'Oh, yeah, the ladies like him,' said the waiter and sniffed. 'Everyone knows he's got something going on with that vampire up in Uberwald. You know? The one who invented the Temperance League? Vampires who don't suck blood? Hello, what's this... ?'
'Let no one suppose that I am alone in a desire to see a better future for this great game,' Vetinari was saying. 'Tonight, gentlemen, you will see football, hear football and if you don't duck, gentlemen, you might even eat football. Here to display a marriage of football from the past and I dare hope from the future, I present to you the first team of Unseen University... Unseen Academicals!'
The candles went out, all at once, even the ones high up in the chandelier; Glenda could see pale ghosts of smoke rising in the gloom. Beside her, Nutt started counting under his breath. One, two... At the count of three, the candles at the far end of the Hall burst into life again, revealing Trevor Likely, wearing his most infectious grin.
'Evenin' all,' he said, 'an' to you too, your lordship. My, but ain't you lookin' quite the swell tonight.' As breaths were indrawn all around the Hall Trev pulled out his tin can, dropped it on to his foot and flicked it up on to his shoulder, where it travelled around the back of his neck and down his other arm.
'At the start people used to kick rocks. That was sort of stupid. Then they tried skulls, but you had to get 'em off people and that led to fightin'.'
Beside Glenda, Nutt was still counting...
'An' now we've got what we call a ball,' Trev continued, as his tin can rolled and climbed around him, 'but it ain't all that, 'cos it's a lump of firewood. You can't kick it 'less you've got big heavy boots on. It's slow. It's heavy. It don't live, gentlemen, and football should live... '
The doors at the other end of the Hall opened and Bengo Macarona trotted in, bouncing the new football. Its gloing, gloing echoed around the Hall. Some of the football captains had got to their feet, craning for a better view.
'And with the old football, you couldn't do this,' said Trev, and dived for the floor as Macarona spun in one balletic movement and sent the ball screaming up the aisle like an angry hornet.
Some scenes are only ever a memory rather than an experience, because they happen too fast for immediate comprehension, and Glenda watched the subsequent events on the internal screen of horrified recollection. There were the two Archmages and the Tyrant of the city, watching with frozen interest as the spinning globe hummed towards them, dragging terrible consequences in its wake, and then there was the Librarian rising out of nowhere, stopping it dead in mid air with a hand like a shovel.
'That's us, gentlemen. And we'll take on the first team that joins us on the Hippo on Saturday at one o'clock. We'll be training all around the city. You can join in if you like. And don't worry if you don't have the balls! We'll give you some!' The candle flames went out, which was just as well because it is hard to riot in the dark. When the flames rose again in their eerie way, shouting, arguments, laughter and even discussion were taking place on every table. Quietly, too, the servants went to and fro with their flagons. There always seemed to be another one, Glenda noticed.
'What have they been drinking?' she whispered to the nearest waiter.
'Winkle's Old Peculiar, Mages' Special. It's top stuff.'
'What about his lordship?'
He grinned. 'Ha. Funny thing, some of 'em have asked me that, too. Just the same as the guests. Poured out of the same flagon, just like for everyone else, so it's - ' He stopped.
Lord Vetinari was on his feet again. 'Gentlemen, who among you will accept the challenge? It need not be Dimwell, it need not be Dolly Sisters, it need not be the Nappers, it just has to be a team, gentlemen; the Unseen Academicals will take on the best of you, in the best traditions of sportsmanship. I have set the date of the game for Saturday. As far as the Academicals are concerned, you can watch them train and Mister Stibbons will give you all the advice you may need. This will be a fair match, gentlemen, you have my word on it.' He paused. 'Did I mention that when it is presented, the very nearly gold urn will be full of beer? The concept is quite popular, I gather, and I predict that for a reasonable period the golden cup will quite miraculously stay full of beer, no matter how many drink thereof. I shall personally see to it.'
This got a big cheer, too. Glenda felt embarrassed for the men, but angry at them too. They were being led by the nose. Or, more accurately, by the beer.
Vetinari didn't need whips and thumbscrews; he just needed Winkle's Old Peculiar, Mages' Special, and he was leading them like little lambs-and matching them pint for pint. How could he manage that? Hey, look at me, he's saying, I'm just like you, and he's not like them at all. They can't have someone killed-she paused the thought to allow consideration of some of the street fights when the pubs shut, and amended it to-and get away with it.
'My friend the Archchancellor has just informed me that, of course, the Unseen Academicals will not on any account resort to magic! Nobody wants to see a team of frogs, I am sure!'
There was general laughter at this lame joke, but the plain fact was that right now they would have laughed at a paper bag.
