The Good Soldier Svejk Chapter 7.

Schweik Joins the Army.

While the forests by the river Raab in Galicia beheld the Austrian troops in full flight, and in Serbia the Austrian divisions, one by one, were receiving the drubbing they so richly deserved, the Austrian Ministry of War suddenly thought of Schweik as a possible means for helping the monarchy out of its fix.

When Schweik received notice that within a week he was to present himself for medical examination, he was in bed with another attack of rheumatism.

Mrs. Muller wae making him coffee in the kitchen.

"Mrs. Mùller," came Schweik’s tranquil voice from the bedroom. "Mrs. Muller, come here a moment."

When the charwoman was standing by his bedside, Schweik said in the same tranquil tones : "Sit down, Mrs. Muller."

There was something mysteriously solemn in his voice.

When Mrs. Muller had sat down, Schweik sat up in bed and announced : "I’m going to join the army."

"My gracious me !" exclaimed Mrs. Muller, "and what are you going to do there?"

"Fight," replied Schweik in a sepulchral voice. "Austria’s in a bad way. Up in the North we’ve got our work cut out to keep them away from Cracow, and down in the South they’ll be all over Hungary if we don’t get busy soon. Things look very black whichever way you turn, and that’s why they’re calling me up. Why, only yesterday I read in the paper that clouds are gathering above our beloved country."

"But you can’t walk."

"That doesn’t matter, Mrs. Muller, I’ll join the army in a Bath chair. You know that confectioner round the corner, he’s got the kind of thing I want. Years and years ago he used to wheel his lame grandfather—a bad-tempered old buffer he was too—in it, for a breath of fresh air. That’s the Bath chair you’re going to wheel me to the army in, Mrs. Miiller."

Mrs. Miiller burst into tears. "Hadn’t I better run for the doctor, sir?"

"Not a bit of it. Except for my legs I’m a sound piece of cannon fodder, and at a time when Austria’s in a mess, every cripple must be at his post. Just you go on making the coffee."

And while Mrs. Miiller, tear-stained and flustered, was straining the coffee, the good soldier Schweik began to warble in bed :

"General Windischgraets and all his commanders Started the battle at the break of day; Hop, hop, hop !

They started the battle and began to pray: Help us, O Lord, with the Virgin Mary; Hop, hop, hop!"

Mrs. Mùller, scared by this dreadful battle song, forgot about the coffee, and trembling from head to foot, listened in terror to the good soldier Schweik, who went on warbling in bed :

"With the Virgin Mary and the -four bridges here, Piedmont, look out, for your end is near; Hop, hop, hop!

There at Solferino a battle began, Lots of blood was shed, knee-deep it ran; Hop, hop, hop!

Knee-deep ran the blood and corpses by the load, The boys of the Eighteenth, their derring-do they showed; Hop, hop, hop!

The boys of the Eighteenth, don’t be afraid, A waggon-load of money is coming to your aid; Hop, hop, hop!"

"Goodness, gracious, Mr. Schweik, please don’t," could be heard a pitiable voice from the kitchen, but Schweik concluded his war song :

"A waggon-load of money and a cartful of stew, What other regiment could do as much as you? Hop, hop, hop!"

Mrs. Miiller rushed out of doors and ran for the doctor. When he returned an hour later, Schweik was dozing. He was aroused from his slumbers by a portly gentleman who held his hand on Schweik’s forehead for a moment and said :

"Pray don’t be alarmed. I’m Dr. Pavek from Vinohrady— Show me your hand—Put this thermometer under your arm —that’s right—Show me your tongue—More of it—Keep it still—What did your father and mother die of?"

And thus it came about that at the time when Vienna desired all the nations of Austria-Hungary to show the most sterling examples of fidelity and devotion, Dr. Pavek was prescribing bromide for Schweik’s patriotic enthusiasm and recommending the undaunted and worthy warrior Schweik not to think about the army.

"Continue in a recumbent posture and keep your mind at rest. I will return to-morrow."

When he came the next day, he asked Mrs. Muller in the kitchen how the patient was getting on.

"He’s worse, Doctor," she replied, with genuine concern. "In the night, when his rheumatism came on, he was singing the Austrian anthem, if you please."

Dr. Pavek saw himself compelled to counter this new manifestation of his patient’s loyalty by increasing the dose of bromide.

On the third day Mrs. Muller reported that Schweik was getting still worse.

"In the afternoon, Doctor, he sent for a map showing what he called the seat of war, and in the night his mind started wandering and he said that Austria would win."

"And is he using the powders in accordance with my prescription?"

"He hasn’t sent for them yet, Doctor."

Dr. Pavek departed, after having let loose upon Schweik a tempest of diatribes, with the assurance that never again would he treat a patient who declined to accept his medical assistance with bromide.

Only two days were left before Schweik was to appear before the recruiting medical board.

During this time Schweik made the appropriate preparations. First of all he sent Mrs. Muller for a military cap and secondly he sent her to the confectioner round the corner to borrow from him the Bath chair in which he used to wheel his lame grandfather, that bad-tempered old buffer, for a breath of fresh air. Then he remembered that he needed a pair of crutches. Fortunately the confectioner had also kept a pair of crutches as a family keepsake to remember his grandfather by.

