A hat full of sky, p.11
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       A Hat Full of Sky, p.11

         Part #32 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 11

 

  Hes done very well for hisself, you know, said Mr Weavall, proudly. Got a job indoors with no heavy lifting. He said hell see I all right in my old age, but I told him, I told him Id pay my way when I go - the whole thing, the salt and earth and tuppence for the ferryman, too! Today, Miss Level gave him a shave. His hands shook too much for him to do it himself. (Yesterday shed cut his toenails, because he couldnt reach them; it was not

  a safe spectator sport, especially when one smashed a windowpane. ) Its all in a box under my chair, he said as Tiffany nervously wiped the last bits of foam off him. Just check for me, will you, Mary? Oh, yes. That was the ceremony, every day. There was the box, and there was the money. He asked every time. There was always the same amount of money. Tuppence for the ferryman? said Tiffany, as they walked home. Mr Weavall remembers all the old funeral traditions, said Miss Level. Some people believe that when you die you cross the River of Death and have to pay the ferryman. People dont seem to worry about that these days. Perhaps theres a bridge now.

  Hes always talking about. . . his funeral.

  Well, its important to him. Sometimes old people are like that. Theyd hate people to think that they were too poor to pay for their own funeral. Mr Weavalld die of shame if he couldnt pay for his own funeral. Its very sad, him being all alone like that. Something should be done for him, said Tiffany. Yes. Were doing it, said Miss Level. And Mrs Tussy keeps a friendly eye on him.

  Yes, but it shouldnt have to be us, should it?

  Who should it have to be? said Miss Level. Well, what about this son hes always talking about? said Tiffany. Young Toby? Hes been dead for fifteen years. And Mary was the old mans daughter, she died quite young. Mr Weavall is very short-sighted, but he sees better in the past. Tiffany didnt know what to reply except: It shouldnt be like this.

  There isnt a way things should be. Theres just what happens, and what we do.

  Well, couldnt you help him by magic?

  I see to it that hes in no pain, yes, said Miss Level. But thats just herbs.

  Its still magic. Knowing things is magical, if other people dont know them.

  Yes, but you know what I mean, said Tiffany, who felt she was losing this argument. Oh, you mean make him young again? said Miss Level. Fill his house with gold? Thats not what witches do.

  We see to it that lonely old men get a cooked dinner and cut their toenails? said Tiffany, just a little sarcastically. Well, yes, said Miss Level. We do what can be done. Mistress Weatherwax said youve got to learn that witchcraft is mostly about doing quite ordinary things.

  And you have do what she says? said Tiffany. I listen to her advice/ said Miss Level, coldly. Mistress Weatherwax is the head witch, then, is she?

  Oh no! said Miss Level, looking shocked. Witches are all equal. We dont have things like head witches. Thats quite against the spirit of witchcraft.

  Oh, I see, said Tiffany. Besides, Miss Level added, Mistress Weatherwax would never allow that sort of thing.

  Suddenly, things were going missing from the households around the Chalk. This wasnt the occasional egg or chicken. Clothes were vanishing off washing lines. A pair of boots mysteriously disappeared from under the bed of Nosey Hinds, the oldest man in the village - And they was damn good boots, they could walk home from the pub all by themselves if I but pointed they in the right direction, he complained to anyone who would listen. And they marched off wi my old hat, too. And Id got he just as I wanted he, all soft and floppy! A pair of trousers and a long coat vanished from a hook belonging to Abiding Swindell, the ferret-keeper, and the coat still had ferrets living in the inside pockets. And who, who climbed through the bedroom window of Clem Doins and shaved off his beard, which had been so long that he could tuck it into his belt? Not a hair was left. He had to go around with a scarf over his face, in case the sight of his poor pink chin frightened the ladies. . . It was probably witches, people agreed, and made a few more curse-nets to hang in their windows. However . . . On the far side of the Chalk, where the long green slopes came down to the flat fields of the plain, there were big thickets of bramble and hawthorn. Usually, these were alive with birdsong, but this particular one, the one just here, was alive with cussing. Ach, crivens! Will ye no mind where ye re puttin yer foot, ye spavie!

  I cannae help it! Its nae easy, bein a knee!

  Ye think ye got troubles? Ye wannae be doon here in the boots! That old man Swindell couldnae ha washed his feet in years! Its fair reekin doon here!

  Reekin, izzit? Well, you try bein in this pocket! Them ferrets ne er got oot to gae to the lavie, if you get my meanin!

  Crivens! Will ye dafties no shut up?

  Oh, aye? Hark at him! Just cuzyere up in the held, you think you know everythin? Fra doon here yere nothing but dead weight, pal!

  Aye, right! Im wi the elbows on this one! Wheredyou be if it wuzntfor us carryin ye aroound? Whos ye think ye are?

  Im Rob Anybody Feegle, as you ken well enough, an Ive had enough o the lot o yezf OK, Rob, but its real stuffy in here!

  Ach, an Im fed up wi the stomach complainin, too!

  Gentlemen. This was the voice of the toad; no one else would dream of calling the Nac Mac Feegle gentlemen. Gentlemen, time is of the essence. The cart will be here soon! You must not miss it!

  We need more time to practise, Toad! Were walkin like a feller wi nae bones and a serious case o the trots! said a voice a little higher up than the rest. At least you are walking. Thats good enough. I wish you luck, gentlemen. There was a cry from further along the thickets, where a lookout had been watching the road. The carts comin doon the hill!

  OK, lads! shouted Rob Anybody. Toad, you look after Jeannie, yhear? Shell need a thinkin laddie to rely on while Im no here! Right, ye scunners! Its do or die! Ye ken

  what to do! Ye lads on the ropes, pull us up noo! The bushes shook. Right! Pelvis, are ye ready?

