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The Courage of Captain Plum   By: (1878-1927)

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[Illustration: "I am going to take you from the island!"]







On an afternoon in the early summer of 1856 Captain Nathaniel Plum, master and owner of the sloop Typhoon was engaged in nothing more important than the smoking of an enormous pipe. Clouds of strongly odored smoke, tinted with the lights of the setting sun, had risen above his head in unremitting volumes for the last half hour. There was infinite contentment in his face, notwithstanding the fact that he had been meditating on a subject that was not altogether pleasant. But Captain Plum was, in a way, a philosopher, though one would not have guessed this fact from his appearance. He was, in the first place, a young man, not more than eight or nine and twenty, and his strong, rather thin face, tanned by exposure to the sea, was just now lighted up by eyes that shone with an unbounded good humor which any instant might take the form of laughter.

At the present time Captain Plum's vision was confined to one direction, which carried his gaze out over Lake Michigan. Earlier in the day he had been able to discern the hazy outline of the Michigan wilderness twenty miles to the eastward. Straight ahead, shooting up rugged and sharp in the red light of the day's end, were two islands. Between these, three miles away, the sloop Typhoon was strongly silhouetted in the fading glow. Beyond the islands and the sloop there were no other objects for Captain Plum's eyes to rest upon. So far as he could see there was no other sail. At his back he was shut in by a dense growth of trees and creeping vines, and unless a small boat edged close in around the end of Beaver Island his place of concealment must remain undiscovered. At least this seemed an assured fact to Captain Plum.

In the security of his position he began to whistle softly as he beat the bowl of his pipe on his boot heel to empty it of ashes. Then he drew a long barreled revolver from under a coat that he had thrown aside and examined it carefully to see that the powder and ball were in solid and that none of the caps was missing. From the same place he brought forth a belt, buckled it round his waist, shoved the revolver into its holster, and dragging the coat to him, fished out a letter from an inside pocket. It was a dirty, much worn letter. Perhaps he had read it a score of times. He read it again now, and then, refilling his pipe, settled back against the rock that formed a rest for his shoulders and turned his eyes in the direction of the sloop.

The last rim of the sun had fallen below the Michigan wilderness and in the rapidly increasing gloom the sloop was becoming indistinguishable. Captain Plum looked at his watch. He must still wait a little longer before setting out upon the adventure that had brought him to this isolated spot. He rested his head against the rock, and thought. He had been thinking for hours. Back in the thicket he heard the prowling of some small animal. There came the sleepy chirp of a bird and the rustling of tired wings settling for the night. A strange stillness hovered about him, and with it there came over him a loneliness that was chilling, a loneliness that made him homesick. It was a new and unpleasant sensation to Captain Plum. He could not remember just when he had experienced it before; that is, if he dated the present from two weeks ago to night. It was then that the letter had been handed to him in Chicago, and it had been a weight upon his soul and a prick to his conscience ever since. Once or twice he had made up his mind to destroy it, but each time he had repented at the last moment. In a sudden revulsion at his weakness he pulled himself together, crumpled the dirty missive into a ball, and flung it out upon the white rim of beach... Continue reading book >>

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