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Chapter 20
Hari Seldon sat back in his chair in the alcove that had been assigned to him through Dors Venabilis intervention. He was dissatisfied. As a matter of fact, although that was the expression he used in his mind, he knew that it was a gross underestimation of his feelings. He was not simply dissatisfied, he was furious--all the more so because he wasnt sure what it was he was furious about. Was it about the histories? The writers and compilers of histories? The worlds and people that made the histories? Whatever the target of his fury, it didnt really matter. What counted was that his notes were useless, his new knowledge was useless, everything was useless. He had been at the University now for almost six weeks. He had managed to find a computer outlet at the very start and with it had begun work--without instruction, but using the instincts he had developed over a number of years of mathematical labors. It had been slow and halting, but there was a certain pleasure in gradually determining the routes by which he could get his questions answered.
Then came the week of instruction with Dors, which had taught him several dozen shortcuts and had brought with it two sets of embarrassments. The first set included the sidelong glances he received from the undergraduates, who seemed contemptuously aware of his greater age and who were disposed to frown a bit at Dorss constant use of the honorific "Doctor" in addressing him. "I dont want them to think," she said, "that youre some backward perpetual student taking remedial history."
"But surely youve established the point. Surely, a mere Seldon is sufficient now."
"No," Dors said and smiled suddenly. "Besides, I like to call you Dr. Seldon. I like the way you look uncomfortable each time."
"You have a peculiar sense of sadistic humor."
"Would you deprive me?"
For some reason, that made him laugh. Surely, the natural reaction would have been to deny sadism. Somehow he found it pleasant that she accepted the ball of conversation and fired it back. The thought led to a natural question. "Do you play tennis here at the University?"
"We have courts, but I dont play."
"Good. Ill teach you. And when I do, Ill call you Professor Venabili."
"Thats what you call me in class anyway."
"Youll be surprised how ridiculous it will sound on the tennis court."
"I may get to like it."
"In that case, I will try to find what else you might get to like."
"I see you have a peculiar sense of salacious humor."
She had put that ball in that spot deliberately and he said, "Would you deprive me?"
She smiled and later did surprisingly well on the tennis court.
"Are you sure you never played tennis?" he said, puffing, after one session.
"Positive," she said.
The other set of embarrassments was more private. He learned the necessary techniques of historical research and then burned--in private--at his earlier attempts to make use of the computers memory. It was simply an entirely different mind-set from that used in mathematics. It was equally logical, he supposed, since it could be used, consistently and without error, to move in whatever direction he wanted to, but it was a substantially different brand of logic from that to which he was accustomed.
But with or without instructions, whether he stumbled or moved in swiftly, he simply didnt get any results.
His annoyance made itself felt on the tennis court. Dors quickly reached the stage where it was no longer necessary to lob easy balls at her to give her time to judge direction and distance. That made it easy to forget that she was just a beginner and he expressed his anger in his swing, firing the ball back at her as though it were a laser beam made solid.
She came trotting up to the net and said, "I can understand your wanting to kill me, since it must annoy you to watch me miss the shots so often. How is it, though, that you managed to miss my head by about three centimet............
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