  Aye, Rob!

  Knees? Knees? I said, knees?

  Aye, Rob, but-

  Feets?

  Aye, Rob! The bushes shook again. Right! Remember: right, left, right, left! Pelvis, knee, foot on the groond! Keep a spring in the step, feets! Are you ready? Altogether, boys . . . walk! It was a big surprise for Mr Crabber the carter. Hed been staring vaguely at nothing, thinking only of going home, when something stepped out of the bushes and into the road. It looked human or, rather, looked slightly more human than it looked like any- thing else. But it seemed to be having trouble with its knees, and walked as though theyd been tied together. However, the carter didnt spend too much time thinking about that because, clutched in one gloved hand that was waving vaguely in the air, was something gold. This immediately identified the stranger, as far as the carter was concerned. He was not, as first sight might suggest, some old tramp to be left by the roadside, but an obvious gentleman down on his luck, and it was practically the carters duty to help him. He slowed the horse to a standstill. The stranger didnt really have a face. There was nothing much to see between the droopy hat brim and the turned-up collar of the coat except a lot of beard. But from somewhere within the beard a voice said: . . . Shudupshudup . . . will ye all shudup while Im talkin. . . Ahem. Good day ta ye, carter fellow my ol fellowy fellow! If yell gie us - me a lift as far as ye are goin, we - Ill gie ye this fine shiny golden coin! The figure lurched forward and thrust its hand in front of Mr Crabbers face. It was quite a large coin. And it was certainly gold. It had come from the treasure of the old dead king who was buried in the main part of the Feegles mound. Oddly enough, the Feegles werent hugely interested in gold once theyd stolen it, because you couldnt drink it and it was difficult to eat. In the mound, they mostly used the old coins and plates to reflect candlelight and give the place a nice glow. It was no hardship to give some away. The carter stared at it. It was more money than he had ever seen in his life. If. . . sir . . . would like to . . . hop on the back of the cart, sir, he said, carefully taking it. Ach, right you are, then, said the bearded mystery man after a pause. Just
a moment, this needs a wee bitty organizin . . . OK, youse hands, you just grab the side o the cart, and you leftie leg, ye gotta kinda sidle along . . . ach, crivens! Ye gotta bend! Bend! Cmon, get it right! The hairy face turned to the carter. Sorry aboot this, it said. T talk to my knees, but they dinnae listen to me.

  Is that right? said the carter weakly. I have trouble with my knees in the wet

  weather. Goose grease works.

  Ah, weel, these knees is gonna get moren a greasin if I ha to get doon there an sort them oot! snarled the hairy man. The carter heard various bangs and grunts behind him as the man hauled himself onto the tail of the cart. OK, lets gae, said a voice. We havenae got all day. And youse knees, youre sacked! Crivens, Im walkin like I got a big touch of the stoppies! You gae up to the stomach and send doon a couple of good knee men! The carter bit the coin thoughtfully as he urged the horse into a walk. It was such pure gold that he left toothmarks. That meant his passenger was very, very rich. That was becoming very important at this point. Can ye no go a wee bitty faster, my good man, my good man? said the voice behind him, after they had gone a little way. Ah, well, sir, said the carter, see them boxes and crates? Ive got a load of eggs, and those apples mustnt be bruised, sir, and then theres those jugs of- There were some bangs and crashes behind him, including the sploosh that a large crate of eggs makes when it hits a road. Ye can gae faster noo, eh? said the voice. Hey, that was my- Mr Crabber began. Ive got another one o they big wee gold coins for ye! And a heavy and smelly arm landed on the carters shoulder. Dangling from the glove on the end of it was, indeed, another coin. It was ten times what the load had been worth. Oh, well. . . said the carter, carefully taking the coin. Accidents do happen, eh, sir?

  Aye, especially if I dinnae think Im goin fast enough, said the voice behind him. We - I mean Im in a big hurry tae get tae yon mountains, ye ken!

  But Im not a stagecoach, sir, said the carter reproachfully as he urged his old horse into a trot. Stagecoach, eh? Whats one o them things?

  Thats what youll need to catch to take you up into the mountains, sir. You can catch one in Twoshirts, sir. I never go any further than Twoshirts, sir. But you wont be able to get the stage today, sir.

  Why not?

  Ive got to make stops at the other villages, sir, and its a long way, and on Wednesdays it runs early, sir, and this cart can only go so fast, sir, and-

  If we - I dinnae catch yon coach today Ill gie ye the hidin o yer life, growled the passenger. But if I do catch yon coach today, Ill gie ye five o them gold coins. Mr Crabber took a deep breath, and yelled: Hi! Hyah! Giddyup, Henry! All in all, it seemed to Tiffany, most of what witches did really was very similar to work. Dull work. Miss Level didnt even use her broomstick very much. That was a bit depressing. It was all a bit. . . well, goody-goody. Obviously that was better than being baddy-baddy, but a little more . . . excitement would be nice. Tiffany wouldnt like anyone to think shed expected to be issued with a magic wand on Day One

  but, well, the way Miss Level talked about magic, the whole point of witchcraft lay in not using any. Mind you, Tiffany thought she would be depressingly good at not using any. It was doing the simplest magic that was hard. Miss Level patiently showed her how to make a shamble, which could more or less be made of anything that seemed a good idea at the time provided it also contained something alive, like a beetle or a fresh egg. Tiffany couldnt even get the hang of it. That was . . . annoying. Didnt she have the virtual hat? Didnt she have First Sight and Second Thoughts? Miss Tick and Miss Level could throw a shamble together in seconds, but Tiffany just got a tangle, dripping with egg. Over and over again. 1 know Im doing it right but it just twists up! Tiffany complained. What can I do?

 
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