The Author Susan Glaspell

The Rules of the Institution


SHE could not decide what to wear. Never having known such an occasion, or any one who had known a like occasion, how could she tell? She decided against the gown she was wearing, in which she had poured at her sister-in-law's tea that afternoon, as possibly seeming to suggest her own blessings. But after she was dressed in plain shirtwaist and skirt as most in keeping, she took them off as too significant in their plainness. She hated the way she had grown self-conscious about it, and saying to herself, "I'll wear just what I would if going to spend the evening with any of the girls I know," put on a simple blue silk frock of which she herself was particularly fond.

Her mother came in and looked her over doubtfully. "Going to wear that? Well, I don't know; I was thinking something plain —- not to make her feel the difference. And still, as some one was saying the other day, perhaps the poor need to see the nice things we have. I suppose it is one way of giving them pleasure."

Judith had flushed. "Mother, don't look at it that way! I don't want to get it in my mind that way. I'm simply going to make a call -— going to see a girl and have a little talk with her." "Well, that's very nice of you. That is the democratic way, I suppose. And still, when you know what's underneath it -- "

"But I'm trying to forget what's underneath it," answered Judith, brightly. The brightness was not convincing, for her mother remonstrated: "I don't think they should have asked you to do it. I just hate to have you go —- a young girl like you, and all alone."

"But that was the point," said Judith, with deft little twists at the blue dress -— "my being near this girl's age. Mrs. Emmons proposed it -- though it was her husband's idea, she said. That surprised me. I didn't suppose he had any ideas."

"Well, really, my dear," retorted Mrs. Brunswick with that asperity which edges the defense of a contemporary to a critical younger generation, "I don't know why you should say that. I went all through the high school with Charlie Emmons, and I can assure you he had a great many ideas."

"Did he? He seems such a -- booster," laughed Judith. "Well, he wasn't born a booster. And, for that matter, he didn't want to go into business. His folks forced that on him —- and mighty disappointed he was for a while. Probably he's all over it now; people do get over things," was her comfortable conclusion.

"What did he want to be?" inquired Judith, not that she cared particularly about knowing, but that she might hold her mind from the thing before her. "Oh, I don't know exactly; go on studying, I believe. Write, maybe. Anyway, he loved books."

Judith was silent for a moment. Then, "I hadn't known that," she said, simply, as if wanting to do justice where she had been doing injustice. Something about it was holding her mind, for her mother had to ask twice,

"Going to wear your black hat?" Mrs. Brunswick followed her daughter down-stairs, continuing to deplore her errand. "Now my dear," —- voice and manner curiously sharpened in saying it -- "if she says anything horrid to you, just get right up and leave!" "Oh no, mother," laughed the girl. "That isn't the idea."

"Judith," her mother commanded, "I forbid you to stay there if she is -- unpleasant to you. Simply tell her that she must keep the rules of the institution, or leave. It's simple enough, I'm sure.

Her brother sauntered out from the living-room. "Off to see the erring daughter?"

She turned sharply. "Fred, I don't think that's a very nice way to speak of a girl!"

"No, Fred," admonished his mother. "It was not -- respectful."

"You would have put it stronger than that if it had been one of the girls of our crowd, mother," said Judith, abruptly turning away.

Her mother followed to the door, patting her arm. "There, there,dear,you're a little upset, and no wonder. Well, Henry's here with the car."

Judith drew back. "Mother! I don't want the car. I don't want to go there in an automobile!"

"Nonsense! Why,what nonsense! She probably knows you have an automobile. Don't get silly notions. Henry, you are to take Miss Judith to Severns Hall. The home for working-girls on High Street," she added, as light did not break over Henry's face. After the motor had started down the driveway she called, "Just tell her she's got to keep the rules!"

