THE CASTLE IT was late in the evening when K. arrived, The village was J. deep in snow. The Castle hill was hidden, veiled in mist and darkness, nor was there even a glimmer of light to show that a castle was there. On the wooden bridge leading from the main road to the village K. stood for a long time gazing into the illusory emptiness above him. Then he went on to find quarters for the night. The inn was still awake, and although the landlord could not provide a room and was upset by such a late and unexpected arrival, he was willing to let K. sleep on a bag of straw in the parlour. K. accepted the offer.
Some peasants were still sitting over their beer, but he did not want to talk, and after himself fetching the bag of straw from the attic, lay down beside the stove. It was a warm corner, the peasants were quiet, and letting his weary eyes stray over them he soon fell asleep. But very shortly he was awakened. A young man dressed like a townsman, with the face of an actor, his eyes narrow and his eyebrows strongly marked, was standing beside him along with the landlord. The peasants were still in the room, and a few had turned their chairs round so as to see and hear better. The young man apologized very courteously for having awakened K. introducing himself as the son of the Castellan, and then said: “This village belongs to the Castle, and whoever lives here or passes the night here does so in a manner of speaking in the Castle itself. Nobody may do that without the Count’s permission. But you have no such permit, or at least you have produced none. ” K. had half raised himself and now, smoothing down his hair and looking up at the two men, he said: “What village is this I have wandered into? Is there a castle here? ” “Most certainly,” replied the young man slowly, while here and there a head was shaken over K. ‘s remark, “the castle of my lord the Count West-west. “And must one have a permit to sleep here? ” asked K. , as if he wished to assure himself that what he had heard was not a dream.
“One must have a permit,” was the reply, and there was an ironical contempt for K. in the young man’s gesture as he stretched out his arm and appealed to the others, “Or must one not have a permit? ” “Well, then, I’ll have to go and get one,” said K. yawning and pushing his blanket away as if to rise up. “And from whom, pray? ” asked the young man. “From the Count,” said K. , “that’s the only thing to be done. ” “A permit from the Count in the middle of the night! cried the young man, stepping back a pace. “Is that impossible? ” inquired K. coolly. “Then why did you waken me? ” At this the young man flew into a passion. “None of your guttersnipe manners! ” he cried, “I insist on respect for the Count’s authority I I woke you up to inform you that you must quit the Count’s territory at once. ” “Enough of this fooling,” said K. in a markedly quiet voice, laying himself down again and pulling up the blanket. “You’re going a little too far, my good fellow, and I’ll have something to say tomorrow about your conduct. The landlord here and those other gentlemen will bear me out if necessary.
Let me tell you that I am the Land Surveyor whom the Count is expecting. My assistants are coming on tomorrow in a carriage with the apparatus. I did not want to miss the chance of a walk through the snow, but unfortunately lost my way several times and so arrived very late. That it was too late to present myself at the Castle I knew very well before you saw fit to inform me. That is why I have made shift with this bed for the night, where, to put it mildly, you have had the discourtesy to disturb me. That is all I have to say. Good night, gentlemen. ” And K. turned over on his side towards the stove. Land Surveyor? ” he heard the hesitating question behind his back, and then there was a general silence. But the young man soon recovered his assurance, and lowering his voice, sufficiently to appear considerate of K. ‘s sleep while yet speaking loud enough to be clearly heard, said to the landlord: “I’ll ring up and inquire. ” So there was a telephone in this village inn? They had everything up to the mark. The particular instance surprised K. , but on the whole he had really expected it. It appeared that the telephone was placed almost over his head and in his drowsy condition he had overlooked it.
If the young man must needs telephone he could not, even with the best intentions, avoid disturbing K. , the only question was whether K. would let him do so; he decided to allow it. In that case, however, there was no sense in pretending to sleep, and so he turned on his back again. He could see the peasants putting their heads together, the arrival of a Land Surveyor was no small event. The door into the kitchen had been opened, and blocking the whole doorway stood the imposing figure of the landlady, to whom the landlord was advancing on tiptoe in order to tell her what was happening.
And now the conversation began on the telephone. The Castellan was asleep, but an under-castellan, one of the under-castellans, a certain Herr Fritz, was available. The young man, announcing himself as Schwarzer, reported that he had found K. , a disreputable-looking man in the thirties, sleeping calmly on a bag of straw with a minute rucksack for pillow and a knotty stick within reach. He had naturally suspected the fellow, and as the landlord had obviously neglected his duty he, Schwarzer, had felt bound to investigate the matter.
He had roused the man, questioned him, and duly warned him off the Count’s territory, all of which K. had taken with an ill grace, perhaps with some justification, as it eventually turned out, for he claimed to be a Land Surveyor engaged by the Count. Of course, to say the least of it, that was a statement which required official confirmation, and so Schwarzer begged Herr Fritz to inquire in the Central Bureau if a Land Surveyor were really expected, and to telephone the answer at once. Then there was silence while Fritz was making inquiries up there and the young man was waiting for the answer.
K. did not change his position, did not even once turn round, seemed quite indifferent and stared into space. Schwarzer’s report, in its combination of malice and prudence, gave him an idea of the measure of diplomacy in which even underlings in the Castle like Schwarzer were versed. Nor were they remiss in industry, the Central Office had a night service. And apparently answered questions quickly, too, for Fritz was already ringing. His reply seemed brief enough, for Schwarzer hung up the receiver immediately, crying angrily: “Just what I said! Not a trace of a Land Surveyor.
A common, lying tramp, and probably worse. ” For a moment K. thought that all of them, Schwarzer, the peasants, the landlord and the landlady, were going to fall upon him in a body, and to escape at least the first shock of their assault he crawled right underneath the blanket. But the telephone rang again, and with a special insistence, it seemed to K. Slowly he put out his head. Although it was improbable that this message also concerned K. , they all stopped short and Schwarzer took up the receiver once more. He listened to a fairly long statement, and then said in a low voice: “A mistake, is it?
I’m sorry to hear that. The head of the department himself said so? Very queer, very queer. How am I to explain it all to the Land Surveyor? ” K. pricked up his ears. So the Castle had recognized him as the Land Surveyor. That was unpropitious for him, on the one hand, for it meant that the Castle was well informed about him, had estimated all the probable chances, and was taking up the challenge with a smile. On the other hand, however, it was quite propitious, for if his interpretation were right they had underestimated his strength, and he would have more freedom of action than he had dared to hope.
And if they expected to cow him by their lofty superiority in recognizing him as Land Surveyor, they were mistaken; it made his skin prickle a little, that was all. He waved off Schwarzer who was timidly approaching him, and refused an urgent invitation to transfer himself into the landlord’s own room; he only accepted a warm drink from the landlord and from the landlady a basin to wash in, a piece of soap, and a towel. He did not even have to ask that the room should be cleared, for all the men flocked out with averted faces lest he should recognize them again next day. The lamp was blown out, and he was left in peace at last.
He slept deeply until morning, scarcely disturbed by rats scuttling past once or twice. After breakfast, which, according to his host, was to be paid for by the Castle, together with all the other expenses of his board and lodging, he prepared to go out immediately into the village. But since the landlord, to whom he had been very curt because of his behaviour the preceding night, kept circling around him in dumb entreaty, he took pity on the man and asked him to sit down for a while. “I haven’t met the Count yet,” said K. , “but he pays well for good work, doesn’t he? When a man like me travels so far from ome he wants to go back with something in his pockets. ” “There’s no need for the gentleman to worry about that kind of thing; nobody complains of being badly paid. ” “Well,” said K. ,” I`m not one of your timid people, and can give a piece of my mind even to a Count, but of course it’s much better to have everything settled up without any trouble. ” The landlord sat opposite K. on the rim of the window-ledge, not daring to take a more comfortable seat, and kept on gazing at K. with an anxious look in his large brown eyes. He had thrust his company on K. at Erst, but now it seemed that he was eager to escape.
Was he afraid of being cross-questioned about the Count? Was he afraid of some indiscretion on the part of the “gentleman” whom he took K. to be? K. must divert his attention. He looked at the clock, and said: “My assistants should be arriving soon. Will you be able to put them up here? ” “Certainly, sir,” he said, “but won’t they be staying with you up at the Castle? ” Was the landlord so willing, then, to give up prospective customers, and K. in particular, whom he so unconditionally transferred to the Castle? “That’s not at all certain yet,” said K. “I must first find out what work I am expected to do.
If I have to work down here, for instance, it would be more sensible to lodge down here. I’m afraid, too, that the life at the Castle wouldn’t suit me. I like to be my own master. ” “You don’t know the Castle,” said the landlord quietly. “Of course,” replied K. , “one shouldn’t judge prematurely. All that I know at present about the Castle is that the people there know how to choose a good Land Surveyor. Perhaps it has other attractions as well. ” And he stood up in order to rid the landlord of his presence, since the man was biting his lip uneasily. His confidence was not to be lightly won. As K. as going out he noticed a dark portrait in a dim frame on the wall. He had already observed it from his couch by the stove, but from that distance he had not been able to distinguish any details and had thought that it was only a plain back to the frame. But it was a picture after all, as now appeared, the bust portrait of a man about fifty. His head was sunk so low upon his breast that his eyes were scarcely visible, and the weight of the high, heavy forehead and the strong hooked nose seemed to have borne the head down. Because of this pose the man’s full beard was pressed in at the chin and spread out farther down.
His left hand was buried in his luxuriant hair, but seemed incapable of supporting the head. “Who is that? ” asked K. , “the Count? ” He was standing before the portrait and did not look round at the landlord. “No,” said the latter, “the Castellan. ” “A handsome castellan, indeed,” said K. , “a pity that he had such an ill-bred son. ” “No, no,” said the landlord, drawing K. a little towards him and whispering in his ear, “Schwarzer exaggerated yesterday, his father is only an under-castellan, and one of the lowest, too. ” At that moment the landlord struck K. as a very child. “The villain! ” said K. ith a laugh, but the landlord instead of laughing said, “Even his father is powerful. ” “Get along with you,” said K. , “you think everyone powerful. Me too, perhaps? ” “No,” he replied, timidly yet seriously, “I don’t think you powerful. ” “You’re a keen observer,” said K. , “for between you and me I’m not really powerful. And consequently I suppose I have no less respect for the powerful than you have, only I’m not so honest as you and am not always willing to acknowledge it. ” And K. gave the landlord a tap on the cheek to hearten him and awaken his friendliness. It made him smile a little.
He was actually young, with that soft and almost beardless face of his; how had he come to have that massive, elderly wife, who could be seen through a small window bustling about the kitchen with her elbows sticking out? K. did not want to force his confidence any further, however, nor to scare away the smile he had at last evoked. So he only signed to him to open the door, and went out into the brilliant winter morning. # Now, he could see the Castle above him clearly defined in the glittering air, its outline made still more definite by the moulding of snow covering it in a thin layer.
There seemed to be much less snow up there on the hill than down in the village, where K. found progress as laborious as on the main road the previous day. Here the heavy snowdrifts reached right up to the cottage windows and began again on the low roofs, but up on the hill everything soared light and free into the air, or at least so it appeared from down below. On the whole this distant prospect of the Castle satisfied K. ‘s expectations. It was neither an old stronghold nor a new mansion, but a rambling pile consisting of innumerable small buildings closely packed together and of one or two storeys; if K. ad not known that it was a castle he might have taken it for a little town. There was only one tower as far as he could see, whether it belonged to a dwelling-house or a church he could not determine. Swarms of crows were circling round it. With his eyes fixed on the Castle K. went on farther, thinking of nothing else at all. But on approaching it he was disappointed in the Castle; it was after all only a wretched-looking town, a huddle of village houses, whose sole merit, if any, lay in being built of stone, but the plaster had long since flaked off and the stone seemed to be crumbling away. K. ad a fleeting recollection of his native town. It was hardly inferior to this so-called Castle, and if it were merely a question of enjoying the view it was a pity to have come so far. K. would have done better to visit his native town again, which he had not seen for such a long time. And in his mind he compared the church tower at home with the tower above him. The church tower, firm in line, soaring unfalteringly to its tapering point, topped with red tiles and broad in the roof, an earthly building-what else can men build? -but with a loftier goal than the humble dwellinghouses, and a clearer meaning than the muddle of everyday life.
