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´╗┐Title: The Way of Decision
Author: Pease, M. C.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Way of Decision" ***

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  Illustration: Tom meeting a prospective new group member.

     _History records numerous small colonies, based upon unusual ideas
     of the family unit and social group. Most of these have failed in
     practice, but usually because they were based upon idealistic
     notions which had little to do with the economic or social
     necessities of their times. But what of a new theory of the family
     and social unit which is designed to conform with actual
     conditions? And what is such a group likely to face when a new
     member, a person without any understanding of the actual
     conditions, has to be accepted as a member?_



  _The Way Of Decision_

  _by_ M. C. PEASE


Tom Vord sat on the porch of his clan's house with his feet on the
railing. Across the valley, he could hear the muted roar of the commuter
track that led south to New Haven; but all he could see were the
sprawling rows of private houses that strung along the belt. And behind
them, more isolated from each other, the larger structures of the homes
of other clans. The bright greenness of spring lay over the land, and it
was fresh and sparkling. A typical suburban scene in this year of 2013,
Tom thought. Even the mixture of private houses and clan was symbolic of
the time. And in a way, symbolic also of the problem he had.

Tom's face was brooding. His was a nature not easily satisfied, or
content with half-solutions--and he took the problems of the clan
seriously. Partly as a consequence of this, but also because he had the
self-control to avoid crises, he was the unacknowledged leader of the
clan, and its chief administrator. His age was hard to guess. He was not
old; his face was unlined, and his hair both present and dark; his eyes
showed an enthusiasm that indicated youth. And yet he was not young;
there was a maturity in his glance, an acceptance in his attitude that
made him seem older than he was. And so he sat there, relaxed, idly
looking out over the countryside, even as he wondered if the present
crisis was enough to disrupt the clan.

Below him Ricky Vord came toiling up the steps to the house. Ricky was
the opposite of Tom. Young and intense, with a devil-may-care attitude,
he was the born salesman. His enthusiasms came bubbling out, and he had
the ability to carry with him anyone who might object. And if he did not
have the deepness of thought fully to understand the implications of all
that he said or did, he was the better salesman for it.

With a wave, Ricky entered the house. There were muffled sounds from the
interior, and it was not for several minutes that the boy appeared on
the porch. Then it was with two tall glasses in his hands. "I consider
this Tom Collins weather," he said. "I suspect you do, too, only you're
too lazy to mix your own." He handed Tom the second drink and sat down
beside him.

"Possibly," Tom said with a smile. "I certainly won't refuse. What do
you know?"

"A lot of things," Ricky answered. He took a long drink. "Ah, that's
good," he said. "You know, I been down talking to Graves again. We got
that thing in the bag if we want it." His voice was off-hand,
deliberately so, Tom knew.

"We have?" Tom's voice also was careful. "Do you mean with or without
the girl?"

"Well ... You can't blame Graves for wanting to see his daughter
settled. He figures that if she gets into a clan, maybe she'll calm
down. And he could be right. Maybe she will; who knows? After all, she
does want to come in. That must mean something."

"Sure, it means something," Tom agreed, his voice slightly sardonic. "It
means she wants to collect a whole clan. And as far as I am concerned,
she's welcome to it--as long as it isn't the Vord one."

"Look," Ricky swung up onto the edge of his chair, turning to face Tom
and leaning towards him, "you're only seeing one side of this. You think
Marcia's just looking for a thrill, for something new, and
different--and that that's why she wants to join us. Maybe it is; I
won't deny it. I don't happen to think that's the reason, but it could
be. But what if it is? Why do we have to rear back and stand on our
dignity? Why can't we take her in, let her have her thrill, and then get
out. If a thrill is all she's looking for, she'll get out quick enough.
Unless she gets converted--that could happen, too. What do we lose?

"And look what we lose if we do sit blindly on our dignity," he went on
with a rush. "The job at Midland's running out. Times are tough. There's
not many openings for a bunch of wiring-assemblers. As it stands now,
the choice is between Eltron Electric and Universal. Universal we can
get with no strings, except that we have to go to Detroit--and except
that it doesn't pay very well.

"Eltron, on the other hand, is Graves; and Graves doesn't like the
clans. He's never had anything to do with them. A Free-Laborite from way
back. Only he's got a daughter, Marcia; and Marcia, bless her sweet
little soul, wants to join a clan. So the old man's willing to take
another look at things; he'll give us a contract when Marcia's a Vord,
and it'll be a good contract. In fact, he'll damn near let us write it.
What can we lose?"

"You think we should take her in," Tom said.

"Yes I do," Ricky answered. "Otherwise, we have to pull up stakes and
move, and that job out at Universal is no picnic. We won't do much more
than break even on it, and maybe it'll only last a few months; it's that
kind of a thing."


Tom smiled suddenly. "You are not quite consistent," he said. "You are
worrying about Universal being temporary. And yet you brush aside the
fact that Marcia may pull out. What would happen to us at Eltron if she
did?"

"I don't know," Ricky answered, unabashed. "Maybe by that time we'd have
Graves convinced. Most guys who run companies get to like the idea of
contracting the clans, when they give it a try."

"They should," Tom grunted. "It's the answer to their labor problems."

"Sure," Ricky answered. "Only there are still guys like Graves around
who don't see it. His pet topic of conversation is the Iltor Clan; he
mentions it every time anyone suggests that the clans bring stability."

"But the Iltor clan was wrong from the first," Tom said. "The guys who
put it together were unstable themselves; they tried to make the clan a
small-size empire of their own--almost a bunch of slaves.

"So, eventually, they had a revolt. It had gotten to be a large outfit,
since they were willing to accept anybody who would be a slave--and
there are always lots of those--so the revolt was extensive and bloody.
That's not typical of the clans. Not of the better ones; not of those
that are really clans--and not empires. With any new idea like the
clans, you are bound to get some bad results. But do you hang the good
examples for the bad ones?" He sounded irritated.