The thing had grown intolerable to Judith; her brother's flippant phrase, her mother's attitude, forced it upon her in the very way she had tried not to think of it. Reprimanding a girl for staying out late at night! She stayed out late at night herself. How utterly foolish she would feel, sitting there talking goody-goody talk to that other girl. Drawing up before this "working-girls' home" in an automobile, and tripping in and laying down the law to a girl who worked for her living!

"Henry," she suddenly called, "let me out here. Yes, right here. And you needn't come for me. I have another arrangement for getting home." As she slammed the door of the car she took a vicious satisfaction in the consciousness that certainly Henry would think it queer.

She gained a measure of composure in walking slowly through the soft April night. There was no use fussing about it now; she would be as pleasant as she could with this girl -- just as natural and nice about it as she knew how to be. She would simply speak of how, in a place like that, there had to be rules; how, if one broke them, another would; of how life had to be arranged for the greatest good to the greatest number. She took heart in repeating " the greatest good to the greatest number."

But her few minutes in the reception-room with the matron disheartened her again. The woman's official motherliness irritated her. She was too self-conscious in the delicacy with which she spoke of the errand on which Miss Brunswick had come. Judith hated the atmosphere of conspiracy, the assumption of superiority, into which she was taken. "I do hope," Mrs. Hughes murmured, as Judith rose to go to the girl's room, "that you will not find her disagreeable." "Why, that hardly seems likely," was Judith's rather cool response.

The matron shook her head. "I think I should warn you that you may find it harder than you think. I have tried to get Mary's confidence, but -- " She paused, shaking her head. "I am very much afraid there is something in her life we do not understand. There's something queer about her."

With this, after she had been in the girl's room five minutes, Judith was in private agreement. And it was true that it was harder than she had thought. The moment the girl looked at her she wanted to run aw;ijr; that was not because of rudeness, or any tangible offense, but because something in this girl made her own nicely laid little plans fall back as inadequate. She tried to be pleasant; she was conscious of being very pleasant indeed, and of being at the same time rather futile and absurd as she talked, for example, of spring's having come. It became the more difficult to go on because a gleam in Mary Graham's black eyes suggested an amused understanding of her visitor's predicament, a vexing appreciation of the situation. "I came to talk with you about something, Miss Graham," she said, with dignity.

The girl nodded -- for all the world as if discreetly amused.

Judith, doing her best to rise out of her ruffled feelings, stated the case with gentleness. In a place of that sort there must be rules. One of the rules -- and considering the greatest good to the greatest number it seemed a wise one -- was that the girls living in the house must be in at nine o'clock at night -- unless they had stated in advance that they would be out beyond that hour, telling why. To be sure -- she hastened to add, Mary Graham having raised her eyes from the tassel on her visitor's dress to her face and then lowered them again -- sometimes things arose one had not known of in advance; certainly that might happen, and, if explained, would be met with understanding, she was certain. But where it happened continuously, and was not explained, even when explanation was requested, it seemed a wilful violation of the regulations.

She paused, but the girl to whom she had been speaking did not reply. As if there was nothing to reply to! She did not know why she, who had come with the kindliest intentions in the world, should in some intangible way -- there was the grievance -- be made to feel on the defensive and ridiculous. Her voice was less gentle as she said,

"If one lives in an institution one must expect to keep its rules."

Mary Graham looked at her then as if that were something really to meet. Her interested gaze was a penetrating one. "I suppose so," she said, as if weighing it. "Well" -- her eyes left Judith and wandered around the room -- a plain but attractive room. Her glance lingered for an instant on the white bed. Then she said, quietly, "I'll leave."

It startled from Judith a quick, "Oh, not that!"

The girl's eyes were lowered again and she did not raise them as she repeated, "I'll leave." After a moment she looked up at Judith with a glance that seemed to be inquiring why she remained.

"Why, not that," faltered Judith, but did not know how to go on. It was not easy to talk when one had the sense of talking only to the outside of a person. Yet she could not bear to go. Nor was it her pride alone which rose against her going like that. Something in the girl strangely drew her. She wanted to reach the things locked in.

