Chapter 22 [Out of the Silence, by Erle Cox]

[Editor: This is a chapter from Out of the Silence (1947 edition) by Erle Cox (1873-1950).]

Chapter XXII

“So the woman lives,” said Earani. “There is no miracle about it, Dick. There are many things in your daily life that would have been miracles one hundred years ago that you pass over now without a second thought.”

“I doubt if I could get Walton to look at it in that light. He almost feels that the woman has shown an indecent contempt for medical practice in recovering.”

“You have not told him?” asked Alan.

“Hardly,” replied Barry, with a laugh. “I haven’t the nerve. The first question he would ask would be what drug I had used. I’d reply that I hadn’t the faintest idea. Of course, he’d feel convinced then that I am a genius. He’d tell me so, too. No, Dun, when I tell Walton anything about it, I’ll want to be able to tell him a good deal more than that.”

“You are on the verge of many things now, Dick, but you could not go forward much further without the aid of Maxi’s lens. Our race came to the same wall that stopped them until Maxi broke it down,” said Earani.

“Then Maxi was the second of your great men?” asked Alan.

“Yes, and to my mind the greatest of the three. He spent his life on the one work and succeeded. They thought him mad at first. He knew that every living organism gave out light rays that the human eye cannot see. His lens is really an artificial eye that can detect these rays and convey them to the brain direct. He was originally attempting to invent a substitute for the natural eye in cases where it had been destroyed, when he first gathered the threads that he followed through all their windings until the great work was completed. It took him twenty-five years of uninterrupted labour, and what a labour it was! He faced the years of failure without flinching. He could make no converts to his hopes and his idea. On every side there was ridicule and derision, and against it all he never once faltered. Absolutely alone, and without the help of one friendly hand, he won through. His recognition came in his lifetime, and he bore his triumph as simply as he had borne his reverses. He put aside with a smile all the honours they offered him. ‘You can give nothing I desire now but rest, and my work has won that for me,’ was his answer when they asked him to name his own reward.”

“He had no need of a monument, Earani,” interrupted Barry.

She shook her head. “Not while his work lives. Think of the results. The average life of mankind at the time of Maxi’s invention was about forty-eight years! Within two hundred years the average was well over one hundred years, and later it rose to one hundred and twenty with a maximum of one hundred and sixty. You must understand, too, that a man of one hundred years was not a tottering wreck of humanity, but a being as mentally and physically robust as one of forty in the pre-Maxi days, and many up to one hundred and fifty years retained their faculties to the full, and every step that led to this revolution was solely due to Maxi’s lens. Without it even the work of Eukary would have been impossible.”

“Ah!” interjected Barry, “and Eukary was the third person of your trinity?”

Earani nodded. “He came two hundred years after the old Doctor, and was one of the worshippers of his memory.” She turned to Alan. “He was one of those that nature gives to the world once in a thousand years, like your Napoleon. He rose from the ranks, and for fifty years he ruled the world with a rod of steel. It was not a nation or a confederation that he ruled, but the entire world. He ruled ruthlessly and mercilessly, and when he died he left us a new world and a new religion.”

“A new religion is a doubtful sort of legacy,” said Alan with a smile.

Barry straightened up. “That’s a fact from our point of view, Earani. Every religion that our world has been given so far has been as fatal from a point of mortality as a new disease. You see the converts as a rule have felt it incumbent on them to spread the glad tidings, even if they had to do it with an axe. The unbeliever had to love his enlightener, even if he had to be hammered into doing it. As a consequence, religions generally meant new causes for war, so they have been pretty fatal, taking them all round.”

“There’s nothing like the hatred that a really bigoted religious fanatic can raise for a rival creed,” put in Alan.

“Perhaps Eukary’s religion was an exception?” asked Barry.

“He met the usual reward of the reformer,” she smiled. “Hate and spite and intrigue — but he was too great to feel or fear them, aye, or to notice them, except where they interfered with his plans.”

