用户名: 密码: 验证码:    注册 | 忘记密码?
主页 |英文小说 |双语传记 |双语戏剧 |双语文史哲 |双语儿童文学 |双语科技 |经典英译 |其他双语名著
当前位置:重庆时时彩五星定胆 > 法国小说 > 基督山伯爵 > 第1章 第一部分
第29节 莫雷尔父子公司 【
   已开启划词功能

本文地址:http://www.yeidj.com.cn/book/story.php?id=424
文章摘要:莫雷尔父子公司 ,水泄不漏随方就圆生产流水,色衰爱弛光秃秃格栅灯。

凡是几年以前离开马赛而又熟知莫雷尔父子公司的人,要是在现在回来,就会发觉它已大大地变了样,以前从这家兴旺发达的商行里所散发出来的那种活跃,舒适和快乐的空气;以前在窗户里看到的那些愉快的面孔,以前在那条长廊里来去匆匆的忙碌的职员;以前堆满在天井里的一包包的货物,以及搬运工们的嬉笑喊叫,这一切现在都消失了,剩下的只是一种忧郁沉闷的气氛。在那冷落的长廊和空荡荡的办公厅里,以前总是挤满了无数的职员,现在却只剩下了两个人。一个是年约二十三四岁的青年,名叫艾曼纽·赫伯特,他爱上了莫雷尔先生的女儿,尽管他的朋友们都竭力劝他辞职离开这里,但他还是留了下来;另外一个是只有一只眼睛的年老的出纳,名叫独眼柯克莱斯[阿克莱斯是古代罗马的一个英雄,在一次战斗中失去了一只眼睛,这个浑名也是由此而来。]这个绰号是以前老是挤满在这个大蜂窝(现在几乎已空无一人)里的青年人们送给他的,这个绰号已完全代替了他的真名,以致谁要是用真名来喊他,他十有八九是不会答应的。

柯克莱斯仍然在莫雷尔先生手下工作,他的地位发生了非常奇特的变化。一方面他被提升为出纳员,而同时却又降为一个仆役。可是,他仍是那过去的柯克莱斯,善良,忠诚,不怕麻烦,但在数学问题上却绝不屈服,他在这一点上,会坚决地站起来和全世界抗争,甚至和莫雷尔先生抗争;他还善长于九九乘法表,把它背得滚瓜烂熟,不论设什么诡计圈套去考问他,总也难不倒他。在公司日趋窘困的日子,只有他一个人毫不动摇这倒并非出于某种情感,相反的是出于一种坚定的信念。据说一艘命中注定要在海洋里沉没的船,船上的老鼠会预先溜走的,临到那艘船起锚的时候,这些自私的乘客都逃得精光的,也正是象这样,莫雷尔父子公司所有这样的职员一个个的离开了办公厅和货仓。柯克莱斯只是眼看着他们离开,对于离开的原因连问也不问。我们已经说过,一切在他看来只是一个数学问题。二十年来,他看到所有付款总都是正确地如期付清,所以在他看来,如果说公司有一天竟会付不出款,似乎是不可能的,正如一个磨坊老板不能相信那一向日夜推动他的磨机的河水竟会有一天不流了一样。

到目前为止还不曾发生过什么事可以动摇柯克莱斯的信仰。上个月的款子是如期付清了的。柯克莱斯查出了一笔有损于莫雷尔十四个苏的错账,当天晚上,他把那十四个铜板交给了莫雷尔先生,后者苦笑了一下,把钱扔进了一只几乎空空如也的抽屉里,说:“谢谢,柯克莱斯,你是出纳人员中的明珠啊!”

柯克莱斯回去以后十分快乐,因为莫雷尔先生本身就是马赛忠厚者中的明珠,他这样夸奖他,比送给他一份五十艾居的礼还要使他高兴。但自从月底以来,莫雷尔先生曾度过了许多焦虑的日子。为了应付月底,他曾倾尽了他所有的财源。他深怕自己的窘况会在马赛传扬开去,所以到布揆耳的集市,把他妻子和女儿的珠宝卖了,还卖了他的一部分金银器皿。这样,公司的名誉才能依旧维持着。但他现在已经山穷水尽了。

借款吧,由于社会上所传的那些消息,已借不到了。要偿付波维里先生这个月十五日到期的十万法郎和下个月十五日到期的十万,莫雷尔先生除了等待法老号回来,实在没有别的希望了。他知道法老号已启航了,那是他从一艘和它同时起锚的帆船上听来的,而那艘船却早已到港了。那艘船象法老号一样,也是从加尔各答开来的,但它早在两星期前就到达了,而法老号却至今杳无音讯。

罗马汤姆生·弗伦奇银行那位高级职员在见过波维里先生的第二天去拜访莫雷尔先生的时候,这几天情况便是如此。

接待他的是艾曼纽。这个青年人,每当他看到来人是个新面孔就要吃惊,因为每一个新面孔就是一个闻风来询问公司老板的新债主为了使他的雇主避免受这次会见的痛苦,他就问来客有何贵干。这位陌生人说,他同艾曼纽没什么可说的,他的事需和莫雷尔先生亲自面谈。艾曼纽叹了一口气,就把柯克莱斯叫了来。柯克莱斯来了,以后,青年吩咐把来客带到莫雷尔先生的房间里去。柯克莱斯走在前面,来客跟在他的后面。在楼梯上,他们遇见了一位十六七岁的美丽的姑娘,她目光焦虑地望着眼前这位陌生人。

“莫雷尔先生在办公室里吗,尤莉小姐?”出纳员问。

“是的,我想在吧,至少,”年轻姑娘犹豫不决地说。“你可以去看看,柯克莱斯,要是我父亲在那儿,就给这位先生通报一声。”

