"The Spider and
the Gout" by
Old Pat Clancy lived in a small cabin immediately beneath the Rock
of Donoughmor, and looked upon the ruined castle on the top as his
especial property, the legends concerning them being treasured by him
as jealously as though they were traditions of his own ancestors. A
proud man was Pat when piloting the occasional strangers who wished to
inspect the keep up the steep and slippery path which led to the
ancient portcullis, and conducting them thence to the banqueting-hall,
sparing the luckless pilgrim, in fact, no corner of the edifice or its
surroundings, and pausing only on the mossy slope to the rear, where,
his charge having duly admired "the view over three counties," he would
proudly point out the precise spots where Fin-ma-coul had "wrastled"
with and overthrown another "monsthrous joynt" of name unknown, the
traces of the encounter being yet visible in the short turf.
"Ne'er a blade o' grass at all 'ud grow on them," Pat would cry,
pointing triumphantly to the irregular hollows in the soil supposed to
be the traces of the giant's mighty feet. These, by the way,
occasionally varied oddly in extent; during the summertime, when most
visitors were to be expected, being noticeably large, and much deeper
than at other seasons.
Poor Pat's devotion to his beloved ruins was the cause of his
undoing. One spring morning, when a late frost had made the grass
unusually slippery, just as he was expounding to an interested audience
how the Danes used to shoot "arrers through them little slits of
windies in the wall beyant," his foot slipped, and after rolling for a
little distance down the steep incline, he went over the precipitous
side of the crag, and fell some twenty feet on to the stones below.
Many bones were broken, and as surgical aid was difficult to obtain,
and but of poor quality when at last secured, most of them were badly
set, and the poor old fellow remained to the end of his days a cripple.
How he and his wife and their last remaining child, a son born to them
when Pat was already old, managed thenceforth to eke out a living would
have been a marvel to their neighbours, if similar problems of
existence had not been so common in the countryside. There was the pig,
of course, and a few chickens, and "herself" did a day's work now and
then in the fields, and escorted the visitors over the ruins, well
primed and prompted by Patrick as to the "laygends and tragedies"
(traditions) of those sacred precincts; and little Mike minded the
sheep, and frightened crows and picked turnips for their landlord,
"ould Pether Rorke beyant at Monavoe," but "Goodness knows," as the
neighbours would say, shaking their heads at each other, "it was not
much of a livin' the poor child 'ud make out of him--the ould villain!
Didn't he let his own flesh and blood go cold and hungry--'twasn't to
be expected he'd do more nor he could help for a stranger. Aye indeed,
he was a great ould villain! To think of him with lashin's and lavin's
of everything an' money untold laid by, an' his only son's widdy livin'
down there with a half-witted lodger in a little black hole of a place
that was not fit for a pig, let alone a Christian, an' the beautiful
little cratur', his grandchild, Roseen, runnin' about barefut, with her
dotey little hands an' feet black an' blue wid the cowld--sure what
sort of a heart had the man at all?"
Old Pat was sitting alone one summer's afternoon, "herself" having
gone up to Donoughmor with some Quality, and Mike not having yet
returned from work, when little Roseen Rorke poked her sunny face in at
"Is that yourself?" said Pat pleasantly. He was fond of the child,
as was every one in the neighbourhood, and being a fellow-sufferer from
the hard-heartedness of her grandfather, who was, as has been said, his
landlord, was perhaps the most violent of her champions.
Roseen's blue eyes, peering through her tangled sheaf of
golden-brown curls, took a hasty and discontented survey of the small
"Isn't Mike here?" she inquired.
"He's not, asthore, an' won't be home this hour most likely; but
come in out o' the scorching sun, an' sit down on the little creepy
stool. Herself will be in in a few minutes, an' maybe she'll give ye a
bit o' griddle cake."
