Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Science Fiction > Foundation's Edge > CHAPTER EIGHT FARMWOMAN
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】
THE 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 8:3i 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 ge............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved