The Lad with the Goat-Skin
Long ago, a poor widow woman lived
down near the iron forge, by
Enniscorthy, and she was so poor she had no clothes to put
son; so she used to fix him in the ash-hole, near the fire,
the warm ashes about him; and according as he grew up,
she sunk the
pit deeper. At last, by hook or by crook, she got a goat-skin,
fastened it round his waist, and he felt quite grand, and
walk down the street. So says she to him next morning, "Tom,
thief, you never done any good yet, and you six foot high,
nineteen;--take that rope and bring me a faggot from the
"Never say't twice, mother," says Tom--"here
When he had it gathered and tied, what should come up
but a big
giant, nine foot high, and made a lick of a club at him.
Tom, he jumped a-one side, and picked up a ram-pike; and
crack he gave the big fellow, he made him kiss the clod.
"If you have e'er a prayer," says Tom, "now's
the time to say it,
before I make fragments of you."
"I have no prayers," says the giant; "but
if you spare my life I'll
give you that club; and as long as you keep from sin, you'll
every battle you ever fight with it."
Tom made no bones about letting him off; and as soon as
he got the
club in his hands, he sat down on the bresna, and gave
it a tap with
the kippeen, and says, "Faggot, I had great trouble
and run the risk of my life for you, the least you can
do is to
carry me home." And sure enough, the wind o' the word
was all it
wanted. It went off through the wood, groaning and crackling,
it came to the widow's door.
Well, when the sticks were all burned, Tom was sent off
pick more; and this time he had to fight with a giant that
heads on him. Tom had a little more trouble with him--that's
and the prayers he said, was to give Tom a fife; that nobody
help dancing when he was playing it. Begonies, he made
faggot dance home, with himself sitting on it. The next
giant was a
beautiful boy with three heads on him. He had neither prayers
catechism no more nor the others; and so he gave Tom a
green ointment, that wouldn't let you be burned, nor scalded,
wounded. "And now," says he, "there's no
more of us. You may come
and gather sticks here till little Lunacy Day in Harvest,
giant or fairy-man to disturb you."
Well, now, Tom was prouder nor ten paycocks, and used
to take a walk
down street in the heel of the evening; but some o' the
had no more manners than if they were Dublin jackeens,
and put out
their tongues at Tom's club and Tom's goat-skin. He didn't
at all, and it would be mean to give one of them a clout.
what should come through the town but a kind of a bellman,
a big bugle he had, and a huntsman's cap on his head, and
a kind of
a painted shirt. So this--he wasn't a bellman, and I don't
to call him--bugleman, maybe, proclaimed that the King
daughter was so melancholy that she didn't give a laugh
years, and that her father would grant her in marriage
could make her laugh three times.
"That's the very thing for me to try," says
Tom; and so, without
burning any more daylight, he kissed his mother, curled
his club at
the little boys, and off he set along the yalla highroad
to the town
At last Tom came to one of the city gates, and the guards
and cursed at him instead of letting him in. Tom stood
it all for a
little time, but at last one of them--out of fun, as he
his bayonet half an inch or so into his side. Tom done
take the fellow by the scruff o' the neck and the waistband
corduroys, and fling him into the canal. Some run to pull
out, and others to let manners into the vulgarian with
and daggers; but a tap from his club sent them headlong
moat or down on the stones, and they were soon begging
him to stay
So at last one of them was glad enough to show Tom the
way to the
palace-yard; and there was the king, and the queen, and
princess, in a gallery, looking at all sorts of wrestling,
sword-playing, and long-dances, and mumming, all to please
princess; but not a smile came over her handsome face.
Well, they all stopped when they seen the young giant,
boy's face, and long black hair, and his short curly beard--for
poor mother couldn't afford to buy razors--and his great
arms, and bare legs, and no covering but the goat-skin
from his waist to his knees. But an envious wizened bit
of a fellow,
with a red head, that wished to be married to the princess,
didn't like how she opened her eyes at Tom, came forward,
his business very snappishly.
"My business," says Tom, says he, "is
to make the beautiful
princess, God bless her, laugh three times."
