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trance when there is ample cause for it. And perhaps the very habits of such ignoble encounters as I have described is a check to the frequent recurrence of deadly quarrels among them. That such quarrels do take place, I can myself vouch, for I once witnessed a sad proof of the fact, in the circumstance which I shall now record.
I was one dark January night occupied at my writing-desk, weaving a woof of historical events, crossed with a warp of fiction-or sketching some light profile of national portraiture—or endeavouring to rouse a spark of English feeling for the trampled-on country in which I could not live without being interested for it--but whether it was a volume, or a monthly, or a daily "article" at which I worked is of small matter to the event by which my labours were interrupted.
A low, moaning melody was borne on the gusts which swept down the valley of the Neckar, at the opening of which the town of Heidelberg is situated. Its one main street, running for a mile between the river and the mountains, formed a channel for the free passage of the dirge-for such I soon ascertained it to be. Looking from my window, I observed a lurid glow rising above the house-tops and throwing its red reflection upon the snow which covered them. A waving cloud of thick smoke marked the line of the procession, the leaders of which soon appeared coming round a slight curve in the long, narrow street.
I immediately knew it to be a student's funeral which thus roused with lugubrious harmony the snow-enveloped dulness of the place, and sent out a crowd of youths to parade the town, many of them in costumes incongruous with the season, and not quite consistent with the scene; but the whole solemnity showing an arrangement of martial discipline which made it more than commonly impressive.
The six leaders were wrapped in dark cloaks, and stalked on some paces before the band, composed of horns, bugles, and bass instruments, whose wailing tones swelled out as the procession approached, in a strain of commingled depth and wildness. Next appeared a young man of almost gigantic height, dressed in a suit of black, with large military boots and spurs, a huge cocked hat, trimmed with white feathers, a coloured scarf across his shoulders, long white cavalry gauntlets reaching nearly to his elbows, and a drawn rapier in his hand. He was the director of the various manœuvres, and his motions of command were obeyed along the whole moving columns, whose double files, of some hundreds in number, stretched down the entire length of the main street.
All the men thus forming the living hedge at both sides carried torches, which were flourished in irregular movements, some dashing the blazing ends at times against the frozen snow on which they walked, producing by the mixture of flame and smoke a strangely solemn effect of brilliancy and gloom. There were a couple of dozen of the youths dressed in the same grotesque mixture of civil and military costume as the chief captain, and who followed his commands in regulating the march. But not a word was spoken aloud, no sound was heard throughout the peopled streets save the oppressive harmony of the dead march, in strains indescribably plaintive and original, the slow tramp of hundreds of feet, and the heavy tolling of the church bell, as the procession approached the burial-ground, which was a short distance from, but not in sight of, the house I occupied.
The coffin-bearers wore suitable cloaks, sombre and fitted to protect
the wearer from the frosty air and the drifting flakes of snow which were hurried on by the east wind. But at each side of the bier walked six or eight chief mourners, all bareheaded, dressed in full suits of black, with silk stockings, thin shoes, and chapeaux bras under the arm! How civilization and refinement lose themselves in burlesque, thought I; aud what a chance there is of those foolish followers of an absurd fashion falling victims in their turn, but to a death less glorious even than that which has sent this one to his last account!
A concentrated blaze of light, rising far above the tall and leafless trees, soon marked the spot where the mortal remains of the young duellist were lowered into the earth, while his hundreds of former companions stood round in serried circles, doing honour to his obsequies. I could not withdraw from the contemplation of the scene, although it was only through the mind's eye it was evident. The whole procession had passed out of sight, with the straggling citizens of both sexes, young and old, by whom it was accompanied in solemn silence. The long street was quite abandoned, and the rays from the few lamps which swung at wide intervals across, fell heavily upon the snow and the dark buildings at either side. Suddenly a loud burst of song rose upon the air. The deep harmony of hundreds of male voices was joined in the requiem, and quite overpowered the instrumental accompaniment. It was sad and solemn beyond all description. No female notes lightened the fullthroated harmony. Never did sorrow find a more fitting tone than in the chorus of that deep lament.
