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Peace and Goodness

Peace and Goodness

Автором Paul Maunder

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Peace and Goodness

Автором Paul Maunder

112 pages
1 hour
Jul 28, 2019


In New Zealand in 1861, land wars between the native people, the Maori and the English settlers began. In the province of Taranaki where the novella is set, the first bout of fighting has led to the settlers moving into town. The government mail ship, sailing to the town, runs aground and the passengers rescued by the local Maori. One of these passengers is a French nun of the Sisters of Mercy, recently arrived and now joining a nunnery in Auckland. Sister Antoinette has had a difficult past, suffering abuse from her father. The Maori are faced with a dilemma, the tradition of hospitality is in conflict with the fact that these people are the enemy. The other passengers, including a colonel from the Indian army are both scared and racist as the Maori ponder, but suddenly one of the Maori begins to prophecy the separation of the races and the resurgence of the Maori people.
After sensing a communion of souls with Antoinette, the prophet sends the passengers on their way, which involves a long trek to the town. On the way they encounter a German farmer and his English wife, who are pro Maori and who have not left their farm. Meanwhile the prophet's people have killed and beheaded some soldiers who were destroying crops and he sends messengers to the rest of the country. The traveling party come across the corpses and follow their passage into the town. Antoinette is hosted by a Polish count who leads a local band of fighters fighting in the native manner. He is a vulgarian with a Maori mistress and he ends up raping Antoinette.
Meanwhile the prophet is establishing his church and disturbing the settlers. His wish for peace and goodness keeps turning into violence, and one of his followers persuades some locals to kill a missionary and he eats the missionary's eyes. Hysteria sets in among the settlers and the Governor arrives and establishes a harder line.
Antoinette arrives in Auckland to find the nunnery in financial crisis. The murderer of the missionary has been caught and is in jail awaiting execution. Antoinette and the Mother Superior visit the jail to try and persuade him to make his peace with God. He refuses but asks for Antoinette to attend his hanging. Meanwhile, the prophet is on the run and caught by the army. He is publicly humiliated before being taken to Auckland to become the Governor's prisoner. But his spirit declines and he dies. Antoinette finds herself pregnant and she and the Mother Superior move the nunnery to a remote area of the country where they will take in orphans as well as serve the local Maori. Her baby will become the first orphan.

Jul 28, 2019

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Paul Maunder has worked in theatre and film as writer and director, winning many awards. He has published a book of short stories, a reflection on the Pike River disaster and a study of NZ Community Theatre. He has written articles for various publications, both local and international, and many of his stories have been read on radio. He is involved in his local community and in national political organisations. He is interested in exploring the way historical circumstance and individual lives intertwine.

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Peace and Goodness - Paul Maunder

Peace and Goodness

Paul Maunder

Te Puawai Publishing

PO Box 2 Blackball New Zealand

Copyright 2019 by Paul Maunder

Cover design by Phill Rooke

Distributed by Smashwords

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Peace and Goodness

The Maori Prophet & the French nun

‘The wills above be done! But I would fain die a dry death.’

The Tempest.


A sudden listing

A devilish gale battered the small ship that serviced the settlements of the new colony. Her cabin mate had vomited with the fervour of a novice and the smell of bile still poisoned the air. Nevertheless, huddled under her blanket, Sister Antoinette was given strength by the knowledge that she was sailing to Auckland to join the Bishop and Mother Aubert, for the Irish nuns in Wellington had been less than welcoming.

As dawn glazed the small window and the intensity of the wind lessened, there was a thump and a crack, followed by cursing and clumping of boots. Mrs Campbell, a muscular woman of indeterminate age, stared tensely at the ceiling before she glanced at Antoinette and frowned. The Maoris had burnt down the Campbell’s house and killed their livestock in the first round of this war, and she'd transferred her children to a brother in Wellington. She was now returning to her husband.

The boat rocked strangely, and there was a sudden listing followed by angry shouting. ‘Something happen,’ said Antoinette, pointing toward the deck. Mrs Campbell turned her head as the nun removed the bed covers and donned her habit.

Antoinette clambered up the sea-washed steps to the deck to see the shore quite close and the tide receding. The ship, sails flapping disconsolately, was fixed to a reef of black rocks. The Captain, a man with a whiskered mouth permanently twisted around a briar, paced the forecastle, before turning to the anxious passengers who had come up from below. ‘You need to fetch your cases, and then we’ll get you ashore so we can see what damage has occurred.’

But there was a muffled scream as two of the women, women of ill repute it was whispered, pointed out some natives carrying guns and tomahawks and clad in an odd assortment of jackets, trousers, flax skirts, top hats, bowlers and scarves, running down to the shore edge to stare at the stricken ship. Thanks to either an incompetent skipper or a cruel wind, the passengers were at their mercy.

The captain ordered rope ladders to be thrown over the side. A middle-aged man with thinning hair and curling moustache, reported to be from India, a colonel in the army there, stomped forward, his belly leading. 'What are you doing, you fool? You think we are going to climb down and offer ourselves to the cannibals?'

