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PAGE 3

Charms And Fairy Faith
by [?]

As a matter of course, poverty came upon the house and its tenants like an armed man. Loose clapboards rattled in the wind; rags fluttered from the broken windows; within doors were tattered children and scanty fare. The landlord’s wife was a stout, buxom woman, of Irish lineage, and, what with scolding her husband and liberally patronizing his bar in his absence, managed to keep, as she said, her “own heart whole,” although the same could scarcely be said of her children’s trousers and her own frock of homespun. She confidently predicted that “a betther day was coming,” being, in fact, the only thing hopeful about the premises. And it did come, sure enough. Not only all the regular travellers on the road made a point of stopping at the tavern, but guests from all the adjacent towns filled its long-deserted rooms,–the secret of which was, that it had somehow got abroad that a company of fairies had taken up their abode in the hostelry and daily held conversation with each other in the capacious parlor. I have heard those who at the time visited the tavern say that it was literally thronged for several weeks. Small, squeaking voices spoke in a sort of Yankee-Irish dialect, in the haunted room, to the astonishment and admiration of hundreds. The inn, of course, was blessed by this fairy visitation; the clapboards ceased their racket, clear panes took the place of rags in the sashes, and the little till under the bar grew daily heavy with coin. The magical influence extended even farther; for it was observable that the landlord wore a good-natured face, and that the landlady’s visits to the gin- bottle were less and less frequent. But the thing could not, in the nature of the case, continue long. It was too late in the day and on the wrong side of the water. As the novelty wore off, people began to doubt and reason about it. Had the place been traversed by a ghost or disturbed by a witch they could have acquiesced in it very quietly; but this outlandish belief in fairies was altogether an overtask for Yankee credulity. As might have been expected, the little strangers, unable to breathe in an atmosphere of doubt and suspicion, soon took their leave, shaking off the dust of their elfin feet as a testimony against an unbelieving generation. It was, indeed, said that certain rude fellows from the Bay State pulled away a board from the ceiling and disclosed to view the fairies in the shape of the landlady’s three slatternly daughters. But the reader who has any degree of that charity which thinks no evil will rather credit the statement of the fairies themselves, as reported by the mistress of the house, “that they were tired of the new country, and had no pace of their lives among the Yankees, and were going back to Ould Ireland.”

It is a curious fact that the Indians had some notion of a race of beings corresponding in many respects to the English fairies. Schoolcraft describes them as small creatures in human shape, inhabiting rocks, crags, and romantic dells, and delighting especially in points of land jutting into lakes and rivers and which were covered with pinetrees. They were called Puckweedjinees,–little vanishers.

In a poetical point of view it is to be regretted that our ancestors did not think it worth their while to hand down to us more of the simple and beautiful traditions and beliefs of the “heathen round about” them. Some hints of them we glean from the writings of the missionary Mayhew and the curious little book of Roger Williams. Especially would one like to know more of that domestic demon, Wetuomanit, who presided over household affairs, assisted the young squaw in her first essay at wigwam-keeping, gave timely note of danger, and kept evil spirits at a distance,–a kind of new-world brownie, gentle and useful.