I could no longer resist the desire to mingle with the throng. An impulse of sadness hurried me resistlessly along, as the swell of the sea heaves a vessel on its silent course. I was soon at the door of the grave-yard. But all was once more still. The death-dirge had ceased, and the earth-heap was loosely piled over the body which had taken its dark berth below. The crowd quickly began to hurry forth. In a moment or two more the band appeared outside, and it struck up a new, a less solemn, but a not less impressive strain than before. It was one of those fine martial airs to which men move to battle, which thrill through the nerves, and call the dull or stagnant feelings to arms. Every one present seemed to feel the inspiration. The procession which was now formed had all the appearance of a military train. There was no coffin, no bier, and apparently no mourners. A tone of excited, of desperate ardour pervaded those whose measured steps so lately kept time with the melancholy music of the dirge. The horns echoed along the wood-covered hill, at the foot of which the procession now moved back towards the buildings of the university, and the majestic ruins of the castle above returned the bugle's tones in wild and half unearthly mimicry. The grotesque diversity of costumes worn by the students, their countenances varying from beardless animation to hair-covered ferocity, the gestures with which each man tossed his flaring torch above his head, the glittering of the sword-blades here and there, the wintry harshness of the scene, the wind-gusts heard at intervals in the skeleton branches of the trees, all formed a whole of combinations, each one in fierce keeping with the rest.
We, for I had joined the crowd and felt myself identified with the ceremony, arrived at the large square of the university. Here the leaders halted the torch-bearers in double ranks, at each of the four
sides; and at a signal given, every one advanced towards the centre, and flung his flambeau on the earth. In a few minutes the accumulation of fiery brands formed a considerable pile; and, while a thick volume of flame and smoke rose up, and was carried rapidly down the wind, the whole assembly once more shouted a chorus of almost stunning harmony. Every one knows how the German youths are trained to vocal music; and the effect of several hundreds, on such an occasion as this, singing in parts and without a note of discord, one of their grandest national hymns, baffles imagination, and defies the pen.
It required but little stretch of fancy to believe that the spirit of patriotism rose on this union of incense and melody. It seemed emblematic of that holy desire for freedom which swells and glows in the German heart. A people imbued with a strong passion so developed cannot, I thought, be doomed to perpetual thraldom. There is a longing after liberty that must some time find a vent and secure a triumph. Then let not the youths of these fine European tracts be hastily judged, on isolated instances of bad taste or unworthy habits. Their eccentricities may arise from a vague longing for distinction; their wayward doings be but ambition seeking the right road. A keen sense of political debasement may make them both restless and dull. But when the trumpet shall sound the hour of their regeneration, the despots may quiver in their core ! Such a scene as this speaks home to the heart. The men who look and feel as these men do must finally work out their political salvation. These universities, with all their besetting sius, are fine nurseries for noble thought. Here the prince and the peasant sit side by side, read the same lessons of wisdom, and breathe the same atmosphere of truth. Here are no badges of privilege; no circles of exclusion; no inordinate masses of wealth and pride, represented by the scions of an arrogant aristocracy. Here are princes-I have seen and known suchonly distinguished by superior modesty; and the sons of husbandmen working their way up to the loftiest seats of literature and science. Here individuals of all classes respect each other's station, because they value their own. Here, as in the country at large, there is no straining at distinction, beyond the easy reach of every one-no ruinous profusions, for appearance sake-no servile estimate of consequenceno idolatry of rank. Here, thank Heaven! there are no tuft-hunters, for here there are no tufts. Every man walks the streets and paces the halls in a general equality; and the memory of Alma Mater in after life is not stained with thoughts of insolent pretension on the one hand, and envious enmity on the other. The preventive system is really the wise one, where the common weaknesses of human nature are at risk.
With this plan of political education in full force, the country must and will be saved, in spite of the vehement oratory of cowards who dread the torrent of improvement. There is still an instinct of feudality, as well as of a love for the fatherland, lurking in the German mind. But they are widely distinct. Patriotism is the source of noble things. Veneration for power is a prostration of the mind. In proportion as the chief of the state acts as beseems the chosen of the people he should be honoured, and praised, and loved.
"But loyalty fast held to fools doth make
THE DEBTOR'S EXPERIENCE,
READER, you have made your entrée into the day-rooms of Barrett's Hotel; but the honours of inauguration into the sleeping apartments yet await you.
