When she came in the next morning there was a dictionary of Dwarfish and a copy of Postalume's The Speech of Trolls on the lectern too.

Surely it's not right to learn like this, she told herself. It can't be settling properly. You can't just fork it into your head. Learning has to be digested. You don't just have to know, you have to comprehend.

She mentioned this to Fassel, the smith, who said, 'Look, miss, he came up to me the other day and said he'd watched a smith before, and could he have a go? Well, you know her ladyship's orders, so I gave him a bit of bar stock and showed him the hammer and tongs and next minute he was going at it like每well, hammer and tongs! Turned out a nice little knife, very nice indeed. He thinks about things. You can see his ugly little mush working it all out. Have you ever met a goblin before?'

'Strange you should ask,' she told him. 'Our catalogue says we've got one of the very few copies of J. P. Bunderbell's Five Hours and Sixteen Minutes Among the Goblins of Far Uberwald, but I can't find it anywhere. It's priceless.'

'Five hours and sixteen minutes doesn't sound very long,' said the smith.

'You'd think so, wouldn't you? But according to a lecture Mr Blunderbell gave to the Ankh-Morpork Trespassers' Society,' said Miss Healstether, 'it was about five hours too long. He said they ranged in size from unpleasantly large to disgustingly small, had about the same level of culture as yogurt and spent their time picking their own noses and missing. A complete waste of space, he said. It caused quite a stir. Anthropologists are not supposed to write that sort of thing.'

'And young Nutt is one of them?'

'Yes, that puzzled me, too. Did you see him yesterday? There's something about him that frightens horses, so he came to the library and found some old book about the Horseman's Word. They were a kind of secret society, which knew how to make special oils that would make horses obey them. Then he spent the afternoon down in Igor's crypt, brewing up gods know what, and this morning he was riding a horse around the yard! It wasn't happy, mind you, but he was winning.'

'I'm surprised his ugly little head doesn't explode,' said Fassel.

'Ha!' Miss Healstether sounded bitter. 'Stand by, then, because he's discovered the Bonk School.'

'What's that?'

Advertisement..

'Not that, them. Philosophers. Well, I say philosophers, but, well... '

'Oh, the mucky ones,' said Fassel cheerfully.

'I wouldn't say mucky,' said Miss Healstether, and this was true. A ladylike librarian would not employ that word in the presence of a smith, especially one who was grinning. 'Let's say "indelicate", shall we?'

There is not a lot of call for delicacy on an anvil, so the smith continued unabashed: 'They are the ones who go on about what happens if ladies don't get enough mutton, and they say cigars are - '

'That is a fallacy!'

'That's right, that's what I read.' The smith was clearly enjoying this. 'And Ladyship lets him read this stuff?'

'Indeed, she very nearly insists. I can't imagine what she's thinking.' Or him, come to that, she thought to herself.

There was a limit to how many candles he should make, Trev had told Nutt. It looked bad if he made too many, Trev explained. The pointy hats might decide that they didn't need all the people. That made sense to Nutt. What would No Face and Concrete and Weepy Mukko do? They would have nowhere else to go. They had to live in a simple world; they too easily got knocked down by life in this one.

He'd tried wandering around the other cellars, but there was nothing much happening at night, and people gave him funny looks. Ladyship did not rule here. But wizards are a messy lot and nobody tidied up much and lived to tell the tale, so all sorts of old storerooms and junk-filled workshops became his for the use of. And there was so much for a lad with keen night vision to find. He had already seen some luminous spoon ants carrying a fork, and, to his surprise, the forgotten mazes were home to that very rare indoorovore, the Uncommon Sock Eater. There were some things living up in the pipes, too, which periodically murmured, 'Awk! Awk!' Who knew what strange monsters made their home here?

He cleaned the pie plates very carefully indeed. Glenda had been kind to him. He must show that he was kind, too. It was important to be kind. And he knew where to find some acid.

Lord Vetinari's personal secretary stepped into the Oblong Office with barely a disturbance in the air. His lordship glanced up. 'Ah, Drumknott. I think I shall have to write to the Times again. I am certain that one down, six across and nine down appeared in that same combination three months ago. On a Friday, I believe.' He dropped the crossword page on to the desk with a look of disdain. 'So much for a Free Press.'

'Well done, my lord. The Archchancellor has just entered the palace.'