“我是无需通报的,小姐,”英国人答道。“我的名字莫雷尔先生并不熟悉,这位可敬的先生只要通报说罗马汤姆生·弗伦奇银行的首席代表求见就行了,那家银行和你父亲是有来往的。”

青年姑娘的脸色苍白起来,她继续下楼,而陌生客和柯克莱斯则继续上楼去了。她走进了艾曼纽所在的那间办公室,而柯克莱斯则用他身上所带的一把钥匙打开了第二重楼梯拐角上的一扇门,引导那陌生客到了一间会客室里,又打开了第二道门,进去后即把门关上了,让汤姆生·弗伦奇银行的首席代表独自等候了一会儿,然后回身出来,请他进去。英国人走进房间发现莫雷尔正坐在一张桌子前面,翻阅着几本极大的账簿,里面都是他的债务。一看到来客,莫雷尔先生就合上了他的账簿,站起身来,指着一个座位请来客坐下。当他看到来客坐下以后,自己才坐回到他原来椅子上。十四年的光阴已改变了这位可敬的商人的容貌,他,在本书开头的时候是三十六岁,现在已五十岁了。他的头发已变得花白了,时光和忧愁已在他的额头上刻下了深深的皱纹,而他的目光,一度曾是那样的坚定和敏锐,现在却是踌躇而彷徨,象是他怕被迫把自己的注意力集中在一个念头或一个人身上似的。英国人用一种好奇而显然还带着关怀的神气望着他。“先生,”莫雷尔说,他的不安因这种审问似的目光而变得加剧了,“您想跟我谈谈吗?”

“是的,先生,您明白我是从哪儿来的吧?”

“汤姆生·弗伦奇银行,我的出纳员是这样告诉我的。”

“他说的不错。汤姆生·弗伦奇银行本月份得在法国付出三四十万法郎的款子,知道您严守信用,所以把凡是有您签字的期票都收买了过来,叫我负责来按期收款,以便动用。”莫雷尔深深地叹了一口气,用手抹了一下他那满挂着汗珠的前额。

“哦,那么,先生,”莫雷尔说,“您手上有我的期票了?”

“是的,而且数目相当大。”

“多大的数目?”莫雷尔用一种竭力镇定的声音问道。

“在这儿,”英国人从他的口袋里拿出了一叠纸,说道,“监狱长波维里先生开给我们银行的一张二十万法郎的转让证明,那本来是他的钱。您当然清楚您是欠他这笔款子的吧?”

“是的,他那笔钱是以四厘半的利息放在我的手里的,差不多有五年了。”

“您该在什么时候偿还呢?”

“一半在本月十五号,一半在下个月十五号。”

“不错,这儿还有三万二千五百法郎是最近付款的。这上面都有您的签字,都是持票人转让给我们银行的。”

“我认得的,”莫雷尔先生说着,他的脸涨得通红,象是想到他将在一生中第一次保不住他自己签字的尊严似的。“都在这儿了吗?”

“不,本月底还有这些期票,是巴斯卡商行和马赛威都商行转让给我们银行的,一共大约是五万五千法郎,这样,总数是二十八万七千五百法郎。”

在这些钱累计的时候,莫雷尔所感到的痛苦简直难以用言词来形容。“二十八万七千五百法郎!”他喃喃地重复了一遍。

“是的,先生,”英国人答道。“我不必向您隐瞒,”他沉默了一会儿,然后继续说道,“到目前为止,您的信实守约是众所周知的,可是据马赛最近的传闻来看,恐怕您无法偿还您的债务了。”

听到这段几乎近于残酷的话,莫雷尔的脸顿时变成了死灰色。“先生,”他说,“我从先父手里接过这家公司的经理权到现在已有二十四年多了,先父曾亲自经营了三十五年。凡是有莫雷尔父子公司签名的任何票据,还从来不曾失过信用。”

“那我知道,”英国人回答道,“但以一个诚实人答复一个诚实人应有的态度来说,请坦白地告诉我,这些期票您到底能不能按时付清?”

莫雷尔打了一个寒颤,望了一眼这个到刚才为止讲话尚未这样斩钉截铁的人。“问题既然提得这样直截了当,”他说,“答复也就应该直爽。是的,我可以付清的,假如,能如我希望的,我的船能安全到达的话。因为它一到,我因过去许多次意外事件而丧失的信用就又可以恢复了,但假如法老号损失了,这最后一个来源也就没有了。”那可怜的人的眼睛里盈满了泪水。

“嗯,”对方说,“假如这最后一个来源也靠不住了呢?”

“唉,”莫雷尔答道,“强迫我说这句话实在是太残酷了,但我是已经惯遭不幸的了,我必须把自己练成厚脸皮。那样的话,我恐怕不得不延期付款了。”

“难道您没有朋友可以帮助您吗?”

莫雷尔凄然地苦笑了一下。“在商界,先生,”他说,“是没有朋友,只有交易的。”

“这倒是真的,”英国人喃喃地说,“那么您只有一个希望了?”

“只有一个了。”

“最后的了?”

“那么要是这一个也耽误——”

“我就毁了,整个地毁了!”

“我到这儿来的时候,有一艘船正在进港。”

“我知道,先生,有一个在我日暮途穷的时候依旧跟随着我的年轻人,每天花一部分时间守在这间屋子的阁楼上,希望能最先向我来报告好消息。这艘船的进港,他已经通知过我了。”

“那不是您的船吗?”

“不是,那是一条波尔多的船,是吉隆丹号。它也是从印度来的,但却不是我的。”

“或许它曾和法老号通过话,给您带来了消息呢?”

“我可以坦白地告诉您一件事,先生,我怕得到我那条船的任何消息,简直就同我怕陷在疑雾中一样多。不确定倒还使人抱有希望。”于是,莫雷尔又用一种低沉的声音说,“这次的逾期不归是说不通的。法老号在二月五日就离开了加尔各答,它应该在一个月以前就到这儿的。”

“那是什么?”英国人问道,“这一片闹声是什么意思?”

