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Sam Steele, sixteen years old, is the son of a sea captain. His father is reported killed in a shipwreck, and Sam is quickly cheated of his inheritance. Now an orphan, Sam meets his maternal uncle, Naboth Perkins, another sea captain and ship-owner; together, the two set sail in the Pacific trade. From San Francisco, Sam and his uncle embark on Naboth’s ship the Flipper, carrying provisions north to the miners of the Alaska gold rush.\n\nA storm casts them onto a remote island, occupied by stranded and desperate miners who have struck a rich goldfield. The traders work out a co-operative deal with the miners, supplying needed transport and labor for a share in the gold. The crew of the Flipper have to cope with thieves and the hazards of nature before they can return with ample rewards for their trouble.\n\nAt home again, Sam and Naboth discover that Sam’s father Captain Steele has survived shipwreck (with the loss of a leg). Re-united with his father, Sam regains his lost patrimony.
183 pages, with a reading time of ~3.0 hours (45,906 words), and first published in 1906. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2021.
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It was Mrs. Ranck’s voice, and sounded more bitter and stringent than usual.
I can easily recall the little room in which I sat, poring over my next day’s lessons. It was in one end of the attic of our modest cottage, and the only room “done off” upstairs. The sloping side walls, that followed the lines of the roof, were bare except for the numerous pictures of yachts and other sailing craft with which I had plastered them from time to time. There was a bed at one side and a small deal table at the other, and over the little window was a shelf whereon I kept my meager collection of books.
“Sam! Are you coming, or not?”
With a sigh I laid down my book, opened the door, and descended the steep uncarpeted stairs to the lower room. This was Mrs. Ranck’s living–room, where she cooked our meals, laid the table, and sat in her high–backed wooden rocker to darn and mend. It was a big, square room, which took up most of the space in the lower part of the house, leaving only a place for a small store–room at one end and the Captain’s room at the other. At one side was the low, broad porch, with a door and two windows opening onto it, and at the other side, which was properly the back of the cottage, a small wing had been built which was occupied by the housekeeper as her sleeping chamber.
As I entered the living–room in response to Mrs. Ranck’s summons I was surprised to find a stranger there, seated stiffly upon the edge of one of the straight chairs and holding his hat in his lap, where he grasped it tightly with two big, red fists, as if afraid that it would get away. He wore an old flannel shirt, open at the neck, and a weather–beaten pea–jacket, and aside from these trade–marks of his profession it was easy enough to determine from his air and manner that he was a sea–faring man.
There was nothing remarkable about that, for every one in our little sea–coast village of Batteraft got a living from old ocean, in one way or another; but what startled me was to find Mrs. Ranck confronting the sailor with a white face and a look of mingled terror and anxiety in her small gray eyes.
“What is it, Aunt?” I asked, a sudden fear striking to my heart as I looked from one to the other in my perplexity.
The woman did not reply, at first, but continued to stare wildly at the bowed head of the sailor—bowed because he was embarrassed and ill at ease. But when he chanced to raise a rather appealing pair of eyes to her face she nodded, and said briefly:
“Yes, marm,” answered the man; but he shifted uneasily in his seat, and seemed disinclined to proceed further.
All this began to make me very nervous. Perhaps the man was a messenger—a bearer of news. And if so his tale must have an evil complexion, to judge by his manner and Mrs. Ranck’s stern face. I felt like shrinking back, like running away from some calamity that was about to overtake me. But I did not run. Boy though I was, and very inexperienced in the ways of life, with its troubles and tribulations, I knew that I must stay and hear all; and I braced myself for the ordeal.
“Tell me, please,” I said, and my voice was so husky and low that I could scarce hear it myself. “Tell me; is—is it about—my father?”
The man nodded.
“It’s about the Cap’n,” he said, looking stolidly into Mrs. Ranck’s cold features, as if striving to find in them some assistance. “I was one as sailed with him las’ May aboard the ‘Saracen.’”
“Then why are you here?” I cried, desperately, although even as I spoke there flashed across my mind a first realization of the horror the answer was bound to convey.
“’Cause the ‘Saracen’ foundered off Lucayas,” said the sailor, with blunt deliberation, “an’ went to the bottom, ’th all hands—all but me, that is. I caught a spar an’ floated three days an’ four nights, makin’ at last Andros Isle, where a fisherman pulled me ashore more dead’n alive. That’s nigh three months agone, sir. I’ve had fever sence—brain fever, they called it—so I couldn’t bring the news afore.”
I felt my body swaying slightly, and wondered if it would fall. Then I caught at a ray of hope.
“But my father, Captain Steele? Perhaps he, also, floated ashore!” I gasped.
The sailor shook his head, regretfully.
“None but me was saved alive, sir,” he answered, in a solemn voice. “The tide cast up a many o’ the ‘Saracen’ corpses, while I lay in the fever; an’ the fisher folks give ’em a decent burial. But they saved the trinkets as was found on the dead men, an’ among ’em was Cap’n Steele’s watch an’ ring. I kep’ ’em to bring to you. Here they be,” he continued, simply, as he rose from his chair to place a small chamois bag reverently upon the table.
Mrs. Ranck pounced upon it and with trembling fingers untied the string