Chapter 25 [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 XXV

Earani was lying on the great couch in the “temple,” where she had slept her long sleep. Her head and shoulders were supported by a pile of soft cushions, and Dundas, seated close by in great content, was feasting his eyes on the picture she made. Across his mind there came a flash of anger to think that any one who had ever seen her could doubt her stainless purity — the purity that seemed to radiate from her, and shone in her deep, untroubled eyes.

There had been a long silence between them — the silence that falls between those whose souls are in too close a communion to find a need for words. She raised her eyes to his. “You were angry for the moment, Alan; I felt it. What troubled you?”

He smiled back. “Could you read my thoughts, dear one?”

Earani replied, “It was just the sudden rush of anger that I felt. It brought a shadow for the moment on my happiness. I would not read your thoughts unless you told me to. That gift is not one that may be lightly used.”

“Then tell me why the shadow came,” he challenged.

She looked for a moment into his eyes, and smiled.

“Ah, those women and their folly. Is it worth a moment’s anger?”

“For myself I care nothing,” he answered. “But that they dared to doubt you. It is too much.”

“But,” she said, “would not the punishment be greater for you? Why think of me?”

“You do not understand, Earani. With us the sin they thought is as nothing for the man. He is forgotten. The woman is forever damned.”

“Why the woman?”

“It is the code; our code; unjust, cruel, but always the woman suffers most.”

“Then the law was made by men?” It was, as she said it, as much a statement as a question.

“It may be, but it is no written law; and, believe me, the women are its chief administrators.”

She laughed. “The sex again, Alan, but with us each would bear the same share of blame, had such a sin been possible. But we knew the penalty too well to err.”

“Penalty?” he asked.

“Oh, no legal penalty. We recognised the futility of that; but we knew, each one, that the infraction of the moral law brought its own penalty, so surely as day follows night. There was no discrimination in sharing the blame.”

“We know our code is rotten, but it is unalterable. I suppose it’s part of man’s claim to superiority,” answered Dundas, thoughtfully.

“That is what I cannot understand,” she said, “‘man’s superiority.’ I suppose, though, you have developed in advance of your women. With us there was no such claim by the men. We stood legally and socially equal in all things.”

“And lost the deference of the men due to your sex,” he contended.

“How much of that deference is real and how much due to habit? Deference of that kind is a poor compensation, and worse excuse, for keeping one half of the world in subjection to the other half.”

Alan laughed. “I’m just not going to argue with you, Earani. Only I think you will find the women are ripe for your creed, if the men are not.”

“It appears to me that the men have prevented the development of the women deliberately,” she went on mercilessly. “I cannot believe that Andax would approve, only as it happens, he cannot carry out his plans without giving the women their just due. He will have to do as I wish in spite of himself.”

“So there are better times coming for the women?”

“I’m afraid, Alan, we will have very poor material to work on,” she said with a sigh.

Dundas chuckled. “That’s ample compensation for what you have said of the men. I wish Barry could have heard it.”

“He is coming now. You can tell him yourself.”

“How do you know? Most wonderful.”

“I know because I can feel he is looking for you.”

“May I tell him of our coming marriage?” asked Dundas, coming to her side as she sat up.

Earani looked at him thoughtfully. “Alan, do you know, I doubt his discretion,” she answered. Then she checked him as he was about to protest. “Dearest, I don’t doubt his loyalty to you; that is beyond question. But lately his feeling towards me has changed; I know it.”

“Surely no; I have not seen it in word or deed.”

She shook her head. “And yet it is true. I can feel it too well. His feelings are not hostile, but I know he wishes to oppose my plans.”

“Why, Earani, old Dick is enthusiastic about you almost as I am.”

She smiled. “Ah, well, tell him what you please. Indeed, I think if he has eyes there will be no need to tell him,” she went on, looking at him fondly. “But, Alan, if you have an opportunity, give him a hint that it would be unwise to oppose me. He would only harm himself, and then I would be sorry.”

