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Captain January, the lighthouse keeper at Cape Tempest, Maine, takes care of a young orphaned girl he saved from a shipwreck, whom he has named Star. As Star sings and dances one day with her friend, Paul Roberts, and other unemployed sailors, Agatha Morgan, the new truant officer sent from Salem, learns that Star does not go to school and interrupts as one old sailor is teaching Star how to spit in the wind. Morgan berates Star and warns her that she will speak to Captain January about her. During Star's birthday party, "Cap" and his old crony, Captain Nazro, the government inspector, are showing off their tattoos as Morgan enters. She warns that it is within the power of the school authorities to have Star sent to an institution if she is not raised properly. When Cap brags that Star can read and write as well as an eight-year-old, due to his instruction, Morgan arranges for her to take a test at the school with her nephew Cyril, whom she would like to skip a grade. Cap and Nazro take Star to a dress shop to get her a new outfit for the examination, but the one Star likes costs $41.71, which Cap does not have. At Nazro's urging, they visit the Widow Croft, who, despite Cap's repugnance toward her, hopes for a marriage proposal from him, and she gladly lends the money. Star does well on the examination and is admitted to the third grade, while the stuffy Cyril gets nervous and is not allowed to advance a grade. When Nazro gets a telegram from Washington stating that automatic equipment will be installed in the lighthouse and that Cap will soon lose his job, he keeps the news from Cap and writes to Mr. and Mrs. John Mason in Boston, whose names he found in the scrapbook the captain recovered when he rescued Star. Cap learns about the change, however, from another sailor. When Cap cannot get another job, Nazro, at the urging of Star's teacher, Mary Marshall, who is afraid Morgan will get a court order to have Star taken away, sends the Masons a telegram. When Nazro, trying to cheer up the depressed Cap, tells him about the telegram, Cap explodes in anger and accuses Nazro of plotting to take Star away from him. As the new equipment is installed at the lighthouse, Cap plans to take Star to the Widow Croft's to live, but Nazro informs him that Morgan is on her way accompanied by a deputy sheriff with a court order to take Star. Cap and Star hide out with Paul on Nazro's boat, but at night, as Nazro brings them supplies, the deputy sheriff and Morgan follow. Cap hits the man, who still manages to take the crying child away. On shore, Mary tells the deputy that John Mason, who, as the American consul of Morocco, had been away the previous four years, has just arrived with proof that Star is his niece. Satisfied, the deputy turns Star over to Mason and his wife. Although Star is happy with her abundant new toys in the Masons' big house, she misses Cap. As a surprise, the Masons take her on a trip to their boat, where, to her delight, she finds that they have hired Cap as the captain, Nazro as first mate and Paul as the crew. Now that he has a job, Paul can marry his sweetheart Mary. Cap is a bit chagrined to learn that the Widow Croft is the ship's cook, but they all sing happily with the joyous Star at the end.