debauched my sloth

The sloth sneezed, and looking up, Jack caught its gaze fixed upon him; its inverted face had an expression of anxiety and concern. ‘Try a piece of this, old cock,’ he said, dipping his cake in the grog and proffering the sop. ‘It might put a little heart into you.’  The sloth sighed, closed its eyes, but gently absorbed the piece, and sighed again.

Some minutes later he felt a touch on his knee; the sloth had silently climbed down and it was standing there, its beady eyes looking up into his face, bright with expectation.  More cake, more grog; growing confidence and esteem.  After this, as soon as the drum had beat the retreat, the sloth would meet him, hurrying towards the door on its uneven legs: it was given its own bowl and would grip it with its claws, lowering its round face into it and pursing its lips to drink.  Sometimes it went to sleep in this position, bowed over the emptiness.

“In this bucket,” said Stephen, walking into the cabin, “in this small half-bucket, now, I have the population of Dublin, London and Paris combined: these animalculae - what is the matter with the sloth?” It was curled on Jack’s knee, breathing heavily: its bowl and Jack’s glass stood empty on the table. Stephen picked it up, peered into its affable, bleary face, shoot it, and hung it upon its rope. It seized hold with one fore and one hind foot, letting the others dangle limp, and went to sleep.

Stephen looked sharply round, saw the decanter, smelt to the sloth, and cried, “Jack, you have debauched my sloth.”

—  H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O’Brian

This was a commission for a Christmas gift from one friend of mine to another. The receiver is a big fan of Patrick O'Brian’s Aubrey and Maturin novels which were the basis of the film Master and Commander. This scene in particular was asked for as a subject. It rather fittingly involves Dr. Maturin scolding Captain Aubrey for getting the ship’s pet sloth drunk: “Jack, you have debauched my sloth”.

Most of inking was actually done on the computer with a tablet as I can’t exist these days without an undo button.