and can't wipe its eyes ...
Kipling and Dreams
(by Mary Hamer)
‘my master has descended into the Dark Places and there has been caught because he was not able to escape with sufficient speed.’As a final frisson we are led to believe that with his camera the doctor has caught a specific image, one that is cunningly left unnamed, in the eyes of the dead man. The image is so terrifying that the doctor immediately destroys the film and even the camera.
The words of the hymn are totally at odds with the reality of the here and now: instead of ‘the blessings of the light’ the day is clouded by ‘the gloom of a November day in London’. More critically, Hummil’s jangled tone indicates that he is angrily aware of betrayal. The trust in protection from the powers of darkness that is implied by the hymn has proved empty. Hummil’s nights are haunted.Glory to thee, my God, this nightThat shows we really feel our blessings. How does it go on?—
For all the blessings of the light.'
If in the night I sleepless lie,Quicker, Mottram!—‘
My soul with sacred thoughts supply;
May no ill dreams disturb my rest—‘
Or powers of darkness me molest’”
“Summer evenings in the country, stained-glass window, light going out, and you and she jamming your heads together over one hymnbook”, said Mottram.’But are these truly the ‘sacred recollections’ that Lowndes claims, or are they to be read as wishful thinking? They appear to be finely judged on the writer’s part, in order to wake scepticism in the reader. When Spurstow the doctor chimes in: ‘“Also mothers. I can just recollect my mother singing me to sleep with that when I was a little chap,” we are told that ‘darkness had fallen on the room’ and ‘they could hear Hummil squirming in his chair’. Something disembodied, neither the narrator nor the characters but the narrative itself, appears to record that assent or endorsement of these pieties are being withheld.
...Once in a child's dream, I wandered into a Fifth Quarter of the world, and found everything different from all previous knowledge; as only children or old folk desire it to be.’(italics mine) Yet Georgie Cottar survives amidst these dangers, a survival closely linked to the image of a little girl, a young woman whose presence— or memory—keeps him safe. (Recalling how a young woman spelled the death of insight to Charlie Mears in "The Finest Story in the World", we can see how far Kipling has travelled here.)
‘His one hope, he knew, was not to lose the eyes that clung to his because there was an Evil abroad which would possess him if he looked aside by a hair-breadth,’The material, with its accounts of drug-dependency and paralysing dread, its hints of other-worldly horror, allows him scope for a tense account of spiritual torment, offering thrills that might hold on to readers who were by now beginning to drop away. But behind or underneath this surface is a more sober intention, to trace the source of the individual nightmares to the mothers that bore the two sufferers. Something close to the cross-generational haunting that psychologists speak of today is depicted here. Miss Henschil’s travelling companion and nurse comes up with the explanation, in a somewhat awkward move into which the writer is forced in order to make his point: the mildewed faces that Miss Henschil sees are an image or imprint of the leprous faces that frightened her mother when she was pregnant. Because there then turns out to be a comparable explanation for the images in Conroy’s nightmare, in the shock experienced by his pregnant mother, the story suggests that the transmission of terror from mother to child is not an aberration. It may be more common than we know.
'And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished'.Frau Ebermann is pious: in her fevered train of thought she moves from reflecting thater loud cries’ ‘if it pleased the dear God to take her to Himself ... He should find all her belongings fit to meet His eye’, to repeating the phrase of the title ‘swept and garnished’. In its original context these words are uttered by Jesus as a warning, that evil spirits are not easily got rid of but return in force to their former place, finding it ready prepared for them, ‘swept and garnished’.
... fought his age and surroundings (where he didn’t like ’em) up to the limit of his weapons which were many and sharp.