Soul Music Page 26

'The music lets itself be trapped so you can hear it again and again,' said Ponder. 'And I think you did that on purpose, sir!'

'You can hear it again and again?' said Dibbler. 'What, by just opening a box?'

'Yes,' said Ponder. 'No,' said Ridcully. 'Yes you can,' said Ponder. 'I showed you, Archchancellor? Don't you remember?'

'No,' said Ridcully. 'Any kind of box?' said Dibbler, in a voice choked with money. 'Oh, yes, but you have to stretch a wire inside it so the music has somewhere to live and ouch ouch ouch.'

'Can't think what's come over me with these sudden muscular spasms,' said Ridcully. 'Come, Mr Stibbons, let us not waste any more of Mr Dibbler's valuable time.'

'Oh, you're not wasting it,' said Dibbler. 'Boxes full of music, eh?'

'We'll take this one,' said Ridcully, snatching it up. 'It's an important magical experiment.' He frogmarched Ponder away, which was a little hard because the youth was bent double and wheezing. 'What did you have to go . . . and do . . . that for?'

'Mr Stibbons, I know you to be a man who seeks to understand the universe. Here's an important rule: never give a monkey the key to the banana plantation. Sometimes you can just see an accident waiting to- oh, no.' He let Ponder go and waved vaguely up the street. 'Got any theories about that, young man?' Something golden-brown and viscous was oozing out on to the street from what was just possibly, behind the mounds of the stuff, a shop. As the two wizards watched there was a tinkle of glass and the brown substance began to emerge from the second floor. Ridcully stamped forward and scooped up a handful, leaping back before the wall could reach him. He sniffed at it. 'Is it some ghastly emanation from the Dungeon Dimensions?' said Ponder. 'Shouldn't think so. Smells like coffee,' said Ridcully. 'Coffee?'

'Coffee-flavoured froth, anyway. Now, why is it I have this feeling that there's going to be wizards in there somewhere?' A figure lurched out of the foam, dripping brown bubbles. 'Who goes there?' said Ridcully. 'Ah, yes! Did anyone get the number of that ox-cart? Another doughnut, if you would be so good!' said the figure brightly, and fell over into the froth. 'That sounded like the Bursar to me,' said Ridcully. 'Come along, lad. It's only bubbles.' He strode into the foam. After a moment's hesitation Ponder realized that the honour of young wizardry was at stake, and pushed his way in behind him.

Almost immediately he bumped into someone in the fog of bubbles. 'Er, hello?'

'Who's that?'

'It's me, Stibbons. I've come to rescue you.'

'Good. Which way is out?'

'Er-' There were some explosions somewhere in the coffee cloud and a popping noise. Ponder blinked. The level of bubbles was sinking. Various pointy hats appeared like drowned logs in a drying lake. Ridcully waded over, coffee froth dripping from his hat. 'Something bloody stupid's been going on here,' he said, 'and I'm going to wait quite patiently until the Dean owns up.'

'I don't see why you should assume it was me,' muttered a coffee-coloured column. 'Well, who was it, then?'

'The Dean said the coffee ought to be frothy,' said a mound of foam of a Senior Wranglish persuasion, 'and he did some simple magic and I rather think we got carried away.'

'Ah, so it was you, Dean.'

'Yes, all right, but only by coincidence,' said the Dean testily. 'Out of here, all of you,' said Ridcully. 'Back to the University this minute.'

'I mean, I don't see why you should assume it's my fault just because sometimes it might happen to be me who-' The froth had sunk a bit more, to reveal a pair of eyes under a dwarfish helmet. "Scuse me,' said a voice still under the bubbles, 'but who's going to pay for all this? That's four dollars, thank you very much.'

'The Bursar's got the money,' said Ridcully quickly. 'Not any more,' said the Senior Wrangler. 'He bought seventeen doughnuts.'

'Sugar?' said Ridcully. 'You let him eat sugar. You know that makes him, you know, a bit funny. Mrs Whitlow said she'd give notice if we let him get anywhere near sugar again.' He herded the damp wizards towards the door. 'It's all right, my good man, you can trust us, we're wizards, I shall have some money sent around in the morning.'

'Hah, you expect me to believe that, do you?' said the dwarf. It had been a long night. Ridcully turned and waved his hand at the wall. There was a crackle of octarine fire and the words 'IOU 4 DOLERS' burned themselves into the stone. 'Right you are, no problem there,' said the dwarf, ducking back into the froth. 'I shouldn't think Mrs Whitlow is going to worry,' said the Lecturer in Recent Runes as they squelched through the night. 'I saw her and some of the maids at the, er, concert. You know, the kitchen girls. Molly, Polly and, er, Dolly. They were, er, screaming.'

'I didn't think the music was that bad,' said Ridcully. 'No, er, not in pain, er, I wouldn't say that,' said the Lecturer in Recent Runes, beginning to go red, 'but, er, when the young man was waggling his hips like that-'

'He definitely looks elvish to me,' said Ridcully. '-er, I think she threw some of her, er, under . . . things on to the stage.' This silenced even Ridcully, at least for a while. Every wizard was suddenly busy with his own private thoughts. 'What, Mrs Whitlow?' the Chair of Indefinite Studies began. 'Yes.'

'What, her-?'

'I, er, think so.' Ridcully had once seen Mrs Whitlow's washing line. He'd been impressed. He'd never believed there was so much pink elastic in the world.

'What, really her-?' said the Dean, his voice sounding as though it was coming from a long way away. 'I'm, er, pretty sure.'

'Sounds dangerous to me,' said Ridcully briskly. 'Could do someone a serious injury. Now then, you lot, back to the University right now for cold baths all round.'