Vetinari smiled. 'He must have looked at the calendar at last. Thank goodness they have Ponder Stibbons. Show him straight in after the customary wait.'

Five minutes later, Mustrum Ridcully was ushered in.

'Archchancellor! To what urgent matter do I owe this visit? Our usual meeting is not until the day after tomorrow, I believe.'

'Er, yes,' said Ridcully. As he sat down, a very large sherry was placed in front of him. 'Well, Havelock, the fact of the matter is - '

'But it is in fact quite providential that you have arrived just now,' Vetinari went on, ignoring him, 'because a problem has arisen on which I would like your advice.'

'Oh? Really?'

'Yes, indeed. It concerns this wretched game called foot-the-ball... '

'It does?'

The glass, now in Ridcully's hand, trembled not a fraction. He'd held his job for a long time, right back to the days when a wizard who blinked died.

'One has to move with the times, of course,' said the Patrician, shaking his head.

'We tend not to, over the road,' said Ridcully. 'It only encourages them.'

'People do not understand the limits of tyranny,' said Vetinari, as if talking to himself. 'They think that because I can do what I like I can do what I like. A moment's thought reveals, of course, that this cannot be so.'

'Oh, it is the same with magic,' said the Archchancellor. 'If you flash spells around like there's no tomorrow, there's a good chance that there won't be.'

'In short,' Vetinari continued, still talking to the air, 'I am intending to give my blessing to the game of football, in the hope that its excesses can be more carefully controlled.'

'Well, it worked with the Thieves' Guild,' Ridcully observed, amazed at his own calmness. 'If there has to be crime, then it should be organized, I think that's what you said.'

'Exactly. I have to admit to the view that all exercise for any purpose other than bodily health, the defence of the realm and the proper action of the bowels is barbaric.'

'Really? What about agriculture?'

'Defence of the realm against starvation. But I see no point in people just... running about. Did you catch your Megapode, by the way?'

How the hells does he do it? Ridcully wondered. I mean, how? Aloud, he said, 'Indeed we did, but surely you are not suggesting that we were merely "running about"?'

'Of course not. All three exceptions apply. Tradition is at least as important as bowels, if not quite so useful. And, indeed, the Poor Boys' Fun has some remarkable traditions of its own, which some might find it worthwhile exploring. Let me be frank, Mustrum. I cannot enforce a mere personal dislike against public pressure. Well, I can, strictly speaking, but not without going to ridiculous and indeed tyrannical lengths. Over a game? I think not. So... as things stand, we find teams of burly men pushing and shoving and kicking and biting in the faint hope, it seems to me, of propelling some wretched object at some distant goal. I have no problem with them trying to kill one another, which has little in the way of a downside, but it has now become so popular once more that property is being damaged, and that cannot be tolerated. There have been comments in the Times. No, what the wise man cannot change he must channel.'

'And how do you intend to do that?'

'By giving the job to you. Unseen University has always had a fine sporting tradition.'

'"Had" is the right word,' sighed Ridcully. 'In my day we were all so... so relentlessly physical. But if I was to suggest so much as an egg and spoon race these days they'd use the spoon to eat the egg.'

'Alas, I did not know your day was over, Mustrum,' said Lord Vetinari, with a smile.

The room, never normally noisy, sank into deeper silence.

'Now look here - ' Ridcully began.

'This afternoon I shall be speaking to the editor of the Times,' said Vetinari, gently surfing his voice over that of the wizard with all the skill of a born committee manipulator, 'who is, as we know, a very civic-minded person. I'm sure he will welcome the fact that I am asking the university to tame the demon foot-the-ball, and that you have, after careful thought, agreed to the task.'

I don't have to do this, Ridcully thought carefully. On the other hand, since it is what I want, and thereby don't have to ask for, this may be unwise. Damn! This is so like him!

'You would not object if we raise our own team?' he managed.

'Indeed, I positively demand that you do so. But no magic, Mustrum. I must make that clear. Magic is not sporting, unless you are playing against other wizards, of course.'

'Oh, I am a very sporting man, Havelock.'

'Capital! How is the Dean settling in at Brazeneck, by the way?'

If it had been anyone else asking, Ridcully thought, that would simply be a polite enquiry. But this is Vetinari, isn't it...

'I've been too busy to find out,' he said loftily, 'but I'm sure he will be fine when he finds his feet.' Or manages to see them without a mirror, he added to himself.

