Trev unbuckled his belt, faced a noisome wall and stared upwards nonchalantly, as a man does in these circumstances. However, most men don't look up into the astonished faces of two birdlike women who were standing, no, perching on the roof. They screeched Awk! Awk! and flew up into the darkness.

Trev scuttled quickly and damply back into the shop. This city got bloody stranger every day.

After that, time flew past for Trev, and every second stank of sulphur. He'd seen Nutt dribbling candles, but that was at snail's pace compared with the speed at which the leather was cut for the ball. But that wasn't creepy, that was just Nutt. What was creepy was that he didn't measure anything. Eventually, Trev couldn't stand it any more, and stopped leaning against the wall, pointed to one of the multi-sided little leather strips and said, 'How long is that?'

'One and fifteen sixteenths of an inch.'

'How can you tell without measuring?'

'I do measure, with my eyes. It is a skill. It can be learned.'

'An' that makes you worthy?'


'An' who judges?'

'I do.'

'Here we are, Mister Nutt, still warm,' said Glang, arriving from the back of the shop holding something that looked like something taken from an animal that was now, you hoped for its own sake, dead.


'Of course, I could do a lot better with more time,' he continued, 'but if you blow down this little tube... '

Trev watched in wonder, and it occurred to him that in all his life he'd made a few candles and a lot of mess. How much was he worth?

Gloing! Gloing!

Two balls in harmony, thought Trev, but clapped as Nutt and Glang shook hands, then, while they were still admiring their handiwork, he reached behind him and slipped a dagger off the bench and into his pocket.

He wasn't a thief. Oh, fruit off stalls, but everyone knew that didn't count, and picking a toff's pocket was just a case of social redistribution, everyone knew that, too, and maybe you found something that looked lost, well, someone would pick it up, so why not you?

Weapons got you killed, often because you were holding one. But things were going too far. He had heard Andy's bones creak and Nutt had brought the man to his knees without sweating. And there were two reasons for taking precautions right there. One was that if you put Andy down you'd better put him out, right out, because he would come back, blood around the corner of his mouth. And two, the worst, was that right now Nutt was more worrying than Andy. At least he knew what Andy was...

Carrying a ball each, they hurried back to the university, with Trev keeping a watchful eye on high buildings. 'It's amazin' what's turnin' up in this city,' he said. 'There were a couple of vampire types back there, did you know?'

'Oh, those? They work for Ladyship. They are there for protection.'

'Whose?' said Trev.

'Do not worry about them.'

'Hah! And do you know something even stranger has happened this evening?' said Trev, as the university hove into sight. 'You offered that dwarf fifteen dollars and he didn't even haggle. Like, that's unheard of. Must be the power of gloing!'

'Yes, but I actually gave him twenty dollars,' said Nutt.

'Why? He didn't ask for anythin' more.'

'No, but he did work very hard and the extra five dollars will more than repay him for the dagger you stole while our backs were turned.'

'I never did!' said Trev hotly.

'Your automatic, unthinking and spring-loaded reply is noted, Mister Trev. As was the sight of the dagger on the bench, shortly followed by the sight of the empty space where the dagger had been. I am not angry, because I saw you most sensibly toss Mister Shank's wretched cutlass over a wall and I understand your nervousness, but nevertheless I must point out that this is stealing. And so I ask you, as my friend, to take the dagger back in the morning.'

'But that will leave 'im up by five dollars and his dagger back.' Trev sighed. 'But at least we've got a few dollars each,' he said, as they entered the back door of the university.

'Yes, and then again no, Mister Trev. You will take the remaining five dollars and this rather grubby although genuine receipt for twenty dollars to Mister Stibbons, who thinks you are no good, thus making him doubt his original assumption that you are a thief and a scallywag and assisting your progress in this university.'

'I'm not a - ' Trev began and stopped, honest enough to acknowledge the knife in his coat. 'Honestly, Nutt, you're one of a kind, you are.'

'Yes,' said Nutt. 'I am coming to that conclusion.'


The word, in huge type, shouted out from the front page of the Times, next to a big picture of Juliet glittering in micromail and smiling right at the reader. Glenda, frozen for the last fifteen seconds in the act of raising a piece of toast to her mouth, finally bit.

Now she blinked and dropped the toast to read: Mystery model 'Jewels' was the toast of an astounding fashion show at Shatta yesterday when she was the very incarnation of micromail, the remarkable metal 'cloth' about which there has been so much speculation in recent months and which, she confirms, Does Not Chafe. She chatted happily and with fetching straightforward earthiness to dignitaries to whom, this writer is certain, no one has ever said 'Wotcher' before. They appeared to find the experience refreshing and entirely without chafe...

