Jingo Page 46

'You won't last long,' Rust sneered. 'You wait until we're back in the city. You just wait.' He strode off, holding his stricken hand. Vimes went back and sat down by the fire. After a while he said: 'Where's he gone now?'

'Back to the lines, sir. I think he's ordering the men home.'

'Can he see us?'

'No.'

'You sure?'

'There's too many people in the way, sir.'

'You're quite sure?'

'Not unless he can see through camels, sir.'

'Good.' Vimes stuck his fingers in his mouth. Sweat was pouring down his face. 'Damn damn damn! Has anyone got any cold water?' Captain Jenkins had got his ship afloat again. It had taken a lot of digging, and some careful work with balks of timber and the assistance of a Klatchian captain who had decided not to let patriotism stand in the way of profit.

He and his crew were resting on the shore when a greeting rang out from over them. He squinted into the sun. 'That... that can't be Vimes, can it?' The crew stared. 'Let's get aboard right now!' A figure started down the face of the dune. It moved very fast, much faster than a man could run on the shifting sand, and moved in a zig–zag fashion. As it drew nearer, it turned out to be a man standing on a shield. It slid to a halt a few feet away from the astonished Jenkins. 'Good of you to wait, captain!' said Carrot. 'Very many thanks! The others will be down in a minute.' Jenkins looked back to the top of the dune. There were other, darker figures there now. 'Those are D'regs!' he shouted. 'Oh, yes. Lovely people. Have you met them at all?' Jenkins stared at Carrot. 'Did you win?' he said. 'Oh, yes. On penalties, in the end.' Green-blue light filtered through the tiny windows of the Boat. Lord Vetinari pulled the steering levers until he was pretty certain that they were heading towards a suitable ship and said: 'What is it I can smell, Sergeant Colon?'

'It's Bet– It's Nobby, sir,' said Colon, pedalling industriously. 'Corporal Nobbs?' Nobby almost blushed. 'I bought a bottle of scent, sir. For my young lady.' Lord Vetinari coughed. 'What exactly do you mean by “your young lady”?' he said. 'Well, for when I get one,' said Nobby. 'Ah.' Even Lord Vetinari sounded relieved. 'On account of I expect I shall now, me having fully explored my sexual nature and now feeling fully comfortable with meself,' said Nobby. 'You feel comfortable with yourself?'

'Yessir!' said Nobby happily. 'And when you find this lucky lady, you will give her this bottle of–'

' 's called “Kasbah Nights”, sir.'

'Of course. Very... floral, isn't it?'

'Yessir. That's 'cos of the jasmine and rare ungulants in it, sir.'

'And yet at the same time curiously... penetrative.' Nobby grinned. 'Good value for money, sir. A little goes a long way.'

'Not far enough, possibly?' But Nobby rusted even irony. 'I got it in the same shop that sarge got the hump, sir.'

'Ah... yes.'

There wasn't very much space in the Boat, and most of it was taken up with Sergeant Colon's souvenirs. He'd been allowed a brief shopping expedition 'to take home something for the wife, sir, otherwise I'll never hear the last of it'. 'Mrs Colon will like a stuffed camel hump, will she, sergeant?' said the Patrician doubtfully. 'Yessir. She can put things on it, sir.'

'And the set of nested brass tables?'

'To put things on, sir.'

'And the' – there was a clanking –'set of goat bells, ornamental coffee pot, miniature camel saddle and this... strange glass tube with little bands of different coloured sand in it... what are these for?'

'Conversation pieces, sir.'

'You mean people will say things like “What are they for?”, do you?' Sergeant Colon looked pleased with himself. 'See, sir? We're talking about 'em already.'

'Remarkable.' Sergeant Colon coughed and indicated with a tilt of his head the hunched figure of Leonard, who was sitting in the stern with his head in his hands. 'He's a bit quiet, sir,' he whispered. 'Can't seem to get a word out of him.'

'He has a lot on his mind,' said the Patrician. The watchmen pedalled onwards for a while, but the close confines of the Boat encouraged a confidentiality that would never have been found on land. 'Sorry to hear you're getting the sack, sir,' said Colon. 'Really,' said Lord Vetinari. 'You'd definitely get my vote, if we had elections.'

'Capital.'

'I think people want the thumbscrew of firm government, myself.'

'Good.'

'Your predecessor, Lord Snapcase, now he was mental. But, like I've always said, people know where they stand with Lord Vetinari...'

'Well done.'

'They might not like where they're standing of course...' Lord Vetinari looked up. They were under a boat now and it seemed to be going in the right direction. He steered the Boat until he heard the thunk of hull hitting hull, and gave the auger a few turns. 'Am I being sacked, sergeant?' he said, sitting back. 'Well, eh, I heard Lord Rust's people say that if you rat... rat. ..'

'Ratify,' said Lord Vetinari. 'Yeah, if you ratify that surrender next week, they'll get you exiled, sir.'

'A week is a long time in politics, sergeant.' Colon's face widened in what he thought of as a knowing grin. He tapped the side of his nose.

'Ah, politics,' he said. 'Ah, you should've said.'

'Yeah, they'll laugh at the other foot then, eh?' said Nobby. 'Cot some secret plan, I'll be bound,' said Colon. 'You know where the chicken is all right.'

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'I can see there's no fooling such skilled observers of the carnival that is life,' said Lord Vetinari. 'Yes, indeed, there is something I intend to do.' He adjusted the position of the camel–hump pouffe, which in fact smelled of goat and was beginning to leak sand, and lay back. 'I'm going to do nothing. Wake me up if anything interesting happens.' Nautical things happened. The wind spun about so much that a weather- cock might as well be harnessed to grinding corn. At one point there was a fall of anchovies. And Commander Vimes tried to sleep. Jenkins showed him a hammock, and Vimes realized that this was another sheep's eyeball. No-one could possibly sleep in something like that. Sailors probably kept them up for show and had real beds tucked away somewhere. He tried to make himself comfortable in the hold, and dozed while the others talked in the corner. They were very politely keeping out of his way. '––ordship wouldn't give the whole thing away, would he? What were we fighting for?'