All that he wanted now was the bunch of flowers worn by recruits. This also was obtained for him by Mrs. Muller, who during these few days became remarkably thin and wept wherever she went.

And thus, on that memorable day, the following example of touching loyalty was displayed in the streets of Prague :

An old woman pushing a Bath chair, in which sat a man wear-

ing a military cap with a polished peak and brandishing a pair of crutches. And his coat was adorned with a flamboyant bunch of flowers.

And this man, again and again brandishing his crutches, yelled, as he passed through the streets of Prague :

"To Belgrade, to Belgrade!"

He was followed by a crowd of people, the nucleus of which-had been an insignificant knot of idlers, assembled in front of the house whence Schweik had proceeded to the army.

Schweik duly noted that the police officers, stationed at various crossroads, saluted him.

In Vaclav Square the crowd around Schweik’s Bath chair had increased to several hundred, and at the corner of Kradovska Street it mobbed a German student wearing a cap with the colours of his association, who shouted to Schweik:

"Heil! Nieder mit den Serben!"1

At the corner of Vodickova Street the mounted police interfered and dispersed the crowd.

When Schweik showed the police inspector in black and white that he was to appear that day before the medical board, the inspector was somewhat disappointed and to restrict the continuance of any disorder he had the Bath chair, with Schweik inside it, escorted by two mounted constables to the headquarters of the medical board.

The Prague Official News published the following report on this occurrence :


Yesterday morning the pedestrians in the main streets of Prague were the witnesses of a scene which bears admirable testimony that in this grave and momentous epoch the sons of our nation also can give the most sterling examples of fidelity and devotion to the throne of our aged ruler. It is not too much to say that we have returned to the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans, when Mucius Scœvola had himself led into battle, regardless of his burned hand. The most sacred emotions and sentiment were touchingly demonstrated yesterday by a cripple on crutches who was being wheeled along in a Bath chair by an old woman. This scion of the Czech nation was, of his own accord and regardless of his infirmity, having himself conveyed to the army in order that he might give up his life

1"Three cheers ! Down with the Serbs !"

and possessions for his Emperor. And the fact that his war-cry: "To Belgrade !" met with such warm approval in the streets of Prague is only a further proof that the people of Prague are furnishing model examples of love for their country and the Royal Family.

The Prager Tagblatt wrote in similar terms and concluded its report by saying that the crippled volunteer had been accompanied by a crowd of Germans who had protected him with their bodies against attempts made to lynch him by Czech agents of the Entente powers.

Bohemia published this report and demanded that the crippled patriot should be rewarded, adding that any gifts from German citizens for the unknown hero should be sent to the offices of the paper.

While, according to these three papers, the Czech territory was unable to produce a single lofty-minded citizen, the gentlemen on the medical board did not hold this view.

This applies particularly to Dr. Bautze, chairman of the board. He was a man who stood no nonsense and who regarded everything as a fraudulent attempt to escape the army and the front, bullets and shrapnel.

He is well known for his remarks "Das ganze tschechische Volk ist eine Simulantenbande."2

Within ten weeks of his activities he weeded out 10,999 malingerers from 11,000 civilians and he would have collared the eleven thousandth man, if at the very moment when Dr. Bautze yelled at him "Kehrt euch!"3the unfortunate fellow had not had a stroke.

"Take this malingerer away," said Dr. Bautze, when he had ascertained that the man was dead.

And now on that memorable day Schweik stood before him stark naked like all the rest, but bashfully hiding his nudity with the crutches on which he was leaning.

"Dos ist wirklich ein besonderes Feigenblatt,"* said Dr. Bautze, "there weren’t any fig-leaves like that in the Garden of Eden."

2"The whole of the Czech nation is a gang of malingerers."

3"About turn."

4"That’s a very funny kind of fig-leaf."

"In the lowest category on account of being weak-minded," remarked the sergeant-major, examining the official records.

"And what else is wrong with you?" asked Dr. Bautze.

"Beg to report, sir, I’ve got rheumatism, but I’ll serve the Emperor till I’m hacked to pieces," said Schweik modestly. "My knees are swollen."

Bautze glared ferociously at the good soldier Schweik and yelled: "Sie sind ein Simulant!"5and turning to the sergeant-major he said with icy calm : "Den Kerl sogleich einsperren !"6

Two soldiers with fixed bayonets led Schweik away to the military prison.

Schweik hobbled along on his crutches but with horror he perceived that his rheumatism was disappearing.

When Mrs. Muller who, with the Bath chair, was waiting for Schweik on the bridge, saw him escorted by bayonets, burst into tears and left the Bath chair in the lurch, never to return to it.

And the good soldier Schweik modestly proceeded in the escort of the state defenders.

The bayonets glittered in the sunshine and when they reached the Radetzky monument Schweik turned to the crowd who was accompanying him.

"To Belgrade ! To Belgrade !" he shouted.

And Marshal Radetzky gazed dreamily from his monument at the good soldier Schweik departing with his recruit’s nosegay in his coat, as he limped along on his old crutches, while a solemn-looking gentleman informed the people round about that they were taking a deserter to prison.

5"You are a malingerer."

6"Have the fellow locked up immediately."