'I'm sure you must be pleased to see your old friend and colleague making his way in the world,' said Vetinari, innocently. 'And so is Pseudopolis itself, of course. I must say, I admire the sturdy burghers of that city for embarking on their noble experiment in this... this democracy,' he went on. 'It is always good to see it attempted again. And sometimes amusing, too.'

'There is something to be said for it, you know,' grunted Ridcully.

'Yes, I believe you practise it at the university,' said the Patrician, with a little smile. 'However, on the matter of football we are in accord. Capital. I will tell Mister de Worde what you are doing. I'm sure that the keen players of foot-the-ball will be interested, when someone explains the longer words to them. Well done. Do try the sherry. I am told it is highly palatable.'

Vetinari stood up, a signal that, in theory at least, the business of the meeting was concluded, and strolled over to a polished stone slab, set into a square wooden table. 'On a different note, Mustrum... How is your young visitor?'

'My visit - Oh, you mean the... uh... '

'That's right.' Vetinari smiled at the slab as if sharing a joke with it. 'The, as you put it, Uh.'

'I note the sarcasm. As a wizard, I must tell you that words have power.'

'As a politician, I must tell you I already know. How is he getting along? Concerned minds would like to know.'

Ridcully glanced at the little carved men on the playing slab as if they were listening to him. In a roundabout way, they probably were. Certainly it was well known now that the hands that guided half the pieces lived in a big castle in Uberwald, and were female and belonged to a lady who was mostly rumour.

'Smeems says he keeps himself to himself. He says he thinks the boy is cunning.'

'Oh, good,' said Vetinari, still seeming to find something totally engrossing in the layout of playing pieces.

'Good?'

'We need cunning people in Ankh-Morpork. We have a Street of Cunning Artificers, do we not?'

'Well, yes, but - '

'Ah, then it is context that has power,' said Vetinari, turning around with a look of unmasked delight. 'Did I say that I am a politician? Cunning: artful, sly, deceptive, shrewd, astute, cute, on the ball and, indeed, arch. A word for any praise and every prejudice. Cunning... is a cunning word.'

'You don't think that maybe this... experiment of yours might be a step too far?' said Ridcully.

'People said that about the vampires, did they not? It's alleged that they have no proper language, but I am told he speaks several languages fluently.'

'Smeems did say he talked la-di-da,' Ridcully admitted.

'Mustrum, compared with Natchbull Smeems, trolls speak la-di-da.'

'The... boy was brought up by a priest of some sort, I know that,' said Ridcully. 'But what will he become when he grows up?'

'By the sound of him, a professor of linguistics.'

'You know what I mean, Havelock.'

'Possibly, although I wonder if you do. But he is, I suggest, unlikely to become a ravening horde all by himself.'

Ridcully sighed. He glanced towards the game again, and Vetinari noticed.

'Look at them. Ranks, files,' he said, waving a hand over the little stone figures, 'locked in everlasting conflict at the whim of the player. They fight, they fall, and they cannot turn back because the whips drive them on, and all they know is whips, kill or be killed. Darkness in front of them, darkness behind them, darkness and whips in their heads. But what if you could take one out of this game, get him before the whips do, take him to a place without whips每what might he become? One creature. One singular being. Would you deny them that chance?'

'You had three men hanged last week,' said Ridcully, without quite understanding why.

'They had their chances. They used them to kill, and worse. All we get is a chance. We don't get a benison. He was chained to an anvil for seven years. He should get his chance, don't you think?'

Suddenly Vetinari was smiling again.

'Let us not get sombre, however. I look forward to your ushering in a new era of lively, healthy activity in the best sporting tradition. Indeed, tradition will be your friend here, I am sure. Please don't let me trespass any further on your time.'

Ridcully drained the sherry. That at least was palatable.

It's a short walk from the palace to Unseen University; positions of power like to keep an eye on one another.

Ridcully walked back through the crowds, occasionally nodding at people he knew, which, in this part of the city, was practically everyone.

