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The Scrivener: Through Darkling Glass: 5 – Devotion And Dread

…His servant wondered how he managed to continue singing between each mouthful of his evening meal. As the sun went down, and he walked upon his balconies by lamplight, even the sailors in their distant ships heard his voice across the water. The Bright House glowed on the mountain side as he went from room to room, lighting all the lamps. His song continued as he went into his bathroom….

Keawe, former owner of amagic bottle with its wish-granting imp, owns a big house and has met a woman who can share his life and eradicate his loneliness. But then he notices something unusual on his flesh…

Brian Barratt continues his highly entertaining adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s story ‘The Bottle Imp’.

Famous artist John Burge provides the illustrations.

As time went by, Keawe found more joy in his wonderful house. He had a special place on a balcony at the back, where he ate his meals, read his newspaper, and spent the day relaxing while his servant dusted and cleaned. When visitors came — and there were many — he proudly showed them all the rooms and the marvellous furnishings, knick-knacks and pictures. The house was known throughout the island as Ka-Hale-Nui, the Great House, or more often as the Bright House.

There was truly much joy in his life and the fame of his house spread far and wide. Beneath his brightness and the fullness of his days, however, something else was stirring within him. Though it seemed that he had all he could wish for, there were times when a deep yearning overcame him. When his visitors and friends departed for the night, and he wandered through his great mansion, he felt that he was alone in the world. http://openwriting.com/gallery/v/johnburge/ch5_Though+it+seemed.jpg.html

One day, in search of some diversion, he rode on his horse to visit some old friends in a distant town. They greatly enjoyed each other's company, and feasted well. He stayed overnight, and departed early the next morning. He had no desire to be riding after sunset. It was in the dark hours of the night that the Old Dead stirred.

As his horse took him along the winding track along the coast, towards Honaunau, he caught sight of a woman bathing in the shallow waters of the sea. When she had finished her bathing, put on her white shift and her long red gown, she walked towards the track. Keawe drew nearer, close enough to see her eyes, which shone with a kindness greater than he had ever seen. He knew that he must speak to her, and reined in his horse.

'I thought I knew everyone in this part of the world,' he said. 'How is that I do not know you?'

'I am Kokua, daughter of Kiano,' she replied. 'And who are you?' http://openwriting.com/gallery/v/johnburge/ch5_I+am+Kokua.jpg.html

Keawe dismounted from his horse. 'I will tell you who I am, but not straight away. If I tell you my name, and you have already heard of me, you might not give me a true answer to the question I wish to ask you. Tell me, are you married?'

Kokua laughed. 'Who are you to ask such a question? Are you married yourself?'

'I am not, and have not even thought about it until this moment. But when I saw you standing here by the roadside, and met your kind and loving eyes, my heart went to you as swift as a bird.'

Kokua looked out to sea, and laughed. He continued: 'If you want nothing to do with me, please say so, and I shall continue on my way. But if you think I am no worse than any other young man you have met, please tell me. I will then meet your father and speak with him.'

Kokua said nothing, but continued gazing at the sea.

'As you say nothing, I will take that as a good answer. Kokua, please lead me to your father's house.'

As they approached her home, her father Kiano came out to meet them. He welcomed Keawe by name. Kokua, hearing the name, realised who Keawe really was. His fame and fortune made his request for marriage indeed more tempting.

Keawe stayed as a guest overnight. In the morning, he had a word with his host, Kiano, and then with beating heart spoke to Kokua. 'Yesterday I would not tell you who I am. I was afraid that you might think too much of my house and my fortune, and let that sway your answer to my question. I would rather you thought of the man who loves you than of his wealth and fame. Now that you know the truth, please tell me at once if you wish to see me again.'

'I desire very much to see you again,' answered Kokua, but this time she did not laugh, nor did Keawe ask for more.

Thus did Keawe woo his love. Things had gone quickly, but they had gone deep. The very thought of Keawe rang in Kokua's mind. Thereafter she heard his voice in the pounding sea and the gentle surf. She saw his face in the formations of rock, the swaying of trees, and the clouds of the sky. She had met him but briefly, and now was willing to leave her mother, her father and her village to be with him for ever.

Keawe on his horse seemed to fly up the path of the mountain towards home. He had no fear of the place of the Old Dead or their dark tombs. The rocks echoed the sound of his joyful singing and the beat of speeding hooves. He was still singing when he arrived at the Bright House.

His servant wondered how he managed to continue singing between each mouthful of his evening meal. As the sun went down, and he walked upon his balconies by lamplight, even the sailors in their distant ships heard his voice across the water. The Bright House glowed on the mountain side as he went from room to room, lighting all the lamps. His song continued as he went into his bathroom.

His servant heard Keawe singing as he undressed and ran the water, both hot and cold, in his marble bath. 'Is all well?' the servant called to his master. 'All is well,' came Keawe's reply. 'You may go to bed now.'

