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The Cat Witches

HUW LLWYD of Cynfael was the seventh son of a family of sons, and therefore he was a conjuror by nature. He increased his knowledge of the black art by the study of magical books, and he ate eagle's flesh, so that his descendants could for nine generations charm for the shingles. (All they had to do was to spit on the rash and say: "Male eagle, female eagle, I send you over nine seas, and over nine mountains, and over nine acres of waste land, where no dog shall bark and no cow shall low, and no eagle shall higher rise "--which is quite simple.)

One night he was supping at an inn in Pentre Voelas. Four men came in and joined him at supper. Now, by his magical skill, Huw Llwyd knew that they were bandits from Yspytty Ifan, and meant to kill him during the night for his money. He made a horn grow out of the centre of the table, and obliged the robbers to gaze at it. He went to bed, and in the morning when he came down the four men were still staring at the horn, as he knew they would be. He departed, leaving them still looking steadily and earnestly at the horn: they were arrested in this position and cast into prison.

Many robberies used to take place at an inn near Bettws-y-Coed. Travellers who put up there for the night were continually relieved of their money, and they could not tell how. They were certain that no one had entered their rooms, because they were found locked in the morning just as they were the night before. Huw Llwyd was consulted, and he promised to unravel the mystery.

He presented himself at the inn one night, and asked for a night's lodging, saying that he was an officer on his way to Ireland. The inn was kept by two sisters: they were both very comely, and made themselves very agreeable to Huw Llwyd at supper. Not to be outdone, he did his best to entertain them with tales of travel in foreign parts which he had never visited. On retiring for the night he said that it was a habit with him to have lights burning in his room all night, and he was supplied with a sufficient quantity of candles to last until the morning. Huw Llwyd made his arrangements for a night of vigil. He placed his clothes on the floor within easy reach of his bed, and his sword, unsheathed, on the bed close to his hand. He secured the door, got into bed, and feigned to sleep. Before long two cats came stealthily down the chimney. They frisked here and there in the room, but the sleeper lay motionless; they chased each other around the bed, and gambolled and romped, but still the sleeper showed no signs of awaking. At last they approached his clothes and played with them, turning them over and over. Ere long the sleeper (who had been very wide awake the whole time) saw one of the cats putting her paw into the pocket which contained his purse. He struck at the thievish paw like lightning, with his sword. With a hideous howl both cats disappeared up the chimney, and nothing further was seen of them the whole night.

Next morning only one of the sisters appeared at the breakfast table. Huw Llwyd asked where the other was. Receiving the reply that she was ill and could not come down, he expressed his regret, and proceeded to break his fast. The meal over, "I am now going to resume my journey," he said," but I must say good-bye to your sister, for I greatly enjoyed her company last night." Many excuses were attempted, but he would not be refused, and at last he was admitted to her presence. After sympathising with her and asking whether he could be of any service, he held out his hand to bid good-bye. The sick lady held out her left hand. No," said Huw Llwyd laughingly, "I am not going to take your left hand: I have never taken a left hand in my life, and I am not going to begin with yours, white and shapely as it is." Very unwillingly and with evident pain, she put out her right hand. It was swathed in bandages. The mystery was now revealed. The two sisters were witches, and in the form of cats robbed travellers who lodged under their roof: "I have drawn blood from you," said Huw Llwyd, addressing the wounded sister, "and henceforth you will be unable to do any mischief. I will make you equally harmless," he said to the other sister. Seizing her hand, he cut it slightly with a knife, so that the blood came. For the rest of their lives the two sisters were like other women, and no more robberies took place at their inn.

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