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She pushed at it, and then blinked in the unaccustomed light. Wind caught at her hair. A pigeon stared at her, and flew away as she poked her head into the fresh air. The door had opened out on to the Opera House's roof, just one more item in a forest of skylights and airshafts. She went back inside and headed downwards. And became aware, as she did so, of the voices. . . The old stairs hadn't been totally forgotten. Someone had at least seen their usefulness as an airshaft. Voices filtered up. There were scales, distant music, snatches of conversation. As she went down she passed through layers of noise, like a very carefully made sundae of sound. Greebo sat on top of the kitchen cupboard and watched the performance with interest. 'Use the ladle, why don't you?' said a scene-shifter. 'It won't reach! Walter!'

'Yes Mrs Clamp?'

'Give me that broom!'

'Yes Mrs Clamp!' Greebo looked up at the high ceiling, to which was affixed a sort of thin, ten-pointed star. In the middle of it was a pair of very frightened eyes. ' “Plunge it into boiling water”,' said Mrs Clamp, 'that's what it said in the cook-book. It never said “Watch out, it'll grip the sides of the pot and spring straight up in the air”-' She flailed around with the broom-handle. The squid shrank back. 'And that pasta's all gone wrong,' she muttered. 'I've had it grilling for hours and it's still hard as nails, the wretched stuff.'

'Coo-ee, it's only me,' said Nanny Ogg, poking her head around the door, and such was the all embracing nature of her personality that even those who didn't know who she was took this on trust. 'Having a bit of trouble, are you?' She surveyed the scene, including the ceiling. There was a smell of burning pasta in the air. 'Ah,' she said. 'This'd be the special lunch for Senior Basilica, would it?'

'It was meant to be,' said the cook, still making ineffectual swipes. 'Blasted thing won't come down, though.' Other pots were simmering on the long iron range. Nanny nodded towards them. 'What's everyone else having?' she said. 'Mutton and clootie dumplings, with slumpie,' said the cook. 'Ah. Good honest food,' said Nanny, speaking of wall-towall suet oiled with lard. 'And there's supposed to be Jammy Devils for pudding and I've been so tied up with this wretched thing I haven't even made a start!' Nanny carefully took the broom out of the cook's hands. 'Tell you what,' she said, 'you make enough dumplings and slumpie for five people, and I'll help by knocking up a quick pudding, how about that?'

'Well, that's a very. handsome offer, Mrs-'


'The jam's in the jar by-'

'Oh, I won't bother about jam,' said Nanny. She looked at the spice-rack, grinned, and then stepped behind a table for modesty -twingtwangtwongtwang -'Got any chocolate?' she said, producing a slim volume. 'I've got a recipe right here that might be fun. . .' She licked her thumb and opened the book at page 53. Chocolate Delight with Special Secret Sauce.

Yes, thought Nanny, that would be fun. If people wanted to go around teaching people lessons, other people should remember that those people knew a thing or two about people. Scraps of conversation floated out of the walls as Agnes wound her secret way down the forgotten stairs. It was. . . thrilling. No one was saying anything important. There were no convenient guilty secrets. There were just the sounds of people getting through the day. But they were secret sounds. It was wrong to listen, of course. Agnes had been brought up in the knowledge that a lot of things were wrong. It was wrong to listen at doors, to look people directly in the eye, to talk out of turn, to answer back, to put yourself forward. . . But behind the walls she could be the Perdita she'd always wanted to be. Perdita didn't care about anything. Perdita got things done. Perdita could wear anything she wanted. Perdita X Nitt, mistress of the darkness, magdalen of cool, could listen in to other people's lives. And never, ever have to have a wonderful personality. Agnes knew she should go back up to her room. Whatever lay in the increasingly shadowy depths was probably something she ought not to find. Perdita continued downwards. Agnes went along for the ride. The pre-luncheon drinks were going quite well, Mr Bucket thought. Everyone was making polite conversation and absolutely no one had been killed up to the present moment. And it had been very gratifying to see the tears of gratitude in Senor Basilica's eyes when he was told that the cook was preparing a special Brindisian meal, just for him. He'd seemed quite overcome. It was reassuring that he knew Lady Esmerelda. There was something about the woman that left Mr Bucket terribly perplexed. He was finding it a little difficult to converse with her. As a conversational gambit, 'Hello, I understand you have a lot of money, can I have some please?' lacked, he felt, a certain subtlety. 'So, er, madam,' he ventured, 'what brings you to our, er, city?'

