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could hardly have been more completely protected.
Thick leathern stocks or collars covered each com-
batant's throat, holding his chin squarely in place
and preventing the possible severing of the jugular
vein. Thickly upholstered pads covered the shoul-
ders. The front of the body, from just above the
heart downward, was protected by a shield not unlike
that worn by an American baseball catcher, only
much heavier and thicker. The shields worn by
both of these duellists had a peculiar bronzed appear-
ance, which we took at first glance to be the natural
shade of burnished leather. On closer examination,
however, we discovered that this color was the result
of the blood of many battles, — the same armor
doing service in the duels of an entire corps. Heavy,
out-jutting spectacles protected the eyes of the
duellists. They were held in place by stout straps
which, in passing around the head, bound the ears
firmly back. We observed, however, that parts of
the ears protruded above and below the straps, a fact
accounting satisfactorily for the fashion among ad-
vanced German students of wearing their ears squared
either at top or bottom or both. All the combat-

294 Seen in Germany

ants' heads, therefore, except the eyes and part of the
ears, were entirely unprotected, although, as we after-
wards learned, in some duels there is an agreement
to permit the covering of the nose, some students
preferring to retain their noses intact. It is the sole
purpose of each duellist to cut his opponent some-
where in the face or head, else the scars will not show
and much good honor will go to waste. This is the
chief purpose of the thorough protection ot the body
and the exposure ot the face.

We observed that each second gave especial atten-
tion to the covering of his chief's sword-arm, which
consisted of a heavy cloth pad extending from the
shoulder down to the wrist. The stress of many
duels had cut the outer covering of this portion of
each duellist's armor into picturesque and bloody

And now the opponents are faced, looking squarely
into each other's eyes, and vet making no sign of
recognition, and saying nothing, not even to their
seconds. It is a point of honor that there must be
no show of emotion. Each wore the gay cap of his
corps, visor turned behind. As they raised their
arms, each second stepped quickly forward and fitted
his chief's gloved hand into the basket handle of the
sword. A most disagreeable weapon is this sword !
Somewhat shorter than a fencing rapier and flatter and
thinner, square at the point, and as sharp as a razor.



HIL&^__. ^




296 Seen in Germany

The combatants step deliberately toward each
other on the black canvas, until they are exactly a
sword's length apart. One might almost have
touched the other with his hand ; they were so near,
indeed, that we who were uninitiated could hardly
understand how, with such swords, they could escape
cutting each other all to pieces.

With ceremony the umpire mounted a bench at one
side with a school boy's slate in his hand. The two sec-
onds, both of whom were armored almost as effectively
as their chiefs, especially about the eyes and shoul-
ders, lifted their hats and bowed. The umpire lifted
his hat. The duellists said nothing at all, but looked
into each other's eyes. At a word from the umpire
the seconds removed the corps caps of the duellists,
so that they stood bareheaded. This is the sign that
there is no withdrawal.

The seconds now spring to their places with feet
wide-spread, each just at the left of his chief. The
spectators crowd back a pace, for sometimes the
points of these swords fly far. Each duellist clenches
his left hand behind him in the lacings of his armor.
Up go the swords with a flash, the points nearly
touching the ceiling. There is a moment's pause,
distressing enough to one not inured to duels. Then
one second shouts : " Bind swords."

Instantly each of the seconds rests the point of his
sword behind that of his chief, so that he may not

A Glimpse of German Student Life 297

strike until the final word is given. " Bound," comes
the reply, followed immediately by the shouted word,
" Los " (loose).

There was a downward rush of black-padded
arms, a flash of swords, a din of clashing steel, and
then, before the battle seemed fairly begun, there was
a shouted " Halt," and the seconds rushed in with
their swords and threw up the blades of the fighters.
So quickly was it over with that one imagined there
must have been some mistake, but this was merely
the first round. It had lasted perhaps five seconds,
and there had not been to exceed four swift strokes
and parries of each duellist's sword. The chief sur-
geons came up and examined the duellists' heads in
the most matter-of-fact and business-like manner.
There were no wounds. A fellow-corpsman lifted
the sword-arm of each fighter, holding it out horizon-
tally, and another supported each sword. A duel
imposes a hard strain on the fighter's sword-arm,
heavily padded as it is, and it must be thus held up
between rounds.

