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The Committee to Compel the Patrician to Take the Long Weekend Off

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The University Calendar, which was calculated by the wizards, accounted for moveable bank holidays, feast days (the word “feast” is always literally meant where wizards are concerned), and holy days in a rather ingenious way. If they fell on a common day rather than on Octeday, then they would be observed on the nearest Monday, so as not to disrupt the flow of the working week.

If reluctance to disrupt the flow of the working week, or even just “working” sounds un-wizardly to the reader’s ear, they must be reminded that the tradition was rather old, predating the wizards’ noble tradition of not doing anything, ever.

Of the fifty Mondays in the University Calendar year, between eight and twelve were classed “festive.”

* * * *

In a dark basement on Scoone Avenue, a cadre of hooded figures met around a table. There were eight of them, which was one more than intended.

One of the figures, who sat at the head of the table with a pen and notepad, sighed.

“No plus-ones. We had established that.”

“She really wanted to come,” the guilty party protested, “and she doesn’t like it when I keep secrets from her.”

“And I can be trusted,” the unexpected guest added in a tone that brooked no argument. “Plus, I’ve brought my own hood.”

The note-taker rolled his eyes (not that anyone could see) and cleared his throat.

“Is our lady hostess present?”

“Yes, I’m here, dear,” a hearty voice answered.

“And do you approve of the intrusion?” he asked.

“Oh, it’s fine, I reckon,” the hostess answered. “The more the merrier, isn’t it?”

“That’s not generally vhat people say about secret societies,” a delicate voice answered, “but I like it.”

“Should we get some light in here, do you think?” asked the man who had brought along an extra guest.

“It ain’t that dark,” a gravelly voice grumbled.

“Well, not for you , dear,” the hostess said.

“Actually, in the rules,” a chipper voice that had not previously spoken began, “which I have memorized, it says that meetings of this sort ought to be conducted in the dark, with hoods on. Therefore, alas, we cannot have extra light in here, Mr. L-----.”

“I’m amazed you can pronounce that vith your mouth,” the delicate voice said. “Vhich rules vould those be, by the vay?”

“Rupert’s Rules of Occult Order,” the chipper voice answered.

The note-taker sighed dreamily. A sharp cough to his left forced him to collect himself.

“Very well,” the note-taker began, “I now declare this meeting of the Committee to Compel the Patrician to Take the Long Weekend off, in session.”

“Could I ask vun qvick qvestion?”

“No,” the note-taker answered sternly. “I must read the agenda first.”

“Very vell, I’ll ask it anyvay. How are you taking and reading notes?”

“Reverse Braille Shorthand,” the note-taker snapped. “If anyone else has stup– additional questions, now’s the time to get them out of your system.”

After a pause, he added,

“If anyone has their hand raised, I’m not going to call on you, because I can’t see it.”

He cleared his throat.

“The first point on the agenda is that the secretary–that’s me–considers this whole business frivolous. This point does not require any action and I have allotted zero minutes of discussion to it. Let’s move on to point two: merits of vacation. I’ve allotted fifteen minutes to discussion.”

“Well, everyone knows taking a break is good for you,” said the uninvited guest. “It stands to reason that what’s good for the geese is good for the boss goose.”

One of the hooded figures burst out in suppressed coughs and received a firm slap on the back from the hostess.

“I shall ignore your avian comparisons, miss,” the note-taker said, “and ask you to verify your claims. Can you point to any medical studies that conclude that taking time off has health benefits?”

“I don’t actually have to do that, do I?” she asked her husband.

“Er. I think you do,” he said.

“Bollocks,” she muttered.

“I think Dr Lawn—” the hostesses began.

“Dr L---, you mean,” someone corrected. “No names. Sorry, it’s in the rules.”

“Right, er, him. He said to me the other day that you should get at least seven hours of sleep per night. How many hours does the Patrician get, on average?”

“That’s a personal question, my lady,” the note-taker answered. “I wouldn’t know. I would estimate up to four.”

“Up to?”

“He sleeps once per day, almost every day,” the note-taker clarified, with a sniff. “It’s not my place to comment on whether that’s healthy.”

“If it’s anyvun’s place, it’s yours, darlink,” the delicate voice said.

“I’m flattered you think so,” the note-taker said diplomatically, “though you are wrong.”

“On the subject of healthful things,” someone said brightly, “I’ve heard good things about seaside air.”

“Really?” said the gravelly voice. “I’ve been to the seaside and it smells like fish.”

“Excuse me, vhat city are ve in? Vould that not be an improvement?”

A stony silence fell over the crowd.

“Vhat?” she demanded. “You can all say it but I have to pretend the Ankh smells like roses? It doesn’t.”

“She’s right,” said a quiet voice with a light Pseudopolitan lilt, which came from slightly left of the note-taker.

“Zhank you,” she said. “Who are you, again?”

“I’m Lord Vetinari’s body double,” he said.

“Lord V-------,” someone corrected.

“Carrot, no one else can pronounce the dashes,” someone else grumbled. “Just let it go.”

“Sir!” said Carrot, offended. “You can’t reveal my name!”

“I can pronounce the dashes,” said Lord Vetinari’s body double.

“Let’s have some order, please,” the note-taker insisted.

“He shouldn’t go out of town, I don’t think,” said the body double. “That makes me nervous. I wouldn’t know what to do if there was an emergency while I was pretending to be him.”

“No one’s making him go out of town,” the note-taker reassured him. “He’s just taking one day off. Maybe he can have a quiet day in at the palace.”

“Four days off,” said the hostess. “The whole point is that it’s a long weekend.”