The tower above him here-the only one visible-the tower of a house, as was now apparent, perhaps of the main building, was uniformly round, part of it graciously mantled with ivy, pierced by small windows that glittered in the sun, a somewhat maniacal glitter, and topped by what looked like an attic, with battlements that were irregular, broken, fumbling, as if designed by the trembling or careless hand of a child, clearly outlined against the blue. It was as if a melancholy-mad tenant who ought to have been kept locked in the topmost chamber of his house had burst through the roof and lifted himself up to the gaze of the world.
Again K. came to a stop, as if in standing still he had more power of judgement. But he was disturbed. Behind the village church where he had stopped-it was really only a chapel widened with barn-like additions so as to accommodate the parishioners – was the school. A long, low building, combining remarkably a look of great age with a provincial appearance, it lay behind a fenced-in garden which was now a field of snow. The children were just coming out with their teacher. They thronged round him, all gazing up at him and chattering without a break so rapidly that K. could not follow what they said.
The teacher, a small young man with narrow shoulders and a very upright carriage which yet did not make him ridiculous, had already fixed K. with his eyes from the distance, naturally enough, for apart from the school-children there was not another human being in sight. Being the stranger, K. made the first advance, especially as the other was an authoritative-looking little man, and said: “Good morning, sir. ” As if by one accord the children fell silent, perhaps the master liked to have a sudden stillness as a preparation for his words. “You are looking at the Castle? ” he asked more gently than K. ad expected, but with the inflexion that denoted disapproval of K. ‘s occupation. “Yes,” said K. “I am a stranger here, I came to the village only last night. ” “You don’t like the Castle? ” returned the teacher quickly. “What? ” countered K. , a little taken aback, and repeated the question in a modified form. “Do I like the Castle? Why do you assume that I don’t like it? ” “Strangers never do,” said the teacher. To avoid saying the wrong thing K. changed the subject and asked: “I suppose you know the Count? ” “No,” said the teacher turning away. But K. would not be put off and asked again: “What, you don’t know the Count? “Why should I? ” replied the teacher in a low tone, and added aloud in French: “Please remember that there are innocent children present. ” K. took this as a justification for asking: “Might I come to pay you a visit one day, sir? I am to be staying here for some time and already feel a little lonely. I don’t fit in with the peasants nor, I imagine, with the Castle. ” “There is no difference between the peasantry and the Castle,” said the teacher. “Maybe,” said K.. , “that doesn’t alter my position. Can I pay you a visit one day? ” “I live in Swan Street at the butcher’s. That was assuredly more of a statement than an invitation, but K. said: “Right, I’ll come. ” The teacher nodded and moved on with his batch of children, who began to scream again immediately. They soon vanished in a steeply descending by-street. But K. was disconcerted, irritated by the conversation. For the first time since his arrival he felt really tired. The long journey he had made seemed at first to have imposed no strain upon him – how quietly he had sauntered through the days, step by step i – but now the consequences of his exertion were making themselves felt, and at the rong time, too. He felt irresistibly drawn to seek out new acquaintances, but each new acquaintance only seemed to increase his weariness. If he forced himself in his present condition to go on at least as far as the Castle entrance, he would have done more than enough. So he resumed his walk, but the way proved long. For the street he was in, the main street of the village, did not lead up to the Castle hill, it only made towards it and then, as if deliberately, turned aside, and though it did not lead away from the Castle it got no nearer to it either. At every turn K. xpected the road to double back to the Castle, and only because of this expectation did he go on; he was flatly unwilling, tired as he was, to leave the street, and he was also amazed at the length of the village, which seemed to have no end; again and again the same little houses, and frost-bound window-panes and snow and the entire absence of human beings-but at last he tore himself away from the obsession of the street and escaped into a small side-lane, where the snow was still deeper and the exertion of lifting one’s feet clear was fatiguing; he broke into a sweat, suddenly came to a stop, and could not go on.
Well, he was not on a desert island, there were cottages to right and left of him. He made a snowball and threw it at a#window. The door opened immediately-the first door that had opened during the whole length of the village-and there appeared an old peasant in a brown fur jacket, with his head cocked to one side, a frail and kindly figure. “May I come into your house for a little? ” asked K. , ” I`m very tired. ” He did not hear the old man’s reply, but thankfully observed that a plank was pushed out towards him to rescue him from the snow, and in a few steps he was in the kitchen.
A large kitchen, dimly lit. Anyone coming in from outside could make out nothing at first. K. stumbled over a washing’ tub, a woman’s hand steadied him. The crying of children came loudly from one corner. From another steam was welling out and turning the dim light into darkness. K. stood as if in the clouds. “He must be drunk,” said somebody. “Who are you? ” cried a hectoring voice, and then obviously to the old man: “Why did you let him in? Are we to let in everybody that wanders about in the street? “I am the Count’s Land Surveyor” said K. , trying to justify himself before this still invisible personage. “Oh, it’s the Land Surveyor,” said a woman’s voice, and then came a complete silence. “You know me, then? ” asked K. “Of course,” said the same voice curtly. The fact that he was known did not seem to be a recommendation. At last the steam thinned a little, and K. was able gradually to make things out. It seemed to be a general washing-day. Near the door clothes were being washed.
But the steam was coming from another corner, where in a wooden tub larger than any K. had ever seen, as wide as two beds, two men were bathing in steaming water. But still more astonishing, although one could not say what was so astonishing about it, was the scene in the right-hand corner. From a large opening, the only one in the back wall, a pale snowy light came in, apparently from the courtyard, and gave a gleam as of silk to the dress of a woman who was almost reclining in a high arm-chair. She was suckling an infant at her breast.
Several children were playing around her, peasant children, as was obvious, but she seemed to be of another class, although of course illness and weariness give even peasants a look of refinement. “Sit down, ” said one of the men, who had a full beard and breathed heavily through his mouth which always hung open, pointing-it was a funny sight-with his wet hand over the edge of the tub towards a settle, and showering drops of warm water all over K. ‘s face as he did so. On the settle the old man who had admitted K. was already sitting, sunk in vacancy. K. was thankful to find a seat at last. Nobody paid any further attention to him.
The woman at the washing-tub, young, plump, and fair, sang in a low voice as she worked, the men stamped and rolled about in the bath, the children tried to get closer to them but were constantly driven back by mighty splashes of water which fell on K. , too, and the woman in the arm-chair lay as if lifeless staring at the roof without even a glance towards the child at her bosom. She made a beautiful, sad, fixed picture, and K. looked at her for what must have been a long time; then he must have fallen asleep, for when a loud voice roused him he found that his head was lying on the old man’s shoulder.
The men had finished with the tub-in which the children were now wallowing in charge of the fair-haired woman-and were standing fully dressed before K. It appeared that the hectoring one with the full beard was the less important of the two. The other, a still, slow-thinking man who kept his head bent, was not taller than his companion and had a much smaller beard, but he was broader in the shoulders and had a broad face as well, and he it was who said: “You can’t stay here, sir. Excuse the discourtesy. ” “I don’t want to stay,” said K, “I only wanted to rest a little.
I have rested, and now I shall go. ” “You’re probably surprised at our lack of hospitality,” said the man, “but hospitality is not our custom here, we have no use for visitors. ” Somewhat refreshed by his sleep, his perceptions somewhat quickened, K. was pleased by the man’s frankness. He felt less constrained, poked with his stick here and there, approached the woman in the arm-chair, and noted that he was physically the biggest man in the room. “To be sure,” said K. , “what use would you have for visitors? But still you need one now and then, me, for example, the Lane Surveyor. “I don’t know about that,” replied the man slowly. “If you’ve been asked to come you’re probably needed, that’s an exceptional case, but we small people stick to our tradition, and you can’t blame us for that. ” “No, no,” said K. , “I am only grateful to you and everybody here. ” And taking them all by surprise he made an adroit turn and stood before the reclining woman. Out of weary blue eyes she looked at him, a transparent silk kerchief hung down to the middle of her forehead, die infant was asleep on her bosom. “Who are you? ” asked K. , and disdainfully – whether contemptuous of K. r her own answer was not clear – she replied: “A girl from the Castle. ” It had only taken a second or so, but already the two men were at either side of K. and were pushing him towards the door, as if there were no other means of persuasion, silently, but putting out all their strength. Something in this procedure delighted the old man, and he clapped his hands. The woman at the bath-tub laughed too, and the children suddenly shouted like mad. K. was soon out in the street, and from the threshold the two men surveyed him. Snow was again falling, yet the sky seemed a little brighter.
The bearded man cried impatiently: “Where do you want to go? This is the way to the Castle, and that to the village. ” K. made no reply to him, but turned to the other, who in spite of his shyness seemed to him the more amiable of the two, and said: “Who are you? Whom have I to thank for sheltering me? ” “I am the tanner Lasemann,” was the answer, “but you owe thanks to nobody. ” “All right,” said K. , “perhaps we’ll meet again. ” “I don’t suppose so,” said the man. At that moment the other cried, with a wave of his hand: “Good morning, Arthur; good morning, Jeremiah! ” K. urned round; so there were really people to be seen in the village streets. From the direction of the Castle came two young men of medium height, both very slim, in tight-fitting clothes, and like each other in their features. Although their skin was a dusky brown the blackness of their little pointed beards was actually striking by contrast. Considering the state of the road, they were walking at a great pace, their slim legs keeping time. “Where are you off to? ” shouted the bearded man. One had to shout to them, they were going so fast and they would not stop. “On business,” they shouted back, laughing. Where? ” “At the inn. ” T “I`m going there too,” yelled K. suddenly, louder than all the rest; he felt a strong desire to accompany them, not that he expected much from their acquaintance, but they were obviously good and jolly companions. They heard him, but only nodded, and were already out of sight. K. was still standing in the snow, and was little inclined to extricate his feet only for the sake of plunging them in again; the tanner and his comrade, satisfied with having finally got rid of him, edged slowly into the house through the door which was now barely ajar, casting backward glances at K. and he was left alone in the falling snow. “A fine setting for a fit of despair,” it occurred to him, “if I were only standing here by accident instead of design. ” Just then in the hut on his left hand a tiny window was opened, which had seemed quite blue when shut, perhaps from the reflexion of the snow, and was so tiny that when opened it did not permit the whole face of the person behind it to be seen, but only the eyes, old brown eyes. “There he is,” K. heard a woman’s trembling voice say. “It’s the Land Surveyor,” answered a man’s voice.
Then the man came to the window and asked, not unamiably, but still as if he were anxious to have no cornplications in front of his house: “Are you waiting for somebody? ” “For a sledge, to pick me up,” said K. “No sledges will pass here,” said the man, “there’s no traffic here. ” “But it’s the road leading to the Castle,” objected K. “All the same, all the same,” said the man with a certain finality, “there’s no traffic here. ” Then they were both silent. But the man was obviously thinking of something, for he kept the window open. “It’s a bad road,” said K. , to help him out.
The only answer he got, however, was: “Oh yes. ” But after a little the man volunteered: “If you like, I’ll take you in my sledge. ” “Please do,’ said K. delighted, “what is your charge? ” “Nothing,” said the man. K. was very surprised. “Well, you’re the Land Surveyor,” explained the man, “and you belong to the Castle. Where do you want to be taken? ” “To the Castle,” returned K. quickly. “I won’t take you there,” said the man without hesitation. “But I belong to the Castle,” said K. , repeating the other’s very words. “Maybe,” said the man shortly. “Oh, well, take me to the inn,” said K. All right,” said the man, “`I`ll be out with the sledge in a moment” His whole behaviour had the appearance of springing not from any special desire to be friendly but rather from a kind of selfish, worried, and almost pedantic insistence on shifting K. away from the front of the house. The gate of the courtyard opened, and a small light sledge, quite flat, without a seat of any kind, appeared, drawn by a feeble little horse, and behind it limped the man, a weakly stooped figure with a gaunt red snuffling face that looked peculiarly small beneath a tightly swathed woollen scarf.
