'I've had proof that Walter isn't the Ghost,' said Agnes. 'I was almost sure it was Salzella,' said André. 'I know he creeps off to the cellars sometimes and I'm sure he's stealing money. But the Ghost has been seen when Salzella is perfectly visible. So now I think-'
'Think? Think?' said Granny. 'Someone thinking around here at last? How'd you recognize the Ghost, Mister Policeman?'
'Well. . . he's got a mask on. . .'
'Really? Now say it again, and listen to what you say. Good grief! You can recognize him because he's got a mask on? You recognize him because
you don't know who he is? Life isn't neat! Whoever said there's only one Ghost?' The figure ran through the shadows of the fly loft, cloak billowing around it. Nanny Ogg was outlined against the light, peering down. She said, without turning her head: 'Hello, Mr Ghost. Come back for your saw, have you?' Then she darted around behind the cable until she faced the shadow. 'Millions of people knows I'm up here! You wouldn't hurt a little old lady, would you? Oh, dear. . . me poor old heart!' She keeled over backwards, hitting the floor hard enough to make the cable swing. The figure hesitated. Then it took a length of thin rope from a pocket and advanced cautiously towards the fallen witch. It knelt down, wound an end of the rope around each hand, and leaned forward. , Nanny's knee came up sharply. 'Feels a lot -better now, mister,' she said, as he reared backwards. She scrambled up again and grabbed the saw. 'Come back to finish it, eh?' she said, waving the implement in the air. 'Wonder how you'd blame that on Walter! Make you happy, would it, the whole place burning down?' The figure, moving awkwardly, backed away as she advanced. Then it turned, lurched along the wobbling catwalk and disappeared into the gloom. Nanny pounded after him and saw the figure climbing down a ladder. She looked around quickly, grabbed a rope to slide after him, and heard a pulley somewhere above start to clatter. She descended, skirts billowing around her. When she was about halfway down, a bunch of sandbags went upwards past her in a hurry. As she rattled onwards she saw, between her boots, someone struggling with the trapdoor to the cellars. She landed a few feet away, still holding the rope. 'Mr Salzella?' Nanny stuck two fingers in her mouth and let out a whistle that could have melted ear-wax. She let go of the rope. Salzella glanced up at her as he raised the trapdoor, and then saw the shape dropping out of the roof. One hundred and eighty pounds of sandbag hit the door, slamming it shut. 'Watch out!' said Nanny, cheerfully. Bucket waited nervously in the wings. Unnecessarily nervously, of course. The Ghost was dead. There couldn't be anything to worry about. People said they'd seen him killed, although they were, Bucket had to admit, a bit hazy on the actual details. Nothing to worry about. Not a thing. Nothing whatsoever in any way. Everything was absolutely nothing to worry about in any way. He ran a finger around the inside of his collar. It hadn't been such a bad life in wholesale cheese. The most you had to worry about was ogle of poor old Reg Plenty's trouser buttons in the Farmhouse Nutty and the time young Weevins minced his thumb in the stirring machine and it was only by luck they happened to be doing strawberry yoghurt at the time- A figure loomed up beside him. He clutched at a curtain for support and then turned to see, with relief, the majestic and reassuring stomach of Enrico Basilica. The tenor looked magnificent in a huge cockerel costume, complete with giant beak, wattles and comb.
'Ah, senor,' Bucket burbled. 'Very impressive, may I say.'
'Si,' said a muffed voice from somewhere behind the beak, as other members of the company hurried past on to the stage. 'May I say how sorry I am about all that business earlier. I can assure you that it doesn't happen every night, ahahah. . .'
'Probably just high spirits, ahaha. . .' The beak turned towards him. Bucket backed away. 'Si!'
'. . .yes. . . well, I'm glad you're so understanding. . .' Temperamental, he thought, as the tenor strode on to the stage and the overture to Act Three drifted to its close. They're like that, the real artistes. Nerves stretched like rubber bands, I expect. It's just like waiting for the cheese, really. You can get really edgy waiting to see whether you've got half a ton of best blue-vein or just a vat full of pig food. It's probably like that when you've got an aria working its way up- 'Where'd he go? Where'd he go?'
'What? Oh. . . Mrs Ogg. . .' The old woman waved a saw in front of his face. It was not, in Mr Bucket's current state of mental tension, a helpful gesture. He was suddenly surrounded by other figures, equally conducive to multiple exclamation marks. 'Perdita? Why aren't you on stage. . . oh, Lady Esmerelda, I didn't see you there, of course if you want to come backstage you only have to-'
'Where's Salzella?' said André. Bucket looked around vaguely. 'He was here a few minutes ago. . . That is,' he said, pulling himself together, 'Mr Salzella is probably attending to his duties somewhere which, young man, is more than I can say for-'
'I demand you stop the show now,' said André. 'Oh, you do, do you? And by what authority, may I ask?'
'He's been sawing through the rope!' said Nanny. André pulled out a badge. 'This!' Bucket looked closely. ' “Ankh-Morpork Guild of Musicians member z 244”?' André glared at him, then at the badge, and started to pat his pockets urgently. 'No! Blast, I know I had the other one a moment ago. . . Look, you've got to clear the theatre, we've got to search it, and that means-'
'Don't stop the show,' said Granny. 'I won't stop the show,' said Bucket. '
'Cos I reckon he'd like to see the show stopped. The show must go on, eh? Isn't that what you believe? Could he have got out of the building?'
'I sent Corporal Nobbs to the stage-door and Sergeant Detritus is in the foyer,' said André. 'When it comes to standing in doorways, they're among the best.'