'This will be a proper football match, gentlemen, no trickery, only skills,' said the Patrician, his voice sharp again. 'And on that note I am decreeing a new code, based on the hallowed and traditional rules of football so recently rediscovered, but including many familiar ones of more recent usage. The office of referee is there to ensure obedience to the rules. There must be rules, my friends. There must be. There is no game without rules. No rules, no game.'
And there it was. No one else seemed to notice, through the fumes, the razor blade glittering for a moment in the candyfloss. Rules? thought Glenda. What are these new rules? I never knew there were rules. But Lord Vetinari's assistant, whoever he was, was quietly putting a few sheets of paper in front of each man.
She remembered old Stollop's bafflement when confronted with a mere envelope. Some of them could read, surely? But how many of them could read now?
His lordship had not finished. 'Finally, gentlemen, I would like you to peruse and sign the copies of the rules Mister Drumknott has given you. And now I understand the Archchancellor and his colleagues are looking forward to seeing you in the Uncommon Room for cigars and, I believe, an exceptionally rare brandy!'
Well, that would about wrap it up, wouldn't it? The footballers were used to just beer. To be fair, they were used to lots of just beer. Nevertheless, if she was any judge, and she was pretty good, they would now be very nearly falling-down drunk. Although some seasoned captains could stand up for some time while being, technically, falling-down drunk. And there is nothing more embarrassing than seeing a falling-down drunk except for when it is a falling-down drunk who is still standing up. And that was amazing: the captains were the type of men who drank in quarts, and could belch the national anthem and bend steel bars with their teeth, or even somebody else's teeth. Okay, they had never had much in the way of schooling, but why did they have to be so dumb?
'Tell me,' murmured Ridcully to Vetinari as they watched the guests file out unsteadily, 'are you behind the discovery of the urn?'
'We have known one another for quite some time, Mustrum, have we not,' said Vetinari, 'and as you know, I would not lie to you.' He paused for a moment and added, 'Well, of course I would lie to you in acceptable circumstances, but on this occasion I can truthfully say that the discovery of the urn came as a surprise to me as well, albeit a pleasant one. Indeed, I assumed that you gentlemen had had something to do with it.'
'We didn't even know it was there,' said Ridcully. 'Personally, I suspect that religion is involved.'
Vetinari smiled. 'Well, of course, classically, gods play with the fates of men, so I suppose there is no reason why it shouldn't be football. We play and are played and the best we can hope for is to do it with style.'
It might have been possible to cut the air in the Uncommon Room with a knife, had anyone been able to find a knife. Or hold a knife the right way if found. From the point of view of the wizards, it was business as usual, but while a number of captains were being wheeled away in a wheelbarrow, thoughtfully stationed there earlier in the evening, there were enough visitors still standing to make for a damp, hot hubbub. In an unregarded corner, the Patrician and the two Archchancellors had found a space where they could relax unheeded in the big chairs and settle a few matters.
'You know, Henry,' said Vetinari to the former Dean, 'I think it would be a very good idea if you were to referee the match.'
'Oh, come on! I think that would be most unfair,' said Ridcully.
'To whom, pray?'
'Well, er,' said Ridcully. 'There could be a question of rivalry between wizards.'
'But on the other hand,' said Vetinari, his voice all smoothness, 'it might also be said that, for political reasons, another wizard would have a vested interest in not allowing a fellow Archmage to be seen to be bested by people who, despite their often amazing talents, skills, features and histories, are nevertheless lumped together in the term ordinary people.'
Ridcully raised a very big brandy glass in the general direction of the edge of the universe. 'I have every faith in my friend Henry,' he said. 'Even though he's a little bit on the tubby side.'
'Oh, unfair!' snapped Henry. 'A large man may be quite light on his feet. Is there any chance of me having the poisoned dagger?'
'In these modern times,' said Vetinari, 'I'm sorry to say that a whistle of some sort will have to suffice.'
At which point someone tried to slap Vetinari on the back.
It happened with remarkable speed and ended possibly even faster than it began, with Vetinari still seated in his chair with his beer mug in one hand and the man's wrist gripped tightly at head height. He let go and said, 'Can I help you, sir?'
'You're that Lord Veterinary, ain't ya? I seed you on them postage stamps.'
Ridcully glanced up. Some of Lord Vetinari's clerks were briskly heading towards them, along with some of the slurred speaker's friends, who could be defined at this point as people who were slightly more sober than he was and right now were sobering up very, very fast, because when you have just slapped a tyrant on the back you need all the friends you can get.
Vetinari nodded at his gentlemen, who evaporated back into the crowd, and then he snapped his fingers at one of the waiters. 'A chair here, please, for my new friend.'
'Are you sure?' said Ridcully, as a chair was pushed under the man who, by happy coincidence, was falling backwards in any case.
'I mean,' said the man, 'everary one saysh you're a bit of a wnacker, but I saysh you're awright over thish football fing. 'Sno future in jus' shlogging away. I should know, I got kicked inna head quite a few times.'