“噢,噢!”莫雷尔喊道,脸色立刻苍白,“这是什么?”楼梯上传来一片响声,是人们匆忙的奔走声和半窒息的呜咽声。莫雷尔站起身来,向门口走去,但他的气力支持不住,他倒在了一张椅子里。两个人面对面地互相望着,莫雷尔四肢在不停地发抖,那陌生人则带着一种极其怜悯的神色凝视着他。闹声止了,莫雷尔似乎已预料到了是什么事,那件事引起了闹声,而那件事是一定会到来的。那陌生人觉得他好象听到楼梯上有脚步声,那是几个人的脚步声,而那脚步声在门口停下了,一把钥匙插进了第一道门的锁眼,可以听到门上的铰链声。

“只有两个人有那扇门的钥匙,”莫雷尔喃喃地说道,“——柯克莱斯和尤莉。”这时,第二道门开了,门口出现了那泪痕满面的年轻姑娘。莫雷尔用手撑着椅背,颤巍巍地站起来。他本来想说话,但却说不出来。“噢,父亲!”她绞着双手说,“原谅你的孩子给你带来了不好的消息。”

莫雷尔的脸色又一次变白了。尤莉扑入他的怀里。

“噢,噢,父亲!”她说,“您可要挺住啊!”

“这么说,法老号沉没了?”莫雷尔问她,声音嘶哑。那年轻姑娘没有说话,只是点了点头,依旧靠在她父亲的胸前。

“船员呢?”莫雷尔问。

“救起来了,”姑娘说道,“是刚才进港的那条船的船员救起来的。”

莫雷尔带着一种听天由命和崇高的感激的表情举手向天。“谢谢,我的上帝,”他说,“至少您只打击了我一个人!”

那英国人虽然平时极不易动感情,这时却也两眼湿润了。

“进来,进来吧!”莫雷尔说,“我料到你们都在门口。”

不等他的话说完,莫雷尔夫人就进来了,她哭得非常伤心。艾曼纽跟在她后面。在客厅里,还有七八个衣不蔽体的水手。一看到这些人,那英国人吃了一惊,向前跨出了一步,但随后他又抑制住了自己,退到了房间最不惹人注意和最远的一个角落里了。莫雷尔夫人在她丈夫的身旁坐了下来,握住他的一只手;尤莉依旧把她的头靠在他的肩上;艾曼纽站在屋子中央,象是担当着莫雷尔一家人和门口的水手们之间的联系人的角色。

“事情的经过是怎么样的?”莫雷尔问题。

“过来一点,佩尼隆,”那年轻人说道,“讲讲事情的经过吧。”

一个被热带的太阳晒成棕褐色的老水手向前走了几步,两手不住地卷着一顶残破的帽子。“您好,莫雷尔先生,”他说道,好象他是昨天晚上离开马赛,刚从埃克斯或土伦回来似的。

“您好,佩尼隆!”莫雷尔回答,他虽然微笑着,却禁不住满眶热泪,“船长在哪儿?”

“船长,莫雷尔先生,他生病留在帕乐马了,感谢上帝,他病得并不厉害,几天之后你就可以看到他康复回来的。”

“很好,现在你把事情讲讲吧,佩尼拢”佩尼隆把他嘴里嚼着的烟草从右面顶到了左面,用手遮住嘴,转过头去,吐了一大口烟汁,然后叉开一只脚,开始讲了起来。“你瞧,莫雷尔先生,”他说,“我们风平浪静的航行了一星期,然后在布兰克海岬和波加达海岬之间的一段海面上乘着一阵和缓的南——西南风航行,忽然茄马特船长走到了我面前,我得告诉你,我那时正在掌舵,他说,‘佩尼隆,你看那边升起的那些云是什么意思?’我那时自己也正在看那些云。‘我看它们升得太快了,不象是没有原因的,我看那不是好兆头,否则不会那样黑。’‘我也是这么看,’船长说,‘我先来防一手。

我们张的帆太多啦。喂!全体来松帆!拉落三角头帆!’真是千钧一发啊,命令刚下,狂风就赶上了我们,船开始倾斜起来。

‘嗨,’船长说,‘我们的帆还是扯得太多了,全体来落大帆!’五分钟以后,大帆落下来了,我们只得扯着尾帆和上桅帆航行。

‘喂,佩尼隆,’船长说,‘你干嘛摇头?’‘咦,’我说,‘我想它不见得就此肯罢休呢。’‘你说得不错,’他回答说,‘我们要遇到大风了’‘大风!不止大风,我们要遇到的是一场暴风,不然就算我看走眼了。’你可以看到那风就象蒙德里顿的灰沙一样的刮过来了,幸亏船长熟悉这种事,‘全体注意!顶帆收两隔!’船长喊道,‘帆脚索放松,绑紧,落上桅帆,扯起帆桁上的滑车!’”

