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Title: A Tramp Abroad — Volume 01
Author: Twain, Mark, 1835-1910
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Tramp Abroad — Volume 01" ***


By Mark Twain

(Samuel L. Clemens)

First published in 1880

Illustrations taken from an 1880 First Edition

 * * * * * *


     2.   TITIAN'S MOSES
     7.   THE PORTIER
     10.  IN MY CAGE
     13.  THE RETREAT
     14.  JIM BAKER
     16.  COULD NOT SEE IT
     17.  THE BEER KING
     20.  IDLE STUDENT
     28.  WOUNDED
     31.  PIECE OF SWORD


CHAPTER I 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

CHAPTER II 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

CHAPTER III 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

CHAPTER IV 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

CHAPTER V 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

CHAPTER VI 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

CHAPTER VII 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


[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 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

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

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:

"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, and

"'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 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

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

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 arches,
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

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

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 in church.

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 and leave.

"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 some bluejays."


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 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

"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."


Student Life

[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

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

"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 once more.

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

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

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

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.


[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 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

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

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

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. [1] 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.
[2] 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.]

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Tramp Abroad — Volume 01" ***

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