Forward the Foundation Chapter 15

Forward the Foundation Chapter 15

Part III

Dors Venabili

VENABILI, DORS-The life of Hari Seldon is well encrusted with legend and uncertainty, so that little hope remains of ever obtaining a biography that can be thoroughly factual. Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of his life deals with his consort, Dors Venabili. There is no information whatever concerning Dors Venabili, except for her birth on the world of Cinna, prior to her arrival at Streeling University to become a member of the history faculty. Shortly after that, she met Seldon and remained his consort for twenty-eight years. If anything, her life is more interlarded with legend than Seldon’s is. There are quite unbelievable tales of her strength and speed and she was widely spoken of, or perhaps whispered of, as “The Tiger Woman.” Still more puzzling than her coming, however, is her going, for after a certain time, we hear of her no more and there is no indication as to what happened.

Her role as a historian is evidenced by her works on-
Encyclopedia Galactica

1

Wanda was almost eight years old now, going by Galactic Standard Time -as everyone did. She was quite the little lady-grave in manner, with straight light-brown hair. Her eyes were blue but were darkening and she might well end with the brown eyes of her father.

She sat there, lost in thought. Sixty.

That was the number that preoccupied her. Grandfather was going to have a birthday and it was going to be his sixtieth-and sixty was a large number. It bothered her because yesterday she had had a bad dream about it.

She went in search of her mother. She would have to ask.

Her mother was not hard to find. She was talking to Grandfather-about the birthday surely. Wanda hesitated. It wouldn’t be nice to ask in front of Grandfather.

Her mother had no trouble whatever sensing Wanda’s consternation. She said, “One minute, Hari, and let’s see what’s bothering Wanda. What is it, dear?”

Wanda pulled at her hand. “Not here, Mother. Private.”

Manella turned to Hari Seldon. “See how early it starts? Private lives. Private problems. Of course, Wanda, shall we go to your room?”

“Yes, Mother.” Wanda was clearly relieved.

Hand in hand, they went and then her mother said, “Now what is the problem, Wanda?”

“It’s Grandfather, Mother.”

“Grandfather! I can’t imagine him doing anything to bother you.”

“Well, he is.” Wanda’s eyes filled with sudden tears. “Is he going to die?”

“Your grandfather? What put that into your head, Wanda?”

“He’s going to be sixty. That’s so old.”

“No, it isn’t. It’s not young, but it’s not old, either. People live to be eighty, ninety, even a hundred-and your grandfather is strong and healthy. He’ll live a long time.”

“Are you sure?” She was sniffing.

Manella grasped her daughter by the shoulders and looked her straight in the eyes. “We must all die someday, Wanda. I’ve explained that to you before. Just the same, we don’t worry about it till the someday is much closer.” She wiped Wanda’s eyes gently. “Grandfather is going to stay alive till you’re all grown up and have babies of your own. You’ll see. Now come back with me. I want you to talk to Grandfather.”

Wanda sniffed again.

Seldon looked at the little girl with a sympathetic expression on her return and said, “What is it, Wanda? Why are you unhappy?”

Wanda shook her head.

Seldon turned his gaze to the girl’s mother. “Well, what is it, Manella?”

Manella shook her head. “She’ll have to tell you herself.”

Seldon sat down and tapped his lap. “Come, Wanda. Have a seat and tell me your troubles.”

She obeyed and wriggled a bit, then said, “I’m scared.”

Seldon put his arm around her. “Nothing to be scared of in your old grandfather.”

Manella made a face. “Wrong word.”

Seldon looked up at her. “Grandfather?”

“No. Old.”

That seemed to break the dike. Wanda burst into tears. “You’re old, Grandfather.”

“I suppose so. I’m sixty.” He bent his face down to Wanda’s and whispered, “I don’t like it, either, Wanda. That’s why I’m glad you’re only seven going on eight.”

“Your hair is white, Grandpa.”

“It wasn’t always. It just turned white recently.”

“White hair means you’re going to die, Grandpa.”

Seldon looked shocked. He said to Manella, “What is all this?”

“I don’t know, Hari. It’s her own idea.”

“I had a bad dream,” said Wanda.

