A hat full of sky, p.12
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       A Hat Full of Sky, p.12

         Part #32 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Page 12


  We could make an omelette? said Miss Level cheerfully. Oh, please, Miss Level! Tiffany wailed. Miss Level patted her on the back. Itll happen. Perhaps youre trying too hard. One day itll come. The power does come, you know. You just have to put yourself in its path-

  Couldnt you make one that I could use for a while, to get the hang of it?

  Im afraid I cant, said Miss Level. A shamble is a very tricky thing. You cant even carry one around, except as an ornament. You have to make it for yourself, there and then, right where and when you want to use it.

  Why? said Tiffany. To catch the moment, said the other part of Miss Level, coming in. The way you tie the knots, the way the string runs -

  - the freshness of the egg, perhaps, and the moisture in the air - said the first Miss Level. - the tension of the twigs and the kind of things that you just happen to have in your pocket at that moment -

  - even the way the wind is blowing, the first Miss Level concluded. All these things make a kind of. . . of picture of the here-and-now when you move them right. And I cant even tell you how to move them, because I dont know.

  But you do move them, said Tiffany, getting lost. I saw you-

  I do it but I dont know how I do, said Miss Level, picking up a couple of twigs and taking a length of thread. Miss Level sat down at the table opposite Miss Level, and all four hands started to put a shamble together. This reminds me of when I was in the circus, she said. 1 was -

  - walking out for a while with Marco and Falco, the Flying Pastrami Brothers, the other part of Miss Level went on. They would do -

  - triple somersaults fifty feet up with no safety net. What lads they were! As alike as two -

  - peas, and Marco could catch Falco blindfolded. Why, for a moment I wondered if they were just like me - She stopped, went a bit red on both faces and coughed. Anyway, she went on, one day I asked them how they managed to stay on the high wire and Falco said, "Never

  ask the tight-rope walker how he keeps his balance. If he stops to think about it, he falls off. “ Although actually -

  - he said it like this, ”Nev-ah aska tightaroper walkerer . . . " because the lads pretended they were from Brindisi, you see, because that sounds foreign and impressive and they thought no one would want to watch acrobats called The Flying Sidney and Frank Cartwright. Good advice, though, wherever it came from. The hands worked. This was not a lone Miss Level, a bit flustered, but the full Miss Level, all twenty fingers working together. Of course, she said, it can be helpful to have the right sort of things in your pocket. I always carry a few sequins -

  - for the happy memories they bring back, said Miss Level from the other side of the table, blushing again. She held up the shamble. There were sequins, and a fresh egg in a little bag made of thread, and a chicken bone and many other things hanging or spinning in the threads. Each part of Miss Level put both its hands into the threads and pulled . . . The threads took up a pattern. Did the sequins jump from one thread to another? It looked like it. Did the chicken bone pass through the egg? So it seemed. Miss Level peered into it. She said: Somethings coming The stagecoach left Twoshirts half full and was well out over the plains when one of the passengers sitting on the rooftop tapped the driver on the shoulder. Excuse me, did you know theres something trying to catch us up? he said. Bless you, sir, said the driver, because he hoped for a good tip at the end of the run, theres nothing that can catch us up. Then he heard the screaming in the distance, getting louder. Er, I think he means to, said the passenger as the carters wagon overtook them. Stop! Stop, for pitys sake stopY yelled the carter as he sailed past. But there was no stopping Henry. Hed spent years pulling the carriers cart around the villages, very slowly, and hed always had this idea in his big horse head that he was cut out for faster things. Hed plodded along, being overtaken by coaches and carts and three-legged dogs, and now he was having the time of his life. Besides, the cart was a lot lighter than usual, and the road was slightly downhill here. All he was really having to do was gallop fast enough to stay in front. And, finally, hed actually overtaken the stagecoach. Him, Henry! He only stopped because the stagecoach driver stopped first. Besides, the blood was pumping through Henry now, and there were a couple of mares in the team of horses pulling the coach who he felt hed really like to get to know - find out when was their day off, what kind of hay they liked, that kind of thing. The carter, white in the face, got down carefully and then lay on the ground and held on tight to the dirt. His one passenger, who looked to the coach driver like some sort of scarecrow, climbed unsteadily down from the back and lurched towards the coach. Im sorry, were full up, the driver lied. They werent full, but there was certainly

  no room for a thing that looked like that. Ach, and there wuz me willin to pay wi gold, said the creature. Gold such as this here, it added, waving a ragged glove in the air. Suddenly there was plenty of space for an eccentric millionaire. Within a few seconds he was seated inside and, to the annoyance of Henry, the coach set off again. Outside Miss Levels cottage, a broomstick was heading through the trees. A young witch - or, at least, someone dressed as a witch: it never paid to jump to conclusions - was sitting on it side-saddle. She wasnt flying it very well. It jerked sometimes and it was clear the girl was no good at making it turn corners because sometimes she stopped, jumped off and pointed the stick in a new direction by hand. When she reached the garden gate she got off again quickly and tethered the stick to it with string. Nicely done, Petulia! said Miss Level, clapping with all four hands. Youre getting quite good!

  Um, thank you, Miss Level, said the girl, bowing. She stayed bowed, and said, Um, oh dear Half of Miss Level stepped forward. Oh, I can see the problem, she said, peering down. Your amulet with the little owls on it is tangled up with your necklace of silver bats and theyve both got caught around a button. Just hold still, will you?

