Jingo Page 21

'Oh, that's all right, then,' said Nobby, a man for whom shame held no shame. 'What am I supposed to do with it?'

'That reminds me... did I tell you what I scud to Lord Rust?' said Sergeant Colon, nervously. 'Seventeen times so far,' said Angua, watching the women with the feathers. She added, apparently to herself, ' “Come back with your shield or on it.” '

'I wonder if I can get the lady to give me any more?' said Nobby. 'What was that?' said Carrot. 'These feathers,' said Nobby. 'They look like real goose. I've got a use for a lot more of these–'

'I meant what was it that Angua said?' said Carrot. 'What? Oh... it's just something women used to say when they sent their men off to war. Come back with your shield, or on it.'

'On your shield?' said Nobby. 'You mean like... sledging, sort of thing?'

'Like dead,' said Angua. 'It meant come back a winner or not at all.'

'Well, I always came back with my shield,' said Nobby. 'No problem there.'

'Nobby,' sighed Colon, 'you used to come back with your shield, everyone else's shield, a sack of teeth and fifteen pairs of still–warm boots. On a cart.'

'We–ell, no point in going to war unless you're on the winning side,' said Nobby, sticking the white feather in his helmet. 'Nobby, you was always on the winning side, the reason bein', you used to lurk aroun' the edges to see who was winning and then pull the right uniform off'f some poor dead sod. I used to hear where the generals kept an eye on what you were wearin' so they'd know how the battle was going.'

'Lots of soldiers have served in lots of regiments,' said Nobby. 'Right, what you say is true. Only not usually during the same battle,' said Sergeant Colon. They trooped back into the Watch House. Most of the shift had taken the day off. After all, who was in charge? What were they supposed to be doing today? The only ones left were those who never thought of themselves as off duty, and the new recruits who hadn't had their keen edge blunted. 'I'm sure Mr Vimes'll think of something,' said Carrot. 'Look, I'd better take the Goriffs back to their shop. Mr Goriff says he's going to pack up and leave. A lot of Klatchians are leaving. You can't blame them, either.' Dreams rising with him like bubbles, Vimes surfaced from the black fathoms of sleep. Normally, these days, he treasured the moment of waking. It was when solutions presented themselves. He assumed bits of his brain came out at night and worked on the problems of the previous day, handing him the result just as he opened his eyes.

All that arrived now were memories. He winced. Another memory turned up. He groaned. The sound of his badge bouncing on the table replayed itself. He swore. He swung his legs off the covers and groped for the bedside table. 'Bingeley–bingeley beep!'

'Oh, no... All right, what's the time?'

'One o'clock pee em! Hello, Insert Name Here!' Vimes looked blearily at the Dis–organizer. One day, he knew, he really would have to try to understand the manual for the damn thing. Either that or drop it off a cliff. 9 'What–' he began, and then groaned again. The twanging sound made by the unwound turban as it One of the universal rules of happiness is: always be wary of any helpful item that weighs less than its operating manual. took his weight had just come back to haunt him. 'Sam?' The bedroom door was pushed open and Sybil came in carrying a cup. 'Yes, dear?'

'How do you feel?'

'I've got bruises on my brui–' Another memory crawled up from the pit of guilt. 'Oh, good grief, did I really call him a long streak of–?'

'Yes,' said his wife. 'Fred Colon came round this morning and told me all about it. And a very good description, I'd say. I went out with Ronnie Rust once. Bit of a cold fish.' Another recollection burst like a ball of marsh gas in Vimes's head. 'Did Fred tell you where he said Rust could put his badge?'

'Yes. Three times. It seems to be weighing on his mind. Anyway, knowing Ronnie, he'd have to use a hammer.' Vimes had long ago got used to the fact that the aristocracy all seemed to know one another by their first name. 'And did Fred tell you anything else?' he said timidly. 'Yes. About the shop and the fire and everything. I'm proud of you.' She gave him a kiss. 'What do I do now?' he said. 'Drink your tea and have a wash and a shave.'

'I ought to go down to the Watch House and 'A shave! There's hot water in the jug.' When she had left he hauled himself upright and tottered into his bathroom. There was, indeed, a jug of hot water on the marble washstand. He looked at the face in the mirror. Unfortunately, it was his. Perhaps if he shaved it first... ? And then he could wash the bits that were left. 9 One of the universal rules of happiness is: always be wary of any helpful item that weighs less than its operating manual.

Fragments of the night before kept on respectfully drawing themselves to his attention. lt was a shame about that guard, but sometimes you just coudln't stand and argue He shouldn't have done that with his badge. It wasn't like the old days. He had responsibilities. He should've stayed on and made things just a little less 'No. That never worked. He managed to get the lather on his face. The Riot Act! Good grief... He stopped his razor thoughtfully. Rust's milky eyes stared out of his memory. Bastard! Men like that thought, they really thought, that the Watch was a kind of sheepdog, to nip at the heels of the flock, bark when spoken to and never, ever, bite the shepherd... Oh yes. Vimes knew in his bones who the enemy was. Except No badge, no Watch, no job... Another memory arrived, late. Lather still dripping down his shirt, he pulled Vetinari's sealed letter out of his pocket and slit it open with the razor. There was a blank sheet of paper inside. Hie turned it over, and there was nothing on the other side either. Mystified, he glanced at the envelope. Sir Samuel Vimes, Knight. Nice of him to be so precise about it, Vimes thought. What was the point of a message with no message? Some people might absentmindedly have slipped the wrong piece of paper in an envelope, but Vetinari wouldn't. What was the point of sending him a note telling him he was a knight, for gods' sake, he knew that embarrassing fact well enough– Another little memory burst open as silently as a mouse passing wind in a hurricane. Who'd said it? Any gentleman Vimes stared. Well, he was a gentleman, wasn't he? It was official. And then he didn't shout, and he didn't run out of the room. He finished shaving, had a wash and put on a change of underwear, very calmly. Downstairs, Sybil had cooked him a meal. She wasn't a very good cook. This was fine by Vimes, because he wasn't a very good eater. After a lifetime of street meals his stomach wasn't set up right. What it craved was little crunchy brown bits, the food group of the gods, and Sybil reliably always left the pan too long on the dragon. She eyed him carefully as he chewed his fried egg and stared into the middle distance. Her manner was that of someone with a portable safety net watching a man on the high wire. After a while, while she watched him crack open a sausage, he said, 'Do we have any books on chivalry, dear?'