“And then?” asked Alan.

“And then he struck once — there was never need for a second blow, and he never gave warning. He knew he was right, and he would not let one life or a thousand stand in the way of the future of the race. He taught us the worship of the unborn.

“He started from the theory that if infinite care in breeding be necessary in producing the highest class of animal or vegetable life, then it is so much the more necessary in producing the highest type of human life. We know that a weed can be cultivated until it becomes a splendid flower and that if neglected it will ultimately revert to its original worthless type. We know that the finest class of domestic animals are those that result from careful breeding. And humanity, Dick ——?” she paused.

“Left to carry on anyhow. It’s a tremendous handicap. Reproducing at our own sweet will in the sacred cause of individual liberty, and to the detriment of the race. It’s a wonder we have ever pulled through so far, or so well. It can’t be helped, anyhow,” was Barry’s comment.

“It can be altered!” answered Earani decisively. “It has been once in the world’s history. Eukary made no move until he had absolutely proved what was afterwards known as Eukary’s Law of Transmission. When he propounded that law the world stopped sufficiently long in its work to find that it had discovered a new joke, and when the joke grew stale, both it and he were forgotten. The jesters would not have been so light-hearted had they known their man a little better.”

“Curious, is it not?” said Alan, “when you think of it, how some — in fact, nearly all — of the men who have radically affected the world have been considered a subject for a jest in the beginning.”

Earani smiled. “I suppose if you could trace the intimate history of the times there were many who jested at Mahomet, Caesar, Napoleon — aye, or perhaps even of your Divine Prophet. It has always been so, and will always be so while fools are born into the world.”

“Consider the majority they are, Earani,” said Barry with a laugh.

Earani nodded. “We had our share, Dick, but Eukary lowered the average.”

Alan made an extravagant gesture of supplication. “Oh! Great Queen, grant us, we implore you, the formula, for never a world of all the worlds needed the boon so much as ours.”

“You might demonstrate on ——,” Barry began.

“Dick, if you are offering me up as a subject, I’ll regard it as an unfriendly action, as the diplomats say,” broke in Alan.

“Profound self-consciousness, Alan,” said Barry, with a laugh. “Let’s hear the rest, Earani, and we’ll find a subject afterwards.”

“The work was not done in a day,” said Earani, laughing at their nonsense; “and for thirty years the world at large heard nothing of Eukary. During that thirty years he worked silently at his tremendous plan. It seems incredible now that what was afterwards known as the ‘Great Conspiracy’ could be formed in secret, but it was so. I can give you no clearer idea of his character than that he could enrol hundreds of thousands of followers under his banner in a plot to place the control of the world in one man’s hands, and do it undetected.”

“A secret society,” said Alan.

Earani nodded. “Exactly, and its members embraced every race and every creed in the world without a single traitor.”

“He could not have known them all,” said Barry.

“Naturally not,” replied Earani; “but that is where the wonderful system and organisation came in. He had a faultless judgment of men in the first place, and selected his immediate followers without making a single error. Then again he had that quality of leadership that turns followers into worshippers.”

“When the final blow was struck which made Eukary the master of the world, you must understand that conditions of life were different from those you know at present. War had ceased, and with it the necessity for armaments. By international agreement no weapon of offence might be improved, and the small armed force kept by each confederation had become merely an adjunct of State ceremonial. Amongst the conspirators were the greatest brains of the age, and these invented a weapon that made the movement irresistible.”

“It must have been a fairly easy victory, Earani,” interrupted Barry; “the resistance could not have been much against such an organisation.”

“It was at first. People were too stunned by the blow to offer resistance. It was when they had had time to think that the trouble came. However, Eukary struck, and between the setting of one sun and the rising of another the old order had passed away. So perfectly were the plans laid that in one night the governing bodies of every confederation were removed, and a new administration was substituted.”

“Without resistance at all?” asked Barry.

