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."