Roseen unfastened the half-door and came in, her little bare brown
feet making no sound on the mud floor. She was a pretty child for all
her sunburnt face and scanty unkempt attire. Poor Widow Rorke has long
ceased to take pride in the fact that her husband had been the son of
the richest farmer in all the countryside, and did not care to keep up
appearances, all her energies being devoted to the struggle for daily
bread; nevertheless, the short red flannel frock was as becoming to
Roseen as any more elegant garment could have been, and when she
approached the hearth and sat down on the three-legged stool by Pat's
side, he breathed a blessing on her pretty face that was as admiring as
it was fervent.
Crossing one shapely sunburnt leg over the other, and gazing
pensively at the smouldering turf sods, she heaved a deep sigh.
"They're afther goin' out an' lavin' me," she lamented.
"Did they, asthore? Sure they had a right to have taken ye along wid
them. Where are they gone to at all, alanna?"
"Me mother's after goin' to the town to buy a bit o' bread, an'
Judy's streeled off with herself, goodness knows where, wid her ould
pipe in her pocket. Dear knows when she'll be back; an' she bid me stop
at home an' mind the fire, but I come away out o' that as soon as her
back was turned."
The bright eyes glanced defiantly at the old man and then suddenly
clouded over; the corners of the little mouth began to droop, and the
small bare shoulders to heave.
"They'd no call to go lavin' me all by meself."
"Troth they hadn't, mavourneen," agreed Pat, clackling his tongue
sympathetically. "It was too hard on ye, altogether, but sure you won't
cry now, there's a good little girl; crying never done any one a
ha'porth o' good yit. Look at me here wid all my ould bones broke; I
might cry the two eyes out o' my head an' never a wan at all ud' get
mended for me."
Roseen sat up blinking. "Did it hurt ye much, Misther Clancy, when
your bones was broke on ye?"
"Is it hurt, bedad! Ye'd hear me bawlin' up at the crass roads. Sure
I thought it was killed I was! My ancistor couldn't have shouted louder
when he had the Earl Strongbow's spear stuck in him. Will I tell ye
about that, alanna, to pass the time till herself comes in?"
Roseen shook her head discontentedly.
"I know that story," she said. "I wisht ye'd tell me about the
Spider an' the Gout though, Misther Clancy. Ah do, an' I'll sit here
listenin' as quiet as a mouse."
Pat rubbed his unshaven chin with the lean fingers of his one
serviceable hand, the bristles of his week-old beard making a rasping
sound the while, and glanced down sideways at the eager little
"Is it the Spider an' the Gout?" he said, knitting his brows with
affected reluctance. "Sure I am sick an' tired tellin' ye that. No, but
I'll tell ye 'The little man and the little woman that lived in the
vinegar bottle.' ... Wanst upon a time, there was a weeshy-dawshy
"Ah no, Misther Clancy, I don't care for that," interrupted Roseen,
jumping up and clapping her hands to her ears. "It's a horrible ould
story. They'd have been drownded," she added seriously.
Pat chuckled. "Well, sit down, an' don't offer to say a word unless
you hear me goin' out. Sure maybe I disremember it altogether."
Roseen sat down obediently and fixed her eyes on the old man's face.
[Illustration: THE SPIDER AND THE GOUT "Wanst upon a time," began
"Wanst upon a time," began Dan, with a twinkle in his eye, "the pigs
were swine." Roseen gave an impatient wriggle. "Well, well, it's too
bad to be tormentin' ye that way. I'll begin right now.--Well, very
well then. There was wan time the Spider an' the Gout was thravellin'
together, goin' to seek their fortun's. Well, they come to the crass
roads. 'Lookit here,' says the Spider, 'it's time for you an' me to be
partin' company,' says he; 'I'm goin' up along here to the right,' says
he, 'to that great big house on the hill. A very rich man lives there,'
says he, 'an' I think the quarthers 'ull suit me. You can go down that
little boreen to the left,' he says; 'there's a little cabin there that
belongs to some poor fellow or other. The door is cracked,' says the
Spider, 'and the windy is broke. Ye can slip in aisy,' he says, 'an'
creep into the poor fellow's toe before he knows where he is.'--'Is
that so?' says the Gout. 'Oh, that indeed!' says he; 'it'll suit me
very well,' says he, 'if that's the way it is. An' I'll tell you what
we'll do,' says the Gout, 'you an' me'll meet here this time to-morrow
night an' tell each other how we're gettin' on,' says he."
