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Chapter 19
Cleon I had finished dinner, which, unfortunately, had been a formal state affair. It meant he had to spend time talking to various officials--not one of whom he knew or recognized--in set phrases designed to give each one his stroke and so activate his loyalty to the crown. It also meant that his food reached him but lukewarm and had cooled still further before he could eat it. There had to be some way of avoiding that. Eat first, perhaps, on his own or with one or two close intimates with whom he could relax and then attend a formal dinner at which he could merely be served an imported pear. He loved pears. But would that offend the guests who would take the Emperors refusal to eat with them as a studied insult.
His wife, of course, was useless in this respect, for her presence would but further exacerbate his unhappiness. He had married her because she was a member of a powerful dissident family who could be expected to mute their dissidence as a result of the union, though Cleon devoutly hoped that she, at least, would not do so. He was perfectly content to have her live her own life in her own quarters except for the necessary efforts to initiate an heir, for, to tell the truth, he didnt like her. And now that an heir had come, he could ignore her completely.
He chewed at one of a handful of nuts he had pocketed from the table on leaving and said, "Demerzel!"
Demerzel always appeared at once when Cleon called. Whether he hovered constantly in earshot at the door or he drew close because the instinct of subservience somehow alerted him to a possible call in a few minutes, he did appear and that, Cleon thought idly, was the important thing. Of course, there were those times when Demerzel had to be away on Imperial business. Cleon always hated those absences. They made him uneasy.
"What happened to that mathematician? I forget his name."
Demerzel, who surely knew the man the Emperor had in mind, but who perhaps wanted to study how much the Emperor remembered, said, "What mathematician is it that you have in mind, Sire?"
Cleon waved an impatient hand. "The fortune-teller. The one who came to see me."
"The one we sent for?"
"Well, sent for, then. He did come to see me. You were going to take care of the matter, as I recall. Have you?"
Demerzel cleared his throat. "Sire, I have tried to."
"Ah! That means you have failed, doesnt it?" In a way, Cleon felt pleased. Demerzel was the only one of his Ministers who made no bones of failure. The others never admitted failure, and since failure was nevertheless common, it became difficult to correct. Perhaps Demerzel could afford to be more honest because he failed so rarely. If it werent for Demerzel, Cleon thought sadly, he might never know what honesty sounded like. Perhaps no Emperor ever knew and perhaps that was one of the reasons that the Empire-- He pulled his thoughts away and, suddenly nettled at the others silence and wanting an admission, since he had just admired Demerzels honesty in his mind, said sharply, "Well, you have failed, havent you?"
Demerzel did not flinch. "Sire, I have failed in part. I felt that to have him here on Trantor where things are--difficult might present us with problems. It was easy to consider that he might be more conveniently placed on his home planet. He was planning to return to that home planet the next day, but there was always the chance of complications--of his deciding to remain on Trantor--so I arranged to have two young alley men place him on his plane that very day."
"Do you know alley men, Demerzel?" Cleon was amused.
"It is important, Sire, to be able to reach many kinds of people, for each type has its own variety of use--alley men not the least. As it happens, they did not succeed."
"And w............
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