Glenda stopped reading at this point because the question 'How much trouble are we going to get into about this?' was attempting to fill her whole head. And there was no trouble, was there? And there would not be. There couldn't be. First, who would think that the beauty in the silver beard, like some goddess of the forge, was a cook's assistant? And, second, there was no trouble to be had, unless someone tried to make it, in which case they would have to go through Glenda and Glenda would go through them, in very short order. Because Jools was wonderful. She had to admit it. The girl brought radiant sunshine to the page, and suddenly it was plain: it would be a crime to hide all that grace and beauty in a cellar. So what if she had a vocabulary of fewer than seven hundred words? There were more than enough people who were stuffed tight as an egg with words, and who would want to see any of them on the front page?

Anyway, she thought, as she pulled her coat on, it would be a nine-minute wonder in any case and besides, she added to herself, it wasn't as if anyone would spot it was Juliet. After all, she was wearing a beard and that was amazing, because there was no way that a woman in a beard should look attractive, but it worked. Imagine that catching on! You'd have to spend twice as long at the hairdresser's. Someone's going to think about that, she thought.

There was no sound from the Stollops' house. She wasn't surprised. Juliet did not have much grasp of the idea of punctuality. Glenda popped next door to see how the widow Crowdy was and then headed, in the drizzling rain, back to her safe haven of the Night Kitchen. Halfway there an all but forgotten pressure in her bodice reminded her of her duty and she dared go into the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork.

Trembling with fear and defiance, she walked up to a clerk at his desk, slapped fifty warm dollars in front of him and said, 'I want to start a bank account, all right?' She left five minutes later with a shiny account book and the delightful recollection that a posh-looking man at a posh-looking desk in a posh-looking building had called her madam, and enjoyed the sensation until it ran into the reality that madam had better roll up her sleeves and get to work.

There was a lot to do. She made pies at least a day ahead so that they could mature, and Mister Nutt's appetite last night had put quite a large dent in her pantry. But at least there wouldn't be much demand for pies tomorrow night. Even the wizards didn't call for a pie after a banquet.

Ah, yes, the banquet, she thought, as the rain started to soak into her coat. The banquet. She would have to see about the banquet. Sometimes if you wanted to go to the ball you had to be your own fairy godmother.

There were several obstacles requiring the touch of a magic wand: Mrs Whitlow did indeed operate a certain kind of apartheid between the Night and Day Kitchens, as if one flight of stairs actually changed who you were. The next difficulty was that Glenda did not have, according to the traditions of the university, the right kind of figure to serve at table, at least when there were visitors, and, lastly, Glenda did not have the temperament for serving at table. It wasn't that she didn't know how to smile; she was quite capable of smiling, if you gave her enough warning, but she positively hated having to smile at people who actually merited, instead, a flick around the earhole with a napkin. She hated taking away plates of unfinished food. She always had to suppress a tendency to say things like 'Why did you put it on your plate if you didn't intend to finish it?' and 'Look, you've left more than half of it and it cost a dollar a pound,' and 'Of course it's cold, but that's because you've been playing footsie with the young lady opposite and haven't been concentrating on your dinner,' and when all else failed 'There's little children in Klatch you know... '¨Cit was a phrase of her mother's, but she'd obviously missed some significant part of it.

She hated waste, she thought to herself as she walked along the stone corridor towards the Night Kitchen. There never needed to be any if you knew your way around a kitchen and if your diners had the decency to take your food seriously. She was rambling to herself. She knew that. Occasionally she would pull the front page of the Times out of her bag and take a look at it again. It had all really happened and there was the proof. But, it was a funny thing: every day something happened that was important enough to be on the front page of the newspaper. She'd never bought it and seen a little sign that said 'Not much happened yesterday, sorry about that'. And tomorrow, wonderful though that picture was, it would be wrapping up fish and chips and everyone would have forgotten about it. That would be a load off her mind.

There was a polite cough. She recognized it as belonging to Nutt, who had the politest cough there could possibly be. 'Yes, Mister Nutt?'

'Mister Trev has sent me with this letter for Miss Juliet, Miss Glenda,' said Nutt, who had apparently been waiting by the steps. He held it out as if it were some double-edged sword.

'She's not come in yet, I'm afraid,' said Glenda as Nutt followed her up the steps, 'but I'll put it on the shelf over here where she'll be bound to see it.' She looked at Nutt and saw his eyes firmly fixed on the pie racks. 'Oh, and I do seem to have made one apple pie more than called for. I wonder if you could assist me by removing it from the premises?'

