A hat full of sky, p.25
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       A Hat Full of Sky, p.25

         Part #32 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Page 25


  You hold that anger, Mistress Weatherwax said, as if reading all of her mind. Cup it in your heart, remember where it came from, remember the shape of it, save it until you need it. But now the wolf is out there somewhere in the woods, and you need to see to the flock. Its the voice, Tiffany thought. She really does talk to people like Granny Aching talked to sheep, except she hardly cusses at all. But I feel. . . better. Thank you, she said. And that includes Mr Weavall.

  Yes, said Tiffany. I know. Chapter 10 The Late BLOOMER It was an . . . interesting day. Everyone in the mountains had heard of Mistress Weatherwax. If you didnt have respect, she said, you didnt have anything. Today, she had it all. Some of it even rubbed off on Tiffany. They were treated like royalty - not the sort who get dragged off to be beheaded or have something nasty done with a red-hot poker, but the other sort, when people walk away dazed, saying, She actually said hello to me, very graciously! I will never wash my hand again! Not that many people they dealt with washed their hands at all, Tiffany thought, with the primness of a dairy worker. But people crowded around outside the cottage doors, watching and listening, and people sidled up to Tiffany to say things like, Would she like a cup of tea? Ive cleaned our cup! And in the garden of every cottage they passed, Tiffany noticed, the beehives were suddenly bustling with activity. She worked away, trying to stay calm, trying to think about what she was doing. You did the doctoring work as neatly as you could, and if it was on something oozy then you just thought about how nice things would be when youd stopped doing it. She felt Mistress Weatherwax wouldnt approve of this attitude. But Tiffany didnt much like hers either. She lied all the- she didnt tell the truth all the time. For example, there was the Raddles privy. Miss Level had explained carefully to Mr and Mrs Raddle several times that it was far too close to the well, and so the drinking water was full of tiny, tiny creatures that were making their children sick. Theyd listened very carefully, every time they heard the lecture, and still they never moved the privy. But Mistress Weatherwax told them it was caused by goblins who were attracted to the smell, and by the time they left that cottage Mr Raddle and three of his friends were already digging a new well the other end of the garden.

  It really is caused by tiny creatures, you know, said Tiffany, whod once handed over an egg to a travelling teacher so she could line up and look through his ** Astounding Mikroscopical Device! A Zoo in Every Drop of Ditchwater!** Shed almost collapsed next day from not drinking. Some of those creatures were hairy. Is that so? said Mistress Weatherwax sarcastically. Yes. It is. And Miss Level believes in telling them the truth!

  Good. Shes a fine, honest woman, said Mistress Weatherwax. But what I say is, you have to tell people a story they can understand. Right now I reckon youd have to change quite a lot of the world, and maybe bang Mr Raddles stupid fat head against the wall a few times, before hed believe that you can be sickened by drinking tiny invisible beasts. And while youre doing that, those kids of theirs will get sicker. But goblins, now, they makes sense today. A story gets things done. And when I see Miss Tick tomorrow Ill tell her its about time them wandering teachers started coming up here.

  All right, said Tiffany reluctantly, but you told Mr Umbril the shoemaker that his chest pains will clear up if he walks to the waterfall at Tumble Crag every day for a month and throws three shiny pebbles into the pool for the water sprites! Thats not doctoring!

  No, but he thinks it is. The man spends too much time sitting hunched up. A five- mile walk in the fresh air every day for a month will see him as right as rain, said Mistress Weatherwax. Oh, said Tiffany. Another story?

  If you like, said Mistress Weatherwax, her eyes twinkling. And you never know, maybe the water sprites will be grateful for the pebbles. She glanced sidelong at Tiffanys expression, and patted her on the shoulder. Never mind, miss, she said. Look at it this way. Tomorrow, your job is to change the world into a better place. Today, my job is to see that everyone gets there.

  Well, I think- Tiffany began, then stopped. She looked up at the line of woods between the small fields of the valleys and the steep meadows of the mountains. Its still there, she said. I know, said Mistress Weatherwax. Its moving around but its keeping away from us.

  I know, said Mistress Weatherwax. What does it think its doing?

  Its got a bit of you in it. What do you think its doing? Tiffany tried to think. Why wouldnt it attack? Oh, shed be better prepared this time, but it was strong. Maybe its waiting until Im upset again, she said. But I keep having a thought. It makes no sense. I keep thinking about. . . three wishes.

  Wishes for what?

  I dont know. It sounds silly. Mistress Weatherwax stopped. No, its not, she said. Its a deep part of you trying to send yourself a message. Just remember it. Because now- Tiffany sighed. Yes, I know. Mr Weavall.

  No dragons cave was ever approached as carefully as the cottage in the overgrown garden. Tiffany paused at the gate and looked back, but Mistress Weatherwax had diplomatically vanished. Probably shes found someone to give her a cup of tea and a sweet biscuit, she thought. She lives on them! She opened the gate and walked up the path. You couldnt say: Its not my fault. You couldnt say: Its not my responsibility. You could say: I will deal with this. You didnt have to want to. But you had to do it. Tiffany took a deep breath and stepped into the dark cottage. Mr Weavall, in his chair, was just inside the door and fast asleep, showing the world an open mouth full of yellow teeth. Urn . . . hello, Mr Weavall, Tiffany quavered, but perhaps not quite loud enough. Just, er, here to see that you, that everything is . . . is all right There was a snort nonetheless, and he woke, smacking his lips to get the sleep out of his mouth. Oh, tis you, he said. Good afternoon to ye. He eased himself more upright and started to stare out of the doorway, ignoring her. Maybe he wont ask, she thought as she washed up and dusted and plumped the cushions and, not to put too fine a point on it, emptied the commode. But she nearly yelped when the arm shot out and grabbed her wrist and the old man gave her his pleading look. Just check the box, Mary, will you? Before you go? Only I heard clinking noises last night, see. Could be one o the sneaky thieves got in.

