It was oddly quiet in the offices of the Ankh-Morpork Times when Sacharissa arrived. She had a report of the Grand Lancre Cheese-Toasting Aficionados’ Association’s annual dinner that was occupying her mind. For one thing; the account she had been given had an apostrophe that indicated that there was only one Cheese-Toasting Aficionado and while she doubted this, it was possible. The writer had also been unable to spell aficionado, starting off with an ‘o’ and an ‘f’ and trusting to luck for the rest. Luck had not been kind.
Therefore the only note she took of the unaccustomed lack of activity was a vague relief that she might be able to get this finished before William returned from his visit to the Watch House in an attempt to wangle an interview with the incarcerated Betcha Bob (everyone wanted to know what made a man suicidal enough to try and steal the Patrician’s cane – a spectacularly pointless and hazardous crime. Rumour suggested that there was more to it than that, but rumour always did).
She guessed this would not take long, as his request had not been granted on any of the three preceding days. By that time, if it was still this quiet, she might be able to ask William about the other, more delicate matter that they had been too busy to deal with for several weeks – namely, was she still Miss Cripslock or was she now more properly Mrs de Worde?
It wasn’t as if she minded, of course, and everything had been rather hectic, but it was embarrassing trying to work out what to put on forms. Not all of them had a helpful ‘other’ box to tick.
“Where is everyone?” asked William, once he finally arrived at the offices of The Times. “There’s nobody here. And I’m sure the Watch are hiding something about that attempted robbery, otherwise Captain Carrot would have let me talk to the thief.”
Sacharissa lifted her head, still holding her pencil, poised to excise another line of text. “Good morning, William. I’m very well; thank you for asking.”
“No, really – where are they all? I can’t see anyone, and there’s a note on the press about unfair distribution of letters. What type of letters?”
“Oh, is that what it’s about?” Sacharissa resumed her proof-reading. “If that’s it, I left you a note on your desk yesterday. Didn’t you see it? I marked it urgent. In red ink.”
William searched through the clutter of paper on his desk, picking up one nearer the surface than most, pushing aside a mis-spelt missive from an angry saxophonist. “Dear Wm, Please talk to G. and Boddony Most Urgently about a Disagreement with the Engrav. & Print. Guild. Yrs, Sacharissa.”
“Yes, that one.”
“I didn’t have a chance to come back yesterday, not after the riot in Treacle Mine Road.” He let his voice trail away, distracted by the writing on the other side: “P.S. You and I also have Much to Discuss.” William coughed. “Yes, yes. I’ll see if I can find everyone, and we’ll sort this out, and then the – er – the other business.”
“I think they said something about hitting on things,” said Sacharissa, furrowing her brow.
William paused; the process of running the phrase through his mind, stumbling over it, and then translating it visible on his face. “They’ve gone on strike? About letters?”
“It was something to do about over-use of the ‘e’s or some silly rule that the Guild wants to enforce,” she said. “I didn’t really catch it, because Mr Wintler came in with yet another amusing vegetable.”
There was another silence; this one while William fought the unwise but inevitable urge to ask about the humorous vegetable and what it resembled this time.
“It was a Wahoonie-shaped turnip,” said Sacharissa for him, kindly. “As for the other thing, I think it must be some sort of Politics again.”
“Are they saying we should misspell words to ensure all the letters get used evenly?” said William. “How would that work? How would anyone understand what we were saying?”
“Obviously, it wouldn’t,” said Sacharissa. “I expect that’s why everyone has gone on strike.”
William nodded. “It must be a mistake. I’ll find Goodmountain and sort it out.”
“I did hear,” said Sacharissa, “that the Inquirer’s offices were very quiet this morning, too, so I don’t think it’s only us. I didn’t realise why, but I took a note earlier, in case it turned out to be news.”
He put down the note, and looked across at her. “Oh? And you heard it from the butcher, the baker, or the candlestick maker?”
“Does it matter?” she asked, raising an eyebrow. “Of course, if I happened to be married to someone, they might possibly have a right to ask, but that’s another story, isn’t it? If I exchange a few words with Constable Fiddyment, I don’t see that’s any concern of the Editor of The Times.”
William turned pink. “Er, yes. We’ll talk about that once I’ve sorted this nonsense. If they don’t come back, we’re not going to have an edition going out today!”
“Well, neither will the Inquirer, so it could be worse.”