He gave her a grateful smile, took the pie and hurried away.

Alone again, Glenda looked at the envelope. It was the cheapest sort, the kind that looked as if it had been made from recycled lavatory paper. And somehow, it seemed to have got a bit bigger.

Inexplicably, she found herself recalling that the gum on those envelopes was so bad that when it came to sealing them it was probably better to just have a very bad cold. Anyone could simply open it up, see what it said, dig out a bit of earwax and no one would be any the wiser.

But that would have been a very bad thing to do.

Glenda thought that same thought fifteen times before Juliet walked into the Night Kitchen, hung up her coat on the hook and put on her apron. 'There was a man on the bus readin' the paper and it had a picture of me on the front,' she said excitedly.

Glenda nodded and handed over her own paper.

'Well, I suppose it's me,' said Juliet, with her head on one side. 'What shall we do now?'

'Open the damn letter!' shouted Glenda.

'What?' said Juliet.

'Er, oh, Trev sent you a letter,' said Glenda. She snatched it from the shelf and held it out. 'Why don't you read it right now?'

'He's probably just mucking about.'

'No! Why don't you just read it right now? I haven't tried to open it!'

Juliet took the envelope. It opened more or less to a touch. Glenda's evil side thought, hardly any gum at all! I could have just flicked it open!

'I can't read with you standin' so close,' said Juliet. After some time moving her lips she went on, 'I don't get it. It's all kinda long words. Lovely curly writing, though. There's a bit here saying that I look like a summer's day. What's that all about, then?' She pressed it into Glenda's hand. 'Can you read it for me, Glendy? You know I'm not good at complicated words.'

'Well, I'm a bit busy,' said Glenda, 'but since you ask.'

'First time I've ever had a letter that's not all in capitals,' said Juliet.

Glenda sat down and started to read. A lifetime of what even she would call bad romantic novels suddenly bore fruit. It read as though someone had turned on the poetry tap and then absent-mindedly gone on holiday. But they were wonderful words, nevertheless. There was the word swain, for example, which was a definite marker, and quite a lot about flowers and quite a lot of what looked like pleading, wrapped up in fancy letters, and after a while she took out her handkerchief and fanned the air around her face.

'So, what's it all about?' said Juliet.

Glenda sighed. How to begin? How did you talk to Juliet about similes and metaphors and poetic licence all wrapped up in wonderful curly writing?

She did her best. 'Weeell, basically he's saying that he really fancies you, thinks you're really fit, how about a date, no hanky panky, he promises. And there's three little x's underneath.'

Juliet started to cry. 'That's loverlee. Fancy 'im sitting down and writing all those words just for me. Real poetry just for me. I'm gonna sleep with it under my pillow.'

'Yes, I suspect that he had something like that in mind,' said Glenda and thought, Trev Likely a poet? Not likely at all.

There was a dreadful load on Pepe's bladder, and he was stuck between a rock and a hard place, if that wasn't too offensive a description of lying between Madame and a wall. She was still asleep. She snored magnificently, using the traditional multi-part snore, known to those who are fortunate enough to have to listen to it every night as the 'errgh, errgh, errghh, blorrrt!' symphony. And she was lying on his leg. And the room was pitch dark. He managed to retrieve his leg, half of which had gone to sleep, and set out on the well-known search for porcelain, which began by him putting his foot down on an empty champagne bottle, which skittered away and left him flat on his back. In the gloom he groped for it, found it, tested it for true emptiness, because you never knew your luck, and, as it were, filled it again, putting it down on what was probably a table, but in his mind and the darkness could just as well have been an armadillo.

There was another sound syncopating with Madame's virtuoso performance. It must have been that which woke him. By groping, he located his shorts and after only three tries managed to get them the right way up and the right way round. They were a little chilly. That was the problem with micromail; it was, after all, metal. On the other hand, it did not chafe and you never had to wash it. Five minutes on the fire and it was as hygienic as anything. Besides, Pepe's version of the shorts held a surprise all of their own.

Thus feeling that he could face the world, or at least the part of it that would need to see only the top of him, he shuffled and stubbed his way to the shop's door, checking every bottle along the way for evidence of liquid content. Remarkably, a bottle of port had survived with fifty per cent remaining capacity. Any port in a storm, he thought, and drank his breakfast.

The shop's door was rattling. It had a small sliding aperture by which the staff could determine whether they wanted to let a prospective customer in, because when you are a posh shop like Shatta, you don't sell things to just anyone. Pairs of eyeballs zigzagged back and forth across his vision as people clustered on the other side of the door and fought for attention. Somebody said, 'We're here to see Jewels.'

