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Chapter 1

Arrest - Conversation with Mrs. Grubach - Then Miss Bürstner

Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had
done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested. Every day at
eight in the morning he was brought his breakfast by Mrs. Grubach's
cook - Mrs. Grubach was his landlady - but today she didn't come. That
had never happened before. K. waited a little while, looked from his
pillow at the old woman who lived opposite and who was watching him with
an inquisitiveness quite unusual for her, and finally, both hungry and
disconcerted, rang the bell. There was immediately a knock at the door
and a man entered. He had never seen the man in this house before. He
was slim but firmly built, his clothes were black and close-fitting,
with many folds and pockets, buckles and buttons and a belt, all of
which gave the impression of being very practical but without making it
very clear what they were actually for. "Who are you?" asked K.,
sitting half upright in his bed. The man, however, ignored the question
as if his arrival simply had to be accepted, and merely replied, "You
rang?" "Anna should have brought me my breakfast," said K. He tried to
work out who the man actually was, first in silence, just through
observation and by thinking about it, but the man didn't stay still to
be looked at for very long. Instead he went over to the door, opened it
slightly, and said to someone who was clearly standing immediately
behind it, "He wants Anna to bring him his breakfast." There was a
little laughter in the neighbouring room, it was not clear from the
sound of it whether there were several people laughing. The strange man
could not have learned anything from it that he hadn't known already,
but now he said to K., as if making his report "It is not possible."
"It would be the first time that's happened," said K., as he jumped out
of bed and quickly pulled on his trousers. "I want to see who that is
in the next room, and why it is that Mrs. Grubach has let me be
disturbed in this way." It immediately occurred to him that he needn't
have said this out loud, and that he must to some extent have
acknowledged their authority by doing so, but that didn't seem important
to him at the time. That, at least, is how the stranger took it, as he
said, "Don't you think you'd better stay where you are?" "I want
neither to stay here nor to be spoken to by you until you've introduced
yourself." "I meant it for your own good," said the stranger and opened
the door, this time without being asked. The next room, which K.
entered more slowly than he had intended, looked at first glance exactly
the same as it had the previous evening. It was Mrs. Grubach's living
room, over-filled with furniture, tablecloths, porcelain and
photographs. Perhaps there was a little more space in there than usual
today, but if so it was not immediately obvious, especially as the main
difference was the presence of a man sitting by the open window with a
book from which he now looked up. "You should have stayed in your room!
Didn't Franz tell you?" "And what is it you want, then?" said K.,
looking back and forth between this new acquaintance and the one named
Franz, who had remained in the doorway. Through the open window he
noticed the old woman again, who had come close to the window opposite
so that she could continue to see everything. She was showing an
inquisitiveness that really made it seem like she was going senile. "I
want to see Mrs. Grubach ... ," said K., making a movement as if tearing
himself away from the two men - even though they were standing well away
from him - and wanted to go. "No," said the man at the window, who
threw his book down on a coffee table and stood up. "You can't go away
when you're under arrest." "That's how it seems," said K. "And why am
I under arrest?" he then asked. "That's something we're not allowed to
tell you. Go into your room and wait there. Proceedings are underway
and you'll learn about everything all in good time. It's not really
part of my job to be friendly towards you like this, but I hope no-one,
apart from Franz, will hear about it, and he's been more friendly
towards you than he should have been, under the rules, himself. If you
carry on having as much good luck as you have been with your arresting
officers then you can reckon on things going well with you." K. wanted
to sit down, but then he saw that, apart from the chair by the window,
there was nowhere anywhere in the room where he could sit. "You'll get
the chance to see for yourself how true all this is," said Franz and
both men then walked up to K. They were significantly bigger than him,
especially the second man, who frequently slapped him on the shoulder.
