‘Killick, Killick there: what’s amiss?’
‘Which it’s your scraper, sir, your number one scraper. The wombat’s got at it.’
‘Then take it away from him, for God’s sake.’
‘I duresn’t, sir,’ said Killick. ‘For fear of tearing the lace.’
‘Now, sir,’ cried the Captain, striding into the great cabin, a tall, imposing figure. ‘Now, sir,’ - addressing the wombat, one of the numerous body of marsupials brought into the ship by her surgeon, a natural philosopher - ‘give it up directly, d’ye hear me, there?’
The wombat stared him straight in the eye, drew a length of gold lace from its mouth, and then deliberately sucked it in again.
‘Pass the word for Dr Maturin,’ said the Captain, looking angrily at the wombat: and a moment later, ‘Come now, Stephen, this is coming it pretty high: your brute is eating my hat.’
‘So he is, too,’ said Dr Maturin. ‘But do not be so perturbed, Jack; it will do him no harm, at all. His digestive processes -‘
At this point the wombat dropped the hat, shuffled rapidly across the deck and swarmed up into Dr Maturin’s arms, peering at close range into his face with a look of deep affection.
‘Mr Mowett,’ called Stephen in the pause while the table was clearing to make room for the pudding, and pudding-wine—in this case Frontignan and Canary—was handing about, ‘you were telling me about your publishers.’
‘Yes, sir: I was about to say that they were the most hellish procrastinators—’
‘Oh how dreadful,’ cried Fanny. ‘Do they go to—to special houses, or do they …’
‘He means they delay,’ said Babbington.