  Um, Ive come to see if your new girl would like come to the sabbat tonight, said the bent Petulia, her voice a bit muffled. Tiffany couldnt help noticing that Petulia had jewellery everywhere; later she found that it was hard to be around Petulia for any length of time without having to unhook a bangle from a necklace or, once, an earring from an ankle bracelet (nobody ever found out how that one happened). Petulia couldnt resist occult jewellery. Most of the stuff was to magically protect her from things, but she hadnt found anything to protect her from looking a bit silly. She was short and plump and permanently red-faced and slightly worried. Sabbat? Oh, one of your meetings, said Miss Level. That would be nice, wouldnt it, Tiffany?

  Yes? said Tiffany, not quite sure yet. Some of the girls meet up in the woods in the evenings, said Miss Level. For some reason the craft is getting popular again. Thats very welcome, of course. She said it as if she wasnt quite sure. Then she added: Petulia here works for Old Mother Blackcap, over in Sidling Without. Specializes in animals. Very good woman with pig diseases. I mean, with pigs thatve got diseases, I dont mean she has pig diseases. Itll be nice for you to have friends here. Why dont you go? There, everythings unhooked. Petulia stood up and gave Tiffany a worried smile. Um, Petulia Gristle, she said, holding out a hand. Tiffany Aching, said Tiffany, shaking it gingerly in case the sound of all the bangles

  and bracelets jangling together deafened everyone. Um, you can ride with me on the broomstick, if you like, said Petulia. Id rather not, said Tiffany. Petulia looked relieved, but said: Um, do you want to get dressed? Tiffany looked down at her green dress. I am.

  Um, dont you have any gems or beads or amulets or anything?

  No, sorry, said Tiffany. Um, you must at least have a shamble, surely?

  Um, cant get the hang of them, said Tiffany. She hadnt meant the um, but around Petulia it was catching. Um . . . a black dress, perhaps?

  I dont really like black. I prefer blue or green, said Tiffany. Um Um. Oh well, youre just starting, said Petulia generously. Ive been Crafty for three years. Tiffany looked desperately at the nearest half of Miss Level. In the craft, said Miss Level helpfully. Wi

  Oh. Tiffany knew she was being very unfriendly, and Petulia with her pink face was clearly a nice person, but she felt awkward in front of her and she couldnt work out why. It was stupid, she knew. She could do with a friend. Miss Level was nice enough, and she managed to get along with Oswald, but it would be good to have someone around her own age to talk to. Well, Id love to come, she said. I know Ive got a lot to learn. The passengers inside the stagecoach had paid good money to be inside on the soft seats and out of the wind and the dust and, therefore, it was odd that so many got out at the next stop and went and sat on the roof. The few who didnt want to ride up there or couldnt manage the climb sat huddled together on the seat opposite, watching the new traveller like a group of rabbits watching a fox and trying not to breathe. The problem wasnt that he smelled of ferrets. Well, that was a problem, but compared to the big problem it wasnt much of one. He talked to himself. That is, bits of him talked to other bits of him. All the time. Ah, its fair hoggin doon here. Ahm tellin ye! Ahrn sure its my turn to be up inna heidl

  Hah, at least youse people are all cushy in the stomach, its us in the legs that has tae do all the work! At which the right hand said: Legs? Youse dinnae know the meanin of the word “work”! Ye ought tae try being stuck in a glove! Ach, blow this forra game o sojers! Ah m gonna stretch ma legs! In horrified silence the other passengers watched one of the mans gloved hands drop off and walk around on the seat. Aye, weel, its nae picnic doon here inna troosers, neither. Am gonna let some fresh air in right noo!

  Daft Wullie, don tyou dare do that- The passengers, squeezing even closer together, watched the trousers with terrible

  fascination. There was some movement, some swearing-under-the-breath in a place where nothing should be breathing, and then a couple of buttons popped and a very small red-headed blue man stuck his head out, blinking in the light. He froze when he saw the people. He stared. They stared. Then his face widened into a mad smile. Touse folks all right? he said, desperately. Thats greaaat! Dinnae worry aboout me, Im one o they opper-tickle aloosyons, ye ken? He disappeared back into the trousers, and they heard him whisper: Im thinkin I fooled em easily, no problemo! A few minutes later, the coach stopped to change horses. When it set off again, it was minus the inside passengers. They got off, and asked for their luggage to be taken off, too. No thank you, they did not want to continue their ride. Theyd catch the coach tomorrow, thank you. No, there was no problem in waiting here in this delightful little, er, town of Dangerous Corner. Thank you. Goodbye. The coach set off again, somewhat lighter and faster. It didnt stop that night. It should have done, and the rooftop passengers were still eating their dinner in the last inn when they heard it set off without them. The reason probably had something to do with the big heap of coins now in the drivers pocket. Chapter 5 ClRClG Tiffany walked through the woods while Petulia flew unsteadily alongside in a series of straight lines. Tiffany learned that Petulia was nice, had three brothers, wanted to be a midwife for humans as well as pigs when she grew up, and was afraid of pins. She also learned that Petulia hated to disagree about anything. So parts of the conversation went like this: Tiffany said, I live down on the Chalk. And Petulia said, Oh, where they keep all those sheep? I dont like sheep much, theyre so kind of. . . baggy. Tiffany said, Actually, were very proud of our sheep. And then you could stand back as Petulia reversed her opinions like someone trying to turn a cart round in a very narrow space: Oh, I didnt really mean I hate them. I expect some sheep are all right. Weve got to have sheep, obviously. Theyre better than goats, and woollier. I mean, I actually like sheep, really. Sheep are nice. Petulia spent a lot of time trying to find out what other people thought so that she

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