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Six Shells Left


Author of "Big Bertha's Grandma," etc.

The last party had been lowered from the stricken boat, and none remained but that fighting, sweating bunch around the gun. On came that skulking gray monster of the deep with a perilous trick up her sleeve.

WHEN he shipped into the navy that bleak December morning, "Soapy" McDowell wasn't half as anxious to serve his country as he was to leave it. You know the old gag that ninety- nine out of a hundred recruits pull—about enlisting two jumps ahead of the sheriff? Well, it was largely true in the case of Soapy—known professionally as Professor J. Pendleton McDowell, medium.

It wasn't Soapy who made up his mind regarding a naval career. It was Chief Boatswain's Mate Hank Miller. On recruiting duty, strolling down the dimly- lighted street on the way to his boardinghouse, Hank was suddenly attracted by sounds of a near riot in the crumbling old house that sat back behind the chinaberry trees. The structure was dark, and Hank paused at the sagging gate and listened.

"Fake!" someone shouted. "Grab ten!"

"Just a moment, please—"

"Police! Police!"

Lights flashed on suddenly, and pandemonium broke loose with a crash of overturned chairs and sudden, profane cries. A woman screamed and a solemn-toned bell rang out, then fell to the floor with a flattened, discordant note.

Hank Miller had been on recruiting duty two months and he chafed for action. He bounded up the walk. There was so much noise within that no one heard him leap upon the porch and throw open the door.

Against the farther wall a tall, pasty-faced man shrank. A dozen men and several women moved toward him menacingly; they laid hands on him and dragged him across the overturned table.

"Hold on a minute!" shouted Hank in a voice such as only boatswain's mates can develop. It boomed out over the sounds of conflict, carrying an authoritative note. The embattled ones turned and the sight of a man in uniform calmed their anger. An ominous quiet fell for a few seconds, then everyone tried to speak at once.

"Pipe down!" ordered the sailor. He indicated the tall man. "What's going on here?"

The tall man bowed. "We were in the midst of a seance," he explained. "We were communicating with a departed spirit—this lady's Uncle Abner, I believe it was. Suddenly someone broke the chain and accused me of faking. They threw over the table and turned on the light. They seized me."

"He was ringing the bell and operating the thingamajig that raps on the table," accused a shrill- voiced woman. "He was doin' it with his toes. Look!"

She indicated Professor McDowell's feet. Hank Miller looked down and saw there was no shoe on the right one. The sock ended about midway to the toes, and somehow, those toes appeared extremely capable and dexterous. They undoubtedly were longer than the average toe is wont to be.

"He's a fake, all right. We're going to turn him over to the police," a man asserted.

Hank saw the pleading in the tall man's eyes. "Wait a minute, folks," he answered. "Maybe he is a faker, but I don't guess any crime has been committed, and this is no time to be putting able-bodied men in jail for nothing. Let me take him in charge. Clear out of here and I'll make a sailor out of him tomorrow. He'll return your money cheerfully, won't you, doc?"

"Er—not doctor, my dear sir, not doctor," the tall man protested. "Professor, if you please, Professor J. Pendleton McDowell."

"You'll return the money—cheerfully?" insisted Hank.

"Well, not exactly cheerfully," admitted the professor. "But I shall return it. Kindly step forward, folks. Fifty cents each."

The crowd left. McDowell looked at Hank Miller.

"Well?" he asked.

"Well, it's up to you!" the sailor answered. "Somebody's going to report this to the police. There's the jail—and here's the navy. You're within draft age and the army'll get you in the long run. W...

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