Chapter 23 [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 XXIII

It was on the morning of the following Saturday that Alan was seated in the “temple” in deep argument with Earani. For the first time there was even a shadow of a cloud between them. Dundas was leaning back in his chair staring at the ceiling, and there was deep concern in his eyes and a frown on his forehead. Earani was half reclining on a couch near by. Her splendid bare arms were thrown across the head of the couch, and her round chin was resting on her entwined fingers. She was apparently unmoved, except for the perplexed look in her eyes as she watched the man.

“Even now I cannot understand, Alan. You say it would not be right for me to go with you to-day, yet you give no reason. What is the play you go to join in that I may not see?”

“Oh, Earani! There is nothing in the play that you might not see. There will be women taking part, but —” He paused. One of the penalties of secrecy was upon him, and he was wriggling to try to save her feelings from the truth he could not put into words. For some perverse reason she had demanded that he should take her with him to Glen Cairn that day. As he paused she went on, “Then there will be women there?”

“Twenty or more,” answered Alan grimly, and through his mind there flashed a picture of them all.

“So, Alan,” she said persuasively, “that is why I wish to go with you. I would like to meet the women of your world and talk with them. Sooner or later I must. Why not now?”

“Earani, you must trust me. I know Barry would agree with me, too. We must prepare for your reception before you can make your appearance. They would not understand.” It was doubly hard to refuse anything she asked when she pleaded.

“Alan, I think you are cruel,” she said softly.

This was too much for Dundas. “Earani, Earani,” he said, almost bitterly. “With all your science, and with all your generations of eugenics, Eukary could never make a woman anything but a woman.”

Earani rose to her feet and looked down at him. Then she laughed long and softly, swaying herself slightly as she stood. “Alan. Oh, Alan! That was mighty truth. It seems but yesterday that Andax hurled the same reproach at me. ‘After all, what use to give you a man’s brain when you are a woman?’ Oh, Alan! You should have heard the scorn he put into the word.” And then she broke off to laugh merrily. “Tell me, Alan, and look at me when you answer. Would you have me anything else?”

She stood watching him, her splendid grey twin stars full of mirth, and the curved red lips parted, showing a snowy line beneath. Her glorious face was framed in the masses of her silky hair that hung to her knees, and she crossed the white hands on her breast in an attitude of mock humility.

Dundas leaned forward slightly. He knew it was deliberate coquetry, and this was not the first time she had displayed it, but in spite of himself his hands went to his eyes for a moment as if to shut out something too dazzling for sight. Then he looked at her again, and shook his head. “God forbid you should ever be anything but yourself, Earani,” he answered slowly, almost in a whisper.

Then her mood changed suddenly, though a mischievous smile still played on her lips. “Ah, well, I will not worry you, Alan,” she said. “To-day I will read, perhaps, or stay here and think of things I must do. But you — go, and do not think about my foolishness any more.” She walked with him to the first landing. A few days before, Dundas and Barry, under Earani’s supervision, had erected an elevator in the shaft of the great staircase. It was a piece of machinery that Earani had produced from one of the galleries, and which had since been a source of wonder and delight to the men on account of its simplicity and perfection. The hardship of the journey to and from the homestead had been no small matter when constantly undertaken, and their new means of transport had been a welcome relief.

Alan stepped into the cage, and placed his hand on the controlling lever. “Well, I shall see you this evening, anyhow, for I shall be back by dusk. Till then —” He waved his hand as the cage shot up into the darkness. But Earani stood for some moments after he had disappeared. Then she made her way to the galleries below, and busied herself amongst divers strange implements. Every now and again she paused and smiled, and had Alan seen that smile his serenity would have been badly shaken.

Saturday afternoon was “the” day on the Glen Cairn tennis court. Even the golf club admitted its social superiority. As in all country towns, few of the men had leisure during the week to play, but the Saturday gathering brought them in not only from the town itself, but from a dozen miles round. The club courts formed a common meeting-ground and the centre of the social part of their lives. The club leased a corner of the town park, and had surrounded itself with a dozen rows of pepper trees that had flourished so that a stranger might walk past it without knowing that within the sacred grove lay the holy of holies of Glen Cairn society. Whoso held the right to pass the white gate labelled “Members only” knew himself to be one of the elect. Truly a democratic community were the good citizens of the borough and the shire of Glen Cairn, but the citizens who engaged in retail trade might not rub shoulders with the citizen who worked like a labourer for five and one-half days of the week but who did not engage in retail trade. With the exception of George MacArthur, old Tom Gaynor, the storekeeper, easily led the procession so far as this world’s goods were concerned, and he alone knew what sums the various members of the club owed him for goods sold and delivered, but not even the majesty of the rabbit-trimmed mayoral robes could carry him one step beyond that white picket gate. Not that it troubled Tom to any extent, but it is on record that Tom’s better half had been heard to express herself with freedom and fluency (and she could be both free and fluent of speech) on what she called the “dashed cheek of them tennis club people.” In justice to the men of Glen Cairn, however, let it be put on record that the committee of the club was almost entirely feminine.

