The Good Soldier Svejk Chapter 6.

Schweik Home Again After Having Broken the Vicious Circle.

Through the premises of the police headquarters was wafted the spirit of authority which had been ascertaining how far the people’s enthusiasm for the war actually went. With the exception of a few persons who did not disavow the fact that they were sons of the nation which was destined to bleed on behalf of interests entirely alien to it, the police headquarters harboured a magnificent collection of bureaucratic beasts of prey, the scope of whose minds did not extend beyond the jail and the gallows with which they could protect the existence of the warped laws.

During this process they treated their victims with a spiteful affability, weighing each word beforehand.

"I’m extremely sorry," said one of these beasts of prey with black and yellow stripes, when Schweik was brought before him, "that you’ve fallen into our hands again. We thought you’d turn over a new leaf, but we were mistaken."

Schweik mutely assented with a nod of the head and displayed so innocent a demeanour that the black-yellow beast of prey gazed dubiously at him and said with emphasis :

"Take that idiotic expression off your face."

But he immediately switched over to a courteous tone and continued :

"You may be quite certain that we very much dislike keeping you in custody and I can assure you that in my opinion your guilt is not so very great, because in view of your weak intellect there can be no doubt that you have been led astray. Tell me, Mr. Schweik, who was it induced you to indulge in such silly tricks?"

Schweik coughed and said :

"Begging your pardon, sir, but I don’t know what silly tricks you mean."

"Well, now, Mr. Schweik," he said in an artificially paternal tone, "isn’t it a foolish trick to cause a crowd to collect, as the police officer who brought you here says you did, in front of the royal proclamation of war posted up at the street corner, and to incite the crowd by shouting : ’Long live Franz Josef. We’ll win this war !’ "

"I couldn’t stand by and do nothing," declared Schweik, fixing his guileless eyes upon his inquisitor’s face. "It fairly riled me to see them all reading the royal proclamation and not showing any signs that they was pleased about it. Nobody shouted hooray or called for three cheers—nothing at all, your worship. Anyone’d think it didn’t concern them a bit. So, being an old soldier of the 91st, I couldn’t stand it and that’s why I shouted those remarks and I think that if you’d been in my place, you’d have done just the same as me. If there’s a war, it’s got to be won, and there’s got to be three cheers for the Emperor. Nobody’s going to talk me out of that."

Quelled and contrite the black-yellow beast of prey flinched from the gaze of Schweik, the guileless lamb, and plunging his eyes into official documents, he said :

"I thoroughly appreciate your enthusiasm, but I only wish it had been exhibited under other circumstances. You yourself know full well that you were brought here by a police officer, because a patriotic demonstration of such a kind might, and indeed, inevitably would be interpreted by the public as being ironical rather than serious."

"When a man is being run in by a police officer," replied Schweik, "it’s a critical moment in his life. But if a man even at such a moment don’t forget the right thing to do when there’s a war on, well, it strikes me that a man like that can’t be a bad sort after all."

The black-yellow beast of prey growled and had another look at Schweik.

Schweik met his eye with the innocent, gentle, modest and tender warmth of his gaze.

For a while they looked fixedly at each other.

"Go to blazes, Schweik," said the jack-in-office at last, "and if you get brought here again, I’ll make no bones about it, but off you’ll go before a court-martial. Is that clear?" ,

But before he realized what was happening, Schweik had come up to him, had kissed his hand and said :

"God bless you for everything you’ve done. If you’d like a thoroughbred dog at any time, just you come to me. I’m a dog fancier."

And so Schweik found himself again at liberty and on his way home.

He considered whether he ought not first of all to look in at The Flagon, and so it came about that he opened the door through which he had passed a short while ago in the company of Detective Bretschneider.

There was a deathlike stillness in the bar. A few customers were sitting there, among them the verger from St. Apolinnaire’s. They looked gloomy. Behind the bar sat the landlady, Mrs. Palivec, and stared dully at the beer handles.

"Well, here I am back again," said Schweik gaily, "let’s have

a glass of beer. Where’s Mr. Palivec? Is he home again too?"

Instead of replying, Mrs. Palivec burst into tears, and, concentrating her unhappiness in a special emphasis which she gave to each word, she moaned :


"Fancy that, now," said Schweik. "Then he’s already served seven days of it."

"He was that cautious," wept Mrs. Palivec. "He himself always used to say so."

