Stor Gendibal jogged along the country road outside the university. It was not common practice for Second Foundationers to venture into the farming world of Trantor. They could do so, certainly, but when they did, they did not venture either far or for long.
Gendibal was an exception and he had, in times past, wondered why. Wondering meant exploring his own mind, something that Speakers, in particular, were encouraged to do. Their minds were at once their weapons and their targets, and they had to keep both offense and defense well honed.
Gendibal had decided, to his own satisfaction, that one reason he was different was because he had come from a planet that was both colder and more massive than the average inhabited planet. When he was brought to Trantor as a boy (through the net that was quietly cast throughout the Galaxy by agents of the Second Foundation on the lookout for talent), he found himself, therefore, in a lighter gravitational field and a delightfully mild climate. Naturally he enjoyed being in the open more than some of the others might.
In his early years on Trantor, he grew conscious of his puny, undersized frame, and he was afraid that settling back into the comfort of a benign world would turn him flabby indeed. He therefore undertook a series of self-developing exercises that had left him still puny in appearance but kept hint wiry and with a good wind. Part of his regimen were these long walks arid joggings – about which some at the Speaker’s Table muttered. Gendibal disregarded their chattering.
He kept his own ways, despite the fact that he was first-generation. All the others at the Table were second – and third-generation, with parents and grandparents who had been Second Foundationers. And they were all older than he, too. What, then, was to be expected but muttering?
By long custom, all minds at the Speaker’s Table were open (supposedly altogether, though it was a rare Speaker who didn’t maintain a comer of privacy somewhere – in the long run, ineffectively, of course) and Gendibal knew that what they felt was envy. So did they; just as Gendibal knew his own attitude was defensive, overcompensating ambition. And so did they.
Besides (Gendibal’s mind reverted to the reasons for his ventures into the hinterland) he had spent his childhood in a whole world – a large and expansive one, with grand and variegated scenery – and in a fertile valley of that world, surrounded by what he believed to be the most beautiful mountain ranges in the Galaxy. They were unbelievably spectacular in the grim winter of that world. He remembered his former world and the glories of a now-distant childhood. He dreamed about it often. How could he bring himself to be confined to a few dozen square miles of ancient architecture?
He looked about disparagingly as he jogged. Trantor was a mild and pleasant world, but it was not a rugged and beautiful one. Though it was a farming world, it was not a fertile planet.
It never had been. Perhaps that, as much as any other factor, had led to its becoming the administrative center of, first, an extensive union of planets and then of a Galactic Empire. There was no strong push to have it be anything else. It wasn’t extraordinarily good for anything else.
After the Great Sack, one thing that kept Trantor going was its enormous supply of metal. It was a great mine, supplying half a hundred worlds with cheap alloy steel, aluminum, titanium, copper, magnesium – returning, in this way, what it had collected over thousands of years; depleting its supplies at a rate hundreds of times faster than the original rate of accumulation.
There were still enormous metal supplies available, but they were underground and harder to obtain. The Hamish farmers (who never called themselves “Trantorians,” a term they considered ill-omened and which the Second Foundationers therefore reserved for themselves) had grown reluctant to deal with the metal any further. Superstition, undoubtedly.
Foolish of them. The metal that remained underground might well be poisoning the soil and further lowering its fertility. And yet, on the other hand, the population was thinly spread and the land supported them. And there were some sales of metal, always.
Gendibal’s eyes roved over the fiat horizon. Trantor was alive geologically, as almost all inhabited planets were, but it had been a hundred million years, at least, since the last major geological mountain-building period had occurred. What uplands existed had been eroded into gentle hills. Indeed, many of them had been leveled during the great metal-coating period of Trantor’s history.
Off to the south, well out of sight, was the shore of Capital Bay, and beyond that, the Eastern Ocean, both of which had been re-established after the disruption of the underground cisterns.
