Home > The Shepherd's Crown (Discworld #41)(7)

The Shepherd's Crown (Discworld #41)(7)
Terry Pratchett

The boy’s mother stared at Granny and said, ‘Thank you so much, Mrs . . . um . . . well, I ain’t never had need to call on a witch before, and I’ve heard some folks round here say witches do nasty things. But I can tell ’em now as I ain’t seen nothing of that sort.’

‘Really?’ said Granny, struggling to keep her temper. ‘Well, I would like to do some nasty things to the overseer for not keeping an eye on these lads, and don’t you let that man tell your boy to get up until I do. If he does, tell him that Granny Weatherwax will be after him for using these young men who don’t really know how to climb trees. I’m a good witch, as it happens, but if I find your boy working before that foot is healed there will be a reckoning.’

As the mother waved Granny away she said, ‘I will pray to Om for you, Mrs Weatherwax.’

‘Well, do tell me what he says,’ said Granny sharply. ‘And that’s Mistress Weatherwax, thank you. But if you’ve got some old clothing I could take back with me when I come again – well, that would help. I’ll see you in a day or so, along with your boy. And mind you keep that wound clean.’

You, Granny’s white cat, was waiting for her when she arrived back at her cottage, along with several people wanting potions and poultices. One or two were looking for advice but generally people were careful not to ask Granny Weatherwax, as she had a tendency to dish out advice whether wanted or not, such as the wisdom of not giving little Johnny hand-made soldiers until he was old enough to know not to stuff them up his nose.

She bustled around for another hour, dishing out medicaments to person after person, and it was only much later that she realized that although she had fed the cat, obviously, she herself had had nothing to eat or drink since the dawn. So she heated up some pottage – not a great meal, but it filled her up.

Then she lay on her bed for a while, even though sleeping in the daytime was something that only very grand ladies did, and so Granny Weatherwax allowed herself not forty winks but just the one. After all, there were always more people to see and things to do.

Then she pulled herself up, and despite it being now quite late she went out and cleaned the privy. And she scrubbed it. She scrubbed it so hard that she could see her face in it . . .

But somehow, in the shimmering water, her face could also see her, and she sighed and said, ‘Drat, and tomorrow was going to be a much better day.’

fn1 The Feegles believed to a man that they had to be dead, as the world they now lived in was grand, filled as it was with so many opportunities for stealin’ and fightin’ and boozin’. A land fit for dead heroes.

fn2 Sometimes literally, since a kelda usually gave birth to about seven Feegle babies at a time. Jeannie herself had produced a daughter in amongst her first brood.

fn3 Lord Swivel’s father reckoned it was no waste, and that he had thoroughly enjoyed drinking the family fortune. At least, he thought this until he drank so much he fell over and met a gentleman with a decided lack of flesh on his bones and the definitive addition of a scythe a good few years earlier than he should have done.

fn4 He knew, too, that gods could sometimes make inconvenient requests. He had an associate who had chosen to follow the crocodile god Offler and then found he had to keep an aviary of tooth-cleaning birds handy to fulfil his god’s dental whims.

fn5 Very true, but a lot of people came from Fourecks, as is often the case with a Place-That-Nobody-Has-Ever-Heard-Of. They just never bothered to go back again.

fn6 Thus proving that books can teach you much, if only to give you a good name for a devilish smart goat.

fn7 The legend of Pilotus and his son Langas, who wanted to fly like the birds, was known by every well-educated boy. They did indeed build themselves wings by sewing together feathers and thistledown. The boy at least flew a little way, but his elderly and portly father crashed. The moral of the story is: understand what you are doing before you do it.

CHAPTER 2

A Voice in the Darkness

IT WAS A bright sunny day, thought Granny Weatherwax, a perfect day in fact. She had been up all night and cleaned the hall and kitchen in her cottage until everything that could shine was shining – the stove polished, the rag rug shaken and the flagstones scrubbed.

She moved up her corkscrew staircase and concentrated next on the floor in the bedroom. She had made some very good soap this year,fn1 and the jug and little wash basin by the bed were gleaming. The spiders in the corners, who had thought they had tenure unto Doomsday, were carefully shown the window, webs and all. Even the mattress looked clean and wholesome. Every so often You, her cat, appeared to see what was going on, and to lie on the patchwork quilt that was so flat it looked like someone had trodden on a huge tortoise.

Then Granny cleaned the privy once again, just for good measure. Not an errand for a fine day, but Esmerelda Weatherwax was meticulous in these things and the privy yielded to her efforts and, yes, it shone. Amazingly so.

Watching her, the intensity that showed on her cat’s face was remarkable. This was a different day, You sensed. A day not yet experienced. A day that bustled as if there would never be another day, and with the inside of the cottage up to scratch, You now followed Granny into the scullery.

A bucket of water, filled from the pump by the well, did the trick there. Granny smiled. She had always liked the scullery. It smelled of hard work being done properly. Here there were also spiders, mostly hiding around the bottles and jars on the shelves, but she thought scullery spiders didn’t really count. Live and let live.

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