"Do you see all them merry fellows and skilful swordsmen," says
other, "that could eat you up with a grain of salt,
and not a
mother's soul of 'em ever got a laugh from her these seven
So the fellows gathered round Tom, and the bad man aggravated
till he told them he didn't care a pinch o' snuff for the
bilin' of 'em; let 'em come on, six at a time, and try
The king, who was too far off to hear what they were saying,
what did the stranger want.
"He wants," says the red-headed fellow, "to
make hares of your best
"Oh!" says the king, "if
that's the way, let one of 'em turn out and
try his mettle."
So one stood forward, with sword and pot-lid, and made
a cut at Tom.
He struck the fellow's elbow with the club, and up over
flew the sword, and down went the owner of it on the gravel
thump he got on the helmet. Another took his place, and
another, and then half a dozen at once, and Tom sent swords,
helmets, shields, and bodies, rolling over and over, and
bawling out that they were kilt, and disabled, and damaged,
rubbing their poor elbows and hips, and limping away. Tom
not to kill any one; and the princess was so amused, that
she let a
great sweet laugh out of her that was heard over all the
"King of Dublin," says Tom, "I've
quarter your daughter."
And the king didn't know whether he was glad or sorry,
and all the
blood in the princess's heart run into her cheeks.
So there was no more fighting that day, and Tom was invited
with the royal family. Next day, Redhead told Tom of a
size of a yearling heifer, that used to be serenading about
walls, and eating people and cattle; and said what a pleasure
would give the king to have it killed.
"With all my heart," says Tom; "send
a jackeen to show me where he
lives, and we'll see how he behaves to a stranger."
The princess was not well pleased, for Tom looked a different
with fine clothes and a nice green birredh over his long
and besides, he'd got one laugh out of her. However, the
his consent; and in an hour and a half the horrible wolf
into the palace-yard, and Tom a step or two behind, with
his club on
his shoulder, just as a shepherd would be walking after
a pet lamb.
The king and queen and princess were safe up in their
the officers and people of the court that wor padrowling
great bawn, when they saw the big baste coming in, gave
up, and began to make for doors and gates; and the wolf
chops, as if he was saying, "Wouldn't I enjoy a breakfast
couple of yez!"
The king shouted out, "O
Tom with the Goat-skin, take away that
terrible wolf, and you must have all my daughter."
But Tom didn't mind him a bit. He pulled out his flute
and began to
play like vengeance; and dickens a man or boy in the yard
shovelling away heel and toe, and the wolf himself was
get on his hind legs and dance "Tatther Jack Walsh," along
rest. A good deal of the people got inside, and shut the
way the hairy fellow wouldn't pin them; but Tom kept playing,
the outsiders kept dancing and shouting, and the wolf kept
and roaring with the pain his legs were giving him; and
all the time
he had his eyes on Redhead, who was shut out along with
Wherever Redhead went, the wolf followed, and kept one
eye on him
and the other on Tom, to see if he would give him leave
to eat him.
But Tom shook his head, and never stopped the tune, and
never stopped dancing and bawling, and the wolf dancing
one leg up and the other down, and he ready to drop out
standing from fair tiresomeness.
When the princess seen that there was no fear of any one
she was so divarted by the stew that Redhead was in, that
another great laugh; and well become Tom, out he cried, "King
Dublin, I have two halves of your daughter."
"Oh, halves or alls," says the king, "put
away that divel of a wolf,
and we'll see about it."
So Tom put his flute in his pocket, and says he to the
was sittin' on his currabingo ready to faint, "Walk
off to your
mountain, my fine fellow, and live like a respectable baste;
ever I find you come within seven miles of any town, I'll--"
He said no more, but spit in his fist, and gave a flourish
club. It was all the poor divel of a wolf wanted: he put
between his legs, and took to his pumps without looking
at man or
mortal, and neither sun, moon, or stars ever saw him in
At dinner every one laughed but the foxy fellow; and sure
was laying out how he'd settle poor Tom next day.
"Well, to be sure!" says he, "King
of Dublin, you are in luck.