"You haven't liked it here?" she asked, timidly.

Again the girl raised her eyes, and, as if sensitive to change, did not immediately lower them. "Why, yes, I've liked it here—in most ways," she said. She appeared to forget Judith and to be brooding over her own situation; the heavy brows drawn, her face was almost menacingly somber. After a moment there escaped from her a violent, "I hate it down-town!"

Immediately she drew back into her retreat, so far within it that Judith could sit watching her, fascinated by that smoldering quality, drawn by something that in a rude sense seemed power. She observed details about her -- those little things that often point the way. There was no working-girl's finery, but neither was there anything that seemed contrived in her plainness; cheap white shirt-waist, black serge skirt —- evidently her interest was not in clothes. She had a great deal of black hair which was done low and uncaringly. Her color was not good and her features were too heavy for beauty. Judith felt that she would be quite different if what smoldered within blazed through. She wanted to know more of her -- more than there seemed any chance of her knowing. She was about twenty, Mrs. Emmons had said, and worked in the corset-factory, where she was skilful and had a good position -- as those positions went, she ad hazily added. Yet she was not a success as a worker, Judith had been told; she had lost several positions through what seemed shiftlessness -- staying away and being late. "There seems something unruly about her," Mrs. Emmons had said; "not," she had charitably added, "that you can put your finger on anything wrong."

"But if you like it here better than down-town," Judith ventured after a moment, "why do you change?"

The girl raised sullen eyes and replied with a short, disagreeable laugh. "Forgot what you just said?"

Judith flushed, but replied, quietly: "I didn't say leave. I meant stay here and keep the rules."

"Oh yes, stay here and keep the rules!" she mocked. "It's easy enough, isn't it?"

"The others do," said Judith.

"The 'others'!" she scoffed, adding, under her breath, "Don't talk to me. about the 'others.'"

There was a pause, and then Judith, nervously, somehow feeling herself to be speaking as a child speaks, began to say how Mrs. Hughes was reasonable, and if once in a while something came up one had not known of in advance --

"You always know, when you start out anywhere, how long you're going to be gone?" came the savage interruption. "No," honestly replied Judith. After a minute she forced herself to say, "And yet, if there are, as you implied, advantages in living here, might it not be worth while to give in on that point and -- "

Again she was interrupted; not at first by words, but by the blaze of passion in the girl's eyes.

"'Give in'!" she cried. "'Give in'! -- that's just it. That's all there is to life -- this 'give in,' and 'give in' and 'give in.' What's left? That's what I'd like you to tell me! That's what I want to know before I 'give in' any more!" Judith, staggered, could not reply, and the girl, powerless to hold back what had been loosened, broke out again: "I tell you I'm tired of giving in! It's nothing but 'give in.' Why" -- her eyes narrowed as she shot this through the tumult of her feeling -- "the whole thing's an institution, and you're to keep the rules of that institution, and to do that you give in, till after a while you aren't there. I tell you I know! You go!" A little cry escaped from Judith Brunswick, sitting far forward in her chair. "Why -- I know that," she gasped. "Why -- I know that!"

"I'll tell you where I go at night sometimes." The other girl tossed her head, as if defending her inmost stronghold. "I'll tell you where I was the other night when I came in after eleven and Mrs. Hughes said she would have to 'speak to the ladies.' I wasn't at a dance-hall"; she laughed, mockingly. "Though I would have been," she threw in darkly, "if I'd wanted to be. I wasn't with a man at all. I -- "she halted, then said, so simply that it was moving, "I don't know any man I'd care about being with. I was by myself. I took a walk. I was trying" -- the defiance had fallen from her, leaving her quite exposed -- "trying to get back to myself; back -- " There was a break in her voice, but her eyes went on.