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'Hundreds, Sam.'

'Is there any one which tells you what... you know, what it's all about? I mean, what you have to do if you're a knight, say? Responsibilities and so on?'

'Most of them, I should think.'

'Good. I think I shall do a little reading.' Vimes hit the bacon with his fork. It shattered very satisfactorily. Afterwards, he went into the library. Twenty minutes later, he came back out for a pencil and some paper. Ten minutes after that, Lady Sybil took him a cup of coffee. He was hidden behind a pile of books, and apparently deep in Life of Chivalrie. She crept out and went into her own study, where she settled down to update her dragon–breeding records. It was an hour later when she heard him step out into the hall. He was humming under his breath, tunelessly, with the faraway look of preoccupation that means that some Big Thought has required the shutting down of all non–essential processes. He was also re–radiating the field of angered innocence that was, to her, part of his essential Vimesness. 'Are you going out, Sam?'

'Yes. I'm just going to kick some arse, dear.'

'Oh, good. Just be sure you wrap up well, then.' The Goriff family trudged along silently beside Carrot. 'I'm sorry about your shop, Mr Goriff,' he said. Goriff shifted the load he was carrying. 'We can start other shops,' he said. 'We']] certainly keep an eye on it,' said Carrot. 'And when all this is over, you can come back.'

'Thank you.' His son said something in Klatchian. There was a brief family arguent. 'I appreciate your strength of feeling,' said Carrot, going red, 'although I must say I think your language was a little strong.'

'My son is sorry,' said Goriff automatically. 'He did not remember that you speak Kl–'

'No, I'm not! Why should we run away?' said the boy. 'We live here! I've never seen Klatch!'

'Oh, well, that will be something to look forward to,' said Carrot. 'I hear it has many fine––'

'Are you stupid?' said Janil. He shook himself free of his father's grasp and confronted Carrot. 'I don't care! I don't want all this stuff about the moon rising over the Mountains of the Sun! I get that at home all the time! I live here!'

'Now, you really ought to listen to your parents–'

'Why? My dad works all the time and now he's being pushed out! What good's that? We ought to stay here and defend what's ours!'

'Ah, well, you shouldn't take the law into your own hands––'

'Why not?'

'It's our job––'

'But you're not doing it!' There was a rattle of Klatchian from Mr Goriff. 'He says I've got to apologize,' said Janil sullenly. 'I'm sorry.'

'So am I,' said Carrot. The boy's father gave him that complicated shrug used by adults in a situation involving adolescents. 'You'll be back, I know it,' said Carrot. 'We shall see.' They went down the quay towards a waiting boat. It was a Klatchian ship. People lined the rails, people who were getting out with what they could carry before they could only get out with what they wore. The watchmen found themselves under hostile scrutiny. 'Surely Rust isn't already forcing Klatchians out of their homes?' said Angua. 'We can tell which way the wind is blowing,' said Goriff calmly. Carrot sniffed the salt air. 'It's blowing from Klatch,' he said. 'For you, perhaps,' said Goriff. A whip cracked behind them and they stood aside as several coaches rumbled by. A blind at the window was pulled aside momentarily. Carrot caught a brief glimpse of a face, all gold teeth and black beard, before the cloth twitched back. 'That's him, isn't it?' There was a faint grunt from Angua. She had her eyes closed, as she always did when she was letting her nose do the seeing.. . 'Cloves,' she murmured, and then grabbed Carrot's arm. 'Don't run after it! There's armed men on that ship! What will they think when they see a soldier running towards them?'

'I'm not a soldier!'

'How long do you think they'll spend working out the difference?' The coach pushed through the press of people on the dock. The crowd surged back around it. 'There's boxes being unloaded – I can't quite see . . said Carrot, shading his eyes. 'Look, I'm sure they'll understand if–' 71–hour Ahmed stepped out on to the dock and looked back towards the watchmen. There was a momentary sparkle as he grinned. They saw his hand reach over his shoulder and come back holding the curved sword. 'I can't just let him get away,' said Carrot. 'He's a suspect! Look, he's laughing at us!'

'With diplomatic impunity,' said Angua. 'But there's a lot of armed men down there.'

'My strength is as the strength of ten because my heart is pure,' said Carrot. 'Really? Well, there's eleven of them.'

71–hour Ahmed threw his sword in the air. It spun a couple of times, making a whum–whum noise, and then his hand shot out and caught it by the handle as it fell. 'That's what Mr Vimes was doing,' said Carrot, through gritted teeth. 'Now he's taunting us–'

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