The Trial By Franz Kafka Chapter 8

Chapter Eight

Block, the businessman — Dismissing the lawyer

K. had at last made the decision to withdraw his defence from the lawyer. It was impossible to remove his doubts as to whether this was the right decision, but this was outweighed by his belief in its necessity. This decision, on the day he intended to go to see the lawyer, took a lot of the strength he needed for his work, he worked exceptionally slowly, he had to remain in his office a long time, and it was already past ten o'clock when he finally stood in front of the lawyer's front door. Even before he rang he considered whether it might not be better to give the lawyer notice by letter or telephone, a personal conversation would certainly be very difficult. Nonetheless, K. did not actually want to do without it, if he gave notice by any other means it would be received in silence or with a few formulated words, and unless Leni could discover anything K. would never learn how the lawyer had taken his dismissal and what its consequences might be, in the lawyer's not unimportant opinion. But sitting in front of him and taken by surprise by his dismissal, K. would be able easily to infer everything he wanted from the lawyer's face and behaviour, even if he could not be induced to say very much. It was not even out of the question that K. might, after all, be persuaded that it would be best to leave his defence to the lawyer and withdraw his dismissal.

As usual, there was at first no response to K.'s ring at the door. "Leni could be a bit quicker," thought K. But he could at least be glad there was nobody else interfering as usually happened, be it the man in his nightshirt or anyone else who might bother him. As K. pressed on the button for the second time he looked back at the other door, but this time it, too, remained closed. At last, two eyes appeared at the spy-hatch in the lawyer's door, although they weren't Leni's eyes. Someone unlocked the door, but kept himself pressed against it as he called back inside, "It's him!", and only then did he open the door properly. K. pushed against the door, as behind him he could already hear the key being hurriedly turned in the lock of the door to the other flat. When the door in front of him finally opened, he stormed straight into the hallway. Through the corridor which led between the rooms he saw Leni, to whom the warning cry of the door opener had been directed, still running away in her nightshirt. He looked at her for a moment and then looked round at the person who had opened the door. It was a small, wizened man with a full beard, he held a candle in his hand. "Do you work here?" asked K. "No," answered the man, "I don't belong here at all, the lawyer is only representing me, I'm here on legal business." "Without your coat?" asked K., indicating the man's deficiency of dress with a gesture of his hand. "Oh, do forgive me!" said the man, and he looked at himself in the light of the candle he was holding as if he had not known about his appearance until then. "Is Leni your lover?" asked K. curtly. He had set his legs slightly apart, his hands, in which he held his hat, were behind his back. Merely by being in possession of a thick overcoat he felt his advantage over this thin little man. "Oh God," he said and, shocked, raised one hand in front of his face as if in defence, "no, no, what can you be thinking?" "You look honest enough," said K. with a smile, "but come along anyway." K. indicated with his hat which way the man was to go and let him go ahead of him. "What is your name then?" asked K. on the way. "Block. I'm a businessman," said the small man, twisting himself round as he thus introduced himself, although K. did not allow him to stop moving. "Is that your real name?" asked K. "Of course it is," was the man's reply, "why do you doubt it?" "I thought you might have some reason to keep your name secret," said K. He felt himself as much at liberty as is normally only felt in foreign parts when speaking with people of lower standing, keeping everything about himself to himself, speaking only casually about the interests of the other, able to raise him to a level above one's own, but also able, at will, to let him drop again. K. stopped at the door of the lawyer's office, opened it and, to the businessman who had obediently gone ahead, called, "Not so fast! Bring some light here!" K. thought Leni might have hidden in here, he let the businessman search in every corner, but the room was empty. In front of the picture of the judge K. took hold of the businessman's braces to stop him moving on. "Do you know him?" he asked, pointing upwards with his finger. The businessman lifted the candle, blinked as he looked up and said, "It's a judge." "An important judge?" asked K., and stood to the side and in front of the businessman so that he could observe what impression the picture had on him. The businessman was looking up in admiration. "He's an important judge." "You don't have much insight," said K. "He is the lowest of the lowest examining judges." "I remember now," said the businessman as he lowered the candle, "that's what I've already been told." "Well of course you have," called out K., "I'd forgotten about it, of course you would already have been