‘Do you like her?’
‘The bear goes a walk,’ Mrs Simanyi said. ‘Would the little Annabel wish to see this?’
‘I’m sure she would,’ Mary said. ‘Thank you. Where is it?’
She pointed and smiled. ‘On the deck. That way.’ She bent down towards Annabel. ‘You must not be frightened. She is a very good bear.’
The front of the crate had been removed, revealing the iron-barred cage within. While several members of the crew watched from a respectful distance, Nadya bent down and slid the heavy bolts that secured it. She was wearing blue jeans and a yellow jersey, and her hair was tied up in a red and yellow silk scarf. She secured a heavy leather lead to the bear’s collar, and called her out with endearments. Katerina shambled out, and Nadya led her round the corner of the hatch to a patch of deck that was empty except for a dozen steel lager casks. Katerina put a paw up on to one of the casks and followed it with the other paw. She stood up, leaning forward on the cask and looking out over the level waters.
‘Hi, up,’ Nadya said. ‘Come, my dear one, my love.’
She took one of Katerina’s paws and lifted it. The bear swung round and put both paws up to her shoulders. The brown, furry head peered forwards, and she licked Nadya’s face.
‘A little walk,’ Nadya said. ‘A little fresh air before dinner, eh?’
Katerina dropped back on all fours and ambled along the deck. The crew parted to give her room. A couple of them went round the other side of the hatch, and started to clean out the cage.
‘Do you like her?’ Mary asked.
Annabel said: ‘I think so.’