"Don't argue with me," Ricky said. "I'm just telling you what Graves has
in mind. Of course, actually, there's more to it than that. The thing
is, he took over Eltron Electric when it was practically on the rocks;
he salvaged it, built it up, made it what it is today. All by himself.
Using his own wits and his own guts. It all came out of him. Oh, sure,
he had help--some pretty able guys were in with him. But they were the
same type: Each of them knowing his own value, depending on himself and
not on any others. They worked together because that was where their
self-interest lay. A bunch of Free-Traders in the best tradition of the
word. Free-Trading's been their life-blood; naturally none of them are
apt to welcome the clan idea, and Graves least of all."

"Do they really think they can hold out indefinitely?" Tom asked. "They
must know they are being left behind, that they're getting out of step."

"I doubt it," Ricky said. "Graves says that the world is off on a
cock-eyed binge with this clan idea, and I'm quoting his words. He
figures it's going to come to its senses, eventually. At least that's
what he says; what he really believes deep down in his heart, I don't
know. Maybe, underneath, he's convinced; maybe if you could get him to
admit the truth, he knows he has to accept us if he's going to survive.
Maybe that's why he's letting Marcia twist his arm; it could be."

Tom nodded. "In any case, we're in the middle," he said. He looked
sardonic. "Caught between the hammer of present reality and the stubborn
anvil of Graves." He finished off his drink. "What do you propose to
do?"

"I propose to let Graves pay our bills, in spite of his opinions," Ricky
said. "And if that includes Marcia, why I don't really mind. One has to
put up with some inconveniences; and when the inconvenience is a dish
like her, I don't really mind at all." He leered in an exaggerated way.

Tom chuckled. "Yeah," he said, "I know what you mean." He became
serious. "But that's my point; the girls will hardly take this point of
view."

"They don't seem to object particularly," Ricky said. "Why should they?
They're only six to our seven--so Marcia will just round things out,
nice and even-like.

"Marcia, as you say, is a 'dish'," Tom agreed "and I can't quite see her
rounding anything out to make it come out even. I think you're a damned
optimist. Besides, I'm not so sure the girls don't mind. They joke about
it, yes, but some of the jokes bite. I think maybe they hope they won't
have to object. Afraid we'll call them jealous. After all, what would
you do in their place?"

"I don't know," Ricky said. "But if that is a factor, then I think they
ought to argue their own case. Where are they?"

"Oh, Betsy and Rita have taken the kids down to the beach. Sandy is out
shopping for food. She figured she'd go down to Mark's Place, so she'll
be a bit late. Esther went over to see about shoes; she thinks she may
get a better bargain at a place she heard of down the line. Polly and
Joan went in with the boys to work; they're trying to wind up the
contract with Midland by this week. Decided there's no point in
stringing it out. Get it wound up and then take a vacation. I've been
over at Midland finishing up the legal details. Also had to go downtown
this morning to see the Income Tax people. When do you suppose they're
going to get a system set up that's reasonable for the clans?" His voice
betrayed a chronic irritation.


Ricky shrugged. "When the clans carry most of the votes. The whole idea
of a clan is too new in society for the law to have caught up with it.
If the clans had a majority, they could force things--and eventually
they will. But not yet. Particularly, since the most vocal part of the
non-clan majority considers us immoral. Destroyers of the family,
mockers of the sacrament of marriage."

The sarcasm was heavy in his voice. "Someday, they'll see we've saved
the home and the family--not destroyed it. We've brought it into line
with the social facts of today, rescued it from the perennial
frustrations that filled the divorce courts. Aye, and the insane
asylums, too. Damn few people used to get out of marriage anything like
what they ought to. Take the average Free-Trader and Monogamist: His
family is just one small part of his life. Separate, distinct. It should
be a solid rock on which he can build his life outside. But it isn't,
except maybe in a very rare case. Mostly, it's just a thing that
occupies some certain hours of his day, with no relation to the rest. He
is left without an anchor. And the girl? She is boxed into a small
sphere of activity, bound by her duties to an inexorable frustration of
limited horizons."

He jumped up and started pacing up and down, gesturing with his arms.
"Is this the great and beautiful thing they want to preserve? Or will
they admit the realities? Will they admit the truths of anthropology?
Realize that the idea of the family unit has had real meaning only when
it has been the economic unit as well? And that in the modern world the
economic unit is larger--and, therefore, the family must be, too? In the
modern world, the economic unit is a team of workers; therefore, the
family must be large enough to include the team. What's immoral about
this? It gives the family meaning in the modern world, and it gives the
individual something to live by. It gives him a reality that he could
not have alone."

"Clear, concise, and possibly illuminating if I didn't know it already,"
Tom smiled at the younger one's missionary instincts. "Why don't you
tell Graves this? Maybe we would not have to absorb his daughter."

"What do you think I've been telling him?" Ricky asked. He looked a
trifle abashed, knowing that his enthusiasm had run away with him. "He
hit the ceiling when Marcia first started talking up the clan idea,
vowed that no daughter of his would ever disgrace the family name. I
managed to talk him out of that, anyway. But, I'm no magician; he's
still a Free-Trader of the old school. So my convincing him meant that
he was willing to use his power to get his daughter what she wants.
Which is us."

"In other words," Tom said, "you talked him out of thinking the clans
are immoral, so he decided to _buy_ one." He bit the sentence off.

"Well, yes," Ricky admitted; "that's one way of looking at it. But let's
look at it another way. The rules of the clan are that a new member is
provisional for a year. Any time in that year, we can always throw her
out if we have to. And even afterwards--when we can no longer throw her
out, and it could be we won't want to--there'll still be no reason why
we should have to bow down to the old man. We can walk out on him, at
least, any time. If Marcia doesn't want to come, then she can stay
behind; and neither Graves nor anybody else can stop us."

"It sounds good," Tom said. "It's just that I don't believe it. The
strength of the clan is its independence. We thirteen, and our children,
against the world. One unit, free, and in a sense, complete. If we let
anyone else decide who shall be in us and who shall not, then we are
less free by that much. And by that much we are less strong. Maybe I'm a
stubborn fool, Ricky, but that's the way I see it."

