Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/358

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of huge bonfires, and by other public rejoicing. For a month or more the new-born infant led a strenuous life. Two dangers were immediately to be guarded against. The child might be overlooked, or it might be stolen by the fairies. Many people possessed the evil eye, a power that enabled them to overlook one, or bewitch one, with baneful results. Out and out witches by reputation would in no case be allowed in the neighbourhood of an unbaptised infant; but other people of ugly feature and darksome reputation might be guilty of exercising the power of the evil eye. This custom is the subject of frequent allusion. Overlooking, however, was not confined to the time of infancy. In The Merry Wives, Pistol cries out of Falstaff, "Vile worm, thou wast o'erlook'd even in thy birth."

More dangerous yet was the malice of the fairies. Only people of evil minds exercised the above-mentioned malicious practice, and, though fairies were on the whole a goodly kind of folk and well disposed towards human beings, there were fairies of malicious inclinations. Perhaps this was why their ill-timed acts were so hard to guard against, for they stole the human children out of love. Fairies were not only beautiful in themselves but notoriously fond of beautiful children. They stole such on every occasion.