Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 159


Among the rocks east of Asheville, North Carolina, lives the Lorelei of the French Broad River. This stream—the Tselica of the Indians—contains in its upper reaches many pools where the rapid water whirls and deepens, and where the traveller likes to pause in the heats of afternoon and drink and bathe. Here, from the time when the Cherokees occupied the country, has lived the siren, and if one who is weary and downcast sits beside the stream or utters a wish to rest in it, he becomes conscious of a soft and exquisite music blending with the plash of the wave.

Looking down in surprise he sees—at first faintly, then with distinctness—the form of a beautiful woman, with hair streaming like moss and dark eyes looking into his, luring him with a power he cannot resist. His breath grows short, his gaze is fixed, mechanically he rises, steps to the brink, and lurches forward into the river. The arms that catch him are slimy and cold as serpents; the face that stares into his is a grinning skull. A loud, chattering laugh rings through the wilderness, and all is still again.


Through brisk November days young Kedar and his trusty slave, Lauto, hunted along the Calawassee, with hope to get a shot at a buck—a buck that wore a single horn and that eluded them with easy, baffling gait whenever they met it in the fens. Kedar was piqued at this. He drained a deep draught and buttoned his coat with an air of resolution. "Now, by my soul," quoth he, "I'll have that buck to-day or die myself!" Then he laughed at the old slave, who begged him to unsay the oath, for there was something unusual about that animal—as it ran it left no tracks, and it passed through the densest wood without halting at trees or undergrowth. "Bah!" retorted the huntsman. "Have up the dogs. If that buck is the fiend himself, I'll have him before the day is out!" The twain were quickly in their saddles, and they had not been long in the wood before the one-horned buck was seen ahead, trotting with easy pace, yet with marvellous swiftness.

Kedar, who was in advance, whipped up his horse and followed the deer into a cypress grove near the Chechesee. As the game halted at a pool he fired. The report sounded dead in the dense wood, and the deer turned calmly, watched his pursuer until he was close at hand, then trotted away again. All day long he held the chase. The dogs were nowhere within sound, and he galloped through the forest, shouting and swearing like a very devil, beating and spurring the horse until the poor creature's head and flanks were reddened with blood. It was just at sunset that Kedar found himself again on the bank of the Calawassee, near the point he had left in the morning, and heard once more the baying of his hounds. At last his prey seemed exhausted, and, swimming the river, it ran into a thicket on the opposite side and stood still. "Now I have him!" cried the hunter. "Hillio, Lauto! He's mine!" The old negro heard the call and hastened forward. He heard his master's horse floundering in the swamp that edged the river—then came a plash, a curse, and as the slave arrived at the margin a few bubbles floated on the sluggish current. The deer stood in the thicket, staring with eyes that blazed through the falling darkness, and, with a wail of fear and sorrow, old Lauto fled the spot.


The settlement made by Lord Cardross, near Beaufort, South Carolina, was beset by Spaniards and Indians, who laid it in ashes and slew every person in it but one. She, a child of thirteen, had supposed the young chief of the Accabees to be her father, as he passed in the smoke, and had thrown herself into his arms. The savage raised his axe to strike, but, catching her blue eye raised to his, more in grief and wonder than alarm, the menacing hand fell to his side, and, tossing the girl lightly to a seat on his shoulder, he strode off into the forest. Mile after mile he bore her, and if she slept he held her to his breast as a father holds a babe. When she awoke it was in his lodge on the Ashley, and he was smiling in her face. The chief became her protector; but those who marked, with the flight of time, how his fierceness had softened, knew that she was more to him than a daughter. Years passed, the girl had grown to womanhood, and her captor declared himself her lover. She seemed not ill pleased at this, for she consented to be his wife. After the betrothal the chief joined a hunting party and was absent for a time. On his return the girl was gone. A trader who had been bartering merchandise for furs had seen her, had been inspired by passion, and, favored by suave manners and a white skin, he had won in a day a stronger affection than the Indian could claim after years of loving watchfulness.