The Project Gutenberg EBook of A Tramp Abroad, by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: A Tramp Abroad Part 1 Author: Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) Release Date: June 2004 [EBook #5782] Posting Date: June 2, 2009 Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A TRAMP ABROAD *** Produced by Anonymous Volunteers, John Greenman and David Widger
1. PORTRAIT OF THE AUTHOR|
2. TITIAN'S MOSES
3. THE AUTHOR'S MEMORIES
4. THE BLACK KNIGHT
5. OPENING HIS VIZIER
6. THE ENRAGED EMPEROR
7. THE PORTIER
8. ONE OF THOSE BOYS
9. SCHLOSS HOTEL
10. IN MY CAGE
11. HEIDELBERG CASTLE
12. HEIDELBERG CASTLE, RIVER FRONTAGE
13. THE RETREAT
14. JIM BAKER
15. "A BLUE FLUSH ABOUT IT"
16. COULD NOT SEE IT
17. THE BEER KING
18. THE LECTURER'S AUDIENCE
19. INDUSTRIOUS STUDENTS
20. IDLE STUDENT
21. COMPANIONABLE INTERCOURSE
22. AN IMPOSING SPECTACLE
23. AN ADVERTISEMENT
24. "UNDERSTANDS HIS BUSINESS"
25. THE OLD SURGEON
26. THE FIRST WOUND
27. THE CASTLE COURT
29. FAVORITE STREET COSTUME
30. INEFFACEABLE SCARS
31. PIECE OF SWORD
A Tramp over Europe—On the Holsatia—Hamburg—Frankfort-on-the-Main—How it Won its Name—A Lesson in Political Economy—Neatness in Dress—Rhine Legends—"The Knave of Bergen" The Famous Ball—The Strange Knight—Dancing with the Queen—Removal of the Masks—The Disclosure—Wrath of the Emperor—The Ending
At Heidelberg—Great Stir at a Hotel—The Portier—Arrival of the Empress—The Schloss Hotel—Location of Heidelberg—The River Neckar—New Feature in a Hotel—Heidelberg Castle—View from the Hotel—A Tramp in the Woods—Meeting a Raven—Can Ravens Talk?—Laughed at and Vanquished—Language of Animals—Jim Baker—Blue-Jays
Baker's Blue-Jay Yarn—Jay Language—The Cabin—"Hello, I reckon I've struck something"—A Knot Hole—Attempt to fill it—A Ton of Acorns—Friends Called In—A Great Mystery—More Jays called A Blue Flush—A Discovery—A Rich Joke—One that Couldn't See It
Student Life—The Five Corps—The Beet King—A Free Life—Attending Lectures—An Immense Audience—Industrious Students—Politeness of the Students—Intercourse with the Professors Scenes at the Castle Garden—Abundance of Dogs—Symbol of Blighted Love—How the Ladies Advertise
The Students' Dueling Ground—The Dueling Room—The Sword Grinder—Frequency of the Duels—The Duelists—Protection against Injury—The Surgeon—Arrangements for the Duels—The First Duel—The First Wound—A Drawn Battle—The Second Duel—Cutting and Slashing—Interference of the Surgeon
The Third Duel—A Sickening Spectacle—Dinner between Fights—The Last Duel—Fighting in Earnest—Faces and Heads Mutilated—Great Nerve of the Duelists—Fatal Results not Infrequent—The World's View of these Fights
Corps—laws and Usages—Volunteering to Fight—Coolness of the Wounded—Wounds Honorable—Newly bandaged Students around Heidelberg—Scarred Faces Abundant—A Badge of Honor—Prince Bismark as a Duelist—Statistics—Constant Sword Practice—Color of the Corps—Corps Etiquette
One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Europe on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878.
I looked about me for the right sort of person to accompany me in the capacity of agent, and finally hired a Mr. Harris for this service.
It was also my purpose to study art while in Europe. Mr. Harris was in sympathy with me in this. He was as much of an enthusiast in art as I was, and not less anxious to learn to paint. I desired to learn the German language; so did Harris.
Toward the middle of April we sailed in the HOLSATIA, Captain Brandt, and had a very pleasant trip, indeed.
After a brief rest at Hamburg, we made preparations for a long pedestrian trip southward in the soft spring weather, but at the last moment we changed the program, for private reasons, and took the express-train.
We made a short halt at Frankfort-on-the-Main, and found it an interesting city. I would have liked to visit the birthplace of Gutenburg, but it could not be done, as no memorandum of the site of the house has been kept. So we spent an hour in the Goethe mansion instead. The city permits this house to belong to private parties, instead of gracing and dignifying herself with the honor of possessing and protecting it.
Frankfort is one of the sixteen cities which have the distinction of being the place where the following incident occurred. Charlemagne, while chasing the Saxons (as HE said), or being chased by them (as THEY said), arrived at the bank of the river at dawn, in a fog. The enemy were either before him or behind him; but in any case he wanted to get across, very badly. He would have given anything for a guide, but none was to be had. Presently he saw a deer, followed by her young, approach the water. He watched her, judging that she would seek a ford, and he was right. She waded over, and the army followed. So a great Frankish victory or defeat was gained or avoided; and in order to commemorate the episode, Charlemagne commanded a city to be built there, which he named Frankfort—the ford of the Franks. None of the other cities where this event happened were named for it. This is good evidence that Frankfort was the first place it occurred at.
Frankfort has another distinction—it is the birthplace of the German alphabet; or at least of the German word for alphabet —BUCHSTABEN. They say that the first movable types were made on birch sticks—BUCHSTABE—hence the name.
I was taught a lesson in political economy in Frankfort. I had brought from home a box containing a thousand very cheap cigars. By way of experiment, I stepped into a little shop in a queer old back street, took four gaily decorated boxes of wax matches and three cigars, and laid down a silver piece worth 48 cents. The man gave me 43 cents change.
In Frankfort everybody wears clean clothes, and I think we noticed that this strange thing was the case in Hamburg, too, and in the villages along the road. Even in the narrowest and poorest and most ancient quarters of Frankfort neat and clean clothes were the rule. The little children of both sexes were nearly always nice enough to take into a body's lap. And as for the uniforms of the soldiers, they were newness and brightness carried to perfection. One could never detect a smirch or a grain of dust upon them. The street-car conductors and drivers wore pretty uniforms which seemed to be just out of the bandbox, and their manners were as fine as their clothes.
In one of the shops I had the luck to stumble upon a book which has charmed me nearly to death. It is entitled THE LEGENDS OF THE RHINE FROM BASLE TO ROTTERDAM, by F. J. Kiefer; translated by L. W. Garnham, B.A.
All tourists MENTION the Rhine legends—in that sort of way which quietly pretends that the mentioner has been familiar with them all his life, and that the reader cannot possibly be ignorant of them—but no tourist ever TELLS them. So this little book fed me in a very hungry place; and I, in my turn, intend to feed my reader, with one or two little lunches from the same larder. I shall not mar Garnham's translation by meddling with its English; for the most toothsome thing about it is its quaint fashion of building English sentences on the German plan—and punctuating them accordingly to no plan at all.
In the chapter devoted to "Legends of Frankfort," I find the following:
"In Frankfort at the Romer was a great mask-ball, at
the coronation festival, and in the illuminated saloon,
the clanging music invited to dance, and splendidly
appeared the rich toilets and charms of the ladies,
and the festively costumed Princes and Knights.