Trolls, he thought, we get along with trolls, now that they remember to look where they're putting their feet. Got 'em in the Watch and everything. Jolly decent types, bar a few bad apples, and gods know we have enough of those of our own. Dwarfs? Been here for ages. Can be a bit tricky, can be as tight as a duck's arse每here he paused to think and edited that thought to 'drive a hard bargain'. You always know where you are with them, anyway, and of course they are short, which is always a comfort provided you know what they are doing down there. Vampires? Well, the Uberwald League of Temperance seemed to be working. Word on the street每or in the vault or whatever每was that they policed their own. Any unreformed bloodsucker who tried to make a killing in the city would be hunted down by people who knew exactly how they thought and where they hung out.

Lady Margolotta was behind all that. She was the person who, by diplomacy, and probably more direct means, had got things moving again in Uberwald, and she had some sort of... relationship with Vetinari. Everyone knew it, and that was all everyone knew. A dot dot dot relationship. One of those. And nobody had been able to join up the dots.

She had been to the city on diplomatic visits, and not even the well-practised dowagers of Ankh-Morpork had been able to detect a whisper of anything other than a businesslike amiability and international cooperation between the two of them.

And he played endless and complex games with her, via the clacks system, and apart from that, that was, well, that... until now.

And she'd sent him this Nutt to keep safe. Who knew why, apart from them? Politics, probably.

Ridcully sighed. One of the monsters, all alone. It was hard to think of it. They came in thousands, like lice, killing everything and eating the dead, including theirs. The Evil Empire had bred them in huge cellars, grey demons without a hell.

The gods alone knew what had happened to them when the Empire collapsed. But there was convincing evidence now that some still lived up in the far hills. What might they do? And one, right now, was making candles in Ridcully's cellars. What might he become?

'A bloody nuisance?' said Ridcully aloud.

''ere, 'oo are you calling a nuisance, mister? It's my road, same as yours!'

The wizard looked down at a young man who appeared to have stolen his clothes only from the best washing lines, though the tattered black and red scarf around his neck was probably his own. There was an edginess to him, a continual shifting of weight, as though he might at any moment run off in a previously unguessable direction. And he was throwing a tin can up in the air and catching it again. For Ridcully it brought back memories so sharp that they stung, but he pulled himself together.

'I am Mustrum Ridcully, Archchancellor and Master of Unseen University, young man, and I see you are sporting colours. For some game? A game of football, I suggest?'

'As it happens, yes. So what?' said the urchin, then realized that his hand was empty when it should now, under normal gravitational rules, be full again. The tin had not fallen back from its last ascent, and was in fact turning gently twenty feet up in the air.

'Childish of me, I know,' said Ridcully, 'but I did want your full attention. I want to witness a game of football.'

'Witness? Look, I never saw nuffin' - '

Ridcully sighed. 'I mean I want to watch a game, okay? Today, if possible.'

'You? Are you sure? It's your funeral, mister. Got a shilling?'

There was a clink, high above.

'The tin will come back down with a sixpence in it. Time and place, please.'

''ow do I know I can trust you?' said the urchin.

'I don't know,' said Ridcully. 'The subtle workings of the brain are a mystery to me, too. But I'm glad that is your belief.'

'What?' With a shrug, the boy decided to gamble, what with having had no breakfast.

'Loop Alley off the Scours, 'arp arsed one, an' I've never seen you before in my life, got it?'

'That is quite probable,' said Ridcully, and snapped his fingers.

The tin dropped into the urchin's waiting hand. He shook out the silver coin and grinned. 'Best o' luck to you, guv.'

'Is there anything to eat at these affairs?' said Ridcully, for whom lunchtime was a sacrament.

'There's pies, guv, pease pudding, jellied eel pies, pie and mash, lobster... pies, but mostly they are just pies. Just pies, sir. Made of pie.'

'What kind?'

His informant looked shocked. 'They're pies, guv. You don't ask.'

Ridcully nodded. 'And as a final transaction, I'll pay you one penny for a kick of your can.'

'Tuppence,' said the boy promptly.

'You little scamp, we have a deal.'

Ridcully dropped the can on the toe of his boot, balanced it for a moment, then flicked it into the air and, as it came down, hit it with a roundhouse kick that sent it spinning over the crowd.

'Not bad, granddad,' said the kid, grinning. In the distance there was a yell and the sound of someone bent on retribution.

Ridcully plunged a hand into his pocket and looked down. 'Two dollars to start running, kid. You won't get a better deal today!' The boy laughed, grabbed the coins and ran. Ridcully walked on sedately, while the years fell back on him like snow.

