Jingo Page 3

'It is our view,' said Slant, turning his chair slightly so that he did not have to look at Vimes, 'that the new land is ours by Eminent Domain, Extra– Territoriality and, most importantly, Acquiris Quodcumque Rapis. I am given to understand that it was one of our fishermen who first set foot on it this time.'

'I hear the Klatchians claim that it was one of their fishermen,' said Vetinari. At the end of the table Vimes's lips were moving. Let's see, Acquiris...' “You get what you grab”?' he said aloud. 'We're not going to take their word for it, are we?' said Slant, pointedly ignoring him. 'Excuse me, my lord, but I don't believe that proud Ankh– Morpork is told what to do by a bunch of thieves with towels on their heads.'

'No, indeed! It's about time Johnny Klatchian was taught a lesson,' said Lord Selachii. 'Remember all that business last year with the cabbages? Ten damn boatloads they wouldn't accept!'

'And everyone knows caterpillars add to the flavour,' said Vimes, more or less to himself. The Patrician shot him a glance, 'That's right!' said Selachii. 'Good honest protein! And you remember all that trouble Captain Jenkins had over that cargo of mutton? They were going to imprison him! In a Klatchian jail!'

'Surely not? Meat is at its best when it's going green,' said Vimes. 'It's not as if it'd taste any different under all that curry,' said Burleigh. 'I was at a dinner in their embassy once, and do you know what they made me eat? It was a sheep's––'

'Excuse me, gentlemen,' said Vimes, standing up. 'There are some urgent matters I must deal with.' He nodded to the Patrician and hurried out of the room. He shut the door behind him and took a breath of fresh air, although right now he'd have happily inhaled deeply in a tannery.

Corporal Littlebottom stood up and looked at him expectantly. She had been sitting next to a box, which cooed peacefully. 'Something's up. Run down to... I mean, send a pigeon down to the Yard,' said Vimes. 'Yes, sir?'

'All leave is cancelled as of now and I want to see every officer, and I mean every officer, at the Yard at, oh, let's say six o'clock.'

'Right, sir. That might mean an extra pigeon unless I can write small enough.' Littlebottom hurried off. Vimes glanced out of the window. There was always a certain amount of activity outside the palace but today there was... not so much a crowd as, just, rather more people than you normally saw, hanging around. As if they were waiting for something. Klatch! Everyone knows it. Old Detritus was right. You could hear the little pebbles bouncing. It's not just a few fishermen having a scrap, it's a hundred years of... well, like two big men trying to fit in one small room, trying to be polite about it, and then one day one of them just has to stretch and pretty soon they're both smashing the furniture. But it couldn't really happen, could it? From what he'd beard, the present Seriph was a competent man who was mostly concerned with pacifying the rowdy edges of his empire. And there were Klatchians living in AnkhMorpork, for heaven's sake! There were Klatchians born in Ankh–Morpork. You saw some lad with a face that'd got camels written all over it, and when he opened his mouth it'd turn out he had an Ankhian accent so thick you could float rocks. Oh, there's all the jokes about funny food and foreigners, but surely... Not very funny jokes, come to think of it. When you hear the bang, there's no time to wonder how long the little fuse has been fizzing. There were raised voices when he went back into the Rats Chamber. 'Because, Lord Selachii; the Patrician was saying, 'these are not the old days. It is no longer considered... nice... to send a warship over there to, as you put it, show Johnny Foreigner the error of his ways. For one thing, we haven't had any warships since the Mary–Jane sank four hundred years ago. And times have changed. These days, the whole world watches. And, my lord, you are no longer allowed to say “What're you lookin' at?” and black their eyes.' He leaned back. 'There's Chimeria, and Khanli, and Ephebe, and Tsort. And Muntab, these days, too. And Omnia. Some of these are powerful nations, gentlemen. Many of them don't like Klatch's current expansionist outlook, but they don't Eke us much, either.'

'Whyever not?' said Lord Selachii.

'Well, because during our history those we haven't occupied we've tended to wage war on,' said Lord Vetinari. 'For some reason the slaughter of thousands of people tends to stick in the memory.'

'Oh, history,' said Lord Selachii. 'That's all in the past!'

'A good place for history, agreed,' said the Patrician solemnly. 'I meant: why don't they like us now? Do we owe them money?'

'No. Mostly they owe us money. Which is, of course, a far better reason for their dislike.'

'How about Sto Lat and Pseudopolis and the other cities?' said Lord Downey. 'They don't like us much, either.'

'Why not? I mean t'say, we do share a common heritage,' said Lord Selachii. 'Yes, my lord, but that common heritage largely consists of having had wars with one another,' said the Patrician. 'I can't see much support there. Which is a little unfortunate because we do not, in fact, have an army. I am not, of course, a military man but I believe that one of those is generally considered vital to the successful prosecution of a war.' .He looked along the table. 'The fact is“ he went on, 'that Ankh–Morpork has been violently against a standing army.'

'We all know why people don't trust an army,' said Lord Downey. 'A lot of armed men, standing around with nothing to do... they start to get ideas . . Vimes saw the heads turn towards him. 'My word,' he said, with glassy brightness, 'can this be a reference to ”Old Stoneface" Vimes, who led the city's militia in a revolt against the rule of a tyrannical monarch in an effort to bring some sort of freedom and justice to the place? I do believe it is! And was he Commander of the Watch at the time? Good heavens, yes, as a matter of fact he was! Was he hanged and dismembered and buried in five graves? And is he a distant ancestor of the current Commander? My word, the coincidences just pile up, don't they?' His voice went from manic cheerfulness to a growl. 'Right! That's got that over with. Now – has anyone got any point they wish to make?' There was a general shifting of position and a group clearing of throats. 'What about mercenaries?' said Boggis. 'The problem with mercenaries'

' said the Patrician, 'is that they need to be paid to start fighting. And, unless you are very lucky, you end up paying them even more to stop–' Selachii thumped the table. 'Very well, then, by jingo!' he snarled. 'Alone!'