'She's resting,' said Pepe. That was always a good line and could mean anything.

'Have you seen the picture in the Times?' said a voice. Then, 'Look,' as a vision of Juliet was held up in front of the door.

Blimey, he said to himself. 'She had a very tiring day,' he said.

'The public wants to know all about her,' said a sterner voice.

And a rather less aggressive female voice said, 'She seems to be rather amazing.'

'She is. She is,' said Pepe, inventing desperately, 'but a very private person and a bit artistic too, if you know what I mean.'

'Well, I've got a big order to place,' said yet another voice as the owner managed to shuffle for slot space.

'Oh, well, we don't have to wake her up for that. Just give me a moment and I'll be right with you.' He took another swig of the port. When he turned around, Madame, in a nightshirt that could have accommodated a platoon, at least if they were very friendly, was bearing down on him with a glass in one hand and the champagne bottle in the other.

'This stuff's gone horribly flat,' she said.

'I'll go and find some fresh,' he replied, snatching it from her quickly. 'We've got newspaper people and customers out there and they all want Jools. Can you remember where she lives?'

'I'm sure she told me,' said Madame, 'but it all seems a long time ago. That other one, Glenda I think, works at some big place in the city, as a cook. Anyway, why do they want to see her?'

'There's a wonderful picture in the Times,' said Pepe. 'You know when you said you thought we'd get rich? Well, it looks like you weren't thinking big enough.'

'What do you suggest, dear?'

'Me?' said Pepe. 'Take the order, because that's good business, and tell the others that Jools will see them later.'

'Do you think they'll go for that?'

'They'll have to, because we don't know where the hell she is. There's a million dollars walking around this city on legs.'

Rhys, Low King of the Dwarfs, paid particular attention to the picture of the wonderful girl. The definition wasn't too bad at all. The technique of translating the clacks semaphore signal into a black-and-white picture was quite well advanced these days. Even so, his people in Ankh-Morpork must have thought this particularly interesting to merit the expense of the bandwidth required. Certainly, it was exercising a lot of other dwarfs, but in the Low King's experience, it was possible to find someone, somewhere, who objected to anything. He looked at the grags in front of him. So simple for people like Vetinari, he thought. He just has religions to deal with. We don't have religions. Being a dwarf is a religion in itself, and no two priests ever agree, and sometimes it seems that every other dwarf is a priest. 'I see nothing here to disturb me,' he said.

'We believe the beard to be a false one,' said one of the grags.

'That is perfectly acceptable,' said the King. 'There is absolutely nothing in any precedent that bans false beards. They are a great salvation to those who find beards hard to grow.'

'But she looks, well, alluring,' said one of the other grags. They were indistinguishable under their tall, pointed leather cowls.

'Attractive, certainly,' said the King. 'Gentlemen, is this going to take long?'

'It must be stopped. It's not dwarfish.'

'Oh, but it manifestly is, is it not?' said the King. 'Micromail is one hundred per cent mail and you don't get any more dwarfish than that. She is smiling and while I would agree that dwarfs do not appear to smile very much, certainly not when they come to see me, I think we could profit from her example.'

'It's positively an offence against morality.'

'How? Where? Only in your heads, I feel.'

The tallest grag said, 'So you intend to do nothing?'

The King paused for a moment, staring at the ceiling. 'No, I intend to do something,' he said. 'First of all, I shall see to it that my staff find out just how many orders there have been for micromail originating from here in Bonk today. I'm sure Shatta would not object to them seeing their records, especially since I intend to tell Madame Sharn that she can come back and establish her premises here.'

'You would do that?' said a grag.

'Yes, of course. We have nearly concluded the Koom Valley Accord, a peace with the trolls that no one ever thought they would see. And I am fed up, gentlemen, with your whining, moaning and endless, endless attempts to re-fight battles that you have already lost. As far as I am concerned, this young lady is showing us a better future and now, if you are not out of my office in ten seconds, I will charge you rent.'

'There will be trouble over this.'

'Gentlemen, there is always trouble! But this time I will be making it for you.'

As the door slammed shut behind them, the King sat back in his chair.

'Well done, sir,' said his secretary.

'They'll keep on. I can't imagine what being a dwarf would be like if we didn't argue all the time.' He squirmed a little in his chair. 'You know, they're right when they say it doesn't chafe and it's not as cold as you would imagine. Do ask our agent to express my thanks to Madame Sharn for her generous gift, will you?'

