Home > I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld #38)(10)

I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld #38)(10)
Terry Pratchett

The rough music had died down now, possibly because there was nothing for it to do, or perhaps because—and this was quite likely—if the rough musicians got back to the pub soon, there might be time for another drink before it closed.

Mr. Aching stood up. “I think we should take this girl home, don’t you?”

“Young woman,” corrected Tiffany, leaning over her.

“What?”

“Young woman,” said Tiffany. “She deserves that, at least. And I think I should take her somewhere else first. She needs more help than I can give her. Can you please go and scrounge some rope? I’ve got a leather strap on the broomstick, of course, but I don’t think it will be enough.” She heard a rustling from the hayloft above and smiled. Some friends could be so reliable.

But Mr. Aching looked shocked. “You are taking her away?”

“Not far. I have to. But look, don’t worry. If Mum makes up an extra bed, I’ll soon have her back.”

Her father lowered his voice. “It’s them, isn’t it? Do they still follow you?”

“Well,” Tiffany said, “they say they don’t, but you know what little liars the Nac Mac Feegle are!”

It had been a long day, and not a good one; otherwise she would not have been so unfair, but—strangely—there was no giveaway reply from above. To her surprise, a lack of Feegle was suddenly almost as distressing as an overdose.

And then, to her delight, a small voice said, “Ha ha ha, she didna catch us oot that time, aye, lads? We kept as quiet as little mices! The big wee hag didna suspect a thing! Lads? Lads?”

“Daft Wullie, I swear ye dinna have enough brains to blow your nose,” said a similar but angry voice. “What part o’ ‘nae one is tae say one wee word’ did ye nae understand? Och, crivens!”

This last remark was followed by the sounds of a scuffle.

Mr. Aching glanced nervously at the roof and leaned closer. “You know your mother is very worried about you? You know she’s just been a grandma again. She’s very proud of them all. And you too, of course,” he added hurriedly. “But all this witchy business, well, that’s not the sort of thing a young man looks for in a wife. And now that you and young Roland…”

Tiffany dealt with this. Dealing was part of witchcraft too. Her father looked so miserable that she put on her cheerful face and said, “If I was you, Dad, I would go home and get a decent night’s sleep. I’ll sort things out. Actually, there’s a coil of rope over there, but I’m certain I won’t need to use it now.”

He looked relieved at this. The Nac Mac Feegle could be pretty worrying to those who did not know them very well, although now that she thought about it, they could be pretty worrying however long you had known them; a Feegle in your life very soon changed it.

“Have you been here all this time?” she demanded as soon as her father had hurried off.

For a moment it rained bits of hay and whole Feegles.

The problem with getting angry at Nac Mac Feegles was that it was like getting angry at cardboard or the weather; it didn’t make any difference. She had a go anyway, because by now it was sort of traditional.

“Rob Anybody! You promised not to spy on me!”

Rob held up a hand. “Ah weel, there ye have it, right enough, but it is one of them miss apprehensions, miss, ‘cause we wasn’t spying at all, was we, lads?”

The mass of little blue-and-red shapes that now covered the floor of the barn raised their voices in a chorus of blatant lying and perjury. It slowed down when they saw her expression.

“Why is it, Rob Anybody, that you persist in lying when you are caught red-handed?”

“Ah weel, that’s an easy one, miss,” said Rob Anybody, who was technically the head man of the Nac Mac Feegles. “After all, ye ken, what would be the point of lyin’ when you had nae done anything wrong? Anyway, now I am mortally wounded to my giblets on account of me good name being slandered,” he said, grinning. “How many times have I lied to you, miss?”

“Seven hundred and fifty-three times,” said Tiffany. “Every time you promise not to interfere in my business.”

“Ah weel,” said Rob Anybody, “ye are still our big wee hag.”

“That may or may not be the case,” said Tiffany haughtily, “but I am a lot more big and considerably less wee than I used to be.”

“And a lot more hag,” said a jolly voice. Tiffany did not have to look to know who was talking. Only Daft Wullie could put his foot in it as far up as his neck. She looked down at his beaming little face. And he never did quite understand what it was that he was doing wrong.

Hag! It didn’t sound pretty, but every witch was a hag to the Feegles, however young she was. They didn’t mean anything by it—well, probably didn’t mean anything by it, but you could never tell for certain—and sometimes Rob Anybody grinned when he said it, but it was not their fault that to anyone not six inches tall the word meant someone who combed her hair with a rake and had worse teeth than an old sheep. Being called a hag when you are nine can be sort of funny. It isn’t quite so amusing when you are nearly sixteen and have had a very bad day and very little sleep and could really, really do with a bath.

Rob Anybody clearly noticed this, because he turned to his brother and said, “Ye will bring tae mind, brother o’ mine, that there was times when ye should stick your head up a duck’s bottom rather than talk?”

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