Home > Snuff (Discworld #39)(3)

Snuff (Discworld #39)(3)
Terry Pratchett

Two weeks holiday with every meal overseen by his wife. It didn’t bear thinking about, but he did anyway. And then there was Young Sam, growing up like a weed and into everything. A holiday in the fresh air would do him good, his mother said. Vimes hadn’t argued. There was no point in arguing with Sybil, because even if you thought that you’d won, it would turn out, by some magic unavailable to husbands, that you had, in fact, been totally misinformed.

At least he was allowed to leave the city wearing his armor. It was part of him, and just as battered as he was, except that, in the case of the armor the dents could be hammered out.

Vimes, with his son on his knee, stared out at the departing city as the coach hurried him toward a fortnight of bucolic slumber. He felt like a man banished. But, to look on the bright side, there was bound to be some horrible murder or dreadful theft in the city which for the very important purposes of morale, if nothing else, would require the presence of the head of the Watch. He could but hope.

Sam Vimes had known ever since their marriage that his wife had a place out in the country. One of the reasons he knew this was because she had given it to him. In fact, she had transferred all the holdings of her family, said family consisting solely of her at that point, to him in the old fashioned but endearing belief that a husband should be the one doing the owning.** She had insisted.

Periodically, according to the season, a cart had come from the country house all the way to their home in Scoone Avenue, Ankh-Morpork, loaded with fruits and vegetables, cheeses and meats; all the produce of an estate that he’d never seen. He wasn’t looking forward to seeing it now. One thing he knew about the country was that it squelched underfoot. Admittedly most of the streets of Ankh-Morpork squelched underfoot, but, well, that was the right kind of squelch and a squelch that he had squelched ever since he could walk and, inevitably, slip.

The place was officially called Crundells, although it was always referred to as Ramkin Hall. Apparently it had a mile of trout stream and, Vimes seemed to recall from the deeds, a pub. Vimes knew how you could own a pub but he wondered how you could own a trout stream because, if that was your bit, it had already gurgled off downstream while you were watching it, yes? That meant somebody else was now fishing in your water, the bastard! And the bit in front of you now had recently belonged to the bloke upstream; that bloated plutocrat of a fat neighbor now probably considered you some kind of poacher, that other bastard! And the fish swam everywhere, didn’t they? How did you know which ones were yours? Perhaps they were branded—that sounded very countryside to Vimes. To be in the countryside you had to be permanently on the defensive; quite the opposite of the city.

Uncharacteristically for him, Lord Vetinari laughed out loud. He very nearly gloated at the downfall of his enemy and slammed his copy of the Ankh-Morpork Times, open at the crossword page, on to his desk. “Cucumiform, shaped like a cucumber or a variety of squash! I thumb my nose at you, madam!”

Drumknott, who was carefully arranging paperwork, smiled and said, “Another triumph, my lord?” Vetinari’s battle with the chief crossword compiler of the Ankh-Morpork Times was well known.

“I am sure she is losing her grip,” said Vetinari, leaning back in his chair. “What is it that you have there, Drumknott?” He pointed at a bulky brown envelope.

“Commander Vimes’s badge, sir, as delivered to me by Captain Carrot.”

“Sealed?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then it doesn’t have Vimes’s badge in it.”

“No, sir. A careful fingertip examination of the envelope suggests that it contains an empty tin of Double Thunder snuff. A conclusion confirmed by a casual sniff, my lord.”

A still ebullient Vetinari said, “But the captain must have realized this, Drumknott.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Of course, that would be in the nature of the commander,” said Vetinari, “and would we have him any other way? He has won a little battle and a man who can win little battles is well set up to win big ones.”

Unusually, Drumknott hesitated a little before saying, “Yes, sir. Apropos of that, it was Lady Sybil who suggested the trip to the countryside, was it not?”

Vetinari raised an eyebrow. “Why yes, of course, Drumknott. I can’t imagine who would propose otherwise. The brave commander is well known for his dedication to his work. Who else but his loving wife could possibly persuade him that a few weeks of jolly holiday in the countryside would be a good thing?”

“Who indeed, sir,” said Drumknott, and left it at that, because there was no point in doing anything else. His master appeared to have sources of information unavailable even to Drumknott, however hard he tried, and only the heavens knew who all those were who scuttled in darkness up the long stairs. And thus life in the Oblong Office was a world of secrets and considerations and misdirections, where the nature of truth changed like the colors of the rainbow. He knew this because he played a not insignificant role in the spectrum. But to know what Lord Vetinari knew and exactly what Lord Vetinari thought would be a psychological impossibility, and a wise man would accept that and get on with his filing.

Vetinari stood up and stared out of the window. “This is a city of beggars and thieves, Drumknott, is it not? I pride myself that we have some of the most skilled. In fact, if there were such a thing as an inter-city thieving contest, Ankh-Morpork would bring home the trophy and probably everyone’s wallets. Theft has a purpose, Drumknott, but one intrinsically feels that while there are things by nature unavailable to the common man, there are also things not to be allowed to the rich and powerful.”

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