Before Dundas could reply Dick’s voice came booming and echoing down the gallery. “Dundas, ahoy,” and a few moments later the man himself appeared on the “temple” steps.

As Barry’s eyes fell on the two standing side by side he paused, cutting short some words that were upon his lips. There was no need for Dundas to tell him what had occurred between the two. It was written on both faces, so that he that saw might read, and there was a tightening at the heart of the doctor. He knew without being told of his friend’s devotion to Earani. Without having analysed his feelings there had always been an uneasiness in his mind at the thought of a marriage between the two, but whenever the thought had arisen he had put it aside with the hope that Earani would not reciprocate. In a flash he saw how the contretemps of yesterday had precipitated matters, and now there came over him a sudden foreboding of evil. He was too loyal to his friend to give the slightest indication of his feelings. In the moment he paused he read in the faces of the two the happiness that had come to them, and without hesitation he hurried forward and took the hand that was held out to him. “Dun, old man, no need to tell me. I wish you everything you hope for. Both of you,” he went on, turning to Earani. “I hope you don’t expect me to be surprised.”

Earant smiled from one to the other. “It is kind of you to wish me happiness, Dick, after I had been so wicked yesterday. Alan has been explaining. I feared you would never forgive me.” But there was more repentance in her words than in her looks, and Barry laughed in spite of himself, for truth to tell Madam Kitty was far from appeased, even after an explanation that had continued intermittently ever since they had left the tennis courts, and that hot-headed little lady would have been less satisfied than ever had she known that Barry’s early morning call had been to “Cootamundra.” “Indeed, Earani, I do not know that I have forgiven you, or will until you have made my peace. You are all too beautiful for a woman of our world to forgive you easily.”

“And I?” asked Dundas. “Am I beyond the pale?”

Barry chuckled, reminiscently “From what I can gather, Dun, beyond summary execution, excommunication, and a few trifles like that, you are not likely to suffer much. Can you stand it?”

Alan drew himself up and turned to Earani. “Can we?” And for answer she passed her hand through his arm, and Barry, watching them, saw how little the tempest of wrath at Glen Cairn would trouble the atmosphere at “Cootamundra.”

“What happened afterwards, Dick?” asked Dundas. “Well, I know very little except what I heard from Bryce this morning. I had two urgent calls, and escaped the riot, but Hector told me over the ’phone that a feminine deputation had waited on him and insisted that you should be asked to resign from the club.”

“And Bryce?”

“Told them he would resign himself first, and, reading between the lines, he didn’t waste any time in choosing his words.”

“Good old Hector,” said Alan.

Earani nodded. “So we are not without friends, and we will not forget our friends when the time comes.”

“It doesn’t matter much, Dick,” said Alan after a moment. “I’m not likely to trouble Glen Cairn much in future. I will be too busy here.” He gave Barry a brief outline of their plans, and told him of Earani’s suggestion that he should join them in the search for Andax. For the second time that day a sense of depression came over Barry. He had thought long and earnestly over the situation, and the entrance of a new and unknown power into the problem filled him with forebodings, and he saw that before long a crisis must be faced that might spell disaster for all concerned. He fenced with the question now by replying that he would not decide about accompanying them until later. There was one point on which he wished to enlighten himself, however, for he hoped he might be able to find a vulnerable spot in the ambitions of Earani. Seating himself, he spoke to her. She had resumed her place on the couch.

“It has occurred to me that there is one thing you have overlooked, Earani, and you’ll understand, Dun, and that is the question of money. All your science, backed with all your knowledge, won’t be much use without gold.”

“Why should we require gold, Alan?” asked Earani, turning to Dundas.

“I’m afraid Dick is right. I never thought of it before. It is essential for everything from the very beginning. Nothing can be done without it, and what I can supply will not go very far. There’s no use trying to evade the point. Any organisation you wish to carry out will require an immense sum of money.”

“And gold is the essential?” she asked.