Ricky leaned against the porch railing. His face was thoughtful. "I wish
I could convince you," he said. "The trouble is, I haven't got time.
Graves has to have his answer now, to plan his production. Anyway,
Marcia's getting restless; I think I'll have to tell them yes or no
tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?" Tom looked startled. "What are you going to do? Caucus it
tonight?"

Ricky nodded. "I have to, Tom. It isn't that I want to bull it through
you. But if we don't get a vote on it tonight, then we've given up.
Graves has said he has to know, so he can plan; we can't keep it in the
air any longer. And I think the clan has a right to vote on the
problem." He looked apologetic.

Tom sighed. "We seem to have agreed to disagree," he said. "So maybe
it's better to get the showdown over with." He got up, walked over to
Ricky, and punched him lightly in the shoulder. "Let's break clean and
come out fighting at the bell." And he walked back inside the house to
his room.



2


It was only a short time later that Tom heard the sound of tires on the
drive. He went out to find that it was Sandy in the beach-wagon. The
name Sandy fitted her, even if it was short for Sandra. Blonde, with
something of a tendency to freckle, she had a quick alertness that was
almost tomboyish. Almost, but not quite, for she was very much a woman.

"Need help?" Tom asked, giving her a quick kiss and moving to the back
to start unloading the bundles. "How did you make out?"

"Not bad," she said; "In fact, it was fun. I don't know whether it was
worth it or not; it's a long drive down there. Maybe I saved enough to
pay for the gasoline. But they're more used to dealing with the clans.
The stores around here play both sides of the fence. Much more congenial
atmosphere down there."

Tom could guess what she meant. The clans, buying in semi-quantity for
their groups of people, could demand and get preferential treatment of a
sort. But a number of the stores that still wanted the business of
private individuals--many of whom were bitterly anti-clan--did their
best to balance the issue with a lack of courtesy. He looked at the girl
with sympathy but she seemed cheerfully unconcerned. She was, he
thought, the kind to take that kind of treatment without a murmur of
complaint, and without giving any overt recognition to it. And yet she
was also the kind to feel it deep inside her.

When the car was unloaded, they sat down at the kitchen table to rest a
moment. Tom sat back in his chair, eyes brooding. It was not for several
minutes that he noticed that Sandy was watching him, her chin on her
palms, her elbows on the table. And he knew that she knew he was
troubled and was waiting to see if he wanted to talk about it. "Ricky
thinks we ought to decide about Marcia, tonight," he said, his voice
sounding blunt even to himself.

"You mean whether we should take her in or not?" she asked.

"Yeah," Tom answered. "He thinks we should, whether she fits or
not--just so we can get the contract with Eltron Electric. Because
otherwise we would have to pull up stakes and go take that thing at
Universal."

"And you don't think we should?" she prompted.

"No, I don't," he said. "It seems to me like we'd be selling out if we
did that. Maybe I'm being a purist about it, but damn it all...."

"But you can stop it easily," she said. "According to the charter, a
vote of membership has to be unanimous. All you have to do is say no."

"Yeah--well, that's true," he said. "Only this is more than that. That
rule is just about ordinary members, the idea being to keep feuds out.
If somebody isn't going to be able to get along with a new member, why
let's find it out at the start. And, since the old member is more
important than the new one, let's block the new one.

"But this thing's different; this isn't just a case of whether she's
compatible or not. I have nothing against Marcia, personally; I just
don't like this way of doing business. But this ties up our whole
future, economic and everything else. If I blackball her, I'm
blackballing our contract with Eltron; and matters of contract, or
economics, or whatall, are not supposed to be subject to veto. No ... I
won't vote against her all by my lonesome. If the clan is pretty well
split, maybe I will pull a technicality. But I won't just up and
blackball her all by myself, just because I think I'm right."

Sandy was thoughtful. "What about this job at Eltron," she asked,
finally. "Can we swing it? It's bigger than the job here at Midland, and
bigger than the one at Universal. Is it too big?"

"No," Tom said. "We can handle it. Oh, we may have to hire a few private
citizens, but we can do most of it ourselves. If we can average nine
people a week, we'll be all right. And we can' do that if we leave two
to take care of the kids, one to manage the house and cook and all, and
one to fill in, taking care of other outside matters, having babies, and
whatnot. But even if we can only average eight ourselves, it is still
reasonable with a couple of private citizens. No, I'm not afraid of the
job."

"It'll be funny working alongside of private citizens," Sandy said,
musingly; "I hope we pick better ones than those guys at Sanford
Radio."


Tom laughed. "We will," he said. "The trouble there was that we didn't
hire them; the company did. And the guys were good enough--they just
didn't like the clans."

"That's one way of putting it," Sandy said. "They just had some
preconceived ideas as to what kind of woman would join a clan. Happens
they were wrong, but it took a bit of jiujitsu to convince them."

"Well, that won't happen here," Tom said. "We'll be hiring them
ourselves, and we'll probably be able to pick up all we want from the
other assembly clans. Times are rough all over, and they're not too
loaded with work, either. Of course, the rest of the plant is another
matter; but I don't think there'll be any open trouble. Things have
gotten a little better since those early days. People know a little more
about the clans, even if they don't approve."

"So there is just the question of whether we want to do it, or not," she
said. He nodded but said nothing. "And you would much rather we didn't
want to.... Tell me, what's she like? I've only seen her the couple of
times that Ricky's brought her to lunch."

"That's about all I have," Tom answered. "Oh, I've seen her out at her
old man's place a couple of times, too, but then I was working on the
old man. As far as I know, she is what she seems to be. Beautiful in a
way. A bit of a mantrap. Probably spoiled. I don't know. What did you
think of her?"

"That's a damning sketch if I ever heard one," Sandy said. "I wonder if
that's all there is to her. Is she just a spoiled brat with a
well-developed body? Is that all she is? What's her background like? I
mean aside from money?"