The two of them felt K.'s nightshirt, and said he would now have to wear
one that was of much lower quality, but that they would keep the
nightshirt along with his other underclothes and return them to him if
his case turned out well. "It's better for you if you give us the
things than if you leave them in the storeroom," they said. "Things
have a tendency to go missing in the storeroom, and after a certain
amount of time they sell things off, whether the case involved has come
to an end or not. And cases like this can last a long time, especially
the ones that have been coming up lately. They'd give you the money
they got for them, but it wouldn't be very much as it's not what they're
offered for them when they sell them that counts, it's how much they get
slipped on the side, and things like that lose their value anyway when
they get passed on from hand to hand, year after year." K. paid hardly
any attention to what they were saying, he did not place much value on
what he may have still possessed or on who decided what happened to
them. It was much more important to him to get a clear understanding of
his position, but he could not think clearly while these people were
here, the second policeman's belly - and they could only be policemen -
looked friendly enough, sticking out towards him, but when K. looked up
and saw his dry, boney face it did not seem to fit with the body. His
strong nose twisted to one side as if ignoring K. and sharing an
understanding with the other policeman. What sort of people were these?
What were they talking about? What office did they belong to? K. was
living in a free country, after all, everywhere was at peace, all laws
were decent and were upheld, who was it who dared accost him in his own
home? He was always inclined to take life as lightly as he could, to
cross bridges when he came to them, pay no heed for the future, even
when everything seemed under threat. But here that did not seem the
right thing to do. He could have taken it all as a joke, a big joke set
up by his colleagues at the bank for some unknown reason, or also
perhaps because today was his thirtieth birthday, it was all possible of
course, maybe all he had to do was laugh in the policemen's face in some
way and they would laugh with him, maybe they were tradesmen from the
corner of the street, they looked like they might be - but he was
nonetheless determined, ever since he first caught sight of the one
called Franz, not to lose any slight advantage he might have had over
these people. There was a very slight risk that people would later say
he couldn't understand a joke, but - although he wasn't normally in the
habit of learning from experience - he might also have had a few
unimportant occasions in mind when, unlike his more cautious friends, he
had acted with no thought at all for what might follow and had been made
to suffer for it. He didn't want that to happen again, not this time at
least; if they were play-acting he would act along with them.

He still had time. "Allow me," he said, and hurried between the
two policemen through into his room. "He seems sensible enough," he
heard them say behind him. Once in his room, he quickly pulled open the
drawer of his writing desk, everything in it was very tidy but in his
agitation he was unable to find the identification documents he was
looking for straight away. He finally found his bicycle permit and was
about to go back to the policemen with it when it seemed to him too
petty, so he carried on searching until he found his birth certificate.
Just as he got back in the adjoining room the door on the other side
opened and Mrs. Grubach was about to enter. He only saw her for an
instant, for as soon as she recognised K. she was clearly embarrassed,
asked for forgiveness and disappeared, closing the door behind her very
carefully. "Do come in," K. could have said just then. But now he stood
in the middle of the room with his papers in his hand and still looking
at the door which did not open again. He stayed like that until he was
startled out of it by the shout of the policeman who sat at the little
table at the open window and, as K. now saw, was eating his breakfast.
"Why didn't she come in?" he asked. "She's not allowed to," said the
big policeman. "You're under arrest, aren't you." "But how can I be
under arrest? And how come it's like this?" "Now you're starting
again," said the policeman, dipping a piece of buttered bread in the
honeypot. "We don't answer questions like that." "You will have to
answer them," said K. "Here are my identification papers, now show me
yours and I certainly want to see the arrest warrant." "Oh, my God!"
said the policeman. "In a position like yours, and you think you can
start giving orders, do you? It won't do you any good to get us on the
wrong side, even if you think it will - we're probably more on your side
that anyone else you know!" "That's true, you know, you'd better
believe it," said Franz, holding a cup of coffee in his hand which he
did not lift to his mouth but looked at K. in a way that was probably
meant to be full of meaning but could not actually be understood. K.
found himself, without intending it, in a mute dialogue with Franz, but
then slapped his hand down on his papers and said, "Here are my identity
documents." "And what do you want us to do about it?" replied the big
policeman, loudly. "The way you're carrying on, it's worse than a
child. What is it you want? Do you want to get this great, bloody trial
of yours over with quickly by talking about ID and arrest warrants with
us? We're just coppers, that's all we are. Junior officers like us
hardly know one end of an ID card from another, all we've got to do with
you is keep an eye on you for ten hours a day and get paid for it.