"I walked a long way up the river; up to a place I know, where you can see far things. It was moonlight. I sat on a hill a long time, not thinking about what time it was. I was -- " Again she broke off, shook herself as if in disgust at her poor powers, then demanded, with a little laugh at once wistful and hard, "When you're educated, can you tell things?"

But Judith's reply was checked by the new feeling that flamed in the girl's face. "Do you ever feel it?" she cried. "That life's rushing past you? -- rushing right past you? Do you ever want to reach out with your two hands and take it?" She was leaning forward, clenching her hands as if seizing upon something. "Do you ever feel that something's swinging shut? Something that won't open again? Like something in you had been beaten back? -- something really you, beaten back till it doesn't often move any more? Oh, I try to make myself a wooden thing! But there come those times when you knoiv -- and then -- then -- " She came to a stop. "Then the wooden thing gets smashed a little," was all she could say, and tried to laugh. After a moment she looked up at Judith to say, "I'll tell you what I was doing the other night. I was thinking about God."

She laughed, partly in embarrassment, and sat there tilting one foot on the tip of the other. Then, as if not quite sure of Judith, after all, she added, defensively, "Not like church."

Judith only nodded, but her eyes reassured that in Mary Graham which had never before ventured from its fastness. Freed now, it swept up and possessed her; hushed before it, she sat there marveling. Then, not wanting to lose this first touch with another human soul, she said, timidly,

"The other night -- up the river there, I -- I was wondering." She was as if bathed in mystery when she slowly repeated, in a voice touched at once with the pain and the glory, "I was wondering."

At three o'clock that next afternoon Judith Brunswick was to report to the house committee of the Woman's Club on the case of Mary Graham -- what she had been able to "do" with her. What had she been able to " do"? It was not until after she had said good night to the matron, whose deference did not conceal her disappointment in not being confided in, had closed the door of Severns Hall behind her, and was out in the fragrant night that she thought of the house committee and how she had failed it.

When she got home she had been relieved to find that her mother was at a neighbor's. She could put offher brother, who teasingly inquired, "Find out all you wanted to know about the unfortunate sister?" She went up to her room, wanting to be alone with what she had found out about Judith Brunswick. A whole new world was opening from the fact that the very thing that pressed against the surface of her own life was there -- more powerful, more passionate in the life of Mary Graham. It was the same revolt against the eating in of custom, against the closing down of routine around one; the same outreaching from grooves of living one had been forced into, that same flutter of the soul against the "giving in."

For two years Judith Brunswick had been home from college; they were two years of giving in. This was what Mary Graham shot home to her now: "Give in -- give in -- give in! What's left?"

She stood before the bookcase, running her hand across the backs of the books. They were the books she had brought home from school. She had liked having them in her room; often before going to bed she would take one of them and read awhile, perhaps less for the things read than for the moment's touch with things that seemed slipping from her. Sinking to the low chair before the shelves, she sat th

She had come home from school with that fine sense of life as not a fixed thing, but a thing of continuously unfolding possibilities; conscious of herself as alive and the world as wonderful, eager to be a living part of the fecund age she had a sense of living in. Life was a thing to do with to one's utmost. She was going to "do something."

Then she got home, where things were all shaped ahead and she was expected to form herself into a pattern that had been made for her. She was the daughter of a well-to-do man of a middle-Western town. It was no part of her plan to shut herself in with the money her father had made. That money might express her father; it in no sense expressed her. She would form her own place, and in her own way.

