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. My thanks to Allan McKenney for sending this along.
No breath of air to break the wave
The sky is changed! and such a change! Uh night
And storm and darkness ye are wonderous strong
Be Helle’s stream there is a voice of wail
And womans eye is wet mans cheek is pale
Bride of Abydos
The huge black cloud had crept further up the horizon and looked
black and threatening. At the time of our departure we had a light
breeze blowing from the north east but by the time we made Hulls
Creek the wind failed us altogether. lt was now near five oclock
and another hour was consumed in getting through the creek as the
boats had to be pushed through with the oars. We found the lower
lake as we came out into it to be dead calm and lay stretched out
before us like a large polished mirror. There was not a mar to its
surface save here and there where some fish would lunge out and
make a circle of tiny waves that would widen and widen until the
little wavelets would come rippling against the side of our boat
as she lay motionless on the silent lake.
“How silent and hushed every thing is. How distinctly one can hear
the slightest voice on shore although it is so far off,” said Viva
Joice. “I suppose this is the calm that preceeds a storm?” she
continued turning to Dick.
“And I fear the storm will be a bad one if we may judge from this
orninous silence,” he replied.
“If you will take the tiller a few minutes I will take in the jin
and close reef the mainsail and make all things snug and ready for
it when it does come,” said I addressing him.
“Keep your seat,” said he. “and I will be sailor.”
The sails were soon dexterously trimed and taken
in. The halyards belayed again and everything made
tight and fast. Fay had also close reefed the sails
of the schooner but Adams had made no move toward
trimming his vessel for the coming storme – whatever.
“What can Adams be doing?” I asked, “that he does
not take in sail?”
“Whispering nonsense to Miss Mayer,” sugested Viva Joice.
“Oh dear,” exclaimed Inez B. “I wish Hope had stayed aboard the
“Is she not aboard the schooner,” demanded Dick turning toward her
“No. Miss Hughes offered to take care of Papa and Hope went in Mr
I saw Rashboys face was stern and white as he slipped forward and
shouted, “Sloop ahoy!”
“Ahoy yourself,” answered Adams.
“Why dont you trim your sails man?”
“We can manage our own affairs.”
“lt does not look like it,” he muttered to himself then aloud. “The
storm will be upon you in a few minutes I can hear it coming now.”
“Let it come.”
“But your boat will not live a minute with all that sail on.”
“When we need your help or advice we will call on you.”
Rashboy turned and came back to me. There was an expression on his
face that boded no good to Adams if anything should happen to one
of his passengers. The schooner lay off to our left about two
cables length while Adams boat was twice that distance directly
ahead of us.
“There is the first messenger of the coming storm,” said Dick as a
little black flaw came flurring across the tranquil water causing
the White Witch to careen over and dart through the water like
some nervous fish as it struck her. Presently another struck her
coming from a different quarter causing the sails to jibe
“Ladies you and Mr Smythe had better keep down in the bottom of
the boat,” said I as Smythe gory head came near being made more
gory than it already was by coming in the way of the jibing boom.
We could now hear the storm roaring through the tree tops on the
shore to our right and as we were heading to the southward we must
have the wind on our beam. It was now about sunset and already
darkness had began to fall over the waters and make objects at any
distance dim and indistinct.
– 42 –
“Here it comes,” cried Dick. “Hold her head well up in the wind Con
when it first strikes you and then you can ease her off
The lake was literally covered with foam marking the footsteps of
the storm as it came like a race horse toward us.
Although I held the vessels head well up into the wind as directed
by Rashboy yet when the storm struck her it laid her almost on her
beam ends for a moment. She righted however almost the same
instant and when I eased her off on our proper course she almost
flew through the water.
“Splendid!” cried Dick. “Now Con when you see one of those black
flaws coming luff her a little and we will be home before the rain
reaches us and as soon as the other two boats – My God!” he
exclaimed, “where are they? There is the schooner to leeward but
where is Adams boat?”
“Gone – to – the – bottom!”