“在那种纬度的地方这样做是不够的,”那英国人说道。“如果是我,我就把顶帆放四隔,把尾帆扯落。”

他这坚决,响亮和出人意外的声音使人人都吃了一惊。佩尼隆把手遮在眼睛上,仔细端祥了一下这个批评他船长的技术的人。“我们干得更好,先生,”老水手不无敬意地说道,“我们把船尾对准风头,重庆时时彩五星定胆:顺风奔走。十分钟以后,我们扯落顶帆,光着桅杆飞驶。”

“那艘船太旧了,经不起那样的风险。”英国人说道。

“哦,就是这把我们断送啦,在颠簸了十二个钟头以后,船出了一个漏洞,进水了,佩尼隆,’船长说,‘我看我们正在往下沉,把舵给我,到下舱去看看。’我把舵交给了他,就下去了,那儿已经有三尺深的水了。我喊道,‘全体来抽水!’可是太晚了,好象我们抽出得愈多,进来的也愈多。‘啊,’在抽了四个钟头水以后,我说,‘既然我们是在往下沉,就让我们沉下去算了,我们总得死一次的。’‘你就是这样做出的榜样吗,佩尼隆!’船长喊道,‘好极了,等一等。’他到他的船舱里去拿了一对手枪回来,‘谁第一个离开抽水泵,我就一枪把他的脑髓打出来!’他说道。”

“干得好!”英国人说。

“只要道理讲清了,大家自然勇气也就来了,”那水手继续说,“那个时候,风势减弱了,海也平静下去了,但水却不断地涨上来,虽不多,只是每小时两寸,但它还是不停地涨。每小时两寸似乎不算多,但十二小时就成两尺啦,而两尺加上我们以前有的三尺就变成了五尺。‘来吧,’船长说,‘我们已经尽了我们的力了,莫雷尔先生不能再怪我们什么了。上救生艇去吧,孩子们,越快越好!’”

“唉,”佩尼隆继续说道,“你知道,莫雷尔先生,一个水手是舍不得丢下他的船的,但却更舍不得他的命,所以我们也没等他再说第二遍就行动了,愈是那样,船就愈沉得快,象是在说:‘走吧,快逃命去吧!’我们马上把小船放到水里,八个人都跳到了里面。船长是最后一个下来的,说得更准确一点,他没有下来,他不肯离开大船,所以我就把他拦腰抱起,扔进了小船,然后我自己也跟着跳了下去。真是千钧一发哪!我刚跳离,甲板就嘣的一声象一艘主力舰上边众炮齐发似的炸裂了。十分钟以后,船就向前倾然后又横倒,连翻了几个身,于是一切就算完了,法老号不见了。至于我们,我们三天没吃没喝,于是我们决定抽签决定命运,看那一个来当其余的人的牺牲品,正在这时,我们看见了吉隆丹号,我们就发出求救的讯号,它看见了我们,向我们驶过来,把我们都救上了船。

“唉,莫雷尔先生,全部事实就是这样,我以一个水手的名誉发誓!是不是真的?你们其它人也说说吧。”一片“是的”附和声证明这个叙述已忠实详细地讲述了他们的不幸和受苦的情形。

“好了,好了,”莫雷尔先生说,“我知道你们谁都没有错,这只能怪命。这件事是上帝的意志,我还欠你们多少薪水?”

“噢,那个我们不该了吧,莫雷尔先生。”

“不,我们要谈。”

“好吧,那么,是三个月。”佩尼隆说。

“柯克莱斯!给这些诚实的人每人付两百法郎,”莫雷尔说道。“要是在别的时候,”他又说,“我本来会说,另外再给他们两百法算是奖金的,但时代不同罗,我现在仅有的一点钱也不是我自己的了。”

佩尼隆转身和他的同伴商量了几句话。

“至于那个,莫雷尔先生,”他说道,又转动着嘴里的那块烟草,“至于那个——”

“至于什么?”

“那钱。”

“怎么了?”

“我们都说,我们目前只要五十法郎就够了,其余的我们可以等到下次再算。”

“谢谢,我的朋友们,谢谢!”莫雷尔把手按在心口上说道。

“拿着吧,拿着吧!假如你们能找到另外一个老板,去为他服务吧,你们可以走了。”

这最后的几句话在水手们身上发生了一种奇异的效果。

佩尼隆差一点把他的烟草块吞了下去,幸亏他又吐了出来。

“什么!莫雷尔先生,”他用一种低沉的声音说,“你打发我们走吗?那么你生我们的气了,是吗?”

“不,不!”莫雷尔先生说道,“我没有生气,我也不是要打发你们走,只是我已经没有船了,所以我不再需要什么水手了。”

“没有船了,”佩尼隆答道,“嗯,可是,你会再造的呀,我们可以等着呀。”

“我已没有钱再造船了,佩尼隆,”船主带着一个悲哀微笑说道,“所以我无法接受你们的好意了。”

“没有钱了!那么你一定不要再付钱给我们了。我们可以象法老号一样,两手空空地走的。”

“够了,够了,我的朋友们!”莫雷尔喊道,他几乎要被压垮了。“去吧,我求求你们,等我将来情况好一些的时候我们再见吧。艾曼纽,陪他们下去,按我的吩咐去做吧。”

“至少,我们可以再见面的吧,莫雷尔先生?”佩尼龙隆问。

“是的,我的朋友们,至少,我希望如此。现在去吧。”他向柯克莱斯示意,柯克莱斯就先走了,水手们跟在他的后面,艾曼纽在最后。“现在,”船主对他的妻子和女儿说,“你们也去吧,我想和这位先生单独谈一会儿。”说着他向汤姆生·弗伦奇银行的首席代表瞥了一眼,后者在这一幕中,始终坐在那个角落里,除了我们上面提到过的那几句话以外,他没有过任何别的举动。两个女人对这个人望了一眼,她们已完全忘记了还有这个人在场,于是就退了出去尤莉在离开房间的时候,对陌生人投去了一个恳求的目光,后者报以她一个微笑,当时如果有一个无利害关系的旁观者在场,看到他那严肃的脸上竟会显出这样的微笑,一定会感到很惊奇的。这时房间里只剩下了两个男人。“唉,先生,”莫雷尔倒入一张椅子里,说道,“您都听见了,我再没有什么可告诉您的了。”

“我都清楚了,”英国人答道,“一场新的灾难又降临到了您的身上,而这只能增加我为您效劳的愿望。”

“噢,先生!”莫雷尔轻唤了一声。

“我看,”那陌生人又说道,“我是您最大的债权人,是不是?”

“您的期票,至少,是该最先付清的。”

“您希望延期付款吗?”