Even this early in the day, the Great Hall of the University was a general thoroughfare. Most of the tables were pushed back against the walls or, if someone felt like showing off, levitated to the ceiling, and the huge black-and-white slabs of the floor, worn smooth by the footfalls of millennia, were polished still further as today's faculty and students took a short cut to various concerns, destinations and, very occasionally, when no viable excuse presented itself, to lectures.

The Great Chandelier had been swung down and off to one side for its daily replenishing of candles, but there was, fortunately for Mustrum Ridcully's purposes, a large expanse of clear floor.

He saw the figure he was waiting for hurrying towards him. 'How did it go, Mister Stibbons?'

'Extremely well, I have to say, sir,' said Ponder. He opened the sack he was carrying. 'One of these is our original ball and one of them is the ball that Nutt and Trevor Likely had made last night.'

'Ah, spot the ball,' said Ridcully. He picked them both up in his enormous hands and dropped them on the flagstones.

Gloing! Gloing!

'Perfectly identical,' he said.

'Trevor Likely said they had it made by a dwarf for twenty dollars,' said Ponder.

'Did he really?'

'Yes, sir, and he gave me the change and the receipt.'

'You seem puzzled, Mister Stibbons?'

'Well, yes, sir. I feel I have been rather misjudging him.'

'Possibly even small leopards can change their shorts,' said Ridcully, slamming him on the back convivially. 'Call it score one for human nature. Now, which of these balls is the one that's going back to the Cabinet?'

'Amazingly, sir, they did think to mark the new ball and there's a tiny little dot of white paint on this one here... I mean this one here... I think it was here... Ah! Here it is. It's ours. I'll send one of the students to put the other one back shortly. We still have an hour and a half.'

'No, I'd rather you did it yourself, Mister Stibbons, I'm sure it would only take a few minutes. Do hurry back, I'd like to try a little experiment.'

When Ponder returned, he found Ridcully loitering unobtrusively by one of the big doors. 'You have your notebook ready, Mister Stibbons?' he said quietly.

'And a fresh pencil, Archchancellor.'

'Very well, then. The experiment begins.'

Ridcully gently rolled the new football out on to the floor, straightened up and glanced at his stopwatch.

'Ah, the ball has been kicked aside by the Professor of Illiberal Studies, quite possibly by accident... Now one of the bledlows, Mister Hipney I think his name is, has kicked it somewhat uncertainly. One of the students, Pondlife, I believe, has prodded it back... We have momentum, Mister Stibbons. Undirected, it is true, but promising. Ah, but we can't have this...

'No touching the ball with your hands, gentlemen!' shouted the Archchancellor, deftly trapping the travelling ball with his boot. 'That's a rule! We really could do with that whistle, Stibbons.'

He bounced the ball on the stone floor.


'Don't just mess about like kids kicking a tin! Play football! I am the Archchancellor of this university, by Io, and I will rusticate, or otherwise expel, any man who skives off without a note from his mother, hah!'


'You will arrange yourself into two teams, set up goals and strive to win! No man will leave the field of play unless injured! The hands are not to be used, is that clear? Any questions?' A hand went up. Ridcully sought the attached face.

'Ah, Rincewind,' he said, and, because he was not a determinedly unpleasant man, amended this to, 'Professor Rincewind, of course.'

'I would like permission to fetch a note from my mother, sir.'

Ridcully sighed. 'Rincewind, you once informed me, to my everlasting puzzlement, that you never knew your mother because she ran away before you were born. Distinctly remember writing it down in my diary. Would you like another try?'

'Permission to go and find my mother?'

Ridcully hesitated. The Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography had no students and no real duties other than to stay out of trouble. Although Ridcully would never admit it, it was against all reason an emeritus position. Rincewind was a coward and an unwitting clown, but he had several times saved the world in slightly puzzling circumstances. He was a luck sink, the Archchancellor had decided, doomed to being a lightning rod for the fates so that everyone else didn't have to. Such a person was worth all his meals and laundry (including an above-average level of soiled pants) and a bucket of coal every day even if he was, in Ridcully's opinion, a bit of a whiner. However, he was fast, and therefore useful.

'Look,' said Rincewind, 'a mysterious urn turns up and suddenly it's all about football. That bodes. It means something bad is going to happen.'

'Come now, it could be something wonderful,' Ridcully protested.

Rincewind appeared to give this due consideration. 'Could be wonderful, will be dreadful. Sorry, that's how it goes.'

'This is Unseen University, Rincewind. What is there to fear?' Ridcully said. 'Apart from me, of course. Good heavens, this is a sport.' He raised his voice. 'Arrange yourselves into two teams and play football!'