Everything had been done with so much serious-
ness and formality, especially the examination of
the surgeons, and the round had been so short and
so bloodless, that an outsider could not help feel-
ing that a German student duel had its irresistibly
humorous side.

A moment sufficed for the rest. Again the swords

298 Seen in Germany

went up, again the seconds shouted, and again at the
word " Los " the clashing of swords began, this time
more swiftly and fiercely. Suddenly we saw a lock
of hair shoot from the head of one of the fighters,
instantly followed by the shouted " Halt " of the
seconds and the upward sweep of the swords. The
hair had fallen from the purple — Bavarian ; the um-
pire marked down credits for the green — Tyrolean.
Again the surgeons made an examination. There
were no wounds, but there needed no other evidence
as to the keenness of the blades than the smoothness
and closeness with which that lock of hair had been
clipped. We could see the bare place above the
Bavarian's ear where it had been. The Tyrolean
corpsman was slightly taller than his opponent,
though not so powerful of build. He wore a heavy
black moustache. The Bavarian had been slightly
pale from the first, but absolutely unwavering.

The third round was already beginning with that
peculiarly shrill " Los." Apparently there were only
two fierce flashes of the swords before the shouted
" Halt " of the seconds. But this time the surgeons
hurried forward more eagerly. Across the Bavarian's
cheek, from the ear nearlv to the corner of the mouth,
there was a long, livid line, just beginning to drip.
The sword had cut almost through the cheek. Both
duellists stepped back, and the chairs were advanced
so that they could lean against the backs : a duellist's

300 Seen in Germany

armor Is too stiff for him to sit down comfortably.
We saw now where all the blood came from. The
doctors were busy with cotton, but they did not at-
tempt to put on bandages. We were just beginning
to feel relieved that blood had at last been shed, and
that the duel was well over with, when the combatants
again advanced, measuring a sword's distance between
them and lifting their blades. Again there were the
shouted signals, and the fourth round began with
the din of parried blows. We had quite mistaken
the nature of a German student duel in thinking that
first blood counted in any way except on the umpire's

In the fifth round, the Bavarian returned the cut,
slashing the Tyrolean across the scalp, so deeply that
the blood instantly gushed down over his forehead and
from his spectacles to the floor. Again there was a
rest on the chairs. This wound was so deep that not
only was cotton applied, but a narrow leather disk was
passed across it and fastened down to the ear-straps on
each side. This did not seem, however, to stop the
flow of the blood. Indeed, the surgeons in these
duels never attempt to quench the wounds, for the
excellence of the performance depends on a liberal
flow of blood.

After each wound, the swords were wiped with cot-
ton dipped in the antiseptic solution, for the German
duellist is nothing if he is not scientific. As the

A Glimpse of German Student Life 301

rounds progressed, we saw more clearly how the fight-
ing was done. There was none of the movement and
activity of the ordinary swordsman's conflict, none of
the splendid clash and parry, or advance and retreat.
The duellists stood stock-still : it was dishonor to
give way by an inch ; it was dishonor to move the
head in the least, or to dodge a blow, no matter how
severe the wound. The entire contest consisted in
holding up the sword-arm, and in so using the hand
and wrist that the point of the sword would slash the
opponent's head. Much depends on the strength and
endurance of the right forearm, for upon it fall most
of the blows, and if it gives way a wound almost cer-
tainly follows. An old fighter becomes exceedingly
strong and dextrous with both wrist and forearm ; and
yet one cannot but reflect that all this training would
go for nothing if one of these duellists were called
upon to defend himself from an ordinary sword at-
tack, such as a soldier might have to meet. The
whole training is special, an outgrowth of the student

It was plain that the Tyrolean was the better fighter
of the two. The longer the duel progressed the fiercer
became his onslaughts, and in nearly every round he
struck the Bavarian somewhere on the head or face.
Blood was spattered everywhere, on the floor, on the
clothing of the seconds, and on the surgeons. As
for the duellists themselves, they were literally bathed

302 Seen in Germany

in it; it even ran down their bared backs under their
armor lacings. Once the Bavarian removed a bit of
tooth which had been broken off as the Tyrolean's
sword ripped through his cheek. These things are
not pleasant to relate, nor pleasant to see, but without
them one cannot arrive at an understanding of what a
student duel really is.