“That isn’t the point. And… about the marriage thing… I’ll talk to someone as soon as this is sorted. It is awkward, I know. The last form I had to fill out didn’t even have an ‘Other’ option.”
“Not to mention the embarrassing tension in the workplace,” returned Sacharissa pointedly. “Oh, I’m sorry – you didn’t mention it.” She chewed her lip for a moment, and found she had to ask: “Which box did you tick?”
William turned his head. “I drew an extra one,” he said. “Neatly, though.”
There had been an understanding – no, Sacharissa hesitated to call it that – a long-standing assumption that she and William were going out, which was something that they had attempted several times, but by and large they found that going out was rarely something they did together. What they did together was staying in, usually writing news, but that didn’t always have to be unromantic.
This had been going on for so long that it had turned into an assumption that they were more or less engaged, in a sort of three-way deal with an ominous block of metal that was constantly in need of stories. And they always had words, of course.
However, not knowing if they were married or not was a little vague, even for them. It had been one thing after another, and next thing they knew, it was weeks after that incident at the private house on the Street of Small Gods, and they still weren’t sure if it had been legal or not.
“William,” Sacharissa said, without raising her head, when the door to the office opened and closed again. “Do you think this reads cheeses tasted or cheeses toasted? It’s hard to tell. And, in any case, if it’s got to be cut down to 500 words, the whole list will have to go.”
“You look at me when you’re talking, girlie,” growled a complete stranger, leaning over the desk in her direction. He was a small, spindly, dark-haired man encased in a cloak. He smelled badly enough to make her draw back before she looked up, and when she did, she noted that all of him seemed to be greasy.
“Oh, dear,” she said, deciding not to give him her full and free opinion of people who called her ‘girlie’. Not yet, anyway. It would be something to look forward to. “You did make me jump then, Mr -?”
“You know who I am!”
Sacharissa frowned. “Um, is this about a humorous vegetable?”
“What I want is rest and tuition, and proper payment for blackening of my good name!”
“Oh,” she said, taking a moment to mentally correct rest and tuition to restitution, “well, really, the best thing to do is to write us an angry letter. We print almost all of them… Oh.” Sacharissa swallowed. “What a very large knife!”
The mix-up at the narrow, old house on the Street of Small Gods had begun when Otto had told them that a friend of his had heard that there was a wedding in progress there, except for the slight problem that neither the bride nor groom had turned up, which was an achievement, even by Ankh-Morpork standards.
It had been a slow day for news, so William and Sacharissa had both gone, with Otto since there might be some iconographs needed. There would be one of them for each side of the story, at least.
Once they had located the house, attended by a group of the little-known Followers of the Holy Lobster , and found the small wedding party there, hopefully and awkwardly awaiting the arrival of the reluctant nuptial pair while one or two sobbed quietly, they had attempted to interview the priest, and that was when the misunderstanding had occurred.
The priest had been very old and slightly deaf, and had assumed that the two of them were the absent happy couple, and since the ceremony was short and simple and conducted in an ancient and arcane language known only to the most dedicated of the Followers, it was only when he suggested that William should kiss the bride that they realised that there had been some sort of mistake.
William had stared, and turned slightly pink, and told the priest that since she wasn’t here, he couldn’t, and even if she were, he didn’t think that would improve the situation.
Otto, who claimed later that the unfamiliar language bore some resemblance to Uberwaldean, had grasped the error ahead of either of them. “I think he means zer two of you!” He motioned a coming together with his hands, nearly dropping his equipment in his enthusiasm.
At that, the priest nodded, and since everyone else looked so expectant, it had seemed rude not to oblige the crowd, and neither of them liked to be impolite.
After that, matters had been explained, more or less to everyone’s satisfaction; Sacharissa had found the bride sobbing in her attic, and William had busied himself attempting to sober up the runaway groom at least enough for a quote, while Otto amused the guests by taking iconographs.
It had ended with the bride marrying the groom’s best friend, and everyone had seemed reasonably happy at the outcome, until Otto had taken William aside and asked if he knew what he had done, before William could get halfway through a question as to whether or not Otto had also thought there was something odd about the wedding party. They had, when it came to explanations, names and quotes, inconveniently turned out to be foreign, and William had noted a certain brand of shabbiness that only came with hundreds of years of inherited wealth. However, Otto’s whispered warning that William might no longer be a single man had driven the thought out of his mind.