Earani shrugged her shoulders. “Eukary was not a man to allow sentiment to interfere with his plans, and the small regular armed forces might have been used as a nucleus for organised resistance, and so he made such a step impossible. They were exterminated to the last man.”

“Eukary seems to have taken Odi for a model,” said Dick.

“Possibly,” answered Earani, without heeding the tinge of sarcasm in Barry’s voice. “His methods never lacked decision, and he was not the man to risk failure through fear of public opinion. However, what you take exception to was nothing to what followed. The success of the revolution was absolute from the beginning. When people came down to their cities on the first day (they still lived in cities at that time) nothing was changed, except that they found proclamations notifying them that their government would be carried on as before, except that all existing and future laws would be subject to revision by a central council, of which Eukary would be the president.

“Eukary was not slow to use his advantage. First he dealt with all public men outside the organisation. They had the position fully explained to them, and were given the option of giving their allegiance without being told the alternative. Many fell in with the plan gladly. Others, for conscientious reasons, refused. Can you guess what happened to them, Dick?” said Earani, with her slow smile, turning to Barry.

“Placed under restraint, I suppose,” answered Barry.

“Think, Dick. Under restraint they would always be a menace, and a centre of disaffection, and certainly a centre of antagonism. Eukary’s method was kinder in the long run. He had a maxim, ‘Where there is no head there can be no body,’ and so he took care there would be no head,” she concluded grimly.

“From the first day I saw his statue,” said Alan, “I concluded that he was a gentleman who knew his own mind. He certainly was thorough.”

“It cleared the way,” answered Earani. “Then he brought the great plan into operation. It was very simple. All laws were left unchanged that did not conflict with the one law that was made uniform throughout the world. No marriage would in future be permitted without the sanction of the controlling body. Every unmarried man and woman of marriageable age was obliged to report for registration. Each was told, then and there, whether he or she would be permitted to marry. But it was not the end of the matter, for no marriage could be performed without the consent of the authorities. Here Eukary’s Law of Transmission came into operation. If, subject to the clearly defined clauses of that law, the children likely to result from that union would be an improvement on at least one of the parents, then the marriage would be permitted; otherwise it would be forbidden. Later on, but not until long afterwards, the law became more stringent; the offspring had to show an improvement over both parents.”

“And how did the world take the new order?” asked Barry. “Surely not quietly?”

“The world took the new order just as a child takes a nauseous drug, unwillingly; but” — she went on with grim emphasis — “it took it in the long run — Eukary saw to that.”

“There must have been what we call ‘ructions,’ Earani,” said Alan.

“There was a revolt; only one, though,” she answered. “Eukary allowed the disaffection to come to a head; he even allowed it a measure of success, so as to induce all of his opponents to show their hand. In his grim summary of the situation 80 per cent. of the revolting faction were defective, either mentally or physically, therefore their elimination cleared the atmosphere. When the revolt was crushed he was asked the fate of the survivors, and his orders were brief and merciless — ‘They were warned. I cannot and will not allow opposition. Spare none.’”

“Why,” put in Barry, angrily, “he was a worse fiend than Odi.”

Earani looked him over reflectively. “Dick, your profession has made you hopelessly sentimental. I could almost think you would weep over the fate of a tumour you were obliged to remove.”

Dick laughed in spite of his anger. “No parallel, Earani,” he answered. “I would be saving a life, not destroying it.”

She shook her head. “Your horizon is too limited. What use to save the life if it were not worth saving? What use would the life be without civilisation? These people that Eukary removed were a malignant growth, nothing else, on civilisation.”

“And the result?” asked Alan.

“Don’t think that came in a generation. Eukary did not hope for that, but he lived long enough to know that the world would never revert to the old order. But his mighty brain was there to help the world through the first troublous period. He had to contend with an enormously reduced birth-rate, owing to the restriction on marriage, but this was to a great extent counteracted by a lowered death-rate.

