The Good Soldier Svejk Chapter 1.

Schweik’s Misadventures on the Train.

There were three passengers in a second-class compartment of the Prague-Budejovice express. Lieutenant Lukash, opposite whom an elderly and entirely bald gentleman was sitting, and Schweik, who was standing modestly in the corridor and was just preparing to listen to a fresh storm of abuse from Lieutenant Lukash, who, regardless of the presence of the bald-headed civilian, kept yelling at Schweik throughout the journey that he was a God-forsaken idiot and similar things.

The cause of the trouble was a trifling matter, a slight discrepancy in the number of pieces of luggage that Schweik was looking after.

"One of our trunks has been stolen, you say," snarled the lieutenant at Schweik. "That’s a fine thing to tell anyone, you jackass."

"Beg to report, sir," announced Schweik softly, "it has been stolen, all the same. There’s a lot of crooks knocking about at railway stations, and I expect one of them most likely took a fancy to your trunk and then he most likely took advantage of my back being turned when I left the luggage to come and tell you that the luggage was all right. He must have pinched that trunk just at a moment when the coast was clear. They’re always on the look-out for a chance like that. Two years ago, at the North-Western station, they stole a young lady’s perambulator with a baby girl wrapped up inside, and they went and handed the baby over at the police station in our street, where they said they’d found it left in a doorway. And then the papers called that poor young lady an inhuman monster."

And Schweik declared with emphasis :

"People always have pinched things at railway stations and they always will. You just can’t get away from it."

"It strikes me, Schweik," observed the lieutenant, "that you’ll come to a very bad end. I still can’t make out whether you only act the fool or whether you were born a fool. What was in that trunk?"

"Nothing at all, sir," replied Schweik, with his eyes glued to the bald head of the civilian, who was sitting opposite to the lieutenant, and who appeared to be taking no interest whatever in the matter, but was reading the Neue Freie Press. "All that was in that trunk was a looking glass from the bedroom and an iron clothes hanger from the passage, so that we didn’t really lose anything, because the looking glass and the hanger belonged to the landlord."

Seeing the lieutenant make a very wry face, Schweik continued in an affable tone :

"Beg to report, sir, that I never knew beforehand that they’d pinch that trunk, and as regards the looking glass and the hanger, I sent word to the landlord that we’d let him have them back when we come home from the war. There’s plenty of looking glasses and hangers in the enemy countries, so we needn’t be out of pocket with the landlord. As soon as we take a town -"

"Shut up, Schweik," the lieutenant shouted. "I’ll deal with you when we get to Budejovice. Do you know I’m going to have you locked up?"

"Beg to report, sir, I don’t," said Schweik blandly. "You never mentioned anything to me about it before, sir."

The lieutenant gritted his teeth, sighed, took a copy of the Bohemia from his pocket and began to read news about great victories, the exploits of the German submarine "E" in the Mediterranean, and when he had come to a report about a new German invention for blowing cities up by means of special triple detonating bombs dropped from aeroplanes, he was interrupted by the voice of Schweik, who was addressing the bald-headed gentleman:

"Excuse me, guv’nor, but ain’t you Mr. Purkrâbek, agent of the Slavia Bank?"

When the bald-headed gentleman made no reply, Schweik said to the lieutenant :

"Beg to report, sir, I once read in the paper that the average man has 60,000 to 70,000 hairs on his head and that many examples show black hair is thinner as a rule."

And he continued remorselessly :

"Then there was a doctor who said that loss of hair was due to mental disturbance during confinements."

But now a dreadful thing happened. The bald-headed gentleman jumped toward Schweik and shouted : "Marsch heraus, du Schweinskerl,"1 and having hustled him into the corridor, returned to the carriage, where he gave the lieutenant a little surprise by introducing himself.

Evidently there had been a mistake. The bald-headed man was not Mr. Purkrâbek, agent of the Slavia Bank, but merely Major-General von Schwarzburg. The major-general was just proceeding in mufti on a series of garrison inspections and was now about to pay a surprise visit to Budejovice.

He was the most fearsome inspector general who had ever

1"Get out of it, you dirty swine."

walked the earth, and if he found anything amiss, the following dialogue would ensue between him and the garrison commandant:

"Have you got a revolver?"

