(While others might guffaw at the penguin-tossing scene from The Jet Black Shore, I'm fonder of this scene, when they call in at the Cape.)
There was silence between them at first, as they rode back towards Simon's Town, both contemplating the uproar left behind them: A dazed, black-eyed Beetle being comforted by his shipmates in the ring, the bookmaker surrounded by sailors who felt they had been cheated of a sure bet, a distraught showman surveying the wreckage of his once profitable business, a long rent in the canvas wall flapping in the wind and a large kangaroo - collar trailing a line and mufflers still on paws - leaping away into the night, vanishing.
"It was only a beast," began Jack.
"I do like to keep my pocket lancet sharp," said Stephen obstinately. "One never knows when it might be required. But I do wish I had been able to remove the gloves first. They were made of leather, though, I'm sure he will be able to chew the laces through in time."
"Perhaps you should have offered to pay for his freedom after the fight, instead," suggested Jack, wishing himself that he had suggested it to Stephen earlier.
Stephen would not be shifted. "But it was gratifying to see the wombat again. The affection of his youth still showed in his eyes."
Jack rather thought that only affection the wombat still showed in his eyes was for the gold lace on his scraper. While he had accommodated a large variety of beasts onboard for Stephen over the course of their acquaintance, both dead and alive, he was relieved that his friend had not insisted on bringing the wombat back with them - he did not want to have to deal with Killick's sure disapproval of that particular recalcitrant marsupial should it appear in his domain again.
© 2004 Jacquie Milner