All seemed pleasure, joy, and roguish gaiety, only one of the
numerous guests had a gloomy exterior; but exactly the black
armor in which he walked about excited general attention,
and his tall figure, as well as the noble propriety of
his movements, attracted especially the regards of the ladies.
Who the Knight was? Nobody could guess, for his Vizier was well closed, and nothing made him recognizable. Proud and yet modest he advanced to the Empress; bowed on one knee before her seat, and begged for the favor of a waltz with the Queen of the festival. And she allowed his request. With light and graceful steps he danced through the long saloon, with the sovereign who thought never to have found a more dexterous and excellent dancer. But also by the grace of his manner, and fine conversation he knew to win the Queen, and she graciously accorded him a second dance for which he begged, a third, and a fourth, as well as others were not refused him. How all regarded the happy dancer, how many envied him the high favor; how increased curiosity, who the masked knight could be.
"Also the Emperor became more and more excited with curiosity,
and with great suspense one awaited the hour, when according
to mask-law, each masked guest must make himself known.
This moment came, but although all other unmasked;
the secret knight still refused to allow his features
to be seen, till at last the Queen driven by curiosity,
and vexed at the obstinate refusal; commanded him to open
He opened it, and none of the high ladies
and knights knew him. But from the crowded spectators,
2 officials advanced, who recognized the black dancer,
and horror and terror spread in the saloon, as they said who
the supposed knight was. It was the executioner of Bergen.
But glowing with rage, the King commanded to seize the
criminal and lead him to death, who had ventured to dance,
with the queen; so disgraced the Empress, and insulted
the crown. The culpable threw himself at the Emperor,
"'Indeed I have heavily sinned against all noble guests assembled here, but most heavily against you my sovereign and my queen. The Queen is insulted by my haughtiness equal to treason, but no punishment even blood, will not be able to wash out the disgrace, which you have suffered by me. Therefore oh King! allow me to propose a remedy, to efface the shame, and to render it as if not done. Draw your sword and knight me, then I will throw down my gauntlet, to everyone who dares to speak disrespectfully of my king.'
"The Emperor was surprised at this bold proposal,
however it appeared the wisest to him; 'You are a knave,'
he replied after a moment's consideration, 'however your
advice is good, and displays prudence, as your offense
shows adventurous courage. Well then,' and gave him the
knight-stroke 'so I raise you to nobility, who begged for
grace for your offense now kneels before me, rise as knight;
knavish you have acted, and Knave of Bergen shall you
be called henceforth,' and gladly the Black knight rose;
three cheers were given in honor of the Emperor,
and loud cries of joy testified the approbation with
which the Queen danced still once with the Knave of Bergen."
We stopped at a hotel by the railway-station. Next morning,
as we sat in my room waiting for breakfast to come up,
we got a good deal interested in something which was
going on over the way, in front of another hotel.
First, the personage who is called the PORTIER (who is
not the PORTER, but is a sort of first-mate of a hotel)
[1. See Appendix A] appeared at the door in a spick-and-span
new blue cloth uniform, decorated with shining brass buttons,
and with bands of gold lace around his cap and wristbands;
and he wore white gloves, too.
He shed an official glance upon the situation, and then began to give orders. Two women-servants came out with pails and brooms and brushes, and gave the sidewalk a thorough scrubbing; meanwhile two others scrubbed the four marble steps which led up to the door; beyond these we could see some men-servants taking up the carpet of the grand staircase. This carpet was carried away and the last grain of dust beaten and banged and swept out of it; then brought back and put down again. The brass stair-rods received an exhaustive polishing and were returned to their places. Now a troop of servants brought pots and tubs of blooming plants and formed them into a beautiful jungle about the door and the base of the staircase. Other servants adorned all the balconies of the various stories with flowers and banners; others ascended to the roof and hoisted a great flag on a staff there. Now came some more chamber-maids and retouched the sidewalk, and afterward wiped the marble steps with damp cloths and finished by dusting them off with feather brushes. Now a broad black carpet was brought out and laid down the marble steps and out across the sidewalk to the curbstone. The PORTIER cast his eye along it, and found it was not absolutely straight; he commanded it to be straightened; the servants made the effort—made several efforts, in fact—but the PORTIER was not satisfied. He finally had it taken up, and then he put it down himself and got it right.
At this stage of the proceedings, a narrow bright
red carpet was unrolled and stretched from the top
of the marble steps to the curbstone, along the center
of the black carpet. This red path cost the PORTIER
more trouble than even the black one had done. But he
patiently fixed and refixed it until it was exactly right
and lay precisely in the middle of the black carpet.
In New York these performances would have gathered a mighty
crowd of curious and intensely interested spectators;
but here it only captured an audience of half a dozen
little boys who stood in a row across the pavement,
some with their school-knapsacks on their backs and their
hands in their pockets, others with arms full of bundles,
and all absorbed in the show. Occasionally one of them
skipped irreverently over the carpet and took up a position
on the other side. This always visibly annoyed the PORTIER.
Now came a waiting interval. The landlord, in plain clothes, and bareheaded, placed himself on the bottom marble step, abreast the PORTIER, who stood on the other end of the same steps; six or eight waiters, gloved, bareheaded, and wearing their whitest linen, their whitest cravats, and their finest swallow-tails, grouped themselves about these chiefs, but leaving the carpetway clear. Nobody moved or spoke any more but only waited.
In a short time the shrill piping of a coming train was heard, and immediately groups of people began to gather in the street. Two or three open carriages arrived, and deposited some maids of honor and some male officials at the hotel. Presently another open carriage brought the Grand Duke of Baden, a stately man in uniform, who wore the handsome brass-mounted, steel-spiked helmet of the army on his head. Last came the Empress of Germany and the Grand Duchess of Baden in a closed carriage; these passed through the low-bowing groups of servants and disappeared in the hotel, exhibiting to us only the backs of their heads, and then the show was over.
It appears to be as difficult to land a monarch as it is to launch a ship.
But as to Heidelberg. The weather was growing pretty
warm,—very warm, in fact. So we left the valley and took
quarters at the Schloss Hotel, on the hill, above the Castle.
Heidelberg lies at the mouth of a narrow gorge—a gorge the shape of a shepherd's crook; if one looks up it he perceives that it is about straight, for a mile and a half, then makes a sharp curve to the right and disappears. This gorge—along whose bottom pours the swift Neckar—is confined between (or cloven through) a couple of long, steep ridges, a thousand feet high and densely wooded clear to their summits, with the exception of one section which has been shaved and put under cultivation. These ridges are chopped off at the mouth of the gorge and form two bold and conspicuous headlands, with Heidelberg nestling between them; from their bases spreads away the vast dim expanse of the Rhine valley, and into this expanse the Neckar goes wandering in shining curves and is presently lost to view.
Now if one turns and looks up the gorge once more, he will see the Schloss Hotel on the right perched on a precipice overlooking the Neckar—a precipice which is so sumptuously cushioned and draped with foliage that no glimpse of the rock appears. The building seems very airily situated. It has the appearance of being on a shelf half-way up the wooded mountainside; and as it is remote and isolated, and very white, it makes a strong mark against the lofty leafy rampart at its back.
