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One quiet night in the Gulf of Siam, the new captain of the British sailing vessel Falcor walks the deck of his ship, pondering his worthiness as commander. While leaning against the railing, the captain notices a man in the water clinging to the ship's ladder. After the man, Leggatt, declares that he has been swimming for over four hours, the captain invites him onboard. On deck, Leggatt confesses to the captain that he used to be the first mate of the nearby Sephora but had to flee the ship after he killed a seaman during a terrible storm. Leggatt explains that the seaman became hysterical with fear and tried to prevent him from setting the foresail, believing incorrectly that the ship would go down if he did. Panicking, Leggatt choked the man to death and was later condemned both by the Sephora 's crew and its captain, Archbold. Sympathetic to Leggatt's plight, the captain gives him dry clothes and hides him in his cabin. There, Leggatt reveals that Archbold, a pious Welshman, was adamant about arresting him, even though Leggatt saved the ship by setting the foresail. After noting that he and the Falcor 's captain graduated from the same naval school, Leggatt admits that he jumped the Sephora on impulse and knows that Archbold will pursue him. Despite the comings and goings of his suspicious cook, Smithers, and other crew members, the captain continues to hide Leggatt the next morning. As feared, Archbold soon boards, looking for Leggatt. By pretending to be half-deaf, the captain deflects Archbold's inquiries and sends him back to his ship without exposing Leggatt's presence. Later, when the wind finally starts to blow, the captain gives orders to sail toward home. After narrowly avoiding discovery by Smithers, Leggatt convinces the captain that his best hope is to swim to an island and restart his life under a new name. That night, the captain instructs his helmsman to steer the ship close to shore, claiming the wind is better there. The captain then sneaks Leggatt to the deck, and while the crew, concerned about the fast approaching reef, frantically tends to the ship, Leggatt slips overboard and swims unnoticed toward shore. Just as the ship is about to crash into the reef, the captain takes over the helm and steers the vessel to safety. Having impressed his crew with his toughness and skill, the captain realizes that he is, in fact, a worthy leader.
In the Western town of Yellow Sky, Marshal Jack Potter prepares to travel to San Antonio on undisclosed business, and leaves instructions with saloon keeper Laura Lee to keep an eye on prisoner Frank Gudger, who is allowed to eat his meals at the saloon. Jack also confides in the no-nonsense Laura Lee his concern that old-time gunslinger Scratchy Wilson will become drunk and make trouble. Scratchy then appears at the bar and complains about the bullet that Jack put in his leg during his last drunken rampage. After cautioning the irascible Scratchy, Jack boards the San Antonio-bound train. Later, while various people in Yellow Sky speculate about Jack's business in San Antonio, Jack heads back to Yellow Sky with his bride. As their train barrels along, Jack and his young, naïve bride nervously exchange small talk and try to reassure each other. Back in Yellow Sky, a drunken Scratchy happily cleans his guns, then dresses in his best shirt. At the same time, Laura Lee, businessman Jasper Morgan and Frank discuss Jack's extended absence, unaware that Scratchy, who is supposed to be cleaning Jasper's septic tank, is preparing for battle. Jack and his bride, meanwhile, conclude their $1.25 honeymoon dinner in the dining car and return to their seats. When his bride asks if anything is troubling him, Jack admits that he did not send a telegram to Yellow Sky, informing the townspeople of his marriage. Jack reveals that he is worried about how the town, which has always known him as a bachelor, will react to the news and confesses that he is quite bashful. To comfort him, his bride admits that she, too, is bashful. Laura Lee, meanwhile, has been confronted in the saloon by a drummer selling silk stockings. As Laura Lee tries to dismiss the persistent peddler, a young man bursts in, announcing that an armed, inebriated Scratchy is headed their way. Laura Lee calmly explains to the petrified drummer that because Scratchy is the last of his kind, the town puts up with him and merely hides when he goes on a rampage. Although stumbling with drink, Scratchy is still able to shoot with accuracy and, while firing at everything in sight, rants about Jack. From his jail cell, Frank tries to tell Scratchy that Jack has not returned from San Antonio, but Scratchy refuses to believe him. Jack and his bride, meanwhile, sneak away from the Yellow Sky train depot and, while hurrying through the empty streets, bump into Scratchy. The gunslinger immediately challenges Jack and is shocked when Jack reveals that he is unarmed and married. Complaining that "it's all over now," Scratchy throws down his guns in disgust and walks away. The townspeople then flood the streets and greet Jack and his bride with love.