His breath came hard and his face looked gastly in the gleem of
the lightening then illuminated the sky almost continually. He
spring upon the quarter deck and stepped back to where he could
look under the sail to leeward.
“They have probably capsized,” I replied, “but I do not think the
boat would sink as she is made of light pine and carries no
ballast but her passengers.”
”Ha! There she is now,” as by the red glare of the lightening I saw
a boat bottom uppermost and the gastly faces of the surviving
wretches who clung to her turned to us in a dispairing manner. The
flashes of lightening were but momentary and yet by its fitful
glare I saw it all. They were close to leeward and so close to us
that I could almost have reached them with an oar. We were about a
quarter of a mile to windward of Collage Island about a mile to
leeward of the main shore.
“Here Dick,” I exclaimed, “you can manage the boat better than I.
Take the tiller and put her about and let us try to pick up some
of them Dick! Dick I say!! Where in the name of God is he!”
He was gone! I sat slumped and bewildered. Mechanically I put the
boat about and ran back.
“What is it,” exclaimed Inez Blanchard who had crept back to where
I was. “Where is Mr Rashboy?”
“God knows darling!” I broke out. “In Heaven most likely. He —-,”
when suddenly recollecting myself. I (—-)
“He what?” she asked.
“I do not know. He was here but a moment since and now he is gone
when or where I can not tell.”
“Where is the other boat? Where is Hope? Oh I saw it all. The boat
has sunk and he has gone to save Hope,” she cried wringing her
“Ha! I believe you,” I exclaimed a light suddenly making in on my
– 43 –
bemused mind, “only,” I continued, “the other boat is not sunk,” and
in a few hurried words I explained to her all that had occured.
“And now,” I added, “go forward a little and watch for them for we
may pass them and not see them.”
She had listened to my hurried explanation very calmly and seemed
to devine at once the true state of affairs as she stepped forward.
She suddenly exclaimed, “Oh there they are right ahead. Oh stop the
boat quick or you will overrun them.”
I threw the helm hard alee and brought the little vessel head up
into the wind almost immediately.
A moment later I had let go the anchor and belayed the (—-).
I then ran about and found that the stern of the vessel almost
reached the capsized boat. I knew that she would not drift away
from us as the sails were downward into the water.
Miss Meyer Emily Burnette and Harry Barton were taken aboard and
that was all. Barton explained that Miss Blanchard and Adams had
been washed from the boat by a large wave that broke over them and
carried several rods to leeward by its force. That Adams had went
to Miss Blanchards assistance and strove to regain the boat but
that the waves setting against him were too strong and that he had
finally started for the shore which did not look to be over forty
rods distant and he contended that was the last that we saw of
“How long ago was that,” asked Inez.
“About half an hour I should judge.”
No one had seen anything of Rashboy. He had probably missed the
boat in the darkness and found a grave among the green mosses in
the bottom of the lake he loved so well in his vain efforts to
find the boat.
“Oh Mr Etheridge,” said Inez. “Let us run into the shore and see if
we can find any trace of them. It is our only hope,” she exclamed
as her voice trembled and the tears sprang to her eyes.
“Let me take the tiller Etheridge I know of a little harbor close
by under the shelter of a point where we can land in safety.
Although I think it is of no use. No mortal man could swim ashore
in this rough water alone without being encumbered by a lady,” said
I gave him the tiller and weighed the anchor and then seated
myself gloomily in the bow of the vessel.
The rain now began to fall in torents. I pulled Dick’s waterproof
cloak out of the for locker and wrapped it around me and Inez and
strove to comfort her but my own heart was too heavy to make much
but a sorry comforter of me.
“You are striving to comfort me,” said she laying her hand upon my
arm, “when you too are suffering.”
“Trouble and I are old acquaintences,” I replied gloomily, “and it
– 44 –
matters little when or where I meet it since its face has become
so familier to me.”
“I fear it is an acquaintance with whom we can all are apt to
become famalliar before we die,” she replied.
“I do not see why I am left to drag out and a cheerless and
desolate live alone when those that are more worthy to live and
who have something to live for are taken.”