'He'll have a hard job hanging on to the job after this, that's for sure. It's dragging the good name of Ankh-Morpork in the mud, like Mr Vimes said.'

'For Ankh-Morpork, mud is up.' That was Angua. 'On der other han', everyone is still breathin'.' That was Detritus. 'That's a vitalist remark–'

'Sorry, Reg. What you scratchin' for?'

'I think I picked up a filthy foreign disease.'

'Sorry?' Angua again. 'What can a zombie catch?'

'Don't like to say...'

'You're talking to someone who knows every brand of flea powder they sell in Ankh–Morpork, Reg.'

'Oh, if you must know... Mice, miss. It's shameful. I keep myself dean, but they just find a way–'

'Have you tried everything?'

'Excepting ferrets.'

'If his lordship goes, who'll take over?' That was Cheery. 'Lord Rust?'

'He'd last five minutes.'

'Maybe the guilds will get together and–'

'They'll fight like–'

'–ferrets,' said Reg. 'The cure's worse than the disease.'

'Cheer up, there'll still be a Watch.' That was Carrot. 'Yes, but Mr Vimes'll be out on his ear. 'cos of politics.' Vimes decided to keep his eyes closed.

A silent crowd was waiting on the quayside when the ship finally docked. They watched Vimes and his men walk down the gangway. There were one or two coughs, and then someone called out: 'Say it ain't so, Mr Vimes!' At the foot of the gangplank Constable Dorfl saluted stiffly. 'Lord Ruses Ship Cot In This Morning, Sir,' the golem said. 'Anyone seen Vetinari?'

'No, sir.'

'Afraid to show his face!' someone shouted. 'Lord Rust Said You Were To Do Your Duty, Damn You,' said Dorfl. Golems had a certain literalness of speech. He handed Vimes a sheet of paper. Vimes grabbed it and read the first few lines. 'What's this? “Emergency Council?” And this?... Treason? Against Vetinari? I'm not carrying this out!'

'Can I see, sir?' said Carrot. It was Angua who noticed the wave, while the others were staring at the warrant. Even in human form a werewolf's ears are pretty sensitive. She wandered back to the quayside and looked downriver. A wall of white water a few feet high was running up the Ankh. As it passed, boats were lifted and rocked. It sloshed by her, sucking at the quay and making Jenkins's boat dance for a moment. There was a crash of crockery somewhere aboard. Then it was gone, a line of surf heading towards the next bridge. For a moment the air smelled not of the Ankh's eau de latrine but of sea winds and salt. Jenkins appeared out of his cabin and looked over the side. 'What was that? The tide changing?' Angua called up. 'We came up on the tide,' said Jenkins. 'Beats me. One of those phenomena, I expect.' Angua went back to the group. Vimes was already red in the face. 'It has been signed by quite a lot of the major guilds, sir,' Carrot was saying. 'In fact they're all here except the Beggars and the Seamstresses.'

'Really? Well, piss on 'em! Who are they to give me an order like that?'

'Angua saw the look of pain cross Carrot's face. 'Uh... someone has to give us orders, sir. In a general sort of way. We aren't supposed to make up our own. That's sort of... the point.'

'Yes... but... not like...'

'And I suppose they represent the will of the people–'

'That bunch? Don't give me that rubbish! We'd have been slaughtered if we'd fought! And then we'd be in just the same position as we–'

'This does look legal, sir.'

'It's... ridiculous!'

'It's not as if we are accusing him, sir. We just have to make sure he turns up at the Rats Chamber. Look, sir, you've had a very trying time–'

'But... arrest Vetinari? I can't–' Vimes stopped, because his ears had caught up. And because that was the point, wasn't it? If you could arrest anyone, then that's what you had to do. You couldn't turn round and say 'but not him'. Ahmed would snigger. Old Stoneface would turn in all five of his graves. 'I can, can't I?' he said, sadly. 'Oh, all right. Put out a description, Dorfl.'

'That Will Not Be Necessary, Sir.' The crowds moved aside as Lord Vetinari walked along the quay, with Nobby and Colon behind him. At least, if it wasn't Sergeant Colon it was a very strangely deformed camel. 'I think I caught quite a lot of that, commander,' said Lord Vetinari. 'Please do your duty.'

'All you've got to do is to go to the palace, sir. Let's–'

'You're not going to handcuff me?' Vimes's mouth dropped open. 'Why should I do that?'

'Treason is very nearly the ultimate crime, Sir Samuel. I think I should demand handcuffs.'

'All right, if you insist.' Vimes nodded at Dorfl. 'Cuff him, then.'

'You haven't any shackles, by any chance?' said Lord Vetinari, as Dorfl produced a pair of handcuffs. 'We may as well do this thing properly–'

'No. We don't have any shackles.'

'I was only trying to help, Sir Samuel. Shall we be going?' The crowd weren't jeering. That was almost frightening. They were just waiting, like an audience watching to see how the trick was going to be done. They parted again as the Patrician headed towards the centre of the city. He stopped and turned. 'What was the other thing... oh yes, I don't have to be dragged on a hurdle, do I?'

'Only if you're actually executed, my lord,' said Carrot, cheerfully. 'Traditionally, traitors are dragged to their place of execution on a hurdle. And then you're hung, drawn and quartered.' Carrot looked embarrassed. 'I know about the hanging and quartering but I'm not sure how you're drawn, sir.'

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