But washing lines still criss-crossed the street between the grey, ancient buildings. Antique paint still peeled in the way cheap paint peeled when it had been painted on wood too old and rotten to take paint. Cockbill Street people were usually too penniless to afford decent paint, but always far too proud to use whitewash.
Unlike the Shades, though, Cockbill Street was clean, with the haunting, empty cleanliness you get when people can’t afford to waste dirt. For Cockbill Street was where people lived who were worse than poor, because they didn’t know how poor they were. If you asked them they would probably say something like ‘mustn’t grumble’ or ‘there’s far worse off than us’ or ‘we’ve always kept uz heads above water and we don’t owe nobody nowt’.
He could hear his granny speaking. ‘No one’s too poor to buy soap.’ Of course, many people were. But in Cockbill Street they bought soap just the same. The table might not have any food on it but, by gods, it was well scrubbed. That was Cockbill Street, where what you mainly ate was your pride.
What a mess the world was in, Vimes reflected. Constable Visit had told him the meek would inherit it, and what had the poor devils done to deserve that ?
Cockbill Street people would stand aside to let the meek through. For what kept them in Cockbill Street, mentally and physically, was their vague comprehension that there were rules. And they went through life filled with a quiet, distracted dread that they weren’t quite obeying them.
People said that there was one law for the rich and one law for the poor, but it wasn’t true. There was no law for those who made the law, and no law for the incorrigibly lawless. All the laws and rules were for those people stupid enough to think like Cockbill Street people.
The gods had made the people of Cockbill Street poor, honest and provident, Vimes reflected. They might as well have hung signs saying ‘Kick me’ on their backs and had done with it. Yet Cockbill Street people tended towards religion, at least of the less demonstrative kind. They always put a little life by for a rainy eternity.