Foundation’s Edge CHAPTER EIGHT FARMWOMAN
Thd Speakers sat about the table, frozen in their mental shielding. It was as though all – with one accord – had hidden their minds to avoid irrevocable insult to the First Speaker after his statement concerning Trevize. Surreptitiously they glanced toward Delarmi and even that gave away much.
Of them all, she was best known for her irreverence – Even Gendibal paid more lip service to convention.
Delarmi was aware of the glances and she knew that she had no choice but to face up to this impossible situation. In fact, she did not want to duck the issue. In all the history of the Second Foundation, no First Speaker had ever been impeached for misanalysis (and behind the term, which she had invented as cover-up, was the unacknowledged incompetence). Such impeachment now became possible. She would not hang back.
“First Speaker!” she said softly, her thin, colorless lips more nearly invisible than usual in the general whiteness of her face. “You yourself say you have no basis for your opinion, that the psychohistorical mathematics show nothing Do you ask us to base a crucial decision on a mystical feeling?”
The First Speaker looked up, his forehead corrugated. He was aware of the universal shielding at the Table. He knew what it meant. He said coldly, “I do not hide the lack of evidence. I present you with nothing falsely. What I offer is the strongly intuitive feeling of a First Speaker, one with decades of experience who has spent nearly a lifetime in the close analysis of the Seldon Plan.” He looked about him with a proud rigidity he rarely displayed, and one by one the mental shields softened and dropped. Delarmi’s (when he turned to stare at her) was the last.
She said, with a disarming frankness that filled her mind as though nothing else had ever been there, “I accept your statement, of course, First Speaker. Nevertheless, I think you might perhaps want to reconsider. As you think about it now, having already expressed shame at having to fall back on intuition, would you wish your remarks to be stricken from the record if, in your judgment they should be…”
And Gendibal’s voice cut in. “What are these remarks that should. be stricken from the record?”
Every pair of eyes turned in unison. Had their shields not been up during the crucial moments before, they would have been aware of his approach long before he was at the door.
“All shields up a moment ago? All unaware of my entrance?” said Gendibal sardonically. “What a commonplace meeting of the Table we have here. Was no one on their guard for my coming? Or did you all fully expect that I would not arrive?”
This outburst was a flagrant violation of all standards. For Gendibal to arrive late was bad enough. For him to then enter unannounced was worse. For him to speak before the First Speaker had acknowledged his attendance was worst of all.
The First Speaker turned to him. All else was superceded. The question of discipline came first.
“Speaker Gendibal,” he said, “you are late. You arrive unannounced. You speak. Is there any reason why you should not be suspended from your seat for thirty days?”
“Of course. The move for suspension should not be considered until first we consider who it was that made it certain I would be late – and why.” Gendibal’s words were cool and measured, but his mind clothed his thoughts with anger and he did not care who sensed it.
Certainly Delarmi sensed it. She said forcefully, “This man is mad.”
“Mad? This woman is mad to say so. Or aware of guilt. – First Speaker, I address myself to you and move a point of personal privilege,” said Gendibal.
“Personal privilege of what nature, Speaker?”
“First Speaker, I accuse someone here of attempted murder.”
The room exploded as every Speaker rose to his or her feet in a simultaneous babble of words, expression, and mentality.
The First Speaker raised his arms. He cried, “The Speaker must have his chance to express his point of personal privilege.” He found himself forced to intensify his authority, mentally, in a manner most inappropriate to the place – yet there was no choice.
The babble quieted.
Gendibal waited unmoved until the silence was both audibly and mentally profound. He said, “On my way here, moving along a Hamish road at a distance and approaching at a speed that would have easily assured my arrival in good time for the meeting, I was stopped by several farmers and narrowly escaped being beaten, perhaps being killed. As it was, I was delayed and have but just arrived. May I point out, to begin with, that I know of no instance since the Great Sack that a Second Foundationer has been spoken to disrespectfully – let alone manhandled – by one of these Hamish people.”
“Nor do I,” said the First Speaker.