"Background?" Tom hesitated. "Well, she went through college, somewheres
or other. She's traveled in Europe a bit Generally circulated around.
Cultured, I guess you'd call it.

"Certainly her old man knows what it's about. He's quite a character,
you know. Very dignified, very polished. Fine oak paneling in his study.
Lots of books, and he's probably read them, too. Quite a collection of
classical music, and he knows his way around it too--at least he knows
more about it than I do. The very picture of a cultured gentleman. And
it is with a perfectly gentlemanly manner that he tears you apart into
little pieces."

"Oh?" Sandy raised her eyebrow. "What happened?"

Tom smiled ruefully; "We had an argument." He shrugged. "The clans
versus Free-Trading. He has a fine and delicate hand with sarcasm. No, I
take that back. I don't know whether it was sarcasm or not; maybe he
was just leading me out. Anyway, I came out of there feeling as if I'd
been wrung dry."

He was silent a moment, and Sandy made no move to break his thoughts.
"The logical question here, of course, is to what extent this makes me
think the way I do. And maybe it does, I don't know. I'm afraid of the
guy; I got the feeling he knows exactly what he's doing and why. And I
think he may be too strong for us."

"You think we might end up as his puppets?" Sandy said, her voice
neutral.

"Something like that," Tom admitted. "Oh, I know that's probably a
foolish thought. In fact, now that I look at it, I know it is. The guy
just impressed me; frankly I came out feeling somewhat awed by him. I'm
not used to the feeling. I guess it's just that he comes from a
background that I don't know anything about."

Sandy pursed her lips and nodded. There was a pixyish gleam to her eyes
as she got up and started towards the door. As she left she asked him:
"And Marcia, is she anything like her old man?" She was out the door and
gone before he realized what her question meant.

He sat there, staring after her for five full minutes before he got up
and started to put the food away.



3


He had put the food away and prepared himself a cup of coffee, when he
heard the clatter of the bus. That would be Betsy and Rita with the
kids, he knew, back from the beach. By the noisy commotion, he gathered
they had enjoyed themselves, with no more than the usual number of cuts
and bruises and hurt feelings. Eleven kids, the oldest eight years,
could not conceivably go to the beach for the afternoon without some
crises; but, at least, they seemed to have gotten back in a happy
condition.

Tom smiled as he thought of them, picturing the throng, but he made no
move to join them. When Sue, aged four, stuck her head in the door and
grinned to see him there, he just said "Hi." This she took as an
invitation, and hopped on in to begin telling him in disconnected
fragments, all about the day. He let her ramble for a moment until the
first flush of her enthusiasm was over. Then, with a kiss on the
forehead and a poke in the stomach, he sent her out, suggesting that she
tell him all about it later.

When she had gone, he sat there, thinking about the girl. Sue was very
much like her mother, Polly. Dark-haired with light bones, she had the
quick and easy movements of a born dancer. And her eyes sparkled with
dancing lights. Sue, like Polly, was a born flirt, but a flirt out of
sheer interest in life. She was so much the image of her mother, both in
face and build and also temperament, that he wondered who her father
was. Certainly there was not much of any of the men visible in her.

What would Marcia mean to the children? With a start he came back to his
problem. There was nothing apparent of the maternal instinct in her. But
then, neither was there in Joan, either; and Joan was a perfectly good
member of the clan.

Oh, sometimes they laughed at Joan for being much too serious about her
part. She was the artist and the self-acknowledged arbiter of good
taste, the monitor of the proper way. She was the gracious hostess when
visitors were at hand. To her the clan had conceded the job of deciding
the arrangement of the rooms. To her the girls turned for advice in how
to dress. And her advice was good. With some real though limited talent
as an artist, she had the touch of instinct, the sense of rightness, and
the drive to be unsatisfied with anything but what was right. And she,
conceding that children were necessary and even desirable in their
places, still deplored the havoc they could wreak. She was not a good
manager of the children.

But then, he thought, why should she be? The clan had other purposes
than to raise children; that was one of the important needs the clan
fulfilled, but it was only one. In fact, it was one of the strengths of
the clan that the different members had separate talents they could
bring to it. Each with his own value, each unique. With the separateness
that let them complement each other to form the whole. This was their
strength.

No, Marcia was not greatly maternal, certainly--but this was not
important. But he could not quite decide what was important.


He was still puzzling over it when Betsy bounced into the kitchen.

"Whew," she said, giving him a light kiss, "what a day!" She pulled out
a mirror from her pocket and looked into it. "I think I'm going to have
a red nose. That sun was bright and hot; I hope none of the kids got too
much. But they _will_ keep dashing into the water, and it's hard to
catch them again to get them to put their shirts on. I think Timmy's
back is a little red, but I guess it won't be too much." She collapsed
violently into a chair.

Tom smiled at her. It was refreshing to see anyone who could be tired in
such a dynamic way. "You look as if you had a day," he said.

"We did," she said, looking happy. She heaved herself up to get a cup
and saucer and to pour herself a cup of coffee. Then, sitting down, she
looked at him. "And what have you been doing?" she asked him.

"Oh, buzzing around town," he told her. "And brooding."

"Brooding?" she asked. He explained to her what the situation was,
telling her that they must soon decide what to do about Marcia--whether
to accept her as a member of the clan or not. He told her that only by
accepting the girl could they get the job at Eltron Electronics that
they wanted. And he told her Ricky's thinking that the thing must be
decided that night, and warned her of the coming caucus. The words
boiled out of him; when he was through, he slumped down, suddenly tired.

Betsy cocked her head and studied him. There was a soft look in her eyes
of the sort she usually saved for the children. "Why has it upset you?"
she asked.

"Upset me?" Tom seemed surprised. "Well, yes, I suppose it has. Sue was
in here, and I got to thinking of the kids. What this'll mean to them."

"The kids?" She looked surprised. "Why should this mean anything to the
kids? Anything special, that is?"