It was a rare, golden winter afternoon, with just the first hint of coming spring in the air, and the day had drawn even a larger assemblage than usual. On the verandah of the clubhouse and round the courts were gathered the youth (there was plenty of it) and the beauty (not quite so much) of the district, likewise the matrons who gathered there for reasons best known to themselves.

When Alan arrived, accompanied by Rickardson, his presence was hailed by a volley of good-natured chaff that disturbed him not one whit. At the last moment he had written to Mistress Doris to say that, though he would appear on Saturday, he would not play, pleading want of practice. He made his way by slow stages towards the club-house; truth to tell, by no means anxious to face a group that his eyes had taken in the moment he came out on to the courts. There in one corner, were seated, in canvas chairs, Mistress Doris, Madam Kitty, and Marian Seymour. He felt in his heart that what had passed between him and Marian on that memorable night was no small thing to her. With another girl, perhaps a kiss pressed on unreluctant fingers, or a few soft words whispered during a moonlight drive, might mean but little, but with Marian he knew this meant much more, and not even the glory of Earani could drive from his mind the memory of the look he had seen in her eyes that night, and no amount of attempted self-deception could make him feel anything but guilty on her account. And so he put off the inevitable meeting.

He lingered beside the tea table, where Bella Pook was performing a miracle as great as that of the loaves and fishes by pouring tea from a two-pint teapot for nearly fifty people. It was no small relief to him then, when Rickardson, who had picked up MacArthur, came his way again, and under their escort he approached the group. With all his shortcomings, it was hard to dislike MacArthur, and his cheerful absence of self-consciousness made him proof against the arrows of feminine disapproval. Dundas knew that George had more than once come under the ban of the matrons’ displeasure, and that the last occasion was all too recent, and it amused him to notice how calmly the culprit disregarded his punishment, and made himself one of the little party in the corner.

Marian greeted Alan without a trace of restraint, but, on the other hand, without the slightest warmth. That she was deeply hurt by his conduct she would not try to conceal from herself, but she would rather have died than let him know how bitterly she resented it. So that Doris, who watched their meeting with a true matchmaking interest, found but little in it to satisfy her curiosity. At the first opportunity she flashed a wireless to Madame Kitty, but found that that interested spectator was also out of her bearings.

“Mrs. Bryce,” said Rickardson, “I caught this —” and he put his hand on Alan’s shoulder, “in the reading-room of the club. Rara avis, is it not? You will notice that it is not even wearing seasonable plumage. I asked it why, and it said it had given up tennis. Miss Seymour, do you think that the leopard can change its spots?”

Marian shook her head. “Mr. Dundas has been away for so long that I have almost forgotten whether he plays or not. Used you to play?” she asked, turning to Alan. There was nothing in the words themselves, but there was an inflection in the voice that stung one of the hearers, and caused a momentary exchange of glances between two of the others.

Alan disregarded the question. “The foundation for the statement is a remark of mine that I am too much out of practice to play in a tournament. You ought to know what discount to allow for Rick’s statements, Mistress Doris.”

“What I want to know,” asked Madame Kitty, “is whether you intend to stay out of your shell now you have come out? Because if not, I simply decline to renew our acquaintance until you do. If you intend to lead a patchwork existence, you needn’t expect me to.”

Alan replied, “I don’t know yet, but I hope to become normal before long. Where is your man?” He deftly robbed MacArthur of the cushion he was settling for himself, and, despite the protests of its indignant owner, sat on the floor of the verandah with his back against a post.

When the squabble had subsided Kitty answered: “My man, as you call him, should be here somewhere,” and she glanced round the courts.

“So he is,” said Rickardson, “only he happens to be obscured for the moment by the bulk of the Rev. John Harvey Pook. If you twist your neck, Dun, you might see him.”