This hotel had a feature which was a decided novelty,
and one which might be adopted with advantage by any house
which is perched in a commanding situation. This feature
may be described as a series of glass-enclosed parlors
CLINGING TO THE OUTSIDE OF THE HOUSE, one against each
and every bed-chamber and drawing-room. They are like long,
narrow, high-ceiled bird-cages hung against the building.
My room was a corner room, and had two of these things,
a north one and a west one.
From the north cage one looks up the Neckar gorge;
from the west one he looks down it. This last affords
the most extensive view, and it is one of the loveliest
that can be imagined, too. Out of a billowy upheaval of
vivid green foliage, a rifle-shot removed, rises the huge
ruin of Heidelberg Castle, [2. See Appendix B] with empty window
ivy-mailed battlements, moldering towers—the Lear of
inanimate nature—deserted, discrowned, beaten by the storms,
but royal still, and beautiful. It is a fine sight to see
the evening sunlight suddenly strike the leafy declivity
at the Castle's base and dash up it and drench it as with
a luminous spray, while the adjacent groves are in deep shadow.
Behind the Castle swells a great dome-shaped hill, forest-clad, and beyond that a nobler and loftier one. The Castle looks down upon the compact brown-roofed town; and from the town two picturesque old bridges span the river. Now the view broadens; through the gateway of the sentinel headlands you gaze out over the wide Rhine plain, which stretches away, softly and richly tinted, grows gradually and dreamily indistinct, and finally melts imperceptibly into the remote horizon.
I have never enjoyed a view which had such a serene and satisfying charm about it as this one gives.
The first night we were there, we went to bed and to
sleep early; but I awoke at the end of two or three hours,
and lay a comfortable while listening to the soothing
patter of the rain against the balcony windows.
I took it to be rain, but it turned out to be only the
murmur of the restless Neckar, tumbling over her dikes
and dams far below, in the gorge. I got up and went
into the west balcony and saw a wonderful sight.
Away down on the level under the black mass of the Castle,
the town lay, stretched along the river, its intricate
cobweb of streets jeweled with twinkling lights;
there were rows of lights on the bridges; these flung
lances of light upon the water, in the black shadows
of the arches; and away at the extremity of all this
fairy spectacle blinked and glowed a massed multitude
of gas-jets which seemed to cover acres of ground;
it was as if all the diamonds in the world had been spread
out there. I did not know before, that a half-mile
of sextuple railway-tracks could be made such an adornment.
One thinks Heidelberg by day—with its surroundings—is the last possibility of the beautiful; but when he sees Heidelberg by night, a fallen Milky Way, with that glittering railway constellation pinned to the border, he requires time to consider upon the verdict.
One never tires of poking about in the dense woods that clothe all these lofty Neckar hills to their beguiling and impressive charm in any country; but German legends and fairy tales have given these an added charm. They have peopled all that region with gnomes, and dwarfs, and all sorts of mysterious and uncanny creatures. At the time I am writing of, I had been reading so much of this literature that sometimes I was not sure but I was beginning to believe in the gnomes and fairies as realities.
One afternoon I got lost in the woods about a mile from the hotel, and presently fell into a train of dreamy thought about animals which talk, and kobolds, and enchanted folk, and the rest of the pleasant legendary stuff; and so, by stimulating my fancy, I finally got to imagining I glimpsed small flitting shapes here and there down the columned aisles of the forest. It was a place which was peculiarly meet for the occasion. It was a pine wood, with so thick and soft a carpet of brown needles that one's footfall made no more sound than if he were treading on wool; the tree-trunks were as round and straight and smooth as pillars, and stood close together; they were bare of branches to a point about twenty-five feet above-ground, and from there upward so thick with boughs that not a ray of sunlight could pierce through. The world was bright with sunshine outside, but a deep and mellow twilight reigned in there, and also a deep silence so profound that I seemed to hear my own breathings.
When I had stood ten minutes, thinking and imagining,
and getting my spirit in tune with the place, and in the
right mood to enjoy the supernatural, a raven suddenly
uttered a horse croak over my head. It made me start;
and then I was angry because I started. I looked up,
and the creature was sitting on a limb right over me,
looking down at me. I felt something of the same sense
of humiliation and injury which one feels when he finds
that a human stranger has been clandestinely inspecting
him in his privacy and mentally commenting upon him.
I eyed the raven, and the raven eyed me. Nothing was said
during some seconds. Then the bird stepped a little way
along his limb to get a better point of observation,
lifted his wings, stuck his head far down below his
shoulders toward me and croaked again—a croak with a
distinctly insulting expression about it. If he had
spoken in English he could not have said any more plainly
than he did say in raven, "Well, what do YOU want here?"
I felt as foolish as if I had been caught in some mean act
by a responsible being, and reproved for it. However, I
made no reply; I would not bandy words with a raven.
The adversary waited a while, with his shoulders still lifted,
his head thrust down between them, and his keen bright eye
fixed on me; then he threw out two or three more insults,
which I could not understand, further than that I
knew a portion of them consisted of language not used
I still made no reply. Now the adversary raised his head and called. There was an answering croak from a little distance in the wood—evidently a croak of inquiry. The adversary explained with enthusiasm, and the other raven dropped everything and came. The two sat side by side on the limb and discussed me as freely and offensively as two great naturalists might discuss a new kind of bug. The thing became more and more embarrassing. They called in another friend. This was too much. I saw that they had the advantage of me, and so I concluded to get out of the scrape by walking out of it. They enjoyed my defeat as much as any low white people could have done. They craned their necks and laughed at me (for a raven CAN laugh, just like a man), they squalled insulting remarks after me as long as they could see me. They were nothing but ravens—I knew that—what they thought of me could be a matter of no consequence—and yet when even a raven shouts after you, "What a hat!" "Oh, pull down your vest!" and that sort of thing, it hurts you and humiliates you, and there is no getting around it with fine reasoning and pretty arguments.
Animals talk to each other, of course. There can be no question about that; but I suppose there are very few people who can understand them. I never knew but one man who could. I knew he could, however, because he told me so himself. He was a middle-aged, simple-hearted miner who had lived in a lonely corner of California, among the woods and mountains, a good many years, and had studied the ways of his only neighbors, the beasts and the birds, until he believed he could accurately translate any remark which they made. This was Jim Baker. According to Jim Baker, some animals have only a limited education, and some use only simple words, and scarcely ever a comparison or a flowery figure; whereas, certain other animals have a large vocabulary, a fine command of language and a ready and fluent delivery; consequently these latter talk a great deal; they like it; they are so conscious of their talent, and they enjoy "showing off." Baker said, that after long and careful observation, he had come to the conclusion that the bluejays were the best talkers he had found among birds and beasts. Said he:
"There's more TO a bluejay than any other creature.
He has got more moods, and more different kinds
of feelings than other creatures; and, mind you,
whatever a bluejay feels, he can put into language.
And no mere commonplace language, either, but rattling,
out-and-out book-talk—and bristling with metaphor,
too—just bristling! And as for command of language—why
YOU never see a bluejay get stuck for a word. No man
ever did. They just boil out of him! And another thing:
I've noticed a good deal, and there's no bird, or cow,
or anything that uses as good grammar as a bluejay.
You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat
does—but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat
get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights,
and you'll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw.
Ignorant people think it's the NOISE which fighting
cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain't so;
it's the sickening grammar they use. Now I've never heard
a jay use bad grammar but very seldom; and when they do,
they are as ashamed as a human; they shut right down
"You may call a jay a bird. Well, so he is, in a
measure—but he's got feathers on him, and don't belong to no church,
perhaps; but otherwise he is just as much human as you be.