“延期不仅可以挽救我的名誉,也可以拯救我的生命。”

“那么您希望延期多久呢?”

莫雷尔想了一下。“两个月吧。”他说道。

“我愿意给您三个月的时间。”那陌生人回答道。

“但是,”莫雷尔问道,“汤姆生·弗伦奇银行能同意吗?”

“噢,一切由我负责好了,今天是六月五日对吧?”

“是的。”

“好,请重新开一下这些期票,改到九月五日,到九月五日,十一点钟,时钟的针指在十一点上时,我来收钱。”

“我等着您,”莫雷尔回答说,“我会付款给你的,不然的话,我就死。”这最后的几个字的音调说得很低,以致那陌生人根本没听到。期票重新开过后,旧的被撕毁了,那可怜的船主发现自己还有三个月的时间可以让他去想办法。英国人以他那个民族所特具的平静的态度接受了他的一番谢意,莫雷尔向他说了许多表示感激的话,亲自送他到楼梯口。那陌生人在楼梯上遇见了尤莉,她假装要下楼,但实际是却在等他。“噢,先生!”她合着双手说道。

“小姐,”那陌生人说道,“有一天,你会收到一封署名‘水手辛巴德’的信。不论那封信看来有多么奇怪,你一定要按照信上所吩咐你的话去做。”

“是的,先生。”尤莉回答。

“你答应这样去做吗?”

“我向您发誓,我一定照办!”

“很好。再会了,小姐!愿你永远象现在一样的纯洁高尚,我相信上天会回报你,赐艾曼纽做你的丈夫。”

尤莉轻轻地叫了一声,面孔红得象一朵玫瑰,伸手扶住了栏杆。那陌生人摆了摆手,继续下楼去了。他在天井里找到了佩尼隆,佩尼隆正两手各拿着一个内装一百法郎的纸包,似乎不能决定究竟是拿了好还是不拿好。

“跟我来,朋友,”英国人说道,“我想跟你谈一谈。”  
 

ANY ONE WHO had quitted Marseilles a few years previously, well acquainted with the interior of Morrel's warehouse, and had returned at this date, would have found a great change. Instead of that air of life, of comfort, and of happiness that permeates a flourishing and prosperous business establishment--instead of merry faces at the windows, busy clerks hurrying to and fro in the long corridors--instead of the court filled with bales of goods, re-echoing with the cries and the jokes of porters, one would have immediately perceived all aspect of sadness and gloom. Out of all the numerous clerks that used to fill the deserted corridor and the empty office, but two remained. One was a young man of three or four and twenty, who was in love with M. Morrel's daughter, and had remained with him in spite of the efforts of his friends to induce him to withdraw; the other was an old one-eyed cashier, called "Coclès," or "Cock-eye," a nickname given him by the young men who used to throng this vast now almost deserted bee-hive, and which had so completely replaced his real name that he would not, in all probability, have replied to any one who addressed him by it.

Coclès remained in M. Morrel's service, and a most singular change had taken place in his position; he had at the same time risen to the rank of cashier, and sunk to the rank of a servant. He was, however, the same Coclès, good, patient, devoted, but inflexible on the subject of arithmetic, the only point on which he would have stood firm against the world, even against M. Morrel; and strong in the multiplication-table, which he had at his fingers' ends, no matter what scheme or what trap was laid to catch him. In the midst of the disasters that befell the house, Coclès was the only one unmoved. But this did not arise from a want of affection; on the contrary, from a firm conviction. Like the rats that one by one forsake the doomed ship even before the vessel weighs anchor, so all the numerous clerks had by degrees deserted the office and the warehouse. Coclès had seen them go without thinking of inquiring the cause of their departure. Everything was as we have said, a question of arithmetic to Coclès, and during twenty years he had always seen all payments made with such exactitude, that it seemed as impossible to him that the house should stop payment, as it would to a miller that the river that had so long turned his mill should cease to flow.

Nothing had as yet occurred to shake Coclès' belief; the last month's payment had been made with the most scrupulous exactitude; Coclès had detected an overbalance of fourteen sous in his cash, and the same evening he had brought them to M. Morrel, who, with a melancholy smile, threw them into an almost empty drawer, saying:--

"Thanks, Coclès; you are the pearl of cashiers "

Coclès went away perfectly happy, for this eulogium of M. Morrel, himself the pearl of the honest men of Marseilles, flattered him more than a present of fifty crowns. But since the end of the month M. Morrel had passed many an anxious hour. In order to meet the payments then due; he had collected all his resources, and, fearing lest the report of his distress should get bruited abroad at Marseilles when he was known to be reduced to such an extremity, he went to the Beaucaire fair to sell his wife's and daughter's jewels and a portion of his plate. By this means the end of the month was passed, but his resources were now exhausted. Credit, owing to the reports afloat, was no longer to be had; and to meet the one hundred thousand francs due on the 10th of the present month, and the one hundred thousand francs due on the 15th of the next month to M. de Boville, M. Morrel had, in reality, no hope but the return of the Pharaon, of whose departure he had learnt from a vessel which had weighed anchor at the same time, and which had already arrived in harbor. But this vessel which, like the Pharaon, came from Calcutta, had been in for a fortnight, while no intelligence had been received of the Pharaon.

Such was the state of affairs when, the day after his interview with M. de Boville, the confidential clerk of the house of Thomson & French of Rome, presented himself at M. Morrel's. Emmanuel received him; this young man was alarmed by the appearance of every new face, for every new face might be that of a new creditor, come in anxiety to question the head of the house. The young man, wishing to spare his employer the pain of this interview, questioned the new-comer; but the stranger declared that he had nothing to say to M. Emmanuel, and that his business was with M. Morrel in person. Emmanuel sighed, and summoned Coclès. Coclès appeared, and the young man bade him conduct the stranger to M. Morrel's apartment. Coclès went first, and the stranger followed him. On the staircase they met a beautiful girl of sixteen or seventeen, who looked with anxiety at the stranger.