“And not at the palace,” said her husband. “That would be like me spending my off duty hours at the Watch house. It takes a work addict to know a work addict and I know I’d be tempted to work. He can stay here.”

“Madam,” said the note-taker solemnly, “four days is a long time.”

“That’s practically a week in Vetinari years,” someone quipped.

“Really, dear!” scolded the hostess.

“What would he do for four days?” asked the note-taker.

“Er, relax, I would assume,” said another voice. “That’s what I would do.”

“Vhat does he do to relax?”

“We do the crossword,” said the note-taker.

“And... vhat else?”

“We take the bank chairman out for walks.”

“What? No, you don’t.”

“He means the dog, Spike, not me.”

“Sometimes we do some light sparring to unwind,” the note-taker continued.

“To un wind?” asked the hostess’s husband, alarmed.

“And we play music.”

“Vhat kind of music?”

“I am not at liberty to say, madam,” said the note-taker, “that’s private.”

There was a brief pause as no one imagined anything at all.

“So,” said Carrot cheerfully, “all we have to do now is persuade him to take the long weekend off. That shouldn’t be too difficult.”

“Um,” said someone.

“That was sarcasm, friends,” said Carrot. “I am capable of it.”

“Oh. Then well done, lad.”

“That vas a good one,” the delicate voice said politely.

“I thought the plan was just to have Drumknott tell him.”

“That’s Mr. D––––---- to you, Mr.  von L––––-,” said the note-taker, “and I don’t intend to tell Vetinari what he can and can’t do.”

“You could give him his daily schedule but put nothing on it,” Carrot suggested. “I do that to commander Vimes sometimes.”

“Absolutely not,” said Drumknott.

“You do what ?” asked Vimes.

“Only when I tell him to, dear,” said Sybil.

“Order, please, ” said Drumknott. “What I will do is present your arguments to him and allow him, as an autonomous person, to come to his own decision about how many days he will take off,”

“If any,” said Lord Vetinari’s body double, Charlie.

“No, I do think I will persuade him to take off at least two,” said Drumknott firmly.

“Tell him that ve want him to do this because ve care about him.”

“And because we think it would improve his mood,” Moist added.

“And tell him that I’ve already set up the chartreuse bedroom for him,” Sybil said, “and that I’ve just gotten more of that rooibos tea you like.”

“You did?” asked Drumknott, “Thank you. You shouldn’t have. Why?”

“Well I assume you’re taking the long weekend off too, dear.”

“A bold assumption, Lady Ramkin,” said Drumknott.

“But a reasonable one, is it not?” asked Charlie. “You work just as hard as His Lordship. If he must be compelled to take the long weekend off, it follows that so must you...I reckon.”

Just then, a knock sounded at the door.

“Come in, Willikins,” said Vimes.

The basement door swung open, and everyone winced and groaned at the sudden light.

“Charlie’s upstairs,” said Willikins, “he says he’s sorry he’s late. He’s just getting his shoes off and he’s on his way down.”

“I don’t think Charlie’s upstairs,” said Carrot cautiously, “given that he’s sitting here with us.”

“Or,” said Moist slowly, “alternatively…he is upstairs and this is, er,...not Charlie.”

The assembled crowd turned to look at Charlie and Drumknott.

“Sneaky sod,” muttered Vimes, taking his hood off.

“Vell done, Havelock,” said Margolotta with a little clap, “but the jig is up now.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Charlie, at the same time as Drumknott burst out with–

“I’m sorry! He asked. You know I don’t keep secrets from Lord Vetinari!”

Vetinari sighed and took off his hood.

You understand, Mr. von Lipwig,” Drumknott said accusingly.

Moist looked at the figure seated at Drumknott’s left, then at Adora Belle, and then reluctantly caught his drift.

“Vell now you’ve got to listen to us, given that we’re here.”

“About that,” said Vetinari, “I can’t believe you were in town and didn’t tell me! I’m wounded, Margot.”

“It’s not like I came in secret,” protested Margolotta. “And you know I attend the RAM Gala every year. My coach vas sighted at several stops on the vay here from Ubervald. If you veren’t informed, I don’t know vhat to tell you.”

“Oh, I knew,” Vetinari said, “but you might have at least clacksed. It’s the principle of the thing.”

“Don’t try to change the subject, sir,” warned Vimes.

“Four days,” pressed Sybil.

“Two days,” said Vetinari.

“In the spirit of compromise and tolerance that has made this city-state what it is today,” began Drumknott, “and acting as both secretary and president of this committee, I propose a motion to recommend three and a half days.”

“What?” said Vetinari.

“Seconded!” said Carrot.

“Thirded!” said Sybil. “There’s no need to look at me that way, Mr. Drumknott. It was only a joke.”

“All in favour?” asked Drumknott.

“I’m sure you can’t just—”

“That’s one nay,” said Drumknott, “and seven ayes.”

“Ooh, were we already voting?” asked the real Charlie, who had just arrived down the stairs. “I’m for it too.”

“Eight ayes,” corrected Drumknott. “Motion carries. This committee officially recommends you take a three and a half day weekend. Do you take this recommendation?”

Eight pairs of eyes turned towards Lord Vetinari.

“I don’t enjoy being browbeaten,” he said finally.

“You haven’t been asked to enjoy it,” noted Vimes.

“I suppose that is true, Sir Samuel,” Vetinari conceded. “Very well. I take the committee’s recommendation.”

Sybil, Carrot, and Adora Belle started clapping. Moist looked nervous.

Margolotta crossed her arms.

“I’m not revarding the bare minimum,” she said.

“Good point,” said Adora Belle, who stopped clapping.

Moist looked even more nervous.

“This was fun, by the way,” said Adora Belle, “you have to invite me to the next one.”