Letter written by Octavius Hadfield to sister Octavia January 5, 1842
Jan. 5, 1842.
To sister Octavia
It is a very long time I fear since I have addressed a letter to you, though I think I have received more from you than from anybody else. I feel thankful that I have health and strength today sufficient to enable me to write to you. The last I wrote were to Caroline and Henry, Nov. 1 and 16, and as the vessel by which they were sent went direct home I hope you will get them soon.
And now I suppose I must say something about myself, and how shall I begin; if I keep silence I shall lose your confidence and if I tell you the truth I shall perhaps give you pain; but if my letters written lately home reached you, you will have learnt that my health has not been very good within the last few months, but as I am always complaining you would not perhaps think much of it. I suffered for some weeks from pain in my left side, accompanied with very disordered bowels and great weakness, but though confined to my house some days, on others I was enabled to go through some of my duties. Feeling rather better on the 5 th of December I started in my boat to go across to Queen Charlotte Sound, but having gone down the coast about 25 miles I felt so ill that I was obliged to land, have my tent erected and go to bed. I then found myself in a violent fever which increased so rapidly that in the night about 11 o'clock I told my boat's crew, the wind being fair, to cover me well with blankets and take me back home, which we reached about the dawn of day. I was then put to bed where I lay till January 2nd.
Mr. Mason kindly came from Wanganui as soon as he heard of my illness and remained with me for a week till he thought me recovered. Mr. St. Hill, a particular friend of mine, likewise came from Port Nicholson and wished much to convey me to his house, but I thought it too far to be carried (about 40 miles). Col. Wakefield and others called and were very civil. I as usual would not have my medical man's advice, though now that I am better I perhaps shall consult somebody. One called in passing whom I had seen before and told me he thought there was an abcess forming in my left side and advised me to use calomel and blisters. I had previously taken calomel rather freely and I applied a blister which relieved me for the time, but the pain has since returned though not with violence. I think he made a great mistake about the formation of an abcess; I am not however certain as I am not well yet though I now sit up and yesterday walked a few yards from my house. I however hope, and my friends who judge by my improved looks, etc., think the same, that I am now getting well. Mr. Halswell, whose name as connected with N.Z. matters you may have seen in the papers, sent me a beautiful goat which supplied me with nice milk, and I have since lived almost entirely on arrowroot which is the only thing that has agreed with me. I have not you see been destitute of friends even here, but had them to minister to my wants and necessities. My native lad also, Coleman Davis (Te Kooro), has been very assiduous in his attentions day and night, so that I have in this respect much to be thankful for.page 173
You will probably by this time wish to know what effect this illness has had on my soul, and expect a more full account under this head than I have given concerning the body. Should such be the case I fear you will be disappointed. Never has sickness been less sanctified to the good of my soul. The powers of my mind and soul seemed proportionably weakened with those of my body and I have enjoyed but little of my God.
My dear people (the Maoris) have been much grieved at my sickness, expecting to lose me, and if there was anything which tied me to this world it was a wish to be with them (be not angry with me if I confess I had almost forgotten you), though I could feel that I had "a desire to depart and be with Christ which is far better." A report having gone abroad among some at a distance that I was dead, they were all in tears. Whether this love is to me personally, or to me as minister and ambassador of Christ, I know not; God grant that it may be the latter. I can however look upon many souls who I trust will be found precious among Jesus' jewels. I feel more and more my own incapacity bodily and more especially mentally and spiritually for the great work in which I am professidly engaged. I differ with most here concerning baptism and with regard to solemnising marriage between persons baptised and those who are not, etc.
I wish I could spend my few remaining days as a hermit, but how to proceed I know not. George says my father wants a statistical account of how I pass a day, etc., etc. The truth is I never pass two days alike and never two weeks together in the same place. I sometimes have a dinner and sometimes go without. In fact you cannot well imagine anything more irregular than the life and adventures of O.H.