'Really her-?' said the Chair of Indefinite Studies. Somehow, none of them felt able to leave the idea alone. 'Make yourself useful and find the Bursar,' snapped Ridcully. 'And I'd have you lot up in front of the University authorities first thing in the morning, if it wasn't for the fact that you are the University authorities . . .' Foul Ole Ron, professional maniac and one of Ankh-Morpork's most industrious beggars, blinked in the gloom. Lord Vetinari had excellent night vision. And, unfortunately, a well- developed sense of smell. 'And then what happened?' he said, trying to keep his face turned away from the beggar. Because the fact was that although in actual size Foul Ole Ron was a small hunched man in a huge grubby overcoat, in smell he filled the world. In fact Foul Ole Ron was a physical schizophrenic. There was Foul Ole Ron, and there was the smell of Foul Ole Ron, which had obviously developed over the years to such an extent that it had a distinct personality. Anyone could have a smell that lingered long after they'd gone somewhere else, but the smell of Foul Ole Ron could actually arrive somewhere several minutes before he did, in order to spread out and get comfortable before he arrived. It had evolved into something so striking that it was no longer perceived with the nose, which shut down instantly in selfdefence; people could tell that Foul Ole Ron was approaching by the way their ear wax started to melt. 'Buggrit, buggrit, wrong side out, I told'em, buggrem . . .' The Patrician waited. With Foul Ole Ron you had to allow time for his wandering mind to get into the same vicinity as his tongue . '. . . spyin' on me with magic, I told'em, bean soup, see here . . . and then everyone was dancing, you see, and then afterwards there were two of the wizards in the street and one of them was going on about catching the music in a box and Mr Dibbler was interested and then the coffee house exploded and they all went back to the University . . . buggrit, buggrit, buggrem, see if I don't.'

'The coffee house exploded, did it?'

'Frothy coffee all over the place, yerronner . . . bugg-'

'Yes, yes, and so on,' said the Patrician, waving a thin hand. 'And that's all you can tell me?'

'Well . . . bug-' Foul Ole Ron caught the Patrician's eye and got a grip on himself. Even in his own highly individualized sanity he could tell when not to push his threadbare luck. His Smell wandered around the room, reading documents and examining the pictures. 'They say,' he said, 'that he drives all the women mad.' He leaned forward. The Patrician leaned back. 'They say after he moved his hips like that . . . Mrs Whitlow threw her . . . wossnames . . . on to the stage.' The Patrician raised an eyebrow. '“Wossnames”?'

'You know.' Foul Ole Ron moved his hands vaguely in the air. 'A pair of pillow cases? Two sacks of flour? Some very baggy trou- oh. I see. My word. Were there any casualties?'

'Dunno, yerronner. But there's something I do know.'


'Uh . . . Cumbling Michael says yerronner sometimes pays for information . . . ?'

'Yes, I know. I can't imagine how these rumours get about,' said the Patrician, getting up and opening a window. 'I shall have to have something done about it.' Once again, Foul Ole Ron reminded himself that while he was probably insane he definitely wasn't as mad as all that. 'Only I got this, yerronner,' he said, pulling something out of the horrible recesses of his clothing. 'It says writing on it, yerronner.' It was a poster, in glowing primary colours. It couldn't have been very old, but an hour or two as Foul Ole Ron's chestwarmer had aged it considerably. The Patrician unfolded it with a pair of tweezers. 'Them's the pictures of the music players,' said Foul Ole Ron helpfully, 'and that's writing. And there's more writing there, look. Mr Dibbler had Chalky the troll run 'em off just now, but I nipped in after and threatened to breathe on everyone less'n they gives me one.'

'I'm sure that worked famously,' said the Patrician. He lit a candle and read the poster carefully. In the presence of Foul Ole Ron, all candles burned with a blue edge to the flame. “'Free Festival of Music with Rocks In It”,' he said. 'That's where you don't have to pay to go in,' said Foul Ole Ron helpfully. 'Buggrem, buggrit.' Lord Vetinari read on. 'In Hide Park. Next Wednesday. Well, well. A public open space, of course. I wonder if there'll be many people there?'

'Lots, yerronner. There was hundreds couldn't get into the Cavern.'

'And the band looks like that, do they?' said Lord Vetinari. 'Scowling like that?'

'Sweating, most of the time I saw 'em,' said Foul Ole Ron. “'Bee There Orr Bee A Rectangular Thyng”,' said the Patrician. 'This is some sort of occult code, do you think?'

'Couldn't say, yerronner,' said Foul Ole Ron. 'My brain goes all slow when I'm thirsty.' “'They Are Totallye Unable To Bee Seene! And A Longe Way Oute!”' said Lord Vetinari solemnly. He looked up. 'Oh, I am sorry,' he said. 'I'm sure I can find someone to give you a cool refreshing drink . . .' Foul Ole Ron coughed. It had sounded like a perfectly sincere offer but, somehow, he was suddenly not at all thirsty. 'Don't let me keep you, then. Thank you so very much,' said Lord Vetinari. 'Er ...'


'Er . . . nothing . . .'

'Very good.' When Ron had buggrit, buggrit, buggrem'd down the stairs, the Patrician tapped his pen thoughtfully on the paper and stared at the wall. The pen kept bouncing on the word Free. Finally he rang a small bell. A young clerk put his head around the door. 'Ah, Drumknott,' said Lord Vetinari, 'just go and tell the head of the Musicians' Guild he wants a word with me, will you?'

'Er . . . Mr Clete is already in the waiting room, your lordship,' said the clerk. 'Does he by any chance have some kind of poster with him?'

'Yes, your lordship.'

'And is he very angry?'

'This is very much the case, your lordship. It's about some festival. He insists you have it stopped.'

'Dear me.'

'And he demands that you see him instantly.'

'Ah. Then leave him for, say, twenty minutes, then show him up.'

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies