The Good Soldier Svejk Chapter 8.

Schweik as Malingerer.

At this momentous epoch the great concern of the military doctors was to drive the devil of sabotage out of the malingerers and persons suspected of being malingerers, such as, consumptives, sufferers from rheumatism, rupture, kidney disease, diabetes, inflammation of the lungs, and other disorders.

The torments to which malingerers were subjected had been reduced to a system, and the degrees of torment were as follows :

I. Absolute diet—a cup of tea morning and evening for three days, accompanied by doses of aspirin to produce sweating, irrespective of what the patient complained of.

2. To prevent them from supposing that the army was all beer and skittles, they were given ample doses of quinine in powder.

3. Rinsing of the stomach twice daily with a litre of warm water.

4. The use of the clyster with soapy water and glycerine.

5. Swathing in sheets soaked with cold water.

There were dauntless persons who went through all five degrees of torment and had themselves removed in a simple coffin to the military cemetery. There were, however, others who were faint-hearted and who, when they reached the clyster stage, announced that they were quite well and that their only desire was to proceed to the trenches with the next draft.

On reaching the military prison, Schweik was placed in the hut used as an infirmary which contained several of these fainthearted malingerers.

"I can’t stand it any longer," said his bed-neighbour, who had been brought in from the surgery where his stomach had been rinsed for the second time.

This man was prevending to be shortsighted.

"I’m going to join my regiment," decided the other malingerer on Schweik’s left, who had just had a taste of the clyster, after pretending to be as deaf as a post.

On the bed by the door a consumptive was dying, wrapped up in a sheet soaked in cold water.

"That’s the third this week," remarked Schweik’s right-hand neighbour. "And what’s wrong with you?"

"I’ve got rheumatism," replied Schweik, whereupon there was hearty laughter from all those round about him. Even the dying consumptive, who was pretending to have tuberculosis, laughed.

"It’s no good coming here with rheumatism," said a stout man to Schweik in solemn tones, "rheumatism here stands about as much chance as corns. I’m anaemic, half my stomach’s missing and I’ve lost five ribs, but nobody believes me. Why, we actually had a deaf and dumb man here, and every half hour they wrapped him up in sheets soaked in cold water, and every day they gave him a taste of the clyster and pumped his stomach out. Just when all the ambulance men thought he’d done the trick and would get

away with it, the doctor prescribed some medicine for him. That fairly doubled him up, and then he gave in. ’No,’ he says, ’I can’t go on with this deaf and dumb business, rny speech and hearing have been restored to me.’ The sick chaps all told him not to do for himself like that, but he said no, he could hear and talk just like the others. And when the doctor came in the morning, he reported himself accordingly."

"He kept it up long enough," remarked a man, who was pretending to have one leg a quarter of an inch shorter than the other, "not like the man who was shamming a paralytic stroke. Three quinines, one clyster and a day’s fast was enough for him. He owned up, and before they got as far as pumping out his stomach there wasn’t a trace of any stroke at all. The man who held out longest here was the one who had been bitten by a mad dog. He bit and howled, not half he didn’t; he could manage that a fair treat, but he couldn’t foam at the mouth. We helped him all we could. We used to keep on tickling him for a full hour before the doctor came till he got spasms and went blue in front of our very eyes, but there wasn’t a trace of any foam. It just wasn’t in him. Oh, it was something shocking. Well, when the doctor comes, up he stands by the bed straight as a dart and says : ’Beg to report, sir, that the dog that bit me don’t seem to have been mad.’ The doctor gives such a funny look at him that he begins to shake all over and goes on talking : ’Beg to report, sir, that I wasn’t bitten by any dog at all. I bit my own hand, myself.’ After he’d owned up to that, he was had up for biting his hand so as not to get sent to the front."