  Yes, Mr Weavall said Tiffany, while she thought: Idontwanttobehereldontwanttobehere! She pulled out the box. There was no choice. It felt heavy. She stood up and lifted the lid. After the creak of the hinges, there was silence. Are you all right, gel? said Mr Weavall. Urn . . . said Tiffany. Its all there, aint it? said the old man anxiously. Tiffanys mind was a puddle of goo. Urn . . . its all here, she managed. Um . . . and now its all gold, Mr Weavall.

  Gold? Hah! Dont you pull my leg, gel. No gold ever came my way! Tiffany put the box on the old mans lap, as gently as she could, and he stared into it. Tiffany recognized the worn coins. The pictsies ate off them in the mound. There had been pictures on them, but they were too worn to make out now. But gold was gold, pictures or not. She turned her head sharply and was certain she saw something small and red- headed vanish into the shadows. Well now, said Mr Weavall. Well now. And that seemed to exhaust his conversation for a while. Then he said, Far too much money here to pay for a buryin. I dont

  recall savin all this. I reckon you could bury a king for this amount of money. Tiffany swallowed. She couldnt leave things like this. She just couldnt. Mr Weavall, Ive got something I must tell you, she said. And she told him. She told him all of it, not just the good bits. He sat and listened carefully. Well, now, isnt that interesting, he said when shed finished. Urn . . . Im sorry, said Tiffany. She couldnt think of anything else to say. So what youre saying, right, is cos that creature made you take my burying money, right, you think these fairy friends o yourn filled my ol box with gold sos you wouldnt get into trouble, right?

  I think so, said Tiffany. Well, it looks like I should thank you, then, said Mr Weavall. What?

  Well, it seems to I, if you hadnt ha took the silver and copper, there wouldnt have been any room for all this gold, right? said Mr Weavall. And I shouldnt reckon that ol dead king up on yon hills n
eeds it now.

  Yes, but- Mr Weavall fumbled in the box and held up a gold coin that would have bought his cottage. A little something for you, then, girl, he said. Buy yourself some ribbons or something No! I cant! That wouldnt be fair! Tiffany protested, desperately. This was completely going wrong! Wouldnt it, now? said Mr Weavall, and his bright eyes gave her a long, shrewd look. Well, then, lets call it payment for this little errand youre gonna run for I, eh? Youre gonna run up they stairs, which I cant quite manage any more, and bring down the black suit thats hanging behind the door, and theres a clean shirt in the chest at the end of the bed. And youll polish my boots and help I up, but Im thinking I could probly make it down the lane on my own. Cos, ysee, this is far too much money to buy a mans funeral, but I reckon itll do fine to marry him off, so I am proposin to propose to the Widow Tussy that she engages in matrimony with I! The last sentence took a little working out, and then Tiffany said, You are?

  That I am, said Mr Weavall, struggling to his feet. Shes a fine woman who bakes a very reasonable steak-and-onion pie and she has all her own teeth. I know that because she showed I. Her youngest son got her a set of fancy store-bought teeth all the way from the big city, and very handsome she looks in em. She was kind enough to loan em to I one day when I had a difficult piece of pork to tackle, and a man doesnt forget a kindness like that.

  Er . . . you dont think you ought to think about this, do you? said Tiffany. Mr Weavall laughed. Think? I got no business to be thinking about it, young lady! Whore you to tell me an old un like I that he ought to be thinking? Im ninety-one, I am! Got to be up and doing! Besides, I have reason to believe by the twinkle in her eye that the Widow Tussy will not turn up her nose at my suggestion. Ive seen a fair number of twinkles over the years, and that was a goodun. And I daresay that

  suddenly having a box of gold will fill in the corners, as my ol dad would say. It took ten minutes for Mr Weavall to get changed, with a lot of struggling and bad language and no help from Tiffany, who was told to turn her back and put her hands over her ears. Then she had to help him out into the garden, where he threw away one walking stick and waggled a finger at the weeds. And Ill be chopping down the lot of you tomorrow! he shouted triumphantly. At the garden gate he grasped the post and pulled himself nearly vertical, panting. All right, he said, just a little anxiously. Its now or never. I look OK, does I?

  You look fine, Mr Weavall.

  Everything clean? Everything done up?

  Er . . . yes, said Tiffany. Hows my hair look?

  Er . . . you dont have any, Mr Weavall, she reminded him. Ah, right. Yes, tis true. Ill have to buy one o the whatdyoucallems, like a hat made of hair? Have I got enough money for that, dyou think?

  A wig? You could buy thousands, Mr Weavall!

  Hah! Right. His gleaming eyes looked around the garden. Any flowers out? Cant see too well . . . Ah . . . speckatickles, I saw em once, made of glass, makes you see good as new. Thats what I need . . . have I got enough for speckatickles?

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