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Ned Puw's Farewell

THE Tal Clegir Cave runs into a long, bare, steep, rugged hill. About its mouth the grass grows thick and rank, and the briars grew undisturbed, tangling and strangling each other.

In the older time it was dangerous to approach within five paces of the ogof. Once upon a time a fox, with a pack of hounds in full cry at his tail, was making straight for the entrance: suddenly he turned right round, with his hair all bristled and fretted like frostwork with terror, and ran back into the middle of the pack as if anything earthly, even an earthly death, was preferable to the unearthly horrors of the cave. He escaped, however, for not a dog would go near him, for his hide was all burnished with green, yellow and blue lights, as it were with a profusion of will-o'-the-wisps.

Another time Elias ap Ifan, who for upwards of twenty years had been a drunkard, happened to stagger just upon the rim of the forbidden space and arrived home as sober as a judge, to the amazement of his family. After this Elias was a changed man.

In the twilight of one misty Hallow Eve a shepherd was returning home accompanied by his dog. When he was about a hundred yards from the cave, he heard a faint burst of melody coming from the rocks above the entrance. In a few minutes a figure well known to him became visible. He had a fiddle at his chest, and his legs were on the caper incessantly.

"Ha, ha," said the shepherd, laughing merrily. "Here's old Ned Puw. I remember him wagering that he would dance all the way down the hill and keep up a tune with his fiddle."

Scarcely had he said this, when he noticed to his horror that Ned had fiddled and capered himself within the fatal five paces. He shouted and shouted to him until the very rocks re-echoed, but Ned Puw seemed perfectly deaf, and fiddled and danced away with all the complacency in the world. The shepherd did not like to abandon him to his fate without making an effort to save him: he ran as near him as he dared, with the intention of pulling him out of the danger zone with his long crook. When he came near him, he saw that by this time Ned's face was as pale as marble, his eyes were staring fixedly and deathfully, and his head was dangling loose and disjointed on his shoulders. He was still fiddling, but his arms seemed to keep the fiddlestick in motion without the least sympathy from their master. Before the shepherd's very eyes he was, as it were, sucked into the cave by some invisible agency, still fiddling and capering, in the same way as the mist is sucked up by the rising sun in summer. The shepherd was transfixed with terror, and he fancied he could count every hair on the back of his dog that crouched and quivered between his legs, as the cold wind howled mournfully, ploughing up first one hair and then another. Some mysterious power seemed to root him to the spot, and it required a strong effort of will to tear himself away and resume his homeward journey.

On Hallow Eve you can, if you have the courage to approach the entrance of the cave, hear the tune Ned Puw is playing. On certain nights in leap-year you can even see him: a star stands opposite the further end of the cave, enabling you to have a view right through it. There is the wretched fiddler scraping and capering away, and there he will be, for all we know, capering and scraping for ever. A musician who went one Hallow Eve to listen to the strains issuing from the cave took down the tune and named it Ned Puw's Farewell. This is how it goes:

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