St. Nicholas Magazine for Boys and Girls, Vol. V, August, 1878, No 10. online

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Vol. V. AUGUST, 1878. No. 10.

[Copyright, 1878, by Scribner & Co.]


(_A Story of the Paris Exhibition of 1867._)


Where many a cloud-wreathed mountain blanches
Eternally in the blue abyss,
And tosses its torrents and avalanches
Thundering from cliff and precipice,
There is the lovely land of the Swiss, -
Land of lakes and of icy seas,
Of chamois and chalets,
And beautiful valleys,
Musical boxes, watches, and cheese.

Picturesque, with its landscapes green and cool,
Sleek cattle standing in shadow or pool,
And dairy-maids bearing pail and stool, -
That is the quaint little town of Nulle.

There, one day, in the old town-hall,
Gathered the worthy burghers all,
Great and small,
Short and tall,
At the burgomaster's call.

The stout and fat, the lean and lame,
From house and shop, and dairy and pasture,
In queer old costumes, up they came,
Obedient to the burgomaster.

He made a speech - "Fellow-citizens: There is
To be, as you know,
A wonderful show,
A Universal Fair, at Paris;
Where every country its product carries,
Whatever most beautiful, useful, or rare is,
To please and surprise,
And perhaps win a prize.
Now here is the question
Which craves your counsel and suggestion -
With you it lies:
So, after wise
And careful consideration of it,
Say, what shall _we_ send for our honor and profit?"

Some said this thing, some said that;
Then up rose a burgher, ruddy and fat,
Rounder and redder than all the rest,
With a nose like a rose, and an asthmatic chest;
And says he, with a wheeze,
Like the buzzing of bees:
"I propose, if you please,
That we send 'em a _cheese_."

Then a lithe little man
Took the floor, and began,
In a high, squeaky voice: "I approve of the plan;
But I wish to amend
What's proposed by my friend:
A BIG CHEESE, I think, is the thing we should send."

Then up jumped a third,
To put in a word,
And amend the amendment they had just heard;
"A ROYAL BIG CHEESE" was the phrase he preferred.

The question was moved,
Discussed and approved,
And the vote was unanimous, that it behooved
Their ancient, venerable corporation,
To send such a cheese as should honor the nation.
So ended the solemn convocation;
And, after due deliberation,
The burgomaster made proclamation,
Inviting people of every station,
Each according to his vocation,
With patriotic emulation
To join in a general jubilation,
And get up a cheese for the grand occasion.
Then shortly began the preparation.


One morning was heard a mighty clamoring,
With sounds of sawing and planing and hammering.
The painters, forsaking their easels and pallets,
Came to look on, or assist in the labor;
The joiners were there with their chisels and mallets;
Trades of all grades, every man with his neighbor;
The carpenters, coopers,
And stout iron-hoopers,
Erecting a press for the thing to be done in,
A tub big enough to put ton after ton in,
And gutters for rivers of liquid to run in.
March was the month the work was begun in, -
If that could be work they saw nothing but fun in;
'Twas finished in April, and long before May
Everything was prepared for the curd and the

Then the bells were set ringing -
The milking began;
All over the land went the dairy-maids singing;
Boy and man,
Cart, pail, and can,
And peasant girls, each in her pretty dress,
From highway and by-way all round, came bringing,
Morning and evening, the milk to the press.
Then it took seven wise-heads together to guess
Just how much rennet, no more and no less,
Should be added, to curdle and thicken the mess.

So, having been properly warmed and stirred,
The cheese was set; and now, at a word,
Ten strong men fell to cutting the curd.
Some whey was reheated;
The cutting repeated;
Each part of the process most carefully treated,
For fear they might find, when the whole was completed,
Their plan had by some mischance been defeated.

Now the weavers come bringing the web they were spinning,
A cloth for the curd, of the stoutest of linen.
The ten men attack it,
And tumble and pack it
Within the vast vat in its dripping gray jacket;
And the press is set going with clatter and racket.
The great screw descends, as the long levers play,
And the curd, like some crushed living creature, gives way;
It sighs in its troubles -
The pressure redoubles!
It mutters and sputters,
And hisses and bubbles,
While down the deep gutters,
From every pore spirted, rush torrents of whey.

The cheese was pressed, and turned, and cured;
And so was made, as I am assured,
The rich-odored, great-girdled Emperor
Of all the cheeses that ever were.

