Free Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Book: Snuff by Terry Pratchett Read Free Book Online
Authors: Terry Pratchett
brief glower round the room the man headed for the bar on the course that would take him past, or probably over, or even through Sam Vimes. As it was, Vimes carefully pulled his mug out of harm’s way so that the man’s undisguised attempt to “accidentally” spill it failed.
    â€œMr. Jiminy,” Vimes called out, “a round of drinks for these gentlemen, all right?”
    This caused a certain amount of cheerfulness among the other newcomers, but the smith slammed a hand like a shovel down on the wood so that glasses jumped.
    â€œI don’t care to drink with them as grinds the faces of the poor!”
    Vimes held his gaze, and said, “Sorry, I didn’t bring my grinder with me today.” It was silly, because a couple of sniggers from hopeful drinkers at the bar merely stoked whatever fires the blacksmith had neglected to leave at work, and made him angry.
    â€œWho are you to think you’re a better man than me?”
    Vimes shrugged, and said, “I don’t know if I am a better man than you.” But he was thinking: you look to me like a big man in a small community, and you think you’re tough because you’re strong and metal doesn’t sneak up behind you and try to kick you in the goolies. Good grief, you don’t even know how to stand right! Even Corporal Nobbs could get you down and be kicking you industriously in the fork before you knew what was happening.
    Like any man fearing that something expensive could get broken, Jiminy came bustling across the floor and grabbed the smith by one arm, saying, “Come on, Jethro, let’s have no trouble. His grace is just having a drink the like of which any man is entitled to…”
    This appeared to work, although aggression smouldered on Jethro’s face and indeed in the surrounding air. By the look on the faces of the other men, this was a performance they were familiar with. It was a poor copper who couldn’t read a pub crowd, and Vimes could probably write a history, with footnotes. Every community has its firebrand, or madman, or self-taught politician. Usually they are tolerated because they add to the gaiety of nations, as it were, and people say things like “It’s just his way,” and the air clears and life goes on. But Jethro, now sitting in the far corner of the bar nursing his pint like a lion huddled over his gazelle, well, Jethro, in the Vimes lexicon of risk, was a man likely to explode. Of course the world sometimes needed blowing up, just so long as it didn’t happen where Vimes was drinking.
    Vimes was becoming aware that the pub was filling up, mostly with other sons of the soil, but also with people who, whether they were gentlemen or not, would expect to be called so. They wore colorful caps and white trousers and spoke continuously.
    There was also further activity outside; horses and carriages were filling the lane. Hammering was going on somewhere and Jiminy’s wife was now manning or, more correctly, womaning the bar while her husband ran back and forth with his tray. Jethro remained in his corner like a man biding his time, occasionally glaring daggers, and probably fists as well with an option on boots, if Vimes so much as looked at him.
    Vimes decided to take a look out of the grubby pub window. Regrettably, the pub was that most terrifying of things, picturesque, which meant that the window consisted of small round panes fixed in place with lead. They were for letting the light in, not for looking out of, since they bent light so erratically that it nearly broke. One pane showed what was probably a sheep but which looked like a white whale, until it moved, when it became a mushroom. A man walked past with no head until he reached another pane and then had one enormous eyeball. Young Sam would have loved it, but his father decided to give eventual blindness a miss and stepped out into the sunshine.
    Ah, he thought, some kind of game.
    Oh well.

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