Seldon cleared his throat. “We all have bad dreams now and then, Wanda. It’s good we do. Bad dreams get rid of bad thoughts and then we’re better off.”

“It was about you dying, Grandfather.”

“I know. I know. Dreams can be about dying, but that doesn’t make them important. Look at me. Don’t you see how alive I am-and cheerful-and laughing? Do I look as though I’m dying? Tell me.”

“N-no.”

“There you are, then. Now you go out and play and forget all about this. I’m just having a birthday and everyone will have a good time. Go ahead, dear.”

Wanda left in reasonable cheer, but Seldon motioned to Manella to stay.

2

Seldon said, “Wherever do you think Wanda got such a notion?”

“Come now, Hari. She had a Salvanian gecko that died, remember? One of her friends had a father who died in an accident and she sees deaths on holovision all the time. It is impossible for any child to be so protected as not to be aware of death. Actually I wouldn’t want her to be so protected. Death is an essential part of life; she must learn that.”

“I don’t mean death in general, Manella. I mean my death in particular. What has put that into her head?”

Manella hesitated. She was very fond, indeed, of Hari Seldon. She thought, Who would not be, so how can I say this?

But how could she not say this? So she said, “Hari, you yourself put it into her head.”

“I?”

“Of course, you’ve been speaking for months of turning sixty and complaining loudly of growing old. The only reason people are setting up this party is to console you.”

“It’s no fun turning sixty,” said Seldon indignantly. “Wait! Wait! You’ll find out.”

“I will-if I’m lucky. Some people don’t make it to sixty. Just the same, if turning sixty and being old are all you talk about, you end up frightening an impressionable little girl.”

Seldon sighed and looked troubled. “I’m sorry, but it’s hard. Look at my hands. They’re getting spotted and soon they’ll be gnarled. I can do hardly anything in the way of Twisting any longer. A child could probably force me to my knees.”

“In what way does that make you different from other sixty-year-olds? At least your brain is working as well as ever. How often have you said that that’s all that counts?”

“I know. But I miss my body.”

Manella said with just a touch of malice, “Especially when Dors doesn’t seem to get any older.”

Seldon said uneasily, “Well yes, I suppose-” He looked away, clearly unwilling to talk about the matter.

Manella looked at her father-in-law gravely. The trouble was, he knew nothing about children-or about people generally. It was hard to think that he had spent ten years as First Minister under the old Emperor and yet ended up knowing as little about people as he did.

Of course, he was entirely wrapped up in this psychohistory of his, that dealt with quadrillions of people, which ultimately meant dealing with no people at all-as individuals. And how could he know about children when he had had no contact with any child except Raych, who had entered his life as a twelve-year-old? Now he had Wanda, who was-and would probably remain to him-an utter mystery.

Manella thought all this lovingly. She had the incredible desire to protect Hari Seldon from a world he did not understand. It was the only point at which she and her mother-in-law, Dors Venabili, met and coalesced-this desire to protect Hari Seldon.

Manella had saved Seldon’s life ten years before. Dors, in her strange way, had considered this an invasion of her prerogative and had never quite forgiven Manella.

Seldon, in his turn, had then saved Manella’s life. She closed her eyes briefly and the whole scene returned to her, almost as though it were happening to her right now.

3

It was a week after the assassination of Cleon-and a horrible week it had been. All of Trantor was in chaos.

Hari Seldon still kept his office as First Minister, but it was clear he had no power. He called in Manella Dubanqua.

“I want to thank you for saving Raych’s life and my own. I haven’t had a chance to do so yet.” Then with a sigh, “I have scarcely had a chance to do anything this past week.”

Manella asked, “What happened to the mad gardener?”

“Executed! At once! No trial! I tried to save him by pointing out that he was insane. But there was no question about it. If he had done anything else, committed any other crime, his madness would have been recognized and he would have been spared. Committed-locked up and treated-but spared, nonetheless. But to kill the Emperor-” Seldon shook his head sadly.

Manella said, “What’s going to happen now, First Minister?”

“I’ll tell you what I think. The Entun Dynasty is finished. Cleon’s son will not succeed. I don’t think he wants to. He fears assassination in his turn and I don’t blame him one bit. It would be much better for him to retire to one of the family estates on some Outer World and live a quiet life. Because he is a member of the Imperial House, he will untie** allowed to do this. You and I may be less fortunate.”

