A Tramp Abroad, Part 1
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Produced by David Widger (Illustrated HTML version)
A TRAMP ABROAD
By Mark Twain
(Samuel L. Clemens)
First published in 1880
[The Knighted Knave of Bergen]
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 peasant 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
Garnharn'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:
"THE KNAVE OF BERGEN"
"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
his Vizier. 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."
[Landing a Monarch at Heidelberg]
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
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
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
that 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
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
"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
Baker's Bluejay Yarn
[What Stumped the Blue Jays]
"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
"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
"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 Laborious Beer King]
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 mud 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
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,
"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
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.
At the Students' Dueling-Ground
[Dueling by Wholesale]
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 laws 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.
[A Sport that Sometimes Kills]
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
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
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 are 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.
[How Bismark Fought]
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
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
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
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
[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.]
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