“You even consented to seal zer bargain,” the reformed vampire told the editor of the Times. “I think – I think it must now be legal.”
It had taken a moment to sink in. “That hand-waving and muttering? That was the marriage ceremony?”
“I believe so.”
“But there weren’t any vows – nothing like that. We didn’t know what he was doing! I just thought he didn’t have his teeth in properly! You can’t go round marrying people when they’re not looking!”
“You vere zere before many vitnesses; neizer of you objected and you gave zer traditional symbol of agreement between two consenting adults.”
“Talking of vhich, Villiam, if you do vish for advice on girls, I vould be happy, as I could not help but observe zat -.”
“No, thank you!” said William, hastily interrupting a potential critique of his kissing techniques. “Er, Otto, are Sacharissa and I married or not?”
“I think zat is for you to find out.”
Of course, ever since then, he had been meaning do just that, but there was never much of an opportunity when they were so busy putting everyone else’s stories in the paper.
 Or possibly the Holy Lobelia. The translation of ancient texts is always fraught with difficulty and potential for holy wars between rival factions.
“Look behind you!”
“Think I’m stupid?” sneered the uncouth visitor with the very large and sharp knife still brandished in front of her nose. “I’m not going to fall for that one, missy, so you can sit there until you write a nice little apology for inseminating that I cheated in the one-legged race (with saxophone) at the Woodwind Players’ Gala.”
Sacharissa couldn’t quite keep her eyes from the blade for very long. “Um, yes, but you did cheat, Mr Optim,” she said. “The Times prints the truth, I’m afraid. And, really, there is a vampire creeping up behind you.”
“Thought you were talking about truth,” the aggrieved woodwind player said, leaning over in a way that made her wrinkle her nose at the stench of his breath as he moved nearer. “If you don’t stop telling fibs, my girl, I’ll carve some big words into your pretty face, and that would be a shame, wouldn’t it?” He advanced round the desk, only to be struck from behind, falling to the floor with a solid and satisfying thud.
Sacharissa dared to breathe again. “I don’t know why,” she said, only trembling very slightly this time, “but they never will believe me. Thank you, Otto.”
“It vas no problem,” said Otto von Chriek, the Times’s iconographer who also happened to be a reformed vampire. “Vhat did zis vun vant?”
“An apology, I think,” Sacharissa said, tidying away the worryingly large knife that was still lying, gleaming on the desk. “It doesn’t matter.”
“I could hear him shouting from down in zer cellar.”
Sacharissa glanced down at Mr Optim. “I’m only surprised you couldn’t smell him. The nasty, bigoted, cheating musician!”
Otto paused, on the point of dragging the comatose and unwanted Mr Optim out of the office. He had got as far as picking him up by the shoulders, but dropped him again. “Oh, good. I should not like to hurt somevun who vas not so unpleasant.”
“And talking of unpleasant people,” said Sacharissa, taking a deep breath, “if you had married someone by accident, you would think you would at least bring it up in conversation every now and then, wouldn’t you?”
“Ah,” said Otto. “Ve are not talking about zis nasty fellow now, are ve?”
Sacharissa scowled down at the sheets of paper. “No, ve – I mean, no we are not, Otto! Of course, I would ask William about it, but since he rarely stops in the office for more than two minutes at a time, it’s difficult. I know I’m busy, too, but it’s not the same!”
“Oh, I am sure it is not -.”
“So, it can only mean that he would like a way to be unmarried,” said Sacharissa. “Which he should have said. I can think of plenty!”
“No, no,” Otto said, motioning vaguely with his hands. “You and Villiam – it is obvious -.”
“Is it?” demanded Sacharissa haughtily. “To whom?”
Otto stepped over the fallen musician without a downward glance. “Vell, I have observed that Villiam is a very careful person -.”
“In some ways!”
“And he vould not kiss in front of many Followers of zer Holy Lobster and a priest a girl he did not vish to marry even a little bit.”
Sacharissa thought about this, and realised that she had left out an important preamble to her question. “Not, of course, that I want to be married to him. Of all the narrow-minded, arrogant, stubborn, superior, ing people I’ve ever met, he’s the worst! He treats me as if I’m the – the hat stand!”
Otto stopped. “Zer hat stand?” Then his long face cleared. “Ah. Zer vearing of zer garments of zer loved ones –zis is a mark of affection, yes? Is not zer giving of one’s coat a chivalric -?” He stopped as Sacharissa’s glare took effect.