Alan remained passive. “I don’t care enough about Pook to twist my neck to look at him,” he answered, and then, as Kitty rose to find her man, Alan took the vacant chair, and left the cushion to be wrangled over by the other two, with Doris as umpire.

Marian had remained silent, looking absently away, but, finding Alan so close to her, she turned reproachful eyes on him. “Have you been ill?” she asked in a low voice.

Dundas shook his head. He knew there was more than one question in the words. “No,” he answered slowly, “not ill, but worried a bit.”

“Dr. Barry has been much at ‘Cootamundra,’ and as we heard nothing of you, I thought perhaps that would account for things,” said the girl quietly.

Dundas turned from the soft, accusing eyes. “I did call,” he said meekly, “but you were away.”

“Oh! but that was ages ago. Just after the night — I saw you at the bank,” she added quickly. “You do not blame me for not being there, surely? How could I know ——?” She stopped suddenly.

Neither had noticed for the moment that a strange hush had fallen on the chattering gathering, until Marian looked up with the words cut short on her lips and her eyes fixed in wonderment. Dundas watched her in astonishment. He saw Marian’s hands clasp themselves, and she bent forward, looking across the court. Then she said slowly as if unconscious that she had spoken. “Oh! how lovely, how wonderful!” Almost immediately afterwards MacArthur’s voice cut in behind him: “Great Scott! Ricky, it’s a wandering angel.”

Alan turned in his chair, then shot to his feet electrified. There, across the courts, apart from all others, stood Earani — Earani, whom he had left to “think of things she must do, or read;” but, beyond doubt, if he were awake, Earani.

She had robed herself in the same pale blue gown that she had worn when he had first seen her. Her massed shining hair was twined in two arm-thick strands that fell before her from either shoulder. The dark blue cloak was thrown back, leaving the marble arms bare beside her, and the sunlight flashed and glittered on the jewelled belt about her waist. Even in the first astonished moment there flashed through Alan’s mind the thought of how absolutely insignificant she made the whole throng look in comparison. There was a dignity in her carriage that stamped her as a being apart. She stood with quiet unconsciousness of the sensation her appearance had caused, and she glanced round with her great grave eyes in frank, unconcerned curiosity, meeting the scores of strange eyes as she did so without a trace of embarrassment of self-consciousness. As though drawn by the intensity of his gaze, her eyes turned to Dundas, and as she saw him a radiant smile flashed into her face. One white hand fluttered towards him, then her voice, clear as the ring of crystal, cut into the astonished silence: “Alan, I was afraid for the moment that you were not here.” For a second every eye turned towards Dundas, and then went irresistibly back to Earani, who commenced to move towards him.

Alan made up his mind in a flash. He saw before him a staggering contretemps, but, come what might, his place was beside Earani, to take with her whatever might come, and with a great throb of love and pride in his heart, he strode out to meet her. She waited until he was close to her, and then said in a low voice: “I wanted to come, and I came. It’s no use being angry with me. Show me your friends.” He laughed recklessly. If he must face the music no one would have the opportunity of seeing him flinch, and he turned with his head high and faced the gathering on the verandah. He met the battery of questioning eyes with his own unabashed, and Barry, in spite of his own inner consternation, whispered a “Well done, Condor!” as the two came forward together. Barry felt certain that he himself had some stiff moments to face, nor did he prophesy in vain.

Now the members of the Glen Cairn Tennis Club were on the whole decently and normally behaved people, but it took more strength than they possessed collectively or individually to meet this abnormal situation. Here, out of the blue sky, so to speak, had appeared a feminine stranger of surpassing loveliness, and clothed, as one matron afterwards affirmed, in a princess robe and an opera cloak — a stranger, be it remembered, whose coming had been unheralded, and of whose presence in the district they were totally ignorant. And this radiant being had publicly and unmistakably addressed Dundas by his Christian name before them all. So now, as the two approached, each one of the assembly on the verandah forgot everything else in an overwhelming curiosity. Alan’s eyes met those of Barry, and in spite of himself the look of amazement in his friend’s face caused reckless amusement to gain the upper hand, for Earani had also seen Dick, and walked directly towards him with outstretched hand, and said, “Why, Dick, dear boy, I’m so glad to see you here, too! You didn’t expect me, did you?”

Barry turned a helpless look on Alan. He heard beside him the gasp of amazement from Kitty, and Alan hastened to the rescue. “Mrs. Barry, I want you to know Miss Earani.” He choked over the prefix. It seemed as idiotic as saying Mrs. Venus. “She is a great friend of mine, and has already met Dick” — (“No doubt about that,” he heard a whisper behind him). “Earani, this is Doctor Barry’s wife.”