"All diseases where you want to foam at the mouth," said the stout malingerer, "take a lot of shamming. Take epileptic fits, for instance. There was a chap here who had epileptic fits and he always used to tell us that one fit was nothing to him ; he could do ten of ’em a day, if necessary. He used to twist himself in spasms and clench his fists, make his eyes start out of his head till they looked as if they was on the ends of wires, and he could kick and put out his tongue—well, I tell you, it was a first-rate epileptic fit, the real thing. Suddenly he got boils, two on his neck and two on his back, and he had to stop twisting himself and knocking his head on the floor, because he couldn’t move his head

or sit down or even lie down. Then he got fever and that made him light-headed, and he gave the game away while the doctor was there. And he gave us a dickens of a time with his boils, because he had to stop among us with them for another three days on diet number 2 : coffee and roll in the morning, gruel or soup in the evening. And we with our stomachs pumped out and starving on diet number nought had to look on while this chap gobbled up his grub, smacked his lips, fairly puffing and belching through being so chockful of food. He dished three others through that, and they owned up too. They was trying their luck with a weak heart."

"The best thing to do," said one of the malingerers, "is to sham madness. In the next room there are two other men from the school where I teach and one of them keeps shouting day and night : ’Giordano Bruno’s stake is still smouldering ; renew Galileo’s trial !’ and the other one yelps, first three times, slowly : ’Bow, wow, wow,’ and then five times in quick succession : ’Bowwow-wowwowow,’ and then slowly again and so on without stopping. They’ve kept it up for more than three weeks. I meant at first to act the fool too and be a religious maniac and preach about the infallibility of the Pope, but finally I managed to get some cancer of the stomach for fifteen crowns from a barber down the road."

"I know a chimney sweep," remarked another patient, "who’ll get you such a fever for twenty crowns that you’ll jump out of the window."

"That’s nothing," said another man. "Down our way there’s a midwife who for twenty crowns can dislocate your foot so nicely that you’re crippled for the rest of your life."

"I got my foot dislocated for five crowns," announced a voice from the row of beds by the window, "for five crowns and three drinks."

"My illness has run me into more than two hundred crowns already," announced his neighbour, a man as thin as a rake. "I bet there’s no poison you can mention that I haven’t taken. I’m simply bung full of poisons. I’ve chewed arsenic, I’ve smoked opium, I’ve swallowed strychnine, I’ve drunk vitriol mixed with phosphorus. I’ve ruined my liver, my lungs, my kidneys, my heart

—in fact, all my inside outfit. Nobody knows what disease it is I’ve got."

"The best thing to do," explained someone near the door, "is to squirt paraffin oil under the skin on your arms. My cousin had a slice of good luck that way. They cut off his arm below the elbow and now the army’ll never worry him any more."

"Well," said Schweik, "you see what you’ve all got to go through for the Emperor. Even having your stomachs pumped out. When I was in the army years ago, it used to be much worse. If a man went sick, they just trussed him up, shoved him into a cell to make him get fitter. There wasn’t any beds and mattresses and spittoons like what there is here. Just a bare bench for them to lie on. Once there was a chap who had typhus, fair and square, and the one next to him had smallpox. Well, they trussed them both up and the M. O. kicked them in the ribs and said they were shamming. When the pair of them kicked the bucket, there was a dust-up in Parliament and it got into the papers. Like a shot they stopped us from reading the papers and all our boxes was inspected to see if we’d got any hidden there. And it was just my luck that in the whole blessed regiment there was nobody but me whose newspaper was spotted. So I was had up in the orderly room and our colonel, silly old buffer, God rest his soul, starts yelling at me to stand to attention and tell him who’d written that stuff to the paper or he’d smash my jaw from ear to ear and keep me in clink till all was blue. Then the M.O. comes up and he shakes his fist right under my nose and shouts: ’You misbegotten whelp ; you scabby ape ; you wretched blob of scum ; you skunk of a Socialist, you !’ Well, I looks ’em straight in the face, without moving an eyelid, and there I stood keeping my mouth shut and with one hand at the salute and the other along the seam of my trousers. There they was, running round and yelping at me like a couple of puppies, and I just kept standing there and saying nothing. I keeps my mouth shut, salutes and holds my left hand along the seam of my trousers. When they’d been carrying on like that for about half an hour, the Colonel dashes up to me and yells : ’Are you an idiot or ain’t you?’ ’Beg to report, sir,’ I says, ’that I’m an idiot.’ Well, after a lot of rushing about the Colonel decides to give me twenty-one days’ solitary confinement

for being an idiot, two days per week without any grub, a month’s C.B., forty-eight hours in irons. ’Lock him up on the spot,’ he says. ’Don’t give him anything to eat; tie him hand and foot; show him the army doesn’t need any idiots. We’ll knock the newspaper nonsense out of your head, you ruffian,’ he says. Well, while I was serving my time, there was some rum goings-on in the barracks. Our colonel stopped the troops from reading at all, and in the canteen they wasn’t allowed even to wrap up sausages or cheese in newspapers. That made the soldiers start reading and our regiment had all the rest beat when it came to showing how much they’d learned. We used to read all the papers and in every company there were chaps who made up verses and songs guying the Colonel. And whenever anything happened in the regiment there was always some smart chap among the rank and file who wrote a bit about it to the papers and called it ’Soldiers Tortured.’ And that wasn’t enough for them, mind you. Why, they used to write to our M. P.’s at Vienna asking them to take their part, and so they began to ask questions in Parliament, one after another, all about our colonel being a brute and that sort of stuff. Some minister or other sent a commission to look into it, and in the end a chap named Franta Henclu got two years, because he was the one who had complained to the M. P.’s in Vienna about a smack in the eye that he got from the Colonel on the parade-ground. Afterward, when the commission had cleared off, the Colonel had us all drawn up, the whole blessed regiment, and he says, a soldier’s a soldier and he’s got to hold his tongue and do his duty, and if there’s anything he doesn’t like, then it’s infringement of subordination. ’You gang of ruffians,’ he says, ’you thought the commission was going to help you. Well, it helped you damn well,’ he says. And now you’ll march past me company by company and repeat aloud what I’ve just said.’ So away we went, one company after another, eyes right, with our hands on our rifle-straps and yelled at the Colonel : ’You gang of ruffians ; you thought the commission was going to help you. Well, it helped you damn well.’ The Colonel was laughing fit to bust, till the eleventh company marches past. Up they came, stamping their feet, but when they got alongside the Colonel they never said a word. The Colonel turns as red as a beetroot and sends the elev-

enth company back to do it all over again. They march past and keep their mouths shut, but each file as it came up just stares at the Colonel as bold as brass. ’Ruht!’1 says the Colonel and walks across the barrack square, cracking his whip across his top-boots. Then he spits and suddenly comes to a standstill and yells ’Abtreten!’2mounts his old nag and was outside the gate like a shot. We was waiting for the eleventh company to cop out, but nothing happened. We waited one day, two days, a whole week, and still nothing happened. There was no sign of the Colonel in the barracks, and everybody—men, N. C. O.’s and officers was all chortling about it. Then we got a new colonel and we heard that the old one was in a sanatorium or something because he’d written a letter to the Emperor to tell him that the eleventh company had mutinied."

The time had now come for the doctor to pay his afternoon visit. Dr. Grunstein went from bed to bed, followed by a medical corps orderly with a notebook.


"Present, sir."

"Clyster and aspirin. Pokorny."

"Present, sir."

"Stomach to be rinsed out and quinine. Kovarik."

"Present, sir." Clyster and aspirin. Kotatko."

"Present, sir."

"Stomach to be rinsed out and quinine."

And so the process continued with, one after another, mercilessly, mechanically, incisively.


"Present, sir."

Dr. Grunstein gazed at the newcomer.

"What’s the matter with you?"

"Beg to report, sir, I’ve got rheumatism."

During the period of his activities, Dr. Grunstein had adopted a delicately ironical manner, which proved far more effective than shouting.

1"Halt!" 2"Dismiss !"

"Aha, rheumatism," he said to Schweik. "You’ve got a frightfully troublesome illness. It’s really quite a coincidence to catch rheumatism at the very moment when a war starts and you’ve got to join the army. I expect you’re horribly upset about it." "Beg to report, sir, I am horribly upset about it." "Just fancy now, he’s upset about it. It’s frightfully nice of you to think of us with that rheumatism of yours. In peace time the poor fellow skips about like a goat, but as soon as war breaks out he’s got rheumatism and can’t use his knees. I suppose your knees hurt you?"

"Beg to report, sir, my knees hurt me something cruel." "And night after night you can’t sleep, eh? Rheumatism is a very dangerous, painful and troublesome illness. We’ve had some very satisfactory results with rheumatic patients here. Absolute diet and our other methods of treatment have proved extremely efficacious. Why, you’ll be cured quicker here than at Pistany and you’ll march up to the front line leaving clouds of dust behind you."

Then, turning to the N. C. O. orderly, he said : "Write this down: ’Schweik, absolute diet, stomach to be rinsed out twice daily, clyster once daily’ ; and then we’ll see in due course what further arrangements are to be made : In the meantime, take him into the surgery, rinse out his stomach, and when he comes to, let him have the clyster, but thoroughly, till he screams blue murder and scares his rheumatism away."

And then, turning to all the beds, he delivered a speech brimful of wise and charming adages :

"Don’t imagine you’re dealing with the sort of nincompoop who lets himself be humbugged by any bit of hanky-panky. Your dodges don’t worry me in the least. I know you’re all malingerers who want to shirk the army. And I treat you accordingly. I’ve managed hundreds and hundreds ot soldiers like you. These beds have accommodated whole swarms of men who had nothing wrong with them except a lack of the military spirit. While their comrades were fighting at the front, they thought they’d loll about in bed, get hospital diet and wait till the war stopped. Well, that’s where they made a damn big mistake, and you’re all making a damn big mistake, too. In twenty years to come you’ll still scream

in your sleep when you dream you’re trying to swing the lead on me."

"Beg to report, sir," announced a quiet voice from the bed near the window, "that I’m quite well again. My asthma sort of disappeared in the night."


"Kovarik, beg to report, sir, I’m for the clyster."

"Good ; you’ll have the clyster before you go, to help you along on your journey," decided Dr. Grunstein, "so you can’t complain we didn’t cure you here. And now, all the men whose names I read out are to follow the N. C. O. and get what’s coming to them."

And each one received a lavish portion as prescribed. Schweik’s bearing was stoical :

"Don’t spare me," he urged the myrmidon who was applying the clyster to him, "remember, you’ve sworn to serve the Emperor. And if it was your own father or your brother who was lying here, give ’em the clyster without turning a hair. Remember that Austria stands as firm as a rock on these clysters and victory is ours."

On the next day when Dr. Grunstein came round he asked Schweik how he liked the military hospital.

Sçhweik replied that it was a first-class and well-managed establishment. As a recompense for which he was given the same as on the day before, together with aspirin and three quinine pills, which he had to take in a glass of water there and then.

But Socrates did not drink his cup of hemlock with such composure as Schweik the quinine. Dr. Grunstein now tried all the grades of torment on him.

When Schweik was wrapped up in a wet sheet in the presence of the doctor, and the latter asked him how he liked it, he replied :

"Beg to report, sir, that it’s like being in a swimming bath or at the seaside."

"Have you still got rheumatism?"

"Beg to report, sir, that it doesn’t seem to be getting any better, somehow."

Schweik was subjected to fresh torments.

Now about this time, the Baroness von Botzenheim, the widow

of an infantry general, took a lot of trouble to discover the soldier about whom the newspaper Bohemia had published an account of how he had, though a cripple, had himself wheeled along in a Bath chair and while in the Bath chair had shouted "To Belgrade!" which demonstration of patriotism had acted as an incentive to the editor of Bohemia to invite his readers to collect money for the benefit of the loyal and heroic cripple.

At last, as the result of an inquiry at the police headquarter she ascertained that it was Schweik, and further inquiries were easy. The Baroness von Botzenheim, accompanied by her lady companion and a footman, proceeded to pay a visit to Schweik with a hamper of food.

The poor baroness did not know what it meant when someone is in the infirmary ward of a military prison. Her visiting card opened all doors and in the office they treated her with extreme courtesy. Within five minutes she was told that "the brave soldier Schweik," for whom she was inquiring, could be found in hut No. 3, bed No. 17. Dr. Grunstein, who was flabbergasted at this turn of events, accompanied her in person.

Schweik was just sitting on the bed after the usual daily moil prescribed by Dr. Grunstein, surrounded by a group of starved and emaciated malingerers, who had not yet given in and were stubbornly struggling with Dr. Grunstein upon the basis of absolute diet.

Anyone listening to them would have had the impression that he was in the society of culinary experts, at an advanced school of cookery or at a course of training for gourmets.

"Even plain hashed fat is eatable," one man was just saying— he was there for "chronic catarrh of the stomach"—"if it’s warm. When the fat fries, you squeeze it out till it’s dry, add salt and pepper and I tell you, hashed goose-fat isn’t a patch on it."

"That be blowed for a yarn," said a man with "cancer of the stomach," "there’s nothing like hashed goose-fat. All your pork dripping and whatnot isn’t in the same street with it ; of course, it’s got to be fried till it’s nice and brown, like the Jews do it. You take a fat goose, strip the fat with the skin and fry it."

"You’re all wrong in what you say about pork dripping," said Schweik’s neighbour. "Of course, it stands to reason I’m talking

about home-made dripping. It’s not brown and it’s not golden. It’s got to be something between the two. And it mustn’t be too soft or too hard. It mustn’t crackle, that’s a sign it’s overdone. It ought to melt on your tongue and make you feel as if your chin was being soaked with dripping."

"Did any of you ever eat horse dripping?" inquired a strange voice, to which, however, nobody replied, because the N. C. O. of the medical corps came running in : "Get into bed all of you. There’s an archduchess or somebody coming here and don’t let anybody show his dirty feet under the blanket."

No archduchess could have entered with such pomp as was displayed by the Baroness von Botzenheim. She was followed by a regular procession, including the quartermaster-sergeant of the infirmary. He interpreted this as the hidden hand of a combing-out board which would remove him from his fleshpots on the home front and fling him under some barbed-wire entanglements at the mercy of shrapnel.

He was pale, but Dr. Grunstein was paler still. Before his eyes danced the old baroness’s visiting card bearing the words : "General’s widow," and all that this might involve, such as : connections, influence, complaints, transfer to the front and other awful things.

"Here’s Schweik," he said, preserving an artificial calm and leading the Baroness von Botzenheim to Schweik’s bed. "He’s bearing up very patiently."

The Baroness von Botzenheim sat down by Schweik’s bed on the chair which had been placed there for her and said in broken Czech :

"Czech soldier; prave soldier; cripple soldier; prave soldier. Much like Czech Austrian."

So saying, she stroked Schweik’s unshaven face and continued :

"I read it all in de paper ; I pring you someting to eat ; to smoke ; to trink, Czech soldier : prave soldier, Johann, hommen Sie her."3

The footman, a person with bristly whiskers, pulled a capacious hamper toward the bed, while the old baroness’s lady com-

3"John, come here."

panion, a tall lady with a lachrymose face, sat down on Schweik’s bed and smoothed the straw bolster behind him, under the firm impression that such was the service which should be rendered to sick heroes.

Meanwhile, the baroness was extracting the gifts from the hamper. A dozen roast fowls, wrapped up in pink tissue-paper and decorated with a silken black and yellow ribbon, and two bottles of some wartime liqueur bearing a label inscribed: "Gott strafe England." The other side of the label showed Franz Josef and Wilhelm holding hands as if they were about to play cat’s cradle.

She then extracted from the hamper three bottles of wine for convalescents and two boxes of cigarettes. She arranged everything very elegantly on the empty bed next to Schweik, and added a nicely bound book entitled : "Episodes from the Life of Our Emperor." Among the other things on the bed were some packets of chocolate also bearing the inscription : "Gott strafe England," and again with the effigies of the Austrian Emperor and the German Kaiser. Then there was a nice tooth brush inscribed : "Viribus unitis," so that whenever the owner cleaned his teeth he would be reminded of Austria. An elegant and very suitable gift for the front and the trenches consisted of a manicure set. On the box was a picture which showed some shrapnel bursting and a man in a helmet rushing forward, bayonet in hand. Under this: "Fur Gott, Kaiser und Vaterland!" There was a box of rusks without any picture, but to make up for that, it was inscribed with the following verse in German, followed by a Czech translation :

Austria, O thou noble land, Let thy banners now be scanned, Let them flutter far and wide, Austria must evermore abide.

