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|Book II||Jules Verne|
The Professor Perplexed
|Page 5 of 6||
The Jew hesitated.
"Come now, what is the use of your hesitating? Your gold will have no value when you go back to the world."
"What do you mean?" asked Hakkabut, startled.
"You will find out some day," answered Ben Zoof, significantly.
Hakkabut drew out a small piece of gold from his pocket, took it close under the lamp, rolled it over in his hand, and pressed it to his lips. "Shall you weigh me the coffee with my steelyard?" he asked, in a quavering voice that confirmed the professor's suspicions.
"There is nothing else to weigh it with; you know that well enough, old Shechem," said Ben Zoof. The steelyard was then produced; a tray was suspended to the hook, and upon this coffee was thrown until the needle registered the weight of one pound. Of course, it took seven pounds of coffee to do this.
"There you are! There's your coffee, man!" Ben Zoof said.
"Are you sure?" inquired Hakkabut, peering down close to the dial. "Are you quite sure that the needle touches the point?"
"Yes; look and see."
"Give it a little push, please."
"Well, because of what?" cried the orderly, impatiently.
"Because I think, perhaps--I am not quite sure--perhaps the steelyard is not quite correct."
The words were not uttered before the professor, fierce as a tiger, had rushed at the Jew, had seized him by the throat, and was shaking him till he was black in the face.
"Help! help!" screamed Hakkabut. "I shall be strangled."
"Rascal! consummate rascal! thief! villain!" the professor reiterated, and continued to shake the Jew furiously.
Ben Zoof looked on and laughed, making no attempt to interfere; he had no sympathy with either of the two.
The sound of the scuffling, however, drew the attention of Servadac, who, followed by his companions, hastened to the scene. The combatants were soon parted. "What is the meaning of all this?" demanded the captain.
As soon as the professor had recovered his breath, exhausted by his exertions, he said, "The old reprobate, the rascal has cheated us! His steelyard is wrong! He is a thief!"
Captain Servadac looked sternly at Hakkabut.
"How is this, Hakkabut? Is this a fact?"
"No, no--yes--no, your Excellency, only--"
"He is a cheat, a thief!" roared the excited astronomer. "His weights deceive!"
"Stop, stop!" interposed Servadac; "let us hear. Tell me, Hakkabut--"
"The steelyard lies! It cheats! it lies!" roared the irrepressible Rosette.
"Tell me, Hakkabut, I say," repeated Servadac.
The Jew only kept on stammering, "Yes--no--I don't know."
But heedless of any interruption, the professor continued, "False weights! That confounded steelyard! It gave a false result! The mass was wrong! The observations contradicted the calculations; they were wrong! She was out of place! Yes, out of place entirely."
"What!" cried Servadac and Procope in a breath, "out of place?"
"Yes, completely," said the professor.
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