The portrait

I am resurrecting some of my old work from 30 years ago that I haven’t published. This is just first two chapters of a short story, I hope you will all enjoy. As a writer i see and hear all the characters in my imagination like a film producer hopefully the reader can have a feel for it.

Chapter one 

An old eccentric gentleman laid on his deathbed, ordering his maid to fetch Mr Lawson. He slowly sat upright on his four posted bed, gazing his eyes at the magnificent oil paintings from all over the world in his bedroom. He could hear a knock at the door downstairs. The footsteps became louder and louder as they came neared to Mr Hamilton’s bedroom. There was a gentle knock on his bedroom door.

“Enter,” cried out the cantankerous silver fox with an anxious look on his face.

“At last, my young fellow, where have you been? Don’t you know I will not be around much longer?”

“Well, Sir I’m extremely busy with a commission, I have a date to complete it by, or I don’t get paid. Every spare moment I’m working Mr Hamilton,”

The old man sighed and shook his head in disbelief.

“Well, I’m asking for a last favour before I go. You are one of the best artists I know. I will reward you with a large sum of money and through my art collection you will receive recognition from many sophisticated gentlemen. They will give you an income and commissions. I have this one obsession in my life with paintings, especially unusual ones. I want you to paint a portrait of me.”

“I am honoured and grateful for such a privilege when should I start?” Mr Lawson replied in a young, enthusiastic tone.  

“I want you to do a sketch of me now and start the painting after I have died.”

Mr Lawson pulled his chair next to the bed of the idiosyncratic disintegrating man. He sketched the dying frail man. He had a large round head with a puffed-up face, with grey straggling hair receding from his brow. He resembled the countenance of an old bishop with his white silk bedclothes covered by a red silk dressing gown wrapped around him. 

The young artist finished the sketch of Mr Hamilton in. It reminded him of the artist Rembrandt. Mr Hamilton, in between his gasping breaths, said “I will pay you £500 now and you will receive the rest when you finish the portrait”. Mr Hamilton closed his eyes and died peacefully, knowing that his last wishes were being fulfilled.

His only son William and his family attended the funeral of Mr Hamilton with a few distant friends and acquaintances. After the service, the family gathered for the wake of Mr Hamilton drinking potent cocktails with homemade cakes prepared by the estate cook. Mr Hamilton, grandchildren running around the large house, interrupting the Solemn atmosphere. Jack and Sarah didn’t understand the death of their grandfather because he was always busy with his own life here and there buying and selling paintings. The children just loved the large house with many winding corridors and hidden rooms. You could hear the echoes of the children as they spent their energy in pursuit of hiding from each other.

There a few many tears because Mr Hamilton was not a gentle or jolly man. The only occasions he was in a good mood were by the influence of alcohol after a purchase or sale of a painting. The Butler rang a large hand rang bell to break up the chitchat of all the guest.

The butler said in an eloquent and funereal voice

“Mr Barlow has arrived, and he is waiting in the study, please make your way to the room please”.

William called his wife Catherine together with his children, Jack and Sarah.

“We have some important news, so please behave and respect your grandfather as we listen to his instructions he has left.”

Everyone in the room stared at Mr Barlow anxiously in anticipation for him to start.

“Is everybody here, the servants, the family and friends?”

Mr Barlow put his briefcase on the table and carefully gathered the documents, carefully attaining to the late Mr Hamilton estate and possessions. He looked up with a smile and spoke.

“Please excuse all the unnecessary formalities and I will get straight to the point for brevity. William Hamilton is the sole benefactor it includes all the estate and all the possessions within. There will be no need to worry about servants, as you will continue in your relative position. There is one final clause. When young Sarah Hamilton comes of age, she is the sole owner of the estate paintings BUT must remain in the perspective places in the estate.

Chapter Two

From Paper to Canvas

Mr Barlow spoke privately with Mr Lawson, the young artist who came to pay his respects to the family and the late Mr Hamilton. The family barrister handed James a letter from the deceased Mr Hamilton. The letter read in part “When you completed the portrait, I will pay you the sum of £5000 “Mr Lawson quickly scan through the rest of the letter.

