THE SWORD AND THE SPIRITS

Life in Budapest at present is not unlike a scene out of a comic opera. The population, in overthrowing the monarchy, also repealed the old royal edict against duelling which was found necessary in order to keep the Army from killing itself off in times of peace. Since an army is now held to be a menace to the freedom of the proletariat, it was thought wise to provide a safe way for getting rid of it. Hence the adoption of the duel.

"A duel a day no insurance to pay" has accordingly become the national motto. A prominent politician, following a speech in the Diet, may expect to receive not less than half a dozen challenges from the leaders of the opposition. As the challenger always pays the expenses, the person challenged usually arranges his acceptances in order of the social standing of his adversary, it being considered a bit ulcer to be killed by a former Viscount than by a mere Captain of Hussars. Rival store-keepers now settle their differences with sword and pistol rather than by cutthroat competition. Most important of all, a student who has been "flunked" by his instructor invariably calls him out.

Unhappily for those who had hoped to solve the problem of the old royalist army by this method, the Hungarian duel seldom ends fatally. A scratch on the arm, a blister on the heel, is considered ample satisfaction for the demands of honor. Indeed, to badly injure one's opponent is shocking bad taste, for it prevents his attending the drinking party which usually winds up these affairs. We thus have the example of a nation -- on the brink of economic and social disruption -- playing at Lords and Ladies until tea-time. They seem to have quite forgotten that when the game is over there will be no jam and cakes with which to satisfy their healthy appetites.