That's all we are. Mind you, what we can do is make sure that the high
officials we work for find out just what sort of person it is they're
going to arrest, and why he should be arrested, before they issue the
warrant. There's no mistake there. Our authorities as far as I know,
and I only know the lowest grades, don't go out looking for guilt among
the public; it's the guilt that draws them out, like it says in the law,
and they have to send us police officers out. That's the law. Where
d'you think there'd be any mistake there?" "I don't know this law,"
said K. "So much the worse for you, then," said the policeman. "It's
probably exists only in your heads," said K., he wanted, in some way, to
insinuate his way into the thoughts of the policemen, to re-shape those
thoughts to his benefit or to make himself at home there. But the
policeman just said dismissively, "You'll find out when it affects you."
Franz joined in, and said, "Look at this, Willem, he admits he doesn't
know the law and at the same time insists he's innocent." "You're quite
right, but we can't get him to understand a thing," said the other. K.
stopped talking with them; do I, he thought to himself, do I really have
to carry on getting tangled up with the chattering of base functionaries
like this? - and they admit themselves that they are of the lowest
position. They're talking about things of which they don't have the
slightest understanding, anyway. It's only because of their stupidity
that they're able to be so sure of themselves. I just need few words
with someone of the same social standing as myself and everything will
be incomparably clearer, much clearer than a long conversation with
these two can make it. He walked up and down the free space in the room
a couple of times, across the street he could see the old woman who,
now, had pulled an old man, much older than herself, up to the window
and had her arms around him. K. had to put an end to this display,
"Take me to your superior," he said. "As soon as he wants to see you.
Not before," said the policeman, the one called Willem. "And now my
advice to you," he added, "is to go into your room, stay calm, and wait
and see what's to be done with you. If you take our advice, you won't
tire yourself out thinking about things to no purpose, you need to pull
yourself together as there's a lot that's going to required of you.
You've not behaved towards us the way we deserve after being so good to
you, you forget that we, whatever we are, we're still free men and
you're not, and that's quite an advantage. But in spite of all that
we're still willing, if you've got the money, to go and get you some
breakfast from the café over the road."

Without giving any answer to this offer, K. stood still for some
time. Perhaps, if he opened the door of the next room or even the front
door, the two of them would not dare to stand in his way, perhaps that
would be the simplest way to settle the whole thing, by bringing it to a
head. But maybe they would grab him, and if he were thrown down on the
ground he would lose all the advantage he, in a certain respect, had
over them. So he decided on the more certain solution, the way things
would go in the natural course of events, and went back in his room
without another word either from him or from the policemen.

He threw himself down on his bed, and from the dressing table he
took the nice apple that he had put there the previous evening for his
breakfast. Now it was all the breakfast he had and anyway, as he
confirmed as soon as he took his first, big bite of it, it was far
better than a breakfast he could have had through the good will of the
policemen from the dirty café. He felt well and confident, he had
failed to go into work at the bank this morning but that could easily be
excused because of the relatively high position he held there. Should
he really send in his explanation? He wondered about it. If nobody
believed him, and in this case that would be understandable, he could
bring Mrs. Grubach in as a witness, or even the old pair from across the
street, who probably even now were on their way over to the window
opposite. It puzzled K., at least it puzzled him looking at it from the
policemen's point of view, that they had made him go into the room and
left him alone there, where he had ten different ways of killing
himself. At the same time, though, he asked himself, this time looking
at it from his own point of view, what reason he could have to do so.