Looking back to it now, it was both interesting and terrible to her to see how one little thread and then another had been thrown around her, drawing her into the pattern formed for Judith Brunswick, "society girl" in that town. Her married sister was deep in society; so was her sister-in-law, and so were all the girls she knew. It had been: "But of course you're coming to my tea?" -- "But, Judith, why would n' t you go?" "Just because you've gone to college, are you such a 'high-brow' that you have to cut us all?" —- until she could fairly feel herself fitting into the pattern formed for her. She had wondered at times, longingly thinking of her college friends, if it was because all of them had been out of the places formed for them that they had seemed so much more individual and alive than girls she knew in this other way. Mary Graham had said it: something had been swinging shut, something that might not open again; life was going past her; she was not reaching out and taking it. She had made poor little attempts -- such as joining the Woman's Club. Even that laid her open to the taunt "high-brow" -- the way her young social set dismissed all things it had neither brain to cope with nor spirit to aspire to. She grew more and more sensitive about revealing her dissatisfaction when it seemed she could not even define, much less attain, the things she did want, until at last, unable to see the path, she grew timid in asserting her wish to get there. She had no sense of movement now, only a going round and round in one small place. And that place claimed a toll from her spirit: powers unused becoming enfeebled, enthusiasms unclaimed growing dimmed, things unattained becoming less real. The very doing of things gave them a hold on her. She grew disgusted with herself, and that sullened her spirit; distrustful of herself, and that was weakening. It seemed she had not been worth anything else, after all, or she would not have been caught like that. She saw the absurd side of her predicament, and that was quenching. "Poor girl -- her family don't understand her! A prisoner in one of the finest houses in town! Forced to wear stunning clothes and spend her time enjoying herself!" -- so would go the town's laugh for it.

And now this Mary Graham had brought things to life again! The old sense of the wonder and the imperativeness of life broke through. Once more life challenged her and the old sense of power surged up to meet the challenge. She had known there was a fight; through Mary Graham it was made real to her that it was a fight for freeing life. She laughed at herself for having felt "sensitive" about her dissatisfaction with life gone stale. Not ridiculous because wanting something she did not have, but ridiculous because not getting that something! Her mind shot out into this plan and that; she would go to the city -- study, work, look up some of the girls who had gone on, get her bearings. She would find her own. Well, Mary Graham was her own. She would reach her -- would break through the separate crusts place and custom had formed about them. And Mary Graham must find her own; Mary Graham must find her place. She glowed with thoughts of what the girl might come to mean if her passion were directed to that new feeling in the world that would free life from the rules of the institution.

The next afternoon, while getting ready for the meeting, she realized that the things she had been feeling would not be easy to put into a report to the house committee. And when finally sitting with the four women who, with herself, comprised that committee, she was newly and horribly conscious of how hard it would be to say the only things she had to offer. Perhaps it was just part of what she scornfully called her spinelessness (her friends would call it her sweet nature) -- but other people did complicate things so! It was so much easier to be fine and fearless by yourself than with people who assumed you were like them. If only one could be at all sure of "putting it over" -- not having one's feelings go sprawling about in ridiculous forms of expression. The very cut of Mrs. Emmons's new spring suit seemed to seal one in -- so confident and serene it was. And the aigrettes on Mrs. Van Camp's hat and the way that appallingly efficient little lady held her hand-bag beat back all things one could not put into exact terms. Then there was Miss Hewitt, who worked with her mother in the church guild and whom her mother called a "lovely woman." And the fourth member, Mrs. Stephens, made it no easier, for Judith had been assured Mrs. Stephens had a delicious sense of humor, and what she knew of her made her feel it was not the humor to break out into understanding, but the kind that stays within and settles to self-satisfaction. They were not women to whom it would be easy to talk of Mary Graham -- or Judith Brunswick.

As she listened to other reports about the Home their complacency became an irritant to her own uncertainty. They did not find life complex -- perplexing. They seemed so sure of themselves; an assumption of their own superiority was apparently the groundwork of their endeavors. There shot into her mind a wicked little desire to see that ground-work shaken. She had not known what she was going to say, and now, as she listened to Mrs. Van Camp's perfect little plan for making something move on in just the way it should go, she saw that she could "give them a jolt."

Mrs. Emmons said Miss Brunswick would tell them of the girl at the Home who had been so unruly.