And then the singing stopped. The Bright House fell silent. All night long, the only sound the servant heard was that of his master's footsteps pacing the balcony. He little knew the dreadful reason.

While Keawe had been undressing, he noticed something unusual on his flesh. It was an area of skin that looked rather like a patch of lichen upon a rock. He knew what that patch meant — he had leprosy.

In those times, a leper had to leave his loved ones, his home, his village, and go to a lone place where he would slowly die with other sufferers. This meant that Keawe must leave his Bright House, and his beloved Kokua, never to see them again. He had met her only the day before, and won her love that very morning, but now his hopes and dreams were vanquished.

He paced throughout the dark hours of the night, in misery and despair. His brightly lit rooms brought him no consolation. The Great House, high on the mountain side, with its many crystal clear windows, now meant little to him. He could face the prospect of exile with bravery and courage. He would even leave Hawaii, the home of his fathers, if he had to. But how he lamented that he would have to leave his fair Kokua!

'What have I done,' he wondered, in his torment, 'that I should be punished in this way? What sin lies upon my soul that I should have encountered Kokua, rising cool from the waters, enslaving my heart, lighting my life, yet now I am taken beyond the touch of her loving hand?'

Though his mind was in turmoil, the sincerity of Keawe's love dominated his thinking. It is true that he could have kept his dreadful secret, and continued to live alone in his great house, perhaps for many years. It is also true that he could have married Kokua, and not told her about his affliction until it became impossible to hide. But this, he considered, would be the act of a coward, not of a man. He loved her too much to hurt her or to bring her into danger.

In the early hours of the morning, before the sun began to rise, he suddenly remembered the bottle. The picture in his mind of the demon within, when it revealed itself, ran ice through his veins. 'That dreadful thing,' he thought, 'is my only hope of a cure for this affliction. It is the only means by which I can ever wed Kokua. I shall seek out Lopaka, and find that bottle, which I was once so pleased to be rid of.'



Brian Barratt has had half a century of professional experience with books and Education. He’s been a bookseller, editor, publisher, author of schoolbooks, private tutor in English and thinking skills, class tutor in creative writing for adults, writing group leader in several schools, mentor to gifted students, judge of many writing competitions, and curriculum editor for Australian national Tournament of Minds... among other things.

He is a moderately/severely hearing handicapped elderly gentleman who explores the history and usage of the English language; writes whimsical articles; researches and writes about his ancestors, including many in the Book Trade during the past 300 years, and an elusive Gypsy; listens to recordings of Enrico Caruso, John McCormack, Kathleen Ferrier and other great voices from the past; relishes Messiaen's Turangalîla Symphony and the music of the erhu; loves dictionaries; digs into the palaeopsychology of religious beliefs; rummages around in people’s minds; talks to dogs and birds, and to the possums that live in his shed.

Since 1936 he’s lived and worked in four countries, in this order: England, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Australia. He's lived in a leafy eastern suburb of Melbourne since 1971, next to where the rich people live. His house is actually a library-museum-art gallery-wizard's lair. There's a sign which reads 'Persons not wishing to see worlds outside or inside themselves are gently advised to close their minds whilst in this place'.

Do visit his Web site The Brain Rummager www.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas/



In 2008 John artist completed his first retrospective exhibition at the Victorian Artists Society in East Melbourne. It had been his first Melbourne show in thirty-six years and ranged from 1975 till the present. The nine panel ' Bluebeard's Castle ' - a free adaptation of Bela Bartok's 1918 opera - was seen for the first time in it's entirety.

He had previously exhibited in Melbourne in 1972 at the Warehouse Galleries in Richmond and, according to some, provided one of the most memorable and notorious openings of the time.

John then moved to Europe and lived for twelve years in the Catalan village of Ortedo, deep in the Spanish Pyrenees, exhibiting in Barcelona during the dying days of the Franco regime.

He later showed in Amsterdam and Munich, exhibiting with Dali, Vasarely, Magritte and Fontana before a critically acclaimed exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Alkmaar. Despite forthcoming contracted exhibitions, family circumstances meant a reluctant return to Australia.

Through the mid-eighties and nineties he moved into book illustration and became involved with art education in schools. Over the last four years John has returned to full-time art.

In May 2010, he exhibited a second, more complete showing of ' Bluebeard's Castle ' at the Kingston Arts Centre. It included previously unseen work and as a coda, 'The Don's Last Tale ', a large watercolour on the theme of ' Don Giovanni '. The exhibit was opened by Mr Rob Hudson MP, Parliamentary Secretary for the Arts and a short discourse on Bartok's opera was presented by Associate Professor Thomas Reiner, head of the Monash University Conservatorium of Music.

An exhibition of new and recent work was held from the 16th of June until the 4th of July, 2010 at the Jackman Gallery, 60 Inkerman Street, St.Kilda, VIC. 3182. The gallery continues to carry a wide and comprehensive selection of John's work.

Do visit John's Web site http://www.johnburgeart.com.au/


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