomotive, which generates electrical energy front fuel oil, reached a speed of 80 miles an hour, drawing a passenger train.