"M. Morrel is in his room, is he not, Mademoiselle Julie?" said the cashier.

"Yes; I think so, at least," said the young girl hesitatingly. "Go and see, Coclès, and if my father is there, announce this gentleman."

"It will be useless to announce me, mademoiselle," returned the Englishman. "M. Morrel does not know my name; this worthy gentleman has only to announce the confidential clerk of the house of Thomson & French of Rome, with whom your father does business."

The young girl turned pale and continued to descend, while the stranger and Coclès continued to mount the staircase. She entered the office where Emmanuel was, while Coclès, by the aid of a key he possessed, opened a door in the corner of a landing-place on the second staircase, conducted the stranger into an ante-chamber, opened a second door, which he closed behind him, and after having left the clerk of the house of Thomson & French alone, returned and signed to him that he could enter. The Englishman entered, and found Morrel seated at a table, turning over the formidable columns of his ledger, which contained the list of his liabilities. At the sight of the stranger, M. Morrel closed the ledger, arose, and offered a seat to the stranger; and when he had seen him seated, resumed his own chair. Fourteen years had changed the worthy merchant, who, in his thirty-sixth year at the opening of this history, was now in his fiftieth; his hair had turned white, time and sorrow had ploughed deep furrows on his brow, and his look, once so firm and penetrating, was now irresolute and wandering, as if he feared being forced to fix his attention on some particular thought or person. The Englishman looked at him with an air of curiosity, evidently mingled with interest. "Monsieur," said Morrel, whose uneasiness was increased by this examination, "you wish to speak to me?"

"Yes, monsieur; you are aware from whom I come?"

"The house of Thomson & French; at least, so my cashier tells me."

"He has told you rightly. The house of Thomson & French had 300,000 or 400,000 francs to pay this month in France; and, knowing your strict punctuality, have collected all the bills bearing your signature, and charged me as they became due to present them, and to employ the money otherwise." Morrel sighed deeply, and passed his hand over his forehead, which was covered with perspiration.

"So then, sir," said Morrel, "you hold bills of mine?"

"Yes, and for a considerable sum."

"What is the amount?" asked Morrel with a voice he strove to render firm.

"Here is," said the Englishman, taking a quantity of papers from his pocket, "an assignment of 200,000 francs to our house by M. de Boville, the inspector of prisons, to whom they are due. You acknowledge, of course, that you owe this sum to him?"

"Yes; he placed the money in my hands at four and a half per cent nearly five years ago."

"When are you to pay?"

"Half the 15th of this month, half the 15th of next."

"Just so; and now here are 32,500 francs payable shortly; they are all signed by you, and assigned to our house by the holders."

"I recognize them," said Morrel, whose face was suffused, as he thought that, for the first time in his life, he would be unable to honor his own signature. "Is this all?"

"No, I have for the end of the month these bills which have been assigned to us by the house of Pascal, and the house of Wild & Turner of Marseilles, amounting to nearly 55,000 francs; in all, 287,500 francs." It is impossible to describe what Morrel suffered during this enumeration. "Two hundred and eighty-seven thousand five hundred francs," repeated he.

"Yes, sir," replied the Englishman. "I will not," continued he, after a moment's silence, "conceal from you, that while your probity and exactitude up to this moment are universally acknowledged, yet the report is current in Marseilles that you are not able to meet your liabilities." At this almost brutal speech Morrel turned deathly pale. "Sir," said he, "up to this time--and it is now more than four-and-twenty years since I received the direction of this house from my father, who had himself conducted it for five and thirty years--never has anything bearing the signature of Morrel & Son been dishonored."

"I know that," replied the Englishman. "But as a man of honor should answer another, tell me fairly, shall you pay these with the same punctuality?" Morrel shuddered, and looked at the man, who spoke with more assurance than he had hitherto shown. "To questions frankly put," said he, "a straightforward answer should be given. Yes, I shall pay, if, as I hope, my vessel arrives safely; for its arrival will again procure me the credit which the numerous accidents, of which I have been the victim, have deprived me; but if the Pharaon should be lost, and this last resource be gone"--the poor man's eyes filled with tears.

"Well," said the other, "if this last resource fail you?"

"Well," returned Morrel, "it is a cruel thing to be forced to say, but, already used to misfortune, I must habituate myself to shame. I fear I shall be forced to suspend payment."

"Have you no friends who could assist you?" Morrel smiled mournfully. "In business, sir," said he, "one has no friends, only correspondents."

"It is true," murmured the Englishman; "then you have but one hope."

"But one."

"The last?"

"The last."

"So that if this fail"--

"I am ruined,--completely ruined!"

"As I was on my way here, a vessel was coming into port."

"I know it, sir; a young man, who still adheres to my fallen fortunes, passes a part of his time in a belvidere at the top of the house, in hopes of being the first to announce good news to me; he has informed me of the arrival of this ship."

"And it is not yours?"

"No, she is a Bordeaux vessel, La Gironde; she comes from India also; but she is not mine."

"Perhaps she has spoken the Pharaon, and brings you some tidings of her?"

"Shall I tell you plainly one thing, sir? I dread almost as much to receive any tidings of my vessel as to remain in doubt. uncertainty is still hope." Then in a low voice Morrel added,--"This delay is not natural. The Pharaon left Calcutta the 5th February; she ought to have been here a month ago."

"What is that?" said the Englishman. "What is the meaning of that noise?"

