Munster cheese, Bed and Breakfast (1858)

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Fri Jan 31 03:24:52 UTC 2003

   OED and Merriam-Webster have 1902 for "Munster" cheese.  What does the OED revision have?  This is long--"<<Munster>>" is roughly in the middle.
   OED and Merriam-Webster also both have 1910 for "bed and breakfast," but you might not like this citation of it in the second-to-last paragraph.
   Notice the "Jewish-German" here instead of "Yiddish."
   From both the American Periodical Series and, here, Accessible Archives:

ITEM #79464
September 16, 1858
Washington, D.C., Vol. XII No. 611 P. 145


What a very happy period of my life that was when I was supposed to be studying Roman law at the feet of the great Professor Mittermaier at Heidelberg. Little did my fond parents wreck the way in which I spent my nights, or the mad scenes of which I was sharer, among the feather-brained Burschen. I had had only recently quitted Cambridge, after four years of college experience and forgetfulness of what I had learned at school, and the contrast a German university presented was most striking. Still I took to the new mode of life very kindly, and by the time I was able to express my wants and wishes in fearfully broken German, I was perfectly happy; for life is so pleasant at twenty!
Perhaps, though, I enjoyed my vacations even more than I did my terms, for I was my own master, and could wander whither I pleased. I had a passport in my pocket, and a respectable amount of florins, and with knapsack on back, I trudged through the whole of the Black Forest, learning German (of a sort, it is true) rapidly on the road, and meeting with various queer adventures. One of the queerest, however, that befel me was in the Vosges, and I may as well narrate it here, as another instance of those strange things which travellers sometimes see. I had ever a predilection for Alsace, for in that happy land the quart bottle holds not merely a quart, which is a rarity, but just three pints, which is a marvel. Nor is the quality of the wine depreciated by the quantity; on the contrary, Chablis is not a patch upon the white wines that grow on the sunny slopes of the Vosges. “If you doubt what I say, take a bumper and try;” which you can easily do, reader, on your next visit to Strasbourg, by calling in at the Rebstock, and asking for a litre of white wine with the ochre seal. However, as I knew that I was going into the country where the delectable wine grew, I did not dally at Strasbourg, but strode manfully away toward the Vosges, full of glorious anticipations, and carefully studying the patois by conversing with every peasant I fell in with. There is a very simple plan, however, to make yourself comprehended in Alsace: always use a French word and a German word alternately; it is wonderful what success you meet with. An infallible rule to make yourself liked is, by lugging in the name of Napoleon le Grand on every possible occasion, and, if you are sufficiently cosmopolitan, you may tacitly assent to the fact that he won the battle of Waterloo.
There is only one defect connected with Alsace: when it rains there, there is no mistake about it. I was fated to discover this interesting meteorological fact at the expense of a thorough wetting. I had dined at a little village inn on the inevitable cold veal and picled plums, and when I set out on my jaunt to my night's quarters, seventeen miles off, the clouds were beginning to collect ominously in the west. I buttoned my blouse round me, and trudged manfully onward along a road which had not been traversed by a respectable conveyance within the memory of man. It was full of ruts, hard enough at first, but which the persistent rain, which had commenced by this time to fall, converted into so many pitfalls, into which I was continually slipping. To add to my troubles, night set in with that rapidity peculiar to Southern Germany, and there was no sign of the village at which I intended to spend the night. Not a creature did I meet; nobody was foolish enough to venture out in such weather, save pleasure travellers like myself, and on I went, making about half a mile an hour, and growing very savage - whether the result of the wetting, or of indignation, I really cannot say. My brandy flask had long been emptied; there was no chance of filling it, and I was weared - so wearied that I could have lain down to sleep in a dry ditch, had there been one handy; but against that the elements had carefully guarded. There was no hope for it; I must trudge onward.