Manella frowned. “In what way, sir?”

Seldon cleared his throat. “It is possible to argue that because you killed Gleb Andorin, he dropped his blaster, which became available to Mandell Gruber, who used it to kill Cleon. Therefore you bear a strong share of the responsibility of the crime and it may even be said that it was all prearranged.”

“But that’s ridiculous. I am a member of the security establishment, fulfilling my duties-doing what I was ordered to do.”

Seldon smiled sadly. “You’re arguing rationally and rationality is not going to be in fashion for a while. What’s going to happen now, in the absence of a legitimate successor to the Imperial throne, is that we are bound to have a military government.”

(In later years, when Manella came to understand the workings of psychohistory, she wondered if Seldon had used the technique to work out what was going to happen, for the military rule certainly came to pass. At the time, however, he made no mention of his fledgling theory.)

“If we do have a military government,” he went on, “then it will be necessary for them to establish a firm rule at once, crush any signs of disaffection, act vigorously and cruelly, even in defiance of rationality and justice. If they accuse you, Miss Dubanqua, of being part of a plot to kill the Emperor, you will be slaughtered, not as an act of justice but as a way of cowing the people of Trantor.

“For that matter, they might say that I was part of the plot, too. After all, I went out to greet the new gardeners when it was not my place to do so. Had I not done so, there would have been no attempt to kill me, you would not have struck back, and the Emperor would have lived. Do you see how it all fits?”

“I can’t believe they will do this.”

“Perhaps they won’t. I’ll make them an offer that, just perhaps, they may not wish to refuse.”

“What would that be?”

“I will offer to resign as First Minister. They don’t want me, they won’t have me. But the fact is that I do have supporters at the Imperial Court and, even more important, people in the Outer Worlds who find me acceptable. That means that if the members of the Imperial Guard force me out, then even if they don’t execute me, they will have some trouble. If, on the other hand, I resign, stating that I believe the military government is what Trantor and the Empire needs, then I actually help them, you see?”

He mused a little and said, “Besides, there is the little matter of psychohistory.”

(That was the first time Manella had ever heard the word.)

“What’s that?”

“Something I’m working on. Cleon believed in its powers very strongly-more strongly than I did at the time-and there’s a considerable feeling in the court that psychohistory is, or might be, a powerful tool that could be made to work on the side of the government-whatever the government might be.

“Nor does it matter if they know nothing about the details of the science. I’d rather they didn’t. Lack of knowledge can increase what we might call the superstitious aspect of the situation. In which case, they will let me continue working on my research as a private citizen. At least, I hope so. And that brings me to you.”

“What about me?”

“I’m going to ask as part of the deal that you be allowed to resign from** the security establishment and that no action be taken against you for** the events in connection with the assassination. I ought to be able to

“But you’re talking about ending my career.”

“Your career is, in any case, over. Even if the Imperial Guard doesn’t up an order of execution against you, can you imagine that you will Be allowed to continue working as a security officer?”

“But what do I do? How do I make a living?”

“I’ll take care of that, Miss Dubanqua. In all likelihood, I’ll go back to Streeling University, with a large grant for my psychohistorical research, I’m sure that I can find a place for you.”

Manella, round-eyed, said, “Why should you-“

Seldon said, “I can’t believe you’re asking. You saved Raych’s life and own. Is it conceivable that I don’t owe you anything?”

And it was as he said. Seldon resigned gracefully from the post he had held for ten years. He was given a fulsome letter of appreciation for his services by the just-formed military government, a junta led by certain members of the Imperial Guard and the armed forces. He returned to Streeling University and Manella Dubanqua, relieved of her own post as security officer, went with Seldon and his family.

4

Raych came in, blowing on his hands. “I’m all for deliberate variety in the weather. You don’t want things under a dome to always be the same. Today though, they made it just a little too cold and worked up a wind, besides. I think it’s about time someone complained to weather control.”

“I don’t know that it’s weather control’s fault,” said Seldon. “It’s getting harder to control things in general.”