“And have you nothing to live for?”
“Life without love is useless as well as desolate. The grave and
the dark waters of this lake have closed over all that ever loved
me. It may be my own fault as you remarked today that I have no
friends, but friendship and love mean something with me more than
“Please do not remember my thoughtless words against you,” she
replied her lips quivering. “I would have given worlds to have
recalled them the next moment after they were spoken.”
“Forgive me if I have wounded you. My lonliness and misery makes
me forgetful of others feelings.”
“You have trouble enough tonight without me burdening you with my
sorrows. Yet let us hope for the best. Here we are,” I added as the
boats keel grated on a little strip of beach under shelter of the
point. “Remain here until I return and believe me I shall use
every effort to find our missing friends or some trace of them.
“I will do just as you say,” she replied giving me her hand, “but
please do not keep me long in suspense.”
“I will not darling,” I murmered and acting under an irristable
impulse I stooped and kissed the sweet quivering moveable tear
stained cheek. The little hand fluttered in mine and I imagined
gave a feble pressure before it was withdrawn. “God speed you,” she
A lantern was procured from the boat and Barton and I started in
search of some trace of the missing. The island on which we landed
was the largest one in the lake it being about tow miles in length
and varying in breadth from half a mile down to only a few rods.
The middle where there was a narrow neck of sandy beach on which
only a few stunted willows grew and over which the waves would
almost dash. We had landed on the southern side of the island near
the western end under the shelter of a small point that was
heavily timbered. The opposite side of the point from which we
landed formed a part of the western end of the island and the
shore on this end was lined with huge bowlders with the exception
of a short stretch of beach near the unfortunate boat had been
capsized. We crossed the point and followed along the shore toward
this stretch of beach which was about a quarter of a mile distant.
The wind still blew fiercely although it had abated somewhat of
its fury. The branches of the trees swaying and tossing wildly,
the large foam crested waves came thundering in against the
bowlders and dashing her cold spray into our faces as we hurred by
the fitful glare of the lantern over the bank into the gloom
– 45 –
“God pity any that should try to come ashore here,” said Barton.
“The water is quite deep close up to the rocks and they would be
at the mercy of the waves.”
We went slowly forward eagerly seeking in every rook and opening
between the boulders some trace of our missing companions and yet
fearing as the flickering light of the lantern at each advancing
step fell upon new objects that it would bring to our view. The
mangled and gastly forms of those we sought.
At length we came to a place where the bank rose, nearly perpendicularly
some thirty feet above the waters. The feble ray of the light we carried
would not penetrate the darkness to that depth and all look black and
dismal below us.
“Let us go back and follow along the ledge of bowlders at the base
of the bluff” said my companion. “It is a perilous and dificult
undertaking but it is useless to follow along here.”
“How far does this bluff extend,” I asked.
“About tow hundred yards.”
“There is a short stretch of beach.”
We retraced our steps for a few rods and then, by clinging to the
vines and bushes we descended to the slippery bowlders below.
“Ugh! This is disagreeable!” I exclaimed as a wave swept, nearly
waist deep, over the rock on which I stood and came near dashing
me headlong among the bowlders.
“Keep as near the bank as possible and hold onto the bushes and
vines when you can.”
The rain had ceased falling and the wind had spent its violence
and only came now in fitful sobbing through the treetop, but
sounded infinitely more sad and wierd than did the shrieking
tempest. The rugged edged clouds went hurrying across the dull sky
as if vainly endeavoring to overtake the tempest that had passed
on. The waves were no longer foam crested and angry but calm, in
large undulating swell rolling in with sad cadiace as if moaning
over the ruin and desolation they had wrought. We were wet and
cold and tired as we struggled along over the slippery rocks and
my hands were torn and bleeding by clinging at times to briars and
prickley ash to prevent myself from being washed away by the waves.