He found Ponder Stibbons pinning up a notice on the board just outside the Great Hall. He did this quite a lot. Ridcully assumed it made him feel better in some way.

He slapped Ponder on the back, causing him to spill drawing pins all over the flagstones.

'It is a bulletin from the Ankh Committee on Safety, Archchancellor,' said Ponder, scrabbling for the spinning, wayward pins.

'This is a university of magic, Stibbons. We have no business with safety. Just being a wizard is unsafe, and so it should be.'

'Yes, Archchancellor.'

'But I should pick up all those pins if I were you, you can't be too careful. Tell me-didn't we use to have a sports master here?'

'Yes, sir. Evans the Striped. He vanished about forty years ago, I believe.'

'Killed? It was dead men's shoes in those days, you know.'

'I can't imagine who would want his job. Apparently he evaporated while doing press-ups in the Great Hall one day.'

'Evaporated? What kind of death is that for a wizard? Any wizard would die of shame if he just evaporated. We always leave something behind, even if it's only smoke. Oh, well. Cometh the hour, cometh the... whatever. General comethness, perhaps. What is that thinking engine of yours doing these days?'

Ponder brightened. 'As a matter of fact, Archchancellor, Hex has just discovered a new particle. It travels faster than light in two directions at once!'

'Can we make it do anything interesting?'

'Well yes! It totally explodes Spolwhittle's Trans-Congruency Theory!'

'Good,' said Ridcully cheerfully. 'Just so long as something explodes. Since it's finished exploding, set it to finding either Evans or a decent substitute. Sports masters are pretty elementary particles, it shouldn't be difficult. And call a meeting of the Council in ten minutes. We are going to play football!'

Truth is female, since truth is beauty rather than handsomeness; this, Ridcully reflected as the Council grumbled in, would certainly explain the saying that a lie could run around the world before Truth has got its, correction, her boots on, since she would have to choose which pair每the idea that any woman in a position to choose would have just one pair of boots being beyond rational belief. Indeed, as a goddess she would have lots of shoes, and thus many choices: comfy shoes for home truths, hobnail boots for unpleasant truths, simple clogs for universal truths and possibly some kind of slipper for self-evident truth. More important right now was what kind of truth he was going to have to impart to his colleagues, and he decided not on the whole truth, but instead on nothing but the truth, which dispensed with the need for honesty.

'Well, go on, then, what did he say?'

'He responded to reasoned argument.'

'He did? Where's the catch?'

'None. But he wants the rules to be more traditional.'

'Surely not! Gather they are practically prehistoric as it is!'

'And he wants the university to take the lead in all this, and quickly. Gentlemen, there is a game going to be played in about three hours' time. I suggest we observe it. And to this end, I will require you to wear... trousers.'

After a while Ridcully took out his watch, which was one of the old-fashioned imp-driven ones and was reliably inaccurate. He flipped up the gold lid and stared patiently as the little creature pedalled the hands around. When the expostulating had not stopped after a minute and a half, he snapped the lid shut. The click had an effect that no amount of extra shouting could have achieved.

'Gentlemen,' he said gravely. 'We must partake of the game of the people每from whom, I might add, we derive. Has any of us, in the last few decades, even seen the game being played? I thought not. We should get outside more. Now, I'm not asking you to do this for me, or even for the hundreds of people who work to provide us with a life in which discomfort so seldom rears its head. Yes, many other ugly heads have reared, it is true, but dinner has always beckoned. We are, fellow wizards, the city's last line of defence against all the horrors that can be thrown against it. However, none of them are as potentially dangerous as us. Yes, indeed. I don't know what might happen if wizards were really hungry. So do this, I implore you on this one occasion, for the sake of the cheeseboard.'

There had been some nobler calls to arms in history, Ridcully would be the first to admit, but this one was well tailored to its target audience. There was some grumbling, but that was the same as saying that the sky was blue.

'What about lunch?' said the Lecturer in Recent Runes suspiciously.

'We'll eat early,' said Ridcully, 'and I am told that the pies at the game are just每amazing.'

Truth, in front of her huge walk-in wardrobe, selected black leather boots with stiletto heels for such a barefaced truth.

Nutt was already waiting with a proud but worried look on his face when Glenda got in to the Night Kitchen. She didn't notice him at first, but she turned back from hanging her coat on its peg and there he was, holding a couple of dishes in front of him like shields.

She almost had to shade her eyes because they gleamed so brightly.