The customers in the taproom maintained a stubborn silence, as if the spirit of Palivec were hovering about and urging them to even greater caution.

"Caution is the mother of wisdom," said Schweik, sitting down to his glass of beer. "We’re living in such queer times that a man can’t be too cautious."

"We had two funerals yesterday," said the verger of St. Apolinnaire’s, changing the subject.

"Somebody must have died," said another customer, whereupon a third man inquired :

"Did they have a regular hearse?"

"I’d like to know," said Schweik, "what the military funerals are going to be like now that there’s a war on."

The customers rose, paid for their drinks and went out quietly. Schweik was left alone with Mrs. Palivec.

"I never thought," he said, "that they’d sentence an innocent man to ten years. I’ve already heard of an innocent man getting five years, but ten—that’s a bit too much."

"And then my husband admitted everything," wept Mrs. Palivec. "What he said about the flies and the pictures, he repeated it word for word at the police station and in court. I was a witness at the trial, but what could I say when they told me I stood in a relation of kinship to my husband and that I could decline to give evidence? I was so scared of the relation of kinship, thinking it might lead to more trouble, that I declined to give evidence, and, poor fellow, he gave me such a look, I’ll never forget the expression on his face, not to my dying day I won’t. And then when they passed the sentence and they were taking him off, he shouted in the passage, as if he’d gone off his head : ’Up the rebels !’ "

"And does Mr. Bretschneider still come here?" asked Schweik.

"He was here a few times," replied the landlady. "He had one or two drinks and asked me who comes here, and he listened to what the customers were saying about a football match. Whenever they see him, they only talk about football matches. And he fairly had the jumps as if any minute he’d go raving mad and start rampaging about. But the whole time he only managed to get hold of one gentleman, and he was a paper hanger."

"It’s all a matter of practice," remarked Schweik. "Was the paper hanger a soft-headed sort of fellow?"

"Much the same as my husband," she replied, weeping. "Bretschneider asked him if he’d fire against the Serbs. And he said he didn’t know how to shoot. He’d been once, he said, to a shooting gallery and had some shots for a crown. Then we all heard Mr. Bretschneider say as he took out his notebook : ’Hallo, another nice bit of high treason !’ And he took the paper hanger away with him and he never came back."

"There’s lots of them’ll never come back," said Schweik. "Let me have a glass of rum."

Schweik was just having a second glass of rum when Bretschneider came into the taproom. He glanced rapidly round the empty bar and sat down beside Schweik. Then he ordered some beer and waited for Schweik to say something.

Schweik took a newspaper from the rack and glancing at the back page of advertisements, he remarked :

"Look here, that man Cimpera who lives at Straskov is selling a farm with thirteen roods of land belonging to it situated close to school and railway."

Bretschneider drummed nervously with his fingers, and turning to Schweik, he said :

"I’m surprised to find you interested in farming, Mr. Schweik."

"Oh, it’s you, is it?" said Schweik, shaking hands with him. "I didn’t recognize you at first. I’ve got a very bad memory for faces. The last time I saw you, as far as I remember, was in the office of the police headquarters. What have you been up to since then? Do you come here often?"

"I came here to-day on your account," said Bretschneider.

"They told me at the police headquarters that you’re a dog fancier. I’d like a good ratter or a terrier or something of that sort."

"I can get that for you," replied Schweik. "Do you want a thoroughbred or one from the street?"

"I think," replied Bretschneider, "that I’d rather have a thoroughbred."

"Wouldn’t you like a police dog?" asked Schweik. "One of those that gets on the scent in a jiffy and leads you to the scene of the crime? I know a butcher who’s got one. He uses it for drawing his cart, but that dog’s missed its vocation, as you might say."

"I’d like a terrier," said Bretschneider with composure, "a terrier that doesn’t bite."

"Do you want a terrier without teeth, then?" asked Schweik. "I know of one. It belongs to a man who keeps a public house."

"Perhaps I’d rather have a ratter," announced Bretschneider with embarrassment. His knowledge of dogcraft was in its very infancy, and if he hadn’t received these particular instructions from the police headquarters, he’d never have bothered his head about dogs at all.

But his instructions were precise, clear and stringent. He was to make himself more closely acquainted with Schweik on the strength of his activities as a dog fancier, for which purpose he was authorized to select assistants and expend sums of money for the purchase of dogs.

