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Another Changeling

ONE wet, cold, stormy summer in the olden time a baby was born at Dyffryn Mymbyr, near Capel Curig. The homestead was so far from any church, and the rain had made the roads so impassable, that the parents did not take the child to be baptised, in the hope of getting finer weather and drier roads. Then the hay harvest came: on the few days when it was fine all the family were of course hard at work in the fields, trying to save the harvest, and no one could be spared to take the baby to the parson: on the other days it rained old women and sticks, and no one could stir out of the house.

After a downpour lasting a week there came a beautifully fine day, and all who could handle a rake went to the fields to turn the sodden and blackening hay to be dried by sun and wind. The baby was left sleeping in its cradle in the house under the charge of its grandmother, who was so old and feeble that it was with difficulty that she could move even from one side of the house to the other. She sat in a great straw chair by the side of the fire, and under the genial influence of the heat thrown out by the burning peat she first of all blinked and nodded, and then fell fast asleep with her chin on her breast.

As she slumbered, who should come into the house but a troop of the Fair Family. They took the unbaptised baby out of its cradle and put in its stead one of their own cross-grained, peevish infants. It at once began to whine and whimper, and the noise it made awakened the sleeping granny. She hobbled to the cradle, and instead of the plump, good-tempered baby which had been lying there, she found a thin, wizened thing with an old man's face, tossing about and crying as loudly as its lungs would permit. "This is a changeling," she at once said to herself; "that old family has been here while I slept." She took the dinner horn and blew it to call the mother home. She came without delay, and hearing the crying did not pause to ask the grandmother why she had been summoned, but went at once to the cradle and lifted up the little one without looking at him. She hugged him, she tossed him up and down, she sang lullaby to him, but nothing was of any avail: he continued without stopping to scream enough to break her heart, and she did not know what to do to calm him. At last she looked at him: she saw at once that he was not her own dear little boy. She looked again, and his ugliness made her feel quite ill. She gave up the attempt to quiet him, and putting him back in the cradle, let him cry to his heart's content "This is not my baby," she said. "No, it certainly is not," replied the grandmother. "I fell asleep for a little while, and the fairies must have taken away your boy while I slept, putting this ill-tempered brat in his place."

The whole family was now summoned from the hay. field, and an anxious consultation took place. It was resolved that the father should go to the parson of Trawsfynydd--there was no one skilled in such matters nearer--to ask him what to do. Off he tramped the next day, and right glad he was to get away from the "cold" screaming of the changeling, which had never ceased from the time he came to Dyffryn Mymbyr. The parson was reluctant to advise at first, on the ground that it served the parents right for not having the baby baptised: an unbaptised child, he said, was almost certain to be changed by the fairies. But the father's explanation appeased him, and he counselled thus: "There are many ways," he said, "of getting rid of a fairy changeling. One is to leave it all night in a cradle under an oak tree. Many mothers have had their own babies restored to them in this way. Another way is to throw the changeling into a river or lake. There was once a couple at Corwrion to whom twin children were born. The fairies stole them, and left two of their own brats instead. The mother took them to a wooden bridge and dropped them into the river beneath. Before they reached the water the old elves of the blue trousers caught them, and when the woman returned to her house she found her own children back again. I have also known changelings got rid of by throwing iron at them. But the best plan is this: take a shovel and cover it with salt, and make the figure of the cross in the salt. Then take the shovel to the room where the changeling is lying: open the window, and place the shovel on the fire until the salt is burnt. Then you will get your child back again."

As soon as he got home the father did as the parson directed. When the shovel was placed on the fire the changeling suddenly ceased its crying, and by the time the salt was hot it had gone away, seen of no one. The door was opened, and there was the lost baby, whole and unscathed, lying on the threshold.

Next: A Fairy Borrowing