Suddenly, through the rain, I fancied I could see a light glimmering a short distance from the road. I stopped, and looked steadily; it was no Will-o'-the-wisp, and by a sudden impulse I bounded over the low hedge, and went stumbling over a ploughed field toward the house, as I now felt certain it was. Up to the present, I had regarded the peasant's cabins with considerable aversion, and pour cause: there were the dirtiest places imaginable, and I had no desire to sleep in them so long as an auberge could be found. But now I would have gladly paid a handsome sum for the use of a dog kennel, so long as it sheltered me from the pitiless rain, and held out the prospect of a glass of brandy to warm my inner man, which stood so much in need of that refreshment.
I soon approached the cabin, which stood beneath the shade of some gloomy trees, and the light, which probably came from the fire, burned so dimly, that I hesitated for a moment; all appeared so unutterably wretched about the house, that I had a nervous timidity about approaching it. I am not constitutionally fearful; on the contrary, I am usually too prone to run into foolhardiness; but now, whether it was the soaking or the veal, I felt horribly nervous. A moment, however, sufficed to recover me, and I walked across the yard, and knocked boldly at the door. All remained perfectly quiet in the house, except that I fancied I could hear the growling of a huge dog, like distant thunder; then I knocked again somewhat more loudly, and a dog began barking violently. At the same time, however, I had the satisfaction of hearing footsteps approach the doro.
“Who is without?” a voice was heard saying, in execrable Jewish-German; “is it you, Benjamin?”
“'Tis a stranger,” I shouted, fearing lest any hesitation might render my friend inside suspicious; “I want shelter for the night, and will pay you handsomely for it.”
“Are you alone?” the voice asked again. “Quiet, Nero! down dog! what do you mean by growling when I did not order you to watch him?”
“All alone, but as wet as if I had been dipped in the river.”
“You'd be clever to keep yourself dry this day,” he said, as he pulled back the bolts, and opened the door slowly and cautiously. “Come in - the dog won't hurt you when I'm with you. What weather! Come to the fire, and dry yourself.,”
He walked in front of me to the fire, stirred up the smouldering wood, and threw a few sticks upon it. All this while I could notice he was taking quick, sharp glances at me; then he went up to my knapsack, which I had laid on a chair, appeared to feel its weight for a moment, and brought it up to the fire to dry as well as myself.
“And you're hungry, too, I suppose! out for pleasure, eh? Young blood! young blood!” and he grinned in a manner to me quite diabolical. He then went to the tale, spread a very dirty tablecloth, on which he placed a loaf of black bread, stuck a knife into it, and then produced a large green glass jar, containing the much desired fluid. After filling an iron saucepan with hot water, and putting it on the wood, he quitted the room for a while. During his absence, I surveyed the room in which I was seated, and the very sight of it made me uncomfortable. It was quite destitute of furniture, contrary to the usual fashion of the peasantry, and I shuddered involuntarily. But, nonsense, it could only be the cold and the moisture the fire was drawing out of my clothes, and yet, for all that, I began to wish I had trudged on through the rain. And then, that immense dog that lay close to the fireplace, and kept its small, suspicious eyes fixed upon me. And the walls were shining with grease and soot, and the small cupboards fixed against them, and shelves. But, Heavens! I could hardly suppress a cry of surprise when my eye fell on an old mummy-like woman, who rose from the dark corner where she had probably been sleeping, and walked toward me and the fire. She was a model of ugliness and disgust, this old woman, with her tangled masses of gray hair hanging over her forehead and temples, her sunken cheeks, hollow eyes, and wrinkled neck, as she stood there shivering with cold, and stretched out her this bony hands to the fire. I fell back a step to give the old creature room, but on my first attempt to quit the chimney-place, the dog growled, and, as I turned toward him, his eyes sparkled so vividly that I thought it advisable to stay where I was, and not anger him unnecessarily. The woman now turned her face to me, and after gazing fixedly at me for a moment, whispered a few hurried words in a language of which I did not understand a syllable.
“What a pity,” I thought to myself, “I did not understand a little Hebrew.” I then looked carefully at the old woman, trying to find out from her gestures what she really meant. Again she began her whispering, turning her head timidly toward the door, and pointing at the same time to the table.
“I can't understand you!” I said, in the usual patois, hoping she would understand me at any rate.
