‘Let me look to your pistols,’ said Jack, as the trees came closer to the road. ‘You have no notion of hammering your flints.’
‘They are very well,’ said Stephen, unwilling to open his holsters (a teratoma in one, a bottled Arabian dormouse in the other). ‘Do you apprehend any danger?’
‘This is an ugly stretch of road, with all these disbanded soldiers turned loose. They made an attempt upon the mail not far from Aker’s Cross. Come, let me have your pistols. I thought as much: what is this?’
‘A teratoma,’ said Stephen sulkily.
‘What is a teratoma?’ asked Jack, holding the object in his hand. ‘A kind of grenado?’
‘It is an inward wen, a tumour: we find them, occasionally, in the abdominal cavity. Sometimes they contain long black hair, sometimes a set of teeth: this has both hair and teeth. It belonged to a Mr Elkins of the City, an eminent cheese-monger. I prize it much.’
‘By God,’ cried Jack, thrusting it back into the holster and whiping his hand vehemently upon the horse, ‘I do wish you would leave people’s bellies alone. So you have no pistols at all, I collect?’
‘If you wish to be so absolute, no, I have not.’
‘You will never make old bones, brother,’ said Jack.
Post Captain – Patrick O’Brian