'I mean the book was just a bit of fun. No sense in making ourselves unpopular, is there?'
'Can't have witches being done down, Gytha.'
'I don't feel done down. I felt fine until you told me I was done down,' said Nanny, putting her finger on a major sociological point. 'You've been exploited,' said Granny firmly. 'No I ain't.'
'Yes you have. You're a downtrodden mass.'
'No I ain't.'
'You've been swindled out of your life savings,' said Granny. , 'Two dollars?'
'Well, it's all you'd actually saved,' said Granny, accurately. 'Only 'cos I spent everything else,' said Nanny. Other people salted away money for their old age, but Nanny preferred to accumulate memories. 'Well, there you are, then.'
'I was putting that by for some new piping for my still up at Copperhead,' said Nanny. 'You know how that scumble eats away at the metal-'
'You were putting a little something by for some security and peace of mind in your old age,' Granny translated. 'You don't get peace of mind with my scumble,' said Nanny happily. 'Pieces, yes; but not peace. It's made from the finest apples, you know,' she added. 'Well, mainly apples.' Granny stopped outside an ornate doorway, and peered at the brass plate affixed thereon. 'This is the place,' she said. They looked at the door.
'I've never been one for front doors,' said Nanny, shifting from one foot to the other. Granny nodded. Witches had a thing about front doors. A brief search located an alleyway which led around the back of the building. Here was a pair of much larger doors, wide open. Several dwarfs were loading bundles of books on to a cart. A rhythmic thumping came from somewhere beyond the doorway. No one took any notice of the witches as they wandered inside. Movable type was known in Ankh-Morpork, but if wizards heard about it they moved it where no one could find it. They generally didn't interfere with the running of the city, but when it came to movable type the pointy foot was put down hard. They had never explained why, ' and people didn't press the issue because you didn't press the issue with wizards, not if you liked yourself the shape you were. They simply worked around the problem, and engraved everything. This took a long time and meant that Ankh-Morpork was, for example, denied the benefit of newspapers, leaving the population to fool themselves as best they could. A press was thumping gently at one end of the warehouse. Beside it, at long tables, a number of dwarfs and humans were stitching pages together and gluing on the covers. Nanny took a book off a pile. It was The Joye of Snacks. 'Can I help you, ladies?' said a voice. Its tone suggested very clearly that it wasn't anticipating offering any kind of help whatsoever, except out into the street at speed. 'We've come about this book,' said Granny. 'I'm Mrs Ogg,' said Nanny Ogg. The man looked her up and down. 'Oh yes? Can you identify yourself?'
'Certainly. I'd know me anywhere.'
'Hah! Well, I happen to know what Gytha Ogg looks like, madam, and she does not look like you.' Nanny Ogg opened her mouth to reply, and then said, in the voice of one who has stepped happily into the road and only now remembers about the onrushing coach:'. . . Oh.'
'And how do you know what Mrs Ogg looks like?' said Granny. 'Oh, is that the time? We'd better be going-'said Nanny. 'Because, as a matter of fact, she sent me a picture,' said Goatberger, taking out his wallet. 'I'm sure we're not at all interested,' said Nanny hurriedly, pulling on Granny's arm. 'I'm extremely interested,' said Granny. She snatched a folded piece of paper out of Goatberger's hands, and peered at it. 'Hah! Yes. . . that's Gytha Ogg all right,' she said. 'Yes, indeed. I remember when that young artist came to Lancre for the summer.'
'I wore my hair longer in those days,' muttered Nanny. 'Just as well, considering,' said Granny. 'I didn't know you had copies, though.'
'Oh, you know how it is when you're young,' said Nanny dreamily. 'It was doodle, doodle, doodle all summer long.' She awoke from her reverie. 'And I still weigh the same now as I did then,' she added. 'Except that it's shifted,' said Granny, nastily. She handed the sketch back to Goatberger. 'That's her all right,' she said. 'But it's out by about sixty years and several layers of clothing. This is Gytha Ogg, right here.'
'You're telling me this came up with Banana Soup Surprise?'
'Did you try it?' said Nanny. 'Mr Cropper the head printer did, yes.'
'Was he surprised?'
'Not half as surprised as Mrs Cropper.'
'It can take people like that,' said Nanny. 'I think perhaps I overdo the nutmeg.' Goatberger stared at her. Doubt was beginning to assail him. You only had to look at Nanny Ogg grinning back at you to believe she could write something like The Joye of Snacks. 'Did you really write this?' he said. 'From memory,' said Nanny, proudly. 'And now she'd like some money,' said Granny. Mr Goatberger's face twisted up as though he'd just eaten a lemon and washed it down with vinegar. 'But we gave her the money back,' he said. 'See?' said Nanny, her face falling. 'I told you, Esme-'
'She wants some more,' said Granny. 'No, I don't-'
'No, she doesn't!' Goatberger agreed. 'She does,' said Granny. 'She wants a little bit of money for every book you've sold.'
'I don't expect to be treated like royalty,' said Nanny. 'You shut up,' said Granny. 'I know what you want. We want some money, Mr Goatberger.'
'And what if I won't give it to you?' Granny glared at him. 'Then we shall go away and think about what to do next,' she said. 'That's no idle threat,' said Nanny. 'There's a lot of people've regretted Esme thinking about what to do next.'
'Come back when you've thought, then!' snapped Goatberger. He stormed off: 'I don't know, authors wanting to be paid, good grief-' He disappeared among the stacks of books. 'Er. . . do you think that could have gone better?' said Nanny. Granny glanced at the table beside them. It was stacked with long sheets of paper. She nudged a dwarf, who had been watching the argument with some amusement. 'What're these?' she said. 'They're proofs for the Almanack.' He saw her blank expression. 'They're sort of a trial run for the book so's we can check that all the spelling mistakes have been left in.' Granny picked it up. 'Come, Gytha,' she said. 'I don't want trouble, Esme,' said Nanny Ogg as she hurried after her. 'It's only money.'
