THE FAIRY LABOUR
ANOTHER tale relates that a messenger having visited a country-midwife or howdie requested her professional assistance in a case where so much secrecy was required that she must be conducted to and from the destined place blindfolded; she at first hesitated, but her scruples were overcome by a handsome present, the promise of a future reward, and assurance of perfect personal safety. She then submitted to the required condition, mounted behind the messenger on a fleet charger, and was carried forward in an unaccountable manner. The journey was not of long continuance, the steed halted, she dismounted, and was conducted into a cottage where the bandage was removed from her eyes; everything appeared neat and comfortable. She was shown the woman "in the straw," and performed her office; but when ready to dress the babe, an old woman, (who, according to the narration, appears to have been the nurse,) put a box of ointment into her hand, requiring her to anoint the child all over with it, but to be careful that it dId not touch her own person; she prudently complied, though wondering at the motive. Whilst this operation was going on, she felt an itching in one of her eyes, and in an unguarded moment rubbed it with a finger which had touched the mysterious ointment. And now a new scene forced itself upon her astonished vision, and she saw everything in a different light; instead of the neat cottage, she perceived the large overhanging branches of an ancient oak, whose hollow and moss-grown trunk she had before mistaken for the fire place, glow-worms supplied the place of lamps, and, in short, she found herself in the abode of a family of faries, with faries was she surrounded, and one of their number reposed on her lap. She however retained her self-possession, finished her task, and was conducted homeward in the same manner as she was brought. So far all went well, and the howdie might have carried the secret to her grave, but in after time, on a market-day (in what town the legend saith not,) forgetful of her former caution, she saw the old. nurse among the countrywomen, gliding about from one basket to another, passing a little wooden scraper along the rolls of butter, and carefully collecting the particles thus purloined into a vessel hung 'by her side. After a mutual but silent recognition, the nurse addressed her thus, "Which eye do you see me with?"' "With this," innocently answered the other. No sooner had she spoken than a puff from the withering breath of her unearthly companion extinguished the ill-fated orb for ever, and the hag instantly vanished.
Another version says the Doctor is presented with a box of eye-salve by his conductor; on using it he sees a splendid portico in the side of a steep hill, through this he is shown into the faries' haIl in the interior of the mountain: he performs his office, and on coming out receives a second box; he rubs one eye, and with it sees the hill in its natural shape; then thinking to cheat the devil, feigns to rub the other, and gallops off. Afterwards he sees the fary's husband stealing corn in the market, when similar consequences befal him as those which occurred unto the woman.