Then, everything ready, what should they have else,
In starting His Majesty on his travels,
But a great procession up and down
Through the streets of the quaint old town?

So they made
A grand parade,
With marching train-band, guild, and trade:
The burgomaster in robes arrayed,
Gold chain, and mace, and gay cockade,
Great keys carried, and flags displayed,
Pompous marshal and spruce young aide,
Carriage and foot and cavalcade;
While big drums thundered and trumpets brayed,
And all the bands of the canton played;
The fountain spouted lemonade,
Children drank of the bright cascade;
Spectators of every rank and grade,
The young and merry, the grave and staid,
Alike with cheers the show surveyed,
From street and window and balustrade, -
Ladies in jewels and brocade,
Gray old grandam, and peasant maid
With cap, short skirt, and dangling braid;
And youngsters shouted, and horses neighed,
And all the curs in concert bayed:
'T was thus with pomp and masquerade,
On a broad triumphal chariot laid,
Beneath a canopy's moving shade,
By eight cream-colored steeds conveyed,
To the ringing of bells and cannonade,
King Cheese his royal progress made.

So to the Paris Exposition,
His Majesty went on his famous mission.

[Illustration: "SO THEY MADE A GRAND PARADE."]

At the great French Fair!
Everything under the sun is there,
Whatever is made by the hand of man:
Silks from China and Hindostan,
Grotesque bronzes from Japan;
Products of Iceland, Ireland, Scotland,
Lapland, Finland, I know not what land -
North land, south land, cold land, hot land, -
From Liberia,
From Siberia, -
Every fabric and invention,
From every country you can mention:
From Algeria and Sardinia;
From Ohio and Virginia;
Egypt, Siam, Palestine;
Lands of the palm-tree, lands of the pine;
Lands of tobacco, cotton, and rice,
Of iron, of ivory, and of spice,
Of gold and silver and diamond, -
From the farthest land, and the land beyond.

And everybody is there to see:
From Mexico and Mozambique;
Spaniard, Yankee, Heathen Chinee;
Modern Roman and modern Greek;
Frenchman and Prussian,
Turk and Russian,
Foes that have been, or foes to be:
Through miles on miles
Of spacious aisles,
'Mid the wealth of the world in gorgeous piles,
Loiter and flutter the endless files!

Encircled all day by a wondering throng,
That gathers early and lingers long,
Behold where glows, in his golden rind,
The marvel the burghers of Nulle designed!
There chatters the cheery _bourgeoisie_;
And children are lifted high to see;
And "Will it go up in the sky to-night?"
Asks little ma'm'selle, in the arms of her mother, -
"Rise over the houses and give us light?
Is this where it sets when it goes out of sight?"
For she takes King Cheese for his elder brother!

But now it is night, and the crowds have departed;
The vast dim halls are still and deserted;
Only the ghost-like watchmen go,
Through shimmer and shadow, to and fro;
While the moon in the sky,
With his half-shut eye,
Peers smilingly in at his rival below.

At this mysterious hour, what is it
That comes to pay the Fair a visit?
The gates are all barred,
With a faithful guard
Without and within; and yet 'tis clear
Somebody - or something - is entering here!


There is a Paris underground,
Where dwells another nation;
Where neither lawyer nor priest is found,
Nor money nor taxation;
And scarce a glimmer, and scarce a sound
Reaches those solitudes profound,
But silence and darkness close it round, -
A horrible habitation!
Its streets are the sewers, where rats abound;
Where swarms, unstifled, unstarved, undrowned,
Their ravenous population.

Underground Paris has heard of the Fair;
And up from the river, from alley and square,
To the wonderful palace the rats repair;
And one old forager, grizzled and spare, -
The wisest to plan and the boldest to dare,
To smell out a prize or to find out a snare, -
In some dark corner, beneath some stair
(I never learned how, and I never knew where),
Has gnawed his way into the grand affair;
First one rat, and then a pair,
And now a dozen or more are there.
They caper and scamper, and blink and stare,
While the drowsy watchman nods in his chair.
But little a hungry rat will care
For the loveliest lacquered or inlaid ware,
Jewels most precious, or stuffs most rare; -
There's a marvelous smell of cheese in the air!
They all make a rush for the delicate fare;
But the shrewd old fellow squeaks out, "Beware!
'T is a prize indeed, but I say, forbear!
For cats may catch us and men may scare,
And a well-set trap is a rat's despair;
But if we are wise, and would have our share
With perfect safety to hide and hair,
Now listen, and we will our plans prepare."