“Hush!” the crone said, quickly and fearfully, holding up her finger in warning; at this moment the door opened, and the Jew, on seeing the old woman by my side, went up angrily to her, and spoke harshly in the same unknown tongue. The woman crept timidly away, wrapped herself more closely in her old cloak, and lay down again in her corner. The Jew then said, pleasantly enough, to me -
“Don't bother about the old girl; she is quiet and harmless; but not quite right here,” he said, pointing to his forehead. “When we are alone, I let her do much as she likes; but when strangers visit me, which is seldom enough, she must keep in her corner. But here,” he added, in a louder voice, “is something for you to eat - bread and << Munster cheese>> , I lately brought from Strasbourg, and a famous glass of brandy, which will do you more good, I fancy, than all the rest; the water will be hot by this time. Ah, I see it's boiling, and I'll mix you a glass of punch in the meanwhile. So, now, go to the table, and begin.”
I was really almost starving, and yet I could not swallow anything. That confounded dog had his eyes still fixed so dangerously upon me.
“The dog won't hurt you,” said the Jew, calmly, “he is only not accustomed to strangers.”
“But if I had stirred while you were out of the room, he would have sprung at me,” I said, rather angrily.
“It's an old dog,” the man continued, with a smile, “and hasn't a tooth left in his head; but he often pretends to be savage. The time is long past since he bit any one, and you can go up and pat him, and he won't say a word.”
However, I did not feel the slightest inclination to try the experiment; I therefore proceeded to the table, and cut a hunch of bread and << cheese>> , while the old Jew stooped down to the fire, and, after shaking something out of a paper into the glass, poured the water upon it.
“There!” he said, as he came to the table, “now, put in as much brandy as you like, but the stiffer the better, for it will keep you from catching cold.”
“What have you put in the glass, my friend?” I asked, as I held the glass to the fire.
“Sugar and water; the sugar is good, and takes off the strength of the brandy.”
“I'm not so fond of sugar,” I replied, suspiciously; “and, if you've no objection, I'll mix for myself.”
“Not like sugar! why it's the best part of it,” said the Jew, “only taste it, and you'll soon see how good it is.”
However, I persisted in throwing the mixture away, and, after carefully washing the glass out, I filled it afresh with water, and poured in some brandy.
“More, my friend - more,” the Jew advised me; “that's not half enough, and won't draw the cold out of your limbs. Why, my old woman will drink stronger punch, if I give it to her.”
“Thanks, thanks!” I said, as I turned away the bottle, from which the Jew persisted in pouring more into my glass. “I'm not accustomed to strong drinks, and shall have a headache tomorrow morning.”
“Oh! tomorrow! I'll guarantee you against that,” the old man laughed to himself; “the brandy is capital, and no one has a headache from it.”
I really felt such a shiver come over me at these words, (though, of, course, I ascribed it to my wet clothes,) and the brandy really tasted so good, that I took up the glass and emptied it at a draught. By Jupiter! how it burned!
“And now you had better lie down,” the Jew said, after removing the brandy and other things from the table; “it is late in the night, and, after your sleeping draught, you will sleep sound in spite of your hard bed. The best place for you will be here by the fire. Before we go to bed, I'll put on some fresh wood, and by the time that is burnt out, you'll be warm enough. The nights are beginning to grow fresh.”
I was glad enough to lie down, so I took up my knapsack, which had dried a little by this time, to serve as a pillow, and the old man brought me a blanket and a sheepskin, regretting that he had nothing better to offer me, but all his beds were occupied. “But I'll bring you something to keep your feet warm,” he added; “that is the chief things, and by the morning you will be all right again.” With these words he took a canvas sack, which appeared to me to be ominously stained, from the chimney nook, and then, bringing it to my feet, (for I had lain down by this time,) requested me to put them in it.
“In the sack?” I said, in amazement - “why?”
“Oh! you'll see how warm that will keep your feet.”
“No, I'd rather lay it over them; that will answer the same purpose.”
