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Book II Jules Verne

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"They are mine!" shrieked Hakkabut.

"I will have them!" shouted the professor.

"You shall kill me first!" bellowed the Jew.

"No, but I must!" persisted the professor again.

It was manifestly time for Servadac to interfere. "My dear professor," he said, smiling, "allow me to settle this little matter for you."

"Ah! your Excellency," moaned the agitated Jew, "protect me! I am but a poor man--"

"None of that, Hakkabut. Hold your tongue." And, turning to Rosette, the captain said, "If, sir, I understand right, you require some silver five-franc pieces for your operation?"

"Forty," said Rosette, surlily.

"Two hundred francs!" whined Hakkabut.

"Silence!" cried the captain.

"I must have more than that," the professor continued. "I want ten two-franc pieces, and twenty half-francs."

"Let me see," said Servadac, "how much is that in all? Two hundred and thirty francs, is it not?"

"I dare say it is," answered the professor.

"Count, may I ask you," continued Servadac, "to be security to the Jew for this loan to the professor?"

"Loan!" cried the Jew, "do you mean only a loan?"

"Silence!" again shouted the captain.

Count Timascheff, expressing his regret that his purse contained only paper money, begged to place it at Captain Servadac's disposal.

"No paper, no paper!" exclaimed Isaac. "Paper has no currency in Gallia."

"About as much as silver," coolly retorted the count.

"I am a poor man," began the Jew.

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"Now, Hakkabut, stop these miserable lamentations of yours, once for all. Hand us over two hundred and thirty francs in silver money, or we will proceed to help ourselves."

Isaac began to yell with all his might: "Thieves! thieves!"

In a moment Ben Zoof's hand was clasped tightly over his mouth. "Stop that howling, Belshazzar!"

"Let him alone, Ben Zoof. He will soon come to his senses," said Servadac, quietly.

When the old Jew had again recovered himself, the captain addressed him. "Now, tell us, what interest do you expect?"

Nothing could overcome the Jew's anxiety to make another good bargain. He began: "Money is scarce, very scarce, you know--"

"No more of this!" shouted Servadac. "What interest, I say, what interest do you ask?"

Faltering and undecided still, the Jew went on. "Very scarce, you know. Ten francs a day, I think, would not be unreasonable, considering--"

The count had no patience to allow him to finish what he was about to say. He flung down notes to the value of several rubles. With a greediness that could not be concealed, Hakkabut grasped them all. Paper, indeed, they were; but the cunning Israelite knew that they would in any case be security far beyond the value of his cash. He was making some eighteen hundred per cent. interest, and accordingly chuckled within himself at his unexpected stroke of business.

The professor pocketed his French coins with a satisfaction far more demonstrative. "Gentlemen," he said, "with these franc pieces I obtain the means of determining accurately both a meter and a kilogramme."

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Off on a Comet
Jules Verne

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