The last gift consisted of a white hyacinth in a flower pot.

When all this was unpacked and arranged on the bed, the Baroness von Botzenheim could not restrain her tears, so touched was she. The mouths of several starving malingerers began to water. The baroness’s lady companion propped Schweik up and

also shed tears. It was so quiet that you could have heard a pin drop, when suddenly Schweik, clasping his hands together, interrupted the hush.

" ’Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name . . .’ Excuse me, ma’am, that’s not what I mean: ’Lord God, our heavenly Father, bless these gifts which we shall enjoy from Thy bounty, Amen’ !"

Whereupon, he took a chicken from the bed and started devouring it, under the horrified gaze of Dr. Grunstein.

"Oh, how he’s enjoying it, the brave fellow," whispered the old baroness ecstatically to Dr. Grunstein. "I’m sure he’s quite well now and fit to go to the front. I’m really delighted to think I brought it to him just at the right moment."

Then she went from bed to bed distributing cigarettes and chocolates. After which errand she returned to Schweik, smoothed his hair, saying: "Behut euch Gott"4,the while, and departed with all her retinue.

Before Dr. Grunstein could return from below, whither he had accompanied the baroness, Schweik had distributed the fowls, which were devoured by the patients so rapidly that, where the fowls had been, Dr. Grunstein discovered only a heap of bones, picked as clean as if the fowls had fallen alive into a lair of vultures and their fleshless bones had then been exposed for several months to the blazing sun.

The wartime liqueur and the three bottles of wine had also vanished. The packet of chocolate and the parcel of rusks had likewise passed away. Somebody had even drunk the small bottle of nail polish belonging to the manicure set and had chewed the tooth paste which went with the tooth brush.

When Dr. Grunstein had returned, he again struck up a martial attitude and delivered a long speech. A load fell from his mind when the visitor had gone. The pile of gnawed bones confirmed his idea that they Were all incorrigible.

"If you’d had any glimmerings of sense," he fulminated, "you’d have kept your hands off all that food and you’d have said to yourselves, if we eat all this up, the doctor won’t believe we’re

4"God preserve you."

seriously ill. What you’ve done has only showed me that you don’t appreciate my kindness. I pump your stomachs ; I give you clysters ; I try to keep you going on absolute diet and then you go and overeat yourselves. Do you want to get inflammation of the intestines? But you’re making a big mistake. Before your stomachs begin to digest all you’ve eaten, I’ll clear you out so thoroughly that you’ll remember it to your dying day. So now you’ll follow me, one by one, just to remind you that I’m not so big a fool as you are, but that I’ve got more sense than the whole lot of you put together. Furthermore, let me inform you that tomorrow I’m sending a commission here to attend to you, because you’ve been lolling about quite long enough and there’s nothing the matter with any of you. Quick march !"

When it was Schweik’s turn, Dr. Grunstein looked at him and a vague recollection of the mysterious visit that day urged him to inquire :

"Do you know the baroness?"

"She’s my stepmother," replied Schweik calmly, "she abandoned me at a tender age and now she’s found me again."

And Dr. Grunstein remarked curtly : "Let Schweik have some more clyster afterwards."

In the evening the occupants of the mattresses were in a dismal mood. A few hours earlier their stomachs had been filled with various savoury viands and now they contained only weak tea and a slice of bread.

No. 21 called out from the window:

"I say, you mightn’t believe it, but if I have to choose between braised chicken and roast, give me braised every time."

Someone growled : "Shove a blanket over him," but they were all so weak after their fiasco of a banquet, that nobody moved a limb.

Dr. Grunstein kept his word. The next morning a number of military doctors from the famous commission made their appearance.

They solemnly passed along the rows of beds and all they said was : "Let’s see your tongue."

Schweik thrust out his tongue so far that his countenance produced a fatuous grimace and his eyes blinked :

"Beg to report, sir, that’s all the tongue I’ve got."

There ensued an interesting colloquy between Schweik and the commission. Schweik asserted that he had made that statement because he was afraid they might think he was hiding his tongue from them.

The members of the commission, on the other hand, formed remarkably divergent judgments about Schweik.