Because those two were sitting there in the next room and had taken his
breakfast, perhaps? It would have been so pointless to kill himself
that, even if he had wanted to, the pointlessness would have made him
unable. Maybe, if the policemen had not been so obviously limited in
their mental abilities, it could have been supposed that they had come
to the same conclusion and saw no danger in leaving him alone because of
it. They could watch now, if they wanted, and see how he went over to
the cupboard in the wall where he kept a bottle of good schnapps, how he
first emptied a glass of it in place of his breakfast and how he then
took a second glassful in order to give himself courage, the last one
just as a precaution for the unlikely chance it would be needed.

Then he was so startled by a shout to him from the other room that
he struck his teeth against the glass. "The supervisor wants to see
you!" a voice said. It was only the shout that startled him, this curt,
abrupt, military shout, that he would not have expected from the
policeman called Franz. In itself, he found the order very welcome.
"At last!" he called back, locked the cupboard and, without delay,
hurried into the next room. The two policemen were standing there and
chased him back into his bedroom as if that were a matter of course.
"What d'you think you're doing?" they cried. "Think you're going to see
the supervisor dressed in just your shirt, do you? He'd see to it you
got a right thumping, and us and all!" "Let go of me for God's sake!"
called K., who had already been pushed back as far as his wardrobe, "if
you accost me when I'm still in bed you can't expect to find me in my
evening dress." "That won't help you," said the policemen, who always
became very quiet, almost sad, when K. began to shout, and in that way
confused him or, to some extent, brought him to his senses. "Ridiculous
formalities!" he grumbled, as he lifted his coat from the chair and kept
it in both his hands for a little while, as if holding it out for the
policemen's inspection. They shook their heads. "It's got to be a
black coat," they said. At that, K. threw the coat to the floor and
said - without knowing even himself what he meant by it - "Well it's not
going to be the main trial, after all." The policemen laughed, but
continued to insist, "It's got to be a black coat." "Well that's
alright by me if it makes things go any faster," said K. He opened the
wardrobe himself, spent a long time searching through all the clothes,
and chose his best black suit which had a short jacket that had greatly
surprised those who knew him, then he also pulled out a fresh shirt and
began, carefully, to get dressed. He secretly told himself that he had
succeeded in speeding things up by letting the policemen forget to make
him have a bath. He watched them to see if they might remember after
all, but of course it never occurred to them, although Willem did not
forget to send Franz up to the supervisor with the message saying that
K. was getting dressed.

Once he was properly dressed, K. had to pass by Willem as he went
through the next room into the one beyond, the door of which was already
wide open. K. knew very well that this room had recently been let to a
typist called 'Miss Bürstner'. She was in the habit of going out to
work very early and coming back home very late, and K. had never
exchanged more than a few words of greeting with her. Now, her bedside
table had been pulled into the middle of the room to be used as a desk
for these proceedings, and the supervisor sat behind it. He had his
legs crossed, and had thrown one arm over the backrest of the chair.

In one corner of the room there were three young people looking at
the photographs belonging to Miss Bürstner that had been put into a
piece of fabric on the wall. Hung up on the handle of the open window
was a white blouse. At the window across the street, there was the old
pair again, although now their number had increased, as behind them, and
far taller than they were, stood a man with an open shirt that showed
his chest and a reddish goatee beard which he squeezed and twisted with
his fingers. "Josef K.?" asked the supervisor, perhaps merely to
attract K.'s attention as he looked round the room. K. nodded. "I
daresay you were quite surprised by all that's been taking place this
morning," said the supervisor as, with both hands, he pushed away the
few items on the bedside table - the candle and box of matches, a book
and a pin cushion which lay there as if they were things he would need
for his own business. "Certainly," said K., and he began to feel
relaxed now that, at last, he stood in front of someone with some sense,
someone with whom he would be able to talk about his situation.
"Certainly I'm surprised, but I'm not in any way very surprised."
"You're not very surprised?" asked the supervisor, as he positioned the
candle in the middle of the table and the other things in a group around
it. "Perhaps you don't quite understand me," K. hurriedly pointed out.
"What I mean is ... " here K. broke off what he was saying and looked
round for somewhere to sit. "I may sit down, mayn't I?" he asked.
"That's not usual," the supervisor answered. "What I mean is...," said
K. without delaying a second time, "that, yes, I am very surprised but
when you've been in the world for thirty years already and had to make
your own way through everything yourself, which has been my lot, then
you become hardened to surprises and don't take them too hard.
Especially not what's happened today." "Why especially not what's
happened today?" "I wouldn't want to say that I see all of this as a
joke, you seem to have gone to too much trouble making all these
arrangements for that. Everyone in the house must be taking part in it
as well as all of you, that would be going beyond what could be a joke.
So I don't want to say that this is a joke." "Quite right," said the
supervisor, looking to see how many matches were left in the box. "But
on the other hand," K. went on, looking round at everyone there and even
wishing he could get the attention of the three who were looking at the
photographs, "on the other hand this really can't be all that
important. That follows from the fact that I've been indicted, but
can't think of the slightest offence for which I could be indicted.
But even that is all beside the point, the main question is: Who is
issuing the indictment? What office is conducting this affair? Are you
officials? None of you is wearing a uniform, unless what you are
wearing" - here he turned towards Franz - "is meant to be a uniform,
it's actually more of a travelling suit. I require a clear answer to
all these questions, and I'm quite sure that once things have been made
clear we can take our leave of each other on the best of terms." The
supervisor slammed the box of matches down on the table. "You're making
a big mistake," he said. "These gentlemen and I have got nothing to do
with your business, in fact we know almost nothing about you. We could
be wearing uniforms as proper and exact as you like and your situation
wouldn't be any the worse for it. As to whether you're on a charge, I
can't give you any sort of clear answer to that, I don't even know
whether you are or not. You're under arrest, you're quite right about
that, but I don't know any more than that. Maybe these officers have
been chit-chatting with you, well if they have that's all it is, chit-
chat. I can't give you an answer to your questions, but I can give you
a bit of advice: You'd better think less about us and what's going to
happen to you, and think a bit more about yourself. And stop making all
this fuss about your sense of innocence; you don't make such a bad
impression, but with all this fuss you're damaging it. And you ought to
do a bit less talking, too. Almost everything you've said so far has
been things we could have taken from your behaviour, even if you'd said
no more than a few words. And what you have said has not exactly been
in your favour."

K. stared at the supervisor. Was this man, probably younger than
he was, lecturing him like a schoolmaster? Was he being punished for
his honesty with a telling off? And was he to learn nothing about the
reasons for his arrest or those who were arresting him? He became
somewhat cross and began to walk up and down. No-one stopped him doing
this and he pushed his sleeves back, felt his chest, straightened his
hair, went over to the three men, said, "It makes no sense," at which
these three turned round to face him and came towards him with serious
expressions. He finally came again to a halt in front of the
supervisor's desk. "State Attorney Hasterer is a good friend of mine,"
he said, "can I telephone him?" "Certainly," said the supervisor, "but
I don't know what the point of that will be, I suppose you must have
some private matter you want to discuss with him." "What the point is?"
shouted K., more disconcerted that cross. "Who do you think you are?
You want to see some point in it while you're carrying out something as
pointless as it could be? It's enough to make you cry! These gentlemen
first accost me, and now they sit or stand about in here and let me be
hauled up in front of you. What point there would be, in telephoning a
state attorney when I'm ostensibly under arrest? Very well, I won't
make the telephone call." "You can call him if you want to," said the
supervisor, stretching his hand out towards the outer room where the
telephone was, "please, go on, do make your phone call." "No, I don't
want to any more," said K., and went over to the window. Across the
street, the people were still there at the window, and it was only now
that K. had gone up to his window that they seemed to become uneasy
about quietly watching what was going on. The old couple wanted to get
up but the man behind them calmed them down. "We've got some kind of
audience over there," called K. to the supervisor, quite loudly, as he
pointed out with his forefinger. "Go away," he then called across to
them. And the three of them did immediately retreat a few steps, the
old pair even found themselves behind the man who then concealed them
with the breadth of his body and seemed, going by the movements of his
mouth, to be saying something incomprehensible into the distance. They
did not disappear entirely, though, but seemed to be waiting for the
moment when they could come back to the window without being noticed.
