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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 9 (January 1, 1930)

Our Women's Section

page 51

Our Women's Section

The Tragedy of “Manawapou”

There is no part of New Zealand that has more charm than the coast of Hawke's Bay. The swell of the mighty Pacific rolls in eternally with incessant majesty, bringing with it a breath of tropical isles beyond the waves.

As Dick Marsden rode along the cliffs which bordered his station, he could almost hear the oars of the Maori fleet which had sailed so bravely across the great seas to the land of the Long White Cloud. Our Dick was an imaginative soul—as most sheep farmers are. Their keen interest in the price of wool has not blinded their eyes to the sheer beauty of their land. They are large souled men in close communion with Nature.

That day Dick was acutely unhappy—his grey eyes were troubled as he glanced mechanically at the fences, noticing a weakness here and there. The young master of “Manawapou” was anxious. Things had not been right at the station for some time, and he felt it very keenly that summer evening as he rode towards the homestead—half hidden in a deep yalley among towering black pines and scrubby tufts of manuka. It seemed to him, as he gazed down from the crest of a hill that a shadow lay over the home of his fathers—gleaming whitely in the dusk. What was the awful doom swiftly approaching over the peaceful slopes? He could not account for his presentiment, but he almost feared to make that last joyous gallop towards the twinkling lights of the station. The night breeze seemed to whisper to him that tragedy lurked there behind the belt of pines. “Come on, Jock old boy, we're getting morbid,” said Dick to his horse. He leant low over the neck of the beast, and together they thundered over the soft turf—leaving behind them the sadly murmuring waves, and the melancholy cry of the sea birds.

The Marsden boys, Derek and Dick, had managed the great station of “Manawapou” since their father's death, two years before. There they had spent their childhood—they had ridden their ponies together over the great paddocks—they had helped with the “dipping,” and spent long hours watching the gangs of Maori shearers. From their father they had inherited an immense love for their land—the open air—the winds, and the vast moving flocks of sheep. Such things had become their life.

Then had come a change. Their father had died suddenly—Derek had gone Home to England, and left Dick in charge. Sometimes he had been lonely during that year—missed the evening talks with his father by the great log fire, and the rides with his brother along the beach. But as a rule he was happy, a rather reticent and shy young giant—fond of books and solitude. Derek used to say that “dear old Dick was as reliable as the rising and ebbing of the tides.” And he was.

One day, towards the end of summer, a day of blazing sunshine and vivid colour, Derek page 52 page 53 returned suddenly, bringing with him a wife. Dick had been reading by the fire, when he heard the sound of a car along the rough road. Springing up, he had rushed to the door, to see Derek, grinning like a schoolboy, and by his side a tall fair girl—exquisite from her golden head to the tips of her high-heeled shoes. The very walls had seemed to blush for their shabbiness, and as for Dick—who had hardly ever met a woman—he could only gaze rather foolishly. She had swept into the great hall—and from that moment the house had been hers, and all creatures in it—her slaves—from Derek's shy gigantic brother to the little Maori lad who chopped the wood. “Manawapou” had scarcely
A Well-Lighted Station Platform. (Photo, W. W. Stewart.) A view of Auckland Station by night.

A Well-Lighted Station Platform.
(Photo, W. W. Stewart.)
A view of Auckland Station by night.

ever heard the sound of a woman's voice, for its mistress had died soon after Dick's birth—and it had had that rather forlorn atmosphere, possessed by a house in which a feminine presence was unknown. A few weeks after Hilary Marsden's arrival the most unobserving eye would have noticed a change. The shepherds declared that the very poppies bloomed more brightly in the long grass, for her sake—and the day's work seemed lighter—for in the evenings they would hear a sweet husky voice singing in the shadows. She filled the grey walls with music, scattered flowers everywhere, chatted in the kitchen to the admiring Maori cook—even invaded the little bedrooms of the shepherds. Old Joss, returning late one evening, had staggered in amazement at the sight of bright new curtains at his window, and a gay quilt upon his bed. He had scratched his grey head and said: “My Heavens!“—which expressed the sentiments of the household very well.

