Tsibola is in his study, ~~ energized ~~ by Dr. Young's verdict that he can return to work, on a limited basis.
Tsibola hasn't yet been invited back to the Senate by his fellow conservatives, but considers that a far lesser challenge than getting a clean bill of health. He knows where all the bodies are buried, after all, and few would openly oppose him.
Bernice comes in, bringing him a cup of tea and the afternoon mail.
Bernice: Here's the mail, Ruthven, and some peppermint tea.
Tsibola: Thank you, my dear.
Bernice had a quick look over the return addresses and doesn't anticipate anything too alarming, but got him some soothing tea just in case.
Tsibola: You've been very patient with me. I know I'm a terrible patient.
Bernice smiles at him.
Bernice: Oh, yes.
Tsibola gives his wife his much-practiced "naughty but repentant little boy" smile.
Tsibola: Ah, well. Dr. Young says I can start going back to the Senate soon, so you will have me off your hands at last.
Bernice: If it looks like you're overdoing it there, I may have to come along and supervise!
Tsibola: My dear, don't you think that would be unfair to the poor news reporters? It would cow the liberals so badly to be facing both of us that there wouldn't be any good debates for them to report.
Bernice: Well, then, you'll just have to make sure I have no cause to do it.
Rundle nods to the servant who let him in, straightens his collar, then knocks on the frame of the open study door.
Tsibola looks up in some ~~ surprise ~~.
Bernice turns, and is not pleased to see him.
Tsibola: Why, Rundle, what brings you so far from the Senate?
Rundle: Visiting my ailing colleague, of course, Ruthven. You're looking much improved. And Bernice, good afternoon.
Rundle has always believed in covering the proprieties before going for the jugular.
Bernice: Good afternoon, Senator.
Rundle: Your friends will be happy to know that you're up and about once more.
Rundle no longer counts himself among their number, if he ever did.
Tsibola: More than that. The doctor gave me a clean bill of health this morning.
Tsibola is stretching the truth a bit, since he's still supposed to take it easy.
Bernice wouldn't call it anything like a clean bill of health, herself, but isn't going to say anything here and now.
Rundle: Excellent, excellent. So you're ready to return to doing your best for our party?
Rundle's joviality is patently false.
Tsibola: Yes. I was thinking of visiting the Senate tomorrow. The corn bill is being debated.
Rundle: So it is, so it is. It's in good hands, however; you needn't fret yourself about it.
Tsibola: Perhaps not, but I do owe it to my constituents to look after their interests personally, now that I'm able to again.
Rundle: Which leads us to the reason for my visit.
Tsibola gestures for Rundle to take a seat, and for the waiting servant to offer refreshments.
Rundle settles onto the chair but declines a drink.
Bernice sits in a position that makes it clear she's not going to let Rundle cause her or her husband any trouble.
Rundle: There's been considerable discussion in the party about what your best role would be henceforward, given your changed circumstances.
Tsibola is not particularly worried, having anticipated that some of his fellow conservatives would not be happy to have him resume power.
Tsibola: My circumstances are not as changed as all that. The polls show that my constituents are inclined to be understanding, for the most part.
Rundle: Many of our colleagues would tend to agree. Within the party, those of us who see your effectiveness irretrievably diminished are admittedly in the minority.
Tsibola: I'm glad to hear that.
Rundle: It's a sad thing, Ruthven, that the party's good old-fashioned core is no longer so large as it once was.
Tsibola: All the more reason for me to resume my place in it.
Rundle: And if it were up to our side of the aisle alone, that is exactly what you would be doing.
Tsibola: The liberals may not like me, but they can't prevent a duly elected Senator from performing his duties.
Rundle: No, they can't, but they have come up with a very interesting idea for our consideration.
Rundle: You do know that the position of ambassador to Nivet is about to become vacant?
Tsibola: Yes. I suppose they'll try to put in another Sime-lover.
Rundle: They know we have enough votes to shoot down any nominee of that sort.
Tsibola: So how many tries do you think it will take this time, before they nominate someone more mainstream?
Rundle: Actually, they've come up with a very interesting compromise candidate.
Tsibola: You intrigue me.
Rundle: You, Ruthven. They want to nominate you.
Bernice snorts, in a dignified manner, of course.
Bernice: That's absurd.
Rundle: From their side, perhaps. To our side, it would be a coup, to have one of our people in the post.
Tsibola: They can't possibly believe that I'd promote their policies. I expect they're bluffing.
Rundle: If they are, then this is our chance to call them on it. If not, you could give them a most excellent surprise.
Tsibola: At the cost of losing my Senate seat.
Rundle: Need I point out yet again that your effectiveness there will be substantially reduced now?
Tsibola: Not so much as all that.
Bernice: I'm sure there are many others things Ruthven can do if he chooses to leave the Senate that don't involve... exile among Simes.
Rundle: Think of it instead, Bernice, as having ready access to the sort of physician your husband now needs, without having to pussyfoot around about it.
Rundle gives a sinister smile.
Rundle: Or will you choose to die, Ruthven, the next time you have to choose between principle and survival? Somehow, I don't think so.
Bernice is outraged, and hopes that Ruthven can stay calmer than she feels.
Tsibola: Rundle, don't question my ethics, unless you wish an equal inquiry into your excessive wagering, despite your very public promises to stay away from the racetracks.