"Yes, sir."

"All right, then. If I were in your place, I’d know what to do with it. This isn’t a garrison, it’s a pigsty."

And, as a matter of fact, there were always a certain number who shot themselves after one of his inspections, whereupon Major-General von Schwarzburg would always observe with satisfaction :

"That’s the style ! That’s what I call a soldier."

It looked as if he disliked anyone to remain alive after his inspection. He had a mania for transferring officers to the most unpleasant places. On the slightest pretext, an officer was already saying good-bye to his garrison and was on his way to the frontiers of Montenegro or to some drink-sodden, forlorn outpost in the filthy wilds of Galicia.

He now said to Lieutenant Lukash :

"Where did you attend the cadet school?"

"At Prague."

"So you attended a cadet school and are not aware that an officer is responsible for his subordinate? That’s a nice state of affairs. And then you carry on a conversation with your orderly as if he were a close friend of yours. You allow him to talk without being asked. That’s an even nicer state of affairs. In the third place, you allow him to insult your superior officers. And that caps all. What is your name?"


"And what regiment are you in?"

"I was -"

"I’m not asking where you were but where you are."

"In the 91st regiment, sir. They transferred me -"

"Oh, they transferred you, did they? Quite right, too. It won’t do you any harm to get to the front as soon as possible with the 91st regiment."

"That’s already settled, sir."

The major-general now held a lecture about how, of recent

years, he had observed that officers talk to their subordinates in a familiar manner and this he held to be a dangerous tendency, inasmuch as it promoted the spread of democratic principles. The private soldier must keep himself to himself, he must tremble before his superior officer, he must fear him. Officers must keep the rank-and-file at a distance of ten paces from them and not allow them to think independently or, indeed, to think at all. There was a time when officers put the fear of God into the rank-and-file, but nowadays -.

The major-general made a hopeless gesture with his hand.

"Nowadays the majority of officers absolutely coddle the rank-and-file. That’s all I wanted to say."

The major-general picked up his newspaper again and engrossed himself in it. Lieutenant Lukash, as white as a sheet, went out into the corridor to settle accounts with Schweik.

He found him by the window, looking as blissful and contented as a baby a month old who has drunk its fill and is now dropping off to sleep.

The lieutenant stopped, beckoned to Schweik and pointed to an empty compartment. He entered at Schweik’s heels and closed the door.

"Schweik," he said solemnly, "the time has now come for you to get the biggest hiding on record. What on earth did you interfere with that bald-headed gentleman for? Do you know that’s Major-General von Schwarzburg?"

"Beg to report, sir," announced Schweik, with the air of a martyr, "never in my life have I had the least intention of insulting anyone and it’s news to me about him being a major-general. As true as I stand here, he’s the living image of Mr. Purkrâbek, agent of the Slavia Bank. He used to come to our pub and once, when he fell asleep at a table, some joker wrote on his bald head with a copying-ink pencil : ’Please note our scheme for safeguarding your children’s future as per schedule IIIc enclosed.’ Well, they all cleared off, and I was left alone with him, and it was just my luck that when he woke up and saw himself in the glass, he didn’t half get ratty and he wanted to give me a good hiding, too."

The word "too" glided with such a touchingly gentle accent of

reproach from Schweik’s lips that the lieutenant let his arm drop.

But Schweik continued :

"There was no need for that gentleman to get into such a wax over a little mistake like that. It’s an absolute fact he’s supposed to have 60,000 to 70,000 hairs, like the average man has, just as the article said. It never struck me there was such a thing as a bald-headed major-general. Well, that’s what they call a tragic mistake, the same as anybody might make when he passes a remark and somebody else takes it in a wrong way without giving him a chance to explain. I used to know a tailor who -"

Lieutenant Lukash gave one more look at Schweik and then left the compartment. He returned to his former seat, and after a few minutes Schweik’s guileless countenance appeared in the doorway :

"Beg to report, sir, we’ll be at Tâbor in five minutes. The train stops there for five minutes. Wouldn’t you care to order a little snack of something? Years and years ago they used to have very good -"

The lieutenant jumped up furiously and in the corridor he said to Schweik :

"Let me tell you once more that the less I see of you, the better I shall like, it. If I had my way I’d never set eyes on you again, and you can take it from me that I won’t if I can damn well help it. Don’t let me see anything of you. Keep out of my sight, you blithering jackass, you."