'I thought perhaps I could come and spend some money,' said Granny. 'Got rather a lot of it, you know. Keep havin' to change banks 'cos they get filled up.' Somewhere in Bucket's tortured brain, part of his mind went 'whoopee' and clicked its heels. 'I'm sure if there's anything I can do-' he murmured. 'As a matter of fact, there is,' said Granny. 'I was thinking of-' A gong banged. 'Ah,' said Mr Bucket. 'Luncheon is served.' He extended his arm to Granny, who gave it an odd look before remembering who she was and taking it. There was a small exclusive dining-room off his office. It contained a table set for five and, looking rather fetching in a waitress's lacy bonnet, Nanny Ogg. She bobbed a curtsey. Enrico Basilica made a tiny strangling noise at the back of his throat. '

'Scuse me, there's been a bit of a problem,' said Nanny. 'Who's dead?' said Bucket. 'Oh, no one's dead,' said Nanny. 'It's the dinner, it's still alive and hangin' on to the ceiling. And the pasta's all gone black, see. I said to Mrs Clamp, I said, it may be foreign but I don't reckon it should be crunchy

'This is terrible! What a way to treat an honoured guest!' said Bucket. He turned to the interpreter. 'Please assure Senor Basilica that we will send out for fresh pasta straight away. What were we having, Mrs Ogg?'

'Roast mutton with clootie dumplings,' said Nanny. Behind the face of Senor Basilica the throat of Henry Slugg made another little growling sound. 'And there's some nice slumpie with a knob of butter,' Nanny went on. Bucket looked around, puzzled. 'Is there a dog somewhere in here?' he said. 'Well, I for one don't believe in pandering to singers,' said Granny Weatherwax. 'Fancy food, indeed! I never heard the like! Why not give him mutton with the rest of us?'

'Oh, Lady Esmerelda, that's hardly a way to treat-' Bucket began. Enrico's elbow nudged his interpreter, with the special nudge of a man who could see clootie dumplings vanishing into the long grass if he weren't careful. He rumbled out a very pointed sentence. 'Senor Basilica says he would be more than happy to taste the indigenous food of Ankh-Morpork,' said the interpreter. 'No, we really can't-' Bucket tried again. 'In fact Senor Basilica insists that he tries the indigenous food of Ankh-Morpork,' said the interpreter. 'S' right. Si,' said Basilica. 'Good,' said Granny. 'And give him some beer while you're about it.' She gave the tenor's stomach a playful poke, losing her finger down to the second joint. 'Why, in a day or two I expect you could practically turn him into a native!' * * * The wooden stairs gave way to stone. Perdita said: He'll have a vast cave somewhere under the Opera House. There will be hundreds of candles, casting an exciting yet romantic light over the, yes, the lake, and there will be a dinner-table shining with crystal glass and silverware, and of course he will have, yes, a huge organ- Agnes blushed hotly in the darkness. -on which, that is to say, he will play in a virtuoso style many operatic classics. Agnes said: It'll be damp. There will be rats. 'Another clootie dumpling, Senior?' said Nanny Ogg. 'Mmfmmfmmf!'

'Take two while you're about it.' It was an education watching Enrico Basilica eat. It wasn't as though he gobbled his food, but he did eat continuously, like a man who intends to go on doing it all day on industrial lines, his napkin tucked neatly into his collar. The fork was loaded while the current consignment was being thoroughly masticated, so that the actual time between mouthfuls was as small as possible. Even Nanny, no stranger to a metabolism going for the burn, was impressed. Enrico Basilica ate like a man freed at last from the tyranny of tomatoes with everything. 'I'll order another mint-sauce tanker, shall I?' she said. Mr Bucket turned to Granny Weatherwax. 'You were saying that you might be inclined to patronize our Opera House,' he murmured. 'Oh, yes,' said Granny. 'Is Senor Basilica going to sing tonight?'


'I hope so,' muttered Salzella. 'That or explode.'

'Then I shall definitely want to be there,' said Granny. 'A little more lamb here, my good woman.'

'Yes ma'am,' said Nanny Ogg, making a face at the back of Granny's head. 'Er. . . seats for tonight, in fact, are-' Bucket began. 'A Box would do me,' said Granny. 'I'm not fussy.'

'In fact, even the Boxes are-'

'How about Box Eight? I've heard as Box Eight is always empty.' Bucket's knife rattled on his plate. 'Er, Box Eight, Box Eight, you see, we don't. . .'

'I was thinking of donating a little something,' said Granny. 'But Box Eight, you see, although technically unsold, is. . .'

