Dick and I, Chapter 3, 19th Century Unpublished Book by S. B. McKenney

Dick and I

Dick and I by Samuel Bartow McKenney

This manuscript was written before 1881 by Samuel Bartow McKenney. In the transcription I’ve not changed spellings or punctuation unless I absolutely must for coherence. There were no periods in the manuscript and I have added those.

Chapter III

They called him back to many a glade
His childhood haunts of play
when brightly through the beechen shade
The waters glanced away
They called him back with their sounding waves
Back to his fathers hills and groves

Hemans

—-till the air a solomn stillness holds
Save when the beetle wheels his droning flight

Gray

It was now about one o’clock in the afternoon and the day was
excessivly warm for the season. The tall trees and dense foliage
shut out every breath of fresh air although we were on the base of
a point that extended about half a mile into the lake to the
westward and finally terminated in a narrow strip of sand and

– 10 –

rocks that were covered with a almost inpentrable dense thicket of
willows and shunted cedars. I took a zig zag course, back and
forth across the point in order to intercept the object of my
search should he have been on the point and attempted to return
and gradually worked my way toward the extremity. In some places
the woods were more open and I was enabled to see the water on
both sides but again in other places the under brush was so matted
together with greenbriar, grape and bittersweet vines that I found
it almost impossible to proceed so that on the whole my progress
was slow indeed.

I had almost reached the rocks of end of the point that was
covered with the willows when I thought I heard some one call
behind me. Surely I could not have passed any one without seeing
them when the point was so narrow. I stopped and listoned
attentively. No: I must have been mistaken. It could not be that
any one was following me. There again! Hark!

“Bertie! Bertie! Oh my God I shall never see the child again.”

The voice came from behind a thick cope of prickly ash behind me.

“Hallo!” I called.

A moment after the prickly plants were torn aside and a gentleman
about fifty tall and gray haird emerged from the thicket. His face
was haggard his clothes torn and soiled and his flesh cruelly
lacerated by the vicious shrub. His hands were literally covered
with blood and althgether he had more the appearance of a maniac
than sane man.

“Can this be Mr. Blanchard,” I asked.

“I am sir. Tell me have you seen any thing of my child in your
ramble – a little girl —- ”

“Calm your self sir. We found your child about an hour ago and she
is now with your daughter and my friend Mr Rashboy who was
principally instrumental in finding her.”

“Oh. Thank God,” and the exhausted man overpowered by fatigue and
the excess of his emotions sank tremblingly upon a fallen tree and
covered his face with his blood stained hands.

I fired the signal as agreed upon with Rashboy and then going to
the lake I wet my hankerchief in its cool waters and bathed the
mans temples and wiped the bloodstains from his face.

“There. Thank you I feel better now.”

“Try some of this sir. I think it will help you,” said I giving him
my brandy flask. He was able to rise although he trembled
excessively.

“Let me assist you to the lake shore and wash some of this blood
from your hands. It may frighten your daughters.”

“Ah yes. Thank you. You are very thoughtful.”

– 11 –

I assisted him to the beach and bathed the swollen hands and
chafed his temples but it was no use, he could not rise again and
when he made the effort sank back into a fainting fit. I debated
with myself what was best to do. Whether to leave him there alone
while I went for his daughter or to attempt to call. The distance
and dense forest almost precluded any chance they might otherwise
have had of hearing me. Should I stay then and wait it might be
hours before they would find me and time was precious to the sick
man. Still I disliked to leave him there in the woods alone I was
greatly relived to see Rashboy emerge from the woods and come to
my side.

“Get the boat please and bring the ladies round in it. I fear he
has overheated himself and is threatened with a fever.”

“Let me help you cary him up from this damp sand first. So–I
will be back as soon as possible,” and he disappeared.

I sat by the father – her father – and bathed his burning temples
and strove to relieve his suffering all I could for near half an
hour when he fell into a troubled sleep and did not awaken until
Rashboy returned with the boat and the ladies. The poor girls were
greatly distressed when they saw their father and Miss Inez
turning to me with hurt eyes swimming in tears placed both her
hands in mine and said, “Oh Mr Etheridge how could we repay you for
your kindness to dear Papa.”