Nor were the wounds and the blood the least dis-
tressing features ot the fight. It was a warm morn-
ing. The room was packed to suffocation with students,
and, astonishing as it mav seem, not one of the win-
dows was open, and the single small door was blocked
with spectators. Add to the stifling atmosphere much
tobacco smoke and the rank smell of beer and blood,
and a faint conception ot the condition of the room may
be formed. The spectators suffered enough from the
heat and bad air, but it must have been nothing as
compared with the torture of the duellists. For both
of them were muffled in thick padded armor, especially
at the throat, where its effect would be most painful,
and at the same time they were exercising violently
under intense excitement. Both dripped with perspi-
ration and there were frequent calls for water. The
Bavarian was ashy pale where the blood had not blurred
out all view of his face, and it seemed at the close of
every round that he must certainlv drop, but he came
up cheerfully at each cry of " Los," and went at the
Tyrolean with vigor and sometimes with effect. The

A Glimpse of German Student Life 303

swords flew with incredible swiftness, and the range
of the duellists was by no means confined to each
other. After one of the rounds we saw the Bava-
rian's second clap his hand to the back of his head,
and when he took it away again out came the blood.
It sometimes happens that the seconds are as seriously
wounded as the duellists themselves. Indeed, a stu-
dent may thus obtain a very conspicuous and honorable
scar without having to go to the trouble and pain of
a regular duel.

At last, at the end of fifteen rounds, the duellists
were led back and their armor was loosened so that
they could sit down. We were just congratulating
ourselves that it was well over with, when we were
informed that this was only the first half; there were
fifteen rounds more to fight. The surgeons were very
busy now for a time, and the fellow-corpsmen of each
duellist crowded up to give him advice as to how he
could best defend himself or overreach his opponent.
The intermission lasted only a few minutes, and then,
at the cry of the umpire, the men came back to
their posts. Both walked steadily ; it is a dis-
honor to waver or flinch. And then the hacking
began again.

One of the oddest phases of the duel was the non-
chalant attitude of the students who came as specta-
tors. At no time was there a cheer, or a protest, or
any other manifestation of enthusiasm or excitement,

304 Seen in Germany

although once there was general laughter over the
retort of one of the seconds as to a charge of
foul. Many of the students had brought their
wooden beer mugs into the duelling-room with
them, and they could be seen drinking from time
to time, and even proposing in a loud voice the
health of some one across the room. A bar-maid
was continually pushing her way in and out among
the crowd, sometimes at the very elbows of the
seconds, and once we saw her coming into the room
with a plate of sausage, cabbage, and rye bread.
Some one had actually ordered lunch in this room
of blood.

The closing fifteen rounds dragged themselves
slowly along. They were even more bloody than
the first. It was difficult to understand how the
Bavarian stood it to the end, for nearly every round
brought him a new wound or laid open an old one.
Toward the end he began to pant with heat and ex-
haustion, and one ot the surgeons examined his heart
with some care ; and evidently feeling that there was
danger from this source, he wet a towel in cold water
and placed it over the heart and just under the edge
of the armor, and then the fighting went forward
again with its usual vigor.

At the close of the duel, astonishing as it may-
seem, both contestants were able to walk upstairs to
the dressing-room, although the Bavarian looked

A Uni'-versitj' Corps House

306 Seen in Germany

every moment as if he would go down. His appear-
ance is not to be described in this place. An hour
later we saw the Tyrolean walking about, uncon-
cernedly smoking a cigarette, his colored cap perched
on top of his bandages. He had not been seriously
wounded, except for the single cut on top of his head.
The Bavarian did not appear.

