Act I Scene 18


Deutschmeister Regimental Barracks, Vienna.[1]

(An elegantly dressed man, around forty, waits in a dirty, chairless room. Sergeant Weiguny[2] enters.)

MAN:    Excuse me – Sergeant – could you tell me – at all – I’ve actually been standing here for three hours – no one’s seen me yet – you see I’ve got a medical exemption – but I’m registering voluntarily, before the call-up, to see if there’s any office job I can do – I was told to wait – and I’d be seen shortly – but I’ve got to –

SERGEANT:    Shut up!

MAN:    Yes – I’m sorry – I beg your pardon – but I do have to – at least – well, let my family know – I can’t just stay here like this – I need – my washbag anyway – a toothbrush, a blanket, that sort of thing –

SERGEANT:    Shut up!

MAN:    But – please – forgive me – I am volunteering – I didn’t realise – maybe I should have –

SERGEANT:    Thick bastard, one more word gets a smack in the mouth –

(The man takes a ten crown note from his waistcoat and offers it to the sergeant.)

SERGEANT:    Ah, right – well, you have to understand, sir – I can’t just let you go home, that’s not on, but if you’d like a blanket – I can get you one. (He leaves the room.)

(An officer cadet enters from the room next door.)

CADET:    What’s going on? You the one arguing with the sergeant? Oh, don’t you remember me? At your service? Wögerer[3], the Athletic Club –

MAN:    Yes, right!

CADET:    You’ve got a medical exemption, yes? – Now listen, what is an intelligent man like you getting mixed up with a sergeant for?

MAN:    What can I do? I’ve been here three hours. I’ve got to get home – my family has no idea – I just came forward as a volunteer –

CADET:    Well, you’ve really dropped yourself in it. Who gave you that bit of advice? But if you do want to go home, of course you can go.

MAN:    But how do I do it?

CADET:    Don’t be absurd, you’re not some nobody, are you – I can help – here’s what you do – you go to the captain –

MAN:    And he’ll let me go home?

CADET:    Not normally, of course, he’s very strict, but you just tell him, you know straight to his face, don’t get flustered, with balls, right (he salutes) Captain, sir, respectfully beg to report I’ve got to meet a girl! – You see what the captain says about that, it’s a dead cert he’ll say: ‘What, a girl? Go on, you dirty dog!’ – And then you can go home!


[1] Deutschmeister, colloquial name for the Vienna-based infantry regiment k.u.k. Infanterie-Regiment Hoch- und Deutschmeister Nr. 4 (established in 1696); there is a monument to the regiment outside the Rossauerkaserne, one of three huge barracks built in the city centre after 1848, to ensure troops were available to keep the population in order. The regimental barracks was at Renweg close to the Belvedere.

[2] German name. Anton Weiguny (1851-1914) was a Social democratic politician from Linz, elected to the Imperial Parliament in 1907 in the first elections held under a system of universal suffrage with a secret ballot. Here the name may simply be no more than an aural echo of weigern, ‘refuse’: Sergeant Nix.

[3] A fairly common German name in Austria, also Jewish.