Chapter 6

Written by: Donna McTavish


Dearest great great grand-daughter,

Time passes so quickly and there is much to tell you.

In May I was delivered of three beautiful girls. It was a long and difficult birth and I am recovering slowly. Sarah Elizabeth is a thriving noisy infant and is our cherished first daughter. She has a wide brow and thick black hair like her mother but her eyes are her father’s, deep brown and almond shaped. The Good Lord called her poor sisters Jane Charlotte and Hannah Isabella to Him after only 12 hours. The loss of these precious fragile angels broke my heart and rendered me almost incapable of reason but I am stronger now and my beloved Sarah is my delight. My husband remains unaccountably weak from the illness he suffered last December and this double loss has crushed him. He spends tedious hours in his study, often there are other gentlemen with him, and I hear their low voices through the closed door late into the night. When I ask Hanley what they have discussed he turns from me and does not answer but I have some idea of what it is he chooses not to speak of, and it frightens me. He means to join the colonial forces.

It has to do with what our government calls the Native Land Act. I will not bore you with details but this single cruel law has had a disastrous effect on the Maori people and on the peace in this country. It has taken from Maori that which they prize most dearly and it has done so in a most shameful manner. And so the Maori fight us. We have put our trust in Governor Grey to end the conflict after his success in the Northern War but since that victory it has gone badly all over the North Island.

It is of no surprise to me that the Maori will fight for their land. Why would they not do so? It is their life's blood. But I must confess to being perfectly astounded when, by chance, I overheard Hanley say that he would fight with the British forces to bring an end to the conflict once and for all. I pray constantly that this will not come to pass. He is fit for doctoring not fighting and I would not have him leave his daughter too early, nor his wife.

But neither will I stand by and do nothing. There is a meeting this coming week that I am committed to attending … with or without my husband’s permission. The topic is how long are women to remain a wholly unrepresented body of the people? It is a question that has been agitated in England recently, and women in New Zealand cannot remain ignorant. I will not.

Dear One. I can write these things to you that I cannot share with another living soul. I will put my faith in God and pray that justice will prevail. If my husband must fight his war, I will fight mine.


What a sad, yet beautiful chapter, Donna. I love how you have brought in women's rights through this story. And i particularly love your last paragraph... very powerful. :)
Great chapter Donna. You bring to the forefront the real issues that women and native people faced during that particular period in history. Loved the resolve of Mrs. Hanley to fight for her rights and that of others at the end of the chapter.
Heaps of drama in this story: dead children and colonial warfare. They are ripe for expansion.
This story is opening up to explore the early settlement of New Zealand. As a writer of historical fiction this story is unfolding in an evocative way and is also teaching me something as we go. That is great storytelling.