Precisely at three-quarters past nine, P.M., a warning bell rings to notify the approach of "roosting time;" and as old Cripplegate tolls the hour of ten appear the turnkeys, who, rattling their keys against the grated windows, cry, "Come, gentlemen, gentlemen," and in a few short moments the knights are locked upon the respective landing-places adjoining their bed-wards; then commences a ceremony, in itself worthy "the order," imposing and awful to the new candidate for knighthood, in which the elder brethren of the cross all take part. Rugs and blankets from the straw-beds are put in requisition for the double purpose of adorning and concealing the wearers, under which each man carries a pillow, to be hereafter made use of as occasion may serve. The newly-made captive is ordered to bed; he obeys-but with something like instinctive horror, as he surveys the group of ruffianly-looking fellows around him. A procession is then formed of the rug and blanket men, each armed with a mop or broom, their craniums covered with washing-basins or other utensils; the steward of the bed-room, surrounded by his satellites, commences a march towards his victim, he, and his choir chanting as they go, in imitation of the Roman Catholics at mass, distributing water from pewter-pots to all persons within reach of their benediction; certain rules are read by the steward, which is a signal for the commencement of a regular battle-brooms, pillows, mops, bed-furniture are hurled on all sides, candles are extinguished, and in the general scuffle, the "sacred helmets" are not unfrequently reduced to atoms; one, however, being always in reserve, upon which the "new member" is expected to swear that he will be a true, faithful, and obedient knight; he is then ordered to pay the chamberlain sixpence, scream a song, and afterwards go to sleep. But woe! woe! thrice-told woe! be to the proud presumptuous mortal who dare resist! Such have been compelled to pass whole nights upon the staircase as they best could, deprived of, and shut out from, the mean comforts of Mr. Barrett's bed-chambers, no refractory member, who refuses to submit to these ceremonies, being permitted to profane the county straw. By the way, I cannot but remark that this society calls itself a republic, but in no government whatever do despotism and tyranny reign more absolutely.
A medical attendant is attached to this hotel, at a liberal salary; but as the knights are not unfrequently troubled with hypochondriasis and lowness of spirits upon their initiation, his visits are like those of Angels, "few and far between," kindly fearing that his presence may remind them of "ills they know not." I must, however, in justice to this gentleman declare, that upon the only occasion I was compelled to seek his assistance, I found him prompt, obliging, and polite. Considering, however, the large number of persons of both sexes that
are yearly placed under his care, a resident Galen is much to be desired, and highly requisite. In many cases of emergency, which occur frequently, and especially during the period that the epidemic called "influenza" raged in London, very serious consequences might have arisen, but for the obliging assistance of one or other of the knightsphlebotomizers, who happened at the moment (most luckily for the patients) to be, as canons and prebendaries would say, " in residence."
A room called the "sick ward" is appropriated to invalids, in which are two female nurses, who, from the account given by their patients, are not overstocked with tenderness; their hearts, made of sterner stuff," sympathize not with suffering humanity. "Pity" is not their handmaiden; with them the softness, peculiar to " the sex," dwells not; or at most, appears only in proportion to the weight of the sick man's purse. An old Irishman, reduced from a state of comfort as a respectable tradesman, to one of great misery, under the care of these matrons during some weeks, was a quizzical compound of wit, originality, and irascibility, and ever in a state of war with them. So long as a patient has money, these harridans will contrive to detain him as long as possible amongst them; that gone, the poor wretch, unless he be extremely ill, is reported convalescent, and they get rid of him.
Lawyers thrive abundantly upon the distresses of the White Cross knights, and though "it were treason to doubt the honourable profession,' a few strong cautions, as to whom amongst the tribe they may employ, are, notwithstanding, exhibited in the different wards, accompanied by a list of such as have been known to plunder their clients, in order that they may be avoided for the future. Many attornies practising in the Insolvent Court have an agent in each ward, who receives a douceur of 10s., sometimes more, for every client obtained through his influence; these agents are prisoners, and generally the stewards of the respective wards, who being the first persons to whom new captives are introduced, have the best opportunities of ferreting out their affairs, and recommending the patrons who best pay themselves. Amongst these liberal lawyers are some very unprincipled fellows, who prey upon the miseries and misfortunes of others as vultures upon carrion; these make their daily appearance in hopes of finding fresh victims, and they are, alas! seldom disappointed. One of this genus, doubtless possessing more expanded notions of charity than the general body, invariably cautions those persons whom he addresses, (and they include the whole 66 order ") against the entire race, excepting himself, of whom he has the best opinion, and with whom he stands perfectly well; his disinterestedness excites the surprise of members, until they are informed, (by himself,) that he is "the most, if not the only respectable man of the profession." Small cards of address with which this benevolent quibble abounds, are tenderly thurst into the hand of his hearer, with a few words at parting, such as, 66 Shall be happy to serve you, Sir; am a respectable man, with lots of business, Sir."-"Good morning, but pray be cautious, Sir." From all, however, that I have been able to learn (I believe) Mr. A stands nearer the mark "integrity," than most of the fraternity hanging on at "Barrett's;" he will endeavour to make as much money of him as possible, (and, by the by, who amongst them will not?) but his attention will be given to his client, and I am