To the north were the towers of Galactic University, obscuring the comparatively squat-but-wide Library (most of which was underground), and the remains of the Imperial Palace still farther north.
Immediately on either side were farms, on which there was an occasional building. He passed groups of cattle, goats, chickens – the wide variety of domesticated animals found on any Trantorian farm. None of them paid him any mind.
Gendibal thought casually that anywhere in the Galaxy, on any of the vast number of inhabited worlds, he would see these animals and that on no two worlds would they be exactly alike. He remembered the goats of home and his own tame nanny whom he had once milked. They were much larger and more resolute than the small and philosophical specimens that had been brought to Trantor and established there since the Great Sack. Over the inhabited worlds of the Galaxy, there were varieties of each of these animals, in numbers almost beyond counting, and there was no sophisticate on any world who didn’t swear by his favorite variety, whether for meat, milk, eggs, wool, or anything else they could produce.
As usual, there were no Hamish in view. Gendibal had the feeling that the farmers avoided being seen by those whom they referred to as “scowlers” (a mispronunciation – perhaps deliberately – of the word “scholars” in their dialect). – Superstition, again.
Gendibal glanced up briefly at Trantor’s sun. It was quite high in the sky, but its heat was not oppressive. In this location, at this latitude, the warmth saved mild and the cold never bit. (Gendibal ever. missed the biting cold sometimes or so he imagined. He had never revisited his native world. Perhaps, he admitted to himself, because he didn’t want to be disillusioned.)
He had the pleasant feel of muscles that were sharpened and tightened to keenness and he decided he had jogged just long enough. He settled down to a walk, breathing deeply.
He would be ready for the upcoming Table meeting and for one last push to force a change in policy, a new attitude that would recognize the growing danger from the First Foundation and elsewhere and that would put an end to the fatal reliance on the “perfect” working of the Plan. When would they realize that the very perfection was the surest sign of danger?
Had anyone but himself proposed it, he knew, it would have gone through without trouble. As things stood now, there would be trouble, but it would go through, just the same, for old Shandess was supporting him and would undoubtedly continue to do so. He would not wish to enter the history books as the particular First Speaker under whom the Second Foundation had withered.
Gendibal was startled. He became aware of the distant tendril of mind well before he saw the person. It was Hamish mind – a farmer – coarse and unsubtle. Carefully Gendibal withdrew, leaving a touch so light as to be undetectable. Second Foundation policy was very firm in this respect. The farmers were the unwitting shields of the Second Foundation. They must be left as untouched as possible.
No one who came to Trantor for trade or tourism ever saw anything other than the farmers, plus perhaps a few unimportant scholars living in the past. Remove the farmers or merely tamper with their innocence and the scholars would become more noticeable – with catastrophic results. (That was one of the classic demonstrations which neophytes at the University were expected to work out for themselves. The tremendous Deviations displayed on the Prime Radiant when the farmer minds were even slightly tampered with were astonishing.)
Gendibal saw him. It was a farmer, certainly, Hamish to the core. He was almost a caricature of what a Trantorian farmer should be tall and wide, brown-skinned, roughly dressed, arms bare, dark-haired, dark-eyed, a long ungainly stride. Gendibal felt as though he could smell the barnyard about him. (Not too much scorn, he thought. Preem Palver had not minded playing the role of farmer, when that was necessary to his plans. Some farmer he was – short and plump and soft. It was his mind that had fooled the teenaged Arkady, never his body.)
The farmer was approaching him, clumping down the road, staring at him openly – something that made Gendibal frown. No Hamish man or woman had ever looked at him in this manner. Even the children ran away and peered from a distance.
Gendibal did not slow his own stride. There would be room enough to pass the other with neither comment nor glance and that would be best. He determined to stay away from the farmer’s mind.
Gendibal drifted to one side, but the farmer was not going to have that. He stopped, spread his legs wide, stretched out his large arms as though to block passage, and said, “Ho! Be you scowler?”