There's the Danes moidhering us to no end. Deuce run to
'em! and if any one can save us from 'em, it is this gentleman
the goat-skin. There is a flail hangin' on the collar-beam,
and neither Dane nor devil can stand before it."
"So," says Tom to the king, "will
you let me have the other half of
the princess if I bring you the flail?"
"No, no," says the princess; "I'd
rather never be your wife than see
you in that danger."
But Redhead whispered and nudged Tom about how shabby
it would look
to reneague the adventure. So he asked which way he was
to go, and
Redhead directed him.
Well, he travelled and travelled, till he came in sight
of the walls
of hell; and, bedad, before he knocked at the gates, he
himself over with the greenish ointment. When he knocked,
little imps popped their heads out through the bars, and
what he wanted.
"I want to speak to the big divel of all," says
Tom: "open the
It wasn't long till the gate was thrune open, and the
received Tom with bows and scrapes, and axed his business.
"My business isn't much," says Tom. "I
only came for the loan of
that flail that I see hanging on the collar-beam, for the
Dublin to give a thrashing to the Danes."
"Well," says the other, "the
Danes is much better customers to me;
but since you walked so far I won't refuse. Hand that flail," says
he to a young imp; and he winked the far-off eye at the
So, while some were barring the gates, the young devil
and took down the flail that had the handstaff and booltheen
made out of red-hot iron. The little vagabond was grinning
how it would burn the hands o' Tom, but the dickens a burn
on him, no more nor if it was a good oak sapling.
"Thankee," says Tom. "Now
would you open the gate for a body, and
I'll give you no more trouble."
"Oh, tramp!" says Ould Nick; "is
that the way? It is easier getting
inside them gates than getting out again. Take that tool
and give him a dose of the oil of stirrup."
So one fellow put out his claws to seize on the flail,
but Tom gave
him such a welt of it on the side of the head that he broke
of his horns, and made him roar like a devil as he was.
rushed at Tom, but he gave them, little and big, such a
they didn't forget for a while. At last says the ould thief
rubbing his elbow, "Let the fool out; and woe to whoever
lets him in
again, great or small."
So out marched Tom, and away with him, without minding
and cursing they kept up at him from the tops of the walls;
he got home to the big bawn of the palace, there never
running and racing as to see himself and the flail. When
he had his
story told, he laid down the flail on the stone steps,
and bid no
one for their lives to touch it. If the king, and queen,
princess, made much of him before, they made ten times
more of him
now; but Redhead, the mean scruff-hound, stole over, and
catch hold of the flail to make an end of him. His fingers
touched it, when he let a roar out of him as if heaven
were coming together, and kept flinging his arms about
that it was pitiful to look at him. Tom run at him as soon
could rise, caught his hands in his own two, and rubbed
way and that, and the burning pain left them before you
one. Well the poor fellow, between the pain that was only
and the comfort he was in, had the comicalest face that
see, it was such a mixtherum-gatherum of laughing and crying.
Everybody burst out a laughing--the princess could not
stop no more
than the rest; and then says Tom, "Now, ma'am, if
there were fifty
halves of you, I hope you'll give me them all."
Well, the princess looked at her father, and by my word,
over to Tom, and put her two delicate hands into his two
and I wish it was myself was in his shoes that day!
Tom would not bring the flail into the palace. You may
be sure no
other body went near it; and when the early risers were
morning, they found two long clefts in the stone, where
it was after
burning itself an opening downwards, nobody could tell
how far. But
a messenger came in at noon, and said that the Danes were
frightened when they heard of the flail coming into Dublin,
they got into their ships, and sailed away.
Well, I suppose, before they were married, Tom got some
Pat Mara of Tomenine, to learn him the "principles
fluxions, gunnery, and fortification, decimal fractions,
and the rule of three direct, the way he'd be able to keep
conversation with the royal family. Whether he ever lost
learning them sciences, I'm not sure, but it's as sure
as fate that
his mother never more saw any want till the end of her
MAN OR WOMAN BOY OR GIRL THAT READS WHAT FOLLOWS 3 TIMES
ASLEEP AN HUNDRED YEARS
JOHN D. BATTEN DREW THIS AUG. 20TH, 1801 GOOD-NIGHT