A half of them asserted that Schweik was "ein bioder Kerl,"5 while the other half took the view that he was a humbug who wanted to poke fun at the army.

"I’ll eat my hat," the chairman of the commission yelled at Schweik, "if we don’t get even with you."

Schweik gazed at the whole commission with the godly composure of an innocent child.

The chief of the medical staff came close up to Schweik. "I’d like to know what you think you’re up to, you porpoise, you !"

"Beg to report, sir, I don’t think at all."

"Himmeldonnerwetter!" bellowed one of the members of the commission, clanking his sword, "So he doesn’t think at all, doesn’t he? Why don’t you think, you Siamese elephant?"

"Beg to report, sir, I don’t think because soldiers ain’t allowed to. Years and years ago, when I was in the 91st regiment, the captain always used to tell us : ’Soldiers mustn’t think. Their superior officers do all their thinking for them. As soon as a soldier begins to think, he’s no longer a soldier, but a lousy civilian.’ Thinking doesn’t lead . . ."

"Hold your tongue," the chairman of the commission interrupted Schweik fiercely, "we’ve heard all about you. You’re no idiot, Schweik. You’re artful, you’re tricky, you’re a humbug, a hooligan, the scum of the earth, do you understand?"

"Beg to report, sir, yes, sir."

"I’ve already told you to hold your tongue. Did you hear?"

"Beg to report, sir, I heard you say I was to hold my tongue."

"Himmelherrgott, hold your tongue then. When I say the word, you know full well we don’t want any of your lip."

"Beg to report, sir, I know you don’t want any of my lip."

5"An idiot."

The military gentlemen looked at each other and called for the sergeant-major :

"Take this man," said the chief of the medical staff, pointing to Schweik, "into the office and wait there for our decision and report. The fellow’s as sound as a bell. He’s malingering and on top of that he keeps on jabbering and laughing up his sleeve at his superior officers. He thinks he’s here just for his amusement and that the army’s a huge joke, a sort of fun palace. When you get to the detention barracks, they’ll show you the army’s no frolic."

Schweik departed with the sergeant-major and as he passed across the courtyard he hummed to himself :

"I always thought in the army, I’d have the time of my life: I’d stay here a week or a fortnight, And then go back to my wife."

And while the officer on duty in the orderly room was yelling at Schweik to the effect that fellows like him ought to be shot, the commission was laying the malingerers low in the wards upstairs. Of seventy patients, only two were saved. One whose leg had been blown off by a shell and the other who was a genuine case of caries.

They were the only ones to whom the word "tauglich"6was not applied. All the rest, not excepting three in the last stages of consumption, were declared fit for general service, and the chief of the medical staff, in making this pronouncement, improved the shining hour by holding forth on the subject.

His speech was interwoven with the most varied terms of abuse and its contents were concise in character. They were all foul brutes and only if they fought staunchly for the Emperor would it be possible for them to be admitted into decent society again, and for them after the war to be forgiven for having tried to shirk the army by malingering. He himself, however, did not believe this to be the case, and held the opinion that they would all come to a bad end on the gallows.


There was a very youthful military doctor, a guileless and still unspoiled creature, who asked the chief of the medical staff for permission to say a few words also. His speech differed from that of his superior officer by reason of its optimistic and simple-minded tone. He spoke in German.

He talked at great length of how all of them, on leaving the hospital and joining their regiments at the front, must be gallant and intrepid. He was, he said, convinced that they would be skilful with rifle and bayonet in the field, and honourable in all their dealings, military and private. They would be invincible warriors, mindful of the glory of Radetzky and Prince Eugene of Savoy. With their blood they would enrich the broad fields of the monarchy’s glory and victoriously fulfil the task predestined for them by history. With unflinching courage, heedless of their lives, they would rush forward beneath the shot-riddled banners of their regiments to new glory, to new victories.

Afterward, in the corridor, the chief of the medical staff said to this guileless young man : "My dear fellow, I can assure you it’s all sheer waste of breath. Not Radetzky, not Prince Eugene of Savoy whom you’re so keen on, could have made soldiers out of these skunks. It doesn’t matter whether you talk to them like an angel or like a devil. They’re a hopeless gang."