The Trial By Franz Kafka Chapter 3

The man, however, didn't follow this suggestion but just stood there with his hands in his trouser pockets and laughed out loud. "There, you see," he said to the girl, "I was quite right. The gentleman is only unwell here, and not in general." The young woman smiled too, but lightly tapped the man's arm with the tips of her fingers as if he had allowed himself too much fun with K. "So what do you think, then?" said the man, still laughing, "I really do want to lead the gentleman out of here." "That's alright, then," said the girl, briefly inclining her charming head. "Don't worry too much about him laughing," said the girl to K., who had become unhappy once more and stared quietly in front of himself as if needing no further explanation. "This gentleman — may I introduce you?" — (the man gave his permission with a wave of the hand) — "so, this gentleman's job is to give out information. He gives all the information they need to people who are waiting, as our court and its offices are not very well known among the public he gets asked for quite a lot. He has an answer for every question, you can try him out if you feel like it. But that's not his only distinction, his other distinction is his elegance of dress. We, that's to say all of us who work in the offices here, we decided that the information-giver would have to be elegantly dressed as he continually has to deal with the litigants and he's the first one they meet, so he needs to give a dignified first impression. The rest of us I'm afraid, as you can see just by looking at me, dress very badly and old-fashioned; and there's not much point in spending much on clothes anyway, as we hardly ever leave the offices, we even sleep here. But, as I said, we decided that the information-giver would have to have nice clothes. As the management here is rather peculiar in this respect, and they would get them for us, we had a collection — some of the litigants contributed too — and bought him these lovely clothes and some others besides. So everything would be ready for him to give a good impression, except that he spoils it again by laughing and frightening people." "That's how it is," said the man, mocking her, "but I don't understand why it is that you're explaining all our intimate facts to the gentleman, or rather why it is that you're pressing them on him, as I'm sure he's not all interested. Just look at him sitting there, it's clear he's occupied with his own affairs." K. just did not feel like contradicting him.. The girl's intention may have been good, perhaps she was under instructions to distract him or to give him the chance to collect himself, but the attempt had not worked. "I had to explain to him why you were laughing," said the girl. "I suppose it was insulting." "I think he would forgive even worse insults if I finally took him outside." K. said nothing, did not even look up, he tolerated the two of them negotiating over him like an object, that was even what suited him best. But suddenly he felt the information-giver's hand on one arm and the young woman's hand on the other. "Up you get then, weakling," said the information-giver. "Thank you both very much," said K., pleasantly surprised, as he slowly rose and personally guided these unfamiliar hands to the places where he most needed support. As they approached the corridor, the girl said quietly into K.'s ear, "I must seem to think it's very important to show the information-giver in a good light, but you shouldn't doubt what I say, I just want to say the truth. He isn't hard-hearted. It's not really his job to help litigants outside if they're unwell but he's doing it anyway, as you can see. I don't suppose any of us is hard-hearted, perhaps we'd all like to be helpful, but working for the court offices it's easy for us to give the impression we are hard-hearted and don't want to help anyone. It makes me quite sad." "Would you not like to sit down here a while?" asked the information-giver, there were already in the corridor and just in front of the defendant whom K. had spoken to earlier. K. felt almost ashamed to be seen by him, earlier he had stood so upright in front of him and now he had to be supported by two others, his hat was held up by the information-giver balanced on outstretched fingers, his hair was dishevelled and hung down onto the sweat on his forehead. But the defendant seemed to notice nothing of what was going on and just stood there humbly, as if wanting to apologise to the information-giver for being there. The information-giver looked past him. "I know," he said, "that my case can't be settled today, not yet, but I've come in anyway, I thought, I thought I could wait here anyway, it's Sunday today, I've got plenty of time, and I'm not disturbing anyone here." "There's no need to be so apologetic," said the information-giver, "it's very commendable for you to be so attentive. You are taking up space here when you don't need to but as long as you don't get in my way I will do nothing to stop you following the progress of your case as closely as you like. When one has seen so many people who shamefully neglect their cases one learns to show patience with people like you. Do sit down." "He's very good with the litigants," whispered the girl. K. nodded, but started to move off again when the information-giver repeated, "Would you not like to sit down here a while?" "No," said K., "I don't want to rest." He had said that as decisively as he could, but in fact it would have done him a lot of good to sit down. It was as if he were suffering sea-sickness. He felt as if he were on a ship in a rough sea, as if the water were hitting against the wooden walls, a thundering from the depths of the corridor as if the torrent were crashing over it, as if the corridor were swaying and the waiting litigants on each side of it rising and sinking. It made the calmness of the girl and the man leading him all the more incomprehensible. He was at their mercy, if they let go of him he would fall like a board. Their little eyes glanced here and there, K. could feel the evenness of their steps but could not do the same, as from step to step he was virtually being carried. He finally noticed they were speaking to him but he did not understand them, all he heard was a noise that filled all the space and through which there seemed to be an unchanging higher note sounding, like a siren. "Louder," he whispered with his head sunk low, ashamed at having to ask them to speak louder when he knew they had spoken loudly enough, even if it had been, for him, incomprehensible. At last, a draught of cool air blew in his face as if a gap had been torn out in the wall in front of him, and next to him he heard someone say, "First he says he wants to go, and then you can tell him a hundred times that this is the way out and he doesn't move." K. became aware that he was standing in front of the way out, and that the young woman had opened the door. It seemed to him that all his strength returned to him at once, and to get a foretaste of freedom he stepped straight on to one of the stairs and took his leave there of his companions, who bowed to him. "Thank you very much," he repeated, shook their hands once more and did not let go until he thought he saw that they found it hard to bear the comparatively fresh air from the stairway after being so long used to the air in the offices. They were hardly able to reply, and the young woman might even have fallen over if K. had not shut the door extremely fast. K. then stood still for a while, combed his hair with the help of a pocket mirror, picked up his hat from the next stair — the information-giver must have thrown it down there — and then he ran down the steps so fresh and in such long leaps that the contrast with his previous state nearly frightened him. His normally sturdy state of health had never prepared him for surprises such as this. Did his body want to revolt and cause him a new trial as he was bearing the old one with such little effort? He did not quite reject the idea that he should see a doctor the next time he had the chance, but whatever he did — and this was something on which he could advise himself — he wanted to spend all Sunday mornings in future better than he had spent this one.

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