After a roof-fall killed his best friend, ten-year old Harold ran away from the dreary underground coal mines of the Midlands. Lads so young as he could be entered into the Royal Navy, and he found a home. It was better grub that he was used to, and the adaptable and clever Harold worked with a will. He rose to Able Seaman, and when a battle thinned the officer-trainee ranks, he came aft as the lowest of the low, a midshipman. But he would rise no further, his common birth saw to that, so he resigned and took to the merchant ships.
Fourteen years later, April 1814, we find Harold entering service with the merchantman "The Good Harvest", bound for Sydney with iron settlers goods and a parcel of transported convicts to top off the lading.
The voyage starts well, then typus ("gaol fever"), alcoholism, and a rogue storm fall on the "Good Harvest". The storm blows them across the Tasman Sea, wrecking them on an uninhabited island off the west coast of New Zealand.
As the survivors salvage the goods and dismantle the wreck, Harold goes for a long walk over the island. It's close on to 9000 English acres, and a grand place. The thought grows in his mind: perhaps he should claim this fine land!
Without noticing the changes in himself, Harold grows close to one of the convict women. The others convicts will slip away from the clutches of the English law Hannah, a very tough woman, will pin her hopes on Harold. They make a marriage, a very good marriage as it turns out.
They are clever and they can easily survive on the island. But they can't be squatters, Harold's claim must be worked if he's to keep it. They have many needs, but the most urgent is labor!
Harold and Hannah work a creative auction, using some of the Australian ticket of leave women to draw men...settlers need wives, and here's the best crop of them you'll see. The bride price is steep...but worth it.
And they need cash. The migration routes of whales go right down the length of the west coast of New Zealand, and Harold sees the spouts every day. There's your cash, but easier said than done.
And those settler goods. He has taken what he needs, and the rest of the goods are stored. If he ever has to settle with the merchant owners they will take his island--how can he meet the bill for the goods they've used? This is his weak point, and sure enough along comes a nasty spider, ready to seek him out with the law and take his island.
But Harold has never refused a challenge yet, and he takes on the unsavory Raleigh Epson and the New South Wales Marine Salvage Consortium. Working with Hardy Soames, an unforgettable ticket of leave solicitor, Harold hands the NSWMSC and Raleigh Epson a stinging defeat. The court scene is delightful!
He's past the first big challenge, and he owns the island free and clear. Now to make it pay!
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