He was obviously ailing, and yet only to transport K. he had dragged himself out K. ventured to mention it, but the man waved him aside. All that K. elicited was that he was a coachman called Gerstacker, and that he had taken this uncomfortable sledge because it was standing ready, and to get out one of the others would have wasted too much time. “Sit down,” he said, pointing to the sledge. “I`ll sit beside you,” said K. “I`m going to walk,” said Gerstacker. “But why? ” asked K. “I`m going to walk,” repeated Gerstacker, and was seized with a fit of coughing which shook him so severely that he had to brace his legs in he snow and hold on to the rim of the sledge. K. said no more, but sat down on the sledge, the man’s cough slowly abated, and they drove off. The Castle above them, which K. had hoped to reach that very day, was already beginning to grow dark, and retreated again into the distance. But as if to give him a parting sign till their next encounter a bell began to ring merrily up there, a bell which for at least a second made his heart palpitate for its tone was menacing, too, as if it threatened him with the fulfilment of his vague desire.
This great bell soon died away, however, and its place was taken by a feeble monotonous little tinkle which might have come from the Castle, but might have been somewhere in the village. It certainly harmonized better with the slow-going journey, with the wretched-looking yet inexorable driver. “I say,” cried K. suddenly-they were already near the church, the inn was not far oft, and K. felt he could risk something, “I`m surprised that you have the nerve to drive me round on your own responsibility; are you allowed to do that? Gerstacker paid no attention, but went on walking quietly beside the little horse. “Hi ” cried K. , scraping some snow from the sledge and flinging a snowball which hit Gerstacker full in the ear. That made him stop and turn round; but when K. saw him at such close quarters- the sledge had slid forward a little-this stooping and somehow ill-used figure with the thin red tired face and cheeks that were different-one being flat and the other fallen instanding listening with his mouth open, displaying only a few isolated teeth, he found that what he had just said out of malice had to be repeated out f pity, that is, whether Gerstacker was likely to be penalized for driving him about. “What do you mean? ” asked Gerstacker uncomprehendingly, but without waiting for an answer he spoke to the horse and they moved on again. When by a turn in the road K. recognized that they were near the inn, he was greatly surprised to see that darkness had already set in. Had he been gone for such a long time? Surely not for more than an hour or two, by his reckoning. And it had been morning when he left. And he had not felt any need of food.
And just a short time ago it had been uniform daylight, and now the darkness of night was upon them. “Short days, short days,” he said to himself, slipped off the sledge, and went towards the inn. At the top of the little flight of steps leading into the house stood the landlord, a welcome figure, holding up a lighted lantern. Remembering his conductor for a fleeting moment K. stood still, there was a cough in the darkness behind him, that was he. Well, he would see him again soon. Not until he was level with the landlord, who greeted him humbly, did he notice two men, one on either side of the doorway.
He took the lantern from his host’s hand and turned the light upon them; it was the men he had already met, who were called Arthur and Jeremiah. They now saluted him. That reminded him of his soldiering days, happy days for him, and he laughed. “Who are you? ” he asked, looking from one to die other. “Your assistants,” they answered. “It’s your assistants,” corroborated the landlord in a low voice. “What? ” said K. , “are you my old assistants whom I told to follow me and whom I am expecting? ” They answered in the affirmative. “That’s good,” observed K. fter a short pause. “I’m glad you’ve come. ” “Well,” he said, after another pause, “you’ve come very late, you’re very slack. ” “It was a long way to come,” said one of them. “A long way? ” repeated K. , “but I met you just now coming from the Castle. ” “Yes,” said they without further explanation. “Where is the apparatus? ” asked K. “We haven’t any,” said they. “The apparatus I gave you? ” said K. “We haven’t any,’ they reiterated. “Oh, you are fine fellows, ” said K. , “do you know anything about surveying? ” “No,” said they. But if you are my old assistants you must know something about it, ” said K. They made no reply. “Well, come in,” said K. , pushing them before him into the house. They sat down then all three together over their beer at a small table, saying little, K. in the middle with an assistant on each side. As on the other evening, there was only one other table occupied by a few peasants. “You’re a difficult problem,” said K. , comparing them, as he had already done several times. “How am I to know one of you from the other? The only difference between you is your names, otherwise you’re as like as … He stopped, and then went on involuntarily, “You’re as like as two snakes. ” They smiled. “People usually manage to distinguish us quite well,” they said in self-justification. “I am sure they do,” said K. , “I was a witness of that myself, but I can only see with my own eyes, and with them I can’t distinguish you. So I shall treat you as if you were one man and call you both Arthur, that’s one of your names, yours, isn’t it? ” he asked one of them. “No,” said the man, “I’m Jeremiah. ” “It doesn’t matter,” said K. “I`ll call you both Arthur. If I tell Arthur to go anywhere you must both go.
If I give Arthur something to do you must both do it, that has the great disadvantage for me of preventing me from employing you on separate jobs, but the advantage that you will both be equally responsible for anything I tell you to do. How you divide the work between you doesn’t matter to me, only you’re not to excuse yourselves by blaming each other, for me you’re only one man. ” They considered this, and said: “We shouldn’t like that at all. ” “I don’t suppose so,” said K. , “of course you won’t like it, but that’s how it has to be. ” For some little time one of the peasants had been sneaking round the table and K. ad noticed him; now the fellow took courage and went up to one of the assistants to whisper something. “Excuse me,” said K. , bringing his band down on the table and rising to his feet, “these are my assistants and we’re discussing private business. Nobody is entitled to disturb us. ” “Sorry, sir, sorry,” muttered the peasant anxiously, retreating backwards towards his friends. “And this is my most important charge to you,” said K. , sitting down again. “You’re not to speak to anyone without my permission. I am a stranger here, and if you are my old assistants you are strangers too.
We three strangers must stand by each other therefore, give me your hands on that. ” All too eagerly they stretched out their hands to K. “Never mind the trimming,” said he, “but remember that my command holds good. I shall go to bed now and I recommend you to do the same. To-day we have missed a day’s work, and to-morrow we must begin very early. You must get hold of a sleigh for taking me to the Castle and have it ready outside the house at six o’clock. ” “Very well,” said one. But the other interrupted him. “You say “very well”, and yet you know it can’t be done. ” “Silence,” said K. You’re trying already to dissociate yourselves from each other. ” But then the first man broke in: “He’s right, it can’t be done, no stranger can get into the Castle without a permit” “Where does one apply for a permit? ” “I don’t know, perhaps to the Castellan. ” “Then we’ll apply by telephone, go and telephone to the Castellan at once, both of you. ” They rushed to the instrument, asked for the connexion – how eager they were about it! in externals they were absurdly docile – and inquired if K. could come with them next morning into the Castle. The “No” of the answer was audible even to K. at his table.
But the answer went on and was still more explicit, it ran as follows: “Neither to-morrow nor at any other time. ” “I shall telephone myself,” said K. , and got up. While K. and his assistants hitherto had passed nearly unremarked except for the incident with the one peasant, his last statement aroused general attention. They all got up when K. did, and although the landlord tried to drive them away, crowded round him in a close semicircle at the telephone. The general opinion among them was that K. would get no answer at all. K. had to beg them to be quiet, saying he did not want to hear their opinion.
The receiver gave out a buzz of a kind that K. had never before heard on a telephone. It was like the hum of countless children’s voices – but yet not a hum, the echo rather of voices singing at an infinite distance – blended by sheer impossibility into one high but resonant sound which vibrated on the ear as if it were trying to penetrate beyond mere hearing. K. listened without attempting to telephone, leaning his left arm on the telephone shelf. He did not know how long he had stood there, but he stood until the landlord pulled at his coat saying that a messenger had come to speak with him. Go away! ” yelled K. in an access of rage, perhaps into the mouthpiece, for someone immediately answered from the other end. The following conversation ensued: “Oswald speaking, who’s there? ” cried a severe arrogant voice with a small defect in its speech, as seemed to K. , which its owner tried to cover by an exaggerated severity. K. hesitated to announce himself, for he was at the mercy of the telephone, the other could shout him down or hang up the receiver, and that might mean the blocking of a not unimportant way of access. K. ‘s hesitation made the man impatient. “Who’s there? he repeated, adding, “I should be obliged if there was less telephoning from down there, only a minute ago somebody rang up. ” K. ignored this remark, and announced with sudden decision: “The Land Surveyor’s assistant speaking” “What Land Surveyor? What assistant? ” K. recollected yesterday’s telephone conversation, and said briefly, “Ask Fritz. ” This succeeded, to his own astonishment But even more than at his success he was astonished at the organization of the Castle service. The answer came: “Oh, yes. That everlasting Land Surveyor. Quite so. What about it? What assistant? ” ‘Joseph,’ said K.
He was a little put out by the murmuring of the peasants behind his back, obviously they disapproved of his ruse. He had no time to bother about them, however, for the conversation absorbed all his attention. “Joseph? ” came the question. “But the assistants arc called … ” there was a short pause, evidently to inquire the names from somebody else, “Arthur and Jeremiah. ” “These are the new assistants,” said K. “No, they are the old ones. ” “They are the new ones, I am the old assistant; I came to-day after the Land Surveyor. ” “No,” was shouted back. “Then who am I? ” asked K. as blandly as before.
And after a pause the same voice with the same defect answered him, yet with a deeper and more authoritative tone: “You are the old assistant. ” K. was listening to the new note, and almost missed the question: “What is it you want? ” He felt like laying down the receiver. He had ceased to expect anything from this conversation. But being pressed, he replied quickly: “When can my master come to the Castle? ” “Never,” was the answer. “Very well,” said K. , and hung the receiver up. Behind him the peasants had crowded quite close. His assistants, with many side glances in his direction, were trying to keep them back.
But they seemed not to take the matter very seriously, and in any case the peasants, satisfied with the result of the conversation, were beginning to give ground. A man came cleaving his way with rapid steps through the group, bowed before K. , and handed him a letter. K. took it, but looked at the man, who for the moment seemed to him the more important. There was a great resemblance between this new-comer and the assistants, he was slim like them and clad in the same tightfitting garments, had the same suppleness and agility, and yet he was quite different. How much K. would have preferred him as an assistant.
He reminded K. a little of the girl with the infant whom he had seen at the tanner’s. He was clothed nearly all in white, not in silk, of course; he was in winter clothes like all the others, but the material he was wearing had the softness and dignity of silk. His face was clear and frank, his eyes larger than ordinary. His smile was unusually joyous; he drew his hand over his face as if to conceal the smile, but in vain. “Who are you? ” asked K. “My name is Barnabas,” said he, “I am a messenger. ” His lips were strong and yet gentle as he spoke. “Do you approve of this kind of thing? ” asked K. pointing to the peasants for whom he was still an object of curiosity, and who stood gaping at him with their open mouths, coarse lips, and literally tortured faces – their heads looked as if they had been beaten flat on top and their features as if the pain of the beating had twisted them to the present shape – and yet they were not exactly gaping at him, for their eyes often flitted away and studied some indifferent object in the room before fixing on him again, and then K. pointed also to his assistants who stood linked together, cheek against cheek, and smiling, but whether submissively or mockingly could not be determined.
All these he pointed out as if presenting a train of followers forced upon him by circumstances, and as if he expected Barnabas – that indicated intimacy, it occurred to K. – always to discriminate between him and them. But Barnabas – quite innocently, it was clear – ignored the question, letting it pass as a well-bred servant ignores some remark of his master only apparently addressed to him, and merely surveyed the room in obedience to the question, greeting by a pressure of the hand various acquaintances among the peasants and exchanging a few words with the assistants, all with a free independence which set him apart from the others.