We had nearly reached the beach when we came to an old cedar stump
that obstructed our passage. As we clambered around it I caught
sight of a dark object a few feet in advance of us that was
partially visable above a large bowlder that lay between it and
ourselves. I felt a chill of horror creeping over me as I laid my
hand on my companions arm and pointed toward it. He raised the
lantern above his head and pierred at it earnestly.
“It is a hat,” he said in a low voice, “but -”
He did not finish the sentence. I read the unexpressed thought in
his face as he turned toward me.
– 46 –
“What else lies concealed behind that rock.”
We moved forward but as the light penetrated the darkness beyond
it revealed nothing else save a long narrow strip of yellow sand.
I picked up the hat. It was Rashboys. It had been asure some time
for it lay back out of reach of the waves now and had been washed
there when the wave ran the highest. But where was he the noble
impulsive Rashboy who had ever been willing to risk his life in
behalf of others? Where was the generous friend whom I had
learned to love how dearly I never knew until (—-) Alas could
none but the sobbing moaning waves tell? Had they sent me this
token to show me know that they had robbed me of the dearest
friend I ever knew. I was recalled to myself by an exclaimation
from Barton. He had picked up a knot of blue ribbons that I
recognized as belonging to Hope Blanchard. And that was all
although we searched for many yards above the beach, with the
exception of some loose boards and seats out of the wrecked vessel.
“lt is as I feared,” said Barton. “They have all perished.”
“And yet they were so near shore.”
“Not so near as you might suppose,” he replied. “The distance from
shore is very deceptive at night. lt always seems much nearer than
what it really is.”
“And how far was it then.”
“A quarter of a mile at least I should judge. Possibly further.”
“Let us return. It is useless to remain her any longer.”
“True,” he answered, “and yet I dread going back to Miss Blanchard
with such sad news.”
“It is not much worse than the suspense she now endures.”
Silently and gloomily we took our way back through the forest. The
clouds were beginning to break away and occasionally a silver star
would peep at us between the masses of dark cloud that were now
moving majesticaly away to the eastward. Presently the rising moon
broke out with a flood of soft light that transformed the
pendulous rain drops on the leaves and branches into millions of
sparkling gems that fell around us in showers as we brushed
against the bushes for here in this thick wood the fiercest
tempest could not penetrate to shake them from their emerald
settings. A few minutes silent walk brought us to where our little
vessel lay moored. The moon shown out as we approached and Inez
advanced to meet us. Barton passed on not wishing to be the one to
break the sad news and Inez said nothing but turned her dark
questioning eyes on me. I laid the little knot of ribbon in her
hand and said as she glanced toward the hat l carried. “Its Dicks –
we found them together.”
“Oh poor Hope! Poor Papa,” she sobbed. “I know it will kill him,” and
she sank down on an old wave worn cedar and wept convulsively.
My own heart was too full for me to strive to comfort her and
beside what could I say? What words of mine call back the lost
sister from her endless rest among the masses of the deep. where
she had been silently locked by the waters flow to that deep cold
– 47 –
sleep that knows no waking, what words of mine compensate her for
such a loss.
Mrs McDonald came and sat down beside her and stroked the silken
hair as she pulled her bowed head on her own motherly bosom but
By the time we had removed the water that had been dashed in by
the spray and rain from the vessel and were ready to start lnez
had recovered from her (process?) of weeping and was comparatively
calm. She went forward as we got underway and seated herself in
the bow and sat with her head resting on her hand looking into the
water. Barton took the tiller and I went forward and seated myself
beside her. I took her disengaged hand in mine and sat silent
gazing forward on the rippling waves as the little vessel sped on
its homeward way. There is a kind of subtle companionship with
some whom we meet in this world that needs not the use of words to
make itself understood or felt. The very presence of some seem to
exert a more kindly influence on the stricken or lonely heart than
do the most eloquent words or impassioned tones of others although
we may know that they are sincere in their protestations of regard
and sympathy. And as I sat by the beautiful girl at my side and
felt that my feelings were rightly understood and sympathized with
although I spoke no word I felt that sense of loneliness and
melancholy which had oppressed me at the rememberance of the loss
of my friend wear away and of greater content supplant it.