Earani turned from Dick to look at the perplexed face of Madame Kitty. “I have wanted to know you for a long time,” she said, in a smiling, friendly voice. “I have heard much about you from Alan.”

Now Kitty did not for a moment doubt the fealty of her man, but the easy familiarity of the speech to Dick roused in her the jealousy that is latent in even the best of women. “I do not remember hearing Dr. Barry speak of you, Miss — Earani,” she answered, noncommittally.

“Oh!” answered Earani. “That is proof that he can be trusted, for I made him promise that he would not speak of me to anyone, even to you, and you see he has obeyed me.”

The word “obey” was an unfortunate choice, and the flush in her face and the light in her eyes told Alan that, for Madame Kitty at least, Earani would take no little explaining. But the moment’s tension was relieved from an unexpected quarter, for the Reverend John Harvey Pook (no one ever thought of shortening that collection of names) heaved his black bulk into the arena to meet what fate had prepared for him.

“My dear Dundas,” he said, in his blandest tones, “may I have the honour of being one to welcome your charming friend?”

Earani faced the interrupter. Her steady eyes swept him from head to foot. Without turning, she spoke, “Alan, who is this man?” as one would say, “What is this creature?”

Grasping at any chance that would give Barry breathing space, Alan introduced the reverend gentleman by his full name, omitting not one syllable. “I may add,” put in Pook, “that I am the vicar of the parish of Glen Cairn. You can hardly have been long in the district, or doubtless we would have met before.” There was an evident question in the remark, and Earani’s answer came unhesitatingly. “Oh, yes, I have been here quite a long time now. I am living with my friend, Alan. But you would not know that.” She added the last sentence as an after-thought. Alan’s eyes never left Pook or Earani, but a sixth sense told him of the sensation that went through the crowd at the frank avowal. He knew they were on the verge of a catastrophe, but he felt helpless to avoid it.

There could be no doubt as to the surprise on the face of the parson, who blundered on, “Oh, then, Miss Earani, your mother will be with you, too?”

“No,” came the reply, simply. “My mother has been dead for many years. Alan and I are quite alone together, except when Dick comes to see us.” She spoke so clearly and simply that no one present could miss a word.

For the first time Alan looked round the silent, breathless circle. His eyes went from the flushed face of Madame Kitty to the scandalised countenance of Pook’s wife and master, and past that again he saw the eyes of Doris Bryce set in relentless judgment. He knew, none better, the verdict of the onlookers, the feminine portion at any rate. The masculine opinion found vent somewhere in a low whistle that gave Dundas a furious desire to slay the whistler then and there. The slow-working brain of Pook seemed entirely unable to assimilate the fact that he was in the presence of a tragedy. “But,” he blundered on, “I do not understand. You have someone else with you, of course?”

This was too much for Alan. “Pook, my friend,” he said shortly, “is this a catechism class?”

“It appears to me ——” began Pook, who had at last grasped the situation; then he caught the look in Alan’s eye, and broke off stammering.

“It appears to you,” prompted Alan with deadly politeness, when Earani, who had become aware of the cold hostility that surrounded her without in the least understanding it, broke in — “Alan, what is a vicar?”

“A vicar,” said Alan, struggling with a wild desire to laugh at the effect of this simple question on the countenance of Pook, “a vicar is a clergyman.”

“Oh!” — she looked the reverend gentleman over with mild interest — “you are one of the priest class. I might have known.” Pook was plainly qualifying for apoplexy. “What creed do you teach, priest?”

He was a low churchman, and to be publicly told that he belonged to the priest class, and then to be addressed as “priest,” was more than Pook could endure. It savoured too much of the Rome his soul anathematised. “Young woman,” he stammered, waving an ineffectual paw, “I have been a minister of God for five and twenty years ——”

What more he could have said was cut short by Earani’s clear, incisive voice — “Man, you have been a minister to your stomach for much longer.”

There was a gasp of amazement at this frank generalisation, and here and there a scarcely smothered laugh went up. Dundas, horrified, attempted to interfere. “Oh! that is not right, Earani.”

“But, Alan,” she persisted, “I tell you it is right. Look at him. He eats too much. His very brain is fat.”

Before Alan could utter another word Mrs. Pook flew to the rescue, purple with fury. “How dare you! How dare you speak to my husband in such a manner?”

“Are you his wife?” asked Earani calmly, disregarding the fury of the demonstration.