Rebuffed but not mortified, K. returned to the letter in his hand and opened it. Its contents were as follows: “My dear Sir, As you know, you have been engaged for the Count’s service. Your immediate superior is the Superintendent of the village, who will give you all particulars about your work and the terms of your employment, and to whom you are responsible. I myself, however, will try not to lose sight of you. Barnabas, the bearer of this letter, will report himself to you from rime to time to learn your wishes and communicate them to me.
You will find me always ready to oblige you, in so far as that is possible. I desire my workers to be contented. ” The signature was illegible, but stamped beside it was “Chief of Department X. ” “Wait a little! ” said K. to Barnabas, who bowed before him, then he commanded the landlord to show him to his room, for he wanted to be alone with the letter for a while. At the same time he reflected that Barnabas, although so attractive, was still only a messenger, and ordered a mug of beer for him.
He looked to see how Barnabas would take it, but Barnabas was obviously quite pleased and began to drink the beer at once. Then K. went off with the landlord. The house was so small that nothing was available for K. but a little attic room, and even that had caused some difficulty, for two maids who had hitherto slept in it had had to be quartered elsewhere. Nothing indeed had been done but to clear the maids out, the room was otherwise quite unprepared, no sheets on the single bed, only some pillows and a horse-blanket still in the same rumpled state as in the morning.
A few sacred pictures and photographs of soldiers were on the walls, the room had not even been aired; obviously they hoped that the new guest would not stay long, and were doing nothing to encourage him. K. felt no resentment, however, wrapped himself in the blanket, sat down at the table, and began to read the letter again by the light of a candle. It was not a consistent letter, in part it dealt with him as with a free man whose independence was recognized, the mode of address, for example, and the reference to his wishes.
But there were other places in which he was directly or indirectly treated as a minor employee, hardly visible to the Heads of Departments; the writer would try to make an effort “not to lose sight” of him, his superior was only the village Superintendent to whom he was actually responsible, probably his sole colleague would be the village policeman. These were inconsistencies, no doubt about it. They were so obvious that they had to be faced. It hardly occurred to K. that they might be due to indecision; that seemed a mad idea in connexion with such an organization.
He was much more inclined to read into them a frankly offered choice, which left it to him to make what he liked out of the letter, whether he preferred to become a village worker with a distinctive but merely apparent connexion with the Castle, or an ostensible village worker whose real occupation was determined through the medium of Barnabas. K. did not hesitate in his choice, and would not have hesitated even had he lacked the experience which had befallen him since his arrival.
Only as a worker in the village, removed as far as possible from the sphere of the Castle, could he hope to achieve anything in the Castle itself; the village folk, who were now so suspicious of him, would begin to talk to him once he was their fellow-citizen, if not exactly their friend; and if he were to become indistinguishable from Gerstacker or Lasemann – and that must happen as soon as possible, everything depended on that – then all kinds of paths would be thrown open to him, which would emain not only for ever closed to him but quite invisible were he to depend merely on the favour of the gentlemen in the Castle. There was of course a danger, and that was sufficiently emphasized in the letter, even elaborated with a certain satisfaction, as if it were unavoidable. That was sinking to the workman’s level – service, superior work, terms of employment, responsible workers the letter fairly reeked of it, and even though more personal messages were included they were written from the standpoint of an employer. If K. ere willing to become a workman he could do so, but he would have to do it in grim earnest, without any other prospect. K. knew that he had no real compulsory discipline to fear, he was not afraid of that, and in this case least of all, but the pressure of a discouraging environment, of a growing resignation to disappointment, the pressure of the imperceptible influences of every moment, these things he did fear, but that was a danger he would have to guard against. Nor did the letter pass over the fact that if it should come to a struggle K. ad had the hardihood to make the first advances; it was very subtly indicated and only to be sensed by an uneasy conscience – an uneasy conscience, not a bad one – it lay in the three words, “as you know”, referring to his engagement in the Count’s service. K. had reported his arrival, and only after that, as the letter pointed out, had he known that he was engaged. K. took down a picture from the wall and stuck the letter on the nail, this was the room he was to live in and the letter should hang there.
Then he went down to the inn parlour. Barnabas was sitting at a table with the assistants. “Oh, there you are,” said K. without any reason, only because he was glad to see Barnabas, who jumped to his feet at once. Hardly had K. shown his face when the peasants got up and gathered round him – it had become a habit of theirs to follow him around. “What are you always following me about for? ” cried K. They were not offended, and slowly drifted back to their seats again.
One of them in passing said casually in apology, with an enigmatic smile which was reflected on several of the others’ faces: “There’s always something new to listen to,” and he licked his lips as if news were meat and drink to him. K. said nothing conciliatory, it was good for them to have a little respect for him, but hardly had he reached Barnabas when he felt a peasant breathing down the back of his neck. He had only come, he said, for the salt-cellar, but K. tamped his foot with rage and the peasant scuttled away without the salt-cellar. It was really easy to get at K. , all one had to do was to egg on the peasants against him, their persistent interference seemed much more objectionable to him than the reserve of the others, nor were they free from reserve either, for if he had sat down at their table they would not have stayed. Only the presence of Barnabas restrained him from making a scene. But he turned round to scowl at them, and found that they, too, were all looking at him.
When he saw them sitting like that, however, each man in his own place, not speaking to one another and without any apparent mutual understanding, united only by the fact that they were all gazing at him, he concluded that it was not out of malice that they pursued him, perhaps they really wanted something from him and were only incapable of expressing it, if not that, it might be pure childishness, which seemed to be in fashion at the inn; was not the landlord himself childish, standing there stock-still gazing at K. ith a glass of beer in his hand which he should have been carrying to a customer, and oblivious of his wife, who was leaning out of the kitchen hatch calling to him? With a quieter mind K. turned to Barnabas; he would have liked to dismiss his assistants, but could not think of an excuse. Besides, they were brooding peacefully over their beer. “The letter,” began K. , “I have read it. Do you know the contents? ” “No,” said Barnabas, whose look seemed to imply more than his words. Perhaps K. as as mistaken in Barnabas’s goodness as in the malice of the peasants, but his presence remained a cornfort. “You are mentioned in the letter, too, you are supposed to carry messages now and then from me to the Chief, that’s why I thought you might know the contents. ” “I was only told,” said Barnabas, “to give you the letter, to wait until you had read it,and then to bring back a verbal or written answer if you thought it needful. ” “Very well,” said K. , “there’s no need to write anything; convey to the Chief – by the way, what’s his name?
I couldn’t read his signature. ” “Klamm,” said Barnabas. “Well, convey to Herr Klamm my thanks for his recognition and for his great kindness, which 1 appreciate, being as I am one who has not yet proved his worth here. I shall follow his instructions faithfully. I have no particular requests to make for to-day. ” Barnabas, who had listened with close attention, asked to be allowed to recapitulate the message. K. assented, Barnabas repeated it word for word. Then he rose to take his leave. K. had been studying his face the whole time, and now he gave it a last survey.
Barnabas was about the same height as K. , but his eyes seemed to look down on K. , yet that was almost in a kind of humility, it was impossible to think that this man could put anyone to shame. Of course he was only a messenger, and did not know the contents of the letters he carried, but the expression in his eyes, his smile, his bearing, seemed also to convey a message’, however little he might know about it. And K. shook him by the hand, which seemed obviously to surprise him, for he had been going to content himself with a bow.
As soon as he had gone – before opening the door he had leaned his shoulder against it for a moment and embraced the room generally in a final glance – K. said to the assistants: “I`ll bring down the plans from my room, and then we’ll discuss what work is to be done first. ” They wanted to accompany him. “Stay here,” said K. Still they tried to accompany him. K. had to repeat his command more authoritatively. Barnabas was no longer in the hall. But he had only just gone out. Yet in front of the house – fresh snow was falling – K. ould not see him either. He called out: “Barnabas! ” No answer. Could he still be in the house? Nothing else seemed possible. None the less K. yelled the name with the full force of his lungs. It thundered through the night. And from the distance came a faint response, so far away was Barnabas already. K. called him back, and at the same time went to meet him; the spot where they encountered each other was no longer visible from the inn. “Barnabas,” said K. , and could not keep his voice from trembling, “I have something else to say to you.
And that reminds me that it’s a bad arrangement to leave me dependent on your chance comings for sending a message to the Castle. If I hadn’t happened to catch you just now – how you fly along, I thought you were still in the house – who knows how long I might have had to wait for your next appearance. ” “You can ask the Chief,” said Barnabas, “to send me at definite times appointed by yourself. ” “Even that would not suffice,” said K. , “I might have nothing to say for a year at a time, but something of urgent importance might occur to me a quarter of an hour after you had gone. “Well,” said Barnabas, “shall I report to the Chief that between him and you some other means of communication should be established instead of me? ” “No, no,” said K. , “not at all, I only mention the matter in passing, for this time I have been lucky enough to catch you. ” “Shall we go back to the inn,” said Barnabas, “so that you can give me the new message there? ” He had already taken a step in the direction of the inn. “Barnabas,” said K. , “it isn’t necessary, I’ll go a part of the way with you. ” “Why don’t you want to go to the inn? ” asked Barnabas. “The people there annoy me,” said K. “you saw for yourself how persistent the peasants are. ” “We could go into your room,” said Barnabas. “It’s the maids’ room,” said K. , “dirty and stuffy – it’s to avoid staying there that I want to accompany you for a little, only,” he added, in order finally to overcome Barnabas’s reluctance, “you must let me take your arm, for you are surer of foot than I am. ” And K. took his arm. It was quite dark, K. could not see Barnabas’s face, his figure was only vaguely discernible, he had had to grope for his arm a minute or two. Barnabas yielded and they moved away from the inn.
K. realized, indeed, that his utmost efforts could not enable him to keep pace with Barnabas, that he was a drag on him, and that even in ordinary circumstances this trivial accident might be enough to ruin everything, not to speak of side-streets like the one in which he had got stuck that morning, out of which he could never struggle unless Barnabas were to carry him. But he banished all such anxieties, and was comforted by Barnabas’s silence; for if they went on in silence then Barnabas, too, must feel that their excursion together was the sole reason for their association.
They went on, but K. did not know whither, he could discern nothing, not even whether they had already passed the church or not. The effort which it cost him merely to keep going made him lose control of his thoughts. Instead of remaining fixed on their goal they strayed. Memories of his home kept recurring and filled his mind. There, too, a church stood in the marketplace, partly surrounded by an old graveyard which was again surrounded by a high wall. Very few boys had managed to climb that wall, and for some time K. , too, had failed. It was not curiosity which had urged them on.
The graveyard had been no mystery to them. They had often entered it through a small wicket-gate, it was only the smooth high wall that they had wanted to conquer. But one morning – the empty, quiet marketplace had been flooded with sunshine, when had K. ever seen it like that either before or since? – he had succeeded in climbing it with astonishing ease; at a place where he had already slipped down many a time he had clambered with a small flag between his teeth right to the top at the first attempt. Stones were still rattling down under his feet, but he was at the top.
He stuck the flag in, it flew in the wind, he looked down and round about him, over his shoulder, too, at the crosses mouldering in the ground, nobody was greater than he at that place and that moment. By chance the teacher had come past and with a stern face had made K. descend. In jumping down he had hurt his knee and had found some difficulty in getting home, but still he had been on the top of the wall. The sense of that triumph had seemed to him then a victory for life, which was not altogether foolish, for now so many years ater on the arm of Barnabas in the snowy night the memory of it came to succour him. He took a firmer hold, Barnabas was almost dragging him along, the silence was unbroken. Of the road they were following all that K. knew was that to judge from its surface they had not yet turned aside into a by-street. He vowed to himself that, however difficult the way and however doubtful even the prospect of his being able to get back, he would not cease from going on. He would surely have strength enough to let himself be dragged. And the road must come to an end some time.