Try as he might, Gendibal could not refrain from sensing the wash of pugnacity in the approaching mind. He stopped. It would be impossible to attempt to pass by without conversation and that would be, in itself, a weary task. Used as one was to the swift and subtle interplay of sound and expression and thought and mentality that combined to make up the communication between Second Foundationers, it was wearisome to resort to word combination alone. It was like prying up a boulder by arm and shoulder, with a crowbar lying nearby.
Gendibal said, quietly and with careful lack of emotion, “I am a scholar. Yes.”
“Ho! You am a scowler. Don’t we speak outlandish now? And cannot I see that you be one or am one?” He ducked his head in a mocking bow. “Being, as you be, small and weazen and pale and upnosed.”
“What is it you want of me, Hamishman?” asked Gendibal, unmoved.
“I be titled Rufirant. And Karoll be my previous.” His accent became noticeably more Hamish. His r’s rolled throatily.
Gendibal said, “What is it you want with me, Karoll Rufirant?”
“And how be you titled, scowler?”
“Does it matter? You may continue to call me ‘scholar.'”
“If I ask, it matters that I be answered, little up-nosed scowler.”
“Well then, I am titled Stor Gendibal and I will now go about my business.”
“What be your business?”
Gendibal felt the hair prickling on the back of his neck. There were other minds present. He did not have to turn to know there were three more Hamishmen behind him. Off in the distance, there were others. The farmer smell was strong.
“My business, Karoll Rufirant, is certainly none of yours.”
“Say you so?” Rufirant’s voice rose. “Mates, he says his business be not ours.”
There was a laugh from behind him and a voice sounded. “Right he be, for his business be book-mucking and ‘puter-rubbing, and that be naught for true men.”
“Whatever my business is,” said Gendibal firmly, “I will be about it now.”
“And how will you do that, wee scowler?” said Rufirant.
“By passing you.”
“You would try? You would not fear arm-stopping?”
“By you and all your mates? Or by you alone?” Gendibal suddenly dropped into thick Hamish dialect. “Art not feared alone?”
Strictly speaking, it was not proper to prod him in this manner, but it would stop a mass attack and that had to be stopped, lest it force a still greater indiscretion on his part.
It worked. Rufirant’s expression grew lowering. “If fear there be, bookboy, th’art the one to be full of it. Mates, make room. Stand back and let him pass that he may see if I be feared alane.”
Rufirant lifted his great arms and moved them about. Gendibal did not fear the farmer’s pugilistic science; but there was always a chance that a goodly blow might land.
Gendibal approached cautiously, working with delicate speed within Rufirant’s mind. Not much – just a touch, unfelt – but enough to slow reflexes that crucial notch. Then out, and into all the others, who were now gathering in greater numbers. Gendibal’s Speaker mind darted back and forth with virtuosity, never resting in one mind long enough to leave a mark, but just long enough for the detection of something that might be useful.
He approached the farmer catlike, watchful, aware and relieved that no one was making a move to interfere.
Rufirant struck suddenly, but Gendibal saw it in his mind before any muscle had begun to tighten and he stepped to one side. The blow whistled past, with little room to spare. Yet Gendibal still stood there, unshaken. There was a collective sigh from the others.
Gendibal made no attempt to either parry or return a blow. It would be difficult to parry without paralyzing his own arm and to return a blow would be of no use, far the farmer would withstand it without trouble.
He could only maneuver the man as though he were a bull, forcing him to miss. That would serve to break his morale as direct opposition would not.
Bull-like and roaring, Rufirant charged. GendibaI was ready and drifted to one side just sufficiently to allow the farmer to miss his clutch. Again the charge. Again the miss.
GendibaI felt his own breath begin to whistle through his nose. The physical effort was small, but the mental effort of trying to control without controlling was enormously difficult. He could not keep it up long.
He said – as calmly as he could while batting lightly at Rufirant’s fear-depressant mechanism, trying to rouse in a minimalist manner what must surely be the farmer’s superstitious dread of scholars – “I will now go about my business.”