The watchman rouses, the rats are gone;
On a thousand windows gleams the dawn;
And now once more
Through every door,
With hustle and bustle, the great crowds pour;
And nobody hears a soft little sound,
As of sawing or gnawing, somewhere underground.

At length, the judges, going their round,
Awarding the prizes, enter the hall,
Where, amid cheeses big and small,
Reposes the sovereign of them all.
They put their tape round it, and tap it and bore it;
And bowing before it,
As if to adore it,
Like worshipers of the sun, they stand, -
Slice in hand,
Pleased and bland,
While their bosoms glow and their hearts expand.
They smell and they taste;
And, the rind replaced,
The foremost, smacking his lips, says: "Messieurs!
Of all fine cheeses at market or fair, -
Holland or Rochefort, Stilton or Cheshire,
Neufchâtel, Milanese, -
There never was cheese,
I am free to declare,
That at all could compare
With this great Gruyère!"

In short, so exceedingly well it pleases,
They award it a prize over all the cheeses.

[Illustration: "FIRST, ONE RAT."]

That prize is the pride of the whole Swiss nation;
And the town of Nulle, in its exultation,
Without a dissenting voice, decrees
To the poor of Paris a gift of the cheese.
Paris, in grateful recognition
Of this munificence, sends a commission -
Four stately officials, of high position -
To take King Cheese from the Exhibition,
And, in behalf of the poor, to thank,
With speeches and toasts, the Swiss for their gift.
The speeches they made, the toasts they drank;
Eight Normandy horses, strong and swift,
At the entrance wait
For the golden freight;
And all the porters are there to lift,
Prepared for a long and a strong embrace,
In moving His Greatness a little space.
They strain at the signal, each man in his place:
"Heave, ho!" - when, lo! as light as a feather,
Down tumbles, down crumbles, the King of the Cheeses,
With seven men, all in a heap together!
Up scramble the porters, with laughter and sneezes;
While sudden, mighty amazement seizes
The high officials, until they find
A curious bore
In the platform floor,
And another to match in the nether rind, -
Just one big rat-hole, and no more;
By which, as it seemed, had ventured in
One rat, at first, and a hundred had followed,
And feasted, and left - to the vast chagrin
Of the worthy burghers of Nulle - as thin
And shabby a shell as ever was hollowed;
Now nothing but just
A crushed-in crust,
A cart-load of scraps and a pungent dust!

So the newspapers say; but though they call
King Cheese a hoax, he was hardly that.
And the poor he fed, as you see, after all;
For who is so poor as a Paris rat?




Not birch-rods; fishing-rods. They were going fishing, these five young
people, of whom I shall treat "under four heads," as the ministers
say, - 1, names; 2, ages; 3, appearance; 4, their connection.

1. Their names were John and Elsie Singletree, Puss Leek, Luke Lord, and
Jacob Isaac; the last had no surname.

2. John was fifteen and a few months past; Elsie was thirteen and many
months past; Puss Leek was fourteen to a day; Luke Lord crowded John so
closely, there was small room for superior age to claim precedence, or
for the shelter which inferior age makes on certain occasions; Jacob
Isaac was "thutteen, gwyne on fou'teen."

3. John Singletree was a dark-eyed, sharp-eyed, wiry, briery boy. Elsie,
of the same name, was much like him, being a dark-eyed, sharp-eyed,
wiry, briery girl. Her father used to call her Sweet-brier and
Sweet-pickle, because, he said, she was sweet but sharp. Puss Leek had
long, heavy, blonde hair, that hung almost to her knees when it was
free, which it seldom was, for Puss braided it every morning, the first
thing, - not loosely, to give it a fat look, hinting of its luxuriance,
but just as hard as she could, quite to Elsie's annoyance, who used to
say, resentfully, "You're so afraid that somebody'll think that you are
vain of your hair." Puss's ears were over large for perfect beauty, and
her eyes a trifle too deeply set; but I've half a mind to say that she
was a beauty, in spite of these, for, after all, the ears had a generous
look, in harmony with the frank, open face, and the shadowed eye was
the softest, sweetest blue eye I ever saw. She had been called Puss when
a baby, because of her nestling, kitten-like way, and the odd name clung
to her. Luke Lord was homely; but he didn't care a bit. He was so jolly
and good-natured that everybody liked him, and he liked everybody, and
so was happy. He had light hair, very light for fifteen years, and a
peculiar teetering gait, which was not unmanly, however. It made people
laugh at him, but he didn't care a bit. Jacob Isaac was a "cullud
pusson," as he would have said, protesting against the word "negro."
"Nigger," he used to say, "is de mos' untolerbulis word neber did year."
It was the word he applied to whatever moved his anger or contempt. It
was his descriptive epithet for the old hen that flew at him for
abducting her traipsing chicken; for the spotted pig that led him that
hour's chase; for the goat that butted, and the cow that hooked; and for
gray Selim when he stood on his hind legs and let Jacob Isaac over the
sleek haunches.