'Two thousand dollars was what I had in mind,' said Granny. 'Oh, dear me, your waitress has let her dumplings go all over the place. It's so difficult to get reliable and polite staff these days, ain't it. . . ?' Salzella and Bucket stared at one another across the table. Then Bucket said, 'Excuse me, my lady, I must just have a brief discussion with my director of music.' The two men hurried to the far end of the room, where they began to argue in whispers. 'Two thousand dollars!' hissed Nanny, watching them. 'It might not be enough,' said Granny. 'They're both looking very red in the face.'

'Yes, but two thousand dollars!'

'It's only money.'

'Yes, but it's only my money, not only your money,' Nanny pointed out. 'We witches have always held everything in common, you know that,' said Granny. 'Well, yes,' said Nanny, and once again cut to the heart of the sociopolitical debate. 'It's easy to hold everything in common when no one's got anything.'

'Why, Gytha Ogg,' said Granny, 'I thought you despised riches!'

'Right, so I'd like to get the chance to despise them up close.' , 'But I knows you, Gytha Ogg. Money'd spoil you.'

'I'd just like the chance to prove that it wouldn't, that's all I'm saying.'

'Hush, they're coming back-' Mr Bucket approached, smiled uneasily, and sat down. 'Er,' he began, 'it has to be Box Eight, does it? Only we could perhaps persuade someone in one of the other-'

'Wouldn't hear of it,' said Granny. 'I've heard that there's no one ever seen in Box Eight.'

'Er. . . haha. . . it's laughable, I know, but there are some old theatrical traditions associated with Box Eight,, absolute rubbish of course, but. . .' He left the 'but' hanging there hopefully. It froze in the face of Granny's stare. 'You see, it's haunted,' he mumbled. 'Oh lawks,' said Nanny Ogg, vaguely remembering to stay in character. 'Another vat of slumpie, Senior Basilica? And how about another quart of beer?'

'Mmfmmf,' said the tenor encouragingly, taking time out from his eating to point a fork at his empty mug. Granny went on staring. 'Excuse me,' said Bucket again. He and Salzella went into another huddle, out of which came sounds like 'But two thousand dollars! That's a lot of shoes!' Bucket surfaced again. His face was grey. Granny's stare could do that to people.

'Er. . . because of the danger, er, which of course doesn't exist, haha, we. . . that is, the management. . . feel it incumbent on us to insist, that is, politely request, that if you do enter Box Eight you do so in company with a. . . man.' He ducked slightly. 'A man?' said Granny. 'For protection,' said Bucket in a little voice. 'Although who'd protect him we really couldn't say,' said Salzella under his breath. 'We thought perhaps one of the staff. . .' Bucket mumbled. 'Ai am quate capable of finding my own man should the need arise,' said Granny, in a voice with snow on it. Bucket's polite reply died in his throat when he saw, just behind Lady Esmerelda, Mrs Ogg grinning like a full moon. 'Anyone for pudding?' she said. She held a big bowl on a tray. There seemed to be a heat haze over it. 'My word,' he said, 'that looks delicious!' Enrico Basilica looked over the top of his food with the expression of a man who has had the amazing privilege of going to heaven while still alive. 'Mmmf!' It was damp. And, with the demise of Mr Pounder, there were indeed rats. The stone looked old, too. Of course, all stone was old, Agnes told herself, but this had grown old as masonry. Ankh-Morpork had been here for thousands of years. Where other cities were built on clay or rock or loam, Ankh-Morpork was built on Ankh-Morpork. People constructed new buildings on the remains of earlier ones, knocking out a few doorways here and there to turn ancient bedrooms into cellars. The stairs petered out on damp flagstones, in almost total darkness. Perdita thought it looked romantic and gothic. Agnes thought it looked gloomy. If someone used this place they'd need lights, wouldn't they? And a fumbling search confirmed it. She found a candle and some matches tucked into a niche in the wall. That was sobering for Agnes and Perdita together. Someone used this prosaic book of matches with a picture of a grinning troll on the cover, and this piece of perfectly ordinary candle. Perdita would have preferred a flaming torch. Agnes didn't know what she would have preferred. It was just that, if a mysterious person came and sang in the walls, and moved around the place like a ghost, and possibly killed people. . . well, you'd prefer a bit more style than a box of matches with a picture of a grinning troll on it. That was the sort of thing a murderer would use. She lit the candle and, in two minds about it all, went on into the dark. Chocolate Delight with Special Secret Sauce was a great success and heading down the little red lane as though hotwired. 'More, Mr Salzella?' said Bucket. 'This really is first-class stuff; isn't it? I must congratulate Mrs Clamp.'

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