He stepped back and joined Ponder. The dragooned footballers, having been given clear instructions in a loud voice, went into a huddle to find out by hubbub what they should actually do instead.

'I can't believe this,' said Ridcully. 'Every boy knows what to do when they've found something to kick, don't they?' He cupped his hands. 'Come on, two captains step up. I don't care who it is.' This took rather more time than might have been expected since those who had not surreptitiously left the Hall could see that the post of football captain was one that offered a wonderful chance for being the target of the Archchancellor's mercurial wrath. Eventually two sacrifices were pushed forward and found it too difficult to push their way back into the ranks again.

'Now, I say again, pick the teams alternately.' He took off his hat and flung it to the ground. 'Now we all understand this! It's a boy thing! It's like little girls and the colour pink! You know how to do this! Pick the teams alternately so one of you ends up with the weird kid and the other with the fat kid. Some of the fastest mathematics of all time has been achieved by team captains trying not to end up with the weird kid - Stay where you are, Rincewind!'

Ponder gave an involuntary shudder as his schooldays came running back, jeering at him. The fat kid in his class had been the unfortunately named 'Piggy' Love, whose father owned a sweet shop, which gave the son some weight in the community, not to mention clout. That had left only the weird kid as the natural target for the other boys, which meant a chronic hell for Ponder until that wonderful day when sparks came out of Ponder's fingers and Martin Sogger's pants caught fire. He could smell them now. Best days of your life be buggered; the Archchancellor could be a bit crass and difficult at times, but at least he wasn't allowed to give you a wedgie -

'Are you listening to me, Stibbons?'

Ponder blinked. 'Er, sorry, sir, I was... calculating.'

'I said, who's the tall feller with the tan and the dinky beard?'

'Oh, that's Professor Bengo Macarona, Archchancellor. From Genua, remember? He's swapped with Professor Maidenhair for a year.'

'Oh, right. Poor old Maidenhair. Perhaps he won't get laughed at so much in a foreign language. And Mister Macarona's here to better himself, yes? Put a bit of polish on his career, no doubt.'

'Hardly, sir. He's got doctorates from Unki, QIS and Chubb, thirteen in all, and a visiting professorship at Bugarup, and he has been cited in two hundred and thirty-six papers and, er, one divorce petition.'


'The rule about celibacy isn't taken seriously over there, sir. Very hot-blooded people, I understand, of course. His family owns a huge ranch and the biggest coffee plantation outside Klatch, and I think his grandmother owns the Macarona Shipping Company.'

'So why the hell did he come here?'

'He wants to work with the best, sir,' said Ponder. 'I think he's serious.'

'Really? Oh, well, he seems like a sensible chap, then. Er, the divorce thing?'

'Don't know much, sir, it got hushed up, I believe.'

'Angry husband?'

'Angry wife, as I heard it,' said Ponder.

'Oh, he was married, was he?'

'Not to my knowledge, Archchancellor.'

'I don't think I quite understand,' said Ridcully.

Ponder, who was not at all at home in this area, said very slowly, 'She was the wife of another man... I, er, believe, sir.'

'But I - '

To Ponder's relief, light dawned on Ridcully's huge face. 'Oh, you mean he was like Professor Hayden. We used to have a name for him... '

Ponder braced himself.

'Snakes. Very keen on them, you know. Could talk for hours about snakes with a side order of lizards. Very keen.'

'I'm glad you feel like that, Archchancellor, because I know that a number of the students - '

'And then there was old Postule, who was in the rowing team. Coxed us through two wonderful years.' Ponder's expression did not change, but for a few moments his face went pink and shiny. 'A lot of that sort of thing about, apparently,' said Ridcully. 'People make such a fuss. Anyway, in my opinion there's not enough love in the world. Besides, if you didn't like the company of men you wouldn't come here in the first place. I say! Well done, that man!' This was because, in the absence of Ridcully's attention, the footballers had at last started their own kick-about and some quite fancy footwork was emerging. 'Yes, what?'

A bledlow had appeared alongside Ridcully.

'Gentleman to see the Archchancellor, sir. He's a wizard, sir. The, er, the Dean, as was, only he says he's an Archchancellor too.'

Ridcully hesitated, but you'd have had to be an experienced Ridcully watcher, like Ponder, to notice the moment. When the Archchancellor spoke, it was calmly and carefully, every word hammered on the anvil of self-control.

'What a pleasant surprise, Mister Nobbs. Do show the Dean in. Oh, and please do not glance at Mister Stibbons for confirmation, thank you. I am still the Archchancellor in these parts. The only one, in fact. Is there a problem, Mister Stibbons?'

