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Book II Jules Verne

Market Prices In Gallia

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"Merciful heavens!" screamed Isaac.

The index registered only 133 grammes!

"You see, Hakkabut, I was right. I was perfectly justified in having your goods put to the test," said Servadac, quite seriously.

"But--but, your Excellency--" stammered out the bewildered man.

"You will, of course, make up the deficiency," the captain continued, not noticing the interruption.

"Oh, my lord, let me say--" began Isaac again.

"Come, come, old Caiaphas, do you hear? You are to make up the deficiency," exclaimed Ben Zoof.

"Ah, yes, yes; but--"

The unfortunate Israelite tried hard to speak, but his agitation prevented him. He understood well enough the cause of the phenomenon, but he was overpowered by the conviction that the "cursed Gentiles" wanted to cheat him. He deeply regretted that he had not a pair of common scales on board.

"Come, I say, old Jedediah, you are a long while making up what's short," said Ben Zoof, while the Jew was still stammering on.

As soon as he recovered his power of articulation, Isaac began to pour out a medley of lamentations and petitions for mercy. The captain was inexorable. "Very sorry, you know, Hakkabut. It is not my fault that the packet is short weight; but I cannot pay for a kilogramme except I have a kilogramme."

Hakkabut pleaded for some consideration.

"A bargain is a bargain," said Servadac. "You must complete your contract."

And, moaning and groaning, the miserable man was driven to make up the full weight as registered by his own steelyard. He had to repeat the process with the sugar and coffee: for every kilogramme he had to weigh seven. Ben Zoof and the Russians jeered him most unmercifully.

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"I say, old Mordecai, wouldn't you rather give your goods away, than sell them at this rate? I would."

"I say, old Pilate, a monopoly isn't always a good thing, is it?"

"I say, old Sepharvaim, what a flourishing trade you're driving!"

Meanwhile seventy kilogrammes of each of the articles required were weighed, and the Jew for each seventy had to take the price of ten.

All along Captain Servadac had been acting only in jest. Aware that old Isaac was an utter hypocrite, he had no compunction in turning a business transaction with him into an occasion for a bit of fun. But the joke at an end, he took care that the Jew was properly paid all his legitimate due.

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Off on a Comet
Jules Verne

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