"Well, if we turn her down, we got to take the Universal job," he
explained. "And that means moving. Moving's always hard on kids. And if
we accept her, then the kids'll have a lot to do with her."

"I assume she won't roast them live over the coals," Betsy said. "And I
think the kids are tough enough to take almost anything else." She
snickered. "You don't see them as much as I do. If you did you'd know
they were a lot tougher than they look, the delicate little things!"

"Oh, I'm not talking about that," he said. "I don't expect her to bat
them around or anything. But I just wonder how they'll take to _her_."

She shrugged. "If they don't like her, they can always come to me. Or
Rita. Or Polly or Esther or Sandy. Or even Joan, providing they don't
mess up the livingroom while they do it. The kids will get along, don't
worry.

"As a matter of fact," she went on, "that's a funny thing. One of the
chief arguments against the clans is that it doesn't single out a man
and a woman as the parents of a child. This is supposed to do something
to the child--make him insecure, somehow. But as far as I can see, it
makes him more secure. In the first place, he's got that many more
parents to choose from, and he can usually find one at least in the mood
and with the time to give him what he needs at the moment. Then, too,
the clan can afford to have one or two of its people completely
concentrated on the children at any given time. And that job can get
sort of passed around so nobody gets fed up with it.

"Or, rather, if a person does get fed up with the kids, she doesn't have
to force herself to be halfway decent to them; she doesn't have to have
anything to do with them at all until she gets over her blues. So most
of the time, the kids get the kind of attention they ought to get, and
they get it from a person who's in the mood to give it. Personally, I
think that they're a lot better off under this system, and you'd have a
hard time telling me any different."

"They do look healthy and happy," he said.

"They sure do." She looked proud and satisfied. "I'd hate to be the one
to try to keep up with them if they were any healthier. Or any fuller of
ideas."

"That's why I hate to risk it," he told her. "Everything's going so well
now.... The kids are so obviously.... But I take it you don't think
there's much risk?"

"No." Her tone was incisive. "Any storms she can cook up, the kids can
stand better than you and I can."

"Maybe you're right," Tom conceded. "But what about yourself? You think
she is apt to make 'storms'?"


Betsy shrugged. "There's always storms when you take in a new member.
You have to adjust; and, even more, the new one has to adjust. And
adjustments aren't ever easy. I remember when I came in. I had some bad
times--and I was brought up in a clan, too; I knew what I was getting
into. But still there were times when it hurt. When I felt lost. When I
didn't know what you people were like. When I felt like a stranger, not
knowing your private jokes and unconscious language. When I felt out of
place and alone.

"There were plenty of times when this happened, but I stuck it out. And
I learned. I learned what made you people tick, and why you did some of
the things you did. I grew into being a part of you. Now I am one of the
clan, legally, socially, and in my inmost self.

"That's _my_ story. Marcia will have a lot harder time; she doesn't even
know what a clan is. She's not only never been a part of one, but the
people she has been with have sneered at them, and made no effort to
understand. She hasn't even been able to get along with one husband;
she's going to have a hard time learning to get along with seven. Not to
mention six co-wives. Chances are she's been spoiled, made the center of
things without due cause. She was an only child, wasn't she? She's going
to have it awfully tough."

"Do you think she can take it?" Tom asked.

"Not knowing the lady, that's guessing too hard," Betsy answered. "I
think it's possible that she can learn. And maybe it's not entirely
against her that she doesn't know anything about the clans except what's
wrong. She'll soon find out she doesn't know a thing, and then she can
start from scratch--learn like the kids do. Maybe that's easier than the
unlearning of the 'almost-right' that people like me have to do. At
least she's got no preconceived ideas that will stand more than a day or
two of actual experience." She shrugged.

"The thing that I'm worried about," Tom said, "is that she may be able
to split us--divide us up into factions and set us against each other. I
hope she can't, but what happens if she does?"

"Then we split," Betsy answered. "But so what? I don't think she can do
it; but even if she can, so what? I wouldn't want it to happen but it
wouldn't be a disaster. We'd all land on our feet somewhere. I know I'd
head out for the nearest clan and I'd get into that clan just as soon as
I could. When I got into it, and got accepted as a real part of it, then
I'd think of the rest of this as just an unhappy incident. A tragedy,
but not the end of life. But as far as I'm concerned, this is too remote
a possibility to worry about."

"You are quite unafraid, aren't you?" Tom said.

"Yes," she answered simply, her voice calm and cool. "I'm not afraid of
Marcia--not of what she can do to the kids or to myself. I think the
kids are strong enough emotionally to stand anything. And I think I am,
too."

There was a quiet confidence in her voice. She reached out and patted
his hand. Then, getting up, she started to get out the food for the
evening meal while Tom continued to sit there, thinking. And when Tom
got up and walked out, she still said nothing but looked after him with
a look that had something warm and tender in it.

As he walked through the livingroom, he saw Rita stretched out on the
couch. He looked questioningly at her wondering if the day had been too
hard for her, being, as she was, six months along towards the twelfth
child of the clan. But she smiled at him and shook her head. "Don't be
worried," she said; "I'm just a little tired but not too much."

"Anything I can get you?" he asked.

"No, thanks," she said, her voice cheerful. "I just need to get off my
feet."

He started to say something about Marcia, but then stopped. What good
would it do? he asked himself. Rita, with the instinct of birth close
upon her, was too absorbed in herself and the life she carried. The
problem, to her, would exist only if it threatened herself or her child.
And by all the signs, she felt no threat. Her calm acceptance of the
daily life, her quiet absorption in the now and here, measured a
confidence in the clan that was complete.

No, to talk of Marcia could do no good. If he succeeded in impressing
her with the importance of the problem, it would be because he made her
realize that Marcia was a threat. It would be at the expense of her
feeling of security, the security that let her wait her time out in calm
acceptance and assurance. And if he did not persuade her of the
problem's significance, she could not contribute to it. Under normal
circumstances, she was not one to deal with abstract questions. She had
an acute awareness of personalities that transcended logic. She had an
instinct, a sixth sense, almost, for responding to the needs of others.
But she was not a philosopher, and neither could she handle abstract
problems.

