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26.12.2018

‘But only inside," said Lily.

‘Inside’s where it counts,’ said Granny.

‘Outside’s quite important, mind,’ said Nanny.

‘Lots of people are animals inside. Lots of animals are people inside,’ said Lily. ‘Where’s the harm?’

‘He’s a frog.’

‘Especially at night,’ said Nanny. It had occurred to her that a husband who was a man all night and a frog all day might be almost acceptable; you wouldn’t get the wage packet, but there’d be less wear and tear on the furniture. She also couldn’t put out of her mind certain private speculations about the length of his tongue.

‘And you killed the Baron,’ said Magrat.

‘You think he was a particularly nice man?’ said Uly. ‘Besides, he didn’t show me any respect. If you’ve got no respect, you’ve got nothing.’

Nanny and Magrat found themselves looking at Granny.

‘He’s a frog.’

‘I found him in the swamp,’ said Lily. ‘I could tell he was pretty bright. I needed someone . . . amenable to persuasion. Shouldn’t frogs have a chance? He’ll be no worse a husband than many. Just one kiss from a princess seals the spell.’

‘A lot of men are animals,’ said Magrat, who’d picked up the idea from somewhere.

‘Yes. But he’s a frog,’ said Granny.

‘Look at it my way,’ said Lily. ‘You see this country? It’s all swamps and fogs. There’s no direction. But I can make this a great city. Not a sprawling place like Ankh-Morpork, but a place that works.’

‘The girl doesn’t want to marry a frog.’

‘What will that matter in a hundred years’ time?’

‘It matters now.’

Lily threw up her hands. ‘What do you want, then? It’s your choice. There’s me … or there’s that woman in the swamp. Light or dark. Fog or sunshine. Dark chaos or happy endings.’

‘He’s a frog, and you killed the old Baron,’ said Granny.

‘You’d have done the same,’ said Lily.

‘No,’ said Granny. ‘I’d have thought the same, but I wouldn’t have done it.’

‘What difference does that make, deep down?’

‘You mean you don’t know?’ said Nanny Ogg.

Lily laughed.

‘Look at the three of you,’ she said. ‘Bursting with inefficient good intentions. The maiden, the mother and the crone.’

‘Who are you calling a maiden?’ said Nanny Ogg.

‘Who are you calling a mother?’ said Magrat.

Granny Weatherwax glowered briefly like the person who has discovered that there is only one straw left and everyone else has drawn a long one.

‘Now, what shall I do with you?’ said Lily. ‘I really am against killing people unless it’s necessary, but I can’t have you running around acting stupidly . . .’

She looked at her fingernails.

‘So I think I shall have you put away somewhere until this has run its course. And then . . . can you guess what I’m going to do next?

‘I’m going to expect you to escape. Because, after all, I am the good one.’

Ella walked cautiously through the moonlit swamp, following the strutting shape of Legba. She was aware of movement in the water, but nothing emerged – bad news like Legba gets around, even among alligators.

An orange light appeared irrthe distance. It turned out to be Mrs Gogol’s shack, or boat, or whatever it was. In the swamp, the difference between the water and the land was practically a matter of choice.

‘Hallo? Is there anyone there?’

‘Come along in, child. Take a seat. Rest up a little.’

Ella stepped cautiously on to the rocking veranda. Mrs Gogol was sitting in her chair, a white-clad raggedy doll in her lap.

‘Magrat said – ‘

‘I know all about it. Come to Erzulie.’

‘Who are you?’

‘I am your – friend, girl.’

Ella moved so as to be ready to run.

‘You’re not a godmother of any kind, are you?’

‘No. No gods. Just a friend. Did anyone follow you?’

‘I… don’t think so.’

‘It’s no matter if they did, girl. No matter if they did. Maybe we ought to move out into the river for a spell, even so. We’ll be a lot safer with water all round.’

The shack lurched.

‘You better sit down. The feets make it shaky until we get into deep water.’

Ella risked a look, nevertheless.

Airs Gogol’s hut travelled on four large duck feet, which were now rising out of the swamp. They splashed their way through the shallows and, gently, sculled out into the river.

Greebo woke up and stretched.

And the wrong sort of arms and legs!

Mrs Pleasant, who had been sitting watching him, put down her glass.

‘What do you want to do now, Mr Cat?’ she said.

Greebo padded over to the door into the outside world and scratched at it.

‘Waant to go owwwt, Miss-uss Pleas-unt,’ he said.

‘You just have to turn the handle there,’ she said.

Greebo stared at the door handle like someone trying to come to terms with a piece of very advanced technology, and then gave her a pleading look.

She opened the door for him, stood aside as he slunk out, and then shut it, locked it and leaned against it.

‘Ember’s bound to be safe with Mrs Gogol,’ said Magrat.

‘Hah!’ said Granny.

‘I quite liked her,’ said Nanny Ogg.

‘I don’t trust anyone who drinks rum and smokes a pipe,’ said Granny.

‘Nanny Ogg smokes a pipe and drinks anything,’ Magrat pointed out.

‘Yes, but that’s because she’s a disgustin’ old baggage,’ said Granny, without looking up.

Nanny Ogg took her pipe out of her mouth.

‘That’s right,’ she said amiably. ‘You ain’t nothing if you don’t maintain an image.’

Granny looked up from the lock.

‘Can’t shift it,’ she said. ‘It’s octiron, too. Can’t magic it open.’

‘It’s daft, locking us up,’ said Nanny. ‘I’d have had us killed.’

‘That’s because you’re basically good,’ said Magrat. ‘The good are innocent and create justice. The bad are guilty, which is why they invent mercy.’

‘No, I know why she’s done this,’ said Granny, darkly. ‘It’s so’s we’ll know we’ve lost.’