“No!” she shot back. “What I mean is, he walks past me without so much as a good morning, even when,” said Sacharissa, gesturing downwards with one hand, “a person is wearing a very nice new dress, that certain other people happen to think is very flattering!”
“Oh, splendid, congratulations,” said Otto, shaking her hand.
Sacharissa blinked. “Otto?”
“Zat settles zer matter. You two must be married!”
 By which it can be seen that Sacharissa had been working with William de Worde for too long.
William had not got as far as the Engravers and Printers’ Guild, having been requested to visit the Watch House for the second time that day. This time he was privileged to have an interview with Commander Vimes and it was not an invitation a person should decline without very good reason.
“I hear you’ve been pestering my men again,” said Vimes. “Thought it was about time I had a word with you, de Worde.”
“Any words in particular, Mr Vimes?” William reached for his notebook instinctively.
Vimes glowered until William put the offending article down again. “You might have heard there’s been a lot of fuss over negotiations between Borogravia, Mouldavia and Zlobenia – a very delicate business, as you can probably imagine.”
William nodded. “It was noted by one of our foreign correspondents.”
“The long and short of it was that some distant relative of the Duchess of Borogravia was to marry Baron Flemont’s daughter as a vital condition of the business. This was to take place at a secret location in a neutral country. Do you follow me so far?”
“Of course,” said William. He had to school his face into remaining as bland as possible, since he had an uneasy feeling that he might be considerably ahead of the Commander in this matter. “There was even a rumour it was taking place in Ankh-Morpork, but that would be ridiculous.”
“Yes, ridiculous,” agreed Vimes, equally poker-faced. “Anyway, as it turns out there was a last minute confusion and the girl married Major Gribbivitz of Mouldavia instead, which, shall we say, had a bit of an impact on the talks.”
“Are you sure I can’t write any of this down?”
“That depends,” said Vimes, “on your answer to my question.”
“What question would that be?”
“I don’t find this amusing, Mr de Worde. If you’d wanted to make me laugh, you should have brought along one of your amusing vegetables.”
“I wasn’t laughing, I promise.”
“Good. Now, it so happens that I know that The Times also turned up for the ceremony. Any comments?”
“Isn’t that my line?”
“You were seen there, Mr de Worde, and I’d like to know why.”
Gargoyles, thought William. “You weren’t spying on innocent citizens again, Mr Vimes?”
“No,” said Vimes, slowly and meaningfully, “I wouldn’t say I was.”
William paused, because it would be impossible to explain to Vimes that he and Sacharissa had, as it turned out, derailed an important political alliance, accidentally been married themselves and failed to realise they’d done anything more than collect a colourful human interest piece for the evening edition until much later. Vimes wouldn’t believe it, and if he did, the Watch would never let that joke die. It would not do anything for the standing of The Times. William considered his answer carefully, and as usual, opted for the truth, or some part of it: “We haven’t told many people yet, but you see, I was getting married myself.”
“I hadn’t put you down for one of these obscure cultists, Mr de Worde. The Followers of the Holy Lobster, wasn’t it?”
“Or possibly the Lobelia, Mr Vimes,” said William, who had read up on these things now that his marital status depended on it. “No, I’m not, but, Sacharissa and I are both very busy people these days -.”
“I had noticed,” said Vimes. It was not a compliment.
“And their ceremony is very quick and convenient,” said William. “We didn’t even have to take the afternoon off. Otto was there for the iconographs, obviously.”
“Well, and they say romance is dead.”
“Do they?” William smiled back at the Commander. “Anyway, I did notice there was another wedding party there, and it is possible that I might have some useful information for you, Mr Vimes. Some iconographs, even. If, of course, you were willing to grant a request of mine in return -.”
“People who are helping the Watch with their enquiries don’t get to make demands. What would that be?”
“I’d like a word with your latest prisoner.”
Vimes leant back in the chair, and for the first time, a look of amusement crossed his face. “Betcha Bob?” he said. “Be my guest. Mind, I’ll want proper details about this wedding party – any notes you may have taken. Did you say iconographs?”
“Yes,” William said. “Absolutely, Mr Vimes. Anything you need. I think, in this case, The Times is only too happy to aid the Watch and further the cause of peace.”
“Yes, you should be able to find a moment now things are quiet.”