'Really?' said Lord Vetinari. 'And what is your name?'
'Swithin, shir,' said the man.
'Any other name, by any chance?' said Vetinari.
'Dustworthy,' he said. He raised a finger in a kind of salute. 'Captain, the Cockbill Boars.'
'Ah, you aren't having a good season,' said Vetinari. 'You need fresh blood in the squad, especially since Jimmy Wilkins got put into the Tanty after eating someone's nose. Naphill walked all over you because you lost your backbone when both of the Pinchpenny brothers were taken to the Lady Sybil, and you've been stuck down in the mud for three seasons. Okay, everyone says that Harry Capstick is making a very good showing since you bought him from Treacle Mine Tuesday for two crates of Winkle's Old Peculiar and a sack of pork scratchings, which is not bad for a man with a wooden leg, but there's never anyone in support.'
A circle of silence spread outwards from Vetinari and the swaying Swithin. Ridcully's mouth had dropped open and Henry's brandy glass remained half empty, an unusual occurrence for a glass that's been in the hands of a wizard for more than fifteen seconds.
'Also, I'm hearing that your pies are leaving a lot to be desired, such as dead, cooked, organic content,' continued Vetinari. 'Can't get the Shove behind you when the pies are seen to walk about.'
'My ladsh,' said Swithin, 'are the besht there ish. It'sh not their fault they're up againsht better people. They never getsh a chance to play shomeone they can beat. They alwaysh gives it one hundred and twenty pershent and you can't give more than that. Anyhow, how come you know all this shtuff? It's not like we're big in the league.'
'Oh, I take an interest,' said Vetinari. 'I believe that football is a lot like life.'
'There ish that, shir, there ish that. You does your besht and then shomeone kicksh you inna fork.'
'Then I strongly advise you to take an interest in our new football,' said Vetinari, 'which will be about speed, skill and thinking.'
'Oh, yeah, right, I can do all them,' said Swithin, at which point he fell off his chair.
'Does this poor man have any friends here?' said Vetinari, turning to the crowd.
There was some diffidence among them concerning whether or not it was a good idea to be friends with Swithin at this point.
Vetinari raised his voice: 'I would just like a couple of people to take him back to his home. I would like them to put him to bed and see that no trouble comes to him. Perhaps they ought to stay with him until morning too, because he just might try to commit suicide when he wakes up.'
'New Dawn For Football' said the Times when Glenda picked it up the next morning. As was its wont when it was reporting something it thought was particularly important, the paper's headline was followed by two others in descending sizes of font: 'Footballers Sign Up For The New Game' was on the next line down and then on the next 'New Balls A Success'.
To Glenda's surprise and dismay, Juliet still had a place on the front page, with the picture of her used smaller than yesterday, under the headline 'Mystery Lady Vanishes', and a paragraph which simply said that no one had seen the mystery model, Jewels, since her debut (Glenda had to look this one up) two days ago. Honestly, she thought, not finding somebody is news? And she was surprised that there was room for even this, since most of the front page was dedicated to the football, but the Times liked to start several stories on the front page and then, just when they were getting interesting, whisk them off to page 35, or somewhere, to end their days behind the crossword and the permanent advert for surgical trusses.
The leader column inside was headed 'Score One For Vetinari'. Glenda never normally read the leader column because there was only a certain number of times she was prepared to see the word 'however' used in a 120-word article.
She read the front-page story at first glumly and then with rising anger. Vetinari had done it. He had got them drunk and the fools had signed away their football for a pale variety cooked up by the palace and the university. Of course, minds are never quite that simple. She had to admit to herself that she hated the stupidity of the present game. She hated the idiot fighting and mindless shoving, but it was hers to hate. It was something that people themselves had put together and rickety and stupid though it was, it was theirs. And now the nobs were again picking up something that wasn't theirs and saying how wonderful it was. The old football was going to be banned. That was another little razor blade in Lord Vetinari's alcoholic candyfloss.
She was also deeply suspicious about the urn, the picture of which, for some reason, was still on her kitchen table. Since what was claimed to be the original rules was written in an ancient language, how could anyone other than a nob know what they meant? She ran her eye down the description of the new rules. Some of the rules of old street football had survived in there like monsters from another era. She recognized one that she had always liked: the ball shall be called the ball. The ball is the ball that is played as the ball by any three consecutive players, at which point it is the ball. She'd loved it when she first read it for the sheer stupidity of its phraseology. Apparently, it had been added on a day, centuries ago, when an unfortunately severed head had rolled into play and had rather absent-mindedly replaced the ball currently in play on account of some body, formerly belonging to the head, now lying on the original ball. That kind of thing stuck in the memory, especially because after the match the owner of the head was credited with scoring the winning goal.