And I'll tell you for why. A jay's gifts, and instincts,
and feelings, and interests, cover the whole ground.
A jay hasn't got any more principle than a Congressman.
A jay will lie, a jay will steal, a jay will deceive,
a jay will betray; and four times out of five, a jay
will go back on his solemnest promise. The sacredness
of an obligation is such a thing which you can't cram
into no bluejay's head. Now, on top of all this,
there's another thing; a jay can out-swear any gentleman
in the mines. You think a cat can swear. Well, a cat can;
but you give a bluejay a subject that calls for his
reserve-powers, and where is your cat? Don't talk to ME—I
know too much about this thing; in the one little particular
of scolding—just good, clean, out-and-out
scolding—a bluejay can lay over anything, human or divine.
Yes, sir, a jay is everything that a man is. A jay can cry,
a jay can laugh, a jay can feel shame, a jay can reason
and plan and discuss, a jay likes gossip and scandal,
a jay has got a sense of humor, a jay knows when he is
an ass just as well as you do—maybe better. If a jay
ain't human, he better take in his sign, that's all.
Now I'm going to tell you a perfectly true fact about
"When I first begun to understand jay language correctly, there was a little incident happened here. Seven years ago, the last man in this region but me moved away. There stands his house—been empty ever since; a log house, with a plank roof—just one big room, and no more; no ceiling—nothing between the rafters and the floor. Well, one Sunday morning I was sitting out here in front of my cabin, with my cat, taking the sun, and looking at the blue hills, and listening to the leaves rustling so lonely in the trees, and thinking of the home away yonder in the states, that I hadn't heard from in thirteen years, when a bluejay lit on that house, with an acorn in his mouth, and says, 'Hello, I reckon I've struck something.' When he spoke, the acorn dropped out of his mouth and rolled down the roof, of course, but he didn't care; his mind was all on the thing he had struck. It was a knot-hole in the roof. He cocked his head to one side, shut one eye and put the other one to the hole, like a possum looking down a jug; then he glanced up with his bright eyes, gave a wink or two with his wings—which signifies gratification, you understand—and says, 'It looks like a hole, it's located like a hole—blamed if I don't believe it IS a hole!'
"Then he cocked his head down and took another look; he glances up perfectly joyful, this time; winks his wings and his tail both, and says, 'Oh, no, this ain't no fat thing, I reckon! If I ain't in luck! —Why it's a perfectly elegant hole!' So he flew down and got that acorn, and fetched it up and dropped it in, and was just tilting his head back, with the heavenliest smile on his face, when all of a sudden he was paralyzed into a listening attitude and that smile faded gradually out of his countenance like breath off'n a razor, and the queerest look of surprise took its place. Then he says, 'Why, I didn't hear it fall!' He cocked his eye at the hole again, and took a long look; raised up and shook his head; stepped around to the other side of the hole and took another look from that side; shook his head again. He studied a while, then he just went into the Details—walked round and round the hole and spied into it from every point of the compass. No use. Now he took a thinking attitude on the comb of the roof and scratched the back of his head with his right foot a minute, and finally says, 'Well, it's too many for ME, that's certain; must be a mighty long hole; however, I ain't got no time to fool around here, I got to "tend to business"; I reckon it's all right—chance it, anyway.'
"So he flew off and fetched another acorn and dropped
it in, and tried to flirt his eye to the hole quick
enough to see what become of it, but he was too late.
He held his eye there as much as a minute; then he raised
up and sighed, and says, 'Confound it, I don't seem
to understand this thing, no way; however, I'll tackle
her again.' He fetched another acorn, and done his level
best to see what become of it, but he couldn't. He says,
'Well, I never struck no such a hole as this before;
I'm of the opinion it's a totally new kind of a hole.'
Then he begun to get mad. He held in for a spell,
walking up and down the comb of the roof and shaking
his head and muttering to himself; but his feelings got
the upper hand of him, presently, and he broke loose
and cussed himself black in the face. I never see a bird
take on so about a little thing. When he got through he
walks to the hole and looks in again for half a minute;
then he says, 'Well, you're a long hole, and a deep hole,
and a mighty singular hole altogether—but I've started
in to fill you, and I'm damned if I DON'T fill you, if it
takes a hundred years!'
"And with that, away he went. You never see a bird work so since you was born. He laid into his work like a nigger, and the way he hove acorns into that hole for about two hours and a half was one of the most exciting and astonishing spectacles I ever struck. He never stopped to take a look anymore—he just hove 'em in and went for more. Well, at last he could hardly flop his wings, he was so tuckered out. He comes a-dropping down, once more, sweating like an ice-pitcher, dropped his acorn in and says, 'NOW I guess I've got the bulge on you by this time!' So he bent down for a look. If you'll believe me, when his head come up again he was just pale with rage. He says, 'I've shoveled acorns enough in there to keep the family thirty years, and if I can see a sign of one of 'em I wish I may land in a museum with a belly full of sawdust in two minutes!'
"He just had strength enough to crawl up on to the comb and lean his back agin the chimbly, and then he collected his impressions and begun to free his mind. I see in a second that what I had mistook for profanity in the mines was only just the rudiments, as you may say.
"Another jay was going by, and heard him doing his devotions, and stops to inquire what was up. The sufferer told him the whole circumstance, and says, 'Now yonder's the hole, and if you don't believe me, go and look for yourself.' So this fellow went and looked, and comes back and says, 'How many did you say you put in there?' 'Not any less than two tons,' says the sufferer. The other jay went and looked again. He couldn't seem to make it out, so he raised a yell, and three more jays come. They all examined the hole, they all made the sufferer tell it over again, then they all discussed it, and got off as many leather-headed opinions about it as an average crowd of humans could have done.
"They called in more jays; then more and more, till pretty soon this whole region 'peared to have a blue flush about it. There must have been five thousand of them; and such another jawing and disputing and ripping and cussing, you never heard. Every jay in the whole lot put his eye to the hole and delivered a more chuckle-headed opinion about the mystery than the jay that went there before him. They examined the house all over, too. The door was standing half open, and at last one old jay happened to go and light on it and look in. Of course, that knocked the mystery galley-west in a second. There lay the acorns, scattered all over the floor.. He flopped his wings and raised a whoop. 'Come here!' he says, 'Come here, everybody; hang'd if this fool hasn't been trying to fill up a house with acorns!' They all came a-swooping down like a blue cloud, and as each fellow lit on the door and took a glance, the whole absurdity of the contract that that first jay had tackled hit him home and he fell over backward suffocating with laughter, and the next jay took his place and done the same.
"Well, sir, they roosted around here on the housetop
and the trees for an hour, and guffawed over that thing
like human beings. It ain't any use to tell me a bluejay
hasn't got a sense of humor, because I know better.
And memory, too. They brought jays here from all over
the United States to look down that hole, every summer
for three years. Other birds, too. And they could all
see the point except an owl that come from Nova Scotia
to visit the Yo Semite, and he took this thing in on
his way back. He said he couldn't see anything funny
in it. But then he was a good deal disappointed about
Yo Semite, too."