William stopped. Vimes was emphatically not a man to be in cahoots with the Guilds, and it was a ridiculous idea to even think that… He stared at him, but the Commander’s expression was utterly blank, which was an answer in itself. “You wouldn’t be able to help with a little dispute we’re having with the Engravers and Printers’ Guild, would you? They’re demanding we start to use all letters equally.”
“Tsk,” said Vimes, shaking his head. “Whatever will they think of next? No business of mine, Mr de Worde, although I’m sure it’ll soon blow over – these things usually do.”
“They do,” agreed William. “I very much hope you’re right.”
“Not that I would know anything about it, of course.”
“And I thought you had eyes and ears everywhere, Mr Vimes.”
“William,” said Sacharissa, jumping up to meet him when he arrived back at the office. “Have you got a moment? Because I was thinking about this silly situation, and I finally decided – well, after Mr Optim arrived with a knife and made unpleasant threats, anyway – but, really, I’ve been asking the wrong question -.”
“And it doesn’t matter anyway,” said William, talking at more or less the same moment. “Because -. Wait… Did you say a knife?”
“It isn’t whether or not we are married,” said Sacharissa, “but whether or not we want to be married.”
“And we can always make it be true,” said William, frowning as he realised he might be missing something. He retraced his steps back over the conversation so far, and found what he was looking for: “Er… nobody was hurt, I hope?”
“Well, Mr Optim took rather a nasty knock to the head, but I can’t say that I’m very sorry about that. What do you mean, it doesn’t matter?”
It had sounded a lot better in his head, William thought.
“Because I’m not your type, I suppose,” she said, with a shake of her hair. “I happen to be the next best thing to hand, is that it?”
“I don’t think I have a type, after all.”
“No, beggars can’t be choosers,” she returned, but she smiled at him. “If it is a problem, I’m quite sure I can think of a reason to file for divorce. I made a list, if you’d like to see it -.”
William decided it might have been better to start the conversation in a different place, and made a valiant attempt to direct it there. “Well, since it was an accident, I would hardly want to take advantage of you in any way, or, er, compromise your good name.”
“They say all good marriages are built on compromise.”
“Er, do they?”
Sacharissa nodded. “Although,” she added, a little more shyly, “they always say plenty of other things about a girl who entraps someone with a rich and important family into marriage, even if it was completely by accident.”
“Yes, but I’m not… and you didn’t…”
“And,” she continued, “Otto thinks we are married, and I agree. It wasn’t quite what I had in mind for the ceremony, but it must have been fated. We were brought together by the pincers of the Holy Lobster.”
William caught hold of her hand. “In that case, let’s go. I think I’ve sorted the matter with the Guild, so we should be back in business tomorrow – and we should have an eye-witness account of a political mésalliance. In the meantime, there’s really nothing to do, this once.”
“What about your thief?”
“Barking,” said William. “Literally. He thinks he’s a dog. I suppose that explains why he went for the cane.”
“Hmm, it could make a lighter, human-interest story…”
“You were talking about compromise, I think?”
Sacharissa followed him down the crowded street. “Yes. And I’ve decided to keep my maiden name, for professional purposes at least. If you don’t mind, that is.”
William nodded. It made sense, and, anyway, he found it enough trouble being a de Worde without expecting anyone else to become one, too.
“Oh,” said Sacharissa, as they approached the de Worde town house, which was still noticeably empty and vacant. “So you’re going to sweep me off to your gloomy old mansion and -.”
William gave her a worried look as he shut the door behind them. “You haven’t, er, been talking to Otto as well, have you?”
“No,” said Sacharissa, looking pensive, “but I had been thinking that if the ceremony was legal and binding, which it seems to have been, that we have been rather a while getting around to the – well – the, er -.” She waved a hand vaguely.
“Compromise,” supplied William, helpfully.
“Yes,” she agreed, “and I was wondering if perhaps it was some sort of record – and if nothing happened soon, I did think perhaps it ought to be put in the paper!”
“I don’t think that’s in the public interest,” said William hastily. He set about kissing her, in order to distract her from any more such ideas. Without thirty wedding guests and Otto watching with interest, it was a lot less awkward. And since she seemed inclined to encourage him, and Otto had implied that he needed practise, he continued.
“Oh, William,” said Sacharissa eventually.
“Are you sure we don’t need an amusingly-shaped vegetable for this?”