“Not half so good, I tell you,” the old man continued, and tried to draw the sack over my feet, but I strenuously resisted. There was something so dangerous, in my opinion, in knowing my feet were in a sack, which I could not easily remove in the dark, if I were obliged to spring up in a hurry. If ----? Besides, the old fellow's pressing made me feel uncommon uncomfortable (I may tell you so in strict confidence.) What reason on earth could he have for insisting on my putting my feet in the sack. However, when the Jew found that I was obstinate, he laid the sack over my feet, and went back to the fire instead of retiring to bed as I had expected, and sat cross-legged, staring fixedly into the flame. Well, I shut my eyes and tried to go to sleep, but somehow I could to manage it; the fire burned low, and I could see the old fellow still sitting there, but I felt that his eyes were fixed upon me, and that he was watching my every movement, every breath. Why? I lay thus for an half hour, and the strangest feelings came over me. Then I had a curious taste in my mouth - the brandy, of course, but why was it so metallic? And my head began to go round, and my eyelids grew heavy as lead. At last, I could stand it no longer, and determined to jump up; but I was unable to do so; my limbs refused me their service, a veil seemed to be let down over my eyes, and I felt that a deep, irresistible sleep was overpowering me.
How long I lay in this sort of half-dreaming condition I do not know, although I struggled against this unnatural state with all the strength of my mind, and should finally have yielded to it, had not a slight sound just at the right moment come to my aid in resisting it. The Jew, who was still seated at the fire, moved, gently and noiselessly, it is true; still he got up, and now stood with his face turned toward me. I tried to close my eyes, and dispel the odious vision which my fancy seemed to summon up, but at that moment I felt the light, crawling steps of the old man on the floor, felt that he was drawing nearer and nearer; and when I half opened my eyes, cautiously enough, lest the scowling fellow might see I was awake, I saw him standing a few paces from me, with his body half bent to listen, and watching my every breath. What was he about - what did he want? Should I jump up and meet him, in case he attempted to attack me - but then the dog, which was still lying in the room? And again, was the Jew really going to attack me, or might it not be anxiety whether I slept comfortably? I determined to wait and judge for myself, even at the risk of exposing myself to his attack, for I was young and strong, and if the old man designed evil he should meet with a resistance he little anticipated. So, in order to leave the old man at leisure to carry out his designs, whatever they might be, I began breathing loudly and regularly, while watching him carefully through my half-closed eyelids.
The Jew remained for a while observing me, as if to make sure that my sleep was real; but then, as if every doubt were removed, he crept quietly back to the chimney, threw some brushwood on the glimmering charcoal, which began to glisten and crackle, and went to the opposite end of the room, where the crockery was kept. Anxiously I watched him; but I must confess that my blood appeared to stagnate, and an icy feeling ran down my back, when I saw him take up a long gleaming knife, and while trying its edge with his thumb, seem to measure the distance between himself and his victim.
As I have told you before, I believe I am anything but a coward; I have stood behind a four-foot barricade, and looked up into the gaping muzzles of the cannon as they poured a shower of bullets on your slight defences; but I am bound to say, that the present was the most uncomfortable moment in my life. The calculating villainy of the old scoundrel, and the simplicity with which I had entered the snare, seemed to render escape almost impossible. Still I made up my mind to sell my life as dearly as possible. Fortunately I had in my pocket a Spanish spring-back stiletto, generally employed in the peaceful duties of cutting bread and << cheese>> , (German and French knives being made, like Peter Pindar's razors, to sell, and not to cut,) and I cautiously moved my hand to my breast-pocket, and noiselessly drew it out. When I once held it in my hand, my confidence returned to me. I opened it very quietly, and then laying my left arm across my breast, to parry the first blow, which would probably be aimed there, I held my knife firmly clutched in my hand, and awaited the attack with ground teeth, but no failing determination. My heart, though, would beat so loudly and so violently, that I feared the Jew must hear it; but when I saw him approaching, with the knife cautiously held behind his back, when I felt his foot against my own, when he bent over me, and felt along the wall with his left hand, to find a spot on which to rest it and give his blow more certainty, my fears entirely disappeared. It is a well-known fact, that danger really exists only so long as it threatens us, and it is robbed of more than half its terrors when it breaks over us with undiminished force. This was just my case; I had felt terrified, and could hardly struggle against the feeling, so long as the danger was drawing nearer and nearer to me; but every thought, save that of self-defence, disappeared when I knew that the knife was directed against my heart. so soon as he struck at me, I determined to parry the blow by means of the left arm, an
d the blank lying over it would afford me great protection; but then I would start up, and bury my knife in the villain's ribs, before he could recover from his surprise, or summon the dog. I should soon be able to overcome the weak old man; and as for the brute, once on my legs, I dare say I could keep him from doing me an injury.