"Very good, sir."

Schweik saluted, turned smartly to the right-about, in the military manner, and then went to the end of the corridor, where he sat down in a corner on the guard’s seat and entered into a conversation with a railwayman.

"There’s a question I’d like to ask you, boss."

The railwayman, who evidently was in no mood for conversation, nodded listlessly.

"I used to know a chap named Hofmann," began Schweik, "and he always made out that these alarm signals never act, what I mean to say, that nothing would happen if you pulled this handle. To tell you the honest truth, I never gave the matter another

thought, but as soon as I spotted this alarm outfit here, I thought I’d like to know what’s what like, in case I should ever need it."

Schweik stood up and accompanied the railwayman to the alarm brake marked : "In case of danger."

The railwayman considered it his duty to explain to Schweik exactly what the alarm mechanism consisted of.

"He was right when he said you’ve got to pull this here handle, but he was kidding you when he made out it don’t act. The train always stops, because this is connected with all the carriages and the engine. The alarm brake has to act."

While he was saying this, they both had their hands on the handle of the lever and then—how it happened must remain a mystery—they pulled it and the train stopped.

They were quite unable to agree as to who had actually done it and made the alarm signal work.

Schweik declared that he couldn’t have done it, not being a guttersnipe.

"It’s a fair marvel to me," he said good-humouredly to the guard, "why the train stopped so sudden. It was going, then all at once it stopped. I’m more upset about it than what you are."

A solemn gentleman took the guard’s part and said he’d heard the soldier start a conversation about alarm signals.

On the other hand, Schweik kept harping upon his good name and insisted that it was no advantage to him for the train to be late, because he was on his way to the front.

"The station master’ll tell you all about it," declared the guard. "This’ll cost you twenty crowns."

Meanwhile the passengers could be seen climbing down from the carriages, the head guard blew a whistle, and a lady in a panic started running with a portmanteau across the railway track into the fields.

"It’s well worth twenty crowns, that it is," said Schweik stolidly, maintaining complete composure. "It’s cheap at the price."

Just then the head guard joined the audience.

"Well, it’s about time we made a move," said Schweik. "It’s a nuisance when a train’s late. If it was in peace time it wouldn’t matter so much, but now that there’s a war on, all the trains are carrying troops, major-generals, lieutenants, orderlies. It’s a

risky business being late like that. Napoleon was five minutes late at Waterloo and, emperor or no emperor, he got himself into a mess just the same."

At this moment Lieutenant Lukash pushed his way through the group. He was ghastly pale and all he could utter was the word"Schweik!"

Schweik saluted and explained :

"Beg to report, sir, they’re making out I stopped the train. The railway company have got very funny plugs on their emergency brakes. It’s better to keep away from them or else something’ll go wrong and they’ll ask you to fork out twenty crowns, the same as they’re asking me."

The head guard had already blown his whistle and the train was starting again. The passengers returned to their seats and Lieutenant Lukash, without another word, also went back to his compartment. The other guard remained with Schweik and the railwayman. He took out a notebook and began to draw up a report on the whole affair. The railwayman gazed spitefully at Schweik, who coolly asked :

"How long have you been working on the railway?"

As the railwayman did not reply, Schweik proceeded to explain that he had known a certain Frantisek Mlicek of Uhrineves near Prague who had also pulled an emergency brake and it had so scared him that he had lost his speech for a fortnight and only recovered it when he was paying a visit to a gardener named Vanek at Hostivar, and had a fight with someone there. "That happened," added Schweik, "in May, 1912."

The railwayman thereupon went and locked himself in the lavatory.

The guard now called upon Schweik to pay a fine of twenty crowns, as otherwise he would have to take him before the station master at Tâbor.

"That’s all right," said Schweik. "I like talking to educated people. It’ll be a fair treat for me to see that station master at Tâbor."

When the train arrived at Tâbor, Schweik with all due ceremony went to Lieutenant Lukash and said :

"Beg to report’, sir, I’m being taken before the Station master."