Dundas nodded. “The medium of exchange throughout the world.”

Earani smiled from one to the other. “I have always looked on it as a useful metal, but I have never thought of considering it in the light of wealth. It is difficult sometimes to adjust my ideas to yours. Tell me how much will be wanted?”

The two men looked at one another, and Barry solved the problem by saying that it would be impossible to have too much.

Earani looked puzzled. “It is so easy to obtain. For instance, this home of mine here that you call the “temple” is made of gold. The great door to the sphere that you found so hard to open is made of gold.”

It was the turn of the two men to be astonished. “Why, Earani,” exclaimed Dick, “there must be thousands of tons of metal in the ‘temple.’ Only a portion of it would be enough to give you unlimited power.” And between the two they gave her some idea of the purchasing power of the metal.

She listened in silence, and when she had finished she turned to Barry. “So you see, Dick, that does away with your difficulty. Though the gold in the ‘temple’ will be of no use to us.”

“But why not?” came the surprised question from both men.

“Because,” continued Earani, “the ‘temple’ and the door were built of gold because we knew of a means of hardening it, so that once the process was complete it would be impossible to break or destroy it. No machinery or power known to us would be able to affect it in any way. You could stamp air into coins more easily than you would the gold you see round you.”

Alan’s face fell. “So, after all, we are no nearer a solution of the trouble.”

“I did not say that. I merely said that the gold we have here would be of no use, but it will be very easy to obtain more. We used to extract it from auriferous soil at one time, but it was found easier to collect from the sea. It would take a very short time to collect sufficient to give us all the wealth we wanted.” She paused, and added: “At the same time, I think it is one of the things we would want to keep to ourselves. Overproduction would be as bad as not having enough.”

Barry nodded. In spite of his misgivings, he could not but admire the manner in which she grasped the weak point in her position. “There will be no need for you to worry about ‘Cootamundra,’ Dun; there appear to be easier ways of making money.”

“We’ll want a good deal, any way, but until we are ready to start, what I have will be sufficient. It doesn’t seem much, though, since I’ve heard Earani’s money making methods. But it would not do to force the world to make diamonds, for instance, into a standard of exchange.”

Earani laughed lightly. “It wouldn’t be any use, Alan. We could make them, too. In the end you would do what we had to do, and make the work of your hands and brains the only medium of exchange. It’s the only just way.”

Barry looked at her wondering. “And you really made diamonds, Earani? Some of our men claim to have made them.”

For answer she rose and went to a cabinet, which she opened. “Here, Dick, take this proof and try and make my peace with your wife for me. Tell her that I am not nearly as wicked as she believes me to be, and I hope some day she will acknowledge it.” As she spoke she placed on the table a great belt that drew a gasp of amazement from both men. It seemed as if she had spread out a stream of blazing fire. The belt was composed of a dozen links closely woven together with exquisite jeweller’s work, and each link was composed of one great perfect white diamond. Each stone must have been nearly three inches across, and each flashed back the brilliant lighting of the “temple” in a blaze of myriad-coloured fires. Barry held it up and let it fall in a heap, where it lay in a dazzling, splendid mass.

“Earani, I could not accept such a gift. It is worth a king’s — no, a kingdom’s — ransom.”

Earani laughed. “It is a small gift for a friend, Dick. Take it. It was made by a man merely to prove that it could be made, and its sole value is in its beauty. Let your wife wear it for my sake,” and she lifted it up and placed it in his hands.

Barry looked at Dundas in perplexity. “Take it, Dick,” said Alan. “Earani wishes you to have it. Madame Kitty’s heart would be harder than any of those stones if she could resist such a lure.”

Barry took the blazing mass in both hands, and turned it over and over, watching the play of myriad lights flashing through it, then turned to Earani, smiling. “I will accept it gladly; but, Earani, there are men in the world, and plenty of them, too, who would send me to my death to possess but one link of this chain. I will keep it from my wife until she may have it with safety. As for my peace with her —” he broke off and laughed lightly, “it must come without being bought.”