But to return to No. 4. John and Elsie Singletree were brother and
sister. Puss Leek was Elsie's boarding-school friend, and her guest.
Luke Lord was a neighboring boy invited to join the fishing-party, to
honor Puss Leek's birthday, and to help John protect the girls. Jacob
Isaac was hired to "g'long" as general waiter, to do things that none of
the others wanted to do - to do the drudgery while they did the

They were all on horseback, - John riding beside Puss Leek, protecting
her; Luke riding beside Elsie, and protecting her; Jacob Isaac riding
beside his shadow, and protecting the lunch-basket, carried on the
pommel of his saddle.

"I keep thinking about the 'snack,'" said Puss Leek's protector, before
they had made a mile of their journey.

"What do you think about it?" asked the protected.

"I keep thinking how good it'll taste. Aunt Calline makes mighty good
pound-cake. I do love pound-cake!"

"_Like_ it, you mean, John," said his sister Elsie, looking back over
her shoulder.

"I _don't_ mean like," said John. "If there is anything I love better
than father and mother, brother and sister, it's pound-cake."

"But there isn't anything," said Puss.

"My kingdom for a slice!" said John, with a tragic air. "I don't believe
I can stand it to wait till lunch-time."

"Why, it hasn't been a half-hour since you ate breakfast. Are you
hungry?" Elsie said.

"No, I'm not hungry; I'm _ha'nted_." John pronounced the word with a
flatness unwritable. "The pound-cake ha'nts me; the fried chicken
ha'nts me; the citron ha'nts me. I see 'em!" John glared at the vacant
air as though he saw an apparition. "I taste 'em! I smell 'em! I feel
moved to call on him" (here Jacob Isaac was indicated by a backward
glance and movement) "to yield the _wittles_ or his life. Look here!" he
added, suddenly reining-up his horse and speaking in dead earnest,
"let's eat the snack now. Halt!" he cried to the advance couple, "we're
going to eat."

"Going to eat?" cried Elsie. "You're not in earnest?"

"Yes, I am. I can't rest. The cake and things ha'nt me."

"Well, do for pity's sake eat something, and get done with it," Elsie

"But you must wait for me," John persisted. "I'll have to spread the
things out on the grass. I keep thinking how good they'll taste eaten
off the grass. There's where the ha'ntin' comes in."

"Did you ever hear anything so ridiculous?" said Elsie to the others.
"But I suppose we had better humor him; he wont give us any rest till we
do; he's so persistent. When he gets headed one way, he's like a pig."
Elsie began to pull at the bridle to bring her horse alongside a stump.
"Puss and I can get some flowers during the repast."

"I call this a most peculiar proceeding," said her protector, leaping
from his horse, and hastening to help her to "'light."

Jacob Isaac gladly relinquished the lunch-basket, which had begun to
make his arm ache, and soon John had the "ha'nting things" spread. Then
he sat down Turk-like to eating; the others stood around, amused
spectators, while chicken, beaten biscuits, strawberry tart, pound-cake
disappeared as though they enjoyed being eaten.

"I believe I'm getting 'ha'nted,' too," said Luke Lord, whose mouth
began to water, - the things seemed to taste so good to John.

"Good for you!" John said, cordially. "Come along! Help yourself to a

"Why, Luke, you aint going to eating!" Elsie said.

"Yes, I am; John's made me hungry."

"Me, too," said Jacob Isaac.

"Of course, you're hungry," said John. "Come along! Hold your two

"Let's go look for sweet-Williams and blue-flags," Puss proposed to

"No; if we go away, the boys will eat everything up. Just look at them!
Did ever you see such eatists? You boys, stop eating all the lunch."

