A hat full of sky, p.33
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       A Hat Full of Sky, p.33

         Part #32 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 33

 

  There was a very narrow and dark flight of stairs. And that was it. There was nothing shiny, nothing new and nothing unnecessary. To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit? said Granny Weatherwax, taking a sooty black kettle off the fire and filling an equally black teapot. Tiffany opened the sack she had brought with her. Ive come to bring you your hat back, she said. Ah, said Granny Weatherwax. Have you? And why?

  Because its your hat, said Tiffany, putting it on the table. Thank you for the loan of it, though.

  I dare say theres plenty of young witches whod give their high teeth for an ol hat of mine, said Granny, lifting up the battered hat. There are, said Tiffany, and did not add and its eye teeth, actually. What she did add was: But I think everyone has to find their own hat. The right hat for them, I mean.

  I see youre now wearing a shop-bought one, then, said Granny Weatherwax. One of them Sky Scrapers. With stars, she added, and there was so much acid in the word stars that it wouldve melted copper and then dropped through the table and the floor and melted more copper in the cellar below. Think that makes it more magical, do you? Stars?

  I. . . did when I bought it. And itll do for now.

  Until you find the right hat, said Granny Weatherwax. Yes.

  Which aint mine?

  No.

  Good. The old witch walked across the room and tugged the cloth off the thing in the corner. It turned out to be a big wooden spike, just about the size of a pointy hat on a tall stand. A hat was being . . . constructed on it, with thin strips of willow and pins and stiff black doth. I make my own, she said. Every year. Theres no hat like the hat you make yourself. Take my advice. I stiffens the calico and makes it waterproof with special jollop. Its amazing what you can put into a hat you make yourself. But you didnt come to talk about hats. Tiffany let the question out at last. Was it real?. Granny Weatherwax poured the tea, picked up her cup and saucer, then carefully poured some of the tea out of the cup and into the saucer. She held this up and, with care, like someone dealing with an important and delicate task, blew gently on it. She did this slowly and calmly, while Tiffany tried hard to conceal her impatience. down the cup and saucer. Child, youve come here to learn whats true and whats not but theres little I can teach you that you dont already know. You just dont know you know it, and youll spend the rest of your life learning whats already in your bones. And thats the truth. She stared at Tiffanys hopeful face and sighed. Come outside then, she said. Ill give you lesson one. Its the only lesson there is. It

  dont need writing down in no book with eyes on. She led the way to the well in her back garden, looked around on the ground and picked up a stick. Magic wand, she said. See? A green flame leaped out of it, making Tiffany jump. Now you try. It didnt work for Tiffany, no matter how much she shook it. Of course not, said Granny. Its a stick. Now, maybe I made a flame come out of it, or maybe I made you think it did. That dont matter. It was me is what Im sayin, not the stick. Get your mind right and you can make a stick your wand and the sky your hat and a puddle your magic . . . your magic . . . er, whatre them fancy cups called?

  Er . . . goblet, said Tiffany. Right. Magic goblet. Things arent important. People are. Granny Weatherwax looked sidelong at Tiffany. And I could teach you how to run across those hills of yours with the hare, I could teach you how to fly above them with the buzzard. I could tell you the secrets of the bees. I could teach you all this and much more besides if youd do just one thing, right here and now. One simple thing, easy to do. Tiffany nodded, eyes wide. You understand, then, that all the glittery stuff is just toys, and toys can lead you astray?

  Yes!

  Then take off that shiny horse you wear around your neck, girl, and drop it in the well. Obediently, half-hypnotized by the voice, Tiffany reached behind her neck and undid the clasp. The pieces of the silver horse shone as she held it over the water. She stared at it as if she was seeing it for the first time. And then . . . She tests people, she thought. All the time. Well? said the old witch. No, said Tiffany. I cant.