Rufirant’s face distorted with rage, but for a moment he did not move. Gendibal could sense his thinking. The little scholar had melted away like magic. Gendibal could feel the other’s fear rise and for a moment
But then the Hamish rage surged higher and drowned the fear.
Rufirant shouted, “Mates! Scowler he dancer. He do duck on nimble toes and scorns the rules of honest Hamish blow-for-blow. Seize him. Hold him. We will trade blow for blow, then. He may be firststriker, gift of me, and I – I will be last-striker.”
Gendibal found the gaps among those who now surrounded him. His only chance was to maintain a gap long enough to get through, then to run, trusting to his own wind and to his ability to dull the farmers’ will.
Back and forth he dodged, with his mind cramping in effort.
It would rat work. There were too many of them and the necessity of abiding within the rules of Trantorian behavior was too constricting.
He felt hands on his arms. He was held.
He would have to interfere with at least a few of the minds. It would be unacceptable and his cancer would be destroyed. But his life – his very life – was at hazard.
How had this happened?
The meeting of the Table was not complete.
It was not the custom to wait if any Speaker were late. Nor, thought Shandess, was the Table in a mood to wait, in any case. Stor Gendibal was the youngest and far from sufficiently aware of the fact. He acted as though youth were in itself a virtue and age a matter of negligence on the part of those who should know better. Gendibal was not popular with the other Speakers. He was not, in point of fact, entirely popular with Shandess himself. But popularity was not at issue here.
Delora Delarmi broke in on his reverie. She was looking at him out of wide blue eyes, her round face – with its accustomed air of innocence and friendliness – masking an acute mind (to all but other Second Foundationers of her own rank) and ferocity of concentration.
She said, smiling, “First Speaker, do we wait longer?” (The meeting had not yet been formally called to order so that, strictly speaking, she could open the conversation, though another might have waited for Shandess to speak first by right of his title.)
Shandess looked at her disarmingly, despite the slight breach in courtesy. “Ordinarily we would not, Speaker Delarmi, but since the Table meets precisely to hear Speaker Gendibal, it is suitable to stretch the rules.”
“Where is he, First Speaker?”
“That, Speaker Delarmi, I do not know.”
Delarmi looked about the rectangle of faces. There was the First Speaker and what should have been eleven other Speakers. – Only twelve. Through five centuries, the Second Foundation had expanded its powers and its duties, but all attempts to expand the Table beyond twelve had failed.
Twelve it had been after Seldon’s death, when the second First Speaker (Seldon himself had always been considered as having been the first of the line) had established it, and twelve it still was.
Why twelve? That number divided itself easily into groups of identical size. It was small enough to consult as a whole and large enough to do work in subgroups. More would have been too unwieldy; fewer, too inflexible.
So went the explanations. In fact, no one knew why the number had been chosen – or why it should be immutable. But then, even the Second Foundation could find itself a slave to tradition.
It took Delarmi only a flashing moment to have her mind twiddle the matter as she looked from face to face, and mind to mind, and then, sardonically, at the empty seat – the junior seat.
She was satisfied that there was no sympathy at all with Gendibal. The young man, she had always felt, had all the charm of a centipede and was best treated as one. So far, only his unquestioned ability and talent had kept anyone from openly proposing trial for expulsion. (Only two Speakers had been impeached – but not convicted – in the hemimillennial history of the Second Foundation.)
The obvious contempt, however, of missing a meeting of the Table was worse than many an offense and Delarmi was pleased to sense that the mood for trial had moved forward rather more than a notch.
She said, “First Speaker, if you do not know the whereabouts of Speaker Gendibal, I would be pleased to tell you.”
“Who among us does not know that this young man” (she used no honorific in speaking of him, and it was something that everyone noted, of course) “finds business among the Hamish continually? What that business might be, I do not ask, but he is among them now and his concern with them is clearly important enough to take precedence over this Table.”
