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The Scrivener: Through Darkling Glass: Part Six - Cure At A Cost

Keawe, smitten by love, sets out to buy back the bottle and regain command of the wish-granting imp.

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

To read earlier episodes of this story please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_scrivener/

'Keawe of the Bright House is out of spirits,' someone jested, in the shed at the quayside. Keawe sat alone in the crowd waiting for the ship, and the whaling-boat which would ferry them aboard.

He was in no mood to jest, or even to respond, choosing to remain voiceless in the chattering throng. He gazed out at the falling rain, the surf beating on the rocks, and sighed from the depths of his heart.

When they boarded, passengers were allocated space according to custom and practice. The Haoles, white people, who had been to visit the volcano, took the stern of the ship. The people of the islands were crowded amidships. The foredeck was packed with the cargo of cattle and horses. But Keawe sat apart.

As they steamed along the coastline, he looked out for the house of Kiano. There it was, low upon the shore among the black rocks, and shaded by coconut palms. He saw a long red dress, left out to dry, flapping in the evening breeze, and was overcome by sadness and longing.

When darkness fell and the cabins were lit up, the Haoles played cards and drank whisky, as they always did. Keawe walked the deck all night and all the next day, pacing to and fro like some wild animal seeking to be free. He gladly disembarked when they reached the wharf at Honolulu, and started asking if anyone had seen Lopaka or knew where he was.

He was told that Lopaka was now the owner of a schooner, ideal for navigating the islands, and had gone away on some venture. He therefore started seeking out friends of Lopaka's. For many days, he went from one to another, finding they all had new clothes, or carriages, or fine houses, and seemed very contented with their riches. Nevertheless, when he hinted at his business, their faces clouded over.

'There is no doubt that I am on the right track,' thought Keawe. 'These new clothes and carriages and houses are all the work of the little imp. These contented faces are those of men who have had their desires granted and rid themselves of the accursed bottle. But when I see pale cheeks and hear sighing, I shall know that I am near that bottle.'

He was eventually directed to a lawyer. It was said that this man had grown suddenly rich and had a fine new house on Waikiki shore. He called a hack and was driven to the lawyer's house.

The house was new, with trees in the garden that had hardly grown beyond saplings. The lawyer, when he appeared, had the air of a distressed man. 'What can I do for you?' he asked.

'You are a friend of Lopaka's,' said Keawe. 'Some time ago he purchased from me a certain item. I thought you might enable me to trace that item.'

The lawyer turned pale, like a condemned miscreant about to be led to the gallows. Face to face with this man, Keawe knew that he could state the reason for his visit. 'I have come to buy the bottle.'

The lawyer reeled against the wall and gasped, 'The bottle!'

'Yes, I have come to buy the bottle. What price is it now?'

The man stared at Keawe as if he were a phantom. 'The price? You do not know the price?'

'That is what I'm asking you, but why does my question disturb you so much?'

'It has dropped a great deal in value since you last owned it.'

'Well, that simply means that I shall have to pay you less for it. How much did it cost you?'

The lawyer quickly took the bottle from a drawer and answered with great emotion, 'Two cents. Here, take it. Take it from me now!' http://openwriting.com/gallery/v/johnburge/ch6_The+lawyer+quickly+took.jpg.html

'That means that if I buy it from you, I must pay you but one cent. And if I wish to sell it...' The awful realisation dawned. If Keawe bought it now for only one cent, he could never sell it again. The bottle and the imp must stay with him until he died, and when he died he would be sent to an unthinkable fate. Yet in spite of that, for the sake of his love, he bought the bottle. The laywer handed it over, with a great sigh of relief, for one cent.

As soon as Keawe's fingers clasped the bottle's neck, he prayed for his affliction to be removed. Sure enough, when we returned to his room that night, and stripped off his clothes before the looking-glass, his skin was as smooth as that of a baby. All traces of the leprosy had disappeared.

At the same time, his mind underwent a change. He completely forgot about the dreadful scourge which had at that moment vanished. He even forgot about Kokua. He was possessed by only one thought, namely, that his eternal fate had been decided. The devil within the bottle would ensure that he was consigned to everlasting torment. He sank into the darkness of his mind.


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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