These words of Shalah did not make me proud, for things were too serious for vanity. But they served to confirm in me my strange exaltation. I felt as one dedicated to a mighty task.
“Tell me, what is the invasion which threatens the Tidewater?”
“The whole truth is not known to me; but from the speech of my tribesmen, it seems that the Children of the West Wind, twelve moons ago, struck their tents and resolved to seek a new country. There is a restlessness comes upon all Indian peoples once in every five generations. It fell upon my grandfather, and he travelled towards the sunset, and now it has fallen upon the whole race of the Sun. As they were on the eve of journeying there came to them a prophet, who told them that God would lead them not towards the West, as was the tradition of the elders, but eastwards to the sea and the dwellings of the Palefaces.”
“Is that the crazy white man we have heard of?”
“He is of your race, brother. What his spell is I know not, but it works mightily among my people. They tell me that he hath bodily converse with devils, and that God whispers His secrets to him in the night-watches. His God hath told him—so runs the tale—that He hath chosen the Children of the Sun for His peculiar people, and laid on them the charge of sweeping the white men off the earth and reigning in their stead from the hills to the Great Waters.”
“Do you believe in this madman, Shalah?” I asked.
“I know not,” he said, with a troubled face. “I fear one possessed of God. But of this I am sure, that the road of the Children of the West Wind lies not eastward but westward, and that no good can come of war with the white man. This Sachem hath laid his magic on others than our people, for the Cherokee nation and all the broken clans of the hills acknowledge him and do his bidding. He is a soldier as well as a prophet, for he has drilled and disposed his army like a master of war.”
“Will your tribe ally themselves with Cherokee murderers?”
“I asked that question of this man Onotawah, and he liked it little. He says that his people distrust this alliance with a race they scorn, and I do not think they pine for the white man’s war. But they are under the magic of this prophet, and presently, when blood begins to flow, they will warm to their work. In time they will be broken, but that time will not be soon, and meanwhile there will be nothing left alive between the hills and the bay of Chesapeake.”
“Do you know their plans?” I asked.
“The Cherokees have served their purpose,” he said. “Your forecast was right, brother. They have drawn the fire of the Border, and been driven in a rabble far south to the Roanoke and the Carolina mountains. That is as the prophet planned. And now, while the white men hang up their muskets and rejoice heedlessly in their triumph, my nation prepares to strike. To-night the moon is full, and the prophet makes intercession with his God. To-morrow at dawn they march, and by twilight they will have swarmed across the Border.”