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A short story by Charles M. Skinner

The Witch Of Pictured Rocks

Title:     The Witch Of Pictured Rocks
Author: Charles M. Skinner [More Titles by Skinner]

On the Pictured Rocks of Lake Superior dwelt an Ojibway woman, a widow, who was cared for by a relative. This relative was a hunter, the husband of an agreeable wife, the father of two bright children. Being of a mean and jealous nature, the widow begrudged every kindness that the hunter showed to his wife--the skins he brought for her clothing, the moose's lip or other dainty that he saved for her; and one day, in a pretence of fine good-nature, the old woman offered to give the younger a swing in a vine pendent from a tree that overhung the lake.

The wife accepted, and, seating herself on the vine, was swayed to and fro, catching her breath, yet laughing as she swept out over the water. When the momentum was greatest the old woman cut the stem. A splash was heard--then all was silent. Returning to the lodge, the hag disguised herself in a dress of the missing woman, and sitting in a shadow, pretended to nurse the infant of the household. The hunter, returning, was a little surprised that his wife should keep her face from him, and more surprised that the old woman did not appear for her share of the food that he had brought; but after their meal he took his little ones to the lake, to enjoy the evening breeze, when the elder burst into tears, declaring that the woman in the lodge was not his mother, and that he feared his own mother was dead or lost.

The hunter hurled his spear into the earth and prayed that, if his wife were dead, her body might be found, so he could mourn over it and give it burial. Instantly a bolt of lightning came from a passing cloud and shot into the lake, while the thunder-peal that followed shook the stones he stood on. It also disturbed the water and presently something was seen rising through it. The man stepped into a thicket and watched. In a few moments a gull arose from the lake and flew to the spot where the children were seated. Around its body was a leather belt, embroidered with beads and quills, which the hunter recognized, and, advancing softly, he caught the bird--that changed at once into the missing woman. The family set forth toward home, and as they entered the lodge the witch--for such she was--looked up, with a start, then uttered a cry of despair. Bending low, she moved her arms in both imprecation and appeal. A moment later a black, ungainly bird flew from the wigwam and passed from sight among the trees. The witch never came back to plague them.

[The end]
Charles M. Skinner's short story: Witch Of Pictured Rocks