"Ratters are of all different sizes," said Schweik. "I know of two little ’uns and three big ’uns. You could nurse the whole five of ’em on your lap. I can strongly recommend them."

"That might suit me," announced Bretschneider, "and what would they cost?"

"That depends on the size," replied Schweik. "It’s all a question of size. A ratter’s not like a calf. It’s the other way round with them. The smaller they are, the more they cost."

"What I had in mind was some big ones to use as watch dogs," replied Bretschneider, who was afraid he might encroach too far on his secret police funds.

"Right you are," said Schweik. "I can sell you some big ’uns

for fifty crowns each, and some bigger still for twenty-five crowns. Only there’s one thing we’ve forgotten. Do you want puppies or older dogs, and then is it to be dogs or bitches?"

"It’s all the same to me," replied Bretschneider, who found himself grappling with unknown problems. "You get them for me and I’ll come and fetch them from you at seven o’clock tomorrow evening. Will they be ready by then?"

"Just you come along. I’ll have them without fail," answered Schweik drily. "But under the circumstances I shall have to ask you for an advance of thirty crowns."

"That’s all right," said Bretschneider, paying the money. "And now let’s have a drink on the strength of it. I’ll stand treat."

When they had each had four drinks, Bretschneider announced, after telling Schweik not to be afraid of him, that he wasn’t on duty that day and so he could talk to him about politics.

Schweik declared that he never talked about politics in a public house, and that politics was a mug’s game anyhow.

In opposition to this, Bretschneider was more revolutionary in his views and said that every weak country was predestined to destruction. Then he asked Schweik what he thought about this.

Schweik announced that it had nothing to do with the country, but that once he had to look after a weak St. Bernard puppy which he had fed with army biscuits and it had died.

When they had each had five drinks, Bretschneider asserted that he was an anarchist and asked Schweik which organization he ought to join.

Schweik said that once an anarchist had bought a mastiff from him for a hundred crowns and had failed to pay the last instalment.

Over the sixth drink Bretschneider was talking about revolution and against mobilization, whereupon Schweik leaned over toward him and whispered into his ear:

"There’s a customer just come in, so don’t let him hear you or it might be awkward for you. And look, the landlady’s crying!"

Mrs. Palivec was, in fact, crying on her chair behind the bar.

"What are you crying for, missus?" asked Bretschneider. "In

three months we’ll have won the war, there’ll be an amnesty, your husband’ll come back home and then we’ll have a fine old spree here."

"Don’t you think we’ll win?" he added, turning to Schweik.

"What’s the good of chewing the rag about that the whole time?" said Schweik. "The war’s got to be won and there you are. But now I must be off home."

Schweik paid his reckoning and returned to Mrs. Muller, his old charwoman, who was extremely scared when she saw that the man who had let himself in with a key was Schweik.

"I didn’t think you’d be back for years and years," she said with her usual frankness. "And so, till further notice, as you might say, I took a new lodger—a porter from a night club, and him not having anywhere to go, I felt sorry for him, like, and then the police came and searched the place three times, but they couldn’t find anything, so they said you was done for, through being so artful and all."

Schweik immediately discovered that the unknown lodger had made himself extremely comfortable. He was sleeping in Schweik’s bed and he had been magnanimous enough to be satisfied with only half the bed, granting the use of the other half to some member of the opposite sex who was asleep with an arm gratefully encircling his neck, while articles of male and female clothing were scattered in a medley around the bed. From this chaos it was evident that the porter from the night club had been in a merry mood when he had returned with his lady.

"Look here, boss," said Schweik, shaking the intruder, "don’t you be late for lunch. I should be very upset if people said I’d chucked you out before you’d had a chance of getting any lunch."

The porter from the night club was very sleepy, and it took a long time before he understood that the owner of the bed had returned home and was laying claim to his property.

In the manner of all porters from night clubs, this gentleman announced his intention of bashing anyone who woke him up, and he endeavoured to continue his slumbers.

Schweik meanwhile collected portions of the man’s wardrobe, brought them to his bedside and shaking him vigorously, said :

"If you don’t get dressed, I’ll chuck you out into the street just

as you are. It’d be much better to get away from here with your clothes on."

"I wanted to sleep till eight in the evening," announced the porter, somewhat taken aback and putting on his trousers. "I’m paying the landlady two crowns a day for the bed and she lets me bring girls from the club here. Marena, get up."