  Cant or wont? said Granny sharply. Cant, said Tiffany and stuck out her chin. And wont! She drew her hand back and fastened the necklace again, glaring defiantly at Granny Weatherwax The witch smiled. Well done, she said quietly. If you dont know when to be a human being, you dont know when to be a witch. And if youre too afraid of goin astray, you wont go anywhere. May I see it, please? Tiffany looked into those blue eyes. Then she undid the clasp and handed over the necklace. Granny held it up. Funny, aint it, that it seems to gallop when the light hits it, said the witch, watching it twist this way and that. Well-made thing. Ocourse, its not what a horse looks like, but its certainly what a horse is. Tiffany stared at her with her mouth open. For a moment Granny Aching stood there grinning, and then Granny Weatherwax was back. Did she do that, she wondered, or did

  I do it myself? And do I dare find out? I didnt just come to bring the hat back, she managed to say. I brought you a present, too.

  Im sure theres no call for anyone to bring me a present, said Granny Weatherwax, sniffing. Tiffany ignored this, because her mind was still spinning. She fetched her sack again and handed over a small, soft parcel, which moved as it changed shape in her hands. I took most of the stuff back to Mr Strong-inthearm, she said. But I thought you might have a . . . a use for this. The old woman slowly unwrapped the white paper. The Zephyr Billow cloak unrolled itself under her fingers and filled the air like smoke. Its lovely, but I couldnt wear it, said Tiffany as the cloak shaped itself over the gentle currents of the clearing. You need gravitas to carry off a cloak like that.

  Whats gravitarse? said Granny Weatherwax sharply. Oh . . . dignity. Seniority. Wisdom. Those sort of things, said Tiffany. Ah, said Granny, relaxing a little. She stared at the gently rippling cloak and sniffed. It really was a wonderful creation. The wizards had got at least one thing right when they had made it. It was one of those items that fill a hole in your life that you didnt know was there until youd seen it. Well, I suppose theres those as can wear a cloak like this, and those as cant, she conceded. She let it curl around her neck and fastened it there with a crescent-shaped brooch. Its a bit too grand for the likes of me, she said. A bit too fancy. I could look like a flibbertigibbet wearing something like this. It was spoken like a statement but it had a curl like a question. No, it suits you, it really does, said Tiffany cheerfully. If you dont know when to be a human being, you dont know when to be a witch. Birds stopped singing. Up in the trees, squirrels ran and hid. Even the sky seemed to darken for a moment. Er . . . thats what I heard, said Tiffany, and added, From someone who knows these things. The blue eyes stared into hers. There were no secrets from Granny Weatherwax. Whatever you said, she watched what you meant. Perhaps youll call again sometimes, she said, turning slowly and watching the cloak curve in the air. Its always very quiet here.

  I should like that, said Tiffany. Shall I tell the bees before I come, so you can get the tea ready? For a moment Granny Weatherwax glared, and then the lines faded into a wry grin. Clever, she said. Whats inside you? Tiffany thought. Who are you really, in there? Did you want me to take your hat? You pretend to be the big bad wicked witch, and youre not. You test people all the time, test, test, test, but you really want them to be clever enough to beat you. Because it must be hard, being the best. Youre not allowed to stop. You can only be beaten, and youre too proud ever to lose. Pride! Youve turned it into terrible