That rule and a few others stood out as remnants of a vanished glory in the list of Lord Vetinari's new regulations. A few nods at the old game had been left in as a kind of sop to public opinion. He should not be allowed to get away with it. Just because he was a tyrant and capable of having just about anybody killed on a whim, people acted as if they were scared of him. Someone ought to tell him off. The world had turned upside down several times. She hadn't quite got her bearings, but making sure that Lord Vetinari did not get away with it was suddenly very important. It was up to the people to decide when they were being stupid and old-fashioned; it wasn't up to nobs to tell them what to do.
With great determination she put on her coat over her apron and, after a moment's thought, took two freshly made Jammy Devils from her cupboard. Where a battering ram cannot work, really good shortcrust pastry can often break through.
In the Oblong Office, the Patrician's personal secretary looked at the stopwatch.
'Fifty seconds slower than your personal best, I'm afraid, my lord.'
'Proof indeed that strong drink is a mocker, Drumknott,' said Vetinari severely.
'I suspect that no further proof is needed,' said Drumknott, with his little secretarial smile.
'Although I would, in fairness, point out that Charlotte of the Times is emerging as the most fearsome crossword compiler of all time, and they are a pretty fearsome lot. But her? Initialisms, odds and evens, hidden words, container reverses, and now diagonals! How does she do it?'
'Well, you did it, sir.'
'I undid it. That is much easier.' Vetinari raised a finger. 'It is that woman who runs the pet shop in Pellicool Steps, depend upon it. She hasn't been mentioned as a winner recently. She must be compiling the things.'
'The female mind is certainly a devious one, my lord.'
Vetinari looked at his secretary in surprise. 'Well, of course it is. It has to deal with the male one. I think - '
There was a gentle tap at one of the doors. The Patrician turned back to the Times while Drumknott slipped out of the room. After some whispered exchanges, the secretary returned.
'It would appear that a young woman has got in via the back gate by bribing the guards, sir. They accepted the bribes, as per your standing orders, and she has been shown into the anteroom, which she will soon find is locked. She wishes to see you because, she says, she has a complaint. She is a maid.'
Lord Vetinari looked over the top of the paper. 'Tell her I can't help her with that. Perhaps, oh, I don't know, a different perfume would help?'
'I mean she is a member of the serving classes, sir. Her name is Glenda Sugarbean.'
'Tell her - ' Vetinari hesitated, and then smiled. 'Ah, yes, Sugarbean. Did she bribe the guards with food? Something baked, perhaps?'
'Well done, sir! A large Jammy Devil apiece. May I ask how - ?'
'She is a cook, Drumknott, not a maid. Show her in, by all means.'
The secretary looked a little resentful. 'Are you sure this is wise, sir? I have already told the guards to throw the foodstuffs away.'
'Food cooked by a Sugarbean? You may have committed a crime against high art, Drumknott. I shall see her now.'
'I must point out that you have a full schedule this morning, my lord.'
'Quite so. It is your job to point this out, and I respect that. But I did not return until half past four this morning and I distinctly remember stubbing my toe on the stairs. I am as drunk as a skunk, Drumknott, which of course means skunks are just as drunk as I. I must say the term is unfamiliar to me, and I had not thought hitherto of skunks in this context, but Mustrum Ridcully was kind enough to enlighten me. Allow me, then, a moment of indulgence.'
'Well, you are the Patrician, sir,' said Drumknott. 'You can do as you please.'
'That is kind of you to say so, but I did not, in fact, need reminding,' said Vetinari, with what was almost certainly a smile.
When the severe thin man opened the door, it was too late to flee. When he said, 'His lordship will see you now, Miss Sugarbean,' it was too late to faint. What had she been thinking of? Had she been thinking at all?
Glenda followed the man into the next room, which was oak panelled and sombre and the most uncluttered office she had ever seen. The room of the average wizard was so stuffed with miscellaneous things that the walls were invisible. Here, even the desk was clear, apart from a pot of quill pens, an inkwell, an open copy of the Ankh-Morpork Times and¨Cher eye stayed fixed on this one, unable to draw itself away¨Ca mug with the slogan 'To the world's Greatest Boss'. It was so out of place it might have been an intrusion from another universe.
A chair was quietly placed behind her. This was just as well, because when the man at the desk looked up she sat down abruptly.
Vetinari pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. 'Miss... Sugarbean, there are whole rooms in this palace full of people who want to see me, and they are powerful and important people, or at least they think they are. Yet Mister Drumknott has kindly inserted in my schedule, ahead of the Postmaster General and the Mayor of Sto Lat, a meeting with a young cook with her coat on over her apron and an intent, it says here, of "having it out with me". And this is because I take notice of incongruity, and you, Miss Sugarbean, are incongruous. What is it you want?'
'Who says I want anything?'
