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'No, Nan-ny.'

'And no leaving bits of people on the doormat.'

'No, Nan-ny.'

'We'll have no trouble like we did with those robbers last month.'

'No, Nan-ny.' He looked depressed. Humans had no fun. Incredible complications surrounded the most basic activities. 'And no turning back into a cat again until we say.'

'Yess, Nan-ny.'

'Play your cards right and there could be a kipper in this for you.'

'Yess, Nan-ny.'

'What're we going to call him?' said Granny. 'He can't just be Greebo, which I've always said was a damn' silly name for a cat.'

'Well, he looks aristocratic-' Nanny began.

'He looks like a beautiful brainless bully,' Granny corrected her. 'Aristocratic,' repeated Nanny. 'Same thing.'

'We can't call him Greebo, anyway.'

'We'll think of something.' Salzella leaned disconsolately against the marble banister of the foyer's grand staircase and stared gloomily into his drink. It had always seemed to him that one of the major flaws in the whole business of opera was the audience. They were quite unsuitable. The only ones worse than the ones who didn't know anything at all about music, and whose idea of a sensible observation was 'I liked that bit near the end when her voice went wobbly', were the ones who thought they did. . . 'Want a drink do you Mister Salzella? There's lots you know!' Walter Plinge ambled by, his black suit making him look like a very good class of scarecrow. 'Plinge, you just say “Drink, sir?” ' said the director of music. 'And please take off that ridiculous beret.'

'My mum made it for me!'

'I'm sure she did, but-' Bucket sidled up to him. 'I thought I told you to keep Senor Basilica away from the canapes!' he hissed. 'I'm sorry, I couldn't find a big enough crowbar,' said Salzella, waving away Walter and his beret. 'Anyway, isn't he supposed to be communing with his muse in his dressing-room? The curtain goes up in twenty minutes!'

'He says he sings better on a full stomach.'

'Then we're in for a big treat tonight.' Bucket turned and surveyed the scene. 'It's going well, anyway,' he said. 'I suppose so.'

'The Watch are here, you know. In secret. They're mingling.'

'Ah. . . let me guess. . .' Salzella looked around at the crowds. There was, indeed, a very short man in a suit intended for a rather larger man; this was especially the case with the opera cloak, which actually trailed on the floor behind him to give the overall impression of a superhero who had spent too much time around the Kryptonite. He was wearing a deformed fur hat and trying surreptitiously to smoke a cigarette. 'You mean that little man with the words “Watchman in Disguise” flashing on and off just above his head?'

'Where? I didn't see that!' Salzella sighed. 'It's Corporal Nobby Nobbs,' he said wearily. 'The only known person to require an identity card to prove his species. I've watched him mingle with three large sherries.'

'He's not the only one, though,' said Mr Bucket. 'They're taking this seriously., 'Oh, yes,' said Salzella. 'If we look over there, for example, we see Sergeant Detritus, who is a toll, and who is wearing what in the circumstances is actually a rather well-fitting suit. It is therefore, I feel, something of a pity he has neglected to remove his helmet. And these, you understand, the Watch has chosen for their ability to blend.'

'Well, they'll certainly be useful if the Ghost strikes again,' said Bucket, hopelessly. 'The Ghost would have to-' Salzella stopped. He blinked. 'Oh, good grief,' he whispered. 'What has she found?' Bucket turned. 'That's Lady Esmerelda. . . oh.'

Greebo strolled in alongside her with the gentle swagger that makes women thoughtful and men's knuckles go white. The buzz of conversation was momentarily hushed, and then rose again to -a slightly shriller buzz. 'I'm impressed,' said Salzella. 'He certainly doesn't look like a gentleman,' said Bucket. 'Look at the colour of that eye!' He set his face into what he hoped was a smile, and bowed. 'Lady Esmerelda!' he said. 'How pleasant to see you again! Won't you introduce us to your. . . guest?'

