Long ago, on the side of the old road leading from Betws-y-Coed to Cerrig-y-Drudion, stood an old inn. The inn was popular with travellers making their way back from Ireland. However, those staying often went away much poorer for, during the night, their money would mysteriously vanish.
No-one knew how the robberies were taking place as the people staying were careful to lock their bedroom doors and were sure that no one had entered their rooms. It was a mystery indeed!
The inn was kept by two pretty sisters, who were very sorry about the travellers' losses; they could not understand, they said, how such a thing could happen and only hoped it would not stop people staying at the inn. The travellers reassured the sisters. It was so unfair, they thought, that such sweet and trusting women were having such troubles.
After a while the news spread and one of those who had lost his money, went to see a local wizard and poet, Huw Llwyd, who lived on the River Cynfael, in the parish of Ffestiniog.
Concerned at the sisters' troubles and suspecting dark forces were at work, he promised to sort out the mystery.
Now, Huw Llwyd had not always been a poet. A few years before, he was an army officer and so he dressed up in his regimental uniform. With sword by his side, he arrived as a stranger one evening at the Inn.
Huw entered the Inn and was a little surprised to meet two such enchanting ladies. He asked if he could have a room and bed for the night, as he was on his way to Ireland. The sisters readily agreed.
All evening Huw entertained the sisters and their lodgers with tales of his travels in foreign places; at the same time, he kept a careful look out for anything strange happening at the Inn. But nothing at all out of the ordinary took place. Before going to his room, he asked for some candles, saying it was his habit, being a military man, to burn lights in his room all night. He was given a good supply of candles and retired to his room. Here he made his arrangements for a night of watching.
He put his clothes on the floor within easy reach of his bed, and his sword, unsheathed, lay on the bed close to his right hand. He had locked the door and lay down, still wide awake, ready for whatever the night may bring.
For a long while all was still, then Huw heard a very soft noise.
He peeped through half closed eyes and saw, coming through the narrow slit in the walls between his room and the next, a black cat followed by another just the same. As he pretended to sleep, the cats frisked here and there in the room in their innocent fun; they chased each other about the room, played and romped, so silently you would hardly know they were there.
At last, when sure that Huw was sound asleep, they moved towards Huw's clothes and started to have a fine game with them. It was here they seemed to get the greatest fun; they tossed and turned the clothes over, placing their paws first on a string and then on a button, then on another and another, so each one popped undone.
Before long, one of the cats had a paw in the pocket that held Huw Llwyd's purse. Playfully, it started to pull it from the pocket. Just then Huw picked up his sword and like lightning brought the flat edge down on the cat's paw. The strike brought a terrible yowl from the cat and, as quick as a flash, both disappeared back from where they had come.
Nothing more was seen of them during the night. The next morning, Huw still had his purse and his money.
Hungry, and a little tired, Huw went down for breakfast. One of the sisters appeared at the breakfast table. Huw asked after the missing lady and she said her sister could not be with them that morning as she was not too well.
Huw Llwyd said how sorry he was to hear that but went on, "I must say good-bye to her, for I greatly enjoyed her company last night." He would not be refused, so eventually he was taken to her room.
After expressing his sympathy at her illness, the wizard held out his hand to bid her goodbye. She put out her left hand.
"My Lady," said Huw, "I have never taken a left hand in my life, and will not do so now".
Very reluctantly, and with great pain, she put out her right hand, which was heavily bandaged.
Now Huw knew for certain what he had suspected. The two enchanting ladies were also the two playful black cats, for they were really witches. At night they would use their dark magic to change themselves and, as cats, would rob the travellers staying under their roof.
On taking the sister's bandaged hand he said, "I am Huw Llwyd, and I warn you of the risk you have run by your thefts. Take heed, or I promise you, I will not let you off so easily the next time I have need to visit you."
The sisters seemed suitably sorry and at the Inn all went smoothly for a time. But it seems the ladies missed their night time adventures and some months after, they set off one Sunday towards Ffestiniog. Huw was just leaving his home when he saw the Betws-y-Coed ladies approaching him.
He knew at once they meant to witch him. He also knew that, if he turned his back towards them, he would be in their power but if he was to face them, they could do him no harm. So, to block their evil plans, he faced them, and walked backwards every step from his home to a rock that lay by a deep, dark pool, where it was habit to preach his sermons and chant his magic words.
In this way he escaped harm. Once at the rock surrounded by water he was beyond witchcraft's reach and shouted out, "I defy you! My ladies, before I leave this place I will make it so that you can never again witch anyone." He was as good as his word, for, by his understanding of the white and black arts, he took away the sisters' power to witch people.
As they returned home, the women felt their magic disappear. For the rest of their lives the sisters were like any other women. They worked hard for their money and made a success of the inn. But often, on moonlit nights, they would sigh to remember how free they had once been to roam and play and carry out their wicked tricks.
As for Huw, he continued to help those who needed his magic and lived a very long and extraordinary life.
However, if the truth be known, a smile sometimes crossed Huw's lips when he thought of the two naughty cats that had played, with such abandon, in his room; so maybe he was just a little bewitched after all.