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Octavius Hadfield

Letter written by Octavius Hadfield January 20, 1843

[Unaddressed letter].

I have lately met with a very severe affliction in the loss of my friend and fellow labourer Mr. Mason of Wanganui. Oh, I have already written several letters upon the melancholy subject, yet the loss of one so reliable at this time to the church here cannot but be a matter of regret to all interested in our labours here. I therefore promised to give some account of it. As Mr. Mason and myself on Jan. 5 were riding on the coast on my return from Wanganui, on coming to the very dangerous river Turakina we page 179 attempted in rain to cross it in the shallow water but the quicksand would not allow us; we then proceeded to the mouth of the river and after some debate upon what was the best plan to pursue we rode into the river to endeavour to swim our horses across. Mr. Mason, to avoid getting very wet sat awkwardly upon his saddle, and though I cautioned him of it he persisted in it. Our horses had not been swimming many yards when he I think touched the bridle, the horse threw back his head and he fell into the water. Upon his horse returning mine followed it and as soon as I reached the shallow water I dismounted and seeing Mr. Mason sinking, threw off only my coat and waistcoat and swam in to him. Two natives at this time approached but being lads, and nervous, rendered me no assistance. Not more than a minute had elapsed from the time Mr. Mason fell into the water to the time when I reached him, but he was then sinking. I endeavoured first to raise his head above water, then by taking hold of his arm to drag him towards the shore, but as tide and wind were driving us further towards the deep water I was too much encumbered by my clothes to swim long; my efforts were unavailing and with regret I left him there several feet under water.

I reached the shore with great difficulty, being in a very exhausted state having swallowed a large quantity of salt water. The two natives now came to assist me and having taken off my clothes and supplied me with their blankets and kindled a fire, after a few hours, my horse being caught, I was sufficiently recovered to return to Wanganui and complete the melancholy day by detailing to Mrs. Mason the distressing fact of her husband's death. Thus while my friend is taken away I am preserved: the Lord's ways are mysterious. We were riding quietly along talking about the state of the church at home and in N.Z., and within five minutes one was taken to his rest and the other left. When however I saw the distress of the poor dear people at Wanganui on the loss of their pastor, and the anxiety which my dear people evinced on the report of my death, which they heard, I cannot but acquiesce in the divine appointment. Mason and I were the only two missionaries known to all the natives of this part of the country. Mason had acquired a fair knowledge of the language and was a diligent, active and faithful minister in my opinion. Mrs. Mason tells me he had a very great regard for me and I am sure I had the same for him, poor fellow. I shall follow him soon.