Pat paused, rubbing his knotted fingers up and down the ragged knees
of his corduroys. Roseen heaved a deep sigh, and folded one dimpled
hand over the other, her eyes meanwhile fixed unwinkingly on the face
of the narrator. The interest of the tale was now growing absorbing.
"Well, the Spider went off wid himself up to the rich man's house,
an' what do ye think the poor fellow found when he got there?"
Roseen was perfectly aware of the state of affairs which the Spider
discovered, knowing as she did every word of the story by heart, but
deemed it her duty to shake her head slightly and raise her eyebrows in
a manner which denoted that she was absolutely at fault.
"Well," pursued Pat, "every door in the whole place was shut up, an'
every windy was bolted an' barred, an' though the poor Spider ran this
way an' that way, an' round the house an' round the house, not a hole
nor a crack could he find; an' there he had to stop outside in the wind
an' the rain."
Roseen's face betokened extreme compassion for the Spider. Pat went
on, drawing in his breath with a sucking sound.
"Well then, very well then; next mornin' the sarvants was sweepin'
and clanin' an' dustin', here an' there an' everywhere, the way they do
in the houses of Quality. One o' them left the hall door open an' in
creeps the little Spider, an' away wid him acrass the hall, an' never
stops till he gets to the great big parlour. Up the wall wid him then
as fast as he could leg it, an' there if he doesn't go and make his web
in a corner of a great big gould pictur' frame. Well, there he sat, the
poor fellow, but ne'er a fly at all come next or nigh him, an'
by-an'-by in walks the housemaid wid her great big broom, an' if she
"You are afther forgettin'!" interrupted Roseen, quickly seizing the
opportunity of using her tongue, and proceeding with as close an
imitation of Pat's manner as she could muster. "In walks the housemaid.
'Och,' says she, 'what brings you here at all, ye dirty little
"To be sure," said Pat, "I was near forgettin' that altogether.
'Och,' says she (in shrill tones of horror supposed to proceed from the
startled housemaid), 'what brings you here at all, ye dirty little
spalpeen? You infarnal little sckamer,' says she."
Roseen gave a delighted little cackle, this being an addition on
Pat's part and charming her by its vigour and originality.
"'You infarnal little sckamer, what brings you here at all?' And she
whips out her duster an' hot the poor Spider such a crack that his web
was destroyed on him altogether, an' it was on'y by the greatest good
luck he was able to creep out of her way behind the corner of the
frame, or she'd have had him killed as well. Well, the poor fellow,
there he sat the whole livelong day, niver so much as offerin' to spin
another web; an' sure if he had it 'ud have been no use, for there
wasn't the sign of a fly at all. When evenin' come the masther of the
house had company, an' there was atin' an' drinkin' an' the best of
everything but the poor little Spider was lookin' on, very near
perishin' wid hunger an' fright. Well, at the long and the last, when
he thought there was nobody lookin', he crept down the wall an'
folleyed wan o' the sarvants out o' the room, an' by good luck, the
hall door was open, so the poor fellow made off wid himself as fast as
he could. Down the road wid him till he come to where the Gout was
sittin' waitin' for him at the crass roads. 'Is that yourself?' says
the Spider. 'How did you get on?' says he. 'Och,' says the poor
Gout"--and here Pat assumed a tone of extreme weakness and
exhaustion--"'it's near killed I am altogether; I never put in such a
time in me life.' 'Well, for that matther,' says the Spider, 'I might
say the same; but what happened to ye at all? Tell me all about it in
the name of goodness,' says he.
