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|Book II||Jules Verne|
|Page 2 of 4||
"Let him in, then."
Ben Zoof hesitated.
"Let him in, I say," repeated the captain, peremptorily.
However reluctantly, Ben Zoof obeyed. The door was unfastened, and Isaac Hakkabut, enveloped in an old overcoat, shuffled into the gallery. In a few moments Servadac approached, and the Jew began to overwhelm him with the most obsequious epithets. Without vouchsafing any reply, the captain beckoned to the old man to follow him, and leading the way to the central hall, stopped, and turning so as to look him steadily in the face, said, "Now is your opportunity. Tell me what you want."
"Oh, my lord, my lord," whined Isaac, "you must have some news to tell me."
"News? What do you mean?"
"From my little tartan yonder, I saw the yawl go out from the rock here on a journey, and I saw it come back, and it brought a stranger; and I thought--I thought--I thought--"
"Well, you thought--what did you think?"
"Why, that perhaps the stranger had come from the northern shores of the Mediterranean, and that I might ask him--"
He paused again, and gave a glance at the captain.
"Ask him what? Speak out, man?"
"Ask him if he brings any tidings of Europe," Hakkabut blurted out at last.
Servadac shrugged his shoulders in contempt and turned away. Here was a man who had been resident three months in Gallia, a living witness of all the abnormal phenomena that had occurred, and yet refusing to believe that his hope of making good bargains with European traders was at an end. Surely nothing, thought the captain, will convince the old rascal now; and he moved off in disgust. The orderly, however, who had listened with much amusement, was by no means disinclined for the conversation to be continued. "Are you satisfied, old Ezekiel?" he asked.
"Isn't it so? Am I not right? Didn't a stranger arrive here last night?" inquired the Jew.
"Yes, quite true."
"From the Balearic Isles."
"The Balearic Isles?" echoed Isaac.
"Fine quarters for trade! Hardly twenty leagues from Spain! He must have brought news from Europe!"
"Well, old Manasseh, what if he has?"
"I should like to see him."
The Jew sidled close up to Ben Zoof, and laying his hand on his arm, said in a low and insinuating tone, "I am poor, you know; but I would give you a few reals if you would let me talk to this stranger."
But as if he thought he was making too liberal an offer, he added, "Only it must be at once."
"He is too tired; he is worn out; he is fast asleep," answered Ben Zoof.
"But I would pay you to wake him."
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