For a year life had been full of happiness for Derek and Hilary—Dick had found a chum in his brother's English wife—who gave him books, chose his sox and ties with unerring taste, sang duets with him, and persuaded him to have a tennis court made for her.

Then Derek and his wife had begun to quarrel—not fiercely—but gradually, she cool and autocratic, he miserable and sullen. Months had passed until the strain had been almost unbearable. It seemed as if two exquisite instruments were crashing out ghastly discords—each breaking in the effort. A shadow had fallen—Hilary became very quite and cold, and Derek spent his days far away in the most remote corners of the station. All the sunshine had gone out of life for three human beings, while the same stars smiled down on the station, mocking the foolishness of mankind.

As Dick entered the great yard at the back of the house that night he was greeted by silence—utter and absolute. No sound of laughter in the kitchen—no lounging shepherds smoking in the doorway. Even his dogs seemed to have deserted him. Again an icy wave of page 54 page 55 fear passed through him, so that his bronzed forehead grew damp, and his hand shook. He sprang from the saddle, tried to whistle, failed miserably. Through the deserted kitchen he strode—not a soul to be seen. The fire glowed in the huge stove, and on the long table he noticed a litter of half-empty cups—as though everyone had suddenly left the table and rushed from the room. “Dear God!” cried Dick to himself. “What has happened?” “Derek!” “Hilary!” he shouted—and the empty hall echoed his despairing cry.

Out on the verandah he paused—sick with horror at the sight which met his straining eyes. He saw a silent group of people—shepherds, drovers, servants—bare-headed, in the moonlight. Pushing them aside, he came upon his brother, kneeling—and by his side a straight pale shape—inert, lying in that ghastly broken way which tells mutely of death. “Hilary!” he whispered, falling on his knees beside Derek, “Dearest Hilary!” He could say no more—the sight of her white face froze his mind into a black numbness. “She fell from her horse,” muttered Derek brokenly. “It is no use getting a doctor—too late!” The tears on his cheeks broke Dick's heart—he just knelt there, and watched the spark of life fading—unconscious of everything except that dear pale face framed in its golden hair. At the end she opened her eyes, bright and clear, and the ghost of her old gay smile hovered at her lips. “Dear old Derek,” she whispered, “don't be miserable—we didn't really hit it off very well did we? Not quite as we expected to.” She stroked her husband's big brown hand in silence, then turned to Dick—“Take care of him Dick, old boy, for my sake.” Then, just as the moon emerged in pale glory from a cloud, she died—lying there on the verandah, just as they had brought her in—and the two men knelt in silence at her side—alone with the strangeness of death. The stars smiled down, mockingly as ever—the little tragedies of men are nothing to them.

Derek and Dick Marsden are old men now—white-haired, erect, and grave. For her sake, and because of her memory they stayed at “Manawapou” and made it worthy of their fathers—and sometimes now, as they walk side by side along the beach, as they did when they were little jolly boys, they seem to hear her voice in the wind and her husky laugh in the waves of the Pacific which brought her to them. Men call them “unsociable old hermits”—but how can they know otherwise? Human hearts hold many secrets—and human lives many tragedies.

The Jancy Dress Dance

“What shall I go as?”

This season there are going to be ever so many informal fancy dress dances—they are great fun and often far more interesting than the usual dance. There is something really fascinating about adopting a strange, unusual costume, and being able to escape from yourself and be someone truly great for one evening—forgetting that you are an ordinary twentieth century business girl and being transformed into a stately Queen Elizabeth—a dusky and alluring Carmen—a dainty Dresden china shepherdess. Think of the excitement of wearing a mask—of dancing with a “black domino” who may or may not be, in real life—a bank clerk. For the moment he is a romantic shape evoked from the past—a storybook hero alive and mysterious for a night.

As a rule fancy dress dances are more or less impromptu affairs—there is very little time to make your costume, which usually has to be something you already have.

If you have a little imagination you will be able to do wonders with a discarded frock—you'll find heaps of ancient things which happen to be just what you want.