"'Well,' says the Gout, 'I went off down the boreen the same as ye
told me, an' I come to the little cabin beyant; the door was open an'
in I walked, but o--o--oh! Wh--o--o--oh!' (Pat indulged in a prolonged
shiver, while Roseen chuckled and clapped her hands.) 'The cowld of
that place was near bein' the death o' me! Sure the wind blew into it,'
says he, 'an' the rain was comin' through the roof, an' there wasn't as
much fire on the hearth as 'ud warm a fly itself. Well, the poor man
come in afther a bit,' says the Gout, 'an' I slipped in through a crack
in his owld wore-out brogue, an' into his toe. "Och, Mary," says the
poor man to his wife, "I have a terrible bad pain in me toe! What'll I
do in the world?" says he; "I'll never be able to stir a fut
to-morrow." "Whisht, sure it's maybe a bit of a cramp ye've got. Wait a
bit," she says, "an' I'll fetch ye a sup o' the wather I'm afther
bilin' the pitaties in, maybe that'll do ye good," she says. 'Well,'
says the Gout, 'if the fellow didn't go an' put his fut, an' me in
it, into an owld rusty bucket full of pitaty-wather! I thought he'd
have destroyed me altogether. An' such a night as I passed, wid
scarcely a blanket at all on the bed! An' nothin' 'ud sarve the man but
to get up before light, an' go thrampin' off through the mud an' rain
till I was nearly perished. There he was draggin' me up an' down at the
tail of a plough, wid the wet soakin' in through the holes in his
brogues, till I couldn't stand it any more, an' I come away wid meself,
an' I've been waitin' for ye this two hours.' 'Ho then, indeed,' says
the Spider, 'I'd have been glad enough to be out of it before this; I
never was so put about in me life as I was up there,' says he. 'Sure
they had all their windies shut up,' says he, 'and the doors too, an'
ne'er a sign of a fly at all in it when I did get in,' he says; 'an'
the whole place that clane, an' sarvants running about, till I couldn't
so much as find a corner to spin my web,' says he. 'Och, dear,' says
the Gout, 'that's a poor case entirely; what sort of a place was it at
all, an' what were they doin' in it?'
"'Ah, 'twas a great big place--altogether too big for my taste; an'
they had roarin' fires in the grates. I was near killed wid the hate.'
"'That indeed!' says the Gout, pricking up his ears." Roseen
listened solemnly, not in the least astonished to be told that the
personage in question was possessed of ears; she supposed "a Gout" to
be a living thing, an insect probably, of a more noxious kind than a
"'Fires!' says the Gout; 'an' was they atin' an' drinkin' at all?'
"'Atin' an' drinkin'!' says the Spider. 'Bedad, they're afther
spendin' hours at it, an' were in the thick of it when I come away. If
ye were to see the j'ints that was in it, ye wouldn't believe your own
eyes; an' chickens an' turkeys,' he says, 'was nothin' at all to them,
and they was swalleyin' down pigeons an' partridges an' them sorts o'
little birds, the same as if they wasn't worth counting.'
"'Oh, oh!' says the Gout, smacking his lips, 'an' did ye chanst to
see any dhrinkin' at all?' 'Goodness gracious!' says the Spider, 'sure
there was rivers of wine goin' down every man's throat!'
"'That'll do,' says the Gout. 'I'll bid ye good evening,' he says,
'an' I'll be off wid meself up there; an' I'll tell ye what,' says he,
'I'll be in no hurry to lave it!' he says, winking acrass at the other,
'an' you thry the cabin,' he says, lookin' back over his shoulder;
'maybe it'll suit ye betther nor me.' Well, the poor Spider ran off as
fast as he could, an' when he come to the poor man's housheen, in he
walked, widout a bit o' throuble at all, an' sure there was plenty of
flies there waitin' for him. They used to come buzzing in an' out
through the broken windies all day long.
"'Och, bedad! I am in luck,' says the Spider to himself, 'if on'y
the ould woman 'ull let me stop in it an' not be thryin' to desthroy me
wid her duster, the way the girl up beyant at the Coort did.' But sure,
the poor ould woman had other things to be thinkin' of nor to be goin'
afther Spiders. She left him alone in peace an' comfort, an' the poor
fellow thought he was in heaven, afther all he had to put up wid at the
other place. Well, there he lived till he died, an' he got so fat wid
all the flies he was afther killin' that it was an apple-complex
that carried him off at the end!