“By calming yourself dear lady. He will probably need all your
care although,” I added as I saw a frightened look come into her eyes.
“I do not think his symptoms are dangerous with good care and
gentle nursing both of which I am sure he will receive. I think he
will come out all right although it may take some time.”

And I thought how gladly I would undergo all his suffering for the
sake of the nursing. Ah what would I not suffer to have those
little soft hands stroke my forehead and – pshaw – what a fool I
am getting to be. She probably has half a dozen admirers perhaps
is already betrothed and I set my teeth.

“Etheridge,” whispered my friend, “For heavens sake keep your
features under a little better control. You look black as a
thunder cloud.”

“Oh Mr. Etheridge,” said the dark eyed houri having seen Rashboy
whisper to me. “I fear he is more worn than you think. You do not
know how weak he has been. It was for his sake we came up here.”

“You are not a native of this place then,” said I willing to direct
her thoughts.

“No sir. Our home is in Mississippi on the gulf.”

“Please arrange a couch for him on board the boat and we will
remove him.”

Rashboy and I raised him carefully and took and laid him on the
couch prepared by his daughters and as there was a pleasant breeze
blowing we set sail.

Mr. Blanchard was stopping at the Lake Henn in E —- and we had a

– 12 –

sail of about four miles which we accomplished without any further
mishap. After doing all we could to make our fair friends and
their father comfortable we took our leave promising to call again
and see them. We hired a skiff and reached Maplewood house just as
the supper bell was ringing.

“Will you share my room with me tonight Etheridge as I did yours
once. Come,” he added seeing me hesitate, “I will not take no for an
answer. I know you are hungary and you shall have an opportunity
of judging whether I sang my land1ady’s praises unadvisadly or
not.”

“Oh very well!” I replied, “since I am obliged to say yes I may as
well do so as gracefully as possible for to tell the truth I am
hungry as a woodchuck.”

And I am sure the good woman found no reason to complain of my want
of appreciation of her roast duck and mealy potatoes for I did
ample justice to both.

My companion seemed gloomy and abstracted although I could see
that he made an effort to appear cheerful. Failing to get any
thing but random replies to my remarks we finally both relapsed
into silence each being busy with his own thoughts until the meal
was completed.

“I fear I am a dull companion Etheridge, but there are times when
it is torture for me to talk. Let us have a cigar out on the lake
shore I should sufficate here.”

We strolled along the lake shore through an old field among the
scarlet sumach until we came upon a slight emminence upon which
stood the ruins of an old house. We seated ourselves upon the soft
short grass in front of the ruins and gazed out over the quiet
waters of the bay that was now without a ripple. Some old gnarled
maples interlocked their branches over our heads and sent
fluttering down upon us occasionally their bright tinted leaves or
let them fall upon the quiet bosom of the lake where floated
gracefully like miniature ships of gold and ruby upon a sea of
jasper. It was one of those warm, hazy indian summer evenings for
which Minnesota is so noted. The sun like a huge ball of fire was
just sinking behind the crimson and golden leaved trees that lined
the opposite margin of the bay: their bright variegated splendor
being reproduced with a softened tint in the limped waters. As the
dusky shadows of the long autumn twilight began to enfold us in
their hazy mantle thousands of little autumn crickits began their
melancholy chirp – chirp – chirp – as if chanting a dirge over their
own short lives or perchance bewailing that the gorgeousness in
which every thing was arrayed was but the herald of coming
desolation and death. The dismal hollow boom of the night-hawk as
he descended from his giddy height or the weird screem of the loon
that came floating oer the water or was echoed from the
surrounding wooded hills were the only sound that varied the
melancholy chanting of the insects and disturbed the deep repose.
And thus it had been for ages past: The same bright tints of
trees, the same melancholy chirp of insects and the same wild cry
of the night birds has marked each golden indian summer as the
changing season brought them round. And in that far off past other
beings have sat in the soft twilight as we did then and felt
perchance the same deep melancholy and creep over them that nature

