The Good Soldier Svejk Chapter 2.

Schweik, the Good Soldier, at the Police Headquarters.

The Sarajevo assassination had filled the police headquarters with numerous victims. They were brought in, one after the other, and the old inspector in the reception bureau said in his good-humoured voice: "This Ferdinand business is going to cost you dear." When they had shut Schweik up in one of the numerous dens on the first floor, he found six persons already assembled there. Five of them were sitting round the table, and in a corner a middle-aged man was sitting on a mattress as if he were holding aloof from the rest.

Schweik began to ask one after the other why they had been arrested.

From the five sitting at the table he received practically the same reply :

"That Sarajevo business." "That Ferdinand business." "It’s all through that murder of the Archduke." "That Ferdinand affair." "Because they did the Archduke in at Sarajevo."

The sixth man who was holding aloof from the other five said that he didn’t want to have anything to do with them because he didn’t want any suspicion to fall on him. He was there only for attempted robbery with violence.

Schweik joined the company of conspirators at the table, who were telling each other for at least the tenth time how they had got there.

All, except one, had been caught either in a public house, a wineshop or a café. The exception consisted of an extremely fat gentleman with spectacles and tear-stained eyes who had been arrested in his own home because two days before the Sarajevo outrage he had stood drinks to two Serbian students, and had been observed by Detective Brix drunk in their company at the Montmartre night club where, as he had already confirmed by his signature on the report, he had again stood them drinks.

In reply to all questions during the preliminary investigations at the commissariat of police he had uttered a stereotyped lament :

"I’m a stationer."

Whereupon he had received an equally stereotyped reply :

"That’s no excuse."

A little fellow, who had come to grief in a wineshop, was a teacher of history and he had been giving the wine merchant the history of various political murders. He had been arrested at the moment when he was concluding a psychological analysis of all assassinations with the words :

"The idea underlying assassination is as simple as the egg of Columbus."

Which remark the commissary of police had amplified at the cross-examination thus :

"And as sure as eggs are eggs, there’s quod in store for you."

The third conspirator was the chairman of the "Dobromil" Benevolent Society. On the day of the assassination the "Dobro-

mil" had arranged a garden party, combined with a concert. A sergeant of gendarmes had called upon the merrymakers to disperse, because Austria was in mourning, whereupon the chairman of the "Dobromil" had remarked good-humouredly :

"Just wait a moment till they’ve played Hej Slované."1

Now he was sitting there with downcast heart and lamenting :

"They elect a new chairman in August and if I’m not home by then I may not be reelected. This is my tenth term as chairman and I’d never get over the disgrace of it."

The late Ferdinand had played a queer trick on the fourth conspirator, a man of sterling character and unblemished scutcheon. For two whole days he had avoided any conversation on the subject of Ferdinand, till in the evening when he was playing cards in a café, he had won a trick by trumping the king of clubs.

"Bang goes the king—just like at Sarajevo."

As for the fifth man, who was there, as he put it, because they did the Archduke in at Sarajevo, his hair and beard were bristling with terror, so that his head recalled that of a fox terrier. He hadn’t spoken a word in the restaurant where he was arrested— in fact he hadn’t even read the newspaper reports about Ferdinand’s assassination, but was sitting at a table all alone, when an unknown man had sat down opposite him and said in hurried tones : -

"Have you read it?"


"Do you know about it?"


"Do you know what it’s all about?"

"No, I can’t be bothered about it."

"You ought to take an interest in it all the same."

"I don’t know what I ought to take an interest in. I’ll just smoke a cigar, have a few drinks, have a bit of supper, but I won’t read the papers. The papers are full of lies. Why should I upset myself?"

"So you didn’t take any interest even in the Sarajevo murder?"

"I don’t take any interest in any murders, whether they’re in

1 Czech popular song.

Prague, Vienna, Sarajevo or London. That’s the business of the authorities, the law courts and the police. If anyone gets murdered anywhere, serve him right. Why does he want to be such a damn fool as to let himself get murdered?"

Those were his last words at that conversation. Since then he had kept on repeating in a loud voice at intervals of five minutes :

"I’m innocent, I’m innocent."

He had shouted these words in the entrance to the police headquarters, he would repeat them while being conveyed to the Prague sessions, and with these words on his lips he would enter his prison cell.

When Schweik had heard all these dreadful tales of conspiracy he thought fit to make clear to them the complete hopelessness of their situation.