"Oh, oh!" cried Morrel, turning pale, "what is it?" A loud noise was heard on the stairs of people moving hastily, and half-stifled sobs. Morrel rose and advanced to the door; but his strength failed him and he sank into a chair. The two men remained opposite one another, Morrel trembling in every limb, the stranger gazing at him with an air of profound pity. The noise had ceased; but it seemed that Morrel expected something--something had occasioned the noise, and something must follow. The stranger fancied he heard footsteps on the stairs; and that the footsteps, which were those of several persons, stopped at the door. A key was inserted in the lock of the first door, and the creaking of hinges was audible.

"There are only two persons who have the key to that door," murmured Morrel, "Coclès and Julie." At this instant the second door opened, and the young girl, her eyes bathed with tears, appeared. Morrel rose tremblingly, supporting himself by the arm of the chair. He would have spoken, but his voice failed him. "Oh, father!" said she, clasping her hands, "forgive your child for being the bearer of evil tidings."

Morrel again changed color. Julie threw herself into his arms.

"Oh, father, father!" murmured she, "courage!" "The Pharaon has gone down, then?" said Morrel in a hoarse voice. The young girl did not speak; but she made an affirmative sign with her head as she lay on her father's breast.

"And the crew?" asked Morrel.

"Saved," said the girl; "saved by the crew of the vessel that has just entered the harbor." Morrel raised his two hands to heaven with an expression of resignation and sublime gratitude. "Thanks, my God," said he, "at least thou strikest but me alone." A tear moistened the eye of the phlegmatic Englishman.

"Come in, come in," said Morrel, "for I presume you are all at the door."

Scarcely had he uttered those words than Madame Morrel entered weeping bitterly. Emmanuel followed her, and in the antechamber were visible the rough faces of seven or eight half-naked sailors. At the sight of these men the Englishman started and advanced a step; then restrained himself, and retired into the farthest and most obscure corner of the apartment. Madame Morrel sat down by her husband and took one of his hands in hers, Julie still lay with her head on his shoulder, Emmanuel stood in the centre of the chamber and seemed to form the link between Morrel's family and the sailors at the door.

"How did this happen?" said Morrel.

"Draw nearer, Penelon," said the young man, "and tell us all about it."

An old seaman, bronzed by the tropical sun, advanced, twirling the remains of a tarpaulin between his hands. "Good-day, M. Morrel," said he, as if he had just quitted Marseilles the previous evening, and had just returned from Aix or Toulon.

"Good-day, Penelon," returned Morrel, who could not refrain from smiling through his tears, "where is the captain?"

"The captain, M. Morrel,--he has stayed behind sick at Palma; but please God, it won't be much, and you will see him in a few days all alive and hearty."

"Well, now tell your story, Penelon."

Penelon rolled his quid in his cheek, placed his hand before his mouth, turned his head, and sent a long jet of tobacco-juice into the antechamber, advanced his foot, balanced himself, and began,--"You see, M. Morrel," said he, "we were somewhere between Cape Blanc and Cape Boyador, sailing with a fair breeze, south-south-west after a week's calm, when Captain Gaumard comes up to me--I was at the helm I should tell you--and says, 'Penelon, what do you think of those clouds coming up over there?' I was just then looking at them myself. 'What do I think, captain? Why I think that they are rising faster than they have any business to do, and that they would not be so black if they didn't mean mischief.'--'That's my opinion too,' said the captain, 'and I'll take precautions accordingly. We are carrying too much canvas. Avast, there, all hands! Take in the studding-sl's and stow the flying jib.' It was time; the squall was on us, and the vessel began to heel. 'Ah,' said the captain, 'we have still too much canvas set; all hands lower the mains'l!' Five minutes after, it was down; and we sailed under mizzen-tops'ls and to'gall'nt sails. 'Well, Penelon,' said the captain, 'what makes you shake your head?' 'Why,' I says, 'I still think you've got too much on.' 'I think you're right,' answered he, 'we shall have a gale.' 'A gale? More than that, we shall have a tempest, or I don't know what's what.' You could see the wind coming like the dust at Montredon; luckily the captain understood his business. 'Take in two reefs in the tops'ls,' cried the captain; 'let go the bowlin's, haul the brace, lower the to'gall'nt sails, haul out the reef-tackles on the yards.'"

"That was not enough for those latitudes," said the Englishman; "I should have taken four reefs in the topsails and furled the spanker."

His firm, sonorous, and unexpected voice made every one start. Penelon put his hand over his eyes, and then stared at the man who thus criticized the manoeuvres of his captain. "We did better than that, sir," said the old sailor respectfully; "we put the helm up to run before the tempest; ten minutes after we struck our tops'ls and scudded under bare poles."

"The vessel was very old to risk that," said the Englishman.

"Eh, it was that that did the business; after pitching heavily for twelve hours we sprung a leak. 'Penelon,' said the captain, 'I think we are sinking, give me the helm, and go down into the hold.' I gave him the helm, and descended; there was already three feet of water. 'All hands to the pumps!' I shouted; but it was too late, and it seemed the more we pumped the more came in. 'Ah,' said I, after four hours' work, 'since we are sinking, let us sink; we can die but once.' 'That's the example you set, Penelon,' cries the captain; 'very well, wait a minute.' He went into his cabin and came back with a brace of pistols. 'I will blow the brains out of the first man who leaves the pump,' said he."

"Well done!" said the Englishman.