Judith leaned forward in her most engaging manner. "Mary Graham can't very well keep that rule," she said. "You see, when she goes out she can't tell just when she may care to come in. After all," she added in a warm, cordial voice, "how can one?"

Mrs. Emmons dropped her handkerchief; Judith stooped and returned it to her with a smiling nod. All were staring at her. Mrs. Van Camp's mouth had fallen a little open. Then it shut up tight and she straightened.

"But—but, my dear Miss Judith," Mrs. Emmons finally gasped; "but —- when -—"

"When one lives in an institution," cut in the incisive voice of Mrs. Van Camp," one must keep the rules of that institution."

Judith turned to her, sweetly earnest. "That's just what I thought before J talked with her. But you see I came to see it was not good for her soul to keep the rules of the institution." She leaned back in her chair, nodding a little, as if shehad cleared that up.

"Well, we can't help it about her soul," sharply began Mrs. Van Camp, but, at a movement from the chairman, stopped.

"Her soul," gently corrected Mrs. Emmons, "is just what we care most about. But will you please make clear to us, dear Miss Judith, how there can possibly be any harm to her soul in keeping the rules of that institution?"

"She takes walks at night," said Judith, and saying it swept her back to her deep feeling for the thing itself until she forgot her use of it as a spiritual bomb. "She does this that she may find herself; that life may not completely shut her in. It is the life in her breaking through. The other night she walked a long way up the river and sat where she could see far things." She hesitated, then finished, even more quietly, "She was thinking about God."

on't believe it!" came the quick retort from Mrs. Van Camp.

Mrs. Emmons cleared her throat. "We shouldn't say that we do not believe it,perhaps," she began, uncertainly. She looked at Judith, helplessly and in appeal. "It does seem -- most unusual."

Mrs. Stephens's sense of humor was not illumining to the discussion that followed, satisfying itself in amusement at the humorlessness of her fellow-members. Miss Hewitt looked frightened and pained; and yet there was one moment when Judith looked at her, as she was looking out of the window, which made her suspect that something buried under the years that made her a "lovely woman" stirred. Nothing remained buried, however, in the breast of Mrs. Van Camp. In the first place, she briskly and capably attacked it; it was not safe. Why, the girl might be arrested! It would give the Hall a queer name. Even if she did go out to think, about God the rules could not be suspended. It would just make an opening for other girls to get out to a dance-hall. Why couldn't she think about God in the house? Or there was the yard -- a nice yard. Where did she go to church? Her minister should look into it. She should not be encouraged in such queer things —- it would take her mind from her work. Mrs. Emmons was more mild, but no less perturbed. It was deeply disconcerting not to be able to condemn a thing that led to the breaking of a rule.

Judith felt her antagonism against them rising. They stood for the things holding her in -- things that held every one in. They arranged an order; that order must be subscribed to. They made rules; those rules must be kept. There was no sympathy with a thing that broke into things as they had planned them. Why should one wish to do a thing that was not customary?

"You think it altogether absurd?" Judith asked, her voice sharp-edged. "Quite absurd, you think, that she should not find her life satisfying? -- should want more from it than she is getting?" Mrs. Emmons murmured something about pleasures and classes for the working-girls.

Judith shook her head; she knew that she could not make it plain; she was not considering that, but was being drawn back to Mary Graham -- a living soul beating against the things that shut her in. Sitting here with these women she had a sharpened sense of what those things were. It was as if there was represented here the whole order that locked one away from life. And with that came anew the sense of the wonder and the preciousness of life -- life that could persist through so much, bear so much, and go on wanting. She spoke from out this feeling when she murmured, "The other night -— up the river there -- she was wondering."

Her face was so puzzling, her voice so strange, that there was a moment's silence before Mrs. Van Camp demanded, "What about?"

Judith was to have gone to a tea after the committee meeting. She did not want to 'go; neither did she want to go home. She took a car to the outskirts of town and walked a long way up the river road, climbing a hill. She was sure this was the hill from which Mary Graham had seen far things.

