« Bob The Donkey | Main | The Earth Moved »

The Scrivener: Through Darkling Glass: Part 7 - Love's Despair

...One day, coming softly through the house, he heard the sound as of a child sobbing. He found Kokua, on the floor of her balcony, weeping like a lost soul. Her despair came tumbling from her lips: 'Keawe, when you lived alone in your Bright House, the whole island knew that you were a happy man. There was always laughter and song from your lips.'

'Would that I could be so happy again,' he replied, 'and bring such happiness to you.'...

Brian Barratt continues his wonderful adapatation of Robert Louis Stevenson's story The Bottle Imp.

To read earlier episodes please click on

When Keawe awoke, he could hear the band playing at the hotel. Because he feared to be alone, he went across and mingled with the smiling crowd. Their happy faces gave him little cheer, and he listened as best he could while the band changed from one tune to another. In spite of these distractions, he could not take his mind off his fate.

The band then started playing Hiki-hao-hao, a song he had sung with Kokua when visiting her father's house. It was also one of the songs he had sung on his joyful ride home that night. As he listened to its strains drifting across the room, his courage began to return.

'It is time once again,' he thought, 'for me to take the good with the evil.'
And so he returned to his home by the next steamer and, as soon as it could be arranged, he married Kokua and carried her up the mountain-side to the Bright House.

Her beauty, from the hair upon her head to the very tips of her toes, brought joy to all who beheld her. She was full of song, carolling like the birds, as she went to and fro in the Bright House The kindness which Keawe first saw in her eyes shone in the good words she had for everybody. She was indeed the brightest thing in the Bright House. Her heart was full of love and she was ready to give herself to him utterly.
Keawe beheld and heard her with delight, but groaned within himself when he was alone. He sat with her on the broad balconies and joined in her songs, but with a brooding spirit. He tried to return her smiles but secretly wept when he recalled the devil's own price he had paid for her and for her love.

There came a time when she began to sit apart from him, on another balcony on the far side of the Bright House. Her songs became less frequent and less melodious as a heaviness fell upon her. Keawe, deep in his own misery, hardly noticed the change in his beloved Kokua. Away from her presence, he was not required to put on a smiling face to disguise his sick heart. He had more time to brood over his own destiny.

One day, coming softly through the house, he heard the sound as of a child sobbing. He found Kokua, on the floor of her balcony, weeping like a lost soul. Her despair came tumbling from her lips: 'Keawe, when you lived alone in your Bright House, the whole island knew that you were a happy man. There was always laughter and song from your lips.'

'Would that I could be so happy again,' he replied, 'and bring such happiness to you.'

'Happy? From the day you wedded me, you have rarely smiled. What is it that I have done to you? I thought I was pretty. I thought you loved me. Why have I thrown such a cloud upon my husband?'

He sat down by her side, taking her hand in his, but she pulled it away.

'My poor little Kokua,' he whispered. 'My child. My pretty one. I want you to know that I have loved you since first we met, and I still love you. But I wanted to spare you from the misery I am suffering. The time has come for me to reveal the truth so that you will at least be able to pity me. To gain your love, I have tempted fate and dared a devil.'

And so he told her the whole story of the bottle and the imp, from the very beginning.

'You have done all this for me?' she cried tearfully, clasping him in her arms. 'You shall not be lost because you have loved me and have no other fault. I shall save you myself, or perish with you. You loved me thus, and gave your very soul for my love. Can you not see that I, in return, am willing even to die to save you?'

'My dear one!' he cried. 'You might die a hundred times, but what difference would that make? It would merely leave me lonely until the time comes for my own departure."

'But there shall be no need for either of us to die,' she replied, with a new note of eagerness in her voice. 'You are lamenting because you must sell the bottle for less than one cent, and because there is no coin worth less than that amount.'

'That is true,' said Keawe. 'There is no such coin. I am therefore doomed.'

'But there is such a coin. You forget that not all the world is American. In England, they have a coin called a farthing. It is worth about half a cent!'

'Dear Kokua, you are right. But what of the buyer? How shall he then sell the bottle for less than one farthing?'

'In France, they have a small coin called a centime. About five of these will buy one cent. Let us go to the French islands, to Tahiti. There, we shall have four centimes, three centimes, two centimes, one centime — four possible sales of the bottle as it comes and goes.'

Keawe's face lit up. 'Dear Kokua, I cannot think that I shall be punished for desiring such a good thing. Take me where you please: I put my life and my salvation in your hands.'



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/


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.