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    Chapter 29

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    Chapter 29
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    CHAPTER 29
    The House of Morrel & Son.

    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 "Cocles," 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.

    Cocles 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 Cocles, 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, Cocles 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. Cocles had
    seen them go without thinking of inquiring the cause of
    their departure. Everything was as we have said, a question
    of arithmetic to Cocles, 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 Cocles' belief; the
    last month's payment had been made with the most scrupulous
    exactitude; Cocles 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, Cocles; you are the pearl of cashiers "

    Cocles 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 Cocles. Cocles
    appeared, and the young man bade him conduct the stranger to
    M. Morrel's apartment. Cocles 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, Cocles, 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 Cocles continued to mount the staircase.
    She entered the office where Emmanuel was, while Cocles, 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, "Cocles 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.

    "Cocles, 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
    Cocles, 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."
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