1. Genie H. Rosenfeld: The Ape of Leinster. A Bed-time Story
A very long time ago there lived in the Castle of Woodstock, near Athy, in Ireland, the Baron of Offaly and his lady.
The Ape of Leinster. A Bed-time Story
They were a happy couple, for the Baron was brave and the lady was beautiful, and they had a little new-born son, who was to be called John, Fitz Thomas, Fitz Gerald, and who, if he lived, would be the sixth Baron of Offaly.
When it came time to christen the baby, the Baron determined to make a great celebration of the affair, and setting the time for the summer, when the roads would be good, and the baby nine months old, invited his friends and relatives from far and near.
He invited so many people that Lady Offaly was at her wits' ends to know how to house them all, for in those days when great people made visits, they carried with them squires and pages, and a score or two of men-at-arms, or soldiers, to protect them from being plundered on the road by the lawless robber bands which infested the country.
When Lady Offaly told the Baron that she had not beds enough to sleep one-half of his guests, he laughed and said he would build sheds around the court-yard for the retainers, and she must arrange the castle to hold the guests, the squires, and the pages.
Lady Offaly was satisfied at the time, but later, when the rough sheds were being put up, she became alarmed.
"My lord," she said to the Baron, "we cannot cook the food for the men-at-arms in the kitchen, and I have arranged to have a great fire built in the court-yard, and sheep and oxen for them roasted whole over it. Should a spark from the fire fall on these sheds we will be destroyed."
"Nonsense," said the Baron; "there is plenty of room for both fire and huts."
In spite of the lady's protests the work went on, and soon the court was fringed with a circle of huts which were to be spread with straw for the men-at-arms to lie on.
These mighty preparations were watched and approved by the one creature who really seemed to enjoy the bustle and confusion, and that was a large Barbary ape, who was the constant companion of the Baron,
Jocko, as the ape was called, had been given to the Baron by a mariner who had brought him from the African coast. The creature was but a baby when the Baron first took him, and between the two there had grown a perfect understanding, and a most tender affection.
The ape lived in his master's room, but had the run of the castle, and knew its every nook and corner. He was a playful, gentle beast, and, while perfectly able to protect himself from the rough jokes of the men-at-arms, never molested anybody.
Lady Offaly was not so fond of Jocko, however, for when the baby had first been born the ape had shown signs of jealousy and temper, and would have done the baby mischief had he not been seized by his master.
Instead of whipping him or punishing him, the Baron began to teach the monkey his mistake, and gradually made him overcome his hatred of the baby.
Jocko soon learned that he must not harm the precious baby, and took his visits to the nursery as a sort of daily penance, until one morning when little John was about six months old, the baby opening his blue eyes wide, laughed gleefully, and reaching out his tiny hand, grasped Jocko's hairy fingers.
There was a moment of intense anxiety for the Baron, and then Jocko, with a happy chatter, stroked the baby's face and then his master's, and from that moment the Baron, the baby, and the monkey were inseparable. Jocko would wait for hours outside the nursery till they would let him in to see the baby, and little John would greet his arrival with screams of delight, for the ape would go through all his antics to please the baby, the most delightful of all to John being the one in which he would lie down on the floor beside him and pretend to be asleep, while all the time he was rocking the cradle with his tail as hard as he could.
When the great day of the christening arrived, Jocko, at Lady Offaly's request, was shut in the Baron's room, though the Baron did not tell her that he had drawn the covering away from the window, so that Jocko could get in and out as he pleased.
The morning dawned bright and fair, and an immense company was assembled. Great lords of high degree were there, the bishop had come to perform the ceremony, which was to take place in the great hall, the christening vessel being a large golden bowl.
When all was ready the doors at the lower end of the hall were opened, and a great shout went up as the Lady of Offaly entered, accompanied by her ladies and maids, and bearing in her arms the baby who was the cause of all this feast.
Down the hall she came, the happy Baron joining her, and smiling at the bright-eyed, healthy baby she carried. Together they laid the infant in the arms of the bishop, who duly christened him John, Fitz Thomas, Fitz Gerald.
While the feast was being prepared, the Baron took his company outside the castle gates to the green, and there showed off the antics of his favorite, to the scandal of the good bishop, who had noticed Jocko's conduct during the ceremony, and looked on him as an evil thing.
What a feast it was! There were sides of beef, huge pasties, roast capons stuffed with larks, flagons of mead and stoups of ale, a boar's head carried in in triumph by the cook and his assistants, a huge plum pudding borne in, flaming, by six serving men, and an enormous cake shaped like a cradle. The fun grew fast and furious, and at last came the crowning glory of the banquet -- the ale feast.