Delarmi cried out, “Second Foundationers do not habitually walk alone in Hamish territory! You invite this by doing so?”
“It is true,” said Gendibal, “that I habitually walk alone in Hamish territory. I have walked there hundreds of times in every direction. Yet I have never been accosted before. Others do not walk with the freedom that I do, but no one exiles himself from the world or imprisons himself in the University and no one has ever been accosted. I recall occasions when Delarmi…” and then, as though remembering the honorific too late, he deliberately converted it into a deadly insult. “I mean to say, I recall when Speakeress Delarmi was in Hamish territory, at one time or another, and yet she was not accosted.”
“Perhaps,” said Delarmi, with eyes widened into a glare, “because I did not speak to them first and because I maintained my distance. Because I behaved as though I deserved respect, I was accorded it.”
“Strange,” said Gendibal, “and I was about to say that it was because you presented a more formidable appearance than I did. After all, few dare approach you even here. – But tell me, why should it be that of all times for interference, the Hamish would choose this day to face me, when I am to attend an important meeting of the Table?”
“If it were not because of your behavior, then it must ‘have been chance,” said Delarmi. “I have not heard that even all of Seldon’s mathematics has removed the role of chance from the Galaxy – certainly not in the case of individual events. Or are you, too, speaking from intuitional inspiration?” (There was a soft mental sigh from one or two Speakers at this sideways thrust at the First Speaker.)
“It was not my behavior. It was not chance. It was deliberate interference,” said Gendibal.
“How can we know that?” asked the First Speaker gently. He could not help but soften toward Gendibal as a result of Delarmi’s last remark.
“My mind is open to you, First Speaker. I give you – and all the Table – my memory of events.”
The transfer took but a few moments. The First Speaker said, “Shocking! You behaved very well, Speaker, under circumstances of considerable pressure. I agree that the Hamish behavior is anomalous and warrants investigation. In the meantime, please join our meeting…”
“A moments” cut in Delarmi. “How certain are we that the Speaker’s account is accurate?”
Gendibal’s nostrils flared at the insult, but he retained his level composure. “My mind is open:”
“I have known open minds that were not open.”
“I have no doubt of that, Speaker,” said Gendibal, “since you, like the rest of us, must keep your own mind under inspection at all times. My mind, when open, however, is open.”
The First Speaker said, “Let us have no further…”
“A point of personal privilege, First Speaker, with apologies for the interruption,” said Delarmi.
“Personal privilege of what nature, Speaker?”
“Speaker Gendibal has accused one of us of attempted murder, presumably by instigating the farmer to attack him. As long as the accusation is not withdrawn, I must be viewed as a possible murderer, as would every person in this room – including you, First Speaker.”
The First Speaker said, “Would you withdraw the accusation, Speaker Gendibal?”
Gendibal took his seat and put his hands down upon its arms, gripping them tightly, as though taking ownership of it, and said, “I will do so, as soon as someone explains why a Hamish farmer, rallying several others, should deliberately set out to delay me on my way to this meeting.”
“A thousand reasons, perhaps,” said the First Speaker. “I repeat that this event will be investigated. Will you, for now, Speaker Gendibal, and in the interest of continuing the present discussion, withdraw your accusation?”
“I cannot, First Speaker. I spent long minutes trying, as delicately as I might, to search his mind for ways to alter his behavior without damage and failed. His mind lacked the give it should have had. His emotions were fixed, as though by an outside mind.”
Delarmi said with a sudden little smile, “And you think one of us was the outside mind? Might it not have been your mysterious organization that is competing with us, that is more powerful than we are?”
“It might,” said GendibaI.
“In that case, we – who are not members of this organization that only you know of – are not guilty and you should withdraw your accusation. Or can it be that you are accusing someone here of being under the control of this strange organization? Perhaps one of us here is not quite what he or she seems?”
“Perhaps,” said Gendibal stolidly, quite aware that Delarmi was feeding him rope with a noose at the end of it.
