Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/417

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323
GHOSTS—FAIRIES—WITCHES

rings. They feared that, out of revenge, the fairies would play tricks with the complexion.

Fairies, of course, possessed many supernatural powers. They could change their form at will. They could make themselves invisible. They could move from place to place with marvellous velocity, far beyond the utmost speed of human mankind. Neither bolts nor bars nor solid walls hindered their passage. They were very diminutive in size. They were supposed to dress generally in green.

Fairies, as a rule, were good spirits. That is, they loved the human race and liked to do people kindnesses. A clean room and a bowl of water were likely to attract the well-wishing fairies. In fact, this class of beings was particularly fond of cleanliness and, as a rule, rewarded thrifty housemaids by dropping money in their shoes at night. Often a good fairy performed an energetic housemaid's tasks during the night. But sluggish maids were pinched as "blue as bilberry," by the same taskmasters.

Yet there were distinctly bad fairies as well as good: and many others, such as Puck, were harmlessly though tantalisingly mischievous. One attribute of even the good fairies was their fickle nature. The least failure to perform the rites due to them, or the least encroachment upon