Maskerade Page 38

'I've been. . . taking exercise,' said Agnes. 'Exercise is a fine thing, certainly,' said Granny, getting back to her digging. 'Though they do say you can have too much of it. When are you going back?'

'I. . . haven't decided.'

'Weeelll, it doesn't pay to be always planning. Don't tie yourself down the whole time, I've always said that. Staying with your ma, are you?'

'Yes,' said Agnes. 'Ah? Only Magrat's old cottage is still empty. You'd be doing everyone a favour if you aired it out a bit. You know. . . as long as you're here.' Agnes said nothing. She couldn't think of anything to say. 'Funny ole thing,' said Granny, hacking around a particularly troublesome tree root. 'I wouldn't tell everyone, but I was only thinking the other day, about when I was younger and called myself Endemonidia. . .'

'You did? When?' Granny rubbed her forehead with her bandaged hand, leaving a clay-red smudge. 'Oh, for about three, four hours,' she said. 'Some names don't have the stayin' power. Never pick yourself a name you can't scrub the floor in.' She threw her shovel out of the hole. 'Give me a hand up, will you?' Agnes did so. Granny brushed the dirt and leafmould off her apron and tried to stamp the clay off her boots. 'Time for a cup of tea, eh?' she said. 'My, you are looking well. It's the fresh air. Too much stuffy air in that Opera House, I thought.' Agnes tried in vain to detect anything in Granny Weatherwax's eyes other than transparent honesty and goodwill. 'Yes. I thought so, too,' she said. 'Er. . . you've hurt your hand?'

'It'll heal. A lot of things do.' She shouldered her shovel and headed towards the cottage; and then, halfway up the path, turned and looked back. 'This is just me askin', you understand, in a kind neighbourly way, takin' an interest sort of thing, wouldn't be human if I didn't-' Agnes sighed. 'Yes?'

'. . .you got much to do with your evenin's these days?' There was just enough rebellion left in Agnes to put a sarcastic edge on her voice. 'Oh? Are you offering to teach me something?'

'Teach? No,' said Granny. 'Ain't got the patience for teaching. But I might let you learn.'

'When shall we three meet again?'

'We haven't met once, yet.'

'O' course we have. I've person'ly known you for at least'

'I mean we Three haven't Met. You know. . . officially. . .'

'All right. . . When shall we three meet?'

'We're already here.'

'All right. When shall-?' Just shut up and get out the marshmallows. Agnes, give Nanny the marshmallows.'

'Yes, Granny.'

'And mind you don't burn mine.' Granny sat back. It was a clear night, although clouds mounting towards the hub promised snow soon. A few sparks flew up towards the stars. She looked around proudly. 'Isn't this nice,' she said.