The unusual setting--New Zealand in 1830--is just a painted backdrop for a melodrama which metamorphosizes into comic opera before the final curtain. Johnny Forbes -- Van Bart is an expedient pseudonym -- runs away from Tasmania a weak, thin boy of twelve; four years and a few exploits later he is a Maori chief, ""a tall, commanding young man....one who ordered men and was obeyed."" An inheritance of old gold coins from his Maori foster father enables him to bring his mother and his childhood companion, a pretty girl, to New Zealand; with his Maori followers and an odd assortment of Europeans he holds his jealous enemies at bay until their last-minute rescue by a British warship. On board, as Commander, is Johnny's long-lost father--and the ending is pure Pinafore. The text supplies its own epitaph: ""It would have been ridiculous if it had not been so serious.