THE FAIRY THIEVES
A FARMER in Hampshire was sorely distressed by the unsettling of his barn. However straightly over-night he laid his sheaves on the threshing-floor for the application of the morning's flail, when morning came, all was topsy-turvy, higgledy-piggledy, though the door remained locked, and there was no sign whatever of irregular entry. Resolved to find out who played him these mischievous pranks, Hodge couched himself one night deeply among the sheaves, and watched for the enemy. At length midnight arrived, the barn was illuminated as if by moonbeams of wonderful brightness, and through the key-hole came thousands of elves, the most diminutive that could be imagined. The immediately began their gambols among the straw, which was soon in a most admired disorder. Hodge wondered, but interfered not; but at last the supernatural thieves began to busy themselves in a way still less to his taste, for each elf set about conveying the crop away, a straw at a time, with astonishing activity and perseverance. The key-hole was still their port of egress and regress, and it resembled the aperture of a bee-hive, on a sunny day in June. The farmer was rather annoyed at seeing his grain vanish in this fashion, when one of the fairies said to another in the tiniest voice that ever was heard--" I weat, you weat? Hodge could contain himself no longer. He leaped out crying, "The devil sweat ye. Let me get among ye!" when they all flew away so frightened that they never disturbed the barn any more.
In Suffolk the fairies are called farisees. Not many years ago, a butcher near Woodbridge went to a farmer's to buy a calf; and finding, as he expressed it, that "the cratur was all o' a muck," he desired the farmer to hang a flint by a string in the crib, so as to be just clear of the calf's head. "Becaze," said he, "the calf is rid every night by the farisees, and the stone will brush them off" [a]
We once questioned a girl from Norfolk on the subject of Fairy-lore. She said she had often heard of and even seen the Frairies. They were dressed in white, and lived under the ground, where they constructed houses, bridges, and other edifices. It is not safe, she added, to go near them when they appear above ground.
We now proceed to Yorkshire, where the Boggart and the Barguest used to appear in by-gone days. The former, whose name we will presently explain, is the same as the Brownie or Kobold; the latter, whose proper name perhaps is Barn-ghaist, or Barn-spirit, keeps without, and usually takes the form of some domestic animal.
[a] Brand, Popular Antiquities, ii. 503. Bohn's edit.