"Well, Misther Gout went marching up the hill at a fine rate, an'
when he come to the rich man's house, who should he see, by the
greatest good luck, but the masther himself, standin' on the steps o'
the hall door, sayin' good-bye to the company. He lay quiet till the
last of the illigant carr'ages had drove off, an' the master stepped
"'I think I'll have a smoke,' says he--here Pat assumed an
aristocratic air and spoke in refined and mincing tones--'before I go
to bed. William,' says he to one of the futmen, 'bring me me slippers.'
Well, the gentleman sat down in a grand soft armchair, an' the futman
brought his slippers--an' if the Gout didn't take the opportunity an'
pop into his big toe!"
Roseen jumped up from her stool with a chuckle of anticipation. Pat
proceeded to give utterance to a series of hollow and extraordinary
groans, and to writhe in a manner intended to convey the extreme agony
of the rich man. Roseen fairly danced about, imitating Pat's moanings
to the best of her ability. "Ou-ou-ou-ough! Ugh!" "'By this an' by
that,' says the gentleman, 'tare an' ages!' says he, 'thunder an'
turf!' he says, 'what in the world is the matter wid me big toe?'
"Well, the misthress comes runnin' down in a great state. 'My dear,'
she says (here Pat affected an extremely Englified falsetto), 'I
am afeard you are very sick,' says she; 'ye'd best have a sup of port
wine,' says she.
"'Ou-ou-ough!' says the masther, 'maybe it would do me good. Fetch
it there, quick,' he says to the sarvants, 'or I'll be the death o'
some of yez!'
"Well, they brought him port wine, an' they brought him whisky, an'
they brought a beautiful velvet cushion an' put it under the
gentleman's fut; an' the Gout winks to himself, an' says he, 'Troth,
I'll not be in a hurry to quit out o' this. Sure it's in clover
altogether I am,' he says.
"Well, there ye have the story now, alanna, an' here's herself
comin' down the hill an' Mike afther her."
But Roseen was too much excited to heed the last announcement. "Was
it this way, the way the rich man was groanin'?" she asked, once more
imitating Pat's extraordinary utterances. The old man nodded, and
Roseen stood still meditatively scratching one little brown leg with
the curved-in toes of the other. "I wisht," she observed presently, in
a pensive tone, "that a Gout 'ud get into me gran'father's big toe; it
'ud sarve him right!"
Pat was rubbing his hands and chuckling to himself over this remark
when his wife entered, hot and weary after her peregrinations over the
"Sixpence is all they're afther givin' me," she observed
plaintively. "Dear knows, it's hard set we are to live these times at
"Is it sixpence, woman alive!" cried Pat; "I wonder they had the
face to offer it to ye. Well, well, I was looking for a shillin' now,
or maybe two. Here, cut the child a bit o' griddle cake; she's been
keepin' me company this long while, haven't ye, Roseen? An' it's
starvin' she is out-an'-out."
"Come here, alanna," said Mrs. Clancy, taking down the flat loaf
from the shelf in the corner; "wait till I put a pinch o' sugar on it.
I'm sorry I haven't butther for ye, but there isn't a bit in the house
at all. There now."
"Thank you, ma'am," said Roseen, extending an eager hand.
"Ye're welcome, darlint. Here, Mike, ye'd like a bit too, wouldn't
"Aye," said Mike, drawing near likewise.
He was a sturdy little fellow of about eleven, with an open sunburnt
face, hair bleached almost lint-white by the sun, and twinkling blue
eyes like his father's. The mother passed her thin knotted hand
lovingly over his tangled head and smilingly bade him "be off out o'
that with Roseen."
The two little figures darted out in the sunlight, and soon were to
be seen bounding like deer up the steep golden-green slope that led to
"What do ye think the little one there is afther sayin' to me?"
asked Pat, shading his eyes with his hand as he peered after them. "'I
wisht,' says she, 'a Gout 'ud get into me gran'father's fut,' says she;
'it 'ud sarve him right,' she says. I was afther tellin' her the 'Story
of the Spider an' the Gout,' ye know."