“I know. Deterioration.” Raych brushed his thick black mustache with the back of his hand. He did that often, as though he had never quite managed to get over the few months during which he had been mustacheless in Wye. He had also put on a little weight around the middle and, overall, had come to seem very comfortable and middleclass. Even his Dahl accent had faded somewhat.

He took off his light coverall and said, “And how’s the old birthday boy?”

“Resenting it. Wait, wait, my son. One of these days, you’ll be celebrating your fortieth birthday. We’ll see how funny you’ll think that is.”

“Not as funny as sixty.”

“Stop joking,” said Manella, who had been chafing Raych’s hands, trying to warm them.

Seldon spread his own hands. “We’re doing the wrong thing, Raych. Your wife is of the opinion that all this talk about my turning sixty has sent little Wanda into a decline over the possibility of my dying.”

“Really?” said Raych. “That accounts for it, then. I stopped in to see her and she told me at once, before I even had a chance to say a word, that she had had a bad dream. Was it about your dying?”

“Apparently,” said Seldon.

“Well, she’ll get over that. No way of stopping bad dreams.”

“I’m not dismissing it that easily,” said Manella. “She’s brooding over it and that’s not healthy. I’m going to get to the bottom of this.”

“As you say, Manella,” said Raych agreeably. “You’re my dear wife and whatever you say-about Wanda-goes.” And he brushed his mustache again.

His dear wife! It hadn’t been so easy to make her his dear wife. Raych remembered his mother’s attitude toward the possibility. Talk about nightmares. It was he who had the periodic nightmares in which he had to face down the furious Dors Venabili once more.

5

Raych’s first clear memory, after emerging from his desperance-induced ordeal, was that of being shaved.

He felt the vibrorazor moving along his cheek and he said weakly, “Don’t cut anywhere near my upper lip, barber. I want my mustache back.”

The barber, who had already received his instructions from Seldon held up a mirror to reassure him.

Dors Venabili, who was sitting at his bedside, said, “Let him work, Raych. Don’t excite yourself.”

Raych’s eyes turned toward her momentarily and he was quiet. When the barber left, Dors said, “How do you feel, Raych?”

“Rotten,” he muttered. “I’m so depressed, I can’t stand it.”

“That’s the lingering effect of the desperance you’ve been dosed with. The effects will wash out.”

“I can’t believe it. How long has it been?”

“Never mind. It will take time. You were pumped full of it.”

He looked around restlessly. “Has Manella been to see me?”

“That woman?” (Raych was getting used to hearing Dors speak of Manella with those words and in that tone of voice.) “No. You’re not fit for visitors yet.”

Interpreting the look on Raych’s face, Dors quickly added, “I’m an exception because I’m your mother, Raych. Why would you want that woman to see you, anyway? You’re in no condition to be seen.”

“All the more reason to see her,” muttered Raych. “I want her to see me at my worst.” He then turned to one side dispiritedly. “I want to sleep.”

Dors Venabili shook her head. Later that day she said to Seldon “I don’t know what we’re going to do about Raych. Hari. He’s quite unreasonable.”

Seldon said, “He’s not well, Dors. Give the young man a chance.”

“He keeps muttering about that woman. Whatever her name is.”

“Manella Dubanqua. It’s not a hard name to remember.”

“I think he wants to set up housekeeping with her. Live with her. Marry her.”

Seldon shrugged. “Raych is thirty-old enough to make up his own mind.”

“As his parents, we have something to say-surely.”

Hari sighed. “And I’m sure you’ve said it, Dors. And once you’ve said it, I’m sure he’ll do as he wishes.”

“Is that your final word? Do you intend to do nothing while he makes plans to marry a woman like that?”

“What do you expect me to do, Dors? Manella saved Raych’s life. Do you expect him to forget that? She saved mine, too, for that matter.”

That seemed to feed Dors’s anger. She said, “And you also saved her. The score is even.”

“I didn’t exactly-“

“Of course you did. The military rascals who now run the Empire would have slaughtered her if you didn’t step in and sell them your resignation and your support in order to save her.”

“Though I may have evened the score, which I don’t think I have, Raych has not. And, Dors dear, I would be very careful when it came to using unfortunate terms to describe our government. These times are not going to be as easy as the times when Cleon ruled and there will always be informers to repeat what they hear you say.”

“Never mind that. I don’t like that woman. I presume that, at least, is permissible.”