“It might seem,” said Delarmi, reaching the noose and preparing to tighten it, “that your dream of a secret, unknown, hidden, mysterious organization is a nightmare of paranoia. It would ft in with your paranoid fantasy that Hamish farmers are being influenced, that Speakers are under hidden control. I am willing, however, to follow this peculiar thought line of yours for a while longer. Which of us here, Speaker, do you think is under control? Might it be me?”
Gendibal said, “I would not think so, Speaker. If you were attempting to rid yourself of me in so indirect a manner, you would not so openly advertise your dislike for me.”
“A double-double-cross, perhaps?” said Delarmi. She was virtually purring. “That would be a common conclusion in a paranoid fantasy.”
“So it might be. You are more experienced in such matters than I. “”
Speaker Lestim Gianni interrupted hotly. “See here, Speaker Gendibal, if you are exonerating Speaker Delarmi, you are directing your accusations the more tightly at the rest of us. What grounds would any of us have to delay your presence at this meeting, let alone wish you dead?”
Gendibal answered quickly, as though he had been waiting for the question. “When I entered, the point under discussion was the striking of remarks from the record, remarks made by the First Speaker. I was the only Speaker not in a position to hear those remarks. Let me know what they were and I rather think I will tell you the motive for delaying me.”
The First Speaker said, “I had stated – and it was something to which Speaker Delarmi and others took serious exception – that I had decided, on the basis of intuition and of a most inappropriate use of psychohistorical mathematics, that the entire future of the Plan may rest on the exile of First Foundationer Golan Trevize:”
Gendibal said, “What other Speakers may think is up to them. For my part, I agree with this hypothesis. Trevize is the key. I find his sudden ejection by the First Foundation too curious to be innocent.”
Delarmi said, “Would you care to say, Speaker Gendibal, that Trevize is in the grip of this mystery organization – or that the people who exiled him are? Is perhaps everyone and everything in their control except you and the First Speaker – and me, whom you have declared to be uncontrolled?”
Gendibal said, “These ravings require no answer. Instead let me ask if there is any Speaker here who would like to express agreement on this matter with the First Speaker and myself? You have read, I presume, the mathematical treatment that I have, with the First Speaker’s approval, circulated among you.”
There was silence.
“I repeat my request,” said Gendibal. “Anyone?”
There was silence.
Gendibal said, “First Speaker, you now have the motive for delaying me.”
The First Speaker said, “State it explicitly.”
“You have expressed the need to deal with Trevize, with this First Foundationer. It represents an important initiative in policy and if the Speakers had read my treatment, they would have known in a general way what was in the wind. If, nevertheless, they had unanimously disagreed with you – unanimously – then, by traditional self-limitation, you would have been unable to go forward. If even one Speaker backed you, then you would be able to implement this new policy. I was the one Speaker who would back yon, as anyone who had read my treatment would know, and it was necessary that I must, at all costs, be kept from the Table. That trick proved nearly successful, but I am now here and I back the First Speaker. I agree with him and he can, in accordance with tradition, disregard the disagreement of the ten other Speakers.”
Delarmi struck the table with her fist. “The implication is that someone knew in advance what the First Speaker would advise, knew in advance that Speaker Gendibal would support it and that all the rest would not – that someone knew what he could not have known. There is the further implication that this initiative is not to the liking of Speaker Gendibal’s paranoia-inspired organization and that they are fighting to prevent it and that, therefore, one or more of us is under the control of that organization:”
“The implication is there,” agreed Gendibal. “Your analysis is masterly.”
“Whom do you accuse?” cried out Delarmi.
“No one. I call upon the First Speaker to take up the matter. It is clear that there is someone in our organization who is working against us. I suggest that everyone working for the Second Foundation should undergo a thorough mental analysis. Everyone, including the Speakers themselves. Even including myself – and the First Speaker.”
The meeting of the Table broke up in greater confusion and greater excitement than any on record.
