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December 18 , 2010

Helping Elisabeth


Charlotte goes off unhappily on the new Perth to Bunbury train, down south to Pearce’s farm. As her mother, Emily, tells her, she need stay only until Elisabeth’s baby is born. By then, Tobias will have reached Western Australia, bringing with him the insurance money her step-father, Simon, had arranged before his death. Then Charlotte won’t need to work.

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Emily confides, happy for a few moments in her time of deep grief, that on his arrival, Tobias intends to marry Charlotte.

But this is 1900. Charlotte, a suffragette, will marry no one unless she chooses.

Her plans go awry. Elisabeth needs Charlotte for much longer than a few weeks. Not wanting to marry Tobias Armstrong, Charlotte recklessly marries the first man who knocks at the door, a wilted bunch of sweet peas clasped in his clammy, trembling hand.

Determined to be in charge of her life, Charlotte marries against the wishes of her mother, her late stepfather Simon Armstrong, and her step-uncle Tobias Armstrong. She believes she can control her nervous young suitor.

Disaster, however, is hovering, waiting to strike.

Tobias purchases a vineyard and winery north of Perth and asks Charlotte and her new husband to work there. She is certain it will be best for all of them, mostly for sickly Elisabeth who must break out of a terrible marriage, and her adorable baby, Benjamin.

Life is a mix of joy in this beautiful place, and agony, as Charlotte works exhausting hours to care for Elisabeth and Benjamin, as well as doing all the work in the winery. It would be a bad time for Tobias to learn that Charlotte’s husband is an alcoholic.

Work, work, work, a fire, a storm… life is hard!

Hardest of all, is the knowledge that she should have married Tobias. She falls in love with him, but too late. Their neighbour, beautiful Flora Douglas, convinces Tobias that he should go into politics. They meet important men of the day, like the Premier, Sir John Forrest, and brilliant engineer, Charles O’Connor. Charles has his own problems, as the hugely expensive *Goldfields Water Scheme that he has planned and engineered, is black-listed in the press.

So, we have an assorted group of people, in a beautiful area where work is the master. They are about to branch out in all directions.

Where, how and why?

*This scheme is still operating today, its 400 miles of uphill piping overseen by drones.

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