The duel had lasted in all about forty minutes.
After it was over, we walked up the crooked road of
the village between the quaint old houses. The air
was sweet and fresh with spring and lilac blossoms,
and the valley, which stretched out before us, lay
green and peaceful in the sunshine. We saw the
ancient brewery where the weak white beer that the
students drink at their bouts is made ; we caught
the cool, sour smell as we passed the door. And it
occurred to us now that it was all over, to inquire what
was the cause of the bloody battle we had seen.
Surely these men must have been mortal enemies ;
there must have been an unforgivable offence, possi-
bly a romance behind it all. But never were we
more mistaken. This was merely an arranged duel,
we were informed. Of course there might have
been an offence ; it occasionally happened that there
was really an offence. But this was a regular Satur-
day duel. The two men had been picked by the
committee, matched according to their physical
strength and condition, as well as by their past per-

A Glimpse of German Student Life 307

formances, and a time had been set for them to fight.
And they could not escape fighting without dishonor.
A student who dons the colored cap of a corps, vir-
tually offers a challenge to meet any comer with
swords, and a student who does not join a corps
must expect none of the glories and honors and con-
sideration of the social side of a university career. He
is nobody. The fighting goes on every Saturday in
some of the little towns around the University, so
many duels each week. The University actually pro-
vides and pays a teacher of swordsmanship, from whom
the students learn the art of duelling, and then, by
constant practising, they secure some degree of skill.
And yet many duels are fought by new men who have
had little or no practice, and it is merely a matter
of standing up and taking a bloody slashing. We
heard one student encouraging another who was
to fight a duel. It was, "Come, go in and get some
good scars " ; it was not, " Go in and give the other
man some good scars." Scars are curiously regarded
by the German student. If they argue anything at
all, they certainly argue a woful lack of skill at
swordsmanship, for a really good swordsman should
so defend himself that he would receive no wounds.
Yet every scar is a badge of the greatest honor.
Many duellists who are unfortunate in receiving all
the wounds on the scalp where the hair covers them,
go with close-cropped head so that their honor may

308 Seen in Germany

be apparent. The scar most prized is the long, deep
cut across the cheek, just such a one as the Bavarian
fighter had received in the duel which we had seen.
We heard it whispered that sometimes a student came
by his scars in roundabout ways, — little accidents
with razors ; but one scarcely credits such a story,
because it is much too simple a matter to obtain scars
by the legitimate and highly honorable method ot the
duel. All this blood and slashing is accompanied by
the most excruciating pain in healing, especially in
cases where the cheek is cut through, and sometimes
a student is compelled to wear bandages and a black
cap, and eat porridge for weeks ; but he may comfort
himself in his suffering with the assurance that there
is no higher badge of honor than the black " duel

Is a duellist ever killed ?

In one of the corps houses of this University hangs
a picture of a young student, with the point of a
duelling sword framed near it. During the duel the
sword had snapped, and the razor-like point had been
driven into the duellist's heart. But a killing in a
duel is comparatively rare. The greatest danger
arises from blood-poisoning, the surgeons being only
medical students, and often ill-equipped for dealing
with such surgical cases. There have also been
deaths from heart failure, due to over-exertion, heat,
and loss of blood.

A Glimpse of German Student Life 309

Duelling has now obtained such a hold on German
student life that, although laws against it are in exis-
tence, little or no attempt is made to enforce them.
There is an impression, born, perhaps, of the military
spirit, that duelling produces strong and brave men.
Formerly there was always a sentinel to report the
coming of the police, and that formality is still
observed in many cases, because it gives an added
spice to the sport. If there is really an offence
between the duellists, and occasionally there is, the
fight may be with sabres and half-bare arms. This
is considerably more serious than the sword duels, and
it is understood that the police will try to prevent it.
At the duels we saw, not the slightest precautions were
taken in the way of sentinels, and any one who had an
acquaintanceship among the students was perfectly at
liberty to come in and see the battle. In fact, there
were a number of spectators, evidently residents of the
town, whose presence could have been explained only
by the fact that they have been on hand at the time
and had invested twenty pfennigs in a mug of the
gasthof beer.

When we returned to our places at the beer table
in the pavilion, the students were singing a rollicking
student song and the surgeons were just coming in
from their work on the poor Bavarian. We remained
for one more duel, and then, although the perform-
ance continued until late in the afternoon, — that is.

