The Woman Of Stone





In one of the niches or recesses formed by a precipice in the cavern

of Kickapoo Creek, which is a tributary of the Wisconsin, there is a

gigantic mass of stone presenting the appearance of a human figure. It

is so sheltered by the overhanging rocks and by the sides of the

recess in which it stands as to assume a dark and gloomy character. Of

the figure the following legend is related:--



Once upon a time there lived a woman who was called Shenanska, or the

White Buffalo Robe. She was an inhabitant of the prairie, a dweller in

the cabins which stand upon the verge of the hills. She was the pride

of her people, not only for her beauty, which was very great, but for

her goodness. The breath of the summer wind was not milder than the

temper of Shenanska, the face of the sun was not fairer than her

countenance.



At length the tribe was surprised in its encampment on the banks of

the Kickapoo by a numerous band of the fierce Mengwe. Many of them

fell fighting bravely, the greater part of the women and children were

made prisoners, and the others fled to the wilds for safety. It was

the fortune of Shenanska to escape from death or captivity. When the

alarm of the war-whoop reached her ear as she was sleeping in her

lodge with her husband, she had rushed forth with him and gone with

the braves to meet their assailants. When she saw half of the men of

her nation lying dead around, then she fled. She had been wounded in

the battle, but she still succeeded in effecting her escape to the

hills. Weakened by loss of blood, she had not strength enough left to

hunt for a supply of food, and she was near perishing with hunger.



While she lay beneath the shade of a tree there came to her a being

not of this world.



"Shenanska," said he, in a gentle voice, "thou art wounded and hungry,

shall I heal thee and feed thee? Wilt thou return to the lands of thy

tribe and live to be old, a widow and alone, or go now to the land of

departed spirits and join the shade of thy husband? The choice is

thine. If thou wilt live, crippled, and bowed down by wounds and

disease, thou mayest. If it would please thee better to rejoin thy

friends in the country beyond the Great River, say so."



Shenanska replied that she wished to die. The spirit took her, and

placed her in one of the recesses of the cavern, overshadowed by

hanging rocks. He then spoke some words in a low voice, and, breathing

on her, she became stone. Determined that a woman so good and

beautiful should not be forgotten by the world, he made her into a

statue, to which he gave the power of killing suddenly any one who

irreverently approached it. For a long time the statue relentlessly

exercised this power. Many an unconscious Indian, venturing too near

to it, fell dead without any perceptible wound. At length, tired of

the havoc the statue made, the guardian spirit took away the power he

had given to it. At this day the statue may be approached with safety,

but the Indians hold it in fear, not intruding rashly upon it, and

when in its presence treating it with great respect.





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