The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 5 (September 1, 1932)
From Infancy to Sinfancy.
Let's go into mysterics. What is mystery? Mystery, according to the dictionary, is “something beyond human comprehension,” such as selling plus-fours to sailors, selling grandfather clocks to Professor Einstein on the time-payment system, or tossing the pint at the Olimpic games.
Some say that the greatest mystery in life is life, and there is no doubt that often it seems “something beyond human comprehension”; others opine that mystery is merely mist-ery or blighter's cramp in the brain. Many maintain that life is as full of mystery as Edgar Allan Poesy, the day dreams of a night-watchman, or the private life of a ghost. To most of us, life is a mystery from early infancy to hurly-burly sinfancy. For instance, it is a mystery how man has succeeded in surviving the horrors of civilisation, why history repeats itself when it ought to know better, and how the ant always remembers to recollect that it is an ant and regulates its antics accordingly. It is a mystery where the hole in a sock goes to, how Scotch children know what money looks like, and why rabbits never get rabies. It is a mystery how tail-less dogs know when they're pleased, why elephants don't come from Tuscany, whether horse-stingers now bite motor cars, where a noise goes to, who trains the mystery trains, and who puts the mist into the mystery?
The Railway Bogey-Chamber.
Thereon hangs a tail which won't wag. Is there a plotchery in the Railway where mystery-trains are hatched? Is there a bogey chamber deep down deep where the sleepers sleep, and conspirators conspirit with the spirit of mystery? Let's misuse the mystic muse.
In the dim dark watches of the dank deep night,
Dour dark demons in a dim damp light,
Glower in the gloom as they rack their brains,
To make the mystery for the mystery trains.
Grey-garbed ghosts all masked with soot,
Glib in the gloom on noiseless foot,
Asking in accents deep and low,
“Where in the deuce shall the next train go?”
No one guesses—no one knows,
Where in the Dickens the next train goes;
Only three—The Terrible Three,
Who gurgle and gloat in ghostly glee,
And rattle their bones as they plan and plot,
To stop the train at the mystic spot.
They've sworn by the wheel and the sacred bell,
That never on earth will they ever tell.
They gag themselves ere they “hit the hay,”
For fear they'll give the show away
And “spill the beans” against the grain,
Re the stopping-place of the mystery train.
They lock themselves in a sound-proof cell,
So even the echoes cannot tell.
Dumb-waiters serve them when they eat,
And they wear goloshes on their feet;
For boots have tongues for those who seek,
And many a boot's been known to “squeak.”
The Terrible Three will never tell—
The solemn secret is guarded well;
And the only way to know, it's plain,
Is to take a trip on the mystery train.
The only way to solve a mystery is to dissolve it in the spirit of adventure. Mystery-trains are like horse racing, in that you never know what you are going to get until you have got it; but the difference is that every one who puts his Shirt on a mystery train is sure of getting even more than he expects, whereas at horse-racing he seldom even gets even; it is the difference between a “stunning” rumour and a running “stumer.”
Railing Under Sealed Orders.
A mystery train is not trained like other trains. It rails under sealed orders, and its assembly is a dissembly in the dead of night. Each member of its crew wears his Sunday clothes, so that no one knows his mate. They all wear rubber collars to soften their voices to a whisper. The driver's oil-can contains the spirit of mystery, and the furnace is fed with coal from Scotland Yard. The guard is disguised as a guide, and wears yodels on his hat. The shunters wear tamashunters on their heads and chamois-punters on their feet, so that they will not wake the sleepers. Even the engine's pants are of a subdued design, and its cow-catcher is cowed. The carriages all have their seats turned back to front so that they know not whether they are going or coming back, and their windows are blinded. The van is disguised as a “why” wagon, and the rails are wrapped in sausage skin to add to the mystery. Even the wheel-tapper plays “taps” with a rubber hammer, and is Scotch, thus ensuring dead silence. Every carriage is turned three times on the turn-table to make it giddy, and the ticket clerk is hypnotised into the belief that he is Christopher Columbus or the Wandering Juniper. When dissembled, the train is cleaned by secret-service men with vacuum cleaners, and is then ready to go where it doesn't know it's going. Even the stationmaster walks backwards, and the porters port their helms to starboard when they report. Is it any wonder that mystery trains provide more thrill than a banana skin on a spiral staircase.
One of these days some one will write a thriller called “The Mystery of the Mystery Train,” wherein the Terrible Three are kidnapped, and the secret screwed out of them with screw-jacks and ticket punches. Then everyone will know where the mystery train is going, except the train and the staff, and the mystery will be one on the mystery train.
Floundering in Mystery.
ideThe flat and flexile little flounder,
Is such a jolly little bounder;
Although it mucks about in mud,
The flounder's not a perfect dud.
It often grows quite full and fat,
Although its life is somewhat flat.
It's quite content to rest its head
Upon the ocean's oozy bed;
And this because it never strives,
To know how flounders end their lives.
It never would so happy be
So deep beneath the briny sea,
If someone told the flounder that
A flounder's future's fried in fat.
Its ignorance is bliss, and so
It lives quite happily below
The sea, and quietly chews the cud,
With one eye buried in the mud.
Fortunes and Misfortunes.
Unlike the flounder, some people try to flounder into the future, reducing the incomprehensible to the reprehensible. This is called fortune-telling, or fortune-hunting, when it is perpetrated with one eye on the future and the other on the present, and unfortunately is the only form of vocality banned by law.
But everyone has an aunt who, with no thought of reward except the satisfaction of making everyone unhappy, can see sea trips in tea cups, marriage and other misfortunes in cards, and one's future in one's face. No wonder some futures are too awful to contemplate. The worst feature of the burst future is that, according to auntie, nothing you do can undo the hoodoo auntie puts on you. With a twist of the wrist she purports to nip the veil from the face of the future. It is bad enough to have a past, but when you have a past pursuing you and a future waiting for you, you might as well admit everything and take what's coming to you.
Auntie first glances into your cup hopefully, and then into your mug hopelessly. All you can discern in your cup is the currant you missed from your bun and some fragments of broken pekoe which have been broken away from the main body. The general aspect resembles “The Morning after the Storm,” or “Seaweed hung out to Dry,” painted by Accident. But to auntie it is laughter and tears, sunshine and rain, destiny and debt, and the future all set out with the frankness of a butcher's interior decorations.
Mystery is as necessary to our comfort as any other sort of ignorance. If we knew to-day yesterday, and to-morrow to-day, the only way to enjoy peace would be to be born with white whiskers and end our days in Plunketry.
So let's always keep Mystery in train and entrain with Mystery on the Mystery Train.
Children and Mystery Trains.”
“Mystery Trains” have evidently “taken on” with school children (says the Wairarapa Daily News). Recently was noticed a string of youngsters, of about four to eight years old, all blindfolded, and led by another who was not blindfolded, in a zig-zag course. In answer to a question, the observer was informed: “We are a mystery train.” When arrived at the destination chosen by the leader, and given their sight again, the “train” expressed the greatest delight. They played that game over and over again with undiminished enjoyment.