Man and the Abyss
If the title of this chapter sounds melodramatic, it is, at least, free from pretentiousness. It does not suggest that a developed metaphysic can be found in Kipling's books, though it is consonant with the existence of a philosophy of conduct. 'Abyss', moreover, has had many applications; there is an abyss of doubt and of ignorance, the abyss of Hell and the abyss of God's mercies. It is also a word that Kipling uses himself, in poetry and prose, and its melodramatic quality reflects the force of emotion with which he regards the unplumbed blackness in which the busy fates of men are suspended. This intimation of the unknown has a positive artistic force in some of his tales. The brilliantly lit scene at some point is seen to be bordered by darkness, or rather to be a small lighted enclave in it. From that moment the proportions of the story are altered. We see that an incalculable condition enters into human effort. The moment of recognition varies greatly in tone and effect. In the earliest tales it is slight enough, no more than a jerk of the thumb at the perversity of Fate, the residue of a propitiatory gesture, an acknowledgment of an irony more obscure than human ironies. It is very different in the later tales. There is nothing jaunty here. At the end of 'The Dog Hervey', when the lovers have been restored to each other, the tale ebbs quietly away in a conversation between the narrator and Mrs Godfrey, the older woman who had introduced him to Moira Sichliffe.
'Ella,' I said, 'I don't know anything rational or reasonable about any of it. It was all--all woman-work, and it scared me horribly.'
'Why?' she asked.
That was six years ago. I have written this tale to let her know--wherever she is.