Every mother who gazed for the first time upon a lovely child at her bosom felt a thrill not of joy alone but also of fear—secret fear lest his beautiful exterior should arouse the longing of the fairy folk, causing them to steal him, leaving behind in his place an ugly changeling. Equally certain was every mother whose offspring did not come up to expectation that it was a changeling, and that her own beautiful child had been stolen, perhaps at the very moment of birth. In a way, this was a comfortable belief and a useful sop to maternal vanity. Whether the child were merely ugly, or whether increasing years showed it to be dull, or idiotic, the cause was always the same—what more could one expect from a changeling! Then, too, as people believed more or less in the goodness of fairies there was always room for hope that repentance would lead to the return of the original child. Neither prince nor pauper was exempt from this terrible danger. Note the sincere exclamation that falls from the lips of King Henry IV.:
"O that it could be prov'd
That some night tripping fairy had exchang'd
In cradle clothes our children where they lay,
And call'd mine Percy, his Plantagenet!"
Mr. Dyer is my authority for the following description of a practice so similar to the usual