And when the First Speaker finally spoke the phrase of adjournment, Gendibal – without speaking to anyone – made his way back to his room. He knew well that he had not one friend among the Speakers, that even whatever support the First Speaker could give him would be half-hearted at best.
He could not tell whether he feared for himself or for the entire Second Foundation. The taste of doom was sour in his mouth.
Gendibal did not sleep well. His waking thoughts and his sleeping dreams were alike engaged in quarreling with Delora Delarmi. In one passage of one dream, there was even a confusion between her and the Hamish farmer, Rufirant, so that Gendibal found himself facing an out-of-proportion Delarmi advancing upon him with enormous fists and a sweet smile that revealed needlelike teeth.
He finally woke, later than usual, with no sensation of having rested and with the buzzer on his night table in muted action. He turned over to bring his hand down upon the contact.
“Yes? What is it?”
“Speaker!” The voice was that of the floor proctor, rather less than suitably respectful. “A visitor wishes to speak to you:”
“A visitor?” Gendibal punched his appointment schedule and the screen showed nothing before noon. He pushed the time button; it was 8:31 a.m. He said peevishly, “Who in space and time is it?”
“Will not give a name, Speaker.” Then, with clear disapproval, “One of these Hamishers, Speaker. Arrived at your invitation.” The last sentence was said with even clearer disapproval.
“Let him wait in the reception room till I come down. It will take time.”
Gendibal did not hurry. Throughout the morning ablutions, he remained lost in thought. That someone was using the Hamish to hamper his movements made sense – but he would like to know who that someone was. And what was this new intrusion of the Hamish into his very quarters? A complicated trap of some sort?
How in the name of Seldon would a Hamish farmer get into the University? What reason could he advance? What reason could he really have?
For one fleeting moment, Gendibal wondered if he ought to arm himself. He decided against it almost at once, since he felt contemptuously certain of being able to control any single farmer on the University grounds without any danger to himself – and without any unacceptable marking of a Hamish mind.
Gendibal decided he had been too strongly affected by the incident with Karoll Rufirant the day before. – Was it the very farmer, by the way? no longer under the influence, perhaps – of whatever or whoever it washe might well have come to Gendibal to apologize for what he had done and with apprehension of punishment. – But how would Rufirant know where to go? Whom to approach?
Gendibal swung down the corridor resolutely and entered the waiting room. He stopped in astonishment, then fumed to the proctor, who was pretending to be busy in his glass-walled cubicle.
“Proctor, you did not say the visitor was a woman.”
The proctor said quietly, “Speaker, I said a Hamisher. You did not ask further.”
“Minimal information, Proctor? I must remember that as one of your characteristics.” (And he must check to see if the proctor was a
Delarmi appointee. And he must remember, from now on, to note the functionaries who surrounded him, “Lowlies” whom it was too easy to ignore from the height of his still-new Speakership.) “Are any of the conference rooms available?”
The proctor said, “Number 4 is the only one available, Speaker. It will be free for three hours.” He glanced briefly at the Hamishwoman, then at Gendibal, with blank innocence.
“We will use Number 4, Proctor, and I would advise you to mind your thoughts.” Gendibal struck, not gently, and the proctor’s shield closed far too slowly. Gendibal knew well it was beneath his dignity to manhandle a lesser mind, but a person who was incapable of shielding an unpleasant conjecture against a superior ought to learn not to indulge in one. The proctor would have a mild headache for a few hours. It was well deserved.
Her name did not spring immediately to mind and Gendibal was in no mood to delve deeper. She could scarcely expect him to remember, in any case.
He said peevishly, “You are…”
“I be Novi, Master Scowler,” she said in what was almost a gasp. “My previous be Sura, but I be called Novi plain.”
“Yes. Novi. We met yesterday; I remember now. I have not forgotten that you came to my defense.” He could not bring himself to use the Hamish accent on the very University grounds. “Now how did you get here?”
“Master, you said I might write letter. You said, it should say, ‘Speaker’s House, Apartment 27’ I self-bring it and I show the writing – my own writing, Master.” She said it with a kind of bashful pride. “They ask, ‘For whom be this writing?’ I heared your calling when you said it to that oafish bane-top, Rufirant. I say it be for Stor Gendibal, Master Scowler.”