The Captain scratched at his beard. 'We can't attempt to refloat the boat with people on board. Or the cargo. It all has to go. The ship may break up when the tide turns.'

The man from India flattened his shoulders as if about to undertake some military drill, turned a quarter circle, cleared his throat and waved his arms. 'In that case, I will go and negotiate.'

'We'll come with you, Colonel.' There were two members of parliament on board, on their way home after a sitting of the house-a bearded farmer and a balding bank manager who sported a carefully waxed moustache.

Antoinette watched these heroes clumsily descend the ladder and march through the water to the shore. There, they shook their legs like old dogs, while the Maori observed them, as still as stones.

Suddenly, one of the natives darted forward, legs flicking, tongue out, until he was close to the negotiators, who he studied for a long tense moment, before placing a dart on the sand and prancing his way back. The Colonel, after picking up the object and studying it for clues, took this as the signal to begin speechifying, gesturing at intervals toward the stranded ship. He was followed by the MPs. Eventually, like music boxes, they wound down and stood silently. The tide continued to trickle out and Antoinette realised she had forgotten to say her morning prayers.

After a nervous wait, an elderly Maori in a top hat, orated, pacing up and down and waving his stick before stopping and doffing his hat grandly. A tall man sketchily translated for the benefit of the Pakeha, before the natives chanted an eerie, suspenseful chant, then the Maori turned and left the beach and the negotiators waded back to the ship, painfully climbing the ladder to stand panting in front of the assembly. 'They say we are their prisoners. We are to come ashore and they will care for us while they deliberate.'

'Need to be taught a lesson and the sooner the better,' muttered Mrs Campbell.

At that moment, the clouds dispersed and like an ancient god, the perfect triangle of mountain stared down dispassionately.

God’s purpose

They hurried to their cabins to retrieve their bags. Their bulkier luggage, including Antoinette’s harmonium, was stored below. She found Mrs Campbell slumped on her bunk, her face blotchy with worry and anger. 'Just one damned thing after another. We come to this desolate place and find it covered in forest rather than green farmland as they put out in their notices, so he has to cut down trees day and night. We get something established and then the natives run wild and burn our house down. Before that they were always traipsing across the farm as if they still owned the place. My husband is weary and so am I.'

'It is hard-God's purpose,’ Antoinette whispered, putting her arm around her shoulders. ‘He test us.’

Mrs Campbell stared at her, a distraught child, before returning to her adult face, which she wiped clean of tears, realising she had made this confession to a Catholic, a Papist, a French nun. 'How will you get down the ladder in that thing,' she said, surprisingly, brushing the habit away from her.

'Hands and feet,' said Antoinette, ' but for this occasion, I think–they bare.'

As the nun took off her shoes, then delved beneath her skirt to remove her stockings, Mrs Campbell studied her fixedly. 'What were you before you became a nun?'

'A girl.’

The other woman looked at her slyly. ‘Are you still a person, like, or does it all go?’

It was a question which Antoinette had pondered. ‘The routine all-but still the shape of hand-the emotion. It not different from your life.’ Mrs Campbell threatened tears once more and Antoinette hardened toward her. She had been fooled before by the theatricality of women.

Her name had been given to her in memory of Marie-Antoinette, the Queen who lost her head during the revolution, but before, had turned from a frivolous teenager into a deeply religious woman. Her own past must have been judged equally suspect. After toying with the abyss, which still threatened on occasion, she was now, unlike the Queen, learning not to lose her head.

She had served as a teacher for some years before hearing the Bishop of Oceania give an address on the work of the mission in the South Seas. He described the natives as noble and handsome savages who took an immediate interest in the word of God. He spoke of the influx of Protestant missionaries and how there was a danger of the true church becoming marginal. He talked of the danger yet satisfaction to be gained from serving God in this remote part of the world, of the wonder of baptism in the midst of virgin forest, and the glory of God's forgiveness, as a wild sea pounds the coastline.

On a cold winter night in the ancient cathedral of Lyon, this land of dusky natives and energetic settlers beckoned like a warm bed. She had had enough of France and this seemed a place in which one might be free of hypocrisy. She had a brief interview with the Bishop, telling him that she found the prospect of this new mission uplifting. He had looked at her thoughtfully. ‘No family ties?’

‘My mother died and I am estranged from my father.’


‘Yes, Your Grace.’

‘For what reason?’

‘That is best left between my father and his confessor.’

Their eyes met and he frowned his understanding, fiddling with his ring before resuming his normal manner. ‘The leader of the order there is a woman of much repute, a Mother Aubert. She has written a booklet of instruction I will give to you.’ He closed his eyes for a moment, as if fighting off a headache, before giving her a winning smile.

'Are you frightened of mud?' he had asked her.

She had been surprised. 'I have not had a lot of experience with mud, Your Grace,' she said, 'but it certainly does not frighten me.'

The passengers assembled on the sunny deck,

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