'I hope this is all right,' said Nutt nervously.

'What have you done?'

'I plated them with silver, miss.'

'How did you do that?'

'Oh, there's all kinds of old stuff in the cellars and, well, I know how to do things. It won't cause trouble for anyone, will it?' Nutt added, looking suddenly anxious.

Glenda wondered if it would. It shouldn't, but you could never be sure with Mrs Whitlow. Well, she could solve that problem by hiding them somewhere until they tarnished.

'It's kind of you to take the trouble. I generally have to chase people to get plates back. You are a real gentleman,' she said, and his face lit up like a sunrise.

'You are very kind,' he beamed, 'and a very handsome lady with your two enormous chests that indicate bountifulness and fecundity - '

The morning air froze in one enormous block. He could tell he'd said something wrong, but he had no idea what it was.

Glenda looked around to see if anyone had heard, but the huge gloomy room was otherwise empty. She was always the first one in and the last one out. Then she said, 'Stay right there. Don't you dare move an inch! Not an inch! And don't steal any chickens!' she commanded as an afterthought.

She should have trailed steam as she headed out of the room, her boots echoing on the flagstones. What a thing to come out with! Who did he think he was? Come to that, who did she think he was? And what did she think he was?

The cellars and undercrofts of the university were a small city in themselves, and bakers and butchers turned to look as she clattered past. She didn't dare stop now; it would be too embarrassing.

If you knew all the passages and stairs, and if they stayed still for five minutes, it was possible to get to just about anywhere in the university without going above ground. Probably none of the wizards knew the maze. Not many of them cared to know the dull details of domestic management. Hah, they thought the dinners turned up by magic!

A small set of stone steps led up to the little door. Hardly anyone used it these days. The other girls wouldn't go in there. But Glenda would. Even after the very first time that she had, in response to the bell, delivered the midnight banana, or rather had failed to deliver it on account of running away screaming, she knew she'd have to face it again. After all, we can't help how we're made, her mother had said, and nor can we help what a magical accident might turn us into through no fault of our own, as Mrs Whitlow had explained slightly more recently, when the screaming had stopped. And so Glenda had picked up the banana and had headed right back there.

Now, of course, she was surprised that anyone might find it odd that the custodian of all the knowledge that could be was a reddish brown and generally hung several feet above his desk, and she was pretty certain that she knew at least fourteen meanings of the word 'ook'.

As it was daytime, the huge building beyond the little door was bustling, insofar as the word can be applied to a library. She headed towards the nearest lesser librarian, who failed to look the other way in time, and demanded: 'I need to see a dictionary of embarrassing words beginning with F!'

His haughty glance softened somewhat when he realized she was a cook. Wizards always had a place in their hearts for cooks, because it was near their stomach.

'Ah, then I think Birdcatcher's Discomforting Misusage will be our friend here,' he said cheerfully, and led her to a lectern, where she spent several enlightening minutes before heading back the way she had come, a little wiser and a great deal more embarrassed.

Nutt was still standing where she'd told him to stand, and looked terrified.

'I'm sorry, I didn't know what you meant,' she said, and thought: abundant, productive and fruitful. Well, yes, I can see how he got there, worse luck, but that's not me, not really me. I think. I hope.

'Um, it was kind of you to say that about me,' she said, 'but you should have used more appropriate language.'

'Ah, yes, I'm so sorry,' said Nutt. 'Mister Trev told me about this. I should not talk posh. I should have said that you have enormous t - '

'Just stop there, will you? Trevor Likely is teaching you elocution?'

'Don't tell me, I know this one... You mean talkin' proper?' said Nutt. 'Yes, and he's promised to take me to the football,' he added proudly.

This led to some explanation, which only made Glenda gloomy. Trev was right, of course. People who didn't know long words tended to be edgy around people who did. That's why her male neighbours, like Mr Stollop and his mates, distrusted nearly everybody. Their wives, on the other hand, shared a much larger if somewhat specialized vocabulary owing to the cheap romantic novels that passed like contraband from scullery to washhouse, in every street. That's why Glenda knew 'elocution', 'torrid', 'boudoir' and 'reticule', although she wasn't too certain about 'reticule' and 'boudoir', and avoided using them, which in the general scheme of things was not hard. She was deeply suspicious about what a lady's boudoir might be, and certainly wasn't going to ask anybody, even in the Library, just in case they laughed.