"We’re all in the deuce of a mess," he began his words of comfort. "You say that nothing can happen to you, to all of us, but you’re wrong. What have we got the police for except to punish us for letting our tongues wag? If the times are so dangerous that archdukes get shot, the likes of us mustn’t be surprised if we’re taken up before the beak. They’re doing all this to make a bit of a splash, so that Ferdinand’U be in the limelight before his funeral. The more of us there are, the better it’ll be for us, because we’ll feel all the jollier. When I was in the army, sometimes half the company were shoved into clink. And lots of innocent men used to get punished. Not only in the army, in the law courts, too. Once I remember there was a woman who was sentenced for strangling her newborn twins. Although she swore she couldn’t have strangled the twins, because she’s only had one baby, a female one, that she managed to strangle quite painlessly, she was sentenced for double murder. Once the court takes a thing up, there’s trouble. But there’s bound to be trouble. It may be that not all people are such crooks as they’re taken for. But nowadays how are you going to tell an honest man from a crook, especially now in these grave times when Ferdinand got done in. When I was in the army the captain’s pet dog got shot in the wood behind the parade ground. When he heard about it, he called us all out on parade and ordered every tenth man to step one pace forward. Of course, I was a tenth man, and there we

stood at attention without moving an eyelash. The captain walked round us and said : ’You blackguards, you ruffians, you scum, you scabby brutes, I’d like to shove the whole gang of you into solitary confinement over that dog. I’d chop you into mincemeat, I’d shoot you and have you turned into stew. But just to show you that I’m not going to treat you leniently, I’m giving you all fourteen days C. B.’ You see, that time the trouble was over a dog, but a fullblown archduke’s at the bottom of it all. That’s why they’ve got to put the fear of God into people, so as to make the trouble worth while."

"I’m innocent, I’m innocent," repeated the man with the bristly hair.

"So was Jesus Christ," said Schweik, "but they crucified Him for all that. Nobody anywhere at any time has ever cared a damn whether a man’s innocent or not. Maul halten und welter dienen,2 as they used to tell us in the army. That’s the best and wisest thing to do."

Whereupon Schweik stretched himself out on the mattress and fell asleep contentedly.

In the meanwhile, two new arrivals were brought in. One of them was a Bosnian. He walked up and down gnashing his teeth. The other new guest was Palivec who, on seeing his acquaintance Schweik, woke him up and exclaimed in a voice full of tragedy :

"Now I’m here, too !"

Schweik shook hands with him cordially and said :

"I’m glad of that, really I am. I felt sure that gentleman’d keep his word when he told you they’d come and fetch you. It’s nice to know you can rely on people."

Mr. Palivec, however, remarked that he didn’t care a damn whether he could rely on people or not, and he asked Schweik on the quiet whether the other prisoners were thieves who might do harm to his business reputation.

Schweik explained to him that all except one, who had been arrested for attempted robbery with violence, were there on account of the Archduke.

Mr. Palivec was annoyed and said that he wasn’t there on account of any fool of an archduke, but on the Emperor’s ac-

2"Hold your tongue, and get on with your job !"

count. And as this began to interest the others, he told them how the flies had soiled the Emperor.

"They left stains on him, the vermin," he concluded the account of his mishap, "and now I’ve been put into jail. I’ll pay those flies out for this," he added menacingly.

Schweik went back to sleep, but not for long, because they soon came to take him away to be cross-examined.

And so, mounting the staircase to Section 3 for his cross-examination, Schweik bore his cross to the summit of Golgotha, although he himself was unaware of his martyrdom.

On seeing a notice that spitting was prohibited in the corridors, he asked the police sergeant to let him spit into a spittoon and beaming with good nature he entered the bureau, saying :

"Good-evening, gentlemen, I hope you’re all well."

Instead of a reply, someone pummelled him in the ribs and stood him in front of a table, behind which sat a gentleman with a cold official face and features of such brutish savagery that he looked as if he had just tumbled out of Lombroso’s book on criminal types.

He hurled a bloodthirsty glance at Schweik and said :

"Take that idiotic expression off your face."

"I can’t help it," replied Schweik solemnly. "I was discharged from the army on account of being weak-minded and a special board reported me officially as weak-minded. I’m officially weak-minded—a chronic case."

The gentleman with the criminal countenance grated his teeth as he said :

"The offence,you’re accused of and that you’ve committed shows you’ve got all your wits about you."

And he now proceeded to enumerate to Schweik a long list of crimes, beginning with high treason and ending with insulting language toward His Royal Highness and Members of the Royal Family. The central gem of this collection constituted approval of the murder of the Archduke Ferdinand, and from this again branched off a string of fresh offences, amongst which sparkled incitement to rebellion, as the whole business had happened in a public place.