"Intrusive, thoughtless people!" said K. as he turned back into the
room. The supervisor may have agreed with him, at least K. thought that
was what he saw from the corner of his eye. But it was just as possible
that he had not even been listening as he had his hand pressed firmly
down on the table and seemed to be comparing the length of his fingers.
The two policemen were sitting on a chest covered with a coloured
blanket, rubbing their knees. The three young people had put their
hands on their hips and were looking round aimlessly. Everything was
still, like in some office that has been forgotten about. "Now,
gentlemen," called out K., and for a moment it seemed as if he was
carrying all of them on his shoulders, "it looks like your business with
me is over with. In my opinion, it's best now to stop wondering about
whether you're proceeding correctly or incorrectly, and to bring the
matter to a peaceful close with a mutual handshake. If you are of the
same opinion, then please... " and he walked up to the supervisor's desk
and held out his hand to him. The supervisor raised his eyes, bit his
lip and looked at K.'s outstretched hand; K still believed the
supervisor would do as he suggested. But instead, he stood up, picked
up a hard round hat that was laying on Miss Bürstner's bed and put it
carefully onto his head, using both hands as if trying on a new hat.
"Everything seems so simple to you, doesn't it," he said to K. as he did
so, "so you think we should bring the matter to a peaceful close, do
you. No, no, that won't do. Mind you, on the other hand I certainly
wouldn't want you to think there's no hope for you. No, why should you
think that? You're simply under arrest, nothing more than that. That's
what I had to tell you, that's what I've done and now I've seen how
you've taken it. That's enough for one day and we can take our leave of
each other, for the time being at least. I expect you'll want to go in
to the bank now, won't you." "In to the bank?" asked K., "I thought I
was under arrest." K. said this with a certain amount of defiance as,
although his handshake had not been accepted, he was feeling more
independent of all these people, especially since the supervisor had
stood up. He was playing with them. If they left, he had decided he
would run after them and offer to let them arrest him. That's why he
even repeated, "How can I go in to the bank when I'm under arrest?" "I
see you've misunderstood me," said the supervisor who was already at the
door. "It's true that you're under arrest, but that shouldn't stop you
from carrying out your job. And there shouldn't be anything to stop you
carrying on with your usual life." "In that case it's not too bad,
being under arrest," said K., and went up close to the supervisor. "I
never meant it should be anything else," he replied. "It hardly seems
to have been necessary to notify me of the arrest in that case," said K.,
and went even closer. The others had also come closer. All of them had
gathered together into a narrow space by the door. "That was my duty,"
said the supervisor. "A silly duty," said K., unyielding. "Maybe so,"
replied the supervisor, "only don't let's waste our time talking on like
this. I had assumed you'd be wanting to go to the bank. As you're
paying close attention to every word I'll add this: I'm not forcing you
to go to the bank, I'd just assumed you wanted to. And to make things
easier for you, and to let you get to the bank with as little fuss as
possible I've put these three gentlemen, colleagues of yours, at your
disposal." "What's that?" exclaimed K., and looked at the three in
astonishment. He could only remember seeing them in their group by the
photographs, but these characterless, anaemic young people were indeed
officials from his bank, not colleagues of his, that was putting it too
high and it showed a gap in the omniscience of the supervisor, but they
were nonetheless junior members of staff at the bank. How could K. have
failed to see that? How occupied he must have been with the supervisor
and the policemen not to have recognised these three! Rabensteiner,
with his stiff demeanour and swinging hands, Kullich, with his blonde
hair and deep-set eyes, and Kaminer, with his involuntary grin caused by
chronic muscle spasms. "Good morning," said K. after a while, extending
his hand to the gentlemen as they bowed correctly to him. "I didn't
recognise you at all. So, we'll go into work now, shall we?" The
gentlemen laughed and nodded enthusiastically, as if that was what they
had been waiting for all the time, except that K. had left his hat in
his room so they all dashed, one after another, into the room to fetch
it, which caused a certain amount of embarrassment. K. stood where he
was and watched them through the open double doorway, the last to go, of
course, was the apathetic Rabensteiner who had broken into no more than
an elegant trot. Kaminer got to the hat and K., as he often had to do
at the bank, forcibly reminded himself that the grin was not deliberate,
that he in fact wasn't able to grin deliberately. At that moment Mrs.