The good lady gaped. “His wife! I am his wife. You — you ——”

“Then God help your offsprings. It would be a crime to let two such people breed.” Earani spoke with calm decision. There was no warmth in her words. They were uttered as a matter of fact.

“John Harvey — come away — at once! Must I stay here to be insulted by this shameless woman?” She caught the outraged vicar by the arm and drew him off the verandah. There was a general movement amongst the scandalised womenfolk, and Earani watched the movement with mild surprise. “Alan,” she asked, “are these people all fools? What have I done that these women hate me? I feel they do, even the wife of Dick;” and she turned to Kitty, who met her with one blazing glance and turned away.

Alan determined to make one desperate effort to retrieve the position. Mistress Doris had held her ground, watching the proceedings, and beside her, with stormy eyes, stood Marian. Dundas drew Earani towards her, the crowd parting before them. “Doris, there has been a terrible misunderstanding,” he said, as he reached her. “I want to try and explain.”

Doris looked at him with level eyes, taking no notice of Earani. “How long did you say your friend had been living with you, Mr. Dundas?”

Alan had never heard that voice before. “Six months, but ——” He got no further.

“I think there has been a misunderstanding — but — it will not continue. Marian, dear, are you coming?” and, taking the girl’s arm, Doris swept past as though Earani and Alan were non-existent. Her move was the signal for a general exodus, for Doris held no little power in the land, and scandalised matrons gathered their little flocks and fled, carrying in their train their mankind.

Dundas recognised the futility of a struggle against such overwhelming odds. He shook his head in answer to a mute inquiry in Dick’s eyes, and felt relieved when he saw Barry turn away reluctantly with his wife and follow the crowd. Some of the men would have gladly waited, but, realising that it was “not their funeral,” thought it better to leave. In a few minutes all who were left on the deserted courts besides Earani and Dundas were Rickardson, MacArthur and Bryce. Alan did not know that his old friend had been present until he found him standing by his side.

Earani had watched the flight in silence. There was the flicker of an amused smile about her lips. She turned to Alan at last. “Alan, what is it that I have done? You were right when you said that your friends would not understand me, and you might have said that I would not understand them.”

“I’m afraid, Earani, there is too much to tell to explain now. What you have done cannot be helped. We must leave the rest to time. I think the only thing to do now is to go back to ‘Cootamundra.’ At least, before you go, you must know these three, the only ones who have stayed,” and he nodded to the men who stood looking on.

Earani shook her head. “No, Alan, I have lost you too many friends to-day through my folly. Not now, but later, when they understand.” She turned and stepped from the verandah. Dundas made as if to follow, but she waved him back with a smile. “Stay there. I go the way I came.” She walked swiftly; before he could move, she had turned the corner of the clubhouse. A moment later Dundas ran in the direction she had taken, but when he reached the corner the tall, cloaked figure had vanished. He looked round dazed. It seemed impossible that she could have gone beyond his sight in the few seconds, even the close-growing peppers could not have hidden her completely, but the fact remained, she had gone as though the ground had swallowed her up.

Alan turned back to the verandah and met the questioning eyes of the three. “She’s gone,” he said.

“Gone where? How?” asked Bryce. It was the first time he had spoken.

“I haven’t the faintest idea, but she’s gone,” said Alan, and his mystified air showed that he spoke the truth.

MacArthur laughed. “Well, Dun, she said that she would go the way she came, and she did, because I happened to be looking across the courts when she arrived, and I’m prepared to swear that the lady didn’t walk on from anywhere. She just happened. One moment she wasn’t and the next she was. Do you get me? Most disconcerting. Dun — is she — pardon a question — is she real?”

“Oh! ask Pook,” said Dundas savagely. Then, after a moment, “Good Lord! What a mess!”

Then Rickardson spoke up. “Look, Dun, Mac and I only waited to know if we could do anything. For any mortal thing we can do we’re yours. Only say the word.”

Alan shook his head. “Good pals, but it’s no use. Nothing could stop the talk. Jove! Mac, you’ll be a plaster saint compared with me now. If you’re going back to the club you might drop a hint that I’m not receiving visitors.”

“All right, Dun,” said MacArthur. “We’ll leave you to Bryce. But, remember, call on us at any time”; and the two swung off together to discourage gossip at the club in their own peculiar fashion, with blind faith in their friend in his trouble.

It was not until their figures were hidden in the trees that Dundas turned to Bryce, who stood by, tugging at his moustache, and eyeing his friend with profound perplexity.