“And they let you pass, Novi? Didn’t they ask to see the letter?”
“I be very frightened. I think maybe they feel gentle-sorry. I said, ‘Scowler Gendibal promise to show me Place of Scowlers,’ and they smile. One of them at gate-door say to other, ‘And that not all he be show her.’ And they show me where to go, and say not to go elseplace at all or I be thrown out moment-wise.”
Gendibal reddened faintly. By Seldon, if he felt the need for Hamish amusement, it would not be in so open a fashion and his choice would have been made more selectively. He looked at the Trantorian woman with an inward shake of his head.
She seemed quite young, younger perhaps than hard work had made her appear. She could not be more than twenty-five, at which age Hamishwomen were usually already married. She wore her dark hair in the braids that signified her to be unmarried – virginal, in fact – and he was not surprised. Her performance yesterday showed her to have enormous talent as a shrew and he doubted that a Hamishman could easily be found who would dare be yoked to her tongue and her ready fist. Nor was her appearance much of an attraction. Though she had gone to pains to make herself look presentable, her face was angular and plain, her hands red and knobby. What he could see of her figure seemed built for endurance rather than for grace.
Her lower lip began to tremble under his scrutiny. He could sense her embarrassment and fright quite plainly and felt pity. She had, indeed, been of use to him yesterday and that was what counted.
He said, in an attempt to be genial and soothing, “So you have come to see the – uh – Place of Scholars?”
She opened her dark eyes wide (they were rather fine) and said, “Master, be not ired with me, but I come to be scowler own-self.”
“You want to be a scholar?” Gendibal was thunderstruck. “My good woman…”
He paused. How on Trantor could one explain to a completely unsophisticated farmwoman the level of intelligence, training, and mental stamina required to be what Trantorians called a “scowler”?
But Sura Novi drove on fiercely. “I be a writer and a reader. I have read whole books to end and from beginning, too. And I have wish to be scowler. I do not wish to be farmer’s wife. I be no person for farm. I will not wed farmer or have farmer children.” She lifted her head and said proudly, “I be asked. Many times. I always say, ‘Nay! Politely, but ‘Nay. “‘
Gendibal could see plainly enough that she was lying. She had not been asked, but he kept his face straight. He said, “What will you do with your life if you do not marry?”
Novi brought her hand down on the table, palm flat. “I will be scowler. I not be farmwoman.”
“What if I cannot make you a scholar?”
“Then I be nothing and I wait to die. I be nothing in life if I be not a scowler.”
For a moment there was the impulse to search her mind and find out the extent of her motivation. But it would be wrong to do so. A Speaker did not amuse one’s self by rummaging through the helpless minds of others. There was a code to the science and technique of mental control – mentalics – as to other professions. Or there should be. (He was suddenly regretful he had struck out at the proctor.)
He said, “Why not be a farmwoman, Novi?” With a little manipulation, he could make her content with that and manipulate some Hamish lout into being happy to marry her – and she to marry him. It would do no harm. It would be a kindness. – But it was against the law and thus unthinkable.
She said, “I not be. A farmer is a clod. He works with earthlumps, and he becomes earth-lump. If I be farmwoman, I be earthlump, too. I will be timeless to read and write, and I will forget. My head,” she put her hand to her temple, “will grow sour and stale. No! A scowler be different. Thoughtful!” (She meant by the word, Gendibal noted, “intelligent” rather than “considerate.”)
“A scowler,” she said, “live with books and with – with – I forget what they be name – said.” She made a gesture as though she were making some sort of vague manipulations that would have meant nothing to Gendibal – if he did not have her mind radiations to guide him.
“Microfilms,” he said. “How do you know about microfilms?”
“In books, I read of many things,” she said proudly.
