Two or three days after, we heard that a duel was to take place at Neuenheim, on the opposite side of the Neckur, where the students have a house hired for that purpose. In order to witness the spectacle, we started immediately with two or three students. Along the road were stationed old women, at intervals, as guards, to give notice of the approach of the police, and from these we learned that one duel had already been fought, and they were preparing for the other. The Red Fisherman was busy in an outer room grinding the swords, which are made as sharp as razors. In the large room some forty or fifty students were walking about, while the parties were preparing. This was done by taking off the coat and vest and binding a great thick leather garment on, which reached from the breast to the knees, completely protecting the body. They then put on a leather glove reaching nearly to the shoulder, tied a thick cravat around the throat, and drew on a cap with a large vizor. This done, they were walked about the room a short time, the seconds holding out their arms to strengthen them; their faces all this time betrayed considerable anxiety.
All being ready, the seconds took their stations immediately behind them, each armed with a sword, and gave the words: “ready—bind your weapons—loose!” They instantly sprang at each other, exchanged two or three blows, when the seconds cried “halt!” and struck their swords up. Twenty-four rounds of this kind ended the duel, without either being hurt, though the cap of one of them was cut through and his forehead grazed. All their duels do not end so fortunately, however, as the frightful scars on the faces of many of those present, testified. It is a gratification to know that but a small portion of the students keep up this barbarous custom. The great body is opposed to it; in Heidelberg, four societies, comprising more than one half the students, have been formed against it. A strong desire for such a reform seems to prevail, and the custom will probably be totally discontinued in a short time.
This view of the student-life was very interesting to me; it appeared in a much better light than I had been accustomed to view it. Their peculiar customs, except duelling and drinking, of course, may be the better tolerated when we consider their effect on the liberty of Germany. It is principally through them that a free spirit is kept alive; they have ever been foremost to rise up for their Fatherland, and bravest in its defence. And though many of their customs have so often been held up to ridicule, among no other class can one find warmer, truer or braver hearts.
CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR IN GERMANY.