By day the Castle had looked within easy reach, and, of course, the messenger would take the shortest cut. At that moment Barnabas stopped. Where were they? Was this the end? Would Barnabas try to leave him? He wouldn’t succeed. K. clutched his arm so firmly that it almost made his hand ache. Or had the incredible happened, and were they already in the Castle or at its gates? But they had not done any climbing so far as K. could tell. Or had Barnabas taken him up by an imperceptibly mounting road? “Where are we? ” said K. in a low voice, more to himself than to Barnabas. At home,” said Barnabas in the same tone. “At home? ” “Be careful now, sir, or you’ll slip. We go down here. ” “Down? ” “Only a step or two,” added Barnabas, and was already knocking at a door. A girl opened it, and they were on the threshold of a large room almost in darkness, for there was no light save for a tiny oil lamp hanging over a table in the background. “Who is with you, Barnabas? ” asked the girl. “The Land Surveyor,” said he. “The Land Surveyor,” repeated the girl in a louder voice, turning towards the table.
Two old people there rose to their feet, a man and a woman, as well as another girl. They greeted K. Barnabas introduced the whole family, his parents and his sisters Olga and Amalia. K. scarcely glanced at them and let them take his wet coat off to dry at the stove. So it was only Barnabas who was at home, not he himself. But why had they come here? K. drew Barnabas aside and asked: “Why have you come here? Or do you live in the Castle precincts? ” “The Castle precincts? ” repeated Barnabas, as if he did not understand. “Barnabas,” said K. “you left the inn to go to the Castle. ” “No,” said Barnabas, “I left it to come home, I don’t go to the Castle till the early morning, I never sleep there. ” “Oh,” said K. , “so you weren’t going to the Castle, but only here” – the man’s smile seemed less brilliant, and his person more insignificant “Why didn’t you say so? ” “You didn’t ask me, sir,” said Barnabas, “you only said you had a message to give me, but you wouldn’t give it in the inn parlour, or in your room, so I thought you could speak to me quietly here in my parents’ house.
The others will all leave us if you wish and, if you prefer, you could spend the night here. Haven’t I done the right thing? ” K. could not reply. It had been simply a misunderstanding, a common, vulgar misunderstanding, and K. had been completely taken in by it. He had been bewitched by Barnabas’s closefitting, silken-gleaming jacket, which, now that it was unbuttoned, displayed a coarse, dirty grey shirt patched all over, and beneath that the huge muscular chest of a labourer.
His surroundings not only corroborated all this but even emphasized it, the old gouty father who progressed more by the help of his groping hands than by the slow movements of his stiff legs, and the mother with her hands folded on her bosom, who was equally incapable of any but the smallest steps by reason of her stoutness. Both of them, father and mother, had been advancing from their corner towards K. ever since he had come in, and were still a long way off. The yellow-haired sisters, very like each ther and very like Barnabas, but with harder features than their brother, great strapping wenches, hovered round their parents and waited for some word of greeting from K. But he could not utter it. He had been persuaded that in this village everybody meant something to him, and indeed he was not mistaken, it was only for these people here that he could feel not the slightest interest. If he had been fit to struggle back to the inn alone he would have left at once. The possibility of accompanying Barnabas to the Castle early in the morning did not attract him.
He had hoped to penetrate into the Castle unremarked in the night on the arm of Barnabas, but on the arm of the Barnabas he had imagined, a man who was more to him than anyone else, the Barnabas he had conceived to be far above his apparent rank and in the intimate confidence of the Castle. With the son of such a family, however, a son who integrally belonged to it, and who was already sitting at table with the others, a man who was not even allowed to sleep in the Castle, he could not possibly go to the Castle in the broad light of day, it would be a ridiculous and hopeless undertaking.
K. sat down on a window-seat where he determined to pass the night without accepting any other favour. The other people in the village, who turned him away or were afraid of him, seemed much less dangerous, for all that they did was to throw him back on his own resources, helping him to concentrate his powers, but such ostensible helpers as these who on the strength of a petty masquerade brought him into their homes instead of into the Castle, deflected him, whether intentionally or not, from his goal and only helped to destroy him.
An invitation to join the family at table he ignored completely, stubbornly sitting with bent head on his bench. Then Olga, the gentler of the sisters, got up, not without a trace of maidenly embarrassment, came over to K. and asked him to join the family meal of bread and bacon, saying that she was going to fetch some beer. “Where from? ” asked K. “From the inn,” she said. That was welcome news to K. He begged her instead of fetching beer to accompany him back to the inn, where he had important work waiting to be done.
But the fact now emerged that she was not going so far as his inn, she was going to one much nearer, called the Herrenhof. None the less K. begged to be allowed to accompany her, thinking that there perhaps he might find a lodging for the night; however wretched it might be he would prefer it to the best bed these peqple could offer him. Olga did not reply at once, but glanced towards the table. Her brother stood up, nodded obligingly and said: “If the gentleman wishes. ” This assent was almost enough to make K. ithdraw his request, nothing could be of much value if Barnabas assented to it. But since they were already wondering whether K. would be admitted into that inn and doubting its possibility, he insisted emphatically upon going, without taking the trouble to give a colourable excuse for his eagerness; this family would have to accept him as he was, he had no feeling of shame where they were concerned. Yet he was somewhat disturbed by Amalia’s direct and serious gaze, which was unflinching and perhaps a little stupid. On their short walk to the inn – K. ad taken Olga’s arm and was leaning his whole weight on her as earlier on Barnabas, he could not get along otherwise – he learned that it was an inn exclusively reserved for gentlemen from the Castle, who took their meals there and sometimes slept there whenever they had business in the village. Olga spoke to K. in a low and confidential tone; to walk with her was pleasant, almost as pleasant as walking with her brother. K. struggled against the feeling of comfort she gave him, but it persisted. From outside the new inn looked very like the inn where K. was staying.
All the houses in the village resembled one another more or less, but still a few small differences were immediately apparent here; the front steps had a balustrade, and a fine lantern was fixed over the doorway. Something fluttered over their heads as they entered, it was a flag with the Count’s colours. In the hall they were at once met by the landlord, who was obviously on a tour of inspection; he glanced at K. in passing with small eyes that were cither screwed up critically, or half-asleep, and said: “The Land Surveyor mustn’t go anywhere but into the bar. “Certainly,” said Olga, who took K. ‘s part at once, “he’s only escorting me. ” But K. ungratefully let go her arm and drew the landlord aside. Olga meanwhile waited patiently at the end of the hall. “I should like to spend the night here,” said K. “I’m afraid that’s impossible,” said the landlord. “You don’t seem to be aware that this house is reserved exclusively for gentlemen from the Castle. ” “Well, that may be the rule,” said K. , “but it’s surely possible to let me sleep in a corner somewhere. “I should be only too glad to oblige you,” said the landlord, “but besides the strictness with which the rule is enforced – and you speak about it as only a stranger could – it’s quite out of the question for another reason; the Castle gentlemen are so sensitive that I’m convinced they couldn’t bear the sight of a stranger, at least unless they were prepared for it; and if I were to let you sleep here, and by some chance or other – and chances are always on the side of the gentlemen – you were discovered, not only would it mean my ruin but yours too.
That sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. ” This tall and closely-buttoned man who stood with his legs crossed, one hand braced against the wall and the other on his hip, bending down a little towards K. and speaking confidentially to him, seemed to have hardly anything in common with the village, even although his dark clothes looked like a peasant’s finery. “I believe you absolutely,” said K. , “and I didn’t mean to belittle the rule, although
I expressed myself badly. Only there’s something I’d like to point out, I have some influence in the Castle, and shall have still more, and that secures you against any danger arising out of my stay here overnight, and is a guarantee that I am able fully to recompense any small favour you may do me. ” “Oh, I know,” said the landlord, and repeated again, “I know all that. ” Now was the time for K. o state his wishes more clearly, but this reply of the landlord’s disconcerted him, and so he merely asked: “Are there many of the Castle gentlemen staying in the house to-night? ” “As far as that goes, to-night is favourable,” returned the landlord, as if in encouragement, “there’s only one gentleman. ” Still K. felt incapable of urging the matter, but being in hopes that he was as good as accepted, he contented himself by asking the name of the gentleman. Klamm,” said the landlord casually, turning meanwhile to his wife who came rustling towards them in a remarkably shabby, old-fashioned gown overloaded with pleats and frills, but of a fine city cut. She came to summon the landlord, for the Chief wanted something or other. Before the landlord complied, however, he turned once more to K. , as if it lay with K. to make the decision about staying all night. But K. could not utter a word, overwhelmed as he was by the discovery that it was his patron who was in the house.
Without being able to explain it completely to himself he did not feel the same freedom of action in relation to Klamm as he did to the rest of the Castle, and the idea of being caught in the inn by Klamm, although it did not terrify him as it did the landlord, gave him a twinge of uneasiness, much as if he were thoughtlessly to hurt the feelings of someone to whom he was bound by gratitude; at the same time, however, it vexed him to recognize already in these qualms the obvious effects of that degradation to an inferior tatus which he had feared, and to realize that although they were so obvious he was not even in a position to counteract them. So he stood there biting his lips and said nothing. Once more the landlord looked back at him before disappearing through a doorway, and K. returned the look without moving from the spot, until Olga came up and drew him away. “What did you want with the landlord? ” she asked. “I wanted a bed for the night,” said K. “But you’re staying with us! ” said Olga in surprise. “Of course,” said K. , leaving her to make what she liked of it. In the bar, which was a large room with a vacant space in the middle, there were several peasants sitting by the wall on the tops of some casks, but they looked different from those in K. ‘s inn. They were more neatly and uniformly dressed in coarse yellowish-grey cloth, with loose jackets and tightly-fitting trousers. They were smallish men with at first sight a strong mutual resemblance, having flat bony faces, but rounded cheeks. They were all quiet, and sat with hardly a movement, except that they followed the newcomers with their eyes, but they did even that slowly and indifferently.
Yet because of their numbers and their quietness they had a certain effect on K. He took Olga’s arm again as if to explain his presence there. A man rose up from one corner, an acquaintance of Olga’s, and made towards her, but K. wheeled her round by the arm in another direction. His action was perceptible to nobody but Olga, and she tolerated it with a smiling side-glance. The beer was drawn off by a young girl called Frieda. An unobtrusive little girl with fair hair, sad eyes, and hollow cheeks, with a striking look of conscious superiority.
As soon as her eye met K’s it seemed to him that her look decided something concerning himself, something which he had not known to exist, but which her look assured him did exist. He kept on studying her from the side, even while she was speaking to Olga. Olga and Frieda were apparently not intimate, they exchanged only a few cold words. K. wanted to hear more, and so interposed with a question on his own account: “Do you know Herr Klamm? ” Olga laughed out loud. “What are you laughing at? ” asked K. irritably. “I`m not laughing,” she protested, but went on laughing. Olga is a childish creature,” said K. bending far over the counter in order to attract Frieda’s gaze again. But she kept her eyes lowered and laughed shyly. “Would you like to see Herr Klamm? ” K. begged for a sight of him. She pointed to a door just on her left. “There’s a little peephole there, you can look through. ” “What about the others? ” asked K. She curled her underlip and pulled K.. to the door with a hand that was unusually soft. The little hole had obviously been bored for spying through, and commanded almost the whole of the neighbouring room.