Rundle blinks, but otherwise shows no reaction.
Tsibola: You can't keep to your avowed principles, even when that involves nothing more than giving up a momentary pleasure. So don't play the moralist with me.
Rundle: I wasn't impugning your ethics; I was simply pointing out practical necessity. Surely you know that one heart attack is almost always followed by others?
Tsibola: I'm aware that I have health issues -- and what man my age doesn't?
Rundle: My point exactly. The next election isn't all that far away, and under the circumstances, you might well find yourself rotated out in favor of a younger, healthier candidate. On the other hand, the post of Ambassador is usually given to someone on the brink of retirement, and is designed to be less physically stressful.
Rundle: This is your chance to remain useful, Ruthven, and an asset to the party. Or would you rather sit by the fire and write your memoirs?
Tsibola: What could I hope to accomplish, confined to the embassy? And if you think I'd do what they'd require for me to move about freely, think again.
Rundle: As the Ambassador, you and your family are exempt from their donation requirements. You are entitled to an escort, whenever you wish to leave the embassy.
Tsibola: Or rather, whenever it's convenient for them to get around to providing one for me.
Rundle: They're obligated to provide. Surely you know how to enforce a contractual obligation?
Tsibola: Don't be tiresome. They can legitimately demand reasonable notice. And sometimes, it's better not to have an official witness to everything one does.
Bernice: You aren't taking this ridiculous proposal seriously, are you, Ruthven?
Tsibola: No, Bernice. I wouldn't ask that of you.
Bernice: Nor of yourself!
Rundle: It's the best you can hope for, Ruthven. And I can assure you there'll be no difficulty with the confirmation. This is your chance to still do some real good.
Tsibola: Rundle, I'm afraid that we have a somewhat different view of my prospects in the Senate. As you said, your views are very much in the minority, even among our party.
Rundle: But even your friends are concerned about your future, Ruthven.
Rundle makes no pretence of being one of those friends. Men like him don't have friends; they only have allies. Temporary allies.
Tsibola: Then I must endeavor to show them that their concern, while appreciated, is misplaced.
Rundle: And when you have your next heart attack?
Tsibola: Dr. Young assures me that with care, that possibility can be minimized.
Rundle: This Dr. Young is obviously an optimist.
Tsibola: He's an excellent cardiac specialist, and knows far more about my medical condition than you do.
Rundle: According to what I've heard, you were actually dead for a few seconds. Your heart stopped.
Tsibola: I'm hardly dead, Rundle, or you wouldn't be trying to ship me off to Simeland as an ambassador.
Bernice: You should have more sense than to believe every silly rumor you hear.
Rundle: True. But can you afford the stress of facing your erstwhile physician across the negotiating table and telling him no?
Tsibola is starting to get ~~ seriously annoyed ~~ at Rundle's attitude.
Rundle: You're damaged goods, Ruthven. Make the best of what's left to you.
Tsibola: I've had more success at handling Seruffin than anyone else can boast of, Rundle. I doubt you could do half as well.
Tsibola ~~ winces ~~ and puts a hand momentarily to his chest as he is surprised by a twinge of pain.
Rundle: I'm not a neg-- Ruthven?
Bernice: I believe we've had enough of your offensive behavior, Senator Rundle. You've delivered your message. Please leave us.
Tsibola works to keep his breathing even.
Bernice goes over to her husband and puts a hand on his shoulder.
Tsibola: I'm... all right, Bernice.
Rundle gives him a skeptical look.
Bernice: You may be, but I decline to listen to more of this man's intentional rudeness. Go, Senator.
Bernice does her best to seem calm and regal, but she's quite worried about her husband.
Rundle: Do consider what I've said, Ruthven. I can let myself out.
Rundle stands, dusts imaginary lint from his jacket, and leaves, letting Tsibola's own body underline his case for him.
Tsibola gives a sigh of relief.
Tsibola: Don't let his lack of manners upset you, Bernice.
Bernice: He's disgusting.
Tsibola: He is. Fortunately, I don't have to deal with him all that often. Frankly, I prefer Seruffin.
Bernice: Seruffin has manners.
Tsibola: Rundle has his uses.
Bernice: Delivering messages no one else would, I imagine. Or is he speaking on his own behalf here?
Tsibola: It's a little hard to tell. Right now, I'm going on the assumption that he's speaking for the small minority who want me gone. And pretending he has more general backing, in hopes of tricking me into letting myself be railroaded by the liberals.
Bernice is studying her husband. He seems to have recovered from this little episode, but she'll be sure to tell the doctor about it.
Bernice: Ambassador to Nivet! It's an insult.
Tsibola: It would be a very clever way to get me conveniently sequestered, away from the center of power.
Bernice: I'm sure there are far better things you can do for the party if you decide not to stand for election again. They'd be fools to waste your experience and expertise.
Tsibola: So they would, and unlike Rundle, most of our party are not fools.
Tsibola tries hard to control his expression as another twinge tightens his chest, then gradually fades away.
Bernice doesn't miss it.
Bernice: Do you think you should lie down a bit before getting back to your work?
Tsibola is stubborn, but he is also a realist.
Tsibola: Perhaps I should.
Bernice: I could do with a bit of rest myself, after that. I think I'll join you.
Tsibola: Any time, my dear.
Tsibola stands carefully, then smiles at the relative absence of pain, and offers his wife an arm.