'And he's going to take you to the football, is he? Mister Nutt, you will stand out like a diamond in a sweep's earhole!'

Do not stand out from the crowd. There were so many things to remember!

'He says he will look after me,' said Nutt, hanging his head. 'Er, I was wondering who that nice young lady was who was in here last night,' he added desperately, as transparent as air.

'He asked you to ask me, right?'

Lie. Stay safe. But Ladyship wasn't here! And the nice apple-pie lady was right here in front of him! It was too complicated!

'Yes,' he said meekly.

And Glenda surprised herself. 'Her name is Juliet, and she lives bang next door to me so he'd better not come round, okay? Juliet Stollop, see if he likes that.'

'You fear he will press his suit?'

'Her dad will press a lot more than that if he sees he's a Dimmer supporter!'

Nutt looked blank, so she went on: 'Don't you know anything? Dimwell Old Pals? The football team? The Dollies are Dolly Sisters Football Club. Dollies hate the Dimmers, the Dimmers hate the Dollies! It's always been like that!'

'What could have caused such a difference between them?'

'What? There is no difference between them, not when you've got past the colours! They're two teams, alike in villainy! Dolly Sisters wears white and black, Dimwell wears pink and green. It's all about football. Bloody, bloody, clogging, hacking, punching, gouging, silly football!' The bitterness in Glenda's voice would have soured cream.

'But you have a Dolly Sisters scarf!'

'When you live there, it's safer that way. Anyway, you have to support your own.'

'But is it not a game, like spillikins or halma or Thud?'

'No! It's more like war, but without the kindness and consideration!'

'Oh, dear. But war is not kind, is it?' said Nutt, bewilderment clouding his face.

'No!'

'Oh, I see. You were being ironic.'

She gave him a sideways look. 'I might have been,' she conceded. 'You are an odd one, Mister Nutt. Where are you from, really?'

The old panic contained again. Be harmless. Be helpful. Make friends. Lie. But how did you lie to friends?

'I must go,' he said, scurrying down the stone steps. 'Mister Trev will be waiting!'

Nice but odd, Glenda thought, watching him leap down the steps. Clever, too. To spot my scarf on a hook ten yards away.

The sound of a rattling tin can alerted Nutt to his boss's presence before he had even hurried through the old archway to the vats. The other habitu谷s had paused in their work, which, frankly, given its usual snaillike progress, meant hardly any change at all, and were watching him listlessly. But they were watching, at least. Even Concrete looked vaguely alert, but Nutt saw a little dribble of brown in the corner of his mouth. Someone had been giving him iron filings again.

The can shot up as Trev caught it with his boot, flew over his head, and then came back obliquely, as if rolling down an invisible slope, and landed in his waiting hand. There was a murmur of appreciation from the watchers and Concrete banged his hand on the table, which generally meant approval.

'What kept you, Gobbo? Chatting up Glenda, were you? You've got no chance there, take it from me. Been there, tried that, oh yes. No chance, mate.' He threw a grubby bag towards Nutt. 'Get these on quick, else you'll stand out like a diamond in - '

'A sweep's earhole?' Nutt suggested.

'Yeah! You're gettin' it. Now don't hang about or we'll be late.'

Nutt looked doubtfully at a long, a very long scarf in pink and green and a large yellow woolly hat with a pink bobble on it.

'Pull it down hard so it covers your ears,' Trev commanded. 'Get a move on!'

'Er... pink?' said Nutt doubtfully, holding up the scarf.

'What about it?'

'Well, isn't football a rough man's game? Whereas pink, if you will excuse me, is rather a... female colour?'

Trev grinned. 'Yeah, that's right. Think about it. You are the clever one around here. And you can walk and think at the same time, I know that. Makes you stand out from the crowd in these parts.'

'Ah, I think I have it. The pink proclaims an almost belligerent masculinity, saying as it does: I am so masculine I can afford to tempt you to question it, giving me the opportunity to proclaim it anew by doing violence to you in response. I don't know if you have ever read Ofleberger's Die Wesentlichen Ungewissheiten Zugehörig der Offenkundigen Männlichkeit?'