By the time he had discovered his collar and was arranging his tie, he had sufficiently pulled himself together to assure Schweik that the Mimosa Club was one of the most respectable of its kind, for the only ladies allowed there were those who were properly registered with the police, and he cordially invited Schweik to pay a visit to the establishment.

On the other hand, his female companion was not at all pleased with Schweik and in reference to him made use of some highly select expressions, the most select of which was :

"You measly, low-down skunk, you !"

After the departure of the intruders, Schweik went to have it out with Mrs. Muller, but he could discover no sign of her, except a piece of paper, upon which in her scrawly handwriting she had, with unusual ease, recorded her thoughts regarding the unfortunate episode of the loan of Schweik’s bed to the porter from the night club.

Pleese sir forgive me for not seeing you agane, becos I shall jump out of the winder.

"Liar," said Schweik, and waited.

Half an hour later the unhappy Mrs. Muller crept into the kitchen, and from her downcast expression it was evident that she expected Schweik to provide her with words of comfort.

"If you want to jump out of the window," said Schweik, "go into the bedroom. I’ve opened the window for you. I wouldn’t advise you to jump out of the kitchen window, because if you did, you’d fall into the roses in the garden and squash them and then you’d have to pay for them. If you jump out of the bedroom window, you’ll land nicely on the pavement, and if you’re lucky, you’ll break your neck. If your luck’s out, you’ll just break all your ribs, arms and legs, and then it’ll cost you a pretty penny in the hospital."

Mrs. Mûller burst into tears. Quietly she went into the bedroom, closed the window and came back, saying: "There’s a dreadful draught from that window, and it wouldn’t do your rheumatism any good, sir."

Then she went to make the bed, putting everything straight with unusual care. When she rejoined Schweik in the kitchen, she remarked with tears in her eyes : "Those two puppies, sir, that we kept in the yard, they’ve died. And the St. Bernard dog ran away when the police were searching the place."

"Holy Moses !" exclaimed Schweik. "He’ll get himself into a nice mess. I’d bet anything he’ll have the police after him."

"He did bite one police inspector, when he pulled him out from under the bed while they were looking round the place," continued Mrs. Muller. "It started this way : One of the gentlemen said that there was somebody under the bed and so they called on the St. Bernard in the name of the law to come out and when he wouldn’t come, they pulled him out. So he snapped at them and bolted out through the door and he hasn’t been back since. They asked me a lot of questions, too, about who comes here and whether we get any money from abroad, and then they started calling me names when I told them that money didn’t come from abroad very often, but the last time it was from a gentleman at Brno who sent sixty crowns in advance for an Angora cat that you advertised about in the newspaper and instead of which you sent him a blind fox terrier puppy in a packing case. After that they talked to me as nice as could be and so as I shouldn’t be scared at being left all alone here, they said I ought to take the porter from the night club as a lodger. You know, the one you sent about his business."

"I’m having a rough time with all these police officers, Mrs. Muller. I bet you won’t see many people coming here to buy dogs now," sighed Schweik.

I do not know whether the gentleman who inspected the police records after the collapse of Austria could make anything of such items in the secret police funds as : B. 40 cr. F. 50 cr. M. 80 cr. etc., but they would be quite mistaken if they supposed that B, F and M are the initials of persons who for 40, 50 or 80 crowns betrayed the Czech nation to the Austrian eagle.

B. stands for St. Bernard, F. for fox terrier and M. for mastiff. All these dogs were taken by Bretschneider from Schweik to the police headquarters. They were hideous freaks which had nothing whatever in common with any of the pure breeds, as which Schweik foisted them off upon Bretschneider.

The St. Bernard was a cross between a mongrel poodle and a sort of dubious cur ; the fox terrier had the ears of a dachshund, was the size of a mastiff and had bandy legs as if it had suffered from rickets. The mastiff had a shaggy head resembling the jowl of a collie and lopped tail ; it was no taller than a dachshund, and was shorn behind.

Then Detective Kalous went there to buy a dog and he returned with a cowed monstrosity resembling a spotted hyena, with.the mane of a Scottish sheep dog, and to the items of the secret funds was added : R. 90 cr.

This monstrosity was supposed to be a retriever.

But not even Kalous managed to worm anything out of Schweik. He fared the same as Bretschneider. Schweik transferred the most skilful political conversation to the subject of how to cure distemper in puppies, and the only result produced by the most artfully contrived traps was that Schweik foisted off upon Bretschneider another incredibly cross-bred canine freak.