Such was my line of thought, and I was quite prepared to carry it into effect. But why did the Jew hesitate so long? He had advanced his left foot a little, his arm was still supported against the wall, yet he did not raise his other arm to strike the blow. Was he afraid? I bit my teeth mere closely together, and almost longed for the decisive moment to come, so excited did I feel - anything, sooner than endure this horrible suspense. Suddenly the Jew drew back; he did not strike at me - his left arm quitted the wall, and he held in it - I hardly knew whether I was awake or dreaming - the same loaf from which I had previously been eating. He walked with it to the fire, cut off a hunch with the fearful long knife, laid the remainder on the chimney board, and, after poking up the wood fire till it threw a brilliant light over the room, he began quietly eating, without troubling himself any further about my presence.
I drew a deep breath - it was as if a large stone had been rolled off my chest - and I lay for a long while in a sort of dreamy condition, hardly able to realize this state of perfect security following closely on the danger which I had fancied so shortly before had menaced me. I really began to feel ashamed of the cruel injustice I had done, though only in thought, to a man who had so hospitably entertained me; and I almost felt inclined to jump up and tell him of my foolish suspicions. But no - that would not do; he would laugh at me. Still I felt I must do something, if only to reconcile my own conscience. I therefore shut up my knife as quietly as possible, returned it to my pocket, and then, pretending to wake from a deep sleep, I threw off the blanket, took the sack, and put my feet quietly into it.
“Aha!” chuckled my host, who, on hearing my movement, turned his head quietly toward me; “one's feet generally get cold on nights, if they have been wet during the day; but the sack will keep them warm enough.
“I think so, too. I fancy it will be better so,” I replied; then fell back on my somewhat hard pillow, drew the blanket up to my chin, and in a few seconds had fallen into a deep and sweet sleep. When I woke the next morning, I found that the sun was high in the heavens, and on the table a comfortable breakfast had been laid. A pretty little girl was tidying the room, and her presence really rendered it quite cheerful.
“So, sir,” she said, good-humoredly, “you are awake at last. Uncle did not like to disturb you. I am sorry, though, you had no better bed than this; but I only came home last night from Strasbourg on a visit, and we had all gone to bed for the night.”
The old Jew now came in, and gave me a hearty welcome. I hardly had the heart to look him in the face. I was then forced to sit down to the breakfast table, at which the old man's son, a fine young fellow of twenty-four, joined us. Hearing from him that he was going back with his light cart to Strasbourg that morning, I willingly accepted his offer of accompanying him. I had had quite enough of adventures for this bout, and, besides, sundry rheumatic twinges told me that I ought not to venture away so far from civilization, lest I might be laid on my back in a rustic village, and my mourning relatives never learn where they should set up a cenotaph to my memory.
When the light cart came up to the door, I inquired what I had to pay; but the old Jew could not be induced to accept a farthing for the accommodation. Bed and breakfast, he said, had both been poor enough; and I shook his hand heartily upon leaving him. And, upon my honor, in the bright sunshine, he wasn't half such a bad-looking old fellow. There was something quite patriarchal about him.
Now, I dare say, you'll all laugh very heartily at my story, and fancy I must have been a great cur to let myself be frightened by an old man; but really, even now, in writing it, I have had an uncomfortable feeling crawl over me at the reminiscence. It's a good many years since it happened, and there's not much prospect of my having any more adventures of that or a similar nature; and, between ourselves - in strict confidence, mind - I prefer making “a pleasant night of it” with Smith, and Jones, and Thompson, after a very different fashion.

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