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'We could certainly do with one,' said Lord Vetinari. 'We need the money. I was about to say that we cannot afford mercenaries.'

'How can this be?' said Lord Downey. 'Don't we pay our taxes?'

'Ah, I thought we might come to that,' said Lord Vetinari. He raised his hand and, on cue again, his clerk placed a piece of paper in it. 'Let me see now... ah yes. Guild of Assassins... Gross earnings in the last year: AM$13,207,048. Taxes paid in the last year: forty–seven dollars, twenty–two pence and what on examination turned out to be a Hershebian half–dong, worth one–eighth of a penny.'

'That's all perfectly legal! The Guild of Accountants––'

'Ah yes. Guild of Accountants: gross earnings AM$7,999,011. Taxes paid: nil. But, ah yes, I see they applied for a rebate of AM$200,000.'

'And what we received, I may say, included a Hershebian half–dong,' said Mr Frostrip of the Guild of Accountants. 'What goes around comes around" said Vetinari calmly. He tossed the paper aside. 'Taxation, gentlemen, is very much like dairy farming The task is to extract the maximum amount of milk with the minimum of moo. And I am afraid to say that these days all I get is moo.'

'Are you telling us that Ankh–Morpork is bankrupt?' said Downey. 'Of course. While, at the same time, full of rich people. I trust they have been spending their good fortune on swords.'

'And you have allowed this wholesale tax avoidance?' said Lord Selachii. 'Oh, the taxes haven't been avoided,' said Lord Vetinari. 'Or even evaded. They just haven't been paid.'

'That is a disgusting state of affairs!' The Patrician raised his eyebrows. 'Commander Vimes?'

'Yes, sir?'

'Would you be so good as to assemble a squad of your most experienced men, liaise with the tax gatherers and obtain the accumulated back taxes, please? My clerk here will give you a fist of the prime defaulters.'

'Right, sir. And if they resist, sir?' said Vimes, smiling nastily. 'Oh, how can they resist, commander? This is the will of our civic leaders.' He took the paper his clerk proffered. 'Let me see, now. Top of the list––' Lord Selachii coughed hurriedly. 'Far too late for that sort of nonsense now,' he said. 'Water under the bridge,' said Lord Downey. 'Dead and buried,' said Mr Slant. 'I paid mine,' said Vimes. 'So let me recap, then,' said Vetinari. 'I don't think anyone wants to see two grown nations scrapping over a piece of rock. We don't want to fight, but–'

'By jingo, if we do, we'll show those–' Lord Selachii began. 'We have no ships. We have no men. We have no money, too,' said Lord Vetinari. 'Of course, we have the art of diplomacy. It is amazing what you can do with the right words.'

'Unfortunately, the right words are more readily listened to if you also have a sharp stick,' said Lord Downey.

'Lord Selachii slapped the table. 'We don't have to talk to these people! My lords... gentlemen... it's up to us to show them we won't be pushed around! We must re–form the regiments!'

'Oh, private armies?' said Vimes. 'Under the command of someone whose fitness for it lies in the fact that he can afford to pay for a thousand funny hats?' Someone leaned forward, halfway along the table. Up to that moment Vimes had thought he was asleep, and when Lord Rust spoke it was, indeed, in a sort of yawn. 'Whose fitness, Mister Vimes, lies in a thousand years of breeding for leadership,' he said. The 'Mister' twisted in Vimes's chest. He knew he was a mister would always be a mister, was probably a blueprint for mistership, but he'd be damned if he wouldn't be Sit Samuel to someone who pronounced years as 'hyahs'. 'Ah, good breeding,' he said. 'No, sorry, don't have any of that, if that's what you need to get your own men killed by sheer–'

'Gentlemen, please,' said the Patrician. He shook his head. 'Let's have no fighting, please. This is, after all, a council of war. As for re–forming the regiments, well, this is of course your ancient right. The supplying of armed men in times of need is one of the duties of a gentleman. History is on your side. The precedents are dear enough, I can't go against them. I have to say I cannot afford to.'

'You're going to let them play soldiers?' said Vimes. 'Oh, Commander Vimes,' said Mr Burleigh, smiling. 'As a military man yourself, you must––., Sometimes people can attract attention by shouting. They might opt for thumping a table, or even take a swing at someone else. But Vimes achieved the effect by freezing, by simply doing nothing. The chill radiated off him. Lines in his face locked like a statue. 'I am not a military man.' And then Burleigh made the mistake of trying to grin disarmingly. 'Well, commander, the helmet and armour and everything... It's really all the same in the end, isn't it?'

'No. It's not.'

'Gentlemen. .. 'Lord Vetinari put his hands flat on the table, a sign that the meeting had ended. 'I can only repeat that tomorrow I shall be discussing the matter with Prince Khufurah–'

'I've heard good reports of him,' said Lord Rust. 'Strict but fair. One can only admire what he's doing in some of those backward regions. A most–'

'No, sir. You are thinking of Prince Cadram,' said Lord Vetinari 'Khufurah is the younger brother. He is arriving here as his brother's special envoy.'

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