“Permissible, certainly, but of no use.”

Hari looked down at the floor, deep in thought. Dors’s usually unfathomable black eyes were positively flashing in anger. Hari looked up.

“What I’d like to know, Dors, is why? Why do you dislike Manella so? She saved our lives. If it had not been for her quick action, both Raych and I would be dead.”

Dors snapped back, “Yes, Hari. I know that better than anyone. And if she had not been there, I would not have been able to do a thing to prevent your murder. I suppose you think I should be grateful. But every time I look at that woman, I am reminded of my failure. I know these feelings are not truly rational-and that is something I can’t explain. So do not ask me to like her, Hari. I cannot.”

But the next day even Dors had to back down when the doctor said, “Your son wishes to see a woman named Manella.”

“He’s in no condition to see visitors,” snapped Dors.

“On the contrary. He is. He’s doing quite well. Besides, he insists and is doing so most strenuously. I don’t know that we’d be wise to refuse him.”

So they brought in Manella and Raych greeted her effusively and with the first faint sign of happiness since he had arrived at the hospital.

He made an unmistakable small gesture of dismissal at Dors. Lips tightened, she left.

And the day came when Raych said, “She’ll have me, Mom.”

Dors said, “Do you expect me to be surprised, you foolish man? Of course she’ll have you. You’re her only chance, now that she’s been disgraced, ousted from the security establishment…”

Raych said, “Mom, if you’re trying to lose me, this is exactly the way of doing it. Don’t say things like that.”

“I’m only thinking of your welfare.”

“I’ll think of my own good, thank you. I’m no one’s ticket to respectability-if you’ll stop to think of it. I’m not exactly handsome. I’m short. Dad isn’t First Minister anymore and I talk solid lower-class. What’s there for her to be proud of in me? She can do a lot better, but she wants me. And let me tell you, I want her.”

“But you know what she is.”

“Of course I know what she is. She’s a woman who loves me. She’s the woman I love. That’s what she is.”

“And before you fell in love with her, what was she? You know some of what she had to do while undercover in Wye you were one of her ‘assignments.’ How many others were there? Are you able to live with her past? With what she did in the name of duty? Now you can afford to be idealistic. But someday you will have your first quarrel with her-or your second or your nineteenth-and you’ll break down and say, ‘You-**”

Raych shouted angrily, “Don’t say that! When we fight, I’ll call her unreasonable, irrational, nagging, whining, inconsiderate-a million adjectives that will fit the situation. And she’ll have words for me. But they’ll all be sensible words that can be withdrawn when the fight is over.”

“You think so-but just wait till it happens.”

Raych had turned white. He said, “Mother, you’ve been with Father now for almost twenty years. Father is a hard man to disagree with, but there have been times when you two have argued. I’ve heard you. In all those twenty years, has he ever called you by any name that would in any way compromise your role as human being? For that matter, have I done so? Can you conceive of me doing so now-no matter how angry I get?”

Dors struggled. Her face did not show emotion in quite the same way that Raych’s did or Seldon’s would, but it was clear that she was momentarily incapable of speech.

“In fact,” said Raych, pushing his advantage (and feeling horrible at doing so) “the fact of the matter is that you are jealous because Manella saved Dad’s life. You don’t want anyone to do that but you. Well, you had no chance to do so. Would you prefer it if Manella had not shot Andorin-if Dad had died? And me, too?”

Dors said in a choked voice, “He insisted on going out to meet the gardeners alone. He would not allow me to come.”

“But that wasn’t Manella’s fault.”

“Is that why you want to marry her? Gratitude?”

“No. Love.”

And so it was, but Manella said to Raych after the ceremony, “Your mother may have attended the wedding because you insisted, Raych, but she looked like one of those thunderclouds they sometimes send sailing under the dome.”

Raych laughed. “She doesn’t have the face to be a thundercloud. You’re just imagining it.”

“Not at all. How will we ever get her to give us a chance?”

“We’ll just be patient. She’ll get over it.”

But Dors Venabili didn’t.

Two years after the wedding, Wanda was born. Dors’s attitude toward the child was all Raych and Manella could have wanted, but Wanda’s mother remained “that woman” to Raych’s mother.