'Everyone wants something when they are in front of me, Miss Sugarbean, even if it is only to be somewhere else.'
'All right! You made all the captains drunk last night and got them to sign that letter in the paper!'
The stare did not flicker. That was much worse than, well, anything.
'Young lady, drink levels all mankind. It is the ultimate democrat, if you like that sort of thing. A drunk beggar is as drunk as a lord, and so is a lord. And have you ever noticed that all drunks can understand one another, no matter how drunk they are and how different their native tongues? I take it for a certainty that you are a relation to Augusta Sugarbean?' The question, tagged on to the praises of inebriation, hit her between the eyes, scattering her thoughts.
'What? Oh. Well, yes. That's right. She was my grandmother.'
'And she was a cook at the Guild of Assassins when she was younger?'
'That's right. She always made a joke about how she wouldn't let them use any - ' She stopped quickly, but Vetinari finished the sentence for her.
' - of her cakes to poison people. And we always obeyed, too, because as you surely know, miss, no one likes to upset a good cook. Is she still with us?'
'She passed on two years ago, sir.'
'But since you are a Sugarbean, I assume you have acquired a few more grandmothers as a replacement? Your grandmother was always a stalwart in the community and you must take all those little dainties for someone?'
'You can't know that, you're only guessing. But all right, they're for all the old ladies that don't get out much. Anyway, it's a perk.'
'Oh, but of course. Every job has its little perks. Why, I don't expect Drumknott here has bought a paperclip in his life, eh, Drumknott?'
The secretary, tidying papers in the background, gave a wan little smile.
'Look, I only take leftovers - ' Glenda began, but this was waved away.
'You are here about the football,' said Vetinari. 'You were at the dinner last night, but the university likes its serving girls to be tall and I have an eye for such things. Therefore, I assume you made it your business to be there without bothering your superiors. Why?'
'You're taking their football away from them!'
The Patrician steepled his fingers and rested his chin on them while he looked at her.
He's trying to make me nervous, she thought. It's working, oh, it's working.
Vetinari filled in the silence. 'Your grandmother used to do people's thinking for them. That trait runs in families, always on the female side. Capable women, scurrying about in a world where everyone else seems to be seven years old and keeps on falling over in the playground, picking them up and watching them run right out there again. I imagine you run the Night Kitchen? Too many people in the big one. You want spaces you can control, beyond the immediate reach of fools.'
If he'd added 'Am I right?' like some windbag seeking applause, she would have hated him. But he was reading her from the inside of her head, in a calm, matter-of-fact way. She had to suppress a shiver, because it was all true.
'I'm taking nothing from anybody, Miss Sugarbean. I am simply changing the playground,' the man went on. 'What skill is there in the mob pushing and shoving? It is nothing more than a way of bringing on a sweat. No, we must move with the times. I know the Times moves with me. The captains will moan, no doubt, but they are getting old. Dying in the game is a romantic idea when you are young, but when you are older the boot is in the other ear. They know this, even if they won't admit it, and while they will protest, they will take care not to be taken seriously. In fact, far from taking, I am giving much. Acceptance, recognition, a certain standing, a gold-ish cup and the chance to keep what remains of their teeth.'
All she could manage after this was, 'All right, but you tricked them!'
'Really? They did not have to drink to excess, did they?'
'You knew they would!'
'No. I suspected they might. They could have been more cautious. They should have been more cautious. I'd prefer to say that I led them along the correct path with a little guile rather than drove them along it with sticks. I possess many types of stick, Miss Sugarbean.'
'And you've been spying on me! You knew about the dainties.'
'Spying? Madam, it was once said of a great prince that his every thought was of his people. Like him, I watch over my people. I am just better at it, that's all. As for the dainties business, that was a simple deduction from the known facts of human nature.'
There was a lot that Glenda wanted to say, but in some very definite way she sensed that the interview¨Cor at least the part of it that involved her opening her mouth¨Cwas over. Nevertheless, she said, 'Why aren't you drunk?'
'I beg your pardon?'
'You must weigh about half of what they do and all of 'em went home in wheelbarrows. You drank as much as them and you look fresh as a daisy. What is the trick? Did you get the wizards to magic the beer out of your stomach?'
She had stopped pushing her luck a long time ago. Now it was out of control, like a startled carthorse that can't stop because of the huge load bouncing and rumbling along behind it.
Vetinari frowned. 'My dear lady, anyone drunk enough to let wizards, who themselves had just been partaking copiously of the fruit of the vine, I might add, take anything out of him would already be so drunk as to be dead. To forestall your next comment, the hop is also, technically, a vine. I am, in fact, drunk. Is this not so, Drumknott?'
'You did indeed consume some twelve pints of very strong malted beverage, sir. Technically, you must be drunk.'
'Idiosyncratically put, Drumknott. Thank you.'