The summer semester was in full tide; consequently the most frequent figure in and about Heidelberg was the student. Most of the students were Germans, of course, but the representatives of foreign lands were very numerous. They hailed from every corner of the globe—for instruction is cheap in Heidelberg, and so is living, too. The Anglo-American Club, composed of British and American students, had twenty-five members, and there was still much material left to draw from.
Nine-tenths of the Heidelberg students wore no badge
or uniform; the other tenth wore caps of various colors,
and belonged to social organizations called "corps." There
were five corps, each with a color of its own; there were
white caps, blue caps, and red, yellow, and green ones.
The famous duel-fighting is confined to the "corps" boys.
The "KNEIP" seems to be a specialty of theirs, too.
Kneips are held, now and then, to celebrate great occasions,
like the election of a beer king, for instance.
The solemnity is simple; the five corps assemble at night,
and at a signal they all fall loading themselves with beer,
out of pint-mugs, as fast as possible, and each man keeps
his own count—usually by laying aside a lucifer match
for each mug he empties.
The election is soon decided. When the candidates can hold no more, a count is instituted and the one who has drank the greatest number of pints is proclaimed king. I was told that the last beer king elected by the corps—or by his own capabilities—emptied his mug seventy-five times. No stomach could hold all that quantity at one time, of course—but there are ways of frequently creating a vacuum, which those who have been much at sea will understand.
One sees so many students abroad at all hours, that he
presently begins to wonder if they ever have any
working-hours. Some of them have, some of them haven't.
Each can choose for himself whether he will work or play;
for German university life is a very free life;
it seems to have no restraints. The student does not live
in the college buildings, but hires his own lodgings,
in any locality he prefers, and he takes his meals when
and where he pleases. He goes to bed when it suits him,
and does not get up at all unless he wants to.
He is not entered at the university for any particular
length of time; so he is likely to change about.
He passes no examinations upon entering college.
He merely pays a trifling fee of five or ten dollars,
receives a card entitling him to the privileges of
the university, and that is the end of it. He is now ready
for business—or play, as he shall prefer. If he elects
to work, he finds a large list of lectures to choose from.
He selects the subjects which he will study, and enters
his name for these studies; but he can skip attendance.
The result of this system is, that lecture-courses upon specialties of an unusual nature are often delivered to very slim audiences, while those upon more practical and every-day matters of education are delivered to very large ones. I heard of one case where, day after day, the lecturer's audience consisted of three students—and always the same three. But one day two of them remained away. The lecturer began as usual—
"Gentlemen," —then, without a smile, he corrected himself, saying—
"Sir," —and went on with his discourse.
It is said that the vast majority of the Heidelberg students
are hard workers, and make the most of their opportunities;
that they have no surplus means to spend in dissipation,
and no time to spare for frolicking. One lecture follows
right on the heels of another, with very little time
for the student to get out of one hall and into the next;
but the industrious ones manage it by going on a trot.
The professors assist them in the saving of their time
by being promptly in their little boxed-up pulpits when the
hours strike, and as promptly out again when the hour finishes.
I entered an empty lecture-room one day just before the
clock struck. The place had simple, unpainted pine desks
and benches for about two hundred persons.
About a minute before the clock struck, a hundred
and fifty students swarmed in, rushed to their seats,
immediately spread open their notebooks and dipped their
pens in ink. When the clock began to strike, a burly
professor entered, was received with a round of applause,
moved swiftly down the center aisle, said "Gentlemen,"
and began to talk as he climbed his pulpit steps; and by
the time he had arrived in his box and faced his audience,
his lecture was well under way and all the pens were going.
He had no notes, he talked with prodigious rapidity and
energy for an hour—then the students began to remind
him in certain well-understood ways that his time was up;
he seized his hat, still talking, proceeded swiftly down
his pulpit steps, got out the last word of his discourse
as he struck the floor; everybody rose respectfully,
and he swept rapidly down the aisle and disappeared.
An instant rush for some other lecture-room followed,
and in a minute I was alone with the empty benches
Yes, without doubt, idle students are not the rule. Out of eight hundred in the town, I knew the faces of only about fifty; but these I saw everywhere, and daily. They walked about the streets and the wooded hills, they drove in cabs, they boated on the river, they sipped beer and coffee, afternoons, in the Schloss gardens. A good many of them wore colored caps of the corps. They were finely and fashionably dressed, their manners were quite superb, and they led an easy, careless, comfortable life. If a dozen of them sat together and a lady or a gentleman passed whom one of them knew and saluted, they all rose to their feet and took off their caps. The members of a corps always received a fellow-member in this way, too; but they paid no attention to members of other corps; they did not seem to see them. This was not a discourtesy; it was only a part of the elaborate and rigid corps etiquette.
There seems to be no chilly distance existing between the
German students and the professor; but, on the contrary,
a companionable intercourse, the opposite of chilliness
and reserve. When the professor enters a beer-hall
in the evening where students are gathered together,
these rise up and take off their caps, and invite the old
gentleman to sit with them and partake. He accepts,
and the pleasant talk and the beer flow for an hour or two,
and by and by the professor, properly charged and comfortable,
gives a cordial good night, while the students stand
bowing and uncovered; and then he moves on his happy
way homeward with all his vast cargo of learning afloat
in his hold. Nobody finds fault or feels outraged;
no harm has been done.
It seemed to be a part of corps etiquette to keep a dog or so, too. I mean a corps dog—the common property of the organization, like the corps steward or head servant; then there are other dogs, owned by individuals.
On a summer afternoon in the Castle gardens, I have
seen six students march solemnly into the grounds,
in single file, each carrying a bright Chinese parasol
and leading a prodigious dog by a string. It was a very
imposing spectacle. Sometimes there would be as many
dogs around the pavilion as students; and of all breeds
and of all degrees of beauty and ugliness. These dogs
had a rather dry time of it; for they were tied to the
benches and had no amusement for an hour or two at a time
except what they could get out of pawing at the gnats,
or trying to sleep and not succeeding. However, they got
a lump of sugar occasionally—they were fond of that.
It seemed right and proper that students should indulge in dogs;
but everybody else had them, too—old men and young ones,
old women and nice young ladies. If there is one spectacle
that is unpleasanter than another, it is that of an
elegantly dressed young lady towing a dog by a string.
It is said to be the sign and symbol of blighted love.
It seems to me that some other way of advertising it might
be devised, which would be just as conspicuous and yet
not so trying to the proprieties.
It would be a mistake to suppose that the easy-going
pleasure-seeking student carries an empty head.
Just the contrary. He has spent nine years in the gymnasium,
under a system which allowed him no freedom, but vigorously
compelled him to work like a slave. Consequently, he has
left the gymnasium with an education which is so extensive
and complete, that the most a university can do for it
is to perfect some of its profounder specialties.
It is said that when a pupil leaves the gymnasium, he not
only has a comprehensive education, but he KNOWS what he
knows—it is not befogged with uncertainty, it is burnt
into him so that it will stay. For instance, he does not
merely read and write Greek, but speaks it; the same with
the Latin. Foreign youth steer clear of the gymnasium;
its rules are too severe. They go to the university
to put a mansard roof on their whole general education;
but the German student already has his mansard roof, so he
goes there to add a steeple in the nature of some specialty,
such as a particular branch of law, or diseases of the eye,
or special study of the ancient Gothic tongues.
So this German attends only the lectures which belong
to the chosen branch, and drinks his beer and tows his dog
around and has a general good time the rest of the day.