But she kept turning from the far things of that open country to the town that also was there. She could see the house she lived in; she could see the factory where Mary Graham worked. Those things were there. They were. A long time she sat looking back at that town, and something in its fixity was quelling. It seemed that she, and Mary Graham, and all the other people there, had been caught by that town. It made her wonder if she hadn't been unfair to those club women. What, after all, did she expect them to do? That was the way things were. Things were already built up, just as that town was built up -- fixed. Precious life had been caught in that building, but was there escape from things so powerful in their fixity? As she continued to look, there forced itself upon her a sense of how all things were related. That relation of things was what towns expressed. It was no small thing, after all, to disturb the lives of a number of other people, people who loved her and whom she loved. It seemed that affection and obligation were agents holding one to one's place, as if they had some subtle cohesive power that interlay and held together the material things making that town. It was not so simple. It was not simple at all. Walking slowly back down the river road, it was hard to put down the questioning whether she was not held by things stronger than herself.

She stepped aside for an automobile to pass. Realizing that she knew the man rushing by in it, she bowed, but it was not until after he was past that she wondered if it was not Mrs. Emmons's husband. The car had come to a crunching stop and there were hurrying footsteps. She was considering whether to turn, when her name was called and she looked back to see that it was indeed Charlie Emmons, as her mother called him -- he who had suggested that Judith be sent to see Mary Graham.

"I beg pardon, Miss Brunswick," he was saying. "Hope I didn't startle you, but I was so interested in that meeting of yours this afternoon -- about that girl. I met my wife and took her home in the car; she was telling me about it -- some of the things the girl said to you. I don't know why I should be so interested," he laughed, after an instant's pause in which Judith had not known just what to say, "but something about it does interest me. Maybe because I used to have somewhat the same feeling myself -- when I was young."

He laughed, embarrassed at the confession, and some quality in that embarrassment made it easy for Judith, once into it, to tell of Mary Graham. He kept nodding, as if understanding. His face looked as though he did understand. "Well," he said, "it's a feeling that comes to some of us -- when we are young." He laughed again, and was looking off at the river.

"But we get over it," he said, coming back, and speaking in a voice nearer his usual brisk businesslike tone. "We have to play the game, you know -- and, yes, we do have to keep the rules."

As much as anything else it was the change in him in saying it that summoned everything in her to resist it now -- that same thing to which she herself had been close just a little while before.

"Even though it might be the finest thing in us tried to break through?" she asked, the fighting edge to her voice.

"Oh -- the finest thing in us. . . ." he muttered, and was again looking off at the river.

She watched him. Here was one who had given in, overcome by things that were fixed; held, perhaps, in the mesh of affection. And now he was something different; something made by the things, he had given in to.

Sharply it came to her that that was the price paid for the giving in. One changed; some things died down, other things developed, until the balance was different. One's quality changed. She knew that, for she had begun to change in just two years. One settled down into the feeling that one couldn't do any differently and wrested a certain mournful satisfaction from the sadness of surrender. She straightened for combat, throwing off the drugging effect of those false satisfactions.

"No," he came back to her again, "we have to play the game, and to play the game we have to keep the rules."

As he said it she knew with simple certitude that it was not so. She knew it for the great human error and weakness; knew that it was wickedly wasteful, fairly unholy in its blundering tampering with life. It took life. Was that not enough to say against it? And life was more valuable than anything that would shut life in -- yes, and stronger than built-up things that held it in! Why, she owed no allegiance to an order that held life in chains! As she saw the live things falling back in this man, and the things of custom once more shutting down around him, she knew her own way out. In the fight for freeing Mary Graham she would free herself.

He said again, putting down something stubbornly insurgent in himself, "You see, we do have to keep the rules."

And something in her, freed by saying it, leaped up and made her strong as she looked at him and triumphantly answered, "I don't have to!"


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