"There's nothing gives you so much courage as good reasons," continued the sailor; "and during that time the wind had abated, and the sea gone down, but the water kept rising; not much, only two inches an hour, but still it rose. Two inches an hour does not seem much, but in twelve hours that makes two feet, and three we had before, that makes five. 'Come,' said the captain, 'we have done all in our power, and M. Morrel will have nothing to reproach us with, we have tried to save the ship, let us now save ourselves. To the boats, my lads, as quick as you can.' Now," continued Penelon, "you see, M. Morrel, a sailor is attached to his ship, but still more to his life, so we did not wait to be told twice; the more so, that the ship was sinking under us, and seemed to say, 'Get along--save yourselves.' We soon launched the boat, and all eight of us got into it. The captain descended last, or rather, he did not descend, he would not quit the vessel; so I took him round the waist, and threw him into the boat, and then I jumped after him. It was time, for just as I jumped the deck burst with a noise like the broadside of a man-of-war. Ten minutes after she pitched forward, then the other way, spun round and round, and then good-by to the Pharaon. As for us, we were three days without anything to eat or drink, so that we began to think of drawing lots who should feed the rest, when we saw La Gironde; we made signals of distress, she perceived us, made for us, and took us all on board. There now, M. Morrel, that's the whole truth, on the honor of a sailor; is not it true, you fellows there?" A general murmur of approbation showed that the narrator had faithfully detailed their misfortunes and sufferings.

"Well, well," said M. Morrel, "I know there was no one in fault but destiny. It was the will of God that this should happen, blessed be his name. What wages are due to you?"

"Oh, don't let us talk of that, M. Morrel."

"Yes, but we will talk of it."

"Well, then, three months," said Penelon.

"Coclès, pay two hundred francs to each of these good fellows," said Morrel. "At another time," added be, "I should have said, Give them, besides, two hundred francs over as a present; but times are changed, and the little money that remains to me is not my own."

Penelon turned to his companions, and exchanged a few words with them.

"As for that, M. Morrel," said he, again turning his quid, "as for that"--

"As for what?"

"The money."

"Well"--

"Well, we all say that fifty francs will be enough for us at present, and that we will wait for the rest."

"Thanks, my friends, thanks!" cried Morrel gratefully; "take it--take it; and if you can find another employer, enter his service; you are free to do so." These last words produced a prodigious effect on the seaman. Penelon nearly swallowed his quid; fortunately he recovered. "What, M. Morrel!" said he in a low voice, "you send us away; you are then angry with us!"

"No, no," said M. Morrel, "I am not angry, quite the contrary, and I do not send you away; but I have no more ships, and therefore I do not want any sailors."

"No more ships!" returned Penelon; "well, then, you'll build some; we'll wait for you."

"I have no money to build ships with, Penelon," said the poor owner mournfully, "so I cannot accept your kind offer."

"No more money? Then you must not pay us; we can scud, like the Pharaon, under bare poles."

"Enough, enough!" cried Morrel, almost overpowered; "leave me, I pray you; we shall meet again in a happier time. Emmanuel, go with them, and see that my orders are executed."

"At least, we shall see each other again, M. Morrel?" asked Penelon.

"Yes; I hope so, at least. Now go." He made a sign to Coclès, who went first; the seamen followed him and Emmanuel brought up the rear. "Now," said the owner to his wife and daughter, "leave me; I wish to speak with this gentleman." And he glanced towards the clerk of Thomson & French, who had remained motionless in the corner during this scene, in which he had taken no part, except the few words we have mentioned. The two women looked at this person whose presence they had entirely forgotten, and retired; but, as she left the apartment, Julie gave the stranger a supplicating glance, to which he replied by a smile that an indifferent spectator would have been surprised to see on his stern features. The two men were left alone. "Well, sir," said Morrel, sinking into a chair, "you have heard all, and I have nothing further to tell you."

"I see," returned the Englishman, "that a fresh and unmerited misfortune his overwhelmed you, and this only increases my desire to serve you."

"Oh, sir!" cried Morrel.

"Let me see," continued the stranger, "I am one of your largest creditors."

"Your bills, at least, are the first that will fall due."

"Do you wish for time to pay?"

"A delay would save my honor, and consequently my life."

"How long a delay do you wish for?"--Morrel reflected. "Two months," said he.

"I will give you three," replied the stranger.

"But," asked Morrel, "will the house of Thomson & French consent?"

"Oh, I take everything on myself. To-day is the 5th of June."

"Yes."

"Well, renew these bills up to the 5th of September; and on the 5th of September at eleven o'clock (the hand of the clock pointed to eleven), I shall come to receive the money."

"I shall expect you," returned Morrel; "and I will pay you--or I shall he dead." These last words were uttered in so low a tone that the stranger could not hear them. The bills were renewed, the old ones destroyed, and the poor ship-owner found himself with three months before him to collect his resources. The Englishman received his thanks with the phlegm peculiar to his nation; and Morrel, overwhelming him with grateful blessings, conducted him to the staircase. The stranger met Julie on the stairs; she pretended to be descending, but in reality she was waiting for him. "Oh, sir"--said she, clasping her hands.

"Mademoiselle," said the stranger, "one day you will receive a letter signed 'Sinbad the Sailor.' Do exactly what the letter bids you, however strange it may appear."

"Yes, sir," returned Julie.

"Do you promise?"

"I swear to you I will."

"It is well. Adieu, mademoiselle. Continue to be the good, sweet girl you are at present, and I have great hopes that heaven will reward you by giving you Emmanuel for a husband."

Julie uttered a faint cry, blushed like a rose, and leaned against the baluster. The stranger waved his hand, and continued to descend. In the court he found Penelon, who, with a rouleau of a hundred francs in either hand, seemed unable to make up his mind to retain them. "Come with me, my friend," said the Englishman; "I wish to speak to you."
 



快三技巧顺口溜江西 江苏11选5app下载 快乐十分看号技巧 易富彩1960 河南快三走势图今天
江苏快3一定牛遗漏 宁夏11选5任3现场预测 江苏7位数18095 gt彩票好赚钱吗 吉林11选5在线投注
陕西11选五开奖结果 重庆时时彩坑人一幕 11选五开奖结果 我找到时时彩漏洞了 钻石线上娱乐
浙江快乐12历史记录 北京赛车pk10直播cp686 北京pk10开奖直播 盛世彩票软件下载 澳洲幸运10单双