The Trial By Franz Kafka Chapter 8

Leni appeared almost the moment he had done so. She looked hurriedly at K. and the lawyer to try and find out what had happened; she seemed to be reassured by the sight of K. sitting calmly at the lawyer's bed. She smiled and nodded to K., K. looked blankly back at her. "Fetch Block," said the lawyer. But instead of going to fetch him, Leni just went to the door and called out, "Block! To the lawyer!" Then, probably because the lawyer had turned his face to the wall and was paying no attention, she slipped in behind K.'s chair. From then on, she bothered him by leaning forward over the back of the chair or, albeit very tenderly and carefully, she would run her hands through his hair and over his cheeks. K. eventually tried to stop her by taking hold of one hand, and after some resistance Leni let him keep hold of it. Block came as soon as he was called, but he remained standing in the doorway and seemed to be wondering whether he should enter or not. He raised his eyebrows and lowered his head as if listening to find out whether the order to attend the lawyer would be repeated. K. could have encouraged to enter, but he had decided to make a final break not only with the lawyer but with everything in his home, so he kept himself motionless. Leni was also silent. Block noticed that at least no-one was chasing him away, and, on tiptoe, he entered the room, his face was tense, his hands were clenched behind his back. He left the door open in case he needed to go back again. K. did not even glance at him, he looked instead only at the thick quilt under which the lawyer could not be seen as he had squeezed up very close to the wall. Then his voice was heard: "Block here?" he asked. Block had already crept some way into the room but this question seemed to give him first a shove in the breast and then another in the back, he seemed about to fall but remained standing, deeply bowed, and said, "At your service, sir." "What do you want?" asked the lawyer, "you've come at a bad time." "Wasn't I summoned?" asked Block, more to himself than the lawyer. He held his hands in front of himself as protection and would have been ready to run away any moment. "You were summoned," said the lawyer, "but you have still come at a bad time." Then, after a pause he added, "You always come at a bad time." When the lawyer started speaking Block had stopped looking at the bed but stared rather into one of the corners, just listening, as if the light from the speaker were brighter than Block could bear to look at. But it was also difficult for him to listen, as the lawyer was speaking into the wall and speaking quickly and quietly. "Would you like me to go away again, sir?" asked Block. "Well you're here now," said the lawyer. "Stay!" It was as if the lawyer had not done as Block had wanted but instead threatened him with a stick, as now Block really began to shake. "I went to see," said the lawyer, "the third judge yesterday, a friend of mine, and slowly brought the conversation round to the subject of you. Do you want to know what he said?" "Oh, yes please," said Block. The lawyer did not answer immediately, so Block repeated his request and lowered his head as if about to kneel down. But then K. spoke to him: "What do you think you're doing?" he shouted. Leni had wanted to stop him from calling out and so he took hold of her other hand. It was not love that made him squeeze it and hold on to it so tightly, she sighed frequently and tried to disengage her hands from him. But Block was punished for K.'s outburst, as the lawyer asked him, "Who is your lawyer?" "You are, sir," said Block. "And who besides me?" the lawyer asked. "No-one besides you, sir," said Block. "And let there be no-one besides me," said the lawyer. Block fully understood what that meant, he glowered at K., shaking his head violently. If these actions had been translated into words they would have been coarse insults. K. had been friendly and willing to discuss his own case with someone like this! "I won't disturb you any more," said K., leaning back in his chair. "You can kneel down or creep on all fours, whatever you like. I won't bother with you any more." But Block still had some sense of pride, at least where K. was concerned, and he went towards him waving his fists, shouting as loudly as he dared while the lawyer was there. "You shouldn't speak to me like that, that's not allowed. Why are you insulting me? Especially here in front of the lawyer, where both of us, you and me, we're only tolerated because of his charity. You're not a better person than me, you've been accused of something too, you're facing a charge too. If, in spite of that, you're still a gentleman then I'm just as much a gentleman as you are, if not even more so. And I want to be spoken to as a gentleman, especially by you. If you think being allowed to sit there and quietly listen while I creep on all fours as you put it makes you something better than me, then there's an old legal saying you ought to bear in mind: If you're under suspicion it's better to be moving than still, as if you're still you can be in the pan of the scales without knowing it and be weighed along with your sins." K. said