Home > The Shepherd's Crown (Discworld #41)(3)

The Shepherd's Crown (Discworld #41)(3)
Terry Pratchett

But the reward for lots of work seemed to be lots more. If you dug the biggest hole, they just gave you a bigger shovel . . .

‘Today, Jeannie,’ she said slowly, ‘I did listen to the land. It told me to go to the circle . . .?’ There was a question hanging in the air.

The kelda sighed. ‘I dinnae see it clear yet, but there is . . . something not right, Tiffan,’ she said. ‘The veil between oor worlds is thin and can be easily brake, ye ken. The stones stand, so the gateway is nae open – and the Quin of the Elves will nae be strong after ye sent her back to Fairyland afore. She will nae be in a hurry to get past ye agin, but . . . I am still a-feared. I can feel it noo, like a fog driftin’ oor way.’

Tiffany bit her lip. If the kelda was worried, she knew she should be too.

‘Dinnae fash yesel’,’ Jeannie said softly, watching Tiffany closely. ‘Whin ye need the Feegles, we will be there. And until that time, we will keep a watch for ye.’ She took a last bite of her sandwich, and then gave Tiffany a different sort of look as she changed the subject. ‘Ye ha’ a young man – Preston, I think you call him. Do ye see him much?’ Her gaze was suddenly as sharp as an axe.

‘Well,’ said Tiffany, ‘he works hard, just like I do. Him in the hospital and me in the Chalk.’ To her horror, she felt herself begin to blush, the kind of blush that begins in your toes and works its way up to your face until you look like a tomato. She couldn’t blush! Not like a young country girl with a beau. She was a witch! ‘We write to each other,’ she added in a small voice.

‘And is that enough? Letters?’

Tiffany swallowed. She had once thought – everyone had thought – that she and Preston might have an Understanding, him being an educated boy, running the new school at the barn on the Achings’ farm until he had enough saved to go study in the big city to be a doctor. Now everyone still thought they had an Understanding, including Tiffany and Preston. Except . . . did she have to do what everyone expected her to do? ‘He is very nice and tells wonderful jokes and is great with words,’ she tried to explain. ‘But . . . we like our work, both of us, in fact you might say we are our work. Preston is working so hard at the Lady Sybil Free Hospital. And I can’t help thinking about Granny Aching and how much she liked her life, up on the downs, just her and the sheep and her two dogs, Thunder and Lightning, and . . .’ She tailed off and Jeannie laid a small nut-brown hand on her arm.

‘Do ye think this is the way to live, my girl?’

‘Well, I do like what I am doing and it helps people.’

‘But who helps you? That broomstick of yours flies everywhere and I think sometimes it might burst into flames. Ye look after everybody – but who looks after ye? If Preston is away, weel, there’s your friend the Baron and his new wife. Surely they care about their people. Care enough to help.’

‘They do care,’ said Tiffany, remembering with a shudder how everyone had once also thought that she and Roland, now the Baron, had an Understanding. Why were they so keen to try and find her a husband? Were husbands that difficult to find if she wanted one? ‘Roland is a decent man, although not yet as good as his father became. And Letitia . . .’

Letitia, she thought. Both she and Letitia knew that Letitia could do magic but right now was just playing the role of the young Baroness. And she was good at it – so good that Tiffany wondered if the Being a Baroness might come to win over Being a Witch in the end. It certainly involved a lot less mess.

‘Already ye have done such things other folk wouldnae credit,’ Jeannie continued.

‘Well,’ said Tiffany, ‘there’s too much to be done and not enough people to do it.’

The smile that the kelda gave her was a strange one. The little woman said, ‘Do ye let them try? Ye mustn’t be afraid to ask for help. Pride is a good thing, my girl, but it will kill you in time.’

Tiffany laughed. ‘Jeannie, you are always right. But I am a witch so pride is in the bones.’ That brought to mind Granny Weatherwax – the witch all the other witches thought of as the wisest and most senior of them all. When Granny Weatherwax said things, she never sounded proud – but she didn’t need to. It was just there, built right into her essence. In fact, whatever a witch needed in her bones, Granny Weatherwax had it in great big shovelfuls. Tiffany hoped, one day, that she might be that strong a witch herself.

‘Weel, that’s guid, so it is,’ said the kelda. ‘Ye’re oor hag o’ the hills and we need oor hag to ha’ some pride. But we’d also like ye to have a life of your ain.’ Her solemn little gaze was fixed on Tiffany now. ‘So off ye gae and follow where the wind blows ye.’

The wind down in the Shires was angry, blowing everywhere as if it was upset, howling around the chimneys of Lord Swivel’s mansion, which stood surrounded by acres of parkland and could only be reached by a long drive – ruling out visits by anyone not in possession of at least a decent horse.

That put paid to the majority of the ordinary people thereabouts, who were mostly farmers, and who were too busy to do any such thing anyway. Any horse they had was generally large and hairy-legged and usually seen attached to carts. The skinny, half-mad horses that pranced up the drive or pulled coaches up it were normally conveying a very different class of man: one who always had land and money, but often very little chin. And whose wife sometimes resembled his horse.

Lord Swivel’s father had inherited money and the title from his father, a great master builder, but he had been a drunkard and had wasted almost all of it.fn3 Nevertheless young Harold Swivel had wheeled and dealed, and yes, swivelled and swindled, until he had restored the family fortune, and had added two wings to the family mansion which he filled with expensively ugly objects.

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