Gendibal could no longer fight off the desire to know more. This was an unusual Hamisher; he had never heard of one like this. The Hamish were never recruited, but if Novi were younger, say ten years old
What a waste? He would not disturb her; he would not disturb her in the least, but of what use was it to be a Speaker if one could not observe unusual minds and learn from them?
He said, “Novi, I want you to sit there for a moment. Be very quiet. Do not say anything. Do not think of saying anything. just think of falling asleep: Do you understand?”
Her fright returned at once, “Why must ‘ do this, Master?”
“Because I wish to think how you might become a scholar.”
After all, no matter what she had read, there was no possible way in which she could know what being a “scholar” truly meant. It was therefore necessary to find out what she thought a scholar was.
Very carefully and with infinite delicacy he probed her mind; sensing without actually touching-like placing one’s hand on a polished metal surface without leaving fingerprints. To her a scholar was someone who always read books. She had not the slightest idea of why one read books. For herself to be a scholar – the picture in her mind was that of doing the labor she knew – fetching, carrying, cooking, cleaning, following orders – but on the University grounds where books were available and where she would have time to read them and, very vaguely, “to become learned.” What it amounted to was that she wanted to be a servant – his servant.
Gendibal frowned. A Hamishwoman servant – and one who was plain, graceless, uneducated, barely literate. Unthinkable.
He would simply have to divert her. There would have to be some way of adjusting her desires to make her content to be a farmwoman, some way that would leave no mark, some way about which even Delarmi could not complain.
– Or had she been sent by Delarmi? Was all this a complicated plan to lure him into tampering with a Hamish mind, so that he might be caught and impeached?
Ridiculous. He was in danger of growing paranoid. Somewhere in the simple tendrils of her uncomplicated mind, a trickle of mental current needed to be diverted. It would only take a tiny push.
It was against the letter of the law, but it would do no harm and no one would ever notice.
Back. Back. Back.
Space! He had almost missed it!
Was he the victim of an illusion?
No! Now that his attention was drawn. to it, he could make it out clearly. There was the tiniest tendril disarrayed – an abnormal disarray. Yet it was so delicate, so ramification-free.
Gendibal emerged from . her mind. He said gently, “Novi.”
Her eyes focused. She said, “Yes, Master?”
Gendibal said, “You may work with me. I will make you a scholar…”
Joyfully, eyes blazing, she said, “Master…”
He detected it at once. She was going to throw herself at his feet. He put his hands on her shoulders and held her tightly. “Don’t move, Novi. Stay where you are. – Stay!”
He might have been talking to a half-trained animal. When he could see the order had penetrated, he let her go. He was conscious of the hard muscles along her upper arms.
He said, “If you are to be a scholar, you must behave like one. That means you will have to be always quiet, always soft-spoken, always doing what I tell you to do. And you must try to learn to talk as I do. You will also have to meet other scholars. Will you be afraid?”
“I be not afeared – afraid, Master, if you be with me:”
“I wilt be with you. But now, first – I must find you a room, arrange to have you assigned a lavatory, a place in the dining room, and clothes, too. You will have to wear clothes more suitable to a scholar, Novi.”
“These be all I…” she began miserably.
” “We will supply others.”
Clearly he would have to get a woman to arrange for a new supply of clothing for Novi. He would also need someone to teach the Hamisher the rudiments of personal hygiene. After ail, though the clothes she wore were probably her best and though she had obviously spruced herself up, she still had a distinct odor that was faintly unpleasant.
And he would have to make sure that the relationship between them was understood. It was always an open secret that the men (and women, too) of the Second Foundation made occasional forays among the Hamish for their pleasure. If there was no interference with Hamish minds in the process, no one dreamed of making a fuss about it. Gendibal himself had never indulged in this, and he liked to think it was because he felt no need for sex that might be coarser and more highly spiced than was available at the University. The women of the Second Foundation might be pallid in comparison to the Hamish, but they were clean and their skins were smooth.
But even if the matter were misunderstood and there were sniggers at a Speaker who net only turned to the Hamish but brought one into his quarters, he would have to endure the embarrassment. As it stood, this farmwoman, Sura Novi, was his key to victory in the inevitable forthcoming duel with Speaker Delarmi and the rest of the Table.