He has been in rigid bondage so long that the large liberty
of the university life is just what he needs and likes
and thoroughly appreciates; and as it cannot last forever,
he makes the most of it while it does last, and so lays
up a good rest against the day that must see him put on
the chains once more and enter the slavery of official
or professional life.
One day in the interest of science my agent obtained permission to bring me to the students' dueling-place. We crossed the river and drove up the bank a few hundred yards, then turned to the left, entered a narrow alley, followed it a hundred yards and arrived at a two-story public house; we were acquainted with its outside aspect, for it was visible from the hotel. We went upstairs and passed into a large whitewashed apartment which was perhaps fifty feet long by thirty feet wide and twenty or twenty-five high. It was a well-lighted place. There was no carpet. Across one end and down both sides of the room extended a row of tables, and at these tables some fifty or seventy-five students [1. See Appendix C] were sitting.
Some of them were sipping wine, others were playing cards,
others chess, other groups were chatting together,
and many were smoking cigarettes while they waited for
the coming duels. Nearly all of them wore colored caps;
there were white caps, green caps, blue caps, red caps,
and bright-yellow ones; so, all the five corps were
present in strong force. In the windows at the vacant
end of the room stood six or eight, narrow-bladed swords
with large protecting guards for the hand, and outside
was a man at work sharpening others on a grindstone.
He understood his business; for when a sword left his hand one could shave himself with it.
It was observable that the young gentlemen neither bowed to nor spoke with students whose caps differed in color from their own. This did not mean hostility, but only an armed neutrality. It was considered that a person could strike harder in the duel, and with a more earnest interest, if he had never been in a condition of comradeship with his antagonist; therefore, comradeship between the corps was not permitted. At intervals the presidents of the five corps have a cold official intercourse with each other, but nothing further. For example, when the regular dueling-day of one of the corps approaches, its president calls for volunteers from among the membership to offer battle; three or more respond—but there must not be less than three; the president lays their names before the other presidents, with the request that they furnish antagonists for these challengers from among their corps. This is promptly done. It chanced that the present occasion was the battle-day of the Red Cap Corps. They were the challengers, and certain caps of other colors had volunteered to meet them. The students fight duels in the room which I have described, TWO DAYS IN EVERY WEEK DURING SEVEN AND A HALF OR EIGHT MONTHS IN EVERY YEAR. This custom had continued in Germany two hundred and fifty years.
To return to my narrative. A student in a white cap met us and introduced us to six or eight friends of his who also wore white caps, and while we stood conversing, two strange-looking figures were led in from another room. They were students panoplied for the duel. They were bareheaded; their eyes were protected by iron goggles which projected an inch or more, the leather straps of which bound their ears flat against their heads were wound around and around with thick wrappings which a sword could not cut through; from chin to ankle they were padded thoroughly against injury; their arms were bandaged and rebandaged, layer upon layer, until they looked like solid black logs. These weird apparitions had been handsome youths, clad in fashionable attire, fifteen minutes before, but now they did not resemble any beings one ever sees unless in nightmares. They strode along, with their arms projecting straight out from their bodies; they did not hold them out themselves, but fellow-students walked beside them and gave the needed support.
There was a rush for the vacant end of the room, now,
and we followed and got good places. The combatants were
placed face to face, each with several members of his own
corps about him to assist; two seconds, well padded,
and with swords in their hands, took their stations;
a student belonging to neither of the opposing corps
placed himself in a good position to umpire the combat;
another student stood by with a watch and a memorandum-book
to keep record of the time and the number and nature of
the wounds; a gray-haired surgeon was present with his lint,
his bandages, and his instruments.
After a moment's pause the duelists saluted the umpire respectfully, then one after another the several officials stepped forward, gracefully removed their caps and saluted him also, and returned to their places. Everything was ready now; students stood crowded together in the foreground, and others stood behind them on chairs and tables. Every face was turned toward the center of attraction.
The combatants were watching each other with alert eyes; a perfect stillness, a breathless interest reigned. I felt that I was going to see some wary work. But not so. The instant the word was given, the two apparitions sprang forward and began to rain blows down upon each other with such lightning rapidity that I could not quite tell whether I saw the swords or only flashes they made in the air; the rattling din of these blows as they struck steel or paddings was something wonderfully stirring, and they were struck with such terrific force that I could not understand why the opposing sword was not beaten down under the assault. Presently, in the midst of the sword-flashes, I saw a handful of hair skip into the air as if it had lain loose on the victim's head and a breath of wind had puffed it suddenly away.
The seconds cried "Halt!" and knocked up the combatants'
swords with their own. The duelists sat down; a student
official stepped forward, examined the wounded head
and touched the place with a sponge once or twice;
the surgeon came and turned back the hair from the
wound—and revealed a crimson gash two or three inches long,
and proceeded to bind an oval piece of leather and a bunch
of lint over it; the tally-keeper stepped up and tallied
one for the opposition in his book.
Then the duelists took position again; a small stream of blood was flowing down the side of the injured man's head, and over his shoulder and down his body to the floor, but he did not seem to mind this. The word was given, and they plunged at each other as fiercely as before; once more the blows rained and rattled and flashed; every few moments the quick-eyed seconds would notice that a sword was bent—then they called "Halt!" struck up the contending weapons, and an assisting student straightened the bent one.
The wonderful turmoil went on—presently a bright spark sprung from a blade, and that blade broken in several pieces, sent one of its fragments flying to the ceiling. A new sword was provided and the fight proceeded. The exercise was tremendous, of course, and in time the fighters began to show great fatigue. They were allowed to rest a moment, every little while; they got other rests by wounding each other, for then they could sit down while the doctor applied the lint and bandages. The law is that the battle must continue fifteen minutes if the men can hold out; and as the pauses do not count, this duel was protracted to twenty or thirty minutes, I judged. At last it was decided that the men were too much wearied to do battle longer. They were led away drenched with crimson from head to foot. That was a good fight, but it could not count, partly because it did not last the lawful fifteen minutes (of actual fighting), and partly because neither man was disabled by his wound. It was a drawn battle, and corps law requires that drawn battles shall be refought as soon as the adversaries are well of their hurts.
During the conflict, I had talked a little, now and then, with a young gentleman of the White Cap Corps, and he had mentioned that he was to fight next—and had also pointed out his challenger, a young gentleman who was leaning against the opposite wall smoking a cigarette and restfully observing the duel then in progress.
My acquaintanceship with a party to the coming contest had the effect of giving me a kind of personal interest in it; I naturally wished he might win, and it was the reverse of pleasant to learn that he probably would not, because, although he was a notable swordsman, the challenger was held to be his superior.
The duel presently began and in the same furious way
which had marked the previous one. I stood close by,
but could not tell which blows told and which did not,
they fell and vanished so like flashes of light. They all
seemed to tell; the swords always bent over the opponents'
heads, from the forehead back over the crown, and seemed
to touch, all the way; but it was not so—a protecting
blade, invisible to me, was always interposed between.
At the end of ten seconds each man had struck twelve
or fifteen blows, and warded off twelve or fifteen,
and no harm done; then a sword became disabled, and a short
rest followed whilst a new one was brought. Early in the
next round the White Corps student got an ugly wound on
the side of his head and gave his opponent one like it.
In the third round the latter received another bad wound
in the head, and the former had his under-lip divided.