“Well, Hec,” he said, “and the verdict is ——?”

“Judgment reserved — for the moment,” answered Bryce, pushing both hands deep into his pockets. “Let me hear your version, Alan. To put it mildly, you’ll admit there’s an explanation due.”

“How much did you hear?” asked Dundas.

“Pretty well everything, I think. Enough, anyhow, to shake my faith in human nature. Enough, almost, to shake my faith in you. Alan, what devil’s scrape have you got into?”

“Listen, Hec. You’ve known me since I was a little shaver. You know me better than any man does. If I give you my word of honour that, in spite of appearances, although what she said about our being alone at ‘Cootamundra’ is true, for it is true, will you take my word that to me she is sacred?” He spoke in a low, earnest voice, and looked Bryce appealingly in the face.

Bryce’s hand shot out. “Dun, I’d take that word of yours, and, thank God for it. I do believe you. But can you help me to make others believe?”

Dundas smiled grimly. “Hec, that’s just the point. You’ll believe me blindly, and MacArthur and Rickardson. Barry knows, too. But the trouble is I can tell you nothing, for a while at any rate. Afterwards the whole world may know. But at the moment — well — I just can’t, that’s all.”

“If you have to make a mystery of her, Alan, what on earth possessed you to bring her here to-day? It was suicidal.”

“I didn’t,” came the brief reply. “Another thing, Hec, if I were to tell you the idea that’s in my mind concerning her arrival here you’d jump about ten feet into the air with shock.”

Bryce rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Well, Dun, here’s the situation. You’ve disappeared for nearly six months. All attempts to rout you out and explain matters were futile. Then, without warning, you are publicly claimed by ——. May I go on?”

Dundas nodded.

“By the most” — Bryce paused again, searching for a word. “Don’t you see, Alan, that it’s her overpowering beauty that damns her and you hopelessly in the eyes of every woman in the place. Gad, man! Whatever they thought of her, they would pardon you if it were not for that. Why her face is enough to drive anyone crazy. Can’t you see how hopeless it will be to try and explain?”

Dundas threw up his arms. “Dash it all, Hec! I know. I know, but I don’t care a damn. Let them think what they like. One thing I can promise you is that before long every woman who turned away to-day will give her eyes almost to be able to say that she knows her. I won’t try to explain to Mistress Doris — you saw our meeting?” Bryce nodded. “Only try and get her to think more kindly. Tell her she’ll be sorry some day that she doubted.”

“Dun, what about Barry? He seemed to be pretty well involved.”

Alan laughed. “Afraid poor old Dick will have a bad time. The only thing is that perhaps Kitty will be too busy with me to remember him. Anyhow, it was a purely professional matter.”

Bryce grinned under his moustache. “I hope your theory may prove correct, only if a client at the bank who resembled a goddess from Olympus addressed me as your friend addressed Dick — well, I’m afraid I couldn’t plead business to Doris as a getaway — at least, with any hope of success.”

“I’ll trust old Dick to get clear,” said Alan with a chuckle. “Taking it all round I think that was about the liveliest ten minutes in the history of Glen Cairn. I’ll get home now, I think.”

“But,” said Bryce, “what about Miss Earani. How will she manage?”

Alan looked round thoughtfully. “No need to worry, Hec. As she said, she’ll go the way she came, and,” he added, “I’ve an idea that she’s well on her way now.”

They walked off together in the direction of the town, Alan chaffing Bryce that he would damage his reputation being seen with the culprit of the day. In spite of his apparent good humour, Dundas was bitterly angry with all concerned, with the exception, perhaps, of the real offender. They parted at the club, and a few minutes later Alan was pelting down the main street behind Billy. He was biting his underlip savagely, and his cheeks were burning with anger. As he had turned out of the club yard he had been obliged to make way for a buggy driven by a girl, who looked him through with contempt in her eyes.

A man who had been shooting that afternoon, and who had not heard the “very latest,” turned up at the club afterwards, and gave a description of how Dundas had passed him on the way home driving like one possessed, and when in answer to questions he affirmed that Dundas was alone in his dogcart, the hum of talk rose a few degrees higher.

Erle Cox, Out of the Silence, Melbourne: Robertson and Mullens, 1947 (first published 1925), pages 281-301

[Editor: Changed “interesed spectator” to “interested spectator”. Replaced the single quotation mark before “Earani, this is” with a double quotation mark. Added a full stop after “I do not understand”.]

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