Gendibal did not see Novi again till after dinnertime, at which time she was brought to him by the woman to whom he had endlessly explained the situation – at least, the nonsexual character of the situation. She had understood – or, at least, did not dare show any indication of failure to understand, which was perhaps just as good.
Novi stood before him now, bashful, proud, embarrassed, triumphant – all at once, in an incongruous mixture.
He said, “You look very nice, Novi.”
The clothes they had given her fit surprisingly well and there was no question that she did not look at all ludicrous. Had they pinched in her waist? Lifted her breasts? Or had that just been not particularly noticeable in her farmwoman clothing?
Her buttocks were prominent, but not displeasingly so. Her face, of course, remained plain, but when the tan of outdoor life faded and she learned how to care for her complexion, it would not look downright ugly.
By the Old Empire, that woman did think Novi was to be his mistress. She had tried to make her beautiful for him.
And then he thought: Well, why not?
Novi would have to face the Speaker’s Table – and the more attractive she seemed, the more easily he would be able to get his point across.
It was with this thought that the message from the First Speaker reached him. It had the kind of appropriateness that was common in a mentalic society. It was called, more or less informally, the “Coincidence Effect.” If you think vaguely of someone when someone is thinking vaguely of you, there is a mutual, escalating stimulation which in a matter of seconds makes the two thoughts sharp, decisive, and, to all appearances, simultaneous.
It can be startling even to those who understand it intellectually, particularly if the preliminary vague thoughts were so dim – on one side or the other (or both) – as to have gone consciously unnoticed.
“I can’t be with you this evening, Novi,” said Gendibal. “I have scholar work to do. I will take you to your room. There will be some books there and you can practice your reading. I will show you how to use the signal if you need help with anything – and I will see you tomorrow.”
Gendibal said politely, “First Speaker?”
Shandess merely nodded. He looked dour and fully his age. He looked as though he were a man who did not drink, but who could use a stiff one. He said finally, “I ‘called’ you…”
“No messenger. I presumed from the direct ‘call’ that it was important.”
“It is. Your quarry – the First Foundationer – Trevize…”
“He is not coming to Trantor.”
Gendibal did not look surprised. “Why should he? The information we received was that he was leaving with a professor of ancient history who was seeking Earth.”
“Yes, the legendary Primal Planet. And that is why he should be coming to Trantor. After all, does the professor know where Earth is? Do you? Do I? Can we be sure it exists at all, or ever existed? Surely they would have to come to this Library to obtain the necessary information – if it were to be obtained anywhere. I have until this hour felt that the situation was not at crisis level – that the First Foundationer would come here and that we would, through him, learn what we need to know.”
“Which would certainly be the reason he is not allowed to come here.”
“But where is he going, then?”
“We have not yet found out, I see.”
The First Speaker said pettishly, “You seem calm about it.”
Gendibal said, “I wonder if it is not better so. You want him to come to Trantor to keep him safe and use him as a source of information. Will he not, however, prove a source of more important information, involving others still more important than himself, if he goes where he wants to go and does what he wants to do – provided we do not lose sight of him?”
“Not enough!” said the First Speaker. “you have persuaded me of the existence of this new enemy of ours and now I cannot rest.”
“Worse, I have persuaded myself that we must secure Trevize or we have lost everything. I cannot rid myself of the feeling that he – and nothing else – is the key.”
Gendibal said intensely, “Whatever happens, we will not lose, First Speaker. That would only have been possible, if these Anti-Mules, to use your phrase again, had continued to burrow beneath us unnoticed. But we know they are there now. We no longer work blind. At the next meeting of the Table, if we can work together, we shall begin the counterattack.”
The First Speaker said, “It was not the matter of Trevize that had me send out the call to you. The subject came up first only because it seemed to me a personal defeat. I had misanalyzed that aspect of the situation. I was wrong to place personal pique above general policy and I apologize. There is something else.”