“I believe,” said another of the Speakers, “that he merely walks or jogs as a form of physical exercise.”
Delarmi smiled again. She enjoyed smiling. It cost her nothing. “The University, the Library, the Palace, and the entire region surrounding these are ours. It is small in comparison with the planet itself, but it contains room enough, I think, for physical exercise. – First Speaker, might we not begin?”
The First Speaker sighed inwardly. He had the full power to keep the Table waiting – or, indeed, to adjourn the meeting until a time when Gendibal was present.
No First Speaker could long function smoothly, however, without at least the passive support of the other Speakers and it was never wise to irritate them. Even Preem Palver had occasionally been forced into cajolery to get his way. – Besides, Gendibal’s absence was annoying, even to the First Speaker. The young Speaker might as well learn he was not a law unto himself.
And now, as First Speaker, he did speak first, saying, “We will begin. Speaker Gendibal has presented some startling deductions from Prime Radiant data. He believes that there is some organization that is working to. maintain the Seldon Plan more efficiently than we can and that it does so for its own purpose. We must, in his view therefore, learn more about it out of self-defense. You all have been informed of this, and this meeting is to allow you all a chance to question Speaker Gendibal, in order that we may come to some conclusion as to future policy.”
It was, in fact, even unnecessary to say this much. Shandess held his mind open, so they all knew. Speaking was a matter of courtesy.
Delarmi looked about swiftly. The other ten seemed content to allow her to take on the role of anti-Gendibal spokesperson. She said, “Yet Gendibal” (again the omission of the honorific) “does not know and cannot say what or who this other organization is.”
She phrased it unmistakably as a statement, which skirted the edge of rudeness. It was as much as to say: I can analyze your mind; you need not bother to explain.
The First Speaker recognized the rudeness and made the swift decision to ignore it. “The fact that Speaker Gendibal” (he punctiliously avoided the omission of the honorific and did not even point up the fact by stressing it) “does not know and cannot say what the other organization is, does not mean it does not exist. The people of the First Foundation, through most of their history, knew virtually nothing about us and, in fact, know next to nothing about us now. Do you question our existence?”
“It does not follow,” said Delarmi, “that because we are unknown and yet exist, that anything, in order to exist, need only be unknown.” And she laughed lightly.
“True enough. That is why Speaker Gendibal’s assertion must be examined most carefully. It is based on rigorous mathematical deduction, which I have gone over myself and which I urge you all to consider. It is” (he searched for a cast of mind that best expressed his views) “not unconvincing.”
“And this First Foundationer, Golan Trevize, who hovers in your mind but whom you do not mention?” (Another rudeness and this time the First Speaker flushed a bit.) “What of him?”
The First Speaker said, “It is Speaker Gendibal’s thought that this man, Trevize, is the tool – perhaps an unwitting one – of this organization and that we must not ignore him.”
“If,” said Delarmi, sitting back in her chair and pushing her graying hair backward and out of her eyes, “this organization – whatever it is – exists and if it is dangerously powerful in its mental capabilities and is so hidden, is it likely to be maneuvering so openly by way of someone as noticeable as an exiled Councilman of the First Foundation?”
The First Speaker said gravely, “One would think not. And yet I have noticed something that is most disquieting. I do not understand it.” Almost involuntarily he buried the thought in his mind, ashamed that others might see it.
Each of the Speakers noted the mental action and, as was rigorously required, respected the shame. Delarmi did, too, but she did so impatiently. She said, in accordance with the required formula, “May we request that you let us know your thoughts, since we understand and forgive any shame you may feel?”
The First Speaker said, “Like you, I do not see on what grounds one should suppose Councilman Trevize to be a tool of the other organization, or what purpose he could possibly serve if he were. Yet Speaker Gendibal seems sure of it, and one cannot ignore the possible value of intuition in anyone who has qualified for Speaker. I therefore attempted to apply the Plan to Trevize.”