After that, the White Corps student gave many severe wounds,
but got none of the consequence in return. At the end
of five minutes from the beginning of the duel the surgeon
stopped it; the challenging party had suffered such
injuries that any addition to them might be dangerous.
These injuries were a fearful spectacle, but are better
left undescribed. So, against expectation, my acquaintance
was the victor.
The third duel was brief and bloody. The surgeon stopped it when he saw that one of the men had received such bad wounds that he could not fight longer without endangering his life.
The fourth duel was a tremendous encounter; but at the end of five or six minutes the surgeon interfered once more: another man so severely hurt as to render it unsafe to add to his harms. I watched this engagement as I watched the others—with rapt interest and strong excitement, and with a shrink and a shudder for every blow that laid open a cheek or a forehead; and a conscious paling of my face when I occasionally saw a wound of a yet more shocking nature inflicted. My eyes were upon the loser of this duel when he got his last and vanquishing wound—it was in his face and it carried away his—but no matter, I must not enter into details. I had but a glance, and then turned quickly, but I would not have been looking at all if I had known what was coming. No, that is probably not true; one thinks he would not look if he knew what was coming, but the interest and the excitement are so powerful that they would doubtless conquer all other feelings; and so, under the fierce exhilaration of the clashing steel, he would yield and look after all. Sometimes spectators of these duels faint—and it does seem a very reasonable thing to do, too.
Both parties to this fourth duel were badly hurt so much that the surgeon was at work upon them nearly or quite an hour—a fact which is suggestive. But this waiting interval was not wasted in idleness by the assembled students. It was past noon, therefore they ordered their landlord, downstairs, to send up hot beefsteaks, chickens, and such things, and these they ate, sitting comfortable at the several tables, whilst they chatted, disputed and laughed. The door to the surgeon's room stood open, meantime, but the cutting, sewing, splicing, and bandaging going on in there in plain view did not seem to disturb anyone's appetite. I went in and saw the surgeon labor awhile, but could not enjoy; it was much less trying to see the wounds given and received than to see them mended; the stir and turmoil, and the music of the steel, were wanting here—one's nerves were wrung by this grisly spectacle, whilst the duel's compensating pleasurable thrill was lacking.
Finally the doctor finished, and the men who were to fight the closing battle of the day came forth. A good many dinners were not completed, yet, but no matter, they could be eaten cold, after the battle; therefore everybody crowded forth to see. This was not a love duel, but a "satisfaction" affair. These two students had quarreled, and were here to settle it. They did not belong to any of the corps, but they were furnished with weapons and armor, and permitted to fight here by the five corps as a courtesy. Evidently these two young men were unfamiliar with the dueling ceremonies, though they were not unfamiliar with the sword. When they were placed in position they thought it was time to begin—and then did begin, too, and with a most impetuous energy, without waiting for anybody to give the word. This vastly amused the spectators, and even broke down their studied and courtly gravity and surprised them into laughter. Of course the seconds struck up the swords and started the duel over again. At the word, the deluge of blows began, but before long the surgeon once more interfered—for the only reason which ever permits him to interfere—and the day's war was over. It was now two in the afternoon, and I had been present since half past nine in the morning. The field of battle was indeed a red one by this time; but some sawdust soon righted that. There had been one duel before I arrived. In it one of the men received many injuries, while the other one escaped without a scratch.
I had seen the heads and faces of ten youths gashed in every direction by the keen two-edged blades, and yet had not seen a victim wince, nor heard a moan, or detected any fleeting expression which confessed the sharp pain the hurts were inflicting. This was good fortitude, indeed. Such endurance is to be expected in savages and prize-fighters, for they are born and educated to it; but to find it in such perfection in these gently bred and kindly natured young fellows is matter for surprise. It was not merely under the excitement of the sword-play that this fortitude was shown; it was shown in the surgeon's room where an uninspiring quiet reigned, and where there was no audience. The doctor's manipulations brought out neither grimaces nor moans. And in the fights it was observable that these lads hacked and slashed with the same tremendous spirit, after they were covered with streaming wounds, which they had shown in the beginning.
The world in general looks upon the college duels as very farcical affairs: true, but considering that the college duel is fought by boys; that the swords are real swords; and that the head and face are exposed, it seems to me that it is a farce which had quite a grave side to it. People laugh at it mainly because they think the student is so covered up with armor that he cannot be hurt. But it is not so; his eyes and ears are protected, but the rest of his face and head are bare. He can not only be badly wounded, but his life is in danger; and he would sometimes lose it but for the interference of the surgeon. It is not intended that his life shall be endangered. Fatal accidents are possible, however. For instance, the student's sword may break, and the end of it fly up behind his antagonist's ear and cut an artery which could not be reached if the sword remained whole. This has happened, sometimes, and death has resulted on the spot. Formerly the student's armpits were not protected—and at that time the swords were pointed, whereas they are blunt, now; so an artery in the armpit was sometimes cut, and death followed. Then in the days of sharp-pointed swords, a spectator was an occasional victim—the end of a broken sword flew five or ten feet and buried itself in his neck or his heart, and death ensued instantly. The student duels in Germany occasion two or three deaths every year, now, but this arises only from the carelessness of the wounded men; they eat or drink imprudently, or commit excesses in the way of overexertion; inflammation sets in and gets such a headway that it cannot be arrested. Indeed, there is blood and pain and danger enough about the college duel to entitle it to a considerable degree of respect.
All the customs, all the laws, all the details, pertaining to the student duel are quaint and naive. The grave, precise, and courtly ceremony with which the thing is conducted, invests it with a sort of antique charm.
This dignity and these knightly graces suggest the tournament,
not the prize-fight. The laws are as curious as they
are strict. For instance, the duelist may step forward
from the line he is placed upon, if he chooses, but never
back of it. If he steps back of it, or even leans back,
it is considered that he did it to avoid a blow or contrive
an advantage; so he is dismissed from his corps in disgrace.
It would seem natural to step from under a descending
sword unconsciously, and against one's will and intent—yet
this unconsciousness is not allowed. Again: if under the
sudden anguish of a wound the receiver of it makes a grimace,
he falls some degrees in the estimation of his fellows;
his corps are ashamed of him: they call him "hare foot,"
which is the German equivalent for chicken-hearted.
In addition to the corps laws, there are some corps usages which have the force of laws.
Perhaps the president of a corps notices that one of the
membership who is no longer an exempt—that is a
freshman—has remained a sophomore some little time without volunteering
to fight; some day, the president, instead of calling
for volunteers, will APPOINT this sophomore to measure
swords with a student of another corps; he is free
to decline—everybody says so—there is no compulsion.
This is all true—but I have not heard of any student
who DID decline; to decline and still remain in the corps
would make him unpleasantly conspicuous, and properly so,
since he knew, when he joined, that his main business,
as a member, would be to fight. No, there is no law
against declining—except the law of custom, which is
confessedly stronger than written law, everywhere.
The ten men whose duels I had witnessed did not go away
when their hurts were dressed, as I had supposed they would,
but came back, one after another, as soon as they were free
of the surgeon, and mingled with the assemblage in the
dueling-room. The white-cap student who won the second
fight witnessed the remaining three, and talked with us
during the intermissions. He could not talk very well,
because his opponent's sword had cut his under-lip in two,
and then the surgeon had sewed it together and overlaid it
with a profusion of white plaster patches; neither could
he eat easily, still he contrived to accomplish a slow
and troublesome luncheon while the last duel was preparing.