Grubach opened the door from the hallway into the living room where all
the people were. She did not seem to feel guilty about anything at all,
and K., as often before, looked down at the belt of her apron which, for
no reason, cut so deeply into her hefty body. Once downstairs, K., with
his watch in his hand, decided to take a taxi - he had already been
delayed by half an hour and there was no need to make the delay any
longer. Kaminer ran to the corner to summon it, and the two others were
making obvious efforts to keep K. diverted when Kullich pointed to the
doorway of the house on the other side of the street where the large man
with the blonde goatee beard appeared and, a little embarrassed at first
at letting himself be seen in his full height, stepped back to the wall
and leant against it. The old couple were probably still on the stairs.
K. was cross with Kullich for pointing out this man whom he had already
seen himself, in fact whom he had been expecting. "Don't look at him!"
he snapped, without noticing how odd it was to speak to free men in this
way. But there was no explanation needed anyway as just then the taxi
arrived, they sat inside and set off. Inside the taxi, K. remembered
that he had not noticed the supervisor and the policemen leaving - the
supervisor had stopped him noticing the three bank staff and now the
three bank staff had stopped him noticing the supervisor. This showed
that K. was not very attentive, and he resolved to watch himself more
carefully in this respect. Nonetheless, he gave it no thought as he
twisted himself round and leant over onto the rear shelf of the car to
catch sight of the supervisor and the policemen if he could. But he
turned back round straight away and leant comfortably into the corner of
the taxi without even having made the effort to see anyone. Although it
did not seem like it, now was just the time when he needed some
encouragement, but the gentlemen seemed tired just then, Rabensteiner
looked out of the car to the right, Kullich to the left and only Kaminer
was there with his grin at K.'s service. It would have been inhumane to
make fun of that.

That spring, whenever possible, K. usually spent his evenings
after work - he usually stayed in the office until nine o'clock - with a
short walk, either by himself or in the company of some of the bank
officials, and then he would go into a pub where he would sit at the
regulars' table with mostly older men until eleven. There were,
however, also exceptions to this habit, times, for instance, when K. was
invited by the bank's manager (whom he greatly respected for his
industry and trustworthiness) to go with him for a ride in his car or to
eat dinner with him at his large house. K. would also go, once a week,
to see a girl called Elsa who worked as a waitress in a wine bar through
the night until late in the morning. During the daytime she only
received visitors while still in bed.

That evening, though, - the day had passed quickly with a lot of
hard work and many respectful and friendly birthday greetings - K.
wanted to go straight home. Each time he had any small break from the
day's work he considered, without knowing exactly what he had in mind,
that Mrs. Grubach's flat seemed to have been put into great disarray by
the events of that morning, and that it was up to him to put it back
into order. Once order had been restored, every trace of those events
would have been erased and everything would take its previous course
once more. In particular, there was nothing to fear from the three bank
officials, they had immersed themselves back into their paperwork and
there was no alteration to be seen in them. K. had called each of them,
separately or all together, into his office that day for no other reason
than to observe them; he was always satisfied and had always been able
to let them go again.