At a desk in the middle of the room in a comfortable arm-chair sat Herr Klamm, his face brilliantly lit up by an incandescent lamp which hung low before him. A middle-sized, plump, and ponderous man. His face was still smooth, but his cheeks were already somewhat flabby with age. His black moustache had long points, his eyes were hidden behind glittering pince-nez that sat awry. If he had been planted squarely before his desk K. would only have seen his profile, but since he was turned directly towards K. is whole face was visible. His left elbow lay on the desk, his right hand, in which was a Virginia cigar, rested on his knee. A beer-glass was standing on the desk, but there was a rim round the desk which prevented K. from seeing whether any papers were lying on it; he had the idea, however, that there were none. To make it certain he asked Frieda to look through the hole and tell him if there were any. But since she had been in that room a short time ago, she was able to inform him without further ado that the desk was empty. K. sked Frieda if his time was up, but she told him to go on looking as long as he liked. K. was now alone with Frieda. Olga, as a hasty glance assured him, had found her way to her acquaintance, and was sitting high on a cask swinging her legs. “Frieda,” said K. in a whisper, “do you know Herr Klamm well? ” “Oh, yes,” she said, “very well. ” She leaned over to K. and he became aware that she was coquettishly fingering the lowcut cream-coloured blouse which sat oddly on her poor thin body. Then she said: “Didn’t you notice how Olga laughed? “Yes, the rude creature,” said K. “Well,” she said extenuatingly, “there was a reason for laughing. You asked if I knew Klamm, and you see I” – here she involuntarily lifted her chin a little, and again her triumphant glance, which had no connexion whatever with what she was saying, swept over K. – “I am his mistress. ” “Klamm’s mistress,” said K. She nodded. “Then,” said K. smiling, to prevent the atmosphere from being too charged with seriousness, “you are for me a highly respectable person. ” “Not only for ou,” said Frieda amiably, but without returning his smile. K. had a weapon for bringing down her pride, and he tried it: “Have you ever been in the Castle? ” But it missed the mark, for she answered: “No, but isn’t it enough for me to be here in the bar? ” Her vanity was obviously boundless, and she was trying, it seemed, to get K. in particular to minister to it. “Of course,” said K. , “here in the bar you’re taking the landlord’s place. ” “That’s so,” she assented, “and I began as a barmaid at the inn by the bridge. ” “With those delicate hands,” said K. alfquestioningly, without knowing himself whether he was only flattering her or was compelled by something in her. Her hands were certainly small and delicate, but they could quite as well have been called weak and characterless. “Nobody bothered about them then,” she said, “and even now … ” K. looked at her inquiringly. She shook her head and would say no more. “You have your secrets, naturally,” said K. , “and you’re not likely to give them away to somebody you’ve known for only half an hour, and who hasn’t had the chance yet to tell you anything about himself. This remark proved to be ill-chosen, for it seemed to arouse Frieda as from a trance that was favourable to him. Out of ihe leather bag hanging at her girdle she took a small piece of wood, stopped up the peephole with it, and said to K. with an obvious attempt to conceal the change in her attitude: “Oh, I know all about you, you’re the Land Surveyor,” and then adding: “but now I must go back to my work,” she returned to her place behind the bar counter, while a man here and there came up to get his empty glass refilled. K. anted to speak to her again, so he took an empty glass from a stand and went up to her, saying: “One thing more, Fraulein Frieda, it’s an extraordinary feat and a sign of great strength of mind to have worked your way up from byre-maid to this position in the bar, but can it be the end of all ambition for a person like you? An absurd idea. Your eyes – don’t laugh at me, Fraulein Frieda – speak to me far more of conquests still to come than of conquests past. But the opposition one meets in the world is great, and becomes greater the higher one aims, and it’s no disgrace to ccept the help of a man who’s fighting his way up too, even though he’s a small and uninfluential man. Perhaps we could have a quiet talk together sometime, without so many onlookers? ” “I don’t know what you’re after,” she said, and in her tone this time there seemed to be, against her will, an echo rather of countless disappointments than of past triumphs. “Do you want to take me away from Klamm perhaps? O heavens! ” and she clapped her hands. “You’ve seen through me,” said K. , as if wearied by so much mistrust, “that’s exactly my real secret intention.
You ought to leave Klamm and become my sweetheart. And now I can go. Olga! ” he cried, “we’re going home. ” Obediently Olga slid down from her cask but did not succeed immediately in breaking through her ring of friends. Then Frieda said in a low voice with a hectoring look at K. : “When can I talk to you? ” “Can I spend the night here? ” asked K. “Yes,” said Frieda. “Can I stay now? ” “Go out first with Olga, so that I can clear out all the others. Then you can come back in a little. ” “Right,” said K. , and he waited impatiently for Olga.
But the peasants would not let her go; they made up a dance in which she was the central figure, they circled round her yelling all together and every now and then one of them left the ring, seized Olga firmly round the waist and whirled her round and round; the pace grew faster and faster, the yells more hungry, more raucous, until they were insensibly blended into one continuous howl. Olga, who had begun laughingly by trying to break out of the ring, was now merely reeling with flying hair from one man to the other. “That’s the kind of people I’m saddled with,” said Frieda, biting her thin lips in scorn. Who are they? ” asked K. “Klamm’s servants,” said Frieda, “he keeps on bringing those people with him, and they upset me. I can hardly tell what I’ve been saying to you, but please forgive me if I’ve offended you, it’s these people who are to blame, they’re the most contemptible and objectionable creatures I know, and I have to fill their glasses up with beer for them. How often I’ve implored Klamm to leave them behind him, for though I have to put up with the other gentlemen’s servants, he could surely have some consideration for me; but it’s all no use, an hour before his arrival they always come ursting in like cattle into their stalls. But now they’ve really got to get into the stalls, where they belong. If you weren’t here I’d fling open this door and Klamm would be forced to drive them out himself. ” “Can’t he hear them, then? ” asked K. “No,” said Frieda, “he’s asleep. ” “Asleep? ” cried K. “But when I peeped in he was awake and sitting at the desk. ” “He always sits like that,” said Frieda, “he was sleeping when you saw him. Would I have let you look in if he hadn’t been asleep? That’s how he sleeps, the gentlemen do sleep a great deal, it’s hard to understand.
Anyhow, if he didn’t sleep so much, he wouldn’t be able to put up with his servants. But now I’ll have to turn them out myself. ” She took a whip from a corner and sprang among the dancers with a single bound, a little uncertainly, as a young lamb might spring. At first they faced her as if she were merely a new partner, and actually for a moment Frieda seemed inclined to let the whip fall, but she soon raised it again, crying: “In the name of Klamm into the stall with you, into the stall, all of you! ” When they saw that she was in earnest they began to press towards the back wall in a kind of panic incomprehensible to K.. and under the impact of the first few a door shot open, letting in a current of night air through which they all vanished with Frieda behind them openly driving them across the courtyard into the stalls. In the sudden silence which ensued K. heard steps in the vestibule. With some idea of securing his position he dodged behind the bar counter, which afforded the only possible cover in the room. He had an admitted right to be in the bar, but since he meant to spend the night there he had to avoid being seen. So when the door was actually opened he slid under the counter.
To be discovered there of course would have its dangers too, yet he could explain plausibly enough that he had only taken refuge from the wild licence of the peasants. It was the landlord who came in. “Frieda ! “, he called, and walked up and down the room several times. Fortunately Frieda soon came back, she did not mention K. , she only complained about the peasants, and in the course of looking round for K. went behind the counter, so that he was able to touch her foot. From that moment he felt safe. Since Frieda made no reference to K. , however, the landlord was cornpelled to do it. And where is the Land Surveyor? ” he asked. He was probably courteous by nature, refined by constant and relatively free intercourse with men who were much his superior, but there was remarkable consideration in his tone to Frieda, which was all the more striking because in his conversation he did not cease to be an employer addressing a servant, and a saucy servant at that. “The Land Surveyor – I forgot all about him,” said Frieda, setting her small foot on K. ‘s chest. “He must have gone out long ago. ” “But I haven’t seen him,” said the landlord, “and I was in the hall nearly the whole time. “Well, he isn’t in here,” said Frieda coolly. “Perhaps he’s hidden somewhere,” went on the landlord. “From the impression I had of him he’s capable of a good deal. ” “He would hardly have the cheek to do that,” said Frieda, pressing her foot down on K. There was a certain mirth and freedom about her which K. had not previously remarked, and quite unexpectedly it took the upper hand, for suddenly laughing she bent down to K. with the words: “Perhaps he’s hidden underneath here,” kissed him lightly and sprang up again saying with a troubled air: “No, he’s not there. Then the landlord, too, surprised K. when he said: “It bothers me not to know for certain that he’s gone. Not only because of Herr Klamm, but because of the rule of the house. And the rule applies to you, Fraulein Frieda, just as much as to me. Well, if you answer for the bar, I’ll go through the rest of the rooms. Good night! Sleep well! ” He could hardly have left the room before Frieda had turned out the electric light and was under the counter beside K. “My darling! My darling ! “, she whispered, but she did not touch him.
As if swooning with love she lay on her back and stretched out her arms; time must have seemed endless to her in the prospect of her happiness, and she sighed rather than sang some little song or other. Then as K. still lay absorbed in thought, she started up and began to tug at him like a child: “Come on, it’s too close down here,” and they embraced each other, her little body burned in K. ‘s hands, in a state of unconsciousness which K. tried again and again but in vain to master as they rolled a little way, landing with a thud on Klamm’s door, where they lay among the small puddles of beer and other refuse athered on the floor. There, hours went past, hours in which they breathed as one, in which their hearts beat as one, hours in which K. was haunted by the feeling that he was losing himself or wandering into strange country, farther than ever man had wandered 45#before, a country so strange that not even the air had anything in common with his native air, where one might die of strangeness, and yet whose enchantment was such that one could only go on and lose oneself further. So it came to him not as a shock but as a faint glimmer of comfort when from Klamm’s room a deep, authoritative impersonal voice called for Frieda. Frieda,” whispered K. in Frieda’s ear, passing on the summons. With a mechanical instinct of obedience Frieda made as if to spring to her feet, then she remembered where she was, stretched herself, laughing quietly, and said: “I’m not going, I’m never going to him again. ” K. wanted to object, to urge her to go to Klamm, and began to fasten up her disordered blouse, but he could not bring himself to speak, he was too happy to have Frieda in his arms, too troubled also in his happiness, for it seemed to him that in letting Frieda go he would lose all he had.
And as if his support had strengthened her Frieda clenched her fist and beat upon the door, crying: “I`m with the Land Surveyor! ” That silenced Klamm at any rate, but K. started up, and on his knees beside Frieda gazed round him in the uncertain light of dawn. What had happened? Where were his hopes? What could he expect from Frieda now that she had betrayed everything? Instead of feeling his way with the prudence befitting the greatness of his enemy and of his ambition, he had spent a whole night wallowing in puddles of beer, the smell of hich was nearly overpowering. “What have you done? ” he said as if to himself. “We are both ruined. ” “No,” said Frieda, “it’s only me that’s ruined, but then I’ve won you. Don’t worry. But just look how these two are laughing. ” “Who? ” asked K. , and turned round. There on the bar counter sat his two assistants, a little heavy-eyed for lack of sleep, but cheerful. It was a cheerfulness arising from a sense of duty well done. “What are you doing here? ” cried K. as if they were to blame for everything. We had to search for you,” explained the assistants, “since you didn’t come back to the inn; we looked for you at Barnabas’s and finally found you here. We have been sitting here all night. Ours is no easy job. ” “It’s in the day-time I need you,” said K. , “not in the night, clear out. ” “But it’s day-time now,” said they without moving. It was really day, the doors into the courtyard were opened, the peasants came streaming in and with them Olga, whom K. had completely forgotten. Although her hair and clothes were in disorder Olga was as alert as on the previous evening, and her eyes flew to K. efore she was well over the threshold. “Why did you not come home with me? ” she asked, almost weeping. “All for a creature like that! ” she said then, and repeated the remark several times. Frieda, who had vanished for a moment, came back with a small bundle of clothing, and Olga moved sadly to one side. “Now we can be off,” said Frieda, it was obvious she meant that they should go back to the inn by the bridge. K. walked with Frieda, and behind them the assistants; that was the little procession.