'This is Lord Gribeau,' said Granny. 'Mr Bucket, the owner, and Mr Salzella, who seems to run the place.'

'Haha,' said Salzella. Gribeau snarled, revealing longer incisors than any that Bucket had seen outside a zoo. And Bucket had never seen such a greenish-yellow eye. The pupil was all wrong. . . 'Ahaha. . .' he said. 'And may I order you something?'

'He'll have milk,' said Granny firmly. 'I expect he has to keep up his strength,' said Salzella. Granny spun around. Her expression would have etched steel. 'Anyone for a drink?' said Nanny Ogg, appearing out of nowhere with a tray and adroitly stepping between them like a very small peace-keeping force. 'Got a bit of everything here. . .'

'Including a glass of milk, I see,' said Bucket. Salzella looked from one witch to the other. 'That's remarkably foresighted of you,' he said. 'Well, you never know,' said Nanny. Gribeau took the glass in both hands and lapped at it with his tongue. Then he looked at Salzella. 'What yourrr lookin aat? Neverrr seem mil-uk drun beforr?'

'Never quite. . .like that, I must admit.' Nanny winked at Granny Weatherwax as she turned to scurry away. Granny caught her arm. 'Remember,' she whispered, 'when we go into the Box. . . you keep an eye on Mrs Plinge. Mrs Plinge knows something. I ain't sure what's going to happen. But it is going to happen.'

'Right,' said Nanny. She bustled off, muttering under her breath, 'Oh, yes. . . do this, do that-'

'Drink here, please, ma'am.' Nanny looked down. 'Good grief,' she said. 'What are you?' The apparition in the fur hat winked at her. 'I'm the Count de Nobbs,' it said, 'and this here,' it added, indicating a mobile wall, 'is the Count de Tritus.' Nanny glanced at the troll. 'Another Count? I'm sure there's unaccountably more Counts here than I can count. And what can I get you, officers?' she said. 'Officers? Us?' said the Count de Nobbs. 'What makes you think we're Watchmen?'

'He's got a helmet on,' Nanny pointed out. 'Also, he's got his badge pinned to his coat.'

'I told you to put it away!' Nobby hissed. He looked at Nanny and smiled uneasily. 'Milit'ry chic,' he said. 'It's just a fashion accessory. Actually, we are gentlemen of means and have nothing to do with the city Watch whatsoever.'

'Well, gentlemen, would you like some wine?'

'Not while we on duty, yanks,' said the troll. 'Oh, yes, thank you very much, Count de Tritus,' said Nobby bitterly. 'Oh, yes, very undercover, that is! Why don't you just wave your truncheon around where everyone can see it?'

'Well, if you t'ink it'd help-'

'Put it away!' The Count de Tritus's eyebrows met with the effort of thought. 'Dat was irony, den, was it? To a superior officer?'

'Can't be a superior officer, can you, 'cos we ain't Watchmen. Look, Commander Vimes explained it three times. . .' Nanny Ogg tactfully moved away. It was bad enough watching them blow their cover without sucking at it as well. This was a new world, all right. She was used to a life where the men wore the bright clothes and the women wore black. It made it a lot easier to decide what to put on in the mornings. But inside the Opera House the rules of clothing were all in reverse, just like the laws of common sense. Here the women dressed like frosted peacocks and the men looked like penguins. So. . . there were coppers here. Nanny Ogg was basically a law-abiding person when she had no reason to break the law, and therefore had that kind of person's attitude to law-enforcement officers, which was one of deep and permanent distrust. There was their approach to theft, for example. Nanny had a witch's view of theft, which was a lot more complicated than the attitude adopted by the law and, if it came to it, people who owned property worth stealing. They tended to wield the huge blunt axe of the law in circumstances that required the delicate scalpel of common sense. No, thought Nanny. Policemen with their great big boots were not required here on a night like this. It would be a good idea to put a thumbtack under the ponderous feet of Justice. She ducked behind a gilt statue and fumbled in the recesses of her clothing while people nearby looked around in puzzlement at the erratic twanging of elastic. She was sure she had one around somewhere-she'd packed it in case of emergencies. . . There was the clink of a small bottle. Ah, yes. A moment later Nanny Ogg emerged decorously with two small glasses on her tray, and headed purposefully for the Watchmen. 'Fruit drink, officers?' she said. 'Oh, silly me, what am I saying, I didn't mean officers. Home-made fruit drink?' Detritus sniffed suspiciously, immediately clearing his sinuses. 'What's in it?' he said. 'Apples,' said Nanny Ogg promptly. 'Well. . . mainly apples.' Under her hand, a couple of spilt drops finished eating their way through the metal of the tray and dropped on to the carpet, where they smoked. The auditorium buzzed with the sound of operagoers settling down and Mrs Lawsy trying to find her shoes. 'You really shouldn't have taken them off, mother.'

