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THE CRUISE OF THE JASPER B. (chapter13)

2006-08-28 19:57

    CHAPTER XIII

    THE SOUL OF LOGAN BLACK

    Wilton Barnstable, the great detective, having witnessed Loge's outburst of wrath, had thought it signified a quarrel between thieves, as his words to Cleggett indicated. He had thought Cleggett a crook, and Loge's ally.

    Loge, on the other hand, had thought Cleggett a detective. He had addressed him as "Mr. Detective" that morning at Morris's. Loge believed the Jasper B. and the Annabel Lee to be allied against him.

    Whereas Cleggett, until he had recognized Wilton Barnstable in the boat, had thought it likely that the Annabel Lee and Morris's were allied against the Jasper B.

    Now that Cleggett knew the commander of the Annabel Lee to be Wilton Barnstable, his first impulse was to go to the Great Detective and invite his cooperation against Loge and the gang at Morris's. But almost instantly he reflected that he could not do this. For there was the box of Reginald Maltravers! Indeed, how did he know that it was not the box of Reginald Maltravers which had brought the Great Detective to that vicinity? This man——of world-wide fame, and reputed to possess an almost miraculous instinct in the unraveling of criminal mysteries——might be even now on the trail of Lady Agatha. If so, he was Cleggett's enemy. When it came to a choice between the championship of Lady Agatha and the defiance of Wilton Barnstable, and all that he represented, Cleggett did not hesitate for an instant.

    There were still some aspects of the situation in which he found himself that were as puzzling as ever to Cleggett. It is true that he now knew why Loge's men had been in the hold of the vessel; they had been there, no doubt, in an attempt to get possession of the oblong, unpainted box which had caused Loge's explosion of wrath; the box which was the real thing Loge had tried to buy from Cleggett when he dickered for the purchase of the Jasper B. But why this box should have been in the hold of the vessel, Cleggett could not understand. And how Loge's men had been able to get into and out of the hold without his knowledge still perplexed him.

    The motive behind the attempt to dynamite the vessel was clear. Having failed to purchase it, having failed to recover the box from it, Loge had sought to destroy it with all on board. But the strange character of this explosion still defied his powers of analysis. And then there was the tenth Earl of Claiborne's signet ring on the dead hand. Beyond the fact that it was a circumstance which connected his fortunes with those of Lady Agatha, he could make nothing at all of the signet ring. What, he asked himself again and again, was the connection of the criminal gang at Morris's with the proudest Earl in England?

    Loge himself was a puzzle to Cleggett. The man was a counterfeiter. That he knew. The "queer" twenty-dollar bill, which he had practically acknowledged, left no doubt of that. But he was more than a counterfeiter. Cleggett believed him to be also an anarchist. At least he was associated with anarchists.

    But counterfeiting and anarchy are not ordinarily found together. The anarchist is not a criminal in the more sordid sense. He is the enemy of society as at present organized. He considers society to be built on a thieving basis; he is not himself a thief. He scorns and hates society, wishes to see it overturned, and believes himself superior to it. He will commit the most savage atrocities for the cause and cheerfully die for his principles. The anarchist is not a crook. He is an idealist.

    Convinced that the unpainted oblong box would furnish a clew to the man's real personality, Cleggett, assisted by Lady Agatha and Dr. Farnsworth, opened it in the cabin.

    They first took out a number of plates, some broken, some intact, for the manufacture of counterfeit notes of various denominations. There was some of the fibrous paper used in this process. There was a quantity of the apparatus essential to engraving the plates. This stuff more than half filled the box. Then there were a number of books.

    "Elementary textbooks," said Dr. Farnsworth, glancing at them. On the flyleaf of one of them was written in a bold, firm hand: "Logan Black."

    "Loge——or Logan Black," said Dr. Farnsworth, "has been giving himself an education in the manufacture of high explosives."

    "But THESE aren't textbooks," said Lady Agatha, who had pulled out three long, narrow volumes from the pile. "They're in manuscript, and they look more like account books."

    The first of them, in Loge's handwriting, contained a series of notes, mostly unintelligible to Cleggett, dealing with experiments in two sorts of manufacture: first, the preparation of counterfeit money; second, the production of dynamite bombs.

    The second of the manuscript books was in cipher. Cleggett might have deciphered it without assistance, for he was skilled in these matters, but the labor was not necessary. The book was for Loge's own eye. A loose sheet of paper folded between the leaves gave the key.

    The book showed that Loge had been employed as an expert operator, in the pay of a certain radical organization, to pull off dynamiting jobs in various parts of the country. This was his account book with the organization. He had done his work and taken his pay as methodically as a plumber might. And he had been paid well. Cleggett guessed that Loge was not particularly interested in the work in its relationship to the revolutionary cause; it was the money to be made in this way, and not any particular sympathy with his employers, which attracted Loge, so Cleggett divined. Cleggett was astonished at the number of jobs which Loge had engineered. The book threw light on mysterious explosions which had occurred throughout a period of five years.

