Home > I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld #38)(3)

I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld #38)(3)
Terry Pratchett

No, Tiffany did not envy Petulia her romance, which surely must have taken place in big boots, unflattering rubber aprons, and the rain, not to mention an awful lot of oink.

She did, however, envy her for being so sensible. Petulia had it all worked out. She knew what she wanted her future to be, and had rolled up her sleeves and made it happen, up to her knees in oink if necessary.

Every family, even up in the mountains, kept at least one pig to act as a garbage can in the summer and as pork, bacon, ham, and sausages during the rest of the year. The pig was important; you might dose Granny with turpentine when she was poorly, but when the pig was ill, you sent immediately for a pig witch, and paid her too, and paid her well, generally in sausages.

On top of everything else, Petulia was a specialist pig borer, and indeed she was this year’s champion in the noble art of boring. Tiffany thought you couldn’t put it better; her friend could sit down with a pig and talk to it gently and calmly about extremely boring things until some strange pig mechanism took over, whereupon it would give a happy little yawn and fall over, no longer a living pig and ready to become a very important contribution to the family’s diet for the following year. This might not appear the best of outcomes for the pig, but given the messy and above all noisy way pigs died before the invention of pig boring, it was definitely, in the great scheme of things, a much better deal all round.

Alone in the crowd, Tiffany sighed. It was hard, when you wore the black, pointy hat. Because, like it or not, the witch was the pointy hat, and the pointy hat was the witch. It made people careful about you. They would be respectful, oh, yes, and often a little bit nervous, as if they expected you to look inside their heads, which as a matter of fact you could probably do, using the good old witch’s standbys of First Sight and Second Thoughts.* But these weren’t really magic. Anyone could learn them if they had a lick of sense, but sometimes even a lick is hard to find. People are often so busy living that they never stopped to wonder why. Witches did, and that meant them being needed: Oh, yes, needed—needed practically all the time, but not, in a very polite and definitely unspoken way, not exactly wanted.

This wasn’t the mountains, where people were very used to witches; people on the Chalk could be friendly, but they weren’t friends, not actual friends. The witch was different. The witch knew things that you did not. The witch was another kind of person. The witch was someone that perhaps you should not anger. The witch was not like other people.

Tiffany Aching was the witch, and she had made herself the witch because they needed one. Everybody needs a witch, but sometimes they just don’t know it.

And it was working. The storybook pictures of the drooling hag were being wiped away, every time Tiffany helped a young mother with her first baby, or smoothed an old man’s path to his grave. Nevertheless, old stories, old rumors, and old picture books still seemed to have their own hold on the memory of the world.

What made it more difficult was that there was no tradition of witches on the Chalk—none would ever have settled there when Granny Aching had been alive. Granny Aching, as everybody knew, was a wise woman, and wise enough not to be a witch. Nothing ever happened on the Chalk that Granny Aching disapproved of, at least not for more than about ten minutes.

So Tiffany was a witch alone.

And not only was there no longer any support from the mountain witches like Nanny Ogg, Granny Weatherwax, and Miss Level, but the people of the Chalk weren’t very familiar with witches. Other witches would probably come and help if she asked, of course, but although they wouldn’t say so, this might mean that you couldn’t cope with responsibility, weren’t up to the task, weren’t sure, weren’t good enough.

“Excuse me, miss?” There was a nervous giggle. Tiffany looked round, and there were two little girls in their best new frocks and straw hats. They were watching her eagerly, with perhaps just a hint of mischief in their eyes. She thought quickly and smiled at them.

“Oh, yes, Becky Pardon and Nancy Upright, yes? What can I do for the two of you?”

Becky Pardon shyly produced a small bouquet from behind her back and held it out. Tiffany recognized it, of course. She had made them herself for the older girls when she was younger, simply because it was what you did, it was part of the scouring: a little bunch of wildflowers picked from the downland, tied in a bunch with—and this was the important bit, the magic bit—some of the grass pulled up as the fresh chalk was exposed.

“If you put this under your pillow tonight, you will dream of your beau,” said Becky, her face quite serious now.

Tiffany took the slightly wilting bunch of flowers with care. “Let me see…” she said. “We have here sweet mumbles, ladies’ pillows, seven-leaf clover—very lucky—a sprig of old man’s trousers, jack-in-the-wall, oh—love-lies-bleeding, and…” She stared at the little white-and-red flowers.

The girls said, “Are you all right, miss?”

“Forget-me-lots!”* said Tiffany, more sharply than she had intended. But the girls hadn’t noticed, so she continued to say, brightly, “Quite unusual to see it here. It must be a garden escapee. And, as I’m sure you both know, you have bound them all together with strips of candle rush, which once upon a time people used to make into rush lights. What a lovely surprise. Thank you both very much. I hope you have a lovely time at the fair…”

Becky raised her hand. “Excuse me, miss?”

“Was there something else, Becky?”

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