‘But she said we’d escape,’ said Magrat. ‘I don’t understand. She must know the good ones always win in the end!’

‘Only in stories,’ said Granny, examining the door hinges. ‘And she thinks she’s in charge of the stories. She bends them round herself. She thinks she’s the good one.’

‘Mind you,’ said Magrat, ‘I don’t like swamps. If it wasn’t for the frog and everything, I’d see Lily’s point – ‘

‘Then you’re nothing but a daft godmother,’ snapped Granny, still fiddling with the lock. ‘You can’t go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it’s just a cage. Besides, you don’t build a better world by choppin’ heads off and giving decent girls away to frogs.’

‘But progress – ‘ Magrat began.

‘Don’t you talk to me about progress. Progress just means bad things happen faster. Anyone got another hatpin? This one’s useless.’

Nanny, who had Greebo’s ability to make herself instantly at home wherever she happened to be, sat down in the corner of the cell.

‘I heard this story once,’ she said, ‘where this bloke got locked up for years and years and he learned amazin’ stuff about the universe and everythin’ from another prisoner who was incredibly clever, and then he escaped and got his revenge.’

‘What incredibly clever stuff do you know about the universe, Gytha Ogg?’ said Granny.

‘Bugger all,’ said Nanny cheerfully.

‘Then we’d better bloody well escape right now.’

Nanny pulled a scrap of pasteboard out of her hat, found a scrap of pencil up there too, licked the end and thought for a while. Then she wrote: Dear Jason unt so witer (as they say in foreign parts),

Well here’s a thing yore ole Mum doin Time in prison again, Im a old lag, youll have to send me a cake with a phial in it and I shall have little arrows on my close just my joke. This is a Sketch of the dunjon. Im putting a X where we are, which is Inside. Magrat is shown wering a posh dress, she has been acting like a Courgette. Also inc. Esme getting fed up becaus she can’t get the lock to work but I expect it will all be OK because the good ones win in the end and that’s US. And all because some girl don’t want to marry a Prince who is a Duck who is really a Frog and I cant say I blame her, you don’t want descendants who have got Jenes and start off living in a jamjar and then hop about and get squashed. . .

She was interrupted by the sound of a mandolin being played quite well, right on the other side of the wall, and a small but determined voice raised in song.

‘ — si consuenti d’amoure, ventre dimo tondreturo-ooo – ‘

‘How I hunger my love for the dining-room of your warm maceration,’ said Nanny, without looking up.

‘ – della della t’ozentro, audri t’dren vontarieeeeee – ‘

‘The shop, the shop, I have a lozenge, the sky is pink,’ said Nanny.

Granny and Magrat looked at one another.

‘ – guarunto del tart, bella pore di larientos – ‘

‘Rejoice, candlemaker, you have a great big – ‘

‘I don’t believe any of this,’ said Granny. ‘You’re making it up.’

‘Word for word translation,’ said Nanny. ‘I can speak foreign like a native, you know that.’

‘Mrs Ogg? Is that you, my love?’

They all looked up towards the barred window. There was a small face peering in.

‘Casanunda?’ said Nanny.

‘That’s me, Mrs Ogg.’

‘My love,’ muttered Granny.

‘How did you get up to the window?’ said Nanny, ignoring this.

‘I always know where I can get my hands on a step-ladder, Mrs Ogg.’

‘I suppose you don’t know where you can get your hands on a key?’

‘Wouldn’t do any good. There’s too many guards outside your door, Mrs Ogg. Even for a famous swordsman like me. Her ladyship gave strict orders. No-one’s to listen to you or look at you, even.’

‘How come you’re in the palace guard, Casanunda?’

‘Soldier of fortune takes whatever jobs are going, Mrs Ogg,’ said Casanunda earnestly.

‘But all the rest of ’em are six foot tall and you’re – of the shorter persuasion.’

‘I lied about my height, Mrs Ogg. I’m a world-famous liar.’

‘Is that true?’

‘No.’

‘What about you being the world’s greatest lover?’

There was silence for a while.

‘Well, maybe I’m only No. 2,’ said Casanunda. ‘But I try harder.’

‘Can’t you go and find us a file or something, Mr Casanunda?’ said Magrat.

‘I’ll see what I can do, Miss.’

The face disappeared.

‘Maybe we could get people to visit us and then we could escape in their clothes?’ said Nanny Ogg.

‘Now I’ve gone and stuck the pin in my finger,’ muttered Granny Weatherwax.

‘Or maybe we could get Magrat to seduce one of the guards,’ said Nanny.

‘Why don’t you? said Magrat, as nastily as she could manage.

‘All right. I’m game.’

‘Shut up, the pair of you,’ said Granny. ‘I’m trying to think – ‘

There was another sound at the window.

It was Legba.

The black cockerel peered in between the bars for a moment, and then fluttered away.

‘Gives me the creeps, that one,’ said Nanny. ‘Can’t look at him without thinking wistfully of sage-and-onion and mashed potatoes.’

Her crinkled face crinkled further.

‘Greebo!’ she said. ‘Where’d we leave him?’

‘Oh, he’s only a cat,’ said Granny Weatherwax. ‘Cats know how to look after themselves.’

‘He’s really just a big softie – ‘ Nanny began, before someone started pulling down the wall.

A hole appeared. A grey hand appeared and grasped another stone. There was a strong smell of river mud.

Rock crumbled under heavy fingers.

‘Ladies?’ said a resonant voice.

‘Well, Mister Saturday,’ said Nanny, ‘as I live and breathe – saving your presence, o’course.’

Saturday grunted something and walked away.

There was a hammering on the door and someone started fumbling with keys.

‘We don’t want to hang around here,’ said Granny. ‘Come on.’