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A short story by Charles M. Skinner

Wallen's Ridge

Title:     Wallen's Ridge
Author: Charles M. Skinner [More Titles by Skinner]

A century ago this rough eminence, a dozen miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee, was an abiding place of Cherokee Indians, among whom was Arinook, their medicine-man, and his daughter. The girl was pure and fair, and when a white hunter saw her one day at the door of her father's wigwam he was so struck with her charm of person and her engaging manner that he resolved not to return to his people until he had won her for his wife. She had many lovers, though she favored none of them, and while the Cherokees were at first loth to admit a stranger to their homes they forgot their jealousy when they found that this one excelled as a hunter and fisherman, that he could throw the knife and tomahawk better than themselves, and that he was apt in their work and their sports.

They even submitted to the inevitable with half a grace when they found that the stranger and the girl of whom they were so fond were in love. With an obduracy that seems to be characteristic of fathers, the medicine-man refused his consent to the union, and the hearts of the twain were heavy. Though the white man pleaded with her to desert her tribe, she refused to do so, on the score of duty to her father, and the couple forlornly roamed about the hill, watching the sunset from its top and passing the bright summer evenings alone, sitting hand in hand, loving, sorrowing, and speaking not. In one of their long rambles they found themselves beside the Tennessee River at a point where the current swirls among rocks and sucks down things that float, discharging them at the surface in still water, down the stream. Here for a time they stood, when the girl, with a gush of tears, began to sing--it was her death-song. The white man grasped her hand and joined his voice to hers. Then they took a last embrace and flung themselves into the water, still hand in hand.

When the river is low you may hear their death-song sounding there. The manitous of the river and the wood were offended with the medicine-man because of his stubbornness and cruelty, although he suffered greatly because of the death his daughter died, and he the cause of it. For now strange Indians appeared among the Cherokees and drove the deer and bear away. Tall, strong, and large were these intruders, and they hung about the village by day and night--never speaking, yet casting a fear about them, for they would throw great rocks farther than a warrior could shoot an arrow with the wind behind him; they had horns springing from their heads; their eyes were the eyes of wild-cats, and shone in the dark; they growled like animals, shaking the earth when they did so, and breathing flame; they were at the bedside, at the council-fire, at the banquet, seeming only to wait for a show of enmity to annihilate the tribe.

At length the people could endure their company no longer, and taking down their lodges they left Wallen's Ridge and wandered far away until they came to a valley where no foot had left its impress, and there they besought the Great Spirit to forgive the wrong their medicine-man had done, and to free them from the terrible spirits that had been living among them. The prayer was granted, and the lodges stood for many years in a safe and happy valley.

[The end]
Charles M. Skinner's short story: Wallen's Ridge