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Black Robin

THERE was once an old man in North Wales called Robin Ddu, or Black Robin. He pretended to be a wizard, and though he had no magical power, he was so cunning that he made people believe he had, and his fame spread over the whole of Wales.

A lady in the Vale of Towy lost three precious gems. They had been given to her by a dead sister, and she valued them all the more on that account. Every search was made for them, but they could not be found. The lady had not heard of the Well of Llanbedrog--(by means of that it is quite easy to discover who has stolen your property. All you have to do is to kneel by it, and after throwing in a bit of bread name all whom you suspect. When the thief's name is mentioned the bread sinks)--but she had heard of Black Robin, and at last she decided to send for him. She despatched a servant to North Wales to offer him fifty pounds if he would restore her lost diamonds to her, and Robin travelled south with the messenger. When he arrived he said he would not begin his work unless fifty pounds were given to him beforehand. "Fifty pounds is a lot of money," said the lady. "I should like to test your power before giving it you."

To this Robin reluctantly agreed. The lady put a tame robin redbreast under a dish on the table. Sending for the supposed magician, she asked him to say what was under the vessel. He did not know what to say or do, and thought the best thing he could do was to confess his ignorance. "Robin is caught," he said. Thinking he referred to the bird and not to himself, the lady was astounded at what she regarded as a wonderful display of power, and Robin was too cunning to confess. The money was paid over, and the process of finding the gems began.

First of all he inquired carefully into all the circumstances of the disappearance of the gems, cross-examining all the inmates of the house minutely. This investigation convinced him that one of the servants had stolen them, but for some time he could not find out the actual thief. One day, as he was taking the air with one of the men-servants, he happened to enter the churchyard. The sexton in digging a grave had come across a quantity of old bones, among them being a skull. Robin took the skull back with him to his room, and his startled companion told the servants' hall about it. Then Robin called all the servants to him, and looking very stern, "Tomorrow night," said he, "I will summon a legion of devils, and they will punish the guilty with all the tortures of hell. But the innocent shall not suffer with the guilty. Take these," and with this he handed to each a tooth which he had wrenched from the skull. "By Friday morning" (it was then Wednesday) "the guilty, after suffering unspeakable anguish and pain, will be as dead as the body from which these teeth have been taken. But I will not invoke my devils if the gems are brought to me before midnight, nor will I disclose to any living soul who took them."

Sure enough, before midnight on Thursday a trembling maid-servant brought the diamonds to his room. The next thing to devise was how to restore them to their owner without disclosing the manner in which they had been recovered, and at the same time in such a way as to reflect credit on himself as a magician. Looking out of his window in the morning he saw a flock of geese feeding in a field not far from the mansion. Going out he took with him a small piece of bread, in which he placed the stones. He threw the piece of bread to the gander, which at once greedily swallowed it. Some time after, summoning the lady, "Kill that gander" he said, "and you will find inside him your lost treasure." This was done and the diamonds were found. "They were dropped on the floor and accidentally swept out with the dust," he explained, "and this greedy bird swallowed them. By means of the skull which the sexton dug out of the grave on Wednesday I was able to divine the mystery."

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