nothing. He merely looked in amazement at this distracted being, his eyes completely still. He had gone through such changes in just the last few hours! Was it the trial that was throwing him from side to side in this way and stopped him knowing who was friend and who was foe? Could he not see the lawyer was deliberately humiliating him and had no other purpose today than to show off his power to K., and perhaps even thereby subjugate K.? But if Block was incapable of seeing that, or if he so feared the lawyer that no such insight would even be of any use to him, how was it that he was either so sly or so bold as to lie to the lawyer and conceal from him the fact that he had other lawyers working on his behalf? And how did he dare to attack K., who could betray his secret any time he liked? But he dared even more than this, he went to the lawyer's bed and began there to make complaints about K. "Dr. Huld, sir," he said, "did you hear the way this man spoke to me? You can count the length of his trial in hours, and he wants to tell me what to do when I've been involved in a legal case for five years. He even insults me. He doesn't know anything, but he insults me, when I, as far as my weak ability allows, when I've made a close study of how to behave with the court, what we ought to do and what the court practices are." "Don't let anyone bother you," said the lawyer, "and do what seems to you to be right." "I will," said Block, as if speaking to himself to give himself courage, and with a quick glance to the side he kneeled down close beside the bed. "I'm kneeling now Dr. Huld, sir," he said. But the lawyer remained silent. With one hand, Block carefully stroked the bed cover. In the silence while he did so, Leni, as she freed herself from K.'s hands, said, "You're hurting me. Let go of me. I'm going over to Block." She went over to him and sat on the edge of the bed. Block was very pleased at this and with lively, but silent, gestures he immediately urged her to intercede for him with the lawyer. It was clear that he desperately needed to be told something by the lawyer, although perhaps only so that he could make use of the information with his other lawyers. Leni probably knew very well how the lawyer could be brought round, pointed to his hand and pursed her lips as if making a kiss. Block immediately performed the hand-kiss and, at further urging from Leni, repeated it twice more. But the lawyer continued to be silent. Then Leni leant over the lawyer, as she stretched out, the attractive shape of her body could be seen, and, bent over close to his face, she stroked his long white hair. That now forced him to give an answer. "I'm rather wary of telling him," said the lawyer, and his head could be seen shaking slightly, perhaps so that he would feel the pressure of Leni's hand better. Block listened closely with his head lowered, as if by listening he were breaking an order. "What makes you so wary about it?" asked Leni. K. had the feeling he was listening to a contrived dialogue that had been repeated many times, that would be repeated many times more, and that for Block alone it would never lose its freshness. "What has his behaviour been like today?" asked the lawyer instead of an answer. Before Leni said anything she looked down at Block and watched him a short while as he raised his hands towards her and rubbed them together imploringly. Finally she gave a serious nod, turned back to the lawyer and said, "He's been quiet and industrious." This was an elderly businessman, a man whose beard was long, and he was begging a young girl to speak on his behalf. Even if there was some plan behind what he did, there was nothing that could reinstate him in the eyes of his fellow man. K. could not understand how the lawyer could have thought this performance would win him over. Even if he had done nothing earlier to make him want to leave then this scene would have done so. It was almost humiliating even for the onlooker. So these were the lawyer's methods, which K. fortunately had not been exposed to for long, to let the client forget about the whole world and leave him with nothing but the hope of reaching the end of his trial by this deluded means. He was no longer a client, he was the lawyer's dog. If the lawyer had ordered him to crawl under the bed as if it were a kennel and to bark out from under it, then he would have done so with enthusiasm. K. listened to all of this, testing it and thinking it over as if he had been given the task of closely observing everything spoken here, inform a higher office about it and write a report. "And what has he been doing all day?" asked the lawyer. "I kept him locked in the maid's room all day," said Leni, "so that he wouldn't stop me doing my work. That's where he usually stays. From time to time I looked in through the spyhole to see what he was doing, and each time he was kneeling on the bed and reading the papers you gave him, propped up on the window sill. That made a good impression on me; as the window only opens onto an air shaft and gives hardly any light. It showed how obedient he is that he was even reading in those conditions." "I'm pleased to hear it," said the lawyer. "But did he understand what he