Plans and Promises: Episode 18

Tsibola is making an unscheduled visit to Craig, to drop off a couple of books and make it clear that progress is expected. He's been a little ~~ disappointed ~~ in the slow rate of progress, considering what he's spending on Simes.

Craig has just finished his afternoon meditation, and is more than ready for the pot of hot coffee that's been delivered to him. It's cold out, and the room he's in is cold and drafty today. He looks up as Tsibola enters.

Craig: Ah, Ruthven. Good afternoon.

Tsibola: Craig. I brought some of the books you wanted.

Craig smiles gently.

Tsibola: What you see in these theologians I'll never know. A bunch of impractical fellows, it seems to me.

Craig: Faith is often impractical by worldly standards. That doesn't make it less important. Thank you for the books.

Tsibola: It's your time to waste, reading them. You can use them to prop up the short leg of that table, when you're done with them.

Craig reaches for the stack of volumes.

Craig: That's no way to treat a book. Any book.

Tsibola: Some books are worth respecting. Some are a waste of good paper.

Craig glances at the titles and nods happily.

Craig: These, I'm sure, are among the former.

Tsibola: Whatever suits your fancy.

Craig smiles genially.

Craig: Can I offer you some hot coffee, on this miserably cold day? Or rather, lukewarm coffee. It's been sitting a few minutes, I'm afraid.

Tsibola: It's better than nothing, and so is this fire.

Craig rises and goes to the side table to pour.

Craig: I have biscuits, as well.

Tsibola: No, thank you. They upset my digestion.

Craig nods and sets the coffee cup on a saucer.

Tsibola: Besides, I've got a Senate dinner tonight.

Craig: Here you go, then.

Tsibola reaches for the cup.

Craig crosses back towards where Tsibola has seated himself, and stumbles over a crease in the rug. He recovers, but the coffee cup goes flying, splashing the contents all over his guest.

Tsibola yelps as the coffee and cup land in his lap, upside down.

Tsibola looks down at his ruined pants in ~~ disgust ~~

Craig: I'm sorry, Ruthven. That was clumsy of me.

Craig grabs a napkin and dabs at the dribbling liquid.

Tsibola: I can't appear in public like this.

Tsibola pushes the hand aside.

Tsibola: Don't bother, it won't save my pants or make them presentable. My valet will be furious.

Craig studies his kinsman.

Craig: You're about my size. Would you like a pair of my pants?

Tsibola is aware that his kinsman lacks the money and position to visit the best tailors.

Tsibola: I suppose that would be best.

Tsibola realizes this sounds ungracious, and adds a stiff "thank you".

Craig's current wardrobe was entirely provided by Tsibola, so he assumes the clothes will be to the other man's taste.

Craig: Black, gray, or navy?

Craig rummages in his wardrobe as he speaks.

Tsibola: Black.

Craig: Here you go, then.

Tsibola takes the pants with a nod, then retires to the small bathroom to change.

Craig sets about mopping up the rug and upholstery as best he can.

Tsibola leaves the old pants on the floor (after all, he wasn't the one who spilled coffee on them) and rejoins Craig.

Tsibola: Leave it. The housekeeper will get it.

Craig, whose knee joints are a bit stiff in this cold weather, gladly desists.

Craig: Can I pour you a fresh cup?

Tsibola: No, thank you. I'll be leaving soon enough.

Craig nods and seats himself.

Craig: What news of the outside world, cousin?

Tsibola: It goes on, much as usual. The liberals are just as confused and irrational as ever, and the Tecton is just plain strange.

Craig: Strange?

Tsibola: I never can figure out what he's thinking, and he doesn't seem to share my difficulty.

Craig: Seruffin?

Tsibola: Yes. He's far too competent to cede him any advantage, too.

Craig: What's he done now?

Tsibola: More of the usual. I must say, I'm glad I went through that other fellow to find Hajene D'zoll. I would not want Seruffin to be able to hold you over my head.

Craig: If locking me up is an embarrassment to you, cousin, you could always let me go.

Tsibola: If you continue to make so little progress with Hajene D'zoll, that's not likely to happen.

Tsibola stands.

Tsibola: In any case, Craig, I had better go. I have things to take care of before the state dinner tonight.

Craig: Very well, then, cousin. Good afternoon. And thank you again for the books.

Craig rises to bid his kinsman farewell, like a proper gentleman.

Tsibola takes his leave, already thinking through what he must accomplish, and tells the servant who lets him out that there is a mess to clean up.

Craig, whose own cup of coffee is already making itself felt, heads for the bathroom. In the middle of the floor are Tsibola's ruined pants.

Craig picks up the wad of soggy fabric, and as he does, something jingles in one of the pockets. He investigates, and finds a heavy keyring and a substantial walletful of cash.

Craig: Praise be to God, Who watches over Your servant.

Craig pockets the cash and the keys. He puts on a couple of warm sweaters, then bundles the rest of his clothes together and fastens the bundle together with his spare belt. As an afterthought, he adds the little stack of books.

Craig makes a mental note of the amount of cash in the wallet. To Ruthven, such an amount is trivial, but Craig still intends to pay it back eventually. He puts on his coat.

Craig listens carefully at the door of his room. As far as he knows, at this time of day, there's only one servant and one guard on duty. He hears nobody nearby. He tries the keys until he finds the right one to unlock his room. Then, with his shoes in his hand, he quietly makes his way down the stairs.

Craig hears voices in the kitchen. Quickly, he puts on his shoes and lets himself out of the house. As an afterthought, he leaves the keyring on the hall rug just before he closes the door. He has no further use for any of those keys, but Ruthven would undoubtedly be greatly inconvenienced by having to replace all of them. He strides out to the street, looking casual and unconcerned, and makes his escape.

Tsibola is cornered by an emergency as soon as he shows his head in his office, and thus doesn't discover that his keys and wallet are missing until he is getting ready to go to the state dinner: far too late.

Craig, by that time, is comfortably settled in on a train headed for the border. He doesn't remember, until he's drifting off to sleep, that he'd promised Ruthven he wouldn't try to escape.

Craig spends the rest of the night on his knees, in his tiny train compartment, in prayer, begging for some sign that the keyring was God's gift, and not the Devil's temptation.

Craig receives his sign two days later at the border, when his zlinnably low field means the border officials don't even bother to enter his compartment and he crosses into Nivet effortlessly. God is surely on his side.

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