Earani nodded. “Ah, Dick, you have wisdom in some things, at any rate, where I can teach you nothing.”

Barry dropped the belt into the pocket of his Norfolk jacket, and slapped the bulge that it made. “Most people would diagnose an instrument case instead of half a million in diamonds. I’ll make Bryce the innocent curator of these until they are ready for Kitty.”

“And so,” said Dundas, as he sat down again, “the question of finance is disposed of. Have you any more objections or obstacles to raise, Dick?”

Barry shook his head. “It seems a waste of time, Dun. The only obstacle that Earani and Andax will have to face will be the human element.”

Earani looked at him a moment before answering. “The unknown quantity, Dick?”

Barry nodded. “Don’t forget that when Eukary started his reformation he was dealing with a more intelligent and pliable material than you will have to handle. You will have to reckon with the most obstinate and savage resistance from one end of the world to the other.”

“They will bend or break,” said Earani, shortly. Then, after a moment she went on: “Andax will not move before allowing for every factor, but your world is ready for the changes we will bring. They cannot come too soon now.”

“And if they resist?” asked Barry.

A slow smile came to Earani’s lips. “Ah! Dick, you little know how useless resistance would be. We might have to depopulate one-half of the world; indeed, it is likely we will have to do it. No,” she held up her hand to check Barry’s protest. “No, Dick, there can be no resistance. The world will learn that quickly. It would be the kinder way.”

“Your theories are terrible, Earani. Has life no value in your eyes?”

“You cannot understand, Dick. On the contrary, it is sacred so long as a being is worthy of the life. Tell me — If a thousand or ten thousand men could by any possible means throw back the world’s civilisation, say, to your tenth century, and wipe out all your knowledge and wisdom from the world, would you hesitate to strike to save all — even if you did it with your own hand?”

Barry was silent. She turned to Dundas. “Alan?”

He spoke without hesitation. “I should strike.”

Earani went on. “It is the same thing, Dick. Andax and I can advance your world more in a century than it has advanced in the past two thousand years. We have the power to do it. We know we are right. Then we will use that power, and let nothing stand in our way. To do otherwise would be folly — worse, weakness.” She stood up. “Your world is full of crime, disease, and suffering. It must, and shall, be cured, and if in the healing we cause some pain, it is nothing. That passes, and is forgotten. The world in time to come will bless the pain that gave it happiness.” There was a ring of finality and even warning in her voice that left no room for protest. Although no word was said, Barry felt that the warning was levelled at him, and it seemed for the moment that she clashed a mighty door between him and hope.

He sighed and looked up at her. “Perhaps when you have learned more you will deal gently with us, Earani.”

“Cheer up, Dick,” said Alan, laughing at his friend’s evident discomfiture. “I’m relying on the world’s common sense. It will take its medicine when it knows it is going to do it good.”

“You’ve more faith in the world’s common sense than I have, Dun,” growled Barry. “The world has a prejudice against doing what it is told to do, and a preference for doing what it likes. You can’t alter the ingrained habits of human nature without dislocating something pretty seriously, any more than you could in stopping dead an engine running at full speed. I foresee ructions.” He spoke lightly, but his heart was heavy as lead.

Earani looked from one to the other. “Don’t worry, Dick; perhaps Alan is right,” she said. “In fifty or seventy years perhaps you will smile to think of your anxiety now.”

Barry laughed lightly. “It does me good to hear you speak of time like that, Earani. I’ll be over a hundred then; perhaps I’ll be wiser. Alan, we have an interesting half century in front of us. Faith! I must get away now, or the ructions will commence sooner than I anticipate.”

“Take him up to the world again, Alan, and then come back to me,” said Earani, laughing good-bye.

The two men reached the surface, and walked slowly towards Barry’s car in silence. Dick stopped to crank up, but paused, and turned to Alan. “Dun, I’m afraid I won’t be able to come out quite so often,” he said.