"Did she now?" cried Mrs. Clancy, sinking down on the stool which
Roseen had vacated and clapping her hands together. "Well now, that
bates all! But she's the 'cutest little thing--I never seen her
"'I wisht,' quoted Dan meditatively, 'a Gout 'ud get into me
gran'father's big toe an' stay there,' says she. Ha, ha; bedad I wisht
it would too, the ould naygur."
Meanwhile the children pattered up the hill and spoke no word until
they reached the summit. Sitting down under the great portcullis, they
munched their bread and sugar amicably together, Mike's eyes pensively
gazing in front of him the while, and Roseen's roving hither and
thither with quick, eager glances. Suddenly she tilted her head
backward, gazing at a narrow horizontal slit in the masonry high over
their heads. "That's where they used to throw the bilin' lead down in
ould ancient times when anybody wanted to come fightin' them."
Mike gazed upwards likewise, still slowly munching, but said
"When you an' me grows up an' gets married to each other, the way we
always said we would," pursued Roseen, "this 'ud be a gran' place to
Mike's face brightened, and he nodded enthusiastically. "It would
so," he agreed.
"There's lots o' beau'ful rooms that we could live in," resumed
Roseen, "an' we'd make a fire in that great big enormous stone hearth
beyant, an' we'd ate off o' that big stone table, an' when anybody 'ud
offer to come annoyin' us, we'd just melt a bit o' lead an' throw it
down on them."
Mike looked astonished and perturbed. "Sure it 'ud burn the flesh
off o' their bones. I wouldn't like to be doin' that, Roseen."
"If they was rale bad people," said Roseen persuasively; "rale
wicked, crule people, the same as me gran'father beyant, it 'ud sarve
them right,--or we might throw down a sup of bilin' wather," she added
as a concession.
Mike appeared unconvinced.
"I don't think ye have a right to be talkin' that way of your
gran'father," he said reprovingly; "an' he isn't that bad. He never
offered to lay a finger on me as long as I am in it, barring the time I
let the sheep into the hay-field."
"He's a crule ould villain!" returned Roseen conclusively. "Look at
all he done on me mother. Come on now," with a sudden change of tone,
"whistle a tune an' we'll have a dance."
Mike looked lovingly at the last fragments of his griddle cake, the
enjoyment of which he had been anxious to prolong as much as possible,
and then after a little sigh, crammed them into his mouth and led the
way to the giant's wrestling ground.
"Wait a bit," he cried, as Roseen took hold of the folds of her
ragged skirt daintily in the finger and thumb of each hand, and looked
expectantly towards him, "I'm just goin' to thramp a bit in the joynt's
"What are ye doin' that for at all?" asked Roseen, knitting her
"Sure me father bid me never go past this way widout stampin' them
down a bit to keep them from gettin' smaller," answered Mike, hammering
diligently with his bare heel at the corners of the "futprints" of the
The operation at last concluded, he rejoined the little girl on a
small grassy plateau surrounded by low growing Irish gorse. The
heather, mingling with these furze bushes, was just beginning to bloom,
and here and there a tall foxglove towered above the undulating
irregular mass of purple and gold. Taking her place in the centre of
her ball-room, Roseen again looped up her skirt and pointed her shapely
little foot. Mike began to whistle a jig tune, his sturdy brown legs
twinkling the while in time to the measure. Now and then his piping
grew faint, and was interrupted by gasps for breath, whereupon Roseen,
still vigorously footing it, would take up the tune after a fashion of
her own, her voice imitating as nearly as might be the sound of a
fiddle. Overhead a lark was soaring, and his trill, wafted down to
them, mingled with their quaint human music; far away over that brown
and purple stretch of bog the plovers were circling, their faint
melancholy call sounding every now and then. The sun would soon set,
the air was already turning a little chilly, and the dew was falling.
The shadow of the ruined tower fell obliquely across the golden-green
carpet of their ball-room; but the children danced on, Roseen's curls
shaken into a light feathery nimbus round her brow, a beautiful colour
in her cheeks, and her little white teeth parted in a smile of delight;
while Mike pranced and capered, as though old Peter's stick had never
fallen about his shoulders, and there were no holes in the roof at