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The Fairy Whirlwind
A young married woman, who was very pretty, lived with her husband in a sweet little cottage by the sea. The cottage was cob-walled, and had a small flower-garden in its front, which was a picture in the early springtime with periwinkles and gilliflowers, and in the summer-time with roses and hollyhocks. There was another garden belonging to the cottage, but it was only for vegetables, and was on the top of a cliff quite five minutes’ walk from the cottage.

This young wife and her husband, who was a waggoner, had one little child a few months old. The child was very dear to them both, and they thought she was the sweetest and most beautiful little baby in all the world. The fairies must have been quite of the same opinion, as you will see.

One afternoon the young wife was about to make an Irish stew for her husband’s supper, when she found she had not enough potatoes in the house to make it.

As she took her sun-bonnet from its peg to go up to the cliff garden to dig some up, her baby, who was lying in its wooden cradle, puckered its fair little face and began to cry. [186]

‘I believe the darling knows I am going out,’ cried the fond young mother. ‘I can’t leave her here all by her little self; I must take her with me.’ And when she had put on her bonnet and a basket for the potatoes on her arm, she lifted the baby out of the cradle and took her with her to the cliff, fondling the dear little thing and talking to it as she went.

When she had reached the cliff-garden, she stood on the edge of the cliff with her flaxen-haired babe in her arms, looking out over the sea. It was a lovely June day, and the water was as quiet as a mill-pond and blue as vipers’ bugloss, she told her baby. ‘Just the sort of weather for my pretty to be out in,’ she cried, hugging the child.

Mrs. Davies, as the young woman was called, after gazing out over the sea for a few minutes, laid her baby down on the top of a potato ridge, close to where a succory and a knapweed grew side by side, and interlaced their blue and purple blossoms. When the babe had fixed its eyes upon the flowers and cooed to them in baby fashion, she set to work to dig up the potatoes.

She had not been digging very long when she heard a curious noise behind her, like the sound of soft wind in trees, but there were no trees in the cliff-garden, and not wind enough to move even the potato leaves.

She dropped the biddix1 to see what it was that made so strange a sound, and as she dropped it she [187]was caught in a whirlwind—a Fairy Whirlwind, she said it was—which whirled her round and round like a whirligig; and as she whirled she was enveloped in a cloud of fine grey pillum, or dust, and she could not see anything beyond her nose.

When the whirlwind went away—and it vanished as suddenly as it came—she found herself close to the edge of the cliff ever so far away from her baby.

Fearing she knew not what for her child, she ran over to it to see if it was quite safe; and to her horror, there, where her own fair little baby had lain, she saw a dark, wizen little creature, with a face wrinkled all over like an old woman’s!

‘That is not my little maid,’ she shrieked; ‘it’s a changeling! The wicked Little People envied us our little beauty, and have stolen her away, and left one of their own ugly brats in her place. They raised a Fairy Whirlwind to hide from me what they were doing, the wicked, wicked little things!’

Mrs. Davies never knew how long she stood staring down in hopeless misery upon the ugly babe the Small People had left there on the potato ridge in place of her own; but in the end she took it up in her arms and carried it down to the cottage.

Her husband was at home by this time, wondering what had become of his wife and child, and you might have knocked him down with a straw when she poured out her woe to him, and showed him the ugly dark babe the fairies had exchanged for their own beautiful babe. [188]

‘What must I do with it?’ she asked piteously, when her husband turned away from it with grief in his eyes and sorrow in his heart.

‘Keep it till the Small People are tired of our little handsome,’ he said, ‘and be good to it if you can. If we ain’t kind to the fairies’ cheeld, they won’t be kind to ours, that’s certain.’

So the young woman and her husband, for the sake of their own flaxen-haired, blue-eyed little darling the Small People had envied and taken away, were very kind to the babe they had left in its place. They hoped, as they took care of it, although they never loved it, that the fairies would quickly grow tired of their child and bring her back; but they hoped in vain.

A year after the Small People had raised a whirlwind, the fairies’ cheeld, as Mrs. Davies and her husband called the babe left on the potato ridge in place of their own, pined away and died; but the little human child with its flaxen curls and eyes of Cornish blue was never seen by mortal eyes after the fairies had stolen it.

The End


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