Jingo Page 48


'The war is officially over, is it?' said Carrot. 'The war, captain, never happened. It was a... misunderstanding.'

'Never happened?' said Vimes. 'People got killed!'

'Quite so,' said Lord Vetinari. 'And this suggests, does it not, that we should try to understand one another as much as possible?'

'What about the Prince?'

'Oh, I am sure we can do business with him, Vimes.'

'I don't think so!'

'Prince Khufurah? I thought you rather liked the man.'

'What? What happened to the other one?'

'He appears to have gone on a long visit to the country,' said the Patrician. 'At some speed.'

'You mean the kind of visit where you don't even stop to pack?'

'That kind of visit, yes. He seems to have upset people.'

'Do we know which country?' said Vimes. 'Klatchistan, I believe – I'm sorry, did I say something funny?'

'Oh, no. No. Just a thought crossed my mind, that's all.' Vetinari leaned back. 'And so once again peace spreads her tranquil blanket.'

'I shouldn't think the Klatchians are very happy, though.'

'It is in the nature of people to turn on their leaders when they fail to be lucky,' Vetinari added, his expression not changing. 'Oh, there will no doubt be problems. We will just have to... discuss them. Prince Khufurah is an amiable man. Very much like most of his ancestors. A flask of wine, a loaf of bread and thou, or at least a selection of thous, and he'd not be too interested in politics.'

'They're as clever as us,' said Vimes. 'We just have to stay ahead of them, then,' said Vetinari. 'A brain race, sort of,' said Vimes. 'Better than an arms race. Cheaper, too,' said the Patrician. He flicked through the papers in front of him. 'Now then, what was – oh, yes. The matter of traffic?'

'Traffic?' Vimes's brain tried to do a u–turn. 'Yes. Our ancient streets are becoming very congested these days. I hear there is a carter in Kings' Way who settled down and raised a family while in the queue. And the responsibility for keeping the streets clear is, in fact, one of the most ancient ones incumbent on the Watch.'

'Maybe, sir, but these days–'

'So you will set up a department, Vimes, to regulate matters. To deal with things. Stolen carts and so on. And keeping the major crossroads clear. And perhaps to fine carters who park for too long and impede the flow. And so on. Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs would, I think, be eminently fitted for this work which, I suspect, should easily be self–financing. What is your opinion?' A chance to be 'self–financing' and not get shot at, thought Vimes. They'll think they've died and gone to heaven. 'Is this some sort of a reward for them, sir?'

'Let us say, Vimes, that where one finds one has a square peg, one should look for a square hole.'

'I suppose that's all right, sir. Of course, that means I'll have to promote someone–'

'I am sure I can leave the details to you. A small bonus for each of them would not be out of order. Ten dollars, say. Oh, there is one other thing, Vimes. And I am particularly glad that Lady Sybil is here to hear this. I am persuaded to change the title of your office.'

'Yes?'

' “Commander” is rather a mouthful. So I have been reminded that a word that originally meant commander was “Dux”.'

'Dux Vimes?' said Vimes. He heard Sybil gasp. He was aware of a waiting hush around him, such as may be found between the fighting of a fuse and the bang. He rolled the word over and over in his mind. 'Duke?' he said. 'Oh, no– Sybil, could you wait outside?'

'Why, Sam?'

'I need to discuss this very personally with his lord ship.'

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'Have a row. you mean?'

'A discussion.' Lady Sybil sighed. 'Oh, very well. It's up to you, Sam. You know that.'

'There are... associated matters,' said Lord Vetinari, when the door closed behind her. 'No!'

'Perhaps you should hear them.'

'No! You've done this to me before! We've got the Watch set up, we've almost got the numbers, the widows and orphans fund is so big the men are queueing up for the dangerous beats, and the dartboard we've got is nearly new! You can't bribe me into accepting this time! There is nothing we want!'

'Stoneface Vimes was a much–maligned man, I've always thought,' said Vetinari. 'I'm not accepting– What?' Vimes skidded in mid–anger. 'I've always thought that, too,' said Carrot loyally.

Vetinari stood up and went to stand by the window, looking down at Broad Way with his hands behind his back. 'The thought occurs that this might be time for... reconsideration of certain ancient assumptions,' said Vetinari. The meaning enveloped Vimes like a chilly mist. 'You're offering to change history?' he said. 'Is that it? Rewrite the–'

'Oh, my dear Vimes, history changes all the time. It is constantly being re– examined and re–evaluated, otherwise how would we be able to keep historians occupied? We can't possibly allow people with their sort of minds to walk around with time on their hands. The Chairman of the Guild of Historians is in full agreement with me, I know, that the pivotal role of your ancestor in the city's history is ripe for fresh... analysis.'

'Discussed it with him, have you?' said Vimes. 'Not yet.' Vimes opened and shut his mouth a few times. The Patrician went back to his desk and picked up a sheet of paper. 'And, of course, other details would have to be taken care of...' he said. 'Such as?' Vimes croaked. 'The Vimes coat of arms would be resurrected, of course. It would have to be. I know Lady Sybil was extremely upset when she found you weren't entitled to one. And a coronet, I believe, with knobs on–'

'You can take that coronet with the knobs on and–'

'–which I hope you will wear on formal occasions, such as, for example, the unveiling of the statue which has for so long disgraced the city by its absence.' For once, Vimes managed to get ahead of the conversation. 'Old Stoneface again?' he said. 'That part of it, is it? A statue to old Stoneface?'