– 13 –

ever inspires in the hearts of her children when they recognize in
all round them that we are each but an atom and a part of the
great hole that goes to make up the universe in which mans short
live aye even the forms most ancient hills and rocks are “as
bubbles tossing in the air”, transitory as a beach when viewed
from eternity as a stand point and yet these minute atoms of which
our earth is composed and all the turning motions of animal forms
upon it are as eternal as the heavens. Yet each individual
existence how transitory! Can we even claim it for a moment. Our
bodies are composed of different atoms from what they were yester-
day and our minds concieve of different thoughts. Tis true some
of yesterdays atoms as well as thought are with us today never all
of either, and yet taken as an individual whole are we the same.
Ages hence when I have returned to the elements all that there was
gone these atoms and to the great fountain of intelligence and
life my thoughts and existance which now combined form an effect
as experienced in my existance. Others will sit on this same shore
watch the same sky and fading landscape and listen to the same
sounds that cast such a solemn melancholy over me now and
perchance ponder on the same problem that now occupies my thoughts.

“I know not,” said my friend, “whether such an evening makes me a
better man. Certainly not a more contented one. Every sound is
rife with memories of other days. All the tender memories of my
childhood and boyhood pasttimes and the friends that shared them
times ( —- ) me are present half viled by a sort of soft regretful
melancholy by which all misdeeds and sorrows are obscured and only
the joys and pleasing recolections are seen but often they have
changed this here and are viewed now in a softened and subdued
light and over and around all is thrown that indescribable feeling
of sadness which is neither one entirely of pleasure or of pain
but a soft blending of the two. Whether those days were really as
happy as memory now paints I know not–perhaps not. It may be that
some time in the future I will look back on this quiet night with
only you, mother nature and my own thoughts for companions and
persuade myself that I was happy, but Etheridge I never felt sadder
in my life. The very air is thronging with the shadows of lived
ones and of a happiness that never can return. How often have I
wandered through these same woods with my little brown haired
sister and gathered the fringed acorn cups and bright forest
leaves. Ay sat upon this same spot beneath these same trees with
her. I can almost feel the touch of her little warm soft hand in
mine and feel her little curly head resting against my shoulder as
we sat and listened to the chirping of the insects and I saw the
tears spring into her blue eyes because she thought they were
crying because they had to die. My mother has sat in the door of
that old ruined house and watched us with the love light beaming
from her soft brown eyes. Another, and a younger little sister has
listened to our talk and regarded us with her great black eyes as
we built our fairy castles on the rosy future while a little
toddling brother has lain on the soft grass beneath the same trees
and played with the leaves and winged (samara?) of the maples and
laughed in childish glee as the old trees sent down their showers
of treasure. Dear Brother! his doors are closed now against his
infidel brother and mother my dear old mother who once held me so
dearly and tenderly now feels no tenderness for her lunatic son or
if she does Nature is (prevented?) and a mothers instinct
smothered to annuet the dogmas of a soulblighting creed. Of my two
sisters one of them sleeps beneath the same trees under which she
played in infancy and the other occupies an unknown grave in the

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wild prairies of the far west. God wot I too shall be afraid when I
may lay me down in my last sleep and lose in the oblivion of death
this sorrow I must always know while living — I trust too that
the day is not far distant when this faith which claims to teach a
religion of love yet turns the mother against the child and the
brother against the brother will have given place to a more
reasonable and please God a more human creed. But, Etheridge, my
sorrows make me egotistical. This old desolate home of mine and my
Cares and troubles can have no interest for you.”

“I assure you dear Dick.” said I grasping his hand, “that all that
concerns you interests me.”

“May you never, dear friend, taste the bitter cup that I have
drained never know what it is to be an outcast from those you love
on account of your faith.”

“Was this old building indeed once your home?”

“Yes: years ago.”

“How long?”

“Twenty years.”

“And have you never been back since?”

“Yes. Several times but did not stay long.”

“How many of your family are still living?”

“Their mother brother and sister born since they left here.”

“Where are they now?”

“Living up the lake.”

“Excuse me for asking so many questions Dick but I wish I could be
of service to you.”

“Thank you but there is nothing you can do in this case unless—”

“What?”

“Nothing now Let us return to the hotel it is late.”

We wended our way arm in arm in the soft moonlight amoung the
trees that cast their dark shadows across our way as trouble and
superstition overshadow the path of wandering humanity yet there
were flecks of moonlight here and there between.

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