'Excuse me, what's happening?' said Bucket. 'He could be anywhere!' said Agnes. 'There're hundreds of hiding-places!'
'Who?' said Bucket. 'How about these cellars everyone talks about?' said Granny. 'Where?'
'There's only one entrance,' said André. 'He's not stupid.'
'He can't get into the cellars,' said Nanny. 'He ran off? Probably in a cupboard somewhere by now!'
'No, he'll stay where there's crowds,' said Granny. 'That's what I'd do.'
'What?' said Bucket. 'Could he have got into the audience from here?' said Nanny. 'Who?' said Bucket. Granny jerked a thumb towards the stage. 'He's somewhere on there. I can feel him.'
'Then we'll wait until he comes off!'
'Eighty people coming off stage all at once?' said Agnes. 'Don't you know what it's like when the curtain goes down?'
'And we don't want to stop the show,' Granny mused. 'No, we don't want to stop the show,' said Bucket, grasping at a familiar idea as it swept by on a tide of incomprehensibility. 'Or give people their money back in any fashion whatsoever. What are we talking about, does anyone know?'
'The show must go on. . .' murmured Granny Weatherwax, still staring out of the wings. 'Things have to end right. This is an opera house. They should end. . . operatically. . .' Nanny Ogg hopped up and down excitedly. 'Oo, I know what you're thinking, Esme!' she squeaked. 'Oo, yes! Can we? Just so's I can say I done it! Eh? Can we? Go on! Let's!' * * * Henry Lawsy peered closely at his opera notes. He had not, of course, fully understood the events of the first two acts, but knew that this was perfectly OK because one would have to be quite naive to expect good sense as well as good songs. Anyway, it would all be explained in the last act, which was the Masked Ball in the Duke's Palace. It would almost certainly turn out that the woman one of the men had been rather daringly courting would be his own wife, but so cunningly disguised by a very small mask that her husband wouldn't have spotted that she wore the same clothes and had the same hairstyle. Someone's serving man would turn out to be someone else's daughter in disguise; someone would die of something that didn't prevent them from singing about it for several minutes; and the plot would be resolved by some coincidences which, in real life, would be as likely as a cardboard hammer. He didn't know any of this for a fact. He was making a calculated guess. In the meantime Act Three opened with the traditional ballet, this time apparently a country dance by the Maidens of the Court. Henry was aware of muffled laughter around him. This was because, if you ran an eye at head-height along the row of ballerinas as they tripped, arm in arm, on to the stage, there was an apparent gap. This was only filled if the gaze went downwards a foot or two, to a small fat ballerina in a huge grin, an overstretched tutu, long white drawers and. . . boots. Henry stared. They were big boots. They moved back and forth at an astonishing speed. The satin slippers of the other dancers twinkled as they drifted across the floor, but the boots flashed and clattered like a tap dancer afraid of falling into the sink. The pirouettes were novel, too. While the other dancers whirled like snowflakes, the little fat one spun like a top and moved across the floor like one too, bits of her anatomy trying to achieve local orbit. Around Henry members of the audience were whispering to one another. 'Oh yes,' he heard someone declare, 'they tried this in Pseudopolis. . .' His mother nudged him. 'This supposed to happen?'
'Er. . . I don't think so. . .'
' 'S bloody good, though! A good laugh!' As the fat ballerina collided with a donkey in evening dress she staggered and grabbed at his mask, which came off. . . Herr Trubelmacher, the conductor, froze in horror and astonishment. Around him the orchestra rattled to a standstill, except for the tuba player -oom-BAH-oom-BAH-oom-BAH-
-who had memorized his score years ago and never took much interest in current affairs. Two figures rose up right in front of Trubelmacher. A hand grabbed his baton. 'Sorry, sir,' said André, 'but the show must go on, yes?' He handed the stick to the other figure. 'There you are,' he said. 'And don't let them stop.'
'Ook!' The Librarian carefully lifted Herr Trubelmacher aside with one hand, licked the baton thoughtfully, and then focused his gaze on the tuba player. -oom-BAH-oom-BAHhhh. . . oom. . . om. . . The tuba player tapped a trombonist on the shoulder. 'hey, Frank, there's a monkey where old troublemaker should be-'
'shutupshutupshutup!' Satisfied, the orang-utan raised his arms. The orchestra looked up. And then looked up a bit more. No conductor in musical history, not even the one who once fried and ate the piccolo- player's liver on a cymbal for one wrong note too many, not even the one who skewered three troublesome violinists on his baton, not even the one who made really hurtful sarcastic remarks in a loud voice, was ever the focus of such reverential attention. On stage, Nanny Ogg took advantage of the hush to pull the head off a frog. 'Madam!'
'Sorry, thought you might be someone else. . .' The long arms dropped. The orchestra, in one huge muddled chord, slammed back into life. The dancers, after a moment's confusion during which Nanny Ogg took the opportunity to decapitate a clown and a phoenix, tried to continue. The chorus watched in bemusement. Christine felt a tap on her shoulder, and turned to see Agnes. 'Perdita! Where have you been!?' she hissed. 'It's nearly time for my duet with Enrico!'
'You've got to help!' hissed Agnes. But down in her soul Perdita said: Enrico, eh? It's Senor Basilica to everyone else. . . 'Help you what!?' said Christine. 'Take everyone's masks off!' Christine's forehead wrinkled beautifully. 'That's not supposed to happen until the end of the opera, is it?'
'Er. . . it's all been changed!' said Agnes urgently. She turned to a nobleman in a zebra mask and tugged it desperately. The singer underneath glared at her. 'Sorry!' she whispered. 'I thought you were someone else!'