The sloth was not easily alarmed; as soon as it was provided with a piece of hawser stretched taut in the cabin it went fast to sleep, hanging by its claws and swaying with the roll as it might have done in the wind-rocked branches of its native forest. Indeed, apart from its candid distress at the sight of Jack’s face it was perfectly adapted for a life at sea; it was uncomplaining; it requires no fresh air, no light; it thrive in a damp, confined atmosphere; it could sleep in any circumstances; it was tenacious of life; it put up with any hardship. It accepted biscuit gratefully, and pap; and in the evenings it would hobble on deck, walking on its claws, and creep into the rigging, hanging there upside down and advancing two or three yards at a time, with pauses for sleep. The hands loved it from the first, and would often carry it into the tops or higher; they declared it brought the ship good luck, though it was difficult to see why, since the wind rarely blew east of south, and that but feebly, day after day.
Yet the fresh provisions had their astonishingly rapid effect; in a week’s time the sick-bay was almost empty, and the Surprise, fully manned and cheerful, had recovered her old form, her high-masted, trim appearance. She returned to her exercising of the great guns, laid aside for the more urgent repairs, and every day the trade-wind carried away great wafts of her powder-smoke: at first this perturbed the sloth; it scuttled, almost ran, below, its claws going clack-clack-clack in the silence between one broadside and the next; but by the time they had passed directly under the sun and the wind came strong and true at last, it slept through the whole exercise, hanging in its usual place in the mizzen catharpins, above the quarterdeck carronades, just as it slept through the Marines’ musketry and Stephen’s pistol-practice.
HMS Surprise — Patrick O’Brian