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    Chapter 7

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    Chapter 7
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    CHAPTER VII [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. [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.]

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