And so he smiled at her and told her: "Call me if you do want anything.
I'll be outside." And he passed on through and out the door.



4


As he walked out the door, he saw, coming in the gate, the rest of the
clan returning from work. The children were rushing to meet them,
whooping their greetings. The whole scene was one of happy chaos. Out in
front was Paul, his round, cherubic face beaming with delight. He bent
down to whisper something in little Randy's ear which sent that boy off
shrieking with delight. Behind him was Sam, Polly, and Herb.

Sam's face was dark and his eyes deepset. Generally, he looked sullen
and dour. But those who knew him, could also see the twinkle in his eye
and knew that he had a subtle and penetrating sense of humor. The kids
liked him, and both Alice and Ken, aged five and six, were crowding
around him now while he gravely asked them something.

Polly, beside him, was peering around delightedly, sparkling with the
general excitement. Her eyes were darting all around looking, Tom knew,
not for any one thing or person, but simply to absorb it all.

On Polly's other side was Herb. The mechanic of the crowd, he had an
eager interest that was somewhat boyish. His happiest moments were spent
under the car or bus with his face all smeared with grease. With people,
he lacked the touch that he had with machines. There was an awkwardness,
almost an uncouthness, that would have been tragic, Tom thought,
anywhere but in the haven of a clan.

Behind them, Joan walked with Mike. Her face was still earnest and
intense, and Tom thought that she was probably expounding some theory of
the art. He felt sorry for Mike, but, then, Mike was a chap that invited
that sort of thing. He seemed to be chronically unable to express a
disinterest in anything and, as a consequence, was the one on which most
of them poured out their troubles and their ideas. But, then, perhaps he
was interested. Maybe he was interested in the people even when he was
not in the ideas.

Finally, there came Esther and Pete. Esther was the feminine organizer
of the clan. She it was that planned the details of what should happen
when, and who should do what. The others were just as glad to leave
these matters to her. She had a passion for fairness that made them
trust her distribution of the chores. And she had the will to get things
organized, the wish to see things settled long in advance. Tom saw she
was talking earnestly to Pete; he wondered what project she was working
on.

Pete was the philosopher of the clan. With a somewhat pixyish mind, he
was afraid of no thoughts, and took nothing at all for granted. As to
whether he was a really deep thinker, or just one who liked to play with
logic and semantics, Tom did not know. Perhaps it was too soon to tell.
Philosophers are not made at the age of twenty-five, but only when they
have lived their lives, and are ready to profit fully by its experience.
At the moment, Tom saw, he was looking rather bored by Esther, and
seemed to welcome the onrushing crowd of kids.


Tom looked at them all. Whom should he talk to? he wondered. Or should
he talk to any of them? There was no longer in him the same drive about
the problem. In some way he did not yet understand, his talks with Sandy
and with Betsy had boiled off some of the urgency. And yet, the problem
still was urgent. Ricky still meant to bring it up at caucus, and Tom
still had to know what his own response would be. It was with something
of a shock that he realized that he did not know--but the fact was that
he did not. And he did not even know why he was uncertain. The problem
had seemed so clear when Ricky had first mentioned it; but now, now it
was not clear at all.

Tom waited until they all had washed off the dust of the road and combed
their hair and changed their dresses. In the meantime, he mixed them
cocktails ready for their return. And when they had once more assembled,
he let them trade around the items of the day's news. It was not until
he saw Pete wander off to gaze out the window at the gathering sunset
that he made any move.

When he saw that Pete was alone, he went over to stand beside him. "What
do you know, Pete," he said.

Pete turned to face him. "Hi, Tom. You look puzzled tonight. Not your
usual fatherly self. What's up?"

Tom shrugged. "It's this Marcia business that's bothering me," he said.
"Ricky's going to caucus it tonight, and I been trying to figure it
out."

"What's his rush?" Pete asked. "Or is Ricky just being impetuous?"

"No," Tom said. "There's a reason for it. Graves has got to make his
arrangements soon, so he's been putting the pressure on for us to decide
quick. If we don't decide tonight, we are apt to be left out."

"Oh?" Pete's voice was noncommittal.

"What do you think of it?" Tom asked. "Should we take her in or not?"

"Well, I don't know," Pete stalled. "The reasons why we should are
pretty obvious. It will solve some of our worries if we do. What are the
reasons why we shouldn't?"

"I don't know," Tom said. "It just seems wrong to me. Seems like we'd be
giving up too much of our ... well, our ideals. Maybe I'm being old
fashioned, but it just seems immoral to me, somehow."

Pete leaned against the window frame. "You mean it's like marrying a
woman for her money? Sort of gigolo-like?"

Tom nodded. "Yes, I guess that's it," he said. "I suppose what's
bothering me is that the idea of the clan is to make the family the same
thing as the economic unit; but this seems like it's being too damn
economic about it, too mercenary. It just doesn't seem right."

Pete said nothing for a long moment while he meditated. "Well, that's
one way of looking at it," he said, finally. "But on the other hand,
maybe you got to stop and think this thing through. Why is it bad to
marry a woman for her money? It occurs to me that a monogamistic
marriage of that sort is bad--and I think it probably _is_ bad--because
it inevitably leads to living a lie. You got to fool the woman, because
otherwise she doesn't get anything out of the marriage. If the marriage
is to mean anything, both the man and the woman have got to get out of
it some sense of belonging; that's what the marriage is for. Now the man
may get the belonging, the security, from the money. But the wife--she
can't get anything out of it unless he can fool her. She's already got
the money, so that doesn't mean anything to her; and she's got what the
money can buy.

"Unless he can fool her into thinking that he really loves her for
herself alone, she doesn't get anything at all out of it. So, he's got
to fool her. And the worst of it is that, if he doesn't succeed, she'll
walk out on him with her money; then he'll lose what he's after, too--so
he's got good reason for being afraid. The situation is necessarily
unstable; it's almost bound to lead to grief of one kind or another. So,
that kind of a marriage is bad."

