It was the custom during the 19th century for the young of an area to meet up as often as possible to dance, play games and simply enjoy each other’s company. At a large farmhouse at Henafon in Rhuddlan Parish as it was, but now within the the suburbs of Rhyl (Hen-afon), one such gathering was taking place, and the young lads and lasses were having a fine old time, dancing and making merry.
When the fun was at its height, there came a knock on the door. At the entrance stood a tall and elderly gentleman, advanced in years but sprightly enough, as evidenced by his deft duck beneath the door frame and dance into the room. Though he was not invited, the young people found it curiously difficult to say no to the man, as he made himself at home. Bowing low, he introduced himself, and asked to join in the games. Despite the awkwardness of the situation, the men and women present agreed, though they could not explain why they had.
On spying a game of cards in play, the old man became quite excited, and brought over a chair and placed himself in the round, grinning, nodding and smiling at those fresh faces about him.
‘I do enjoy a game of cards,’ he smiled, and placed some coins on the table in front of him, ‘especially for a little money.’
As the game began, it soon became clear that the old man was very good at cards indeed, and though the young men at the table were not poor, by any means, they were soon substantially poorer than they had been before the old man had arrived. They sulked, but were stubborn and would not leave the table. The old man, of course was pleased with this, and soon had a stack of coins before him.
However, as the old man made to deal the cards for the next round, he dropped a card. Sullenly, one of the young men bent down to pick it up from beneath the table. With a sudden yelp and a bang of his head on the underside of the table, he scrambled up from the floor and backed up hurriedly from the old man, arms flailing. For the young man had seen the old man’s secret. The old man wore no shoes, for none would fit, and instead the young farmer had seen the fellow’s cloven hooves. The old man was none other than the Diafol himself.
With a snarl, the old man immediately turned into a wheel of flame, that span at speed before disappearing up the chimney. The money went with him.
The engraving at the top of the article is Card Game between a Young Man and the Devil by Casper Luyken & Christoph Weigel (1704)
E. Owen, Welsh Folk-Lord: A Collection of the Folk-Tales and Legends of North Wales, Woodhall, Minshull & Co., Oswestry & Wrexham (1896)