Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/418

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their traditional privileges and liberties, was sufficient to change their love to malicious hatred—as when one stepped within their sacred rings. They were especially jealous of prying curiosity. Often one who came too suddenly upon them without heeding the tinkling of their warning bells, would be stricken blind. Sometimes even a worse fate attended him. "He that speaks to them shall die. No man their works must eye." (Merry Wives of Windsor.) They also coveted the possession of beautiful earth-born children. So certainly did this trait overpower their humane characteristics, that every fond mother regarded an ugly infant or a dull child as a fairy changeling. So, too, was a child uncannily precocious accounted for.

To the beautiful, pleasing conception of the fairies was opposed the grotesque and malignant surroundings of the witches. A scarce tract by John Stearne, published at London in 1648, asserts on its title page "That there are witches called bad witches, and witches untruly called good or white witches." The word "untruly" suggests the difficulty of drawing a line or defining a limitation between the two classes. If there was at the time a definite line of demarkation between black and white, it seems to have been at