Lieutenant Lukash did not reply. He had become completely indifferent to everything. It struck him that the best thing he could do was not to care a rap about anybody, whether it was Schweik or the bald-headed major-general, and to sit quietly where he was, to leave the train at Budejovice, to report himself at the barracks and to proceed to the front with a draft. At the front, if the worse came to the worst, he would be killed and thus get away from this appalling world in which such monstrosities as Schweik were knocking about.

When the train started again, Lieutenant Lukash looked out of the window and saw Schweik standing on the platform and engrossed in a solemn colloquy with the station master. Schweik was surrounded by a crowd of people in which several railway uniforms were visible.

Lieutenant Lukash heaved a sigh. It was not a sigh of pity. His heart felt lighter at the thought that Schweik had been left behind on the platform. Even the bald-headed major-general did not seem to be quite such a horrid bugbear.

The train had long since puffed its way into Budejovice, but there was no diminution in the crowd of people round Schweik. Schweik was asserting his innocence and had so convinced the assembly that one lady remarked :

"They’re bullying another soldier again." The assembly accepted this view and a gentleman announced to the station master that he was prepared to pay Schweik’s fine for him. He was convinced that the soldier had not done what he was accused of.

Then a police sergeant made his appearance and, having grabbed hold of a man in the crowd, led him away, saying :

"What d’you mean by causing all this disturbance? If that’s the way you want soldiers treated, how d’you expect Austria to win the war?"

Meanwhile, the worthy person who believed in Schweik’s innocence had paid the fine for him and had taken Schweik into the third-class refreshment room, where he had treated him to beer. And having ascertained that all his papers, including his railway warrant, were in the possession of Lieutenant Lukash, he gener-

ously presented him with the sum of five crowns for a ticket and sundry expenses.

When he was leaving, he said confidentially to Schweik :

"Look here, if you happen to get taken prisoner in Russia, remember me to Zeman, the brewer at Zdolbunov. I’ve written it down on a bit of paper for you. And keep your wits about you so as you won’t have to stay long at the front."

"Don’t you worry about that," said Schweik. "It’s a good wheeze to see foreign parts for nothing."

Schweik stayed where he was, and while he was quietly drinking his way through the five crowns, the people on the platform who had not witnessed Schweik’s interview with the station master, and had only seen a crowd in the distance, were telling each other that a spy had been caught taking photographs of the railway station, but a lady contradicted this rumour by declaring that it wasn’t a spy at all, but she had heard that a dragoon had struck an officer near the ladies’ lavatory because the officer was following his (the dragoon’s) sweetheart. These fantastic conjectures were brought to an end by the police, who cleared the platform. And Schweik went on quietly drinking; he wondered with a tender concern what Lieutenant Lukash had done when he reached Budejovice and found no signs of his orderly anywhere.

Before the departure of the slow train, the third-class refreshment room became packed with travellers, consisting mostly of soldiers belonging to the most varied units and nationalities. The tide of war had swept them into hospital and now they were again leaving for the front to be wounded, mutilated and tortured once more, so as to qualify for a wooden cross on their graves. One of these hapless wretches, who had just been discharged from hospital after an operation, in a uniform stained with patches of blood and mud, came and sat down next to Schweik. He was undersized, skinny, woebegone. He put a small bundle on the table, took out a tattered purse and counted his money. Then he looked at Schweik and asked : "Magyarul?"1

1"[Do you speak] Hungarian?"

"I’m a Czech," said Schweik. "Have a drink, mate." "Nem tudon, baratom."2

"Never mind that, mate," urged Schweik, putting his full glass in front of the woebegone soldier ; "just you have a good drink of that."

He understood, drank and said "Kessenem szivesen" by way of thanks. Then he went on examining the contents of his purse and ended with a sigh. Schweik realized that the Magyar would have liked to get himself some beer, but had not enough money, and so he ordered some for him, whereupon the Magyar again thanked him and began to explain something to Schweik with the help of gestures. He pointed to his wounded arm and said in an international language : "Piff, paff, puff."

Schweik nodded sympathetically and the undersized convalescent informed Schweik, by lowering his left hand to within half a yard from the floor, and then raising three fingers, that he had three little children.

