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|Book II||Jules Verne|
Market Prices In Gallia
|Page 3 of 4||
"One moment, your Excellency," said Hakkabut, sidling up with a hypocritical smile; "I suppose I am to fix my own prices."
"You will, of course, charge ordinary prices--proper market prices; European prices, I mean."
"Merciful heavens!" shrieked the old man, "you rob me of my rights; you defraud me of my privilege. The monopoly of the market belongs to me. It is the custom; it is my right; it is my privilege to fix my own prices."
Servadac made him understand that he had no intention of swerving from his decision.
"Merciful heavens!" again howled the Jew, "it is sheer ruin. The time of monopoly is the time for profit; it is the time for speculation."
"The very thing, Hakkabut, that I am anxious to prevent. Just stop now, and think a minute. You seem to forget my rights; you are forgetting that, if I please, I can confiscate all your cargo for the common use. You ought to think yourself lucky in getting any price at all. Be contented with European prices; you will get no more. I am not going to waste my breath on you. I will come again to-morrow;" and, without allowing Hakkabut time to renew his lamentations, Servadac went away.
All the rest of the day the Jew was muttering bitter curses against the thieves of Gentiles in general, and the governor of Gallia in particular, who were robbing him of his just profits, by binding him down to a maximum price for his goods, just as if it were a time of revolution in the state. But he would be even with them yet; he would have it all out of them: he would make European prices pay, after all. He had a plan--he knew how; and he chuckled to himself, and grinned maliciously.
True to his word, the captain next morning arrived at the tartan. He was accompanied by Ben Zoof and two Russian sailors. "Good-morning, old Eleazar; we have come to do our little bit of friendly business with you, you know," was Ben Zoof's greeting.
"What do you want to-day?" asked the Jew.
"To-day we want coffee, and we want sugar, and we want tobacco. We must have ten kilogrammes of each. Take care they are all good; all first rate. I am commissariat officer, and I am responsible."
"I thought you were the governor's aide-de-camp," said Hakkabut.
"So I am, on state occasions; but to-day, I tell you. I am superintendent of the commissariat department. Now, look sharp!"
Hakkabut hereupon descended into the hold of the tartan, and soon returned, carrying ten packets of tobacco, each weighing one kilogramme, and securely fastened by strips of paper, labeled with the French government stamp.
"Ten kilogrammes of tobacco at twelve francs a kilogramme: a hundred and twenty francs," said the Jew.
Ben Zoof was on the point of laying down the money, when Servadac stopped him.
"Let us just see whether the weight is correct."
Hakkabut pointed out that the weight was duly registered on every packet, and that the packets had never been unfastened. The captain, however, had his own special object in view, and would not be diverted. The Jew fetched his steelyard, and a packet of the tobacco was suspended to it.
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