If you are adopting an historical costume it must be correct in every detail—nothing is more absurd than a mixture of the Elizabethan and Victorian—or of the typical French with the typical English. If you are not quite sure and haven't much time, it is easier and more attractive to be an imaginary figure—someone quaint and fantastic—a personality created for yourself—a vagabond gypsy—a picturesque fisher-girl bare-legged and kerchiefed—a wandering minstrel boy—a beggar maid. All these delightful characters can be created from a simple costume manufactured on the spur of the moment.

Before deciding the great question you must give a thought to your individual type—imagine a fair-haired, fluffy girl as an exotic Eastern water carrier, or a dusky, vivid creature as a Watteau shepherdess. There is a fancy-dress for everyone—and often it is far more becoming than the dress of everyday which fashion forces us to wear—the tall and the short, the fat and the thin alike.

One last word—try and act your part—forget your little self and become for a brief moment—a mediaEval page, a pirate girl, and Aladdin or a Peter Pan. Step out from the pages of history and legend and become someone else. As you know—a wave of the magic wand once turned pumpkins into carriages—and it will do so again!

page 56

Beach Frocks and Bathing Costumes

January, February and March are the jolly bathing months—blue sky, blue sea, and burning sands—a fitting enough background for the daughters of Eve. Let our beach frocks be gay, vivid splashes of colour—orange, crimson, and green. Nothing could be more effective than a group of colourful frocks blown by the sea breezes—haven't you often wished to be an artist at such moments?

Materials this year are even more varied and cheaper than ever. There is no earthly reason why everyone should not be quite “a thing of beauty”—when a frock can be made for the sum of five shillings! Let them be simply cut and plain—colour is the chief thing. This year we are all going to save our stockings and revert to the bare-legged bliss of childhood—won't it be nice “to feel the sand between our toes?” Tennis shoes, and one of those tremendous, fascinating Lido hats will complete the jolliest beach costume—comfortable, cool and charming. Farewell to the days of Victoria when our grandmothers timidly displayed a dainty ankle. Life may have had its joys then, but its handicaps were horrible! Everywhere the cry of the modern is for “Freedom!”

Imagine tip-toeing discreetly from a bathing machine in a modest and billowing affair of navy serge—to giggle and gasp for a few moments on the extreme edge of the briny and to rush back “under cover” at the mere sight of an inoffensive male!

I think the modern bathing costume is really beautiful and so comfortable for good swimming, for, of course now-a-days, we all swim and “life-save”—not to mention diving, speed boats and aquaplanes. The twentieth century girl stands proudly poised on the spring-board—slim, confident, commanding—a brave little figure ready to glide like a swallow into the depths.

Belts are being worn again this year—but beware of them if you are inclined to plumpness—for they are unkind.

An essential part of your swimming costume is a towel bathing wrap—they always make me think of the sweeping sheiks of Arabia—although their flowing robes are supposed to be in reality horribly unclean! A floating vivid wrap is the jolliest thing—and so warm in one of our “Southerlies.” Now take your Jap. sunshade and your rubber bathing shoes and give my love to the sea.


I strayed where stars and moonbeams
Their fantasies bestow,
I found among the shadows
A fairy studio.
And there I saw a picture
Etched against the night,
With a magic pencil
By an elfin light.

I roamed where paints and easels

Their ecstasies bestow.
I left among the shadows
A fairy studio.

Two Good Recipes

(1) Golden Cakes.—Easy to make and inexpensive.

6ozs. flour.

3ozs. sugar.

2ozs. butter.

1 teaspoon baking powder.

1 tablespoon marmalade.

1 egg.

1 tablespoon milk.

Beat butter and sugar to a cream; add egg and milk well beaten; then marmalade, and finally the flour and baking powder. Mix well and bake in paper covers in a quick oven for 10 minutes or a little longer.

The above mixture makes about 16 cakes. Take a piece off the top of each cake and fill with whipped cream.

(2) Tea Cakes.

2 breakfast cups flour.

1 tea cup sugar.

½lb. of butter or good dripping.

2 teaspoons baking powder.

Pinch of salt.

1 egg.

½ tea cup milk.

Rub butter into flour—add sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Beat egg with milk and add to dry ingredients—as for scones. Roll out and cut into shapes. Bake in oven as for scones.

Which?—“Fifty years of happy married life! How have you managed it?” “Well, for one thing, son, I've always admitted I was wrong.”

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