"Nincs ham, nincs ham," he continued, by which he meant that they had nothing to eat at home, and he wiped tears from his eyes with the dirty sleeve of his military greatcoat, where the hole made by the bullet which had entered his body in the interests of the King of Hungary could still be seen.

It was not surprising that as a result of this entertainment Schweik gradually lost possession of his five crowns and that he slowly but surely cut himself off from Budejovice, since every glass of beer to which he treated himself and the Magyar convalescent lessened his chances of buying a railway ticket.

Another Budejovice train passed through the station and Schweik was still sitting at the table and listening to the Magyar, who repeated his :

"Piff, paff, puff ! Hârom gyermek3 nines ham, éljen." He uttered the last word when they clinked glasses. "Drink away, old chap," replied Schweik. "Shift the booze. You Magyar blokes wouldn’t treat us like that."

2"I don’t understand, friend." 3"Three children."

"Ihre Dokumente, vasi tokûment," a sergeant-major of the military police now remarked to Schweik in German and broken Czech. He was accompanied by four soldiers with fixed bayonets. "You sit, nicht fahren, sit, drink, keep on drink," he continued in his elegant jargon.

"Haven’t got none, milacku,"4,replied Schweik. "Lieutenant Lukash of the 91st regiment took them with him and left me here in the station."

"Was ist das Wort: milacekf"5asked the sergeant-major, turning to one of his soldiers, an old defence corps man, who replied :

"Milacek, das ist wie: H err Feldzvebel."6

The sergeant-major continued his conversation with Schweik :

"Papers, every soldier, without papers, lock up auf Bahnhofs-militarkommando, den lausigen Bursch, wie ein toller Hund."

They took Schweik accordingly to the military transport headquarters. The guardroom was decorated with lithographs which at that time were being distributed by the War Office among all military departments. The good soldier Schweik was welcomed by a picture which, according to the inscription, represented Sergeant F. Hammel and Corporals Paulhart and Bachmayer of the Imperial and Royal 21st artillery regiment, encouraging their men to hold out.

The sergeant-major now appeared on the scene and pointing to Schweik, told the corporal of the defence corps to take the lousy so-and-so to the lieutenant, as soon as he arrived.

"The lieutenant’s larking about again with the telegraph operator at the station," explained the corporal after the sergeant had left. "He’s been after her for the last fortnight and he’s always in a hell of a temper when he gets back from the telegraph office. Says he : Dos ist aber eine Hure; sie will nicht mit mir schlaj en."

On this occasion too he was in a hell of a temper, and when, after an interval, he arrived, he could be heard banging books on the table.


5"What does ’milacek’ mean?"

6"Milacek, that’s the same as sergeant-major."

"It’s no use, chum, you’ve got to get it over. So in you go," said the corporal to Schweik in a sympathetic tone.

And he led Schweik into an office where behind a table littered with papers sat a small lieutenant who looked exceedingly fierce. When he saw Schweik with the corporal, he remarked : "Aha !" in a significant manner. Whereupon the corporal explained :

"Beg to report, sir, this man was found in the station without any papers."

The lieutenant nodded as if to indicate that years and years ago he had guessed that precisely on that day and at that hour Schweik would be found in the station without papers, for anyone looking at Schweik at that moment could not help feeling convinced that it was quite impossible for a man of such appearance and bearing to have any papers on him. At that moment Schweik looked as if he had fallen from heaven or from some other planet and was now gazing with artless wonder at a new world in which he was being asked for papers, some species of nonsense hitherto unknown to him.

The lieutenant nodded as if to indicate that he should say something and he should be questioned about it.

At last he asked :

"What were you doing in the station?"

"Beg to report, sir, I was waiting for the train to Budejovice, because I want to get to my regiment where I’m orderly to Lieutenant Lukash, but I got left behind on account of being taken to the station master to pay a fine through being suspected of stopping the express we were travelling in, by pulling the alarm signal."

"Here, I can’t make head or tail of this," shouted the lieutenant. "Can’t you say what you’ve got to say in a straightforward manner, without drivelling away like a lunatic?"

