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Chapter 42

The Sisters returned about two hours after Hari and Dors had finished lunch. They were smiling, both of them, and Raindrop Forty-Three, the graver one, held up a gray kirtle for Dorss inspection.
"It is very attractive," said Dors, smiling widely and nodding her head with a certain sincerity. "I like the clever embroidery here."
"It is nothing," twittered Raindrop Forty-Five. "It is one of my old things and it wont fit very well, for you are taller than I am. But it will do for a while and we will take you out to the very best kirtlery to get a few that will fit you and your tastes perfectly. You will see."
Raindrop Forty-Three, smiling a little nervously but saying nothing and keeping her eyes fixed on the ground, handed a white kirtle to Dors. It was folded neatly. Dors did not attempt to unfold it, but passed it on to Seldon.
"From the color I should say its yours, Hari."
"Presumably," said Seldon, "but give it back. She did not give it to me."
"Oh, Hari," mouthed Dors, shaking her head slightly.
"No," said Seldon firmly. "She did not give it to me. Give it back to her and Ill wait for her to give it to me."
Dors hesitated, then made a half-hearted attempt to pass the kirtle back to Raindrop Forty-Three.
The Sister put her hands behind her back and moved away, all life seeming to drain from her face. Raindrop Forty-Five stole a glance at Seldon, a very quick one, then took a quick step toward Raindrop Forty-Three and put her arms about her.
Dors said, "Come, Hari, Im sure that Sisters are not permitted to talk to men who are not related to them. Whats the use of making her miserable? She cant help it."
"I dont believe it," said Seldon harshly. "If there is such a rule, it applies only to Brothers. I doubt very much that shes ever met a tribesman before."
Dors said to Raindrop Forty-Three in a soft voice, "Have you ever met a tribesman before, Sister, or a tribeswoman?"
A long hesitation and then a slow negative shake of the head.
Seldon threw out his arms. "Well, there you are. If there is a rule of silence, it applies only to the Brothers. Would they have sent these young women--these Sisters--to deal with us if there was any rule against speaking to tribesmen?"
"It might be, Hari, that they were meant to speak only to me and I to you."
"Nonsense. I dont believe it and I wont believe it. I am not merely a tribesman, I am an honored guest in Mycogen, asked to be treated as such by Chetter Hummin and escorted here by Sunmaster Fourteen himself. I will not be treated as though I do not exist. I will be in communication with Sunmaster Fourteen and I will complain bitterly."
Raindrop Forty-Five began to sob and Raindrop Forty-Three, retaining her comparative impassivity, nevertheless flushed faintly. Dors made as though to appeal to Seldon once again, but he stopped her with a brief and angry outward thrust of his right arm and then stared gloweringly at Raindrop Forty-Three.
And finally she spoke and did not twitter. Rather, her voice trembled hoarsely, as though she had to force it to sound in the direction of a male being and was doing so against all her instincts and desires. "You must not complain of us, tribesman. That would be unjust. You force me to break the custom of our people. What do you want of me?"
Seldon smiled disarmingly at once and held out his hand. "The garment you brought me. The kirtle."
Silently, she stretched out her arm and deposi............
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