'You don't act drunk!'
'No, but I do act sober quite well, don't you think? And I must confess that this morning's crossword was something of a tussle. Procatalepsis and pleonasm in one day? I had to use the dictionary! The woman is a fiend! Nevertheless, thank you for coming, Miss Sugarbean. I recall your grandmother's bubble and squeak with great fondness. If she had been a sculptress, it would have been an exquisite statue, with no arms and an enigmatic smile. It is such a shame that some masterpieces are so transitory.'
The proud cook in Glenda rose unstoppably. 'But she passed the recipe on to me.'
'A legacy better than jewels,' said Vetinari, nodding.
Actually a few jewels would not have gone amiss, Glenda reflected. But there was a secret of Bubble and Squeak, of course, right out there in the open where everyone could miss it. And as for the Truth of Salmagundi...
'I believe this audience is at an end, Miss Sugarbean,' said Vetinari. 'I have so much to do and so have you, I am sure.' He picked up his pen and turned his attention to the documents in front of him. 'Goodbye, Miss Sugarbean.'
And that was it. Somehow, she was at the door, and it had almost closed behind her when a voice said, 'And thank you for your kindnesses to Nutt.'
The door clicked shut, nearly hitting her in the face as she spun round.
'Was that a wise thing for me to have said, do you think?' said Vetinari, when she had gone.
'Possibly not, sir, but she will merely assume it is her that we are watching,' said Drumknott smoothly.
'Possibly we should. That's a Sugarbean woman for you, Drumknott, little domestic slaves until they think someone has been wronged and then they go to war like Queen Ynci of Lancre, with chariot wheels spinning and arms and legs all over the place.'
'And no father,' observed Drumknott. 'Not very good for a child in those days.'
'Only served to make her tougher. One can only hope she doesn't take it into her head to enter politics.'
'Is that not what she is doing now, sir?'
'Well noted, Drumknott. Do I appear drunk?'
'In my opinion no, sir, but you seem unusually... talkative.'
'To the minutest scruple, sir. The Postmaster is waiting, sir, and some of the guild leaders want to talk to you urgently.'
'I suspect they want to play football?'
'Yes, sir. They intend to form teams. I cannot for the life of me understand why.'
Vetinari put down his pen. 'Drumknott, if you saw a ball lying invitingly on the ground, would you kick it?'
The secretary's forehead wrinkled. 'How would the invitation be couched, sir?'
'Would it be, for example, a written note attached to the ball by person or persons unknown?'
'I was rather inclining to the idea that you might perhaps feel simply that the whole world was silently willing you to give said ball a hearty kick?'
'No, sir. There are too many variables. Possibly an enemy or japester might have assumed that I would take some action of the kind and made the ball out of concrete or similar material, in the hope I might do myself a serious or humorous injury. So, I would check first.'
'And then, if all was in order, you would kick the ball?'
'To what purpose or profit, sir?'
'Interesting question. I suppose for the joy of seeing it fly.'
Drumknott seemed to consider this for a while, and then shook his head. 'I am sorry, sir, but you have lost me at this point.'
'Ah, you are a pillar of rock in a world of changes, Drumknott. Well done.'
'I was wondering if I could just add something, sir,' said the secretary solemnly.
'The floor is yours, Drumknott.'
'I would not like it thought that I do not buy my own paperclips, sir. I enjoy owning my own paperclips. It means that they are mine. I thought it helpful I should tell you that in a measured and non-confrontational way.'
Vetinari looked at the ceiling for a few moments and then said: 'Thank you for your frankness. I shall consider the record straightened and the matter closed.'
'Thank you, sir.'
Sator Square was where the city went when it was upset, baffled or fearful. People who had no real idea why they were doing so congregated to listen to other people who also did not know anything, on the basis that ignorance shared is ignorance doubled. There were clusters of people there this morning and several scratch teams, for it is written, or more probably scrawled on a wall somewhere, that wherever two or more are gathered together, at least one will have something to kick. Tin cans and tightly wound balls of rag were annoying adults on all sides, but as Glenda hurried nearer, the big doors of the university opened and Ponder Stibbons stepped out, somewhat inexpertly bouncing one of the wretched new leather balls. Gloing! Silence clanged, as rolling cans rattled on unheeded. All eyes were on the wizard and on the ball. He threw it down and there was a double gloing! as it bounced off the stones. And then he kicked it. It was a bit wussy as kicks went, that kick, but no one in the square had ever kicked anything even one tenth as far, and every male chased after it, propelled by ancient instinct.
They've won, Glenda thought glumly. A ball that goes gloing! when others go clunk... Well, where's the contest?
She hurried on to the back entrance. In a world that was getting too complicated, where she could barge in on the black-hearted Tyrant and walk out unscathed, she needed a place to go that wasn't spinning. The Night Kitchen was as familiar as her bedroom, her place, under her control. She could face anything there.