"Beg to report, sir, that from the very first minute I sat down with Lieutenant Lukash in that train that was to take us to our 91st imperial royal infantry regiment without any hanging about we had nothing but bad luck. First of all we lost a trunk, then by way of a change, there was a major-general, a bald-headed cove -"

"Oh, good Lord !" sighed the lieutenant.

"Beg to report, sir, but I got to go into all this so as I can sort of get it off my chest and give you a proper idea of the whole business like a friend of mine used to say, a cobbler he was and his name was Petrlik, but he’s dead now, well, before he began to give his boy a good walloping, he always told him to take his trousers down."

And while the lieutenant fumed, Schweik continued : "Well, somehow or other this bald-headed major got his knife into me at the very start, and Lieutenant Lukash, that’s the officer I’m orderly to, he sent me out into the corridor. Then in the corridor I got accused of doing what I’ve told you. And while they were looking into it, I got left behind on the platform. The train was gone, the lieutenant with his trunks and his papers and with my papers was gone too, and there I was left in the lurch like an orphan, with no papers and no nothing."

Schweik gazed at the lieutenant with such a touching air of gentleness that the latter was quite convinced of the absolute truth of what he was hearing from the lips of this fellow who, to all appearances, was a congenital idiot. He now enumerated to Schweik all the trains which had left for Budejovice since the departure of the express, and he asked him why he had missed them as well.

"Beg tq report, sir," replied Schweik, with a good-humoured smile, "that while I was waiting for the next train, I got into more trouble through having a few drinks."

"I’ve never seen such a fool," pondered the lieutenant. "He owns up to everything. I’ve had plenty of them here and they all swear blind they’ve never done anything. But this chap comes up as cool as a cucumber and says : I lost all the trains through having a few drinks."

He summed up these considerations in a single sentence, with which he now addressed Schweik :

"You’re a degenerate. Do you know what it means when anyone’s called a degenerate?"

"Beg to report, sir, down our way there was another degenerate. His father was a Polish count and his mother was a midwife. He was a crossing sweeper and in all the pubs he used to go to he made everyone call him ’Count.’"

The lieutenant decided that the time had now come to settle the matter once and for all. He therefore said in emphatic tones :

"Now then, you blithering idiot, you fat-headed lout, go to the booking office, buy a ticket and clear off to Budejovice. If I see any more of you, I’ll treat you as a deserter. Abtreten!"7

As Schweik did not move, but kept his hand at the salute at the peak of his cap, the lieutenant bellowed :

"Quick march outside, abtreten, didn’t you hear what I said? Corporal Palânek, take this drivelling idiot to the booking office and buy him a ticket to Budejovice."

After a short interval Corporal Palânek again appeared at the lieutenant’s office. Behind Palânek, through the open door, peeped Schweik’s good-humoured countenance.

"What is it now?"

"Beg to report, sir," whispered Corporal Palânek mysteriously, "he’s got no money for a ticket and I’ve got none, either. They won’t let him ride free because he’s got no papers to show he’s going to the regiment."

The lieutenant promptly delivered a judgment of Solomon to settle the quandary.

"Then let him walk there," he decided, "and when he gets there they can shove him in clink for being late. We can’t be bothered with him here."

"It’s no use, chum," said Corporal Palânek to Schweik when they were outside the office again, "you’ll have to walk to Budejovice, old sport. We’ve got some bread rations in the guard room. I’ll give you some to take with you."

And half an hour later, when they had treated Schweik to black coffee and besides the bread rations had given him a packet of army tobacco to take with him to the regiment, he left Tâbor at dead of night, singing a song, an old army song :

"When we’re marching on our way, Marvellous it is to say—"

And heaven knows how it happened that the good soldier Schweik, instead of turning southward toward Budejovice, went


due west. He trudged through snow, wrapped up in his army greatcoat, like the last of Napoleon’s guards returning from the march on Moscow, the only difference being that he sang blithely :

"Oh, I went out for a stroll, for a stroll Into the grassy meadows—"

And in the stillness of the night it reechoed among the snow-covered woods till the dogs began to bark in the village.

When he got tired of singing, Schweik sat down on a pile of gravel, lit his pipe and after having a rest, trudged on, toward new adventures.