As we neared the village we saw lights moving near the pier and we
could also distinguish a number of people hurrying about. I ran a
light up to the masthead and in a few minutes a voice hailed us.
“Ahoy yourself,” answered Barton.
“What boat is that?”
“The Water witch.”
I heard a murmer of voices when Barton told the name of the boat
among which I could distinguish an occasional word as “saved thank
God” “Wait and see” and so on and shortly after I heard Fay call
out “Steer for the light. It is on the pier. You had better land
on the east side of the pier; the schooner is on the west side.” As
we approched the pier I saw it was crowded with people men women
and children. Many pale anxious faces peered at us through the
gloom vainly trying to penetrate the darkness with their straining
eyes and learn at once the fate of loved ones. I distinguished Mr
Blanchard among the others, his grey hair fluttering in the night
wind. His face was pale, almost ghastly in its hue. He shaded his
eyes with a hand that trembled visably and looked eagerly into the
little vessel as it rounded to at the end of the pier. I saw him
start violently as he caught sight of his daughter Inez and a
moment after he sprung aboard and folded her in his arms. I left
father and daughter alone and stepped on the pier and explained to
the people all that I knew of the wrecked boat and of those that
were missing. The schooner had arrived safely with all on board.
They had not seen the other boat when it capsized in fact they
could not spare time to look for either of the two boats until it
was too dark to destinguish them. They had gathered at the pier
– 48 –
for the purpose of embarking in the schooner and going in search
of us when they saw our light and heard us. They resolved however
after our return to postpone their search after the others until
morning and each accordingly sought his home in order to gain some
needed repose before day light. It was past midnight when I seated
myself in the Water Witch and turned her head homeward. A soft
fresh breeze was blowing from the westward and the little vessel
sped merrilly along as if glad to get home after so fatiguing a
day. The points and headlands were all wrapped in silence as I
noislessly passed them, even the insects had ceased their chirping
and had sought a couch and repose on the sheltered side of some
friendly leaf. The distant hooting of an owl on a far away
headland and the wild scream of a loon as he beat the water into
foam with his wings in a vain effort to rise into the lighter
element were the only sounds that betokened aught of (—-) in
the world. At length the white chalk-like bank of Spirit Knob
came in sight and seemed to grow larger and more distinct to the
view as I neared it until I could distinguish the cedars growing
on it and hear the splash of the waves on the rocky shore. I ran
my boat round to the eastern and sheltered side of the point and
moved it to the pier. As I stepped asore it seemed an age since I
had left there in the morning with Rashboy. I felt as though half
the incidents of a lifetime had been cramed into that one day. I
entered my silent chamber and the air seemed close and stifling. I
threw open a window and the cool breeze felt grateful on my
burning throbbing head. “I fear I am going to be sick,” I mentioned
as I hastely changed my still damp clothing for dry and swallowing
an annodyne I threw myself upon my bed and tried to sleep. The
slightest noise, the gnawing of a mouse or the rustle of the maple
leaves against the window startled me as though a trumpet rang and
sent the blood in a cold stream to my heart. Presently as the drug
began to exert an influence over me the rustling of the leaves
became the whispering of people whom, did I but close my eyes for
a moment, I could see bending over the dark waters of the lake and
peering down into its silent depths at some object there that lay
upon the bottom and swayed backwards and forwards with every
motion of the water. If the wind sighed more heavily round the
gables I imagined it sounded like the struggles and gasps of the
drowning. Ever and anon I thought Adams followed by Mrs Whipple
would come to my bedside and the green moss and slime of the lake
still clinging to him and in a hoars whisper ask why I had let him
drown. And then I thought that they would both fall upon me with a
sort of padded bludgeon that they carried gave back no sound and
beat me across the forehead in such a manner that it seemed as if
each successive blow would mash my head. At length I could endure
it no longer and I sprang up and went to my medicine case and
swallowed a large portion of a powerful sedation.
I laid down upon the bed and almost immediately fell into a
slumber that was deep tranquil and dreamless.
(End 1st Book)