was reading?" While this conversation was going on, Block continually moved his lips and was clearly formulating the answers he hoped Leni would give. "Well I can't give you any certain answer to that of course," said Leni, "but I could see that he was reading thoroughly. He spent all day reading the same page, running his finger along the lines. Whenever I looked in on him he sighed as if this reading was a lot of work for him. I expect the papers you gave him were very hard to understand." "Yes," said the lawyer, "they certainly are that. And I really don't think he understood anything of them. But they should at least give him some inkling of just how hard a struggle it is and how much work it is for me to defend him. And who am I doing all this hard work for? I'm doing it — it's laughable even to say it — I'm doing it for Block. He ought to realise what that means, too. Did he study without a pause?" "Almost without a pause," answered Leni. "Just the once he asked me for a drink of water, so I gave him a glassful through the window. Then at eight o'clock I let him out and gave him something to eat." Block glanced sideways at K., as if he were being praised and had to impress K. as well. He now seemed more optimistic, he moved more freely and rocked back and forth on his knees. This made his astonishment all the more obvious when he heard the following words from the lawyer: "You speak well of him," said the lawyer, "but that's just what makes it difficult for me. You see, the judge did not speak well of him at all, neither about Block nor about his case." "Didn't speak well of him?" asked Leni. "How is that possible?" Block looked at her with such tension he seemed to think that although the judge's words had been spoken so long before she would be able to change them in his favour. "Not at all," said the lawyer. "In fact he became quite cross when I started to talk about Block to him. 'Don't talk to me about Block,' he said. 'He is my client,' said I. 'You're letting him abuse you,' he said. 'I don't think his case is lost yet,' said I. 'You're letting him abuse you,' he repeated. 'I don't think so,' said I. 'Block works hard in his case and always knows where it stands. He practically lives with me so that he always knows what's happening. You don't always find such enthusiasm as that. He's not very pleasant personally, I grant you, his manners are terrible and he's dirty, but as far as the trial's concerned he's quite immaculate.' I said immaculate, but I was deliberately exaggerating. Then he said, 'Block is sly, that's all. He's accumulated plenty of experience and knows how to delay proceedings. But there's more that he doesn't know than he does. What do you think he'd say if he learned his trial still hasn't begun, if you told him they haven't even rung the bell to announce the start of proceedings?' Alright Block, alright," said the lawyer, as at these words Block had begun to raise himself on his trembling knees and clearly wanted to plead for some explanation. It was the first time the lawyer had spoken any clear words directly to Block. He looked down with his tired eyes, half blankly and half at Block, who slowly sank back down on his knees under this gaze. "What the judge said has no meaning for you," said the lawyer. "You needn't be frightened at every word. If you do it again I won't tell you anything else at all. It's impossible to start a sentence without you looking at me as if you were receiving your final judgement. You should be ashamed of yourself here in front of my client! And you're destroying the trust he has for me. Just what is it you want? You're still alive, you're still under my protection. There's no point in worrying! Somewhere you've read that the final judgement can often come without warning, from anyone at any time. And, in the right circumstances, that's basically true, but it's also true that I dislike your anxiety and fear and see that you don't have the trust in me you should have. Now what have I just said? I repeated something said by one of the judges. You know that there are so many various opinions about the procedure that they form into a great big pile and nobody can make any sense of them. This judge, for instance, sees proceedings as starting at a different point from where I do. A difference of opinion, nothing more. At a certain stage in the proceedings tradition has it that a sign is given by ringing a bell. This judge sees that as the point at which proceedings begin. I can't set out all the opinions opposed to that view here, and you wouldn't understand it anyway, suffice it to say that there are many reasons to disagree with him." Embarrassed, Block ran his fingers through the pile of the carpet, his anxiety about what the judge had said had let him forget his inferior status towards the lawyer for a while, he thought only about himself and turned the judges words round to examine them from all sides. "Block," said Leni, as if reprimanding him, and, taking hold of the collar of his coat, pulled him up slightly higher. "Leave the carpet alone and listen to what the lawyer is saying."

This chapter was left unfinished.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

How is K. executed?