'Well done,' said Lord Vetinari. 'Not of you, obviously. Putting up a statue to someone who tried to stop a war is not very, um, statuesque. Of course, if you had butchered five hundred of your own men out of arrogant carelessness, we'd be melting the bronze already. No. I was thinking of the first Vimes who tried to make a future and merely made history. I thought perhaps somewhere in Peach Pie Street–' They watched one another like cats, like poker players. 'Top of Broad Way,' Vimes said hoarsely. 'Right in front of the palace.' The Patrician glanced out of the window. 'Agreed. I shall enjoy looking at it.'

'And right up close to the wall. Out of the wind.'

'Certainly.' Vimes looked nonplussed for a moment. 'We lost people––'

'Seventeen, caught in skirmishes of one sort or another,' said Lord Vetinari. 'I want–'

'Financial arrangements will be made for widows and dependants.' Vimes gave up. 'Well done, sir!' said Carrot. The new duke rubbed his chin. 'But that means I'll have to be married to a duchess,' he said. 'That's a big fat word, duchess. And Sybil's never been very interested in that sort of thing.'

'I bow to your knowledge of the female psyche,' said Vetinari. 'I saw her face just now. No doubt when she next takes tea with her friends, who I believe include the Duchess of Quirm and Lady Selachii, she will be entirely unmoved and not faintly smug in any way.' Vimes hesitated. Sybil was an amazingly levelheaded woman, of course, and this sort of thing... She'd left it entirely up to him, hadn't she?... This sort of thing wouldn't... Well, of course she wouldn't, she... Of course she would, wouldn't she? She wouldn't swank, she'd just be very comfortable knowing that they knew that she knew that they knew... 'All right,' he said, 'but, look I thought only a king could make someone a duke. It's not like all these knights and barons, that's just, well, political, but something like a duke needs a–' He looked at Vetinari. And then at Carrot. Vetinari had said that he'd been reminded... 'I'm sure, if ever there is a king in Ankh–Morpork again, he will choose to ratify my decision,' said Vetinari smoothly. 'And if there never is a king, well, I see no practical problems.'

'I'm bought and sold, aren't I?' said Vimes, shaking his head. 'Bought and sold.'

'Not at all,' said Vetinari. 'Yes, I am. We all are. Even Rust. And all those poor buggers who went off to get slaughtered. We're not part of the big picture, right? We're just bought and sold.' Vetinari was suddenly in front of Vimes, his chair hitting the floor behind his desk. 'Really? Men marched away, Vimes. And men marched back. How glorious the battles would have been that they never had to fight!' He hesitated, and then shrugged. 'And you say bought and sold? All right. But not, I think, needlessly spent.' The Patrician flashed one of those sharp, fleeting little smiles to say that something that wasn't very funny had nevertheless amused him. 'Veni, vici... Vetinari.' Seaweed floated away on aimless currents. Apart from the driftwood, there was nothing to show that Leshp had ever been. Seabirds wheeled. But their cries were more or less drowned out by the argument going on just above sea level. 'It is entirely our wood, you nodding acquaintance of a dog!'

'Oh? Really? On your side of the island, is it? I don't think so!'

'It floated up!'

'How do you know we didn't have some driftwood on our side of the island? Anyway, we've still got a barrel of fresh water, camel breath!'

'All right! We'll share! You can have half the raft!'

'Aha! Aha! Want to negotiate, eh, now we've got you over a barrel?'

'Can we just say yes, Dad? I'm fed up with treading water!'

'And you'll have to do your share of the paddling.'

'Of course.' The birds glided and turned, white scribbles against the dear blue sky. 'To Ankh–Morpork!'

'To Klatch!' Down below, as the sunken mountain of Leshp settled further onto the sea bed, the Curious Squid jetted back along its curious streets. They had no idea why, at enormous intervals, their city disappeared up into the sky, but it never went away for very long. It was just one of those things. Things happened, or sometimes they didn't The Curious Squid just assumed that it all worked out, sooner or later. A shark swam by. If anyone had risked placing an car to its side, they would have heard: 'Bingeleybingeley beep! Three pee em... Eat, Hunger, Swim. Things To Do Today: Swim, Hunger, Eat. Three oh five pee em: Feeding Frenzy...' It wasn't the most interesting of schedules, but it was very easy to organize. Unusually, Sergeant Colon had put himself on the patrol roster. It was good to get out in the cool air. And also, for some reason, the news had got around that the Watch were somehow bound up with what seemed, in some indefinable way, to have been a victory, which meant that a Watch uniform was probably good for the odd free pint at the back door of the occasional pub. He patrolled with Corporal Nobbs. They walked with the confident tread of men who had been places and seen things. With a true copper's instinct, the tread took them past Mundane Meals. Mr Goriff was cleaning the windows. He stopped when he saw them and darted inside. 'Call that gratitude?' sniffed Colon. The man reappeared carrying two large packages. 'My wife made this specially for you,' he said. He added, 'She said she knew you'd be along.' Colon pulled aside the waxed paper. 'My word,' he said. 'Special Ankh–Morpork curry,' said Mr Goriff. 'Containing yellow curry powder, big lumps of swede, green peas and soggy sultanas the–'

'–size of eggs!' said Nobby. 'Thank you very much,' said Colon. 'How's your lad, then, Mr Goriff?'

'He says you have set him an example and now he will be a watchman when he grows up.'

'Ah, right,' said Colon happily. 'That'll please Mr Vimes. You just tell him–'

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