'It ain't money any more,' said Granny. 'It's a way of keepin' score.' Mr Bucket picked up a violin. It was in two pieces, held together by the strings. One of them broke. 'Who'd do something like this?' he said. 'Honestly, Salzella. . . what is the difference between opera and madness?'
'Is this a trick question?'
'Then I'd say: better scenery. Ah. . . I thought so. . .' Salzella rooted among the destruction, and stood up with a letter in his hand. 'Would you like me to open it?' he said. 'It's addressed to you.' Bucket shut his eyes. 'Go on,' he said. 'Don't bother about the details. Just tell me, how many exclamation marks?'
'Oh.' Salzella passed the paper over.
Bucket read: Dear Bucket, Whoops! Ahahahahahahahaha!!!!! Yrs, The Opera Ghost 'What can we do?' he said. 'One moment he writes polite little notes, the next he goes mad on paper!'
'Herr Trubelmacher has got everyone out hunting for new instruments,' said Salzella. 'Are violins more expensive than ballet shoes?'
'There are few things in the world more expensive than ballet shoes. Violins happen to be among them,' said Salzella. 'Further expense!'
'It seems so, yes.'
'But I thought the Ghost liked music! Herr Trubelmacher tells me the organ is beyond repair!!!' He stopped. He was aware that he had exclaimed a little less rationally than a sane man should. 'Oh, well,' Bucket continued wearily. 'The show must go on, I suppose.'
'Yes, indeed,' said Salzella. Bucket shook his head. 'How's it all going for tonight?'
'I think it will work, if that's what you mean. Perdita seems to have a very good grasp of the part.'
'She has an astonishingly good grasp of wearing a dress. Between them, they make one prima donna.' The proud owner of the Opera House got slowly to his feet. 'It all seemed so simple,' he moaned. 'I thought: opera, how hard can it be? Songs. Pretty girls dancing. Nice scenery. Lots of people handing over cash. Got to be better than the cut-throat world of yoghurt, I thought. Now everywhere I go there's-' Something crunched under his shoe. He picked up the remains of a pair of half-moon spectacles. 'These are Dr Undershaft's, aren't they?' he said. 'What're they doing here?' His eyes met Salzella's steady gaze. 'Oh, no,' he groaned. Salzella turned slightly, and stared hard at a big double bass case leaning against the wall. He raised his eyebrows. 'Oh, no,' said Bucket, again. 'Go on. Open it. My hands have gone all sweaty. . .' Salzella padded across to the case and grasped the lid. 'Ready?' Bucket nodded, wearily. The case was flung open. 'Oh, no!' Salzella craned round to see. 'Ah, yes,' he said. 'A broken neck, and the body has been kicked in considerably. That'll cost a dollar or two to repair, and no mistake.'
'And all the strings are busted! Are double basses more expensive to rebuild than violins?'
'I am afraid that all musical instruments are incredibly expensive to repair, with the possible exception of the triangle,' said Salzella. 'However, it could have been worse, hmm?'
'Well, it could have been Dr Undershaft in there, yes?'
Bucket gaped at him, and then shut his mouth. 'Oh. Yes. Of course. Oh, yes. That would have been worse. Yes. Bit of luck there, I suppose. Yes. Um.'
'So that's an opera house, is it?' said Granny. 'Looks like someone built a great big box and glued the architecture on afterwards.' She coughed, and appeared to be waiting for something. 'Can we have a look around?' said Nanny dutifully, aware that Granny's curiosity was equalled only by her desire not to show it. 'It can't do any harm, I suppose,' said Granny, as if granting a big favour. 'Seein' as we've nothing else to do right this minute.' The Opera House was, indeed, that most efficiently multifunctional of building designs. It was a cube. But, as Granny had pointed out, the architect had suddenly realized late in the day that there ought to be some sort of decoration, and had shoved it on hurriedly, in a riot of friezes, pillars, corybants and curly bits. Gargoyles had colonized the higher reaches. The effect, seen from the front, was of a huge wall of tortured stone. Round the back, of course, there was the usual drab mess of windows, pipes and damp stone walls. One of the rules of a certain type of public architecture is that it only happens at the front. Granny paused under a window. 'Someone's singing,' she said. 'Listen.'
'La-la-la-la-la-LAH,' trilled someone. 'Do-Re-Mi-Fah-SoLa-Ti-Do. . .'
'That's opera, right enough,' said Granny. 'Sounds foreign to me.' Nanny had an unexpected gift for languages; she could be comprehensibly incompetent in a new one within an hour or two. What she spoke was one step away from gibberish but it was authentically foreign gibberish. And she knew that Granny Weatherwax, whatever her other qualities, had an even bigger tin ear for languages than she did for music. 'Er. Could be,' she said. 'There's always a lot going on, I know that. Our Nev said they sometimes do different operations every night.'
'How did he find that out?' said Granny. 'Well, there was a lot of lead. That takes some shifting. He said he liked the noisy ones. He could hum along and also no one heard the hammering.' The witches strolled onwards. 'Did you notice young Agnes nearly bump into us back there?' said Granny. 'Yes. It was all I could do not to turn around,' said Nanny. 'She wasn't very pleased to see us, was she? I practically heard her gasp.'
'That's very suspicious, if you ask me,' said Nanny. 'I mean, she sees two friendly faces from back home, you'd expect her . to come runnin' up. . .'