“As time went on the reality of Eukary’s work became manifest, and the standard of humanity rose to heights even beyond the expectation of its founder. Gradually the percentage of defectives became lower and lower, until there rose a feeling that to become the parents of a child who was classed as unfit became a disgrace — as great even as the shame of unchastity. It was from this feeling came the cult of the unborn. The restrictions and the regulations became more severe by the will of the people themselves, rather than by the will of the controlling body. The law of transmission became the world’s creed.”

Barry shrugged his shoulders. “You are too much for me, Earani, but butchery, even if it be discriminating, is only butchery after all. But,” he added, looking up at her laughing, “I can almost forgive Eukary, in that you are one result of his dreams.”

She nodded. “Oh! I know I am beautiful, but I can say it without vanity. It is the gift I owe to hundreds of my forebears, who lived by the law.”

“I am entirely reconciled to him now,” said Alan. “Although I am content that there are a few million years between our times, I feel really that Eukary is one of those to whom distance lends a charm. What more, Earani?”

“There is not much more to tell. One unexpected effect was the gradual blending of the national confederations. It was found that racial intermarriage gave the most vigorous offsprings under certain conditions, and that, together with the rapidity and ease of travel, gradually overcame racial distinctions, until the world, except for the convenience of government, practically became one great people, Dick” — she checked herself suddenly — “I believe, though, I can tell you of another effect that will take that stern look of disapproval from your face.”

Barry smiled. “Your reformers were too drastic for me, Earani. It will be a comfort to hear of something that doesn’t include wholesale slaughter.”

“Well,” said Earani, “perhaps this will satisfy you. Eukary was the originator with us of the sanctity of maternity. True, his reasons were those of policy rather than humanity. He had to work against the falling birth-rate. He adopted the plan of making prospective maternity notifiable, and from that time onwards until her child was born the mother became a ward of the State. To permit a prospective mother to work or to have a harassing care became unthinkable. She became something sacred, a being apart, dedicated solely to the new life she would bring into the world. Can you reconcile that idea with the man you class as a butcher?”

“I’d back him in that part of the plan, heart and soul,” answered Barry. “It’s a pity he didn’t do his reforming by gentler means, and I’d admire him more.”

“Remember, he was nearly 90 years old at the time of the revolution,” Earani continued. “He might have wrangled for the remaining 50 years of his life without taking one single step. The generation that came after him and profited by his deeds made no complaint. Think of a world full of clean-blooded, carefully-bred people, armed against disease even before their birth, and growing stronger mentally and physically every generation by careful selection. Our men calculated that had it not been for Eukary, the world’s races, owing to the easy conditions of life and the absence of the tonic of war, would have relapsed into savagery in a couple of thousand years, and only the merciless knife of the master saved them.”

“Earani is right,” said Alan, looking across at her. “Did not the French revolution save France as nothing else could have done? To take just one instance. Was the American civil war entirely without compensation? Would any American affirm now that his country would be better off if it had not taken place? Oh, yes, Dick, the price seems high at the time, and that’s because at the time it is impossible for the normal man to measure the extent of the benefits to accrue. It’s the Eukarys and his type who know.”

“Two to one isn’t fair,” laughed Barry, “especially when one of the two is Earani.”

Earani stood up and laid her hand gently on Alan’s shoulder. “Alan, take Dick up to the world again, and turn his feet on the right path. To-night the right path is the homeward one.” She turned to Barry. “Soon now, Dick, I shall put your feet on the right path, and — well — we shall see;” and she waved the two men towards the curtained exit from the “temple.”

As Barry stepped into his car Alan heard a murmured remark above the chatter of the engine. “What was that, Dick?” he asked.

“I merely remarked,” said the doctor, seating himself, “damn Andax.”

“Amen to that, Dicky, even if it is the first time I have agreed with you to-day.”

Erle Cox, Out of the Silence, Melbourne: Robertson and Mullens, 1947 (first published 1925), pages 268-280

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