“I can’t do that” with this shock all over his face. 

“Do you want the money” replied Mr Barlow angrily?

“Oh yes, but how can I do that without being confronted by the police or offending the family?”

“Leave it to me, Mr Lawson, I’ll be at the crematorium later, and I will see you later tonight”.

That evening, young James worried about the whole situation and the problems it could cause him. You could hear footsteps coming up towards the attic, towards his studio. The sharp, clear, precise footsteps slowly walked along the final hallway. Bang Bang.

“Who is it?” The frightened artist said frantically.

“It’s Mr Barlow” he replied softly.

“Come in. I have been contemplating what Mr Hamilton wanted me to do. I’m not doing it regardless of the money.”

“Oh, you must, because you said yes to Mr Hamilton before he died to do the job. I have a sketch to prove it.”

“I know that, but I never knew about him actually being in the portrait,” confess the worried artist.

“You know that Mr Hamilton liked unusual paintings, and no one else would know. Just think about the £5000 pounds. It would give you a good start to your artistic career. You could develop as an artist and concentrate on your art without worrying about selling your painting like Van Gogh.”

The young artist loved painting because it was his gift to the world and filled his soul with peace and inspiration. 

He then said in an anxious and trembling voice,

“I hope you have the ashes so I can start straight away before I change my mind.”

“Don’t worry, everything will turn out fine and nobody will have to know about it apart from me, you and the late Mr Hamilton.” 

Mr Barlow laughed as he walked out of the door. The Young artist couldn’t sleep all night with some ashes of Mr Hamilton left in his studio.

The next morning, after a restless night, James awoke from his nightmare to a bright day. The morning sun shining rays through the studio, giving the atmosphere a warm glow. Before he started his day, he always had a cup of coffee and pondered on how to accomplish this new weird task. He knew the larger the portrait, the easier it would be to mix the human ashes with paints together, so he did a life-size portrait.

James mixed small quantities of Mr Hamilton with few pigments. He experimented and concluded; greater the quantity of oils would help dissolve the two components with better results. He did a sketch on the canvas and started with Mr Hamilton’s eyes. The artist brush came alive as it stoked the canvas, James could feel Mr Hamilton words and whispers flow his arm into the paint brush. The echoes of the capricious egomaniac ashes knew where to go on the painting. James could hear instructions from a grand master watching over his shoulder. James turned around, and no one was there. Then he heard another voice, “Come on you fool, you need to finish this painting”. He thought he was going mad and deep down he knew it was the spirit of Mr Hamilton in his presence. When James left the studio, the voices would stop, and he could refresh his soul from the assertive old man.

The portrait was now resembling the features of the old man’s skin of a rugged landscape with a history of war and peace. The size of the portrait height of 6 feet and by the width of two feet. The young artists had a busy schedule to complete several. James declined new commissions and other activities. He wanted finished Mr Hamilton to stop the anguish of relentless voices in his studio. The old man would continue to haunt him, and resolved to finish it. The portrait had a suspicious glow around the eyes as if we’re starring back at you. The portrait was alive with encounters, wrapping his tentacles through the inner being of a person’s soul. James knew this was a supernatural, paranormal painting, and he understood the experience because of the portrait had traces of Mr Hamilton’s soul in the oils mixed with his metaphysical ashes.

Mr Barlow came to studio after 18 months of hard magical and ghostly experiences for the young artist.

“I swear I saw his eyes move then,” said Mr Barlow as he entered the dark room that evening.

“You must have of had to drink,” said James. He didn’t want to confess all of his uncanny experiences because he just wanted to get rid of the portrait and have his £5000. 

“it’s fabulous, my good man I’ll collect it tomorrow afternoon. What did you say, James?”


Mr Barlow thought he heard a voice, and it reminded him of Mr Hamilton, but he dismissed it.

James said with a sigh, “I’ll be glad to see the back of it “


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About Stephen Hyne

I am creative and curious about life. I have a passion for the brain and the psychology of human behaviour. I love the renaissance art, culture and architecture. Music is my best friend follows me on my life journey of discovery.

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