    But it was the third manuscript book which displayed the real Logan Black.

    This was also in cipher. Dr. Farnsworth and Cleggett had translated but a few lines of it when they perceived that it was a diary. With a vanity almost inconceivable to those who have not reflected upon the criminal nature, Loge had written here the tale of his own life, for his own reading. He had written it in loving detail. It was, in fact, the book in which he looked when he wished to admire himself.

    "It is odd," said Cleggett, "that so clever a man should write down his own story in this way."

    "This book," said Farnsworth, "would be a boon to a psychologist interested in criminology. You say it is odd. But with a certain type of criminal, it is almost usual. The human soul is full of strange impulses. One of the strangest is towards just this sort of record. Cunning, and the vanity which destroys cunning, often exist side by side. The criminal of a certain type almost worships himself; he is profoundly impressed with his own cleverness. He is a braggart; he swaggers; he defeats himself. A strange idiocy mingles with his cleverness."

    "Even people who are not criminals do just that sort of thing," said Lady Agatha. "Look at Samuel Pepys. He was one of the most timid of beings. And he valued his place in the world mightily. But he wrote down the story of his own disgrace in his diary——it had to come out of him! And then, timid and cautious as he was, he did not destroy the book! He let it get out of his possession."

    It was an evil, a monstrous personality which leered out of Logan Black's diary. Boastful of his own iniquity, swaggering in his wickedness, fatuous with self-love, he recounted his deeds with gusto and with particularity. They did not read a quarter of this terrible autobiography at the time, but they read enough to see the man in the process of building up a criminal organization of his own, with ramifications of the most surprising nature.

    "This man," said Dr. Farnsworth, with a shudder, "actually has the ambition to be the head of nothing less than a crime trust."

    "It seems to be something more than an ambition," said Cleggett. "It seems to be almost an accomplished fact."

    "Ugh!" said Lady Agatha, with a gesture of disgust, "he's like a great horrid spider spinning webs!"

    Interested in anarchy only on its practical side, as the paid dynamiter of the inner circle of radicals, Logan Black in his diary jeered at and mocked the cause he served. And more than that, the man seemed to take a perverted pleasure in attaching to himself young enthusiasts of the radical type, eager to follow him as the disinterested leader of a group of Reds, and then betraying them into the most sordid sort of crime. Cleggett found——and could imagine the grimace of malevolent satisfaction with which it had been written——this note:

    Heinrich is about ready to leave off talking his cant of universal brotherhood, and make a little easy money in the way I have shown him. It will be interesting to see what happens in side of Heinrich when he realizes he is not an idealist, but a criminal. Will he stick to me on the new lay? But those Germans are so sentimental ——he may commit suicide. Cleggett recalled the manhandling Heinrich had received. A little farther along he came upon this entry: The Italian-American boy is a find. Jones and Giuseppe! Puritan father, Italian mother——and he worships me! It will be a test for my personal magnetism, the handling of Gieseppe Jones will. He hates a thief worse than the devil hates holy water. If I could make him steal for me, I would know that I could do anything.

    "That's our young poet in the forecastle!" said Cleggett. "I wonder if Loge still held him." And then as the memory of the boy's ravings came to him he mused: "Yes——he held the boy! That is what the fellow meant in his delirium. Do you remember that he kept saying: 'I'm a revolutionist, not a crook!'? And yet he continued to obey Loge!"

    "Is it not strange," said Lady Agatha, "that the man should take such pride in working ruin?"

    All three were silent for a space. And then they looked at each other with a shiver. The sense of the strong and sinister personality of Logan Black struck on their spirits like a bleak wind.

    Cleggett was the first to recover himself.

    "God willing," he said solemnly, "I will bring that man to justice personally!"

    Just then two bells struck. It had taken them more time than they had realized to make even a partial examination of the contents of the box. Cleggett, when the bell sounded, looked at his watch to see what time it was——he was still a little unfamiliar with the nautical system.

    "He will go to any length to get this back into his possession," said Cleggett, as he dumped the heap of incriminating evidence back into the box and began to nail the boards on again.

    "Any length," echoed the Doctor.

    Pat upon the thought came the sound of taxicabs without. They went on deck and saw a sinister procession rolling by. It consisted of three machines, and there were three men in each cab. Loge and Pierre were in the foremost one. None of the company vouchsafed so much as a glance in the direction of the Jasper B. as the cabs whirled past towards Morris's. It was undoubtedly a reinforcement of gunmen.

    "Ah!" said Cleggett, pointing to them. "The real battle is about to begin! They are making ready for the attack!"

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