Page 49

'In Al–Khali,' said Goriff. 'He is staying with my brother.'

'Oh. Well... fair enough, then. Er... thanks for the curry, anyway.'

'What sort of example do you think he meant?' said Nobby, as they strolled away. 'The good sort, obviously,' said Colon, through a mouthful of mildly spiced swede. 'Yeah, right.' Chewing slowly and walking even slower, they headed towards the docks. 'I was gonna write Bana a letter,' said Nobby, after a while. 'Yeah, but... she thought you was a woman, Nobby.'

'Right. So she saw, like, my inner self, shorn of...' Nobby's lips moved as he concentrated, 'shorn of surface thingy. That's what Angua said. Anyway, then I thought, well, her boyfriend'll be coming back, so I thought I'd be noble about it and give her up.'

' 'cos he might be a big stroppy bloke, too,' said Sergeant Colon. 'I never thought about that, sarge.' They paced for a while. 'It's a far, far better thing I do now than I have ever done before,' said Nobby. 'Right,' said Sergeant Colon. They walked on in silence for a while and he added: 'O'course, that's not difficult.'

'I still got the hanky she gave me, look.'

'Very nice, Nobby.'

'That's genuine Klatchian silk, that is.'

'Yeah, it looks very nice.'

'I'm never going to wash it, sarge,'

'You soppy old thing, Nobby,' said Fred Colon. He watched Corporal Nobbs blow his nose. 'So... you're going to stop using it, are you?' he said, doubtfully. 'It still bends, sarge. See?' Nobby demonstrated. 'Yeah, right. Silly of me to ask, really.' Overhead, the weathervanes started to creak round. 'Made me a lot more understanding about women, that experience,' said Nobby. Colon, a much–married man, said nothing. 'I met Verity Pushpram this afternoon,' Nobby went on, 'and I said how about coming out with me tonight and I don't mind about the squint at all and I've got this expensive exotic perfume which'll totally disguise your smell, and she said bugger off and threw an eel at me.'

'Not good, then,' said Colon. 'Oh, yeah, sarge, 'cos she used to just cuss when she saw me. And I've still got the eel, and there's a good feed off it, so I look upon it as a very positive step.'

'Could be. Could be. just so long as you give someone that scent soon, eh? Only even the people across the street are starting to complain.' Their feet, moving like bees towards a flower, had found their way to the waterfront. They looked up at the KIatchian's Head, on its spike. 'It's only wooden,' said Colon. Nobby said nothing. 'And it's, like, part of our traditional heritage an' that,' Colon went on, but hesitantly, as if he didn't believe his own voice. Nobby blew his nose again, an exercise which, with all its little arpeggios and flourishes, went on for some time. The sergeant gave in. Some things didn't seem quite the same any more, he had to admit. 'I've never really liked the place. Let's go to the Bunch of Grapes then, all right?' Nobby nodded. 'Anyway, the beer here is frankly piss,' said Colon. Lady Sybil held her handkerchief in front of her husband. 'Spit!' she commanded. Then she carefully cleaned a smut off his cheek. 'There. Now you look very–' '–ducal,' said Vimes gloomily. 'I thought I'd done this once already...'

'They never actually had the Convivium. after all that fuss,' said Lady Sybil, picking some microscopic lint off his doublet. 'It's got to be held.'

'You'd think if I'm a duke I wouldn't have to wear all this damn silly outfit, wouldn't you?'

'Well, I did point out that you could wear the official ducal regalia, dear.'

'Yes, I've seen it. White silk stockings are not me.'

'Well, you've got the calves for them–'

'I think I'll stick with the commander's costume,' said Vimes quickly. Archchancellor Ridcully hurried up. 'Ah, we're ready for you now, Lord Vi–'

'Call me Sir Samuel,' said Vimes. 'I can just about live with that.'

'Well, we've found the Bursar in one of the attics, so I think we can make a start. If you'd take your place...' Vimes walked to the head of the procession, feeling every gaze on him, hearing the whispers. Maybe you could get chucked out of the peerage? He'd have to look that up. Although, considering what lords had got up to in the past, it would have to be for something really, really awful.

Still, the drawings of the statue looked good. And he'd seen what was going to go in the history books. Making history, it turned out, was quite easy. It was what got written down. It was as simple as that. 'Jolly good,' Ridcully bellowed, above the buzz. Now, if we all step smartly and follow Lor– Com– Sir Samuel we ought to be back here for lunch no later than half past one. Is the choir ready? No–one is treading on anyone else's robes? Then orf we go!' Vimes set out at the mandatory slow walking pace. He heard the procession start up behind him. There were no doubt problems, as there always are on civic occasions which have to involve the old and deaf and the young and stupid. Several people were probably already walking in the wrong direction. As he stepped out into Sator Square there were the jeers and various flatulent noises and murmurs of 'Oozee then, oozee finkee izz?' that are the traditional crowd responses on these occasions. But there were one or two cheers, too. He tried to look straight ahead. Silk stockings. With garters. Well, they were out. There were a lot of things he'd do for Sybil, but if garters figured anywhere in the relationship they weren't going to be on him. And everyone said he had to wear a purple robe fined with vermine. They could forget that, too. He'd spent a desperate hour in the library, and all that stuff about the gold knobs and silk stockings was so much marsh gas. Tradition? He'd show them tradition. What the original dukes wore, as far as he could see, was good sensible chain mall with blood on it, preferably other people's–– There was a scream from the crowd. His head jerked round and he saw a stout woman sitting on the ground, waving her arms.'

'estole my bag! And 'e never showed me 'is Thieves' Guild badge!' The procession shunted to a halt as Vimes stared at the figure legging it across Sator Square. 'You stop right there, Sidney Pickens!' he yelled, and leapt forward. And, of course, very few people do know how Tradition is supposed to go. There's a, certain mysterious ridiculousness about it by its very nature – once there was a reason why you had to carry a posy of primroses on Soul Cake Tuesday, but now you did it because... that's what was Done. Besides, the intelligence of that creature known as a crowd is the square root of the number of people in it. Vimes was running, so the University choir hurried after him. And the people behind the choir saw the gap opening up and responded to the urge to fill it. And then everyone was just running, because everyone else was running. There were occasional whimpers from those whose heart, lungs or legs weren't up to this kind of thing, and a bellow from the Archchancellor who had tried to stand firm in the face of the frantic stampede and was now having his head repeatedly trodden into the cobbles. And apprentice thief Sidney Pickens ran because he'd taken one look over his shoulder and seen the whole of Ankh-Morpork society bearing down on him, and that sort of thing has a terrible effect on a growing lad. And Sam Vimes ran. He tore off his cloak and whirled away his plumed hat, and he ran and ran. There would be trouble later on. People would ask questions. But that was later on – for now, gloriously uncomplicated and wonderfully clean, and hopefully with never an end, under a clear sky, in a world untarnished... there was only the chase.


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