Trev grabbed his shoulder and spun him round. 'Wot do you fink, Gobbo?' he said, his red face a couple of inches from Nutt's. 'Wot is your problem? Wot are you all about? You come out with ten-dollar words an' you lay 'em down like a man doin' a jigsaw! So how come you're down in the vats, eh, workin' for someone like me? It don't make sense! Are you on the run from the Old Sam? No problem, there, unless you did up an old lady or somethin', but you got to tell me!'

Too dangerous, thought Nutt desperately. Change the subject! 'She's called Juliet!' he gasped. 'The girl you asked about! She lives next door to Glenda! Honestly!'

Trev looked suspicious. 'Glenda told you that?'

'Yes!'

'She was windin' you up. She knew you'd tell me.'

'I don't think she would lie to me, Mister Trev. She is my friend.'

'I kept thinkin' about her all last night,' said Trev.

'Well, she is a wonderful cook,' Nutt agreed.

'I meant Juliet!'

'Um, and Glenda said to tell you that Juliet's other name is Stollop,' said Nutt, hating to be the bearer of worse news.

'What? That girl is a Stollop?'

'Yes. Glenda said I was to see how you liked that, but I know the meaning of irony.'

'But it's like findin' a strawberry in a dogmeat stew, yeah? I mean, the Stollops are buggers, the lot of 'em, biters and cloggers to a man, the kind of bastards who'll kick your family jewels up into your throat.'

'But you don't play football, do you? You just watch.'

'Damn right! But I'm a Face, right? I'm known in all the boroughs. You can ask anyone. Everyone knows Trev Likely. I'm Dave Likely's lad. Every supporter in the city knows about him. Four goals! No one else scored that much in a lifetime! And gave as good as he got, did Dad. One game he picked up the Dolly bastard holding the ball and threw 'im over the line. He gave as good as 'e got, my dad, and then some.'

'So, he was a bugger and a clogger and a biter too, was he?'

'What? Are you pulling my tonker?'

'I would not wish to do so initially, Mister Trev,' said Nutt, so solemnly that Trev had to grin, 'but, you see, if he fought the opposing team with even more force than they used, does that not mean that he - '

'He was my dad,' said Trev. 'That means you don't try any fancy maths, okay?'

'Okay indeed. And you never wanted to follow in his footsteps?'

'What, and get brung home on a stretcher? I got my brains from my ol' mum, not from Dad. He was a good bloke and loved his football, but he wasn't flush with brains to start with an' on that day some of 'em were leakin' out of his ear. The Dollies got 'im in the melee and sorted 'im out good and proper. That's not for me, Gobbo. I'm smart.'

'Yes, Mister Trev, I can see that.'

'Get the gear on and let's go, okay? We don't want to miss anything.'

'Fing,' said Nutt automatically, as he started to wind the huge scarf around his neck.

'What?' said Trev, frowning.

'Wot?' said Nutt, his voice a little muffled. There was a lot of scarf. It was almost covering his mouth.

'Are you pulling my chuff, Gobbo?' said Trev, handing him an ancient sweater, faded and saggy with age.

'Please, Mister Trev, I don't know! There appears to be so much I might inadvertently pull!' He tugged on the big woolly hat with the pink pompom on it. 'They are so very pink, Mister Trev. We must be bursting with machismo!'

'I don't know what you person'ly are bursting with, Gobbo, but here's somethin' to learn. "Come on if you think you're hard enough." Now you say it.'

'Come on if you think you're hard enough,' said Nutt obediently.

'Well, okay,' said Trev, inspecting him. 'Just remember, if anyone starts pushing you around during the game, and givin' you grief, just you say that to 'em and they'll see you're wearing the Dimmer colours and they'll think twice. Got it?'

Nutt, somewhere in the space between the big bobbly hat and the boa constrictor of a scarf, nodded.

'Wow, there you are, Gobbo, a complete... fan. Your own mother wouldn't recognize you!'

There was a pause before a voice emerged from inside the mound of ancient woollens, which looked very much like a nursery layette made by a couple of giants who weren't sure what to expect.

'I believe you are accurate.'

'Yeah? Well, that's good, innit? Now let's go and meet the lads. Move fast, stay close.'

'Now remember, this is a pre-season friendly between the Angels and the Whoppers, right?' said Trev, as they stepped out into a fine rain which, because of Ankh-Morpork's standing cloud of pollution, was morphing gently into smog. 'They're both pretty crap, they'll never amount to anythin', but the Dimmers shout for the Angels, right?'




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