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Book II Jules Verne

The Professor Perplexed

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"Only one pound! You would not refuse anybody else."

"That's just the very point, old Samuel; if you were anybody else, I should know very well what to do. I must refer the matter to his Excellency."

"Oh, his Excellency will do me justice."

"Perhaps you will find his justice rather too much for you." And with this consoling remark, the orderly went to seek his master.

Rosette meanwhile had been listening to the conversation, and secretly rejoicing that an opportunity for which he had been watching had arrived. "What's the matter, Master Isaac? Have you parted with all your coffee?" he asked, in a sympathizing voice, when Ben Zoof was gone.

"Ah! yes, indeed," groaned Hakkabut, "and now I require some for my own use. In my little black hole I cannot live without my coffee."

"Of course you cannot," agreed the professor.

"And don't you think the governor ought to let me have it?"

"No doubt."

"Oh, I must have coffee," said the Jew again.

"Certainly," the professor assented. "Coffee is nutritious; it warms the blood. How much do you want?"

"A pound. A pound will last me for a long time."

"And who will weigh it for you?" asked Rosette, scarcely able to conceal the eagerness that prompted the question.

"Why, they will weigh it with my steelyard, of course. There is no other balance here." And as the Jew spoke, the professor fancied he could detect the faintest of sighs.

"Good, Master Isaac; all the better for you! You will get your seven pounds instead of one!"

"Yes; well, seven, or thereabouts--thereabouts," stammered the Jew with considerable hesitation.

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Rosette scanned his countenance narrowly, and was about to probe him with further questions, when Ben Zoof returned. "And what does his Excellency say?" inquired Hakkabut.

"Why, Nehemiah, he says he shan't give you any."

"Merciful heavens!" began the Jew.

"He says he doesn't mind selling you a little."

"But, by the holy city, why does he make me pay for what anybody else could have for nothing?"

"As I told you before, you are not anybody else; so, come along. You can afford to buy what you want. We should like to see the color of your money."

"Merciful heavens!" the old man whined once more.

"Now, none of that! Yes or no? If you are going to buy, say so at once; if not, I shall shut up shop."

Hakkabut knew well enough that the orderly was not a man to be trifled with, and said, in a tremulous voice, "Yes, I will buy."

The professor, who had been looking on with much interest, betrayed manifest symptoms of satisfaction.

"How much do you want? What will you charge for it?" asked Isaac, mournfully, putting his hand into his pocket and chinking his money.

"Oh, we will deal gently with you. We will not make any profit. You shall have it for the same price that we paid for it. Ten francs a pound, you know."

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Off on a Comet
Jules Verne

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