Silence reigned again at The Chalice, until
vejk broke it with an audible sigh and began to speak:
"So, he is there already. In the truth of the Lord. May the Lord God give him eternal glory. He did not even live to be Emperor. When I was serving in the military, one of our generals fell off his horse. He died so calmly, the men didn’t even know he was dead. They tried to boost him back into the saddle and were shocked that he was totally dead. He was soon to be promoted to Field Marshall. It happened during a parade review of the troops. These reviews never lead to any good. In Sarajevo, I hear there was also some kind of
troops parade. . .
During the World War
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. . . It was a the time when the forests along the river Ráb in Galicia saw Austrian troops fleeing across that stream. And down in Serbia, one Austrian division after another was getting a long-deserved kick in the seat of the pants. Then, out of the blue, the Austrian Ministry of Military Affairs remembered vejk, just in time to help the monarchy out of its current mess.
vejk just happened to be laying in bed, stricken again with rheumatism, when they brought him the notice that he was to appear in one week for a medical exam at Stelecký Island.
When he received the news, Mrs. Mller was making coffee for him in the kitchen.
"Mrs. Mller," vejk’s called quietly from the bedroom. "Mrs. Mller, come here for a moment."
When the cleaning woman came to his bed, vejk addressed her in a quiet but mysteriously festive tone:
"Sit down, Mrs. Mller."
When Mrs. Mller did sit down, vejk suddenly rose up in his bed and declared:
"I’m going in the military!"
"Virgin Mary!" exclaimed Mrs. Mller. "What will you do there?"
"Fight," answered vejk with a grave voice. "Austria is in big trouble. The enemy is already creeping up on Krakow and down under into Hungary. We’re getting threshed like rye wherever we look. And, that’s why they’re calling me in for military service. Remember how yesterday I was reading to you from the paper that the dear motherland has been surrounded by a bunting of very dark clouds?"
"But you can’t even move."
"That doesn’t matter, Mrs. Mller. I will ride to military service in a wheelchair. The confectioner around the corner, he has such a wheelchair. He used to push his nasty, paralyzed, old grandfather out into the fresh air with it."
"You, Mrs. Mller, will push me into the military service in that wheelchair!"
Mrs. Mller started crying:
"Oh Mr. vejk! Shouldn’t I just run and get you a doctor?"
"Don’t go anywhere, Mrs. Mller. I am, except for my legs, absolutely healthy cannon fodder. And, at a time when it is grim for Austria, every cripple must be at his post. Be calm and keep making the coffee."
Though upset, Mrs. Mller continued to strain the coffee in the kitchen. Meanwhile, the good soldier vejk started singing from his bed: . . .
Now that you have heard of, or might have even served in Sarajevo and Bosnia Herzegovina
why not buy
the Primer on World War