“To a single person?” said one of the Speakers in low voiced surprise, and then indicated his contrition at once for having accompanied the question with a thought that was clearly the equivalent of: What a fool!
“To a single person,” said the First Speaker, “and you are right. What a fool I am! I know very well that the Plan cannot possibly apply to individuals, not even to small groups of individuals. Nevertheless, I was curious. I extrapolated the Interpersonal Intersections far past the reasonable limits, but I did it in sixteen different ways and chose a region rather than a point. I then made use of all the details we know about Trevize – a Councilman of the First Foundation does not go completely unnoticed – and of the Foundation’s Mayor. I then threw it all together, rather higgledy-piggledy, I’m afraid.” He paused.
” Well?” said Delarmi. “I gather you… – Were the results surprising?”
“There weren’t any results, as you might all expect,” said the First Speaker. “Nothing can be done with a single individual, and yet – and yet…”
“I have spent forty years analyzing results and I have grown used to obtaining a clear feeling of what the results would be before they were analyzed – and I have rarely been mistaken. In this case, even though there were no results, I developed the strong feeling that Gendibal was right and that Trevize should not be left to himself.”
“Why not, First Speaker?” asked Delarmi, clearly taken aback at the strong feeling in the First Speaker’s mind.
“I am ashamed,” said the First Speaker, “that I have let myself be tempted into using the Plan for a purpose for which it is not fit. I am further ashamed now that I am allowing myself to be influenced by something that is purely intuitive. – Yet I must, for I feel this very strongly. If Speaker Gendibal is right – if we are in danger from an unknown direction – then I feel that when the time comes that our affairs are at a crisis, it will be Trevize who will hold and play the deciding card.”
“On what basis do you feel this?” said Delarmi, shocked.
First Speaker Shandess looked about the table miserably, “I have no basis. The psychohistorical mathematics produces nothing, but as I watched the interplay of relationships, it seemed to me that Trevize is the key to everything. Attention must be paid to this young man.”
Gendibal knew that he would not get back in time to join the meeting of the Table. It might be that he would not get back at all.
He was held firmly and he tested desperately about him to see how he could best manage to force them to release him.
Rufirant stood before him now, exultant. “Be you ready now, scowler? Blow for blow, strike for strike, Hamish-fashion. Come then, art the smaller; strike then first.”
Gendibal said, “Will someone hold thee, then, as I be held?”
Rufirant said, “Let him go. Nah nah. His arms alane. Leave arms free, but hold legs strong. We want no dancing.”
Gendibal felt himself pinned to the ground. His arms were free.
“Strike, scowler,” said Rufirant. “Give us a blow.”
And then Gendibal’s probing mind found something that answered – indignation, a sense of injustice and pity. He had no choice; he would have to run the risk of outright strengthening and then improvising on the basis of There was no need! He had not touched this new mind, yet it reacted as he would have wished. Precisely.
He suddenly became aware of a small figure-stocky, with long, tangled black hair and arms thrust outward – careening madly into his field of view and pushing madly at the Hamish farmer.
The figure was that of a woman. Gendibal thought grimly that it was a measure of his tension and preoccupation that he had not noted this till his eyes told him so.
“Karoll Rufirant!” She shrieked at the farmer. “Art bully and coward! Strike for strike, Hamish-fashion? You be two times yon scowler’s size. You’ll be in more sore danger attacking me. Be there renown in pashing yon poor spalp? There be shame, I’m thinking. It will be a fair heap of finger-pointing and there’ll be full saying, ‘Yon be Rufirant, renowned baby-smasher.’ It’ll be laughter, I’m thinking, and no decent Hamishman will be drinking with you – and no decent Hamishwoman will be ought with you.”
Rufirant was trying to stem the torrent, warding off the blows she was aiming at him, attempting weakly to answer with a placating, “Now, Sura. Now, Sura.”