  strength, but it eats away at you. Are you afraid to laugh in case you hear an early cackle? Well meet again, one day. We both know it. Well meet again, at the Witch Trials. Im clever enough to know how you manage not to think of a pink rhinoceros if someone says “pink rhinoceros”, she managed to say aloud. Ah, thats deep magic, that is, said Granny Weatherwax. No. Its not. You dont know what a rhinoceros looks like, do you? Sunlight filled the clearing as the old witch laughed, as clear as a downland stream. Thats right! she said. Chapter 15 A Hat Full of Sky It was one of those strange days in late February when its a li
ttle warmer than it should be and, although theres wind, it seems to be all round the horizons and never quite where you are. Tiffany climbed up onto the downs where, in the sheltered valleys, the early lambs had already found their legs and were running around in a gang in that strange jerky run that lambs have, which makes them look like woolly rocking horses. Perhaps there was something about that day, because the old ewes joined in, too, and skipped with their lambs. They jumped and spun, half happy, half embarrassed, big winter fleeces bouncing up and down like a clowns trousers. It had been an interesting winter. Shed learned a lot of things. One of them was that you could be a bridesmaid to two people who between them were over 170 years old. This time Mr Weavall, with his wig spinning on his head and his big spectacles gleaming, had insisted on giving one of the gold pieces to our little helper, which more than made up for the wages that she hadnt asked for and Miss Level couldnt afford. Shed used some of it to buy a really good brown cloak. It didnt billow, it didnt fly out behind her, but it was warm and thick and kept her dry. Shed learned lots of other things too. As she walked past the sheep and their lambs, she gently touched their minds, so softly that they didnt notice . . . Tiffany had stayed up in the mountains for Hogswatch, which officially marked the changing of the year. Thered been a lot to do there, and anyway it wasnt much celebrated on the Chalk. Miss Level had been happy to give her leave now, though, for the lambing festival, which the old people called Sheepbellies. It was when the shepherds year began. The hag of the hills couldnt miss that. That was when, in warm nests of straw shielded from the wind by hurdles and barriers of cut furze, the

  future happened. Shed helped it happen, working with the shepherds by lantern light, dealing with the difficult births. Shed worked with the pointy hat on her head and had felt the shepherds watching her as, with knife and needle and thread and hands and soothing words, shed saved ewes from the black doorway and helped new lambs into the light. You had to give them a show. You had to give them a story. And shed walked back home proudly in the morning and bloody to the elbows, but it had been the blood of life. Later, she had gone up to the Feegles mound, and slid down the hole. Shed thought about this for some time, and had gone prepared - with clean torn-up handkerchiefs and some soapwort shampoo made to a recipe Miss Level had given her. She had a feeling that Jeannie would have a use for these. Miss Level always visited new mothers. It was what you did. Jeannie had been pleased to see her. Lying on her stomach so that she could get part of her body into the keldas chamber, Tiffany had been allowed to hold all eight of what she kept thinking of as the Roblets, born at the same time as the lambs. Seven of them were bawling and fighting one another. The eighth lay quietly, biding her time. The future happened. It wasnt only Jeannie who thought of her differently. News had got around. The people of the Chalk hadnt liked witches. They had always come from outside. They had always come as strangers. But now here was our Tiffany, birthing the lambs like her granny did, and they say shes been learning witchery in the mountains! Ah, but thats still our Tiffany, that is. OK, Ill grant you that shes wearing a hat with big stars on it, but she makes good cheese and she knows about lambing and shes Granny Achings grand-daughter, right? And theyd tap their noses, knowingly. Granny Achings grand-daughter. Remember what the old woman could do? So if witch she be, then shes our witch. She knows about sheep, she does. Hah, and I heard they had a big sort of trial for witches up in them mountains and our Tiffany showed em what a girl from the Chalk can do. Its modern times, right? We got a witch now, and shes bettern anyone elses! No ones throwing Granny Achings grand- daughter in a pond! Tomorrow shed go back to the mountains again. It had been a busy three weeks, quite apart from the lambing. Roland had invited her to tea at the castle. It had been a bit awkward, as these things are, but it was funny how, in a couple of years, hed gone from a lumbering oaf into a nervous young man who forgot what he was talking about when she smiled at him. And they had books in the castle! Hed shyly presented her with a Dictionary of Amazingly Uncommon Words, and she had been prepared enough to bring him a hunting knife made by Zakzak, who was excellent at blades even if he was rubbish at magic. The hat wasnt mentioned, very carefully. And when shed got home shed found a bookmark in the P section and a faint pencil underline under the words Plongeon: a small curtsy, about one-third as deep as the traditional one. No longer used. Alone in her bedroom, shed blushed. Its always surprising to be reminded that while youre watching and thinking about people, all knowing and superior, theyre watching and thinking about you, right back at you.

 
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