"Why's this any different?" Tom asked.

"For one thing, because we can't live a lie," Pete said. "Living a lie
of that sort requires great concentration and continuous effort. With
the clan, no one person can concentrate on any one other. The lie, if it
ever got started, would be a very short-lived one; and I don't think it
would ever get started. Not only is it pretty obvious when a new girl is
added to a clan, that we can't all be so desperately in love with her;
it isn't necessary. A person joins the clan. She's getting a new way of
life, and a whole new group of friends. Until she's been in the clan a
while, these are not more than friends; it takes time really to
integrate a person into a clan. But, at least they are friends--people
who will help you to stand against the world.

"So she does get something out of the clan. She gets a sense of
belonging, and it doesn't depend on any one person but on the
group-structure of the clan. The clan is there to belong to, regardless
of any one individual. But with a monogamistic marriage, the structure
is lost when either person pulls out. So this thing means that, in the
first place, the clan can't live a lie, and, in the second, that there
is no need for the lie, anyway. Finally, this means that the situation
is quite different from a monogamistic marriage for money. Even if, by
chance, the thing is unstable, there is still no reason for fear."

"You think this thing's all right, then?" Tom asked.

"Didn't say that," Pete smiled. "I don't think it's particularly
immoral, but that doesn't say it's all right; I don't know. I haven't
really thought it out. But what I am saying is that you can't just take
over the old ethics into the clan. We got to create a new code and we
got to start from the bottom."

"I guess you're right," Tom said. He stared thoughtfully out the window
for a moment. Then he shrugged and turned away. "But it doesn't help
much," he added to himself as he wandered toward the dining room.



5


It was after supper, when the dishes had all been washed and the
children packed off to bed, that the clan gathered in the livingroom.
They had chatted for a short time, but all fell silent when Ricky got
up. He went to the mantlepiece and, turning, announced: "I find that
there are problems before the clan that require the mature consideration
of the clan. I therefore request a caucus." The words were the ritual of
the process, established through long custom, and the clan's by-laws.

Tom stood up and, with some ostentation, counted the people present. He
then announced: "I find that there is present the full membership of the
clan that is adult, and that has been accepted into responsibility for
the clan. Also, there are no strangers present. I believe you may call a
caucus." He sat down.

"We have the word of Tom," Ricky said. "Does anyone doubt that I may now
call a caucus?" He looked around carefully. "Since no one seems to have
a doubt, I do now declare that the clan is assembled in caucus, and ask
Sandy to operate the recorder." Sandy reached over to a box sitting on a
table and flipped a switch. She spoke into a microphone, giving the date
and time, and then announced that the recorder was on.

Paul bounced up out of his chair. "What is the purpose of this caucus?"
This, too, was ritual.

"I have called this caucus," Ricky said, "to ask the clan to consider
the application for membership of Marcia Graves. It is my opinion that
this question must be decided now, since various collateral problems of
some urgency will be determined by our decision on this matter. Does
anyone question this, or feel that the matter should not be considered
at this time for any reason?" Although this was part of the established
pattern of a caucus, he looked at Tom since the latter could, if he
wished, protest the matter. Tom, however, smiled and barely shook his
head.

"Since there is no objection," Ricky continued, looking slightly
relieved, "I will summarize the situation as I see it.

"Marcia has requested admission to the clan. She has been instructed in
what this means both legally, and--in so far as it can be described or
codified--socially. I do not think it can be said that she does not know
what she is doing. As regards the girl herself, all of you have met her,
I think, several times. This, of course, is not sufficient to determine
her fitness or compatibility. However, it is as much as can reasonably
be done before decision.

"In accordance with the custom and the law, then, it is proposed that
she be admitted on a conditional basis for a period of one year. During
this time the clan may, by a majority vote in caucus, refuse her further
membership. At the end of one year, in the absence of such a vote, she
will be admitted to full membership and reciprocal obligations with the
clan established. Subsequent severance of this relation can be
accomplished only through the courts for due cause, and with due
consideration of the equity of both parties." His voice was almost a
monotone as he recited the formula.

"In the present case," he continued, his voice coming alive, "there are
certain collateral problems. Marcia is the daughter of Mr. Graves,
president of Eltron Electric. Mr. Graves has long been a Free-Trader,
and Eltron Electric has never contracted with the clans. However, it is
clear that, if his daughter becomes a clanswoman, then he can no longer
maintain this aloofness towards the clan. Specifically, he has indicated
he will be willing to contract the Vord clan for a desirable piece of
work if we accept his daughter. It is my opinion that, if he can once be
persuaded to contract a functioning clan, then he will find this the
desirable way to operate, and will therefore stop opposing the clans. He
has had a continued history of labor-troubles, with strikes,
absenteeism, high turnover, and all the rest. Once he has tried the
clans, he will find they solve his worst headaches; he may well end up
our best friend, almost no matter what happens to Marcia."


Ricky continued, "It is this matter of Graves that makes this matter
urgent. Graves must decide in the next day or two how to handle this
piece of work. He will either give it to us, or set up his own
supervisory organization in this time. So we have to decide quickly.
This, however, is not the only basis on which we should decide. It is
one of them, and, I think, is a legitimately important one. But it is
only one; we must also consider Marcia and the clan. She is one whose
background is not in this direction. Her father, as I said, is rather
vigorously Free-Trading and Monogamistic. She is poorly prepared,
psychologically, for clan life.

"And yet, she is sincere in wanting to join the clan. She has tried the
other life and had it fail her. She hopes, in the clan, to find what she
needs; and I think it quite possible that she may. I would not advocate
this unless I thought she had at least a reasonable chance of
succeeding.

"As regards the clan, this, I suppose, is something each of us will have
to decide for ourselves. Personally, I think she has a lot to
contribute. She is intelligent, well-educated, and she has had a lot of
cultural experience that none of us have had. I think she could add much
to the clan, if we can only integrate her in. But that 'if' is the
question. And each of you will have to decide yourself what is the
answer to it.