"Aint you girls getting 'ha'nted?'" Luke asked. "If you don't come soon,
there wont be left for you."

"I believe that's so," said Puss confidentially to Elsie. "I reckon
we'll have to take our share now, or not at all. We've got to eat in

And so it came about that those five ridiculous children sat there, less
than a mile on their journey, and less than an hour from their
breakfast, and ate, ate, ate, till there was nothing of their lunch left
except a half biscuit and a chicken neck. John, fertile in invention,
proposed that they should go back home and get something more for
dinner; but Puss said everybody would laugh at them, and Elsie thought
they wouldn't be able to eat anything more that day, and, if they should
be hungry, they could have a fish-fry.

"Aint no use totin' this yere basekit 'long no mawr," Jacob Isaac
suggested. "I'll leave it hang in this yere sass'fras saplin'." When it
was intimated that it would be needed for the remainder of the lunch, he
said there wasn't any "'mainder." "What's lef' needn't pester you-all;
I'll jis eat it."

Arrived at the water, the boys baited the hooks, at which the girls gave
little shrieks, and hid their eyes, demanding to know of the boys how
they would like to be treated as they were treating the worms.

"The poor creatures!" said Puss.

"So helpless!" added Elsie, peeping through her fingers at the boys.
"Aren't the hooks ready yet?"

"Yours is," and Luke delivered a rod into her hands.

"And here's yours, Puss," John said. "Drop it in."

Soon there were five rods extended over the water, and five corks were
floating which might have told of robbed molasses-jugs and vinegar-jugs,
and five young people were laughing, and talking nonsense by the - - How
is nonsense estimated? Everybody kept asking everybody else if he had
had a bite, and everybody was guilty of giving false alarms. As for
Elsie, she shrieked out, "A bite!" at every provocation, - whenever the
current bore unusually against her line, when the floating hook dragged
bottom or encountered a twig.

"Jupiter!" said John, growing impatient at the idle drifting of his
cork. "I can't stand this, Elsie. You girls stop talking. You chatter
like magpies; you scare the fish. Girls oughtn't ever to go fishing."

Jacob Isaac snickered, and remarked _sotto voce_: "He talks hisse'f maw
'n the res' of the ladies."

Elsie did not heed John's attack. Her eye was riveted on her bobbing
cork; her cheeks were glowing with excitement; her heart was beating
wildly. There was a pulling at her line.

"Keep quiet!" she called. "I've got a bite."

"You would have, if I could get at your arm," said John, who didn't
believe she had a bite.

"I have, truly," she said, excitedly. "Look!"

All came tramping, crowding about her.

"I feel him pull," she said, eagerly.

"Well, get him out," said Luke.

"Shall I pull him or jerk him?" Elsie was nearly breathless.

"If I knew about his size, I could tell you," said Luke. "If he's big,
give him a dignified pull; if he's a little chap, jerk him; no business
to be little."

"Oh! I'm afraid it will hurt him," said Puss.

"Out with him!" said Luke.

"I'm afraid the line will break," said Elsie, all in a quiver.

"No, it wont," said John.

"The rod might snap," said Elsie.

"Here, let me take the rod," John proposed.

"No, no; I'm going to catch the fish myself," Elsie said, in vehement

"Then jerk, sharp and strong," her brother said.

Elsie made ready; steadied her eager brain; planted her feet firmly;
braced her muscles by her will; and then, with a shriek, threw up her
rod, "as high as the sky," Puss said. There was a fleeting vision of a
dripping white-bellied fish going skyward; and then a faint thud was

"She's thrown it a half-mile, or less, in the bushes," said Luke.

"And there's her hook in the top of that tree," said John. "What gumps
girls are when you take them out-of-doors!"

All went into the bushes to look for the astonished fish. They looked,
and looked, and looked; listened for its beating and flopping against
the ground.

After a while, Luke said he thought it must be one of the climbing fish
described by Agassiz, and that it had gone up a tree.

"I mos' found it twice't; but it was a frog an' a lizar', 'stead uv the
fish," said Jacob Isaac.

To this day, it remains a mystery where Elsie's fish went to.

Jacob Isaac climbed the tree to rescue Elsie's hook and line, while the
other boys went down the stream to find a cat-fish hole that they had
heard of.

"Don't pull at the line that way," Puss said to the thrasher in the
tree-top; "you'll break it. There, the hook is caught on that twig. You

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