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The Captive Of The Ada-Wehi
by [?]

Attusah was obviously an impostor. Many, however, had full faith in his supernatural power, and often he seemed to believe in his own spectral account of himself.

Tsida-wei-yu!” (I am a great ada-wehi![1]) the young warrior would cry with his joyous grandiloquent gesture, waving his many braceleted right arm at full length as he held himself proudly erect. “Akee-o-hoosa! Akee-o-hoosa!” (I am dead). Then triumphantly, “And behold I am still here.”

Attusah had gone unscathed through that bloody campaign of 1761 in which the Cherokees suffered such incredible rigors. After their total defeat at Etchoee the Indians could offer no further resistance to the troops of Colonel Grant, who triumphantly bore the authority of the British king from one end of the Cherokee country to the other, for there was no more powder to be had in the tribe. The French, from whom they had hoped a supply, failed them at their utmost need, and now those massive crags of the Great Smoky Mountains, overhanging the Tennessee River, no longer echoed the “whoo-whoop!” of the braves, the wild cry of the Highlanders, “Claymore! Claymore!” the nerve-thrilling report of the volleys of musketry from the Royal Scots, the hissing of the hand grenades flung bursting into the jungles of the laurel. Instead, all the clifty defiles of the ranges were filled with the roar of flames and the crackling of burning timbers as town after town was given to the firebrand, and the homeless, helpless Cherokees frantically fleeing to the densest coverts of the wilderness,–that powerful truculent tribe!–sought for shelter like those “feeble folk the conies” in the hollows of the rocks.

Thus it was that Digatiski, the Hawk, of Eupharsee Town, long the terror of the southern provinces, must needs sit idle, forlorn, frenzied with rage and grief, in a remote and lofty cavity of a great cliff, and looking out over range and valley and river of this wild and beautiful country, see fire and sword work their mission of destruction upon it. By day a cloud of smoke afar off bespoke the presence of the soldiery. At night a tremulous red light would spring up amidst the darkness of the valley, and expanding into a great yellow flare summon mountains and sky into an infinitely sad and weird revelation of the landscape, as the great storehouses of corn were burned to the ground, leaving the hapless owners to starvation.

His pride grudged his very eyes the sight of this humiliation, for despite the oft-repeated assertion of the improvidence of the Indian character, these public granaries, whence by the primitive Cherokee government food was dispensed gratis to all the needy, were always full, and their destruction meant national annihilation or subjugation. After one furtive glance at the purple obscurities of the benighted world he would bow his head, and with a smothered groan ask of the ada-wehi, “Where is it now, Attusah?”

The young warrior, half reclining at the portal of the niche, would lift himself on one elbow,–the glow of the little camp-fire within the recess on his feather-crested head, his wildly painted face, the twenty strings of roanoke passed tight like a high collar around his neck, thence hanging a cascade of beads over his chest, the devious arabesques of tattooing on his bare, muscular arms, the embroideries of his buckskin raiment and gaudy quiver,–and searching with his gay young eyes through the stricken country reply, “Cowetchee,” “Sinica,” “Tamotlee,” whichever town might chance to be in flames.

Doubtless Attusah realized equally the significance of the crisis. But a certain joyous irresponsibility characterized him, and indeed he had never seemed quite the same since he died. He had been much too reckless, however, even previous to that event. Impetuous, hasty, tumultuously hating the British colonists, he had participated several years earlier in a massacre of an outlying station, when the Cherokees were at peace, without warrant of tribal authority, and with so little caution as to be recognized. For this breach of the treaty his execution was demanded by the Royal Governor of South Carolina, and reluctantly conceded by the Cherokees to avert a war for the chastisement of the tribe. Powder must have been exceedingly scarce!