'Well, sir, it is a bit public in here - ' Ponder stopped, because suddenly he had nobody's attention. He hadn't seen the ball bounce towards Bledlow Nobbs (no relation). Nor the vicious kick the latter gave it, just as he would an impertinent intrusion by a street urchin's tin can. Ponder did see the ball curving majestically through the air, heading for the other end of the Hall where, behind the organ, rose the stained-glass window dedicated to Archchancellor Abasti, which on a daily basis showed one of several thousand scenes of a mystical or spiritual nature. The intuition with which Ponder had successfully calculated the distance and trajectory of the ball told him that the current glowing picture of 'Bishop Horn realizing that the alligator quiche was an unwise choice' had appeared just in time to be extremely unlucky.

And then, like some new planet swimming into the ken of a watcher of the skies, as they are prone to do, a rusty red shape arose, unfolding as it came, snatched the ball out of the air and landed on the organ keyboard to the sound of gloing! in B flat.

'Well done, that ape!' the Archchancellor boomed. 'A beautiful save, but, regrettably, against the rules!'

To Ponder's surprise there was a murmur of dissent from all the players. 'I believe that decision may benefit from some consideration,' said a small voice behind them.

'Who said that?' said Ridcully, spinning round and looking into the suddenly terrified little eyes of Nutt.

'Nutt, sir. The candle dribbler. We met yesterday. I helped you with the ball... ?'

'And you are telling me I'm wrong. Are you?'

'I would rather you thought of me as suggesting a way in which you could be even more right.'

Ridcully opened his mouth and then shut it again. I know what he is, he thought. Does he? Or did they spare him that?

'Very well, Mister Nutt. Is there a point you wish to make?'

'Yes, sir. What is the purpose of this game?'

'To win, of course!'

'Indeed. Regrettably, it is not being played that way.'

'It isn't?'

'No, sir. The players all want to kick the ball.'

'And so they should, surely?' said Ridcully.

'Only if you believe the purpose of the game is healthy exercise, sir. Do you play chess?'

'Well, I have done.'

'And would you have thought it proper for all the pawns to swarm up the board in the hope of checkmating the king?'

For a moment, Ridcully had a mental vision of Lord Vetinari holding aloft a solitary pawn and saying what it might become...

'Oh, come now, that is quite different!' he burst out.

'Yes, but the skill lies in marshalling resources in the right way.'

Ridcully saw a face appear behind Nutt, like a rising moon of wrath.

'You don't talk to the gentlemen, Nutt, it is not your place to take up their time with your chatter - '

Ridcully writhed in sympathy with Nutt, all the more so because Smeems, as is the habit of such people, kept looking at the Archchancellor as if seeking and, worse, expecting approval of this petty tyranny.

But authority must back up authority, in public at least, otherwise there is no authority, and therefore the senior authority is forced to back up the junior authority, even if he, the senior authority, believes that the junior authority is a tiresome little tit.

'Thank you for your concern, Mister Smeems,' he said, 'but in fact I asked Mister Nutt his opinion of our little kick-about, since it is the game of the people and he is rather more people than I am. I will not keep him long from his duties, Mister Smeems, nor you from yours, which I know are both vital and pressing.'

Small, insecure authority can spot, if it is sensible, when a larger authority is giving it a chance to save face.

'Right you are, sir!' said Smeems after only a second's hesitation, and he scurried off to safety. The thing called Nutt appeared to be trembling.

He thinks he's done something wrong, Ridcully thought, and I shouldn't think of him as a thing. Some wizard's sense made him look round into the face of¨Cwhat was the lad's name?¨CTrevor Likely.

'Do you have anything else to add, Mister Likely? Only I'm a bit busy at the moment.'

'I gave Mister Stibbons the change and the receipt,' said Trevor.

'What is it you do around here, young man?'

'I run the candle vats, guv.'

'Oh, do you? We're getting some very good dribbling from you fellows these days.'

Trev appeared to let this pass. 'Mister Nutt is not in any trouble, is he, guv?'

'Not to my knowledge.'

But what do I know? Ridcully asked himself. Mr Nutt, by definition, is trouble. But the Librarian says he potters about repairing things and is generally an amiable milksop, and he talks as though he's giving a lecture. This little man, who actually, when you look at him, is not as little as he appears because he weighs himself down with humility... this little man was born with a name so fearsome some peasants chained him to an anvil because they were too scared to kill him. Perhaps Vetinari and his friends are right in their smug way and a leopard can change his shorts. I hope so, because if they aren't, a leopard will be a picnic. And any minute now, the Dean is coming, damn his treacherous hide.

