Silence. The convoy’s dust settled on the empty road. The inhabitants of Carcassonne all went to sleep; even the small boys who had been dropping mortar and clods of earth from the battlements onto the bear disappeared. Silence at last, and the chink of coins.
‘Two livres four sous,’ said the bear-leader. ‘One maravedi, two Levantine coins of whose exact provenance I am uncertain, a Scotch groat.’
‘When one sea-officer is to be roasted, there is always another hand to turn the spit,’ said the bear. ‘It is an old service proverb. I hope to God I have that fornicating young sod under my command one day. I’ll make him dance a hornpipe — oh, such a hornpipe. Stephen, prop my jaws open a little more, will you? I think I shall die in five minutes if you don’t. Could we not creep into a field and take it off?’
‘No,’ said Stephen. ‘But I shall lead you to an inn as soon as the market has cleared, and lodge you in a cool damp cellar for the afternoon. I will also get you a collar, to enable you to breathe. We must reach Couiza by dawn.’
Post Captain – Patrick O’Brian