“More serious, First Speaker?”
“More serious, Speaker Gendibal.” The First Speaker sighed and drummed his fingers on the desk while Gendibal stood patiently before it and waited.
The First Speaker finally said, in a mild way, as though that would ease the blow, “At an emergency meeting of the Table, initiated by Speaker Delarmi…”
“Without your consent, First Speaker?”
“For what she wanted, she needed the consent of only three other Speakers, not including myself. At the emergency meeting that was then called, you were impeached, Speaker Gendibal. You have been accused as being unworthy of the post of Speaker and you must be tried. This is the first time in over three centuries that a bill of impeachment has been carried out against a Speaker…”
Gendibal said, fighting to keep down any sign of anger, “Surely you did not vote for my impeachment yourself.”
“I did not, but I was alone. The rest of the Table was unanimous and the vote was ten to one for impeachment. The requirement for impeachment, as you know, is eight votes including the First Speaker – or ten without him.”
“But T was not present.”
“You would not have been able to vote.”
“I might have spoken in my defense.”
“Not at that stage. The precedents are few, but clear. Your defense will be at the trial, which will come as soon as possible, naturally.”
Gendibal bowed his head in thought. Then he said, “This does not concern me overmuch, First Speaker. Your initial instinct, I think, was right. The matter of Trevize takes precedence. May I suggest you delay the trial on that ground?”
The First Speaker held up his hand. “I don’t blame you for not understanding the situation, Speaker. Impeachment is so rare an event that I myself have been forced to look up the legal procedures involved. Nothing takes precedence. We are forced to move directly to the trial, postponing everything else.”
Gendibal placed his fists on the desk and leaned toward the First Speaker. “You are not serious?”
“It is the law.”
“The law can’t be allowed to stand in the way of a clear and present danger.”
“To the Table, Speaker Gendibal, you are the clear and present danger. – No, listen to me! The law that is involved is based on the conviction that nothing can be more important than the possibility of corruption or the misuse of power on the part of a Speaker.”
“But I am guilty of neither, First Speaker, and you knew it. This is a matter of a personal vendetta on the part of Speaker Delarmi. If there is misuse of power, it is on her part. My crime is that I have never labored to make myself popular – I admit that much – and I have paid too little attention to fools who are old enough to be senile but young enough to have power.”
“Like myself, Speaker?”
Gendibal sighed. “You see, I’ve done it again. I don’t refer to you, First Speaker. – Very well, then, let us have an instant trial, then. Let us have it tomorrow. Better yet, tonight. Let us get it over with and then pass on to the matter of Trevize. We dare not wait.”
The First Speaker said, “Speaker Gendibal. I don’t think you understand the situation. We have had impeachments before – not many, just two. Neither of those resulted in a conviction. You, however, will be convicted! You will then no longer be a member of the Table and you will no longer have a say in public policy. You will not, in fact, even have a vote at the annual meeting of the Assembly.”
“And you will not act to prevent that?
“I cannot. I will be voted down unanimously. I will then lie forced to resign, which I think is what the Speakers would like to see.
“And Delarmi will become First Speaker?”
“That is certainly a strong possibility.”
“But that must not be allowed to happen!”
“Exactly! Which is why I will have to vote for your conviction.”
Gendibal drew a deep breath. “I still demand an instant trial.”
“You must have time to prepare your defense.”
“What defense? They will listen to no defense. Instant trial!”
“The Table must have time to prepare their case.”
“They have no case and will want none. They have me convicted in their minds and will require nothing more. In fact, they would rather convict me tomorrow than the day after – and tonight rather than tomorrow. Put it to them.”
The First Speaker rose to his feet. They faced each other across the desk. The First Speaker said, “Why are you in such a hurry?”
“The matter of Trevize will not wait.”
“Once you are convicted and I am rendered feeble in the face of a Table united against me, what will have been accomplished?”
Gendibal said in an intense whisper, “Have no fears! Despite everything, I will not be convicted.”