As was the custom of the times, the lady of the castle, followed by a train of maidens, bore the ale-bowl around the hall, giving each guest a draught from it. As the lady appeared, the retainers in the court-yard sprang to their feet, and grasping brands from the fire, waited for the procession to reach them.
Slowly she came down the hall, finally serving the men on the benches, and then out into the court-yard, where the bright stars were paled by the gleaming torches.
Jocko, anxious to miss nothing, sprang out after her, and from the archway over the door made faces at the soldiers below.
For a moment Lady Offaly's heart failed her when she saw so much fire around her, then with a smile she went from table to table. Close to the doorway she encountered a young soldier, who was holding a large torch. Embarrassed how to drink from the bowl and hold his torch at the same time, the man threw the firebrand behind him. Lady Offaly watched it with anxious eyes, but it seemed to go out while yet in mid-air, and she thought no more about it.
In the confusion and shouting which followed the lady's progress, it was some minutes before the men heard the screams of the ape and noticed a denser volume of smoke rising from the court-yard than that which came from the torches. The crackling of timber, and a tongue of flame which shot up from the line of huts, showed them what had happened, and in a moment there rang through the night the dreadful cry of
As the cry arose, Jocko was seen scrambling up the walls in the direction of the windows of the Baron's room.
It was soon discovered that the castle was on fire. In those days there were no means of putting fires out, and the only thing to do was to escape from the burning building.
What a hurrying and scurrying there was! The gates were flung wide open, and noble and peasant, master and servant, rushed wildly out to the shelter of the green beyond.
With a cry of " Save the women!" the men seized Lady Offaly and her maidens, and hastily bore them outside the flaming walls. About fifteen minutes later, the Baron, who had been searching for his wife, found her, and pressed her to his heart. What was his horror to hear her cry to him:
" My baby! Where is my baby?"
" The baby! I thought you had him!" shouted the Baron.
"No," wailed the lady; "they carried me out of the court and would not let me return. My baby! My baby!"
A cry of horror went round the throng. It was realized that in the confusion the baby had been forgotten.
The Baron and a dozen volunteers rushed forward to save the child, but the flames were so fierce that it was impossible for them to enter at the gateway.
"Where is the babe lying?" cried one of the men. "Let us scale the walls."
The Baron pointed to the spot, but as he raised his hand flames shot out of the windows, and with a crash the roof fell in. The Baron sank on his knees, the lady swooned into the arms of her attendants, and a groan of despair went through the throng.
The bishop raised his voice in prayer, and all present fell to weeping and supplication. The scene, which but a half-hour before hnd been one of mirth and joy, was now changed to bitterest woe.
Suddenly, strange inarticulate cries were heard from one of the turrets which had so far escaped the flames. Looking up, the people saw the ape, who up to this moment had been forgotten, standing on a battlement, and, wonderful sight, in his arms he held the precious baby.
A great shout went up, which was instantly stilled, for the ape, seeming excited by it, raised the infant as though to throw it down.
The Lady Offaly raised her head and uttered a great cry.
"Bowmen! Shoot the brute!" she shrieked. "He will kill my baby!" Fifty bows were raised, but the Baron sprang forward.
"Hold!" he cried. "Let no man dare to shoot! Jocko! Jocko!" he cried, and repeating what had been his daily lesson to the creature, added: "Love the baby! Love the baby!"
The frightened ape dandled the infant just as he had seen its mother do, and chattering in ape language, stilled John's lusty cries.
"Now come to me and bring the baby," commanded the Baron, and Jocko obeyed.
The people stood spellbound as the creature clambered down the wall, holding now with one foot, now winding his tail round a projection, now holding the infant with his feet while he used his hands, but all the time caring tenderly for his charge. No one moved as the ape descended; the prayers of the good bishop were the only sound that was heard.
At last Jocko reached the green, and running to his master, set the baby down at his feet, then climbing up into his arms, laid his little head on his master's breast, and with sobs and chatters held out his poor little burnt paws, asking for sympathy.
You may be sure he got it. The Bnron hugged him tightly, and even kissed his ugly little face. The people were divided between their happiness over the baby and their love for the ape's bravery, and Jocko got all the petting he wanted. His little paws were dressed by the Baron's own apothecary, and he lived long and happily, the close friend and playfellow of the whole family.
Now this, story is quite true. Little John grew, and served his king so well that he was made Earl of Kildare, and one of his descendants was created Duke of Leinster, and to this day the Leinster family use the ape as their crest, and have for their motto the Latin words meaning, "Never forget a benefit."
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