Dundas looked at him anxiously for a moment, and then his face cleared. “Of course, Dick, I understand. I’d hate to think that your practice would be affected by the prejudice of the fools in there. But come if you can. I can let you know anything that is happening here.”

Barry was about to speak more plainly, but accepted his friend’s solution of his words. Why worry Alan yet, he thought. Time enough for that. Instead he nodded. “They have really cut up pretty rough in Glen Cairn, Dun; more than I cared to tell you before Earani. It was a most infernal contretemps. Why on earth did you bring her?”

Alan laughed lightly. “She came unbeknownst, like. Altogether, I’m not sorry. But I was sorry on your account. Madam Kitty looked furious.”

It was Barry’s turn to laugh. “Dun, I’ve been explaining ever since, and all the time I’m admitting to myself that in the face of the evidence for the prosecution my explanations look fishy. But it is funny. One moment Kitty is raving over Earani’s beauty, and the next she is raging over her impertinence. She says one is as great as the other.”

Dundas whistled, but Barry still laughed. “Time is the healer. Still, Dun, you and ‘Cootamundra’ are anathema for the moment, so I’ll scuttle before the storm until it blows over.”

“Dick” — Dundas paused for a moment, and went on, “you are anxious about Andax?”

Barry’s face clouded. “I can’t help it, Alan. I’m sorry now that we handled this alone, or that I ever came into it. God knows where it will end. It’s a big thing to have on one’s conscience.”

Dundas looked down, and kicked absently at a grass tussock. “I’ve a message for you, Dick.”

“A message?”

“Perhaps not a message exactly ——” he paused, feeling for words.

“Out with it, Dun. I think the less we hide from one another, the better for all concerned.”

“Well, Dick, Earani has an idea that you might try to interfere — and ——”

“Well?” Barry eyed him curiously.

“And she told me to give you the hint that it would not be exactly healthy for anyone to do that. You know, Dick, she likes you, and she says she’s afraid you might get hurt.”

Barry smiled grimly. “I think that would be very possible, Dun. Still, I’m glad you told me.” He looked off across the grey vineyard. “Jove! I wonder what is the limit of the powers she holds. Ah! well, it’s no use speculating.” He cranked the car, and held out his hand. “We are on the lap of the gods. Buck up, Dun,” and a moment later the car was speeding down the drive.

All the way back to Glen Cairn Barry stared straight before him, driving mechanically, and his thoughts were very grave. He had not given Dundas his real reasons for discontinuing his visits. For some time past his anxiety had grown to an intolerable extent. He was torn between loyalty to Dundas and his fear of the untrammelled power that they together had let loose on the world. He knew that in Alan’s eyes Earani could do no wrong, so that the struggle for the world’s future must rest between him and Earani. Was it too late to prevent a terrible catastrophe? In his mind was taking form a plan for sharing the responsibility with someone better able to bear it.

His last interview with Earani had convinced him of the necessity for action of some kind, and as he drove he turned the matter over in his mind. He decided that he could no longer accept the confidence that Alan gave him in allowing him to come and go at “Cootamundra” as he wished. He felt that he was bound to betray the promise he had made, and it hurt him to meet his friend and feel that he was trusted, when in his heart he knew he was ready to betray that trust. He knew that if he warned Dundas, then Dundas would let Earani know, and after that —— “Well, I doubt if Dun’s intercession would save me from something unpleasant,” he said to himself. “Yes, Dick Barry, I think it very possible indeed that you would get hurt.”

And so the plan that was half formed in his mind took definite shape, and so intent were his thoughts on the subject that even Madame Kitty’s cold and hostile indifference passed almost without notice that day.



Source:
Erle Cox, Out of the Silence, Melbourne: Robertson and Mullens, 1947 (first published 1925), pages 314-329

[Editor: Changed “It seems waste of time” to “It seems a waste of time”.]

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