Monstrous Regiment

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett Read Free Book Online

Book: Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett Read Free Book Online
Authors: Terry Pratchett
later that day, taking with them, to give to his parents, the pot-metal medal that had been in the man’s coat pocket and the official commendation from the Duchy that went with it. Polly had taken a look at it. It was printed, including the Duchess’s signature, and the man’s name had been filled in, rather cramped, because it was longer than average. The last few letters were rammed up tight together.
    It’s little details like that which get remembered, as undirected white-hot rage fills the mind. Apart from the letter and the medal, all the man left behind was a tin mug and, on the floor, a stain which wouldn’t scrub out.
     
    Corporal Strappi listened impatiently to a slightly adjusted version. Polly could see his mind working. The mug had belonged to a soldier; now it belonged to another soldier.Those were the facts of the matter, and there wasn’t much he could do about it. He resorted, instead, to the safer ground of general abuse.
    “So you think you’re smart, Parts?” he said.
    “No, Corporal.”
    “Oh? So you’re stupid, are you?”
    “Well, I did enlist, Corporal,” said Polly meekly. Somewhere behind Strappi, someone sniggered.
    “I’ve got my eye on you, Parts,” growled Strappi, temporarily defeated. “Just you put a foot wrong, that’s all.”
    He strode off.
    “Um…” said a voice beside Polly. She turned to see another youth, wearing secondhand clothes and an air of nervousness that didn’t quite conceal some bubbling anger. He was big and red-haired, but his hair was cut so close that it was just head fuzz.
    “You’re Tonker, right?” she said.
    “Yeah, and, er…could I have a borrow of your shaving gear, right?”
    Polly looked at a chin as free of hair as a billiard ball. The boy blushed.
    “Got to start sometime, right?” he said defiantly.
    “The razor’ll need sharpening,” said Polly.
    “That’s all right, I know how to do that,” said Tonker.
    Polly wordlessly handed over the mug and razor, and took the opportunity to duck into the privy while everyone else was occupied. It was the work of a moment to put the socks in place. Anchoring them was a problem, which she solved by unwinding part of one sock and tucking it up under her belt.
    They felt odd, and strangely heavy for a little package of wool.
    Walking a little awkwardly, Polly went in to see what horrors breakfast would bring.
    It brought stale horse-bread and sausage and very weak beer. She grabbed a sausage and a slab of bread and sat down.
    You had to concentrate to eat horse-bread. There was a lot more about these days, a bread made from flour ground up with dried peas and beans and dried vegetable scrapings. It used to be made just for horses, to put them in fine condition. Now you hardly ever saw anything else on the table, and there tended to be less and less of it, too.
    You needed time and good teeth to work your way through a slice of horse-bread, just like you needed a complete lack of imagination to eat a modern sausage.
    Polly sat and concentrated on chewing.
    The only other area of calm was around Private Maladict, who was drinking coffee like a young man relaxing in a sidewalk café, with an air of someone who has life thoroughly worked out. He nodded at Polly.
    Was that him in the privy? she wondered. I got back in just as Strappi started yelling and everyone started running around and rushing in and out. It could have been anyone. Do vampires use the privy? Well, do they? Has anyone ever dared ask?
    “Sleep well?” he asked.
    “Yeah. Did you?” said Polly.
    “I couldn’t stand that shed, but Mr. Eyebrow kindly allowed me to use his cellar,” said Maladict. “Old habits die hard, you know? At least,” he added, “old acceptable habits. I’ve never felt happy not hanging down.”
    “And you got coffee? ”
    “I carry my own supply,” said Maladict, indicating an exquisite little silver-and-gilt coffee-making engine on the table by his cup, “and Mr. Eyebrow kindly boiled some

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