'Only he's my friend, guv.'

'Well, that's good. Everyone should have a friend.'

'I'm not gonna let anyone touch 'im, guv.'

'A brave ambition, young man, if I may say so. Nevertheless, Mister Nutt, why did you object when I pointed out that the Librarian, wonderful though his rising save was, was in infringement of the rules?'

Nutt didn't look up, but in a small voice said, 'It was elegant. It was beautiful. The game should be beautiful, like a well-executed war.'

'Oh, I don't think many people would say that war is very jolly,' said Ridcully.

'Beauty can be considered to be neutral, sir. It is not the same as nice or good.'

'I thought it was the same as truth, though,' said Ponder, trying to keep up.

'Which is often horrible, sir, but Mister Librarian's leap was both beautiful, sir, and good, sir, and therefore must be true and therefore the rule which should prevent him from doing it again would be proved to be neither beautiful nor true and would, indeed, be a false law.'

'That's right, guv,' said Trev. 'People will shout for that stuff.'

'Do you mean that they'd cheer for a goal not achieved?' said Ponder.

'Of course they will! And groan! It's something happening,' Ridcully snorted. 'You saw the game the other day! If you were lucky, you got a glimpse of a lot of large, grubby men fighting over a ball like a lump of wood. People want to see goals scored!'

'And saved, remember!' Trev pointed out.

'Exactly, young man,' agreed Ridcully. 'It must be a game of speed. This is the year of the Pensive Hare, after all. People get bored so easily. No wonder there are fights. We need, do we not, to make a sport that is more exciting than beating other people over the head with big weapons.'

'That one's always been very popular,' said Ponder doubtfully.

'Well, we are wizards, after all. And now I must go and greet the bloody, the so-called Archchancellor of Brazeneck so-called College in the correct damn spirit of fraternal goodwill!'

'So called,' murmured Ponder, not quite softly enough.

'What say?' the Archchancellor bellowed.

'Just wondering what you want me to do, Archchancellor?'

'Do? Keep 'em playing! See who's good at it! Work out what the most beautiful rules are,' Ridcully called out, heading out of the Hall at speed.

'By myself?' said Ponder, horrified. 'I've got a huge workload!'


'You know I'm hopeless at delegating, sir!'

'Then delegate the job of delegating to someone who isn't! Now, I must be off before he steals the silverware!'

It was very rare for Glenda to take time off. Being the head of the Night Kitchen was a mental state, not a physical one. The only meal she ever ate at home was breakfast, and that was always in a hurry. But now she'd stolen some time to sell the dream. May Hedges was looking after the kitchen and she was reliable and got on with everyone and so there were no worries there.

The sun had come out and now she knocked on the rear door of Mr Stronginthearm's workshop. The dwarf opened the door with rouge all over his fingers. 'Oh, hello, Glenda. How's it going?'

She thumped a wad of orders on the table proudly and opened the suitcase. It was empty. 'And I need a lot more samples,' she said.

'Oh, that's wonderful,' said the dwarf. 'When did you get these?'

'This morning.'

It had been easy. Door after door seemed to have opened for her and every time a little voice in her head said, 'Are you doing the right thing?' a slightly deeper voice, which sounded remarkably like Madame Sharn, said, 'He wants to make it. You want to sell it. They want to buy it. The dream goes round and round and so does the money.'

'The lipstick went down very well,' she said. 'Those troll girls put it on with a trowel and I'm not kidding. So what you ought to do, sir, is sell a trowel. A pretty one, in a nice box with sprinkles on it.'

He gave her an admiring look. 'This isn't like you, Glenda.'

'Not sure about that,' said Glenda, as more samples were dropped into the battered case. 'Have you thought about getting into shoes?'

'Do you think it would be worth a try? They don't normally wear shoes.'

'They didn't wear lipstick until they moved here,' said Glenda. 'It could be the coming thing.'

'But they've got feet like granite. They don't need shoes.'

'But they'll want them,' said Glenda. 'You could be in on the ground floor, as it were.'

Stronginthearm looked puzzled and Glenda remembered that even city dwarfs were used to the topsy-turvy language of home. 'Oh, sorry, I meant to say the top floor.'

'And then there's dresses,' said Glenda. 'I've been looking around and no one makes proper dresses for trolls. They're just outsized human dresses. And they're cut to make the troll look smaller, but they'd be better if they were cut to make them look bigger. More like a troll and less like a fat human. You know, you want the clothing to shout, "I'm a great big troll lady and proud of it".'

❮ ❯

Most Popular