Gendibal was aware that hands no longer grasped him, that Rufirant no longer glared at him, that the minds of all were no longer concerned with him.
Sura was not concerned with him, either; her fury was concentrated solely on Rufirant. Gendibal, recovering, now looked to take measures to keep that fury alive and to strengthen the uneasy shame flooding Rufirant’s mind, and to do both so lightly and skillfully as to leave no mark. Again, there was no need.
The woman said, “All of you back-step. Look here. If it be not sufficient that this Karoll – heap be like giant to this starveling, there must be five or six more of you ally-friends to share in shame and go back to farm with glorious tale of dewing-do in baby-smashing. ‘I held the spalp’s arm,’ you’ll say, ‘and giant Rufirant-block pashed him in face when he was not to back-strike.’ And you’ll say, ‘But I held his foot, so give me also – glory.’ And Rufirant-chunk will say, ‘I could not have kiln on his lane, so my furrow-mates pinned him and, with help of all six, I gloried on him.'”
“But Sura,” said Rufirant, almost whining, “I told scowler he might have first-shrike.”
“And fearful you were of the mighty blows of his thin arms, not so, Rufirant thickhead. Come. Let him go where he be going, and the rest of you to your homes back-crawl, if so be those homes will still find a welcome-making for you. You had all best hope the grand deeds of this day be forgotten. And they will not be, for I be spreading them far-wide, if you do make me any the more fiercely raging than I be raging now.”
They trooped off quietly, heads hanging, not looking back.
Gendibal stared after them, then back at the woman. She was dressed in blouse and trousers, with roughmade shoes on her feet. Her face was wet with perspiration and she breathed heavily. Her nose was rather large, her breasts heavy (as best Gendibal could tell through the looseness of her blouse), and her bare arms muscular. – But then, the Hamishwomen worked in the fields beside their men.
She was looking at him sternly, arms akimbo. “Well, scowler, why be lagging? Go on to Place of Scowlers. Be you feared? Shall I company you?”
Gendibal could smell the perspiration on clothes that were clearly not freshly laundered, but under the circumstances it would be most discourteous to show any repulsion.
“I thank you, Miss Sura…”
“The name be Novi,” she said gruffly. “Sura Novi. You may say Novi. It be unneeded to moresay.”
“I thank you, Novi. You have been very helpful. You be welcome to company me, not for fear of mine but for company-pleasure in you.” And he bowed gracefully, as he might have bowed to one of the young women at the University.
Novi flushed, seemed uncertain, and then tried to imitate his gesture. “Pleasure – be mine,” she said, as though searching for words that would adequately express her pleasure and lend an air of culture.
They walked together. Gendibal knew well that each leisurely step made him the more unforgiveably late for the Table meeting, but by now he had had a chance to think on the significance of what had taken place and he was icily content to let the lateness grow.
The University buildings were looming ahead of them when Sura Novi stopped and said hesitantly, “Master Scowler?”
Apparently, Gendibal thought, as she approached what she called the “Place of Scowlers,” she grew mare polite. He had a momentary urge to say, “Address you not yon poor spalp?” – But that would embarrass her beyond reason.
“Be it very fine like and rich in Place of Scowlers?”
“It’s nice,” said Gendibal.
“I once dreamed I be in Place. And – and I be scowler.”
“Someday,” said Gendibal politely, “I’ll show it thee.”
Her look at him showed plainly she didn’t take it for mere politeness. She said, “I can write. I be taught by schoolmaster. If I write letter to thee,” she tried to make it casual, “how do I mark it so it come to thee?”
“Just say, ‘Speaker’s House, Apartment 27,’ and it will come to me. But I must go, Novi.”
He bowed again, and again she tried to imitate the action. They moved off in opposite directions and Gendibal promptly put her out of his mind. He thought instead of the Table meeting and, in particular, of Speaker Delora Delarmi. His thoughts were not gentle.