There was a figure lounging against the wall by the rubbish bins, and for some reason she identified it right away, despite the heavy cloak and the hat pulled down over the eyes; no one she had ever met could relax as perfectly as Pepe.
'Wotcher, Glenda,' said a voice from under the hat.
'What are you doing here?' she said.
'Do you know how hard it is to find somebody in this city when you can't tell anyone what they look like and aren't really sure you can remember their name?' said Pepe. 'Where's Jools?'
'I don't know,' she said. 'I haven't seen her since last night.'
'It might be a good idea to find her before other people do,' said Pepe.
'What people?' said Glenda.
Pepe shrugged. 'Everybody,' he said. 'They're mostly looking in the dwarf districts right now, but it can only be a matter of time. We can't move down at the shop for them and it was all I could do to sneak out.'
'What are they after her for?' said Glenda, panic rising. 'I saw in the paper that people were trying to find her, but she hasn't done anything wrong!'
'I don't think you exactly grasp what's going on,' said the (possible) dwarf. 'They want to find her to ask her a lot of questions.'
'Has this got anything to do with Lord Vetinari?' said Glenda suspiciously.
'I wouldn't have thought so,' said Pepe.
'What sort of questions, then?'
'Oh, you know-What is your favourite colour? What do you like to eat? Are you an item with anybody? What advice do you have for young people today? Do you wax? Where do you get your hair done? What is your favourite spoon?'
'I don't think she's got a favourite spoon,' said Glenda, waiting for the world to make some sense.
Pepe patted her on the shoulder. 'Look, she's on the front page of the paper, isn't she? And the Times keeps on at us about wanting to do a lifestyle profile of her. That might not actually be a bad thing, but it's up to you.'
'I don't think she's got a lifestyle,' said Glenda, a little bewildered. 'She's never said. And she doesn't wax. She hardly even dusts. Anyway, just tell them all that she doesn't want to talk to anybody.'
Pepe's expression went strange for a moment, then he said with care, like a man, or dwarf, struggling to be heard across a cultural divide, 'Do you think I was talking about furniture?'
'Well, what else? And I don't think her housework is anyone else's business.'
'Don't you understand? She's popular, and the more we tell people they can't talk to her, the more they want to, and the more you say no the more interested they become. People want to know all about her,' said Pepe.
'Like what her favourite spoon is?' said Glenda.
'I might have been a bit ironic,' said Pepe. 'But there's newspaper writers all over the city looking for her and Bu-bubble want to do a two-page spread on her.' He paused. 'That means they'll write about her and it'll take two pages,' he volunteered helpfully. 'The Low King of the dwarfs has said that she is an icon for our times, according to Satblatt.'
'What's Satblatt?' said Glenda.
'Oh, the dwarf newspaper,' said Pepe. 'You'll probably never see it.'
'But she was just in a fashion show!' wailed Glenda. 'She was just walking up and down! I'm sure she doesn't want to get involved in all that sort of thing.'
Pepe gave her a sharp look. 'Are you?' he said.
And then she thought, really thought about Juliet, who would read Bu-bubble from cover to cover, wouldn't generally go near the Times, but would absorb all kinds of rubbish about frivolous and silly people. People that glittered. 'I don't know where she is,' she said. 'I really haven't seen her since yesterday.'
'Ah, a mystery disappearance,' said Pepe. 'Look, we're already learning about this sort of thing down at the shop. Can we go somewhere a bit more private? I hope none of them followed me up here.'
'Well, I can smuggle you in through the back entrance, as long as there isn't a bledlow around,' said Glenda.
'Fine by me. I'm used to that sort of thing.'
She led him through the doorway and into the maze of cellars and yards that contrasted rather interestingly with the fine frontage of Unseen University.
'Got anything to drink?' said Pepe behind her.
'Water!' snapped Glenda.
'I'll drink water when fish climb out of it to take a piss, but thank you all the same,' said Pepe.
And then Glenda caught the smell of baking coming from the Night Kitchen. She was the only one who baked in her kitchen! No one else was supposed to bake in her kitchen. Baking was her responsibility. Hers. She ran up the steps with Pepe behind her and noted that the mystery cook had yet to master the second most important rule of cooking, which was to tidy things up afterwards. The place was a mess. There were even lumps of dough on the floor. In fact, it looked as though it had been possessed by some kind of frenzy. And in the middle of it all, curled up on Glenda's battered and slightly rancid old armchair, was Juliet.
'Just like Sleeping Beauty, ain't it?' said Pepe behind her.
Glenda ignored him and hurried along the rows of ovens. 'She's been baking pies. What on earth did she want to come along and bake pies for? She's never been any good at baking pies.' That's because I've never let her bake a pie, she told herself. That's because as soon as she found anything difficult you took it away and did it yourself, her inner voice scolded.