"But I think I have talked enough, here," he said. "I've told you my own
point of view. I think it is time to listen to the other side." He
looked at Tom, and waved his hand as if presenting him the floor.

Tom got to his feet. He looked around at all these faces so familiar to
him. What should he say? he wondered. What did he want to say? He did
not know; he felt confused. And this surprised him.

He looked at Ricky, and remembered their argument that afternoon. What
was Ricky really after? he wondered. Was he just asking the clan to be
opportunistic? To take Marcia in, just because of what the contract
could do for them?

Or did he really think Marcia could fit? That she could learn to be a
real part of them? Or, again, as he remembered Ricky's comment that she
was a 'dish', had Ricky gone overboard about her? Was he so taken by her
looks and all that he was forgetting the clan? Not consciously, of
course; he would not, could not, do that consciously. But perhaps
unknowing? Using the other arguments as rationalization?

Somehow, Tom doubted this. Ricky might not be too deep a thinker but,
Tom thought, he was generally extremely level headed. No, he thought,
Ricky was probably quite serious in thinking the clan should accept
Marcia, that she, in one way or another, would be good for the clan. And
that left only the question of whether he was right or not.

Tom's eyes swung to Sandy, and he remembered his discussion with her.
And he remembered her parting shot which had asked him if he was afraid
of Marcia. If, perhaps, he did not resent her for being better educated
than he, and if, maybe, she might awe him. Was that it? he wondered. Did
he feel awe at her? He did of her father, certainly. He remembered his
talks with Mr. Graves, and remembered coming out of them feeling beaten
and bedraggled--something of the way he might feel towards Marcia.

Yes, he had to admit it, there was that feeling there. She was from a
background he did not know and it did, in truth, somewhat scare him. How
much did this influence him? He did not know.

He looked at Betsy, thinking of his talk with her. He remembered how she
had brushed aside any thought that the kids might be harmed by Marcia.
Was she right? Were the kids so stable emotionally that nothing Marcia
could bring into their world would seriously harm them? Remembering Sue
who had come to flirt with him with her four-year-old eyes, it was not
hard to believe that Betsy was right.

Also there was Betsy's discussion of what might happen to Marcia. Betsy
had argued, Tom remembered, that Marcia might well learn to fit, that
she would find all the old rules by which she had lived outside the clan
so completely inadequate that she would be forced to learn from scratch.
Was that right, he wondered. After the initial period when she would be
learning how little she knew, would she then be able to learn like a
child, without undue prejudice, just because her background was so
different? It was possible, he had to admit.

And finally he looked at Pete. Pete had argued that it was not immoral
to take in Marcia for economic reasons, that it was not like marrying a
girl for her money. Economics were an integral and avowed part of the
clan idea; and certainly the moralities of a clan had to be different
from those of a monogamist marriage. Yes, he had to admit that he
thought Pete's arguments sound. There was a different ethics here. There
had to be. What the true ethics would say of the case of Marcia, he did
not know. But at least he could not lightly dismiss it all as simply and
obviously immoral. It could not be that simple.


As Tom looked at them and pondered what he should say, the answer
suddenly came to him. It came to him like a revelation, and he felt as
if something inside of him had broken, something that had hampered and
restricted him, even without his knowing it. He felt free, suddenly,
free and exultant.

He smiled at them and said: "When Ricky told me this afternoon, I was
afraid; as I talked to several of you since that time, I continued to be
afraid. And I was afraid when I came here tonight. But now, as I look at
your bright faces, I am no longer. You and I are the clan, and the clan
is stronger than anyone outside. Not Marcia, nor Graves, nor anyone else
can break it; only we can break it--only we, by losing faith in it. I
know now that I have not had the faith that I should have. The faith in
you, and in us, and in our relations to each other. As I stood here
looking at the faces of those I talked to, and remembering what you
said, it came to me how foolish I have been.

"I don't know whether this thing is right or not; I don't know what its
ultimate result will be. Maybe it will be good, and maybe bad. But if
it's bad, it won't be so bad as to be a disaster. The clan will survive
anything that may come of it, and may even be the stronger for it. And
if the results are good, why then of course everyone will be the winner
for it. No, I don't know what the results will be, but now I am willing
to face whatever they are without fear, and with confidence in the clan.

"My vote will be to accept Marcia." He sat down feeling quite at peace
with himself for the first time in what seemed like a long, long time.

As Ricky came forward to take the floor again, and ask for further
discussion, Tom looked around. Sandy, he saw, was looking at him with a
smile in her eyes. She approved, he knew. And so did Betsy. She was
watching him with a warm look that spoke her feelings. Pete was staring
off into space, no doubt following down some logical train.

The others were each reacting in their separate ways. Paul was
interested but probably had no idea of what it really was about. Rita,
in her maternal self-absorption, was not really concerned. Polly was
watching him with sympathy for him as a man, but not with any basic
understanding. Sam, with his dead-pan face was hard to read. His
penetrating eyes saw deeply, but what they saw was hard to tell. Herb
was looking around him with awkward movements; he was probably feeling
very shy at the thought of a new member. Marcia, Tom thought, might well
be good for him, teach him a greater social finesse.

And there was Joan, leaning forward intently, no doubt wondering how
Marcia would affect the artistic balance of the group. Mike was looking
interested but not concerned. And Esther was sitting back in her chair
with a vague smile on her lips. Probably, Tom thought with a mental
chuckle, she was already planning some suitable induction ceremony.


From here on out, Tom sensed, it was only a matter of formality. Other
discussion there would be; arguments, perhaps. But in the end, Marcia
would be admitted by unanimous vote. And he was content that it be so.


       *       *       *       *       *


  Transcriber Notes:

  This etext was produced from Science Fiction Stories 1953. Extensive
  research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this
  publication was renewed.

  Obvious punctuation errors have been repaired.





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