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The Scrivener: Through Darkling Glass: Part 4 – Beyond Dreams And The Old Dead

...'No, I'm not suggesting that you ask for another favour. I simply want to see the imp himself. That cannot possibly do any harm. Once I have actually seen him, I shall buy the bottle from you.'

'I am afraid of one thing,' replied Keawe. 'The imp may be terribly ugly. Once you have seen him, you might lose all desire to buy the bottle. Nevertheless, I see that you have the money ready, and I know that you are a man of your word. Besides, I am also curious to see him.'...

Brian Barratt continues his magical and memorable tale which is adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson's ‘The Bottle Imp’.

Celebrated artist John Burge provides the illustrations.

Upon their return from Sydney, Keawe and Lopaka went immediately to view the house. It stood on the side of a mountain, looking over the port and the docks. Far above it, the thick hillside forest was shrouded in cloud. Below it, cliffs of dark grey lava sloped down to the place where the the Old Dead were buried in their crumbling tombs. At first, this proximity alarmed Keawe, for he had heard people tell of nocturnal moans and stirrings. It was believed that some ancient curse had condemned the Old Dead to remain for ever in this place. His momentary fear of this superstition vanished when he beheld his house.

It was surrounded by a beautiful garden, with flowers of every possible shape and colour. On each side were rich orchards of papaya and bread-fruit. At the front stood a ship's tall mast, bearing a grand flag which fluttered in the breeze.

The house itself was three storeys high, with broad balconies at each level of both the front and the back. The windows were of crystal clear glass, as bright as the day itself. All manner of furniture stood in each room, and pictures in golden frames hung on every wall. All about, there were chiming clocks, music boxes, little ornaments of men with nodding heads, books filled with pictures, valuable weapons from all over the world, and games and puzzles to entertain.

The balconies each seemed large enough to accommodate the whole population of the village. Keawe could not make up his mind which one he preferred. At the back he could feel the cool breeze coming over the land, and look over his orchards and flower gardens. At the front, he relished the wind that came in from the sea, and viewed the ships and schooners going about their business.

'Well,' asked Lopaka. 'What do you think?'

'It's beyond my grandest dreams,' avowed the ecstatic Keawe. 'I just cannot express my pleasure in words.'

'But there is something we must consider,' said Lopaka. 'All this may have nothing to do with the imp. It could be quite natural. Suppose I now buy the bottle from you, ask for my schooner, and get nothing at all?' He paused, looking directly at Keawe, eye to eye. 'I would like to see one more proof.'

'But I have already sworn, before we set sail for Sydney Cove, to ask no more favours. I have already gone deep enough.'

'No, I'm not suggesting that you ask for another favour. I simply want to see the imp himself. That cannot possibly do any harm. Once I have actually seen him, I shall buy the bottle from you.'

'I am afraid of one thing,' replied Keawe. 'The imp may be terribly ugly. Once you have seen him, you might lose all desire to buy the bottle. Nevertheless, I see that you have the money ready, and I know that you are a man of your word. Besides, I am also curious to see him.'

Lopaka waited. Keawe took the bottle by its neck. He placed it upon the table. He took a deep breath, and called out:

'Reveal yourself, Mr Imp. Let us now see you!'

The cork, which had hitherto seemed irremovable, shot out of the neck of the bottle. The flashing colours within the green glass blended into a radiant gold. A luminosity not of this world pervaded the whole bottle and lit up the darkened room.

The imp looked out. It happened in a trice. One moment he was there, the next he had gone. The two friends could not be sure who, or what, they had seen. They knew only that the imp had revealed himself. http://openwriting.com/gallery/v/johnburge/ch4_It+happened+in+a+trice.jpg.html

Keawe fearfully replaced the cork, hardly daring to touch the bottle. Then neither of them could move, or say anything, until the moon had reached its zenith. They continued staring at the bottle, quite unable to put their thoughts into words. It was Lopaka who broke the silence.

'I am a man of my word. Here is your money. I shall take the bottle. Through its power, I shall get my schooner and a few dollars to spend. Then I shall sell the bottle and get rid of this imp, this devil, as soon as I can. To tell you the truth, I'm really very scared of this business. I think it's time I made my way home.'

Keawe glanced up at him apprehensively. 'Good friend, it is now night. The road down the hillside is rough and scattered with rocks. In the dark, you will have to pass by the place of the Old Dead. It is not a place to be after nightfall. Who knows what ill could befall you? I fear that I have been responsible for putting you in a dreadful predicament.'

'No matter,' said Lopaka. 'Please do not distress yourself. It will surely be ten times more dangerous for me with this bottle under my arm, and the demon within it. But this is through no fault of yours. Though I am terrified, I shall keep my promise. I pray to God that you may be happy in your new house, and that I shall have my schooner, and that we shall both reach Heaven in spite of this devilish bottle.'

Keawe provided him with a basket to carry the bottle, and a lantern to light his way along the road. He stood on his front balcony, listening to the clink of horse's shoes on the rock, and watching the lantern bobbing its way into the surrounding dark. He prayed for his friend as he passed by the threatening caves and tombs of the Old Dead, and gave thanks for his own escape from what might have befallen him.



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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