Glenda opened oven door after oven door. They had arrived just in time. By the smell of it, a couple of dozen assorted pies were cooked to a turn.
'How about a drink?' said Pepe, in whom thirst sprang eternal. 'I'm sure there's brandy. Every kitchen has some brandy in it somewhere.'
He watched as Glenda pulled the pies out, using her apron to protect her hands. Pepe regarded the pies with the indifference of a man who likes to drink his meals and listened to Glenda's sotto voce monologue as pie after pie was laid out on the table.
'I never told her to do this. Why did she do this?' Because I did tell her to do this, sort of, that's why. 'And these are not half bad pies,' she said more loudly. In surprise.
Juliet opened her eyes, looked around blearily, and then her face contorted in panic.
'It's okay, I've taken them all out,' said Glenda. 'Well done.'
'I didn't know what else to do and Trev was busy with the footballing and I thought they would be wantin' pies tomorrow and I thought I better do some,' said Juliet. 'Sorry.'
Glenda took a step backwards. How to begin? she wondered. How to unravel it and then ravel it all back up again in a better shape because she had been wrong? Juliet hadn't just walked up and down with clothes on, she had become some kind of a dream. A dream of clothes. Sparkling and alive and tantalizingly possible. And in Glenda's memory of the fashion show, she literally shone, as if being lit from the inside. It was a kind of magic and it shouldn't be making pies. She cleared her throat.
'I've taught you a lot of things, haven't I, Juliet?' said Glenda.
'Yes, Glenda,' said Juliet.
'And they've always been useful, haven't they?'
'Yes, Glenda. I remember it was you that said I should always keep my hand on my ha'penny and I'm very glad that you did.'
There was a strange noise from Pepe, and Glenda, feeling her face go red, didn't dare look at him.
'Then I've got a bit more advice for you, Juliet.'
'First, never, ever apologize for anything that doesn't need apologizing for,' said Glenda. 'And especially never apologize for just being yourself.'
'No matter what happens, always remember that you now know how to make a good pie.'
'Pepe is here because Bu-bubble wants to write something about you,' said Glenda. 'Your picture was in the paper again this morning and - ' Glenda stopped. 'She is going to be all right, isn't she?' she said.
Pepe paused in the act of surreptitiously removing a bottle from a cupboard. 'You can trust me and Madame on that,' he said. 'Only people who are very trustworthy would dare to look as untrustworthy as me and Madame.'
'And all she will have to do is show off clothes - Don't drink that, that's cider vinegar!'
'I'm only drinking the cider bit,' said Pepe. 'Yes, all she'll have to do is show off clothes, but to judge from the mob back at the shop there's going to be people who want her to show off shoes, hats, hairstyles... '
'No hanky panky,' said Glenda.
'I don't think you'll find, anywhere in the world, a greater expert in both hanky and panky than Madame. In fact, I would be surprised if you, Glenda, knew one hundredth of the hanky and panky that she does, especially as she invented quite a lot of it herself. And since we'll notice it when we see it, we'll keep an eye on her.'
'And she's got to eat proper meals and get a good night's sleep,' said Glenda.
Pepe nodded, although she expected that both those concepts were quite alien to him.
'And paid,' she added.
'We'll cut her in on the profits if she works exclusively for us,' said Pepe. 'Madame wants to talk to you about that.'
'Yes, someone might want to pay her more than you do,' said Glenda.
'My, my, my. How fast we learn. I'm sure Madame will have great fun talking to you.'
Juliet looked from one to the other, sleep still wreathing her face. 'You want me to go back to the shop?'
'I don't want you to do anything,' said Glenda. 'It's up to you, okay? It's just up to you, but it seems to me that if you stay here then basically what you'll be doing is pies.'
'Well, not just pies,' said Juliet.
'Well, no, fair enough, there are also flans, bubble and squeak and assorted late-night dainties,' said Glenda. 'But you know what I mean. On the other hand, you could go and show off all these fancy clothes and go to lots of fancy places a long, long way from here and see a lot of new people and you'd know that if it all goes pear-shaped you could always make it pie-shaped.'
'Hah, nice one,' said Pepe, who'd found another bottle.
'I really would like to go,' said Juliet.
'Then go now. I mean right now, or at least as soon as he's finished drinking the ketchup.'
'But I'll have to go back for my stuff!'
Glenda reached down inside her vest and pulled out a burgundy-coloured booklet with the seal of Ankh-Morpork on it.
'What's that?' said Juliet.
'Your bank book. Your money's safe in the bank and you can take it out any time you want.'
Juliet turned the bank book over and over in her hands. 'I don't fink anyone in my family's ever been in a bank except for Uncle Geoffrey and they caught up with 'im even before he got home.'