"What have you got to say for yourself?" triumphantly

asked the gentleman with the features of brutish savagery.

"There’s a lot of it," replied Schweik innocently. "You can have too much of a good thing."

"So you admit it’s true?"

"I admit everything. You’ve got to be strict. If you ain’t strict, why, where would you be? It’s like when I was in the army . . ."

"Hold your tongue !" shouted the police commissioner. "And don’t say a word unless you’re asked a question. Do you understand?"

"Begging your pardon, sir, I do, and I’ve properly got the hang of every word you utter."

"Who do you keep company with?"

"The charwoman, sir."

"And you don’t know anybody in political circles here?"

"Yes, sir, I take in the afternoon edition of the Narodni Politika, you know, sir, the paper they call the puppy’s delight."

"Get out of here !" roared the gentleman with the brutish appearance.

When they were taking him out of the bureau, Schweik said :

"Good-night, sir."

Having been deposited in his cell again, Schweik informed all the prisoners that the cross-examination was great fun. "They yell at you a bit and then kick you out." He paused a moment. "In olden times," continued Schweik, "it used to be much worse. I once read a book where it said that people charged with anything had to walk on red-hot iron and drink molten lead to see whether they was innocent or not. There was lots who was treated like that and then on top of it all they was quartered or put in the pillory somewhere near the Natural History Museum.

"Nowadays, it’s great fun being run in," continued Schweik with relish. "There’s no quartering or anything of that kind. We’ve got a mattress, we’ve got a table, we’ve got a seat, we ain’t packed together like sardines, we’ll get soup, they’ll give us bread, they’ll bring a pitcher of water, there’s a closet right under our noses. It all shows you what progress there’s been. Of course, it’s rather a long way to the place where you’re cross-examined, along three corridors and up one flight of stairs, but the corridors are clean and there’s plenty going on in them. Some are being

taken one way, others the opposite way, young and old, male and female. It’s nice to know you’re not alone. They all go wherever they’re taken and they’re absolutely satisfied, because they’re not afraid of being told in the bureau : ’We’ve talked your case over and to-morrow you’ll be quartered or burned alive, according as you prefer.’ That must have been a nasty thing to have to look forward to, and I think, gentlemen, that it would have upset a good many of us. Ah, yes, nowadays things have improved for our benefit."

He had just concluded his vindication of the modern imprisonment of citizens when the warder opened the door and shouted:

"Schweik, you’ve got to get dressed and go to be cross-examined."

"I’ll get dressed," replied Schweik. "I’ve no objection to that, but it strikes me there must be some mistake. I’ve been cross-examined once and they chucked me out. And what I’m afraid is that these other gentlemen who are here along with me are going to have a grudge against me because I’ve been called for a cross-examination twice running, and they’ve not been there at all yet this evening. It’s enough to make them jealous of me."

"Clear out and shut your row," was the reply to Schweik’s considerate representations.

Schweik again stood in the presence of the criminal-faced gentleman who, without any preliminaries, asked him in a harsh and relentless tone :

"Do you admit everything?"

Schweik fixed his kindly blue eyes upon the pitiless person and said mildly :

"If you want me to admit it, sir, then I will. It can’t do me any harm. But if you was to say: ’Schweik, don’t admit anything,’ I’ll argue the point to my last breath."

The severe gentleman wrote something on his documents and, handing Schweik a pen, told him to sign.

And Schweik signed Bretschneider’s depositions, with the following addition :

All the above-mentioned accusations against me are based upon


Josef Schweik.

When he had signed, he turned to the severe gentleman :

"Is there anything else for me to sign? Or am I to come back in the morning?"

"You’ll be taken to the criminal court in the morning," was the answer.

"What time, sir? You see, I wouldn’t like to oversleep myself, whatever happens."

"Get out!" came a roar for the second time that day from the other side of the table before which Schweik had stood.

On the way back to his new abode, which was provided with a grating, Schweik said to the police-sergeant escorting him :

"Everything here runs as smooth as clockwork."

As soon as the door had closed behind him, his fellow-prisoners overwhelmed him with all sorts of questions, to which Schweik replied brightly :

"I’ve just admitted I probably murdered the Archduke Ferdinand."

And as he lay down on the mattress, he said :

"It’s a pity we haven’t got an alarm clock here."

But in the morning they woke him up without an alarm clock, and precisely at six Schweik was taken away in the Black Maria to the county criminal court.

"The early bird catches the worm," said Schweik to his fellow-travellers, as the Black Maria was passing out through the gates of the police headquarters.