“Like a fish needs a… er… a thing that doesn't work underwater, sir.”
“Yet a king can appeal to the emotions of his subjects, captain. In… very much the same way as you did recently, I understand.”
“Yes, sir. But what will he do next day? You can't treat people like puppet dolls. No, sir. Mr Vimes always said a man has got to know his limitations. If there was a king, then the best thing he could do would be to get on with a decent day's work—”
“But if there was some pressing need… then perhaps he'd think again.” Carrot brightened up. “It's a bit like being a guard, really. When you need us, you really need us. And when you don't… well, best if we just walk around the streets and shout All's Well. Providing all is well, of course.”
“Captain Carrot,” said Lord Vetinari, “because we understand one another so well, and I think we do understand one another… there is something I'd like to show you. Come this way.”
He led the way into the throne room, which was, empty at this time of day. As he hobbled across the wide floor he pointed ahead of him.
“I expect you know what that is, captain?”
“Oh, yes. The golden throne of Ankh-Morpork.”
“And no-one has sat in it for many hundreds of years. Have you ever wondered about it?”
“Exactly what do you mean, sir?”
“So much gold, when even the brass has been stripped off the Brass Bridge? Take a look behind the throne, will you?”
Carrot mounted the steps.
The Patrician looked over his shoulder.
“It's just gold foil over wood…”
It was hardly even wood any more. Rot and worms had fought one another to a standstill over the last biodegradable fragment. Carrot prodded it with his sword, and part of it drifted gently away in a puff of dust.
“What do you think about this, captain?”
Carrot stood up.
“On the whole, sir, it's probably just as well that people don't know.”
“So I have always thought. Well, I will not keep you. I'm sure you have a lot to organize.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“I gather that you and, er, Constable Angua are getting along well?”
“We have a very good Understanding, sir. Of course, there will be minor difficulties,” said Carrot, “but, to look on the positive side, I've got someone who's always ready for a walk around the city.”
As Carrot had his hand on the door handle Lord Vetinari called out to him.
Carrot looked back at the tall thin man, standing in the big bare room beside the golden throne filled with decay.
“You're a man interested in words, captain. I'd just invite you to consider something your predecessor never fully grasped.”
“Have you ever wondered where the word ‘politician’ comes from?” said the Patrician.
“And then there's the committee of the Sunshine Sanctuary,” said Lady Ramkin, from her side of the dining table. “We must get you on that. And the Country Landowners' Association. And the Friendly Flamethrowers' League. Cheer up. You'll find your time will just fill up like nobody's business.”
“Yes, dear,” said Vimes. The days stretched ahead of him, just filling up like nobody's business with committees and good works and… nobody's business. It was probably better than walking the streets. Lady Sybil and Mr Vimes.
Sybil Vimes, née Ramkin, looked at him with an expression of faint concern. For as long as she'd known him, Sam Vimes had been vibrating with the internal anger of a man who wants to arrest the gods for not doing it right, and then he'd handed in his badge and he was… well, not exactly Sam Vimes any more.
The clock in the corner chimed eight o'clock. Vimes pulled out his presentation watch and opened it.
“That clock's five minutes fast,” he said, above the tinkling chimes. He snapped the lid shut, and read again the words on it: “A Watch From, Your Old Freinds In The Watch”.
Carrot had been behind that, sure enough. Vimes had grown to recognize that blindness to the position of “i”s and “e”s and that wanton cruelty to the common comma.
They said goodbye to you, they took you out of the measure of your days, and they gave you a watch…
“Excuse me, m'lady?”
“There is a Watchman at the door, m'lady. The tradesman's entrance.”
“You sent a Watchman to the tradesman's entrance?” said Lady Sybil.
“No, m'lady. That's the one he came to. It's Captain Carrot.”
Vimes put his hand over his eyes. “He's been made captain and he comes to the back door,” he said. “That's Carrot, that is. Bring him on in.”
It was barely noticeable, except to Vimes but the butler glanced at Lady Ramkin for her approval.
“Do as your master says,” she said, gallantly.
“I'm no-one's mas—” Vimes began.
“Now, Sam,” said Lady Ramkin.
“Well, I'm not,” said Vimes sullenly.
Carrot marched in, and stood to attention. As usual, the room subtly became a mere background to him.
“It's all right, lad,” said Vimes, as nicely as he could manage. “You don't need to salute.”
“Yes I do, sir,” said Carrot. He handed Vimes an envelope. It had the seal of the Patrician on it.
Vimes picked up a knife and broke the seal.
“Probably charging me five dollars for unnecessary wear and tear on my chainmail,” he said.
His lips moved as he read.
“Blimey,” he said eventually. “Fifty-six?”
“Yes, sir. Detritus is looking forward to breaking them in.”
“Including undead? It says here open to all, regardless of species or mortal status—”
“Yes, sir,” said Carrot, firmly. “They're all citizens.”
“You mean you could have vampires in the Watch?”
“Very good on night duty, sir. And aerial surveillance.”
“And always useful if you want to stake out somewhere.”
Vimes watched the feeble pun go right through Carrot's head without triggering his brain. He turned back to the paper.
“Hmm. Pensions for widows, I see.”
“Re-opening the old Watch Houses?”
“That's what he says, sir.”
Vimes read on:
We consider particularly that, this enlarged Watch will need an expereinced man in charge who, is held in Esteem by all parts of soceity and, we are convinced that you should fulfil this Roll. You will therefore take up your Duties immediately as, Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. This post traditionally carreis with it the rank of Knight which, we are minded to resurrect on this one occasion.
Hoping this finds you in good health, Yrs. faithfully
Havelock Vetinari (Patrician)
Vimes read it again.
He drummed his fingers on the table. There was no doubt that the signature was genuine. But…
“Sah!” Carrot stared straight ahead of him with the glistening air of one busting with duty and efficiency and an absolute resolve to duck and dodge any direct questions put to him.
“I—” Vimes picked up the paper again, put it down, picked it up, and then passed it over to Sybil.
“My word!” she said. “A knighthood? Not a moment too soon, either!”
“Oh, no! Not me! You know what I think about the so-called aristocrats in this city—apart from you, Sybil, of course.”
“Perhaps it's about time the general stock was improved, then,” said Lady Ramkin.
“His lordship did say,” said Carrot, “that no part of the package was negotiable, sir. I mean, it's all or nothing, if you understand me.”
Vimes drummed his fingers on the table.
“You've won, haven't you?” he said. “You've won.”
“Sir? Don't understand, sir,” said Carrot, radiating honest ignorance.