3 I o Seen in Germany

all day long, — we had enough ot it, and were glad to
get away. The last we saw ot our friend, the presi-
dent of the Hanoverians, was on the stairway of the
inn, his face gashed and indescribably bloody. He,
too, had fought.





Her Prosperity and Her Problems

THE new Germany, as a whole, gives an
observer the impression of tremendous
activity and vitality, of change and im-
provement. One who visits the ancient
town of Nuremberg looking only for the quaint
evidences of mediaeval grandeur and power will be
astonished by the signs of present-day enterprise, —
the smoking chimneys, the roaring street traffic, the
busy shops, the brilliant lights.

Nuremberg is western and progressive — and yet
nof; more so than the other great cities of Germany.
Berlin has been growing more rapidly in the last
decade than Chicago. In the twenty years from
1875 ^° ^^9 Si ^^^ ^'^^Y 'Tioi*e than doubled its popu-
lation ; while Hamburg gained 146 per cent., Munich
140 per cent., and Leipzig, famed once for its sleepy
streets and ancient university, made the remarkable
gain of 263 per cent. Expansion and prosperity are

314 Seen in Germany

everywhere ; splendid new buildings and factories,
new ships, new canals, new railroads. No man of
the present age is more fuUv alive to his own powers,
his interests, his weaknesses, than the German, and
none is struggling harder to advance along all lines
of human development. The Englishman has gone
to sleep content with his own commercial supremacy
and greatness ; the American is not yet fully awake
to his own power; the Frenchman frets himself with
visions of a greatness that is gone ; but the German
is fully alive to every world-condition, establishing
banks and business in South America, buying islands
of Spain, boldly taking the lead in the Chinese
troubles, extending his colonies in Africa, preparing
to absorb Austria and possibly Asia Minor, building
a splendid new navv, stretching the lines ot his
merchant marine around the world, and putting his
manufactured products into the homes of every
nation on earth. Germany has laid the foundation
of her industries on the bed-rock of science and
thorough technical education, to a degree equaled
by no other nation. Thirty years ago coal-tar was
almost unknown to German industrv ; between 1877
and 1890 no fewer than 800 patents were taken out
on coal-tar derivatives, and in 1898 the industries
connected with the utilization of coal-tar — a former
waste material — yielded over $17,000,000 in prod-
ucts. That is a sample of what the intelligent prac-

The New Germany 3 i 5

tical application of science has done. Fifty years
ago the German was the world's typical dreamer,
musician, poet, scholar ; then he became the world's
philosopher, scientist, and educator, and now he is
appearing as a great man of affairs, of world politics,
of giant industries.

Yet no other great nation in the world to-day is per-
plexed with such weighty and difficult problems, re-
lating both to external and internal affairs, as Germany.
No other great nation is torn by such diversities of
opinion regarding economic and political questions, or
presents such seemingly irreconcilable contrasts and
changing relationships. In the cities, for instance,
there exists a fierce socialistic and often revolu-
tionary spirit, and opposed to this is the obsti-
nate conservatism of the aristocratic Agrarians or
land-owners (Yunkers), the latter demanding pro-
tection to agriculture with higher duties on imported
food-stuffs, and the former, the wage-workers, demand-
ing free trade and cheaper food. Between these two
powerful opponents in the social and political scale,
there lies seemingly a bottomless chasm, and it needs
all the astuteness and power of the government, even
with such a man as the young emperor at its head,
to keep them together until Germany shall have de-
veloped a large and sensible middle class. Here also
is the old German tendency to free thought and high
culture set over against a government that will not

3 1 6 Seen in Germany

permit free speech, a free press, or free assemblage
for the discussion of certain questions of administra-
tion and politics, — a government that punishes with
an iron hand for " lese-majeste." Here is a vast
and bloated militarism standing in contrast to a pro-
fessed desire and a real need of peace, a huge army
and navy costing millions in taxes and taking half a
million men from agriculture and the industries, when
there are not enough laborers to till the fields.
Yet an army Germany must have, for jealous enemies
crowd close on every side. The nation itself is hardly

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Online LibraryRay Stannard BakerSeen in Germany → online text (page 14 of 15)