The peasants displayed a great contempt for Frieda, which was understandable, for she had lorded it over them hitherto; one of them even took a stick and held it as if to prevent her from going out until she had jumped over it, but a look from her sufficed to quell him. When they were out in the snow K. breathed a little more freely. It was such a relief to be in the open air that the journey seemed less laborious; if he had been alone he would have got on still better. When he reached the inn he went straight to his room and lay down on the bed. Frieda prepared a couch for herself on the floor beside him.
The assistants had pushed their way in too, and on being driven out came back through the window. K. was too weary to drive them out again. The landlady came up specially to welcome Frieda, who hailed her as “mother”; their meeting was inexplicably affectionate, with kisses and long embracings. There was little peace and quietness to be had in the room, for the maids too came clumping in with their heavy boots, bringing or seeking various articles, and whenever they wanted anything from the miscellaneous assortment on the bed they simply pulled it out from under K.
They greeted Frieda as one of themselves. In spite of all this coming and going K. stayed in bed the whole day through, and the whole night. Frieda performed little offices for him. When he got up at last on the following morning he was much refreshed, and it was the fourth day since his arrival in the village. # He would have liked an intimate talk with Frieda, but the assistants hindered this simply by their importunate presence, and Frieda, too, laughed and joked with them from time to time.
Otherwise they were not at all exacting, they had simply settled down in a corner on two old skirts spread out on the floor. They made it a point of honour, as they repeatedly assured Frieda, not to disturb the Land Surveyor and to take up as little room as possible, and in pursuit of this intention, although with a good deal of whispering and giggling, they kept on trying to squeeze themselves into a smaller compass, crouching together in the corner so that in the dim light they looked like one large bundle. From his experience of them by daylight, however, K. as all too conscious that they were acute observers and never took their eyes off him, whether they were fooling like children and using their hands as spyglasses, or merely glancing at him while apparently completely absorbed in grooming their beards, on which they spent much thought and which they were for ever comparing in length and thickness, calling on Frieda to decide between them. From his bed K. often watched the antics of all three with the completest indifference. When he felt himself well enough to leave his bed, they all ran to serve him.
He was not yet strong enough to ward off their services, and noted that that brought him into a state of dependence on them which might have evil consequences, but he could not help it. Nor was it really unpleasant to drink at the table the good coffee which Frieda had brought, to warm himself at the stove which Frieda had lit, and to have the assistants racing ten times up and down the stairs in their awkwardness and zeal to fetch him soap and water, comb and lookingglass, and eventually even a small glass of rum because he had hinted in a low voice at his desire for one.
Among all this giving of orders and being waited on, K. said, more out of good humour than any hope of being obeyed: “Go away now, you two, I need nothing more for the present, and I want to speak to Fraulein Frieda by herself. ” And when he saw no direct opposition on their faces he added, by way of excusing them: “We three shall go to the village Superintendent afterwards, so wait downstairs in the bar for me. ” Strangely enough they obeyed him, only turning to say before going: “We could wait here. ” But K. answered: “I know, but I don’t want you to wait here. It annoyed him, however, and yet in a sense pleased him when Frieda, who had settled on his knee as soon as the assistants were gone, said: “What’s your objection to the assistants, darling? We don’t need to have any mysteries before them. They are true friends. ” “Oh, true friends,” said K. , “they keep spying on me the whole time, it’s nonsensical but abominable. ” “I believe I know what you mean,” she said, and she clung to his neck and tried to say something else but could not go on speaking, and since their chair was close to it they reeled over and fell on the bed.
There they lay, but not in the forgetfulness of the previous night. She was seeking and he was seeking, they raged and contorted their faces and bored their heads into each other’s bosoms in the urgency of seeking something, and their embraces and their tossing limbs did not avail to make them forget, but only reminded them of what they sought; like dogs desperately tearing up the ground they tore at each other’s bodies, and often, helplessly baffled, in a final effort to attain happiness they nuzzled and tongued each other’s face.
Sheer weariness stilled them at last and brought them gratitude to each other. Then the maids came in. “Look how they’re lying there,” said one, and sympathetically cast a coverlet over them. When somewhat later K. freed himself from the coverlet and looked round, the two assistants – and he was not surprised at that-were again in their corner, and with a finger jerked towards K. nudged each other to a formal salute, but besides them the landlady was sitting near the bed knitting away at a stocking, an infinitesimal piece of work hardly suited to her enormous bulk which almost darkened the room. I’ve been here a long time,” she said, lifting up her broad and much furrowed face which was, however, still rounded and might once have been beautiful. The words sounded like a reproach, an ill-timed reproach, for K. had not desired her to come. So he merely acknowledged them by a nod, and sat up. Frieda also got up, but left K. to lean over the landlady’s chair. “If you want to speak to me,” said K. in bewilderment, “couldn’t you put it off until after I come back from visiting the Superintendent? I have important business with him. “This is important, believe me, sir,” said the landlady, “your other business is probably only a question of work, but this concerns a living person, Frieda, my dear maid. ” “Oh, if that’s it,” said K. , “then of course you’re right, but I don’t see why we can’t be left to settle our own affairs. ” “Because I love her and care for her,” said the landlady, drawing Frieda’s head towards her, for Frieda as she stood only reached up to the landlady’s shoulder. “Since Frieda puts such confidence in you,” cried K. “I must do the same, and since not long ago Frieda called my assistants true friends we are all friends together. So I can tell you that what I would like best would be for Frieda and myself to get married, the sooner the better. I know, oh, I know that I’ll never be able to make up to Frieda for all she has lost for my sake, her position in the Herrenhof and her friendship with Klamm. ” Frieda lifted up her face, her eyes were full of tears and had not a trace of triumph. “Why? Why am I chosen out from other people? ” “What? ‘ asked K. nd the landlady simultaneously. “She’s upset, poor child,” said the landlady, “upset by the conjunction of too much happiness and unhappiness. ” And as if in confirmation of those words Frieda now flung herself upon K. , kissing him wildly as if there were nobody else in the room, and then weeping, but still clinging to him, fell on her knees before him. While he caressed Frieda’s hair with both hands K. asked the landlady: “You seem to have no objection? ” “You are a man of honour,” said the landlady, who also had tears in her eyes.
She looked a little worn and breathed with difficulty, but she found strength enough to say: “There’s only the question now of what guarantees you are to give Frieda, for great as is my respect for you, you’re a stranger here; there’s nobody here who can speak for you, your family circumstances aren’t known here, so some guarantee is necessary. You must see that, my dear sir, and indeed you touched on it yourself when you mentioned how much Frieda must lose through her association with you. ” “Of course, guarantees, most certainly,” said K. “but they’ll be best given before the notary, and at the same time other officials of the Count’s will perhaps be concerned. Besides, before I’m married there’s something I must do. I must have a talk with Klamm. ” “That’s impossible,” said Frieda, raising herself a little and pressing close to K. , “what an idea! ” “But it must be done,” said K. , “if it’s impossible for me to manage it, you must! ” “I can’t, K. , I can’t,” said Frieda. “Klamm will never talk to you. How can you even think of such a thing! ” “And won’t he talk to you? ” asked K. “Not to me either,” said Frieda, “neither to you nor to me, it’s simply impossible. She turned to the landlady with outstretched arms: “You see what he’s asking for! ” “You’re a strange person,” said the landlady, and she was an awe-inspiring figure now that she sat more upright, her legs spread out and her enormous knees projecting under her thin skirt, “you ask for the impossible. ” “Why is it impossible? ” said K. “That’s what I’m going to tell you,” said the landlady in a tone which sounded as if her explanation were less a final concession to friendship than the first item in a score of penalties she was enumerating, “that’s what I shall be glad to let you know.
Although I don’t belong to the Castle, and am only a woman, only a landlady here in an inn of the lowest kind – it’s not of the very lowest but not far from it – and on that account you may not perhaps set much store by my explanation, still I’ve kept my eyes open all my life and met many kinds of people and taken the whole burden of the inn on my own shoulders, for Martin is no landlord although he’s a good man, and responsibility is a thing he’ll never understand.
It’s only his carelessness, for instance, that you’ve got to thank – for I was tired to death on that evening – for being here in the village at all, for sitting here on this bed in peace and comfort. ” “What? ” said K. , waking from a kind of absent-minded distraction, pricked more by curiosity than by anger. “It’s only his carelessness you’ve got to thank for it,” cried the landlady again, pointing with her forefinger at K. Frieda tried to silence her. “I can’t help it,” said the landlady with a swift turn of her whole body. The Land Surveyor asked me a question and I must answer it. There’s no other way of making him understand what we take for granted, that Herr Klamm will never speak to him will never speak, did I say? can never speak to him. Just listen to me, sir. Herr Klamm is a gentleman from the Castle, and that in itself, without considering Klamm’s position there at all, means that he is of very high rank. But what are you, for whose marriage we are humbly considering here ways and means of getting permission?
You are not from the Castle, you are not from the village, you aren’t anything. Or rather, unfortunately, you are something, a stranger, a man who isn’t wanted and is in everybody’s way, a man who’s always causing trouble, a man who takes up the maids’ room, a man whose intentions are obscure, a man who has ruined our dear little Frieda and whom we must unfortunately accept as her husband. I don’t hold all that up against you. You are what you are, and I have seen enough in my lifetime to be able to face facts. But now consider what it is you ask.
A man like Klamm is to talk with you. It vexed me to hear that Frieda let you look through the peephole, when she did that she was already corrupted by you. But just tell me, how did you have the face to look at Klamm? You needn’t answer, I know you think you were quite equal to the occasion. You’re not even capable of seeing Klamm as he really is, that’s not merely an exaggeration, for I myself am not capable of it cither. Klamm is to talk to you, and yet Klamm doesn’t talk even to people from the village, never yet has he spoken a word himself to anyone in the village.
It was Frieda’s great distinction, a distinction I’ll be proud of to my dying day, that he used at least to call out her name, and that she could speak to him whenever she liked and was permitted the freedom of the peephole, but even to her he never talked. And the fact that he called her name didn’t mean of necessity what one might think, he simply mentioned the name Frieda – who can tell what he was thinking of? – and that Frieda naturally came to him at once was her affair,] and that she was admitted without let or hindrance was an act] of grace on Klamm’s part, but that he deliberately summoned her is more than one can maintain.
Of course that’s all over now for good. Klamm may perhaps call “Frieda” as before, that’s possible, but she’ll never again be admitted to his presence, a girl who has thrown herself away upon you. And there’s one thing, one thing my poor head can’t understand, that a girl who had the honour of being known as Klamm’s mistress – a wild exaggeration in my opinion – should have allowed you even to lay a finger on her. ” “Most certainly, that’s remarkable,” said K. drawing Frieda to his bosom – she submitted at once although with bent head “but in my opinion that only proves the possibility of your being mistaken in some respects. You’re quite right, for instance, in saying that I’m a mere nothing compared with Klamm, and even though I insist on speaking to Klamm in spite of that, and am not dissuaded even by your arguments, that does not mean at all that I’m able to face Klamm without a door between us, or that I mayn’t run from the room at the very sight of him. But such a conjecture, even though well founded, is no valid reason in my eyes for refraining from the attempt.
If I only succeed in holding my ground there’s no need for him to speak to me at all, it will be sufficient for me to see what effect my words have on him, and if they have no effect or if he simply ignores them, I shall at any rate have the satisfaction of having spoken my mind freely to a great man. But you, with your wide knowledge of men and affairs, and Frieda, who was only yesterday Klamm’s mistress – I see no reason for questioning that tide could certainly procure me an interview with Klamm quite easily; if it could be done in no other way I could surely see him in the Herrenhof, perhaps he’s still there. “It’s impossible,” said the landlady, “and I can see that you’re incapable of understanding why. But just tell me what you want to speak to Klamm about? ” “About Frieda, of course,” said K. “About Frieda? ” repeated the landlady, uncomprehendingly, and turned to Frieda. “Do you hear that, Frieda, it’s about you that he, he, wants to speak to Klamm, to Klamm! ” “Oh,” said K. , “you’re a clever and admirable woman, and yet every trifle upsets you. Well, there it is, I want to speak to him about Frieda; that’s not monstrous, it’s only natural. And you’re quite wrong, too, in supposing that from the moment of my appearance
Frieda has ceased to be of any importance to Klamm. You underestimate him if you suppose that. I’m well aware that it’s impertinence in me to lay down the law to you in this matter, but I must do it. I can’t be the cause of any alteration in Klamm’s relation to Frieda. Either there was no essential relationship between them – and that’s what it amounts to if people deny that he was her honoured lover – in which case there is still no relationship between them, or else there was a relationship, and then how could I, a cipher in Klamm’s eyes, as you rightly point out, how could I make any difference to it?