'My feet are giving me gyp.'

'Did you bring your knitting?'

'I think I must've left it in the Ladies.'

'Oh, mother.' Henry Lawsy marked his place in his book and raised his runny eyes heavenward, and blinked. Right above him-a long way above him-was a glittering circle of light. His mother followed his gaze. 'What's that, then?'

'I think it's a chandelier, mother.'

'It's a pretty big one. What's holding it up?'

'I'm sure they've got special ropes and things, mother.'

'Looks a bit dangerous, to my mind.'

'I'm sure it's absolutely safe, mother.'

'What do you know about chandeliers?'

'I'm sure people wouldn't come into the Opera House if there was any chance of a chandelier dropping on their heads, mother,' said Henry, trying to read his book. Il Truccatore, The Master of Disguise. Il Truccatore (ten.), a mysterious nobleman, causes scandal in the city when he woos high-born ladies while disguised as their husbands. However, Laura (sop.), the new bride of Capriccio (bar.), refuses to give in to his blandishments- Henry put a bookmark in the book, took a smaller book from his pocket, and carefully looked up 'blandishments'. He was moving in a world he wasn't quite sure of; embarrassment lay waiting at every turn, and he wasn't going to get caught out over a word. Henry lived his life in permanent dread of Being Asked Questions Later. -and with the help of his servant Wingie (ten.) he adopts a subterfuge- The dictionary came out again for a moment. --culminating- And again. -in the scene at the famous Masked Ball at the Duke's Palace. But Il Truccatore has not reckoned with his old adversary the Count de- 'Adversary'. . .Henry sighed, and reached for his pocket. 'Curtain up in five minutes. . .' Salzella reviewed his troops. They consisted of scenebuilders and painters and all those other employees who could be spared for the evening. At the end of the line, about fifty per cent of Walter Plinge had managed to stand to attention. 'Now, you all know your positions,' said Salzella. 'And if you see anything, anything at all, you are to let me know at once. Do you understand ?'

'Mr Salzella!'

'Yes, Walter?'

'We mustn't interrupt the opera Mr Salzella!' Salzella shook his head. 'People will understand, I'm sure-'

'Show must go on Mr Salzella!'

'Walter, you will do what you're told!' Someone raised a hand. 'He's got a point, though, Mr Salzella. . .' Salzella rolled his eyes. 'Just catch the Ghost,' he said. 'If we can do it without a lot of shouting, that's good. Of course I don't want to stop the show.' He saw them relax. A deep chord rolled out over the stage. 'What the hell was that?' Salzella strode behind the stage and was met by André, looking excited. 'What's going on?'

'We repaired it, Mr Salzella! Only. . . well, he doesn't want to give up the seat. . .' The Librarian nodded at the director of music. Salzella knew the orang- utan, and among the things he knew was that, if the Librarian wanted to sit somewhere, then that was where he sat. But he was a first-class organist, Salzella had to admit. His lunchtime recitals in the Great Hall of Unseen University were extremely popular, especially since the

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