told." "But why, why?" asked the businessman as he moved forwards towards the door, propelled by the hands of K. Outside in the corridor K. said, "You know where Leni's hidden, do you?" "Hidden?" said the businessman, "No, but she might be in the kitchen cooking soup for the lawyer." "Why didn't you say that immediately?" asked K. "I was going to take you there, but you called me back again," answered the businessman, as if confused by the contradictory commands. "You think you're very clever, don't you," said K, "now take me there!" K. had never been in the kitchen, it was surprisingly big and very well equipped. The stove alone was three times bigger than normal stoves, but it was not possible to see any detail beyond this as the kitchen was at the time illuminated by no more than a small lamp hanging by the entrance. At the stove stood Leni, in a white apron as always, breaking eggs into a pot standing on a spirit lamp. "Good evening, Josef," she said with a glance sideways. "Good evening," said K., pointing with one hand to a chair in a corner which the businessman was to sit on, and he did indeed sit down on it. K. however went very close behind Leni's back, leant over her shoulder and asked, "Who is this man?" Leni put one hand around K. as she stirred the soup with the other, she drew him forward toward herself and said, "He's a pitiful character, a poor businessman by the name of Block. Just look at him." The two of them looked back over their shoulders. The businessman was sitting on the chair that K. had directed him to, he had extinguished the candle whose light was no longer needed and pressed on the wick with his fingers to stop the smoke. "You were in your nightshirt," said K., putting his hand on her head and turning it back towards the stove. She was silent. "Is he your lover?" asked K. She was about to take hold of the pot of soup, but K. took both her hands and said, "Answer me!" She said, "Come into the office, I'll explain everything to you." "No," said K., "I want you to explain it here." She put her arms around him and wanted to kiss him. K., though, pushed her away and said, "I don't want you to kiss me now." "Josef," said Leni, looking at K. imploringly but frankly in the eyes, "you're not going to be jealous of Mr. Block now, are you? Rudi," she then said, turning to the businessman, "help me out will you, I'm being suspected of something, you can see that, leave the candle alone." It had looked as though Mr. Block had not been paying attention but he had been following closely. "I don't even know why you might be jealous," he said ingenuously. "Nor do I, actually," said K., looking at the businessman with a smile. Leni laughed out loud and while K. was not paying attention took the opportunity of embracing him and whispering, "Leave him alone, now, you can see what sort of person he is. I've been helping him a little bit because he's an important client of the lawyer's, and no other reason. And what about you? Do you want to speak to the lawyer at this time of day? He's very unwell today, but if you want I'll tell him you're here. But you can certainly spend the night with me. It's so long since you were last here, even the lawyer has been asking about you. Don't neglect your case! And I've got some things to tell you that I've learned about. But now, before anything else, take your coat off!" She helped him off with his coat, took the hat off his head, ran with the things into the hallway to hang them up, then she ran back and saw to the soup. "Do you want me to tell him you're here straight away or take him his soup first?" "Tell him I'm here first," said K. He was in a bad mood, he had originally intended a detailed discussion of his business with Leni, especially the question of his giving the lawyer notice, but now he no longer wanted to because of the presence of the businessman. Now he considered his affair too important to let this little businessman take part in it and perhaps change some of his decisions, and so he called Leni back even though she was already on her way to the lawyer. "Bring him his soup first," he said, "I want him to get his strength up for the discussion with me, he'll need it." "You're a client of the lawyer's too, aren't you," said the businessman quietly from his corner as if he were trying to find this out. It was not, however, taken well. "What business is that of yours?" said K., and Leni said, "Will you be quiet. — I'll take him his soup first then, shall I?" And she poured the soup into a dish. "The only worry then is that he might go to sleep soon after he's eaten." "What I've got to say to him will keep him awake," said K., who still wanted to intimate that he intended some important negotiations with the lawyer, he wanted Leni to ask him what it was and only then to ask her advice. But instead, she just promptly carried out the order he had given her. When she went over to him with the dish she deliberately brushed against him and whispered, "I'll tell him you're here as soon as he's eaten the soup so that I can get you back as soon as possible." "Just go," said K., "just go." "Be a bit more friendly," she said and, still holding the dish, turned completely round once more in the doorway.

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