The Lad with the Goat-Skin
ONG ago, a poor widow woman lived down near the iron forge, by
Enniscorth, and she was so poor she had no clothes to put on
her son; so she used to fix him in the ash-hole, near the
fire, and pile 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, and fastened it round his waist,
and he felt quite grand, and took a walk down the street. So
says she to him next morning, "Tom, you thief, you never
done any good yet, and you six foot high, and past
nineteen;—take that rope and bring me a faggot from the wood."
"Never say't twice, mother," says Tom—"here goes."
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.
Well become Tom, he jumped a-one side, and picked up a
ram-pike; and the first 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 win 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 gathering you, 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, till it came to
the widow's door.
Well, when the sticks were all burned, Tom was sent off
again to pick more; and this time he had to fight with a
giant that had two heads on him. Tom had a little more
trouble with him—that's all; and the prayers he said, was
to give Tom a fife, that nobody could help dancing when he
was playing it. Begonies, he made the big faggot dance home,
with himself sitting on it. The next giant was a beautiful
boy with three heads on him. He had neither prayers nor
catechism no more nor the others; and so he gave Tom a
bottle of green ointment, that wouldn't let you be burned,
nor scalded, nor wounded. "And now," says he, "there's no
more of us. You may come and gather sticks here till little
Lunacy Day in Harvest, without giant or fairy-man to disturb
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 little boys 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 like that at all, and it would be
mean to give one of them a clout. At last, what should come
through the town but a kind of a
bell-  man, only it's 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 know what to call him—bugle-man, maybe, proclaimed
that the King of Dublin's daughter was so melancholy that
she didn't give a laugh for seven years, and that her father
would grant her in marriage to whoever could make her laugh
"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 of Dublin.
At last Tom came to one of the city gates, and the guards
laughed 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 said—drove his bayonet half an inch or
so into his side. Tom done nothing but take the fellow by
the scruff o' the neck and the waistband of his corduroys,
and fling him into the canal. Some run to pull the fellow
out, and others to let manners into the vulgarian with their
swords and daggers; but a tap from his club sent them
headlong into the moat or down on the stones, and they were
soon begging him to stay his hands.
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 the princess, in a gallery, looking at all sorts of
wrestling, and sword-playing, and long-dances, and mumming,
all to please the princess; but not a smile came over her
Well, they all stopped when they seen the young giant, with
his boy's face, and long black hair, and his short curly
beard—for his poor mother couldn't afford
razors—  and his great strong arms, and bare legs, and no covering
but the goat-skin that reached 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, and didn't like
how she opened her eyes at Tom, came forward, and asked 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 the 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 years?"
So the fellows gathered round Tom, and the bad man
aggravated him till he told them he didn't care a pinch o'
snuff for the whole bilin' of 'em; let 'em come on, six at a
time, and try what they could do.
The king, who was too far off to hear what they were saying,
asked what did the stranger want.
"He wants," says the red-headed fellow, "to make hares of
your best men."
"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 their heads flew the sword, and down went the owner of
it on the gravel from a thump he got on the helmet. Another
took his place, and another, and another, and then half a
dozen at once, and Tom sent swords, helmets, shields, and
bodies, rolling over and over, and themselves bawling out
that they were kilt, and disabled, and damaged, and rubbing
their poor elbows and hips,
 and limping away. Tom contrived
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 yard.
"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
to dine with the royal family. Next day, Redhead told Tom of
a wolf, the size of a yearling heifer, that used to be
serenading about the walls, and eating people and cattle;
and said what a pleasure it would give the king to have it
"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 person with fine clothes and a nice green birredh
over his long curly hair; and besides, he'd got one laugh
out of her. However, the king gave his consent; and in an
hour and a half the horrible wolf was walking 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
The king and queen and princess were safe up in their
gallery, but the officers and people of the court that wor
padrowling about the great bawn, when they saw the big baste
coming in, gave themselves up, and began to make for doors
and gates; and the wolf licked his chops, as if he
 was saying, "Wouldn't I enjoy a breakfast off a couple
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 but began shovelling away heel and toe, and the
wolf himself was obliged to get on his hind legs and dance
"Tatther Jack Walsh," along with the rest.
A good deal of the people got inside, and shut the doors,
the way the hairy fellow wouldn't pin them; but Tom kept
playing, and the outsiders kept dancing and shouting, and
the wolf kept dancing 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 the rest. 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
Redhead never stopped dancing and bawling, and the wolf
dancing and roaring, one leg up and the other down, and he
ready to drop out of his standing from fair tiresomeness.
When the princess seen that there was no fear of any one
being kilt, she was so divarted by the stew that Redhead was
in, that she gave another great laugh; and well become Tom,
out he cried, "King of Dublin, I have two halves of your
"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 baste
that was sittin' on his currabingo ready to faint, "Walk off
to your mountain, my fine fellow, and live like a
respectable baste; and if 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
of his club. It was all the poor divel of a wolf wanted: he
put his tail between his legs, and took to his pumps without
looking at man or mortal, and neither sun, moon, or stars
ever saw him in sight of Dublin again.
At dinner every one laughed but the foxy fellow; and sure
enough he 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 Lusk wid 'em! and if any one can save us from 'em, it is
this gentleman with the goat-skin. There is a flail hangin'
on the collar-beam in hell, 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 wails of hell; and, bedad, before he knocked at the
gates, he rubbed himself over with the greenish ointment.
When he knocked, a hundred little imps popped their heads
out through the bars, and axed him what he wanted.
"I want to speak to the big divel of all," says Tom: "open
It wasn't long till the gate was thrune open, and the Ould
Boy received Tom with bows and scrapes, and axed his
"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
King of 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 same time. So, while some were barring
the gates, the young devil climbed up, and took down the
flail that had the handstaff and booltheen both made out of
red-hot iron. The little vagabond was grinning to think how
it would burn the hands o' Tom, but the dickens a burn it
made 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 from him, and give him a dose of the oil of
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 off one of his horns, and made him roar like a
devil as he was. Well, they rushed at Tom, but he gave them,
little and big, such a thrashing as they didn't forget for a
while. At last says the ould thief of all, 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 the
shouting and cursing they kept up at him from the tops of
the walls; and when he got home to the big bawn of the
palace, there never was such 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, and princess,
made much of him before, they made
 ten times more of him
now; but Redhead, the mean scruffhound, stole over, and
thought to catch hold of the flail to make an end of him.
His fingers hardly touched it, when he let a roar out of him
as if heaven and earth were coming together, and kept
flinging his arms about and dancing, that it was pitiful to
look at him. Tom run at him as soon as he could rise, caught
his hands in his own two, and rubbed them this way and that,
and the burning pain left them before you could reckon one.
Well the poor fellow, between the pain that was only just
gone, and the comfort he was in, had the comicalest face
that you ever 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, she
came over to Tom, and put her two delicate hands into his
two rough ones, and I wish it was myself was in his shoes
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 passing next 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 so frightened when
they heard of the flail coming into Dublin, that they got
into their ships, and sailed away.
Well, I suppose, before they were married, Tom got some man,
like Pat Mara of Tomenine, to learn him the "principles of
politeness," fluxions, gunnery and
fortifi-  cation, decimal fractions, practice, and the rule of three direct, the way
he'd be able to keep up a conversation with the royal
family. Whether he ever lost his time 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 days.