The man who was the worst hurt of all played chess
while waiting to see this engagement. A good part of
his face was covered with patches and bandages, and all
the rest of his head was covered and concealed by them.
It is said that the student likes to appear on the street
and in other public places in this kind of array,
and that this predilection often keeps him out when
exposure to rain or sun is a positive danger for him.
Newly bandaged students are a very common spectacle
in the public gardens of Heidelberg. It is also said
that the student is glad to get wounds in the face,
because the scars they leave will show so well there;
and it is also said that these face wounds are so prized
that youths have even been known to pull them apart
from time to time and put red wine in them to make
them heal badly and leave as ugly a scar as possible.
It does not look reasonable, but it is roundly asserted
and maintained, nevertheless; I am sure of one thing—scars
are plenty enough in Germany, among the young men;
and very grim ones they are, too. They crisscross the face
in angry red welts, and are permanent and ineffaceable.
Some of these scars are of a very strange and dreadful aspect; and the effect is striking when several such accent the milder ones, which form a city map on a man's face; they suggest the "burned district" then. We had often noticed that many of the students wore a colored silk band or ribbon diagonally across their breasts. It transpired that this signifies that the wearer has fought three duels in which a decision was reached—duels in which he either whipped or was whipped—for drawn battles do not count.  After a student has received his ribbon, he is "free"; he can cease from fighting, without reproach—except some one insult him; his president cannot appoint him to fight; he can volunteer if he wants to, or remain quiescent if he prefers to do so. Statistics show that he does NOT prefer to remain quiescent. They show that the duel has a singular fascination about it somewhere, for these free men, so far from resting upon the privilege of the badge, are always volunteering. A corps student told me it was of record that Prince Bismarck fought thirty-two of these duels in a single summer term when he was in college. So he fought twenty-nine after his badge had given him the right to retire from the field.
1. FROM MY DIARY.—Dined in a hotel a few miles up the Neckar, in a room whose walls were hung all over with framed portrait-groups of the Five Corps; some were recent, but many antedated photography, and were pictured in lithography—the dates ranged back to forty or fifty years ago. Nearly every individual wore the ribbon across his breast. In one portrait-group representing (as each of these pictures did) an entire Corps, I took pains to count the ribbons: there were twenty-seven members, and twenty-one of them wore that significant badge.
The statistics may be found to possess interest in several particulars. Two days in every week are devoted to dueling. The rule is rigid that there must be three duels on each of these days; there are generally more, but there cannot be fewer. There were six the day I was present; sometimes there are seven or eight. It is insisted that eight duels a week—four for each of the two days—is too low an average to draw a calculation from, but I will reckon from that basis, preferring an understatement to an overstatement of the case. This requires about four hundred and eighty or five hundred duelists a year—for in summer the college term is about three and a half months, and in winter it is four months and sometimes longer. Of the seven hundred and fifty students in the university at the time I am writing of, only eighty belonged to the five corps, and it is only these corps that do the dueling; occasionally other students borrow the arms and battleground of the five corps in order to settle a quarrel, but this does not happen every dueling-day.  Consequently eighty youths furnish the material for some two hundred and fifty duels a year. This average gives six fights a year to each of the eighty. This large work could not be accomplished if the badge-holders stood upon their privilege and ceased to volunteer.
2. They have to borrow the arms because they could not get them elsewhere or otherwise. As I understand it, the public authorities, all over Germany, allow the five Corps to keep swords, but DO NOT ALLOW THEM TO USE THEM. This is law is rigid; it is only the execution of it that is lax.
Of course, where there is so much fighting, the students make it a point to keep themselves in constant practice with the foil. One often sees them, at the tables in the Castle grounds, using their whips or canes to illustrate some new sword trick which they have heard about; and between the duels, on the day whose history I have been writing, the swords were not always idle; every now and then we heard a succession of the keen hissing sounds which the sword makes when it is being put through its paces in the air, and this informed us that a student was practicing. Necessarily, this unceasing attention to the art develops an expert occasionally. He becomes famous in his own university, his renown spreads to other universities. He is invited to Goettingen, to fight with a Goettingen expert; if he is victorious, he will be invited to other colleges, or those colleges will send their experts to him. Americans and Englishmen often join one or another of the five corps. A year or two ago, the principal Heidelberg expert was a big Kentuckian; he was invited to the various universities and left a wake of victory behind him all about Germany; but at last a little student in Strasburg defeated him. There was formerly a student in Heidelberg who had picked up somewhere and mastered a peculiar trick of cutting up under instead of cleaving down from above. While the trick lasted he won in sixteen successive duels in his university; but by that time observers had discovered what his charm was, and how to break it, therefore his championship ceased.
A rule which forbids social intercourse between members
of different corps is strict. In the dueling-house, in
the parks, on the street, and anywhere and everywhere that
the students go, caps of a color group themselves together.
If all the tables in a public garden were crowded
but one, and that one had two red-cap students at it
and ten vacant places, the yellow-caps, the blue-caps,
the white caps, and the green caps, seeking seats,
would go by that table and not seem to see it, nor seem
to be aware that there was such a table in the grounds.
The student by whose courtesy we had been enabled to visit
the dueling-place, wore the white cap—Prussian Corps.
He introduced us to many white caps, but to none of
another color. The corps etiquette extended even to us,
who were strangers, and required us to group with the white
corps only, and speak only with the white corps, while we
were their guests, and keep aloof from the caps of the
other colors. Once I wished to examine some of the swords,
but an American student said, "It would not be quite polite;
these now in the windows all have red hilts or blue;
they will bring in some with white hilts presently,
and those you can handle freely." When a sword was broken
in the first duel, I wanted a piece of it; but its hilt
was the wrong color, so it was considered best and politest
to await a properer season.
It was brought to me after the room was cleared, and I will now make a "life-size" sketch of it by tracing a line around it with my pen, to show the width of the weapon. [Figure 1] The length of these swords is about three feet, and they are quite heavy. One's disposition to cheer, during the course of the duels or at their close, was naturally strong, but corps etiquette forbade any demonstrations of this sort. However brilliant a contest or a victory might be, no sign or sound betrayed that any one was moved. A dignified gravity and repression were maintained at all times.
When the dueling was finished and we were ready to go, the gentlemen of the Prussian Corps to whom we had been introduced took off their caps in the courteous German way, and also shook hands; their brethren of the same order took off their caps and bowed, but without shaking hands; the gentlemen of the other corps treated us just as they would have treated white caps—they fell apart, apparently unconsciously, and left us an unobstructed pathway, but did not seem to see us or know we were there. If we had gone thither the following week as guests of another corps, the white caps, without meaning any offense, would have observed the etiquette of their order and ignored our presence.
[How strangely are comedy and tragedy blended in this life!
I had not been home a full half-hour, after witnessing
those playful sham-duels, when circumstances made it
necessary for me to get ready immediately to assist
personally at a real one—a duel with no effeminate
limitation in the matter of results, but a battle
to the death. An account of it, in the next chapter,
will show the reader that duels between boys, for fun,
and duels between men in earnest, are very different affairs.]
[Transcriber's Note for edition 12: on the advice of two
German-speaking volunteers, the German letters a, o, and u with
umlauts have been rendered as ae, oe, and ue instead of as,
variously, :a, a", :o, o" and :u, u" as in previous editions.]