One flies to such suppositions in the first moment of alarm, but the smallest reflection must correct one’s bias. Anyhow, let us hear what Frieda herself thinks about it” With a far-away look in her eyes and her cheek on K. ‘s breast, Frieda said: “It’s certain, as mother says, that Klamm will have nothing more to do with me. But I agree that it’s not because of you, darling, nothing of that kind could upset him. I think on the other hand that it was entirely his work that we found each other under, the bar counter, we should bless that hour and not curse it. ” “If that is so,” said K. lowly, for Frieda’s words were sweet, and he shut his eyes a moment or two to let their sweetness penetrate him, ‘if that is so, there is less ground than ever to flinch from an interview with Klamm. ” “Upon my word,” said the landlady, with her nose in the air, “you put me in mind of my own husband, you’re just as childish and obstinate as he is. You’ve been only a few days in the village and already you think you know everything better than people who have spent their lives here, better than an old woman like me, and better than Frieda who has seen and heard so much in the Herrenhof.
I don’t deny that it’s possible once in a while to achieve something in the teeth of every rule and tradition. I’ve never experienced anything of that kind myself, but I believe there are precedents for it. That may well be, but it certainly doesn’t happen in the way you’re trying to do it, simply by saying “no, no”, and sticking to your own opinions and flouting the most well-meant advice. Do you think it’s you I’m anxious about? Did I bother about you in the least so long as you were by yourself? Even though it would have been a good thing and saved a lot of trouble?
The only thing I ever said to my husband about you was: “Keep your distance where he’s concerned. ” And I should have done that myself to this very day if Frieda hadn’t got mixed up with your affairs. It’s her you have to thank – whether you like it or not – for my interest in you, even for my noticing your existence at all. And you can’t simply shake me off, for I’m the only person who looks after little Frieda, and you’re strictly answerable to me. Maybe Frieda is right, and all that has happened is Klamm’s will, but I have nothing to do with Klamm here and now. I shall never speak to him, he’s quite beyond my reach.
But you’re sitting here, keeping my Frieda, and being kept yourself – I don’t see why I shouldn’t tell you – by me. Yes, by me, young man, for let me see you find a lodging anywhere in this village if I throw you out, even it were only a dog-kennel. ” “Thank you,” said K. , “that’s frank and I believe you absolutely. So my position is as uncertain as that, is it, and Frieda’s position, too? ” “No! ” interrupted the landlady furiously. “Frieda’s position in this respect has nothing at all to do with yours. Frieda belongs to my house, and nobody is entitled to call her position here uncertain. “All right, all right,” said K. , “I’ll grant you that, too, especially since Frieda for some reason I’m not able to fathom seems to be too afraid of you to interrupt. Stick to me then for the present. My position is quite uncertain, you don’t deny that, indeed you rather go out of your way to emphasize it. Like everything else you say, that has a fair proportion of truth in it, but it isn’t absolutely true. For instance, I know where I could get a very good bed if I wanted it. ” “Where? Where? ” cried Frieda and the landlady simultaneously and so eagerly that they might have had the same motive for asking. At Barnabas’s,” said K. “That scum! ” cried the landlady. “That rascally scum I At Barnabas’s! Do you hear -” and she turned towards the corner, but the assistants had long quitted it and were now standing arm-in-arm behind her. And so now, as if she needed support, sne seized one of them by the hand: “Do you hear where the man goes hobnobbing, with the family of Barnabas. Oh, certainly he’d get a bed there; I only wished he’d stay’d there overnight instead of in the Herrenhof. But where were you two? ” ‘ “Madam,” said K. , before the assistants had time to answer, “these are my assistants.
But you’re treating them as if they were your assistants and my keepers. In every other respect I’m willing at least to argue the point with you courteously, but not where my assistants are concerned, that’s too obvious a matter. I request you therefore not to speak to my assistants, and if my request proves ineffective I shall forbid my assistants to answer you. ” “So I’m not allowed to speak to you,” said the landlady, and they laughed all three, the landlady scornfully, but with less anger than K. had expected, and the assistants in their usual manner, which meant both much and little and disclaimed all responsibility. Don’t get angry,” said Frieda, “you must try to understand why we’re upset. I can put it in this way, it’s all owing to Barnabas that we belong to each other now. When I saw you for the first time in the bar – when you came in arm-in-arm with Olga – well, I knew something about you, but I was quite indifferent to you. I was indifferent not only to you but to nearly everything, yes, nearly everything. For at that time I was discontented about lots of things, and often annoyed, but it was a queer discontent and a queer annoyance. For instance, if one of the customers in the bar insulted me – and they were lways after me – you saw what kind of creatures they were, but there were many worse than that, Klamm’s servants weren’t the worst – well, if one of them insulted me, what did that matter to me? I regarded it as if it had happened years before, or as if it had happened to someone else, or as if I had only heard tell of it, or as if I had already forgotten about it. But I can’t describe it, I can hardly imagine it now, so different has everything become since losing Klamm. ” And Frieda broke off short, letting her head drop sadly, folding her hands on her bosom. You see,” cried the landlady, and she spoke not as if in her own person but as if she had merely lent Frieda her voice; she moved nearer, too, and sat close beside Frieda, “you see, sir, the results of your actions, and your assistants too, whom I am not allowed to speak to, can profit by looking on at them. You’ve snatched Frieda from the happiest state she had ever known, and you managed to do that largely because in her childish susceptibility she could not bear to see you arm-in-arm with Olga, and so apparently delivered hand and foot to the Barnabas family.
She rescued you from that and sacrificed herself in doing. And now that it’s done, and Frieda has given up all she had for the pleasure of sitting on your knee, you come out with this fine trump card that once you had the chance of getting a bed from Barnabas. That’s by way of showing me that you’re independent of me. I assure you, if you had slept in that house you would be so independent of me that in the twinkling of an eye you would be put out of this one. ” “I don’t know what sins the family of Barnabas have cornmitted,” said K. carefully raising Frieda – who drooped as if lifeless – setting her slowly down on the bed and standing up himself, “you may be right about them, but I know that I was right in asking you to leave Frieda and me to settle our own affairs. You talked then about your care and affection, yet I haven’t seen much of that, but a great deal of hatred and scorn and forbidding me your house. If it was your intention to separate Frieda from me or me from Frieda it was quite a good move, but all the same I think it won’t succeed, and if it does succeed – it’s my turn now to issue vague threats you’ll repent it.
As for the lodging you favour me with – you can only mean this abominable hole – it’s not at all certain that you do it of your own free will, it’s much more likely that the authorities insist upon it I shall now inform them that I have been told to go – and if I am allotted other quarters you’ll probably feel relieved, but not so much as I will myself. And now I’m going to discuss this and other business with the Superintendent, please be so good as to look after Frieda at least, whom you have reduced to a bad enough state with your so-called motherly counsel. Then he turned to the assistants. “Come along,” he said, taking Klamm’s letter from its nail and making for the door. The landlady looked at him in silence, and only when his hand was on the latch did she say: “There’s something else to take away with you, for whatever you say and however you insult an old woman like me, you’re after all Frieda’s future husband. That’s my sole reason for telling you now that your ignorance of the local situation is so appalling that it makes my head go round to listen to you and compare your ideas and opinions with the real state of things.
It’s a kind of ignorance which can’t be enlightened at one attempt, and perhaps never can be, but there’s a lot you could learn if you would only believe me a little and keep your own ignorance constantly in mind. For instance, you would at once be less unjust to me, and you would begin to have an inkling of the shock it was to me – a shock from which I’m still suffering – when I realized that my dear little Frieda had, so to speak, deserted the eagle for the snake in the grass, only the real ituation is much worse even than that, and I have to keep on trying to forget it so as to be able to speak civilly to you at all. Oh, now you’re angry again! No, don’t go away yet, listen to this one appeal; wherever you may be, never forget that you’re the most ignorant person in the village, and be cautious; here in this house where Frieda’s presence saves you from harm you can drivel on to your heart’s content, for instance, here you can explain to us how you mean to get an interview with Klamm, but I entreat you, I entreat you, don’t do it in earnest. She stood up, tottering a little with agitation, went over to K. , took his hand and looked at him imploringly. “Madam,” said K. , “I don’t understand why you should stoop to entreat me about a thing like this. If as you say, it’s impossible for me to speak to Klamm, I won’t manage it in any case whether I’m entreated or not. But if it proves to be possible, why shouldn’t I do it, especially as that would remove your main objection and so make your other premises questionable.
Of course, I’m ignorant, that’s an unshaken truth and a sad truth for me, but it gives me all the advantage of ignorance, which is greater daring, and so I’m prepared to put up with my ignorance, evil consequences and all, for some time to come, so long as my strength holds out. But these consequences really affect nobody but myself, and that’s why I simply can’t understand your pleading. I’m certain you would always look after Frieda, and if I were to vanish from Frieda’s side you couldn’t regard that as anything but good luck.
So what are you afraid of? Surely you’re not afraid _ an ignorant man thinks everything possible” – here K. flung the door open – “surely you’re not afraid for Klamm? ” The landlady gazed after him in silence as he ran down the staircase with the assistants following him. To his own surprise K. had little difficulty in obtaining an interview with the Superintendent. He sought to explain this to himself by the fact that, going by his experience hitherto, official intercourse with the authorities for him was always very easy.
This was caused on the one hand by the fact that the word had obviously gone out once and for all to treat his case with the external marks of indulgence, and on the other, by the admirable autonomy of the service, which one divined to be peculiarly effective precisely where it was not visibly present. At the mere thought of those facts, K. was often in danger of considering his situation hopeful; nevertheless, after such fits of easy confidence, he would hasten to tell himself that just there lay his danger.
Direct intercourse with the authorities was not particularly difficult then, for well organized as they might be, all they did was to guard the distant and invisible interests of distant and invisible masters, while K. fought for something vitally near to him, for himself, and moreover, at least at the very beginning, on his own initiative, for he was the attacker; and besides he fought not only for himself, but clearly for other powers as well which he did not know, but in which, without infringing the regulations of the authorities, he was permitted to believe.
But now by the fact that they had at once amply met his wishes in all unimportant matters – and hitherto only unimportant matters had come up – they had robbed him of the possibility of light and easy victories, and with that of the satisfaction which must accompany them and the well-grounded confidence for further and greater struggles which must result from them. Instead, they let K. go anywhere he liked – of course only within the village – and thus pampered and enervated him, ruled out all possibility of conflict, and transported him to an unofficial totally unrecognized, troubled, and alien existence.
In this life it might easily happen, if he were not always on his guard, until one day or other, in spite of the amiability of the authorities the scrupulous fulfilment of all his exaggeratedly light duties, might – deceived by the apparent favour shown him – conduc himself so imprudently that he might get a fall; and the authorities, still ever mild and friendly, and as it were against their wil but in the name of some public regulation unknown to hit might have to come and clear him out of the way.
And what was it, this other life to which he was consigned? Never yet had K. seen vocation and life so interlaced as here, so interlaced sometimes one might think that they had exchanged places. What importance, for example, had the power, merely formal up till now, which Klamm exercised over K. ‘s services, cor pared with the very real power which Klamm possessed in K. ‘s bedroom? So it came about that while a light and frivolous bearing, a certain deliberate carelessness was sufficient when one came in direct