At half past nine that evening, when he arrived back in front of
the building where he lived, he met a young lad in the doorway who was
standing there, his legs apart and smoking a pipe. "Who are you?"
immediately asked K., bringing his face close to the lad's, as it was
hard to see in the half light of the landing. "I'm the landlord's son,
sir," answered the lad, taking the pipe from his mouth and stepping to
one side. "The landlord's son?" asked K., and impatiently knocked on
the ground with his stick. "Did you want anything, sir? Would you like
me to fetch my father?" "No, no," said K., there was something
forgiving in his voice, as if the boy had harmed him in some way and he
was excusing him. "It's alright," he said then, and went on, but before
going up the stairs he turned round once more.

He could have gone directly to his room, but as he wanted to speak
with Mrs. Grubach he went straight to her door and knocked. She was sat
at the table with a knitted stocking and a pile of old stockings in
front of her. K. apologised, a little embarrassed at coming so late,
but Mrs. Grubach was very friendly and did not want to hear any apology,
she was always ready to speak to him, he knew very well that he was her
best and her favourite tenant. K. looked round the room, it looked
exactly as it usually did, the breakfast dishes, which had been on the
table by the window that morning, had already been cleared away. "A
woman's hands will do many things when no-one's looking," he thought, he
might himself have smashed all the dishes on the spot but certainly
would not have been able to carry it all out. He looked at Mrs. Grubach
with some gratitude. "Why are you working so late?" he asked. They
were now both sitting at the table, and K. now and then sank his hands
into the pile of stockings. "There's a lot of work to do," she said,
"during the day I belong to the tenants; if I'm to sort out my own
things there are only the evenings left to me." "I fear I may have
caused you some exceptional work today." "How do you mean, Mr. K.?" she
asked, becoming more interested and leaving her work in her lap. "I
mean the men who were here this morning." "Oh, I see," she said, and
went peacefully back to what she was doing, "that was no trouble, not
especially." K. looked on in silence as she took up the knitted
stocking once more. She seems surprised at my mentioning it, he
thought, she seems to think it's improper for me to mention it. All the
more important for me to do so. An old woman is the only person I can
speak about it with. "But it must have caused some work for you," he
said then, "but it won't happen again." "No, it can't happen again," she
agreed, and smiled at K. in a way that was almost pained. "Do you mean
that seriously?" asked K. "Yes," she said, more gently, "but the
important thing is you mustn't take it too hard. There are so many
awful things happening in the world! As you're being so honest with me,
Mr. K., I can admit to you that I listened to a little of what was going
on from behind the door, and that those two policemen told me one or two
things as well. It's all to do with your happiness, and that's
something that's quite close to my heart, perhaps more than it should be
as I am, after all, only your landlady. Anyway, so I heard one or two
things but I can't really say that it's about anything very serious.
No. You have been arrested, but it's not in the same way as when they
arrest a thief. If you're arrested in the same way as a thief, then
it's bad, but an arrest like this ... . It seems to me that it's
something very complicated - forgive me if I'm saying something stupid -
something very complicated that I don't understand, but something that
you don't really need to understand anyway."

"There's nothing stupid about what you've said, Mrs. Grubach, or
at least I partly agree with you, only, the way I judge the whole thing
is harsher than yours, and think it's not only not something complicated
but simply a fuss about nothing. I was just caught unawares, that's
what happened. If I had got up as soon as I was awake without letting
myself get confused because Anna wasn't there, if I'd got up and paid no
regard to anyone who might have been in my way and come straight to you,
if I'd done something like having my breakfast in the kitchen as an
exception, asked you to bring my clothes from my room, in short, if I
had behaved sensibly then nothing more would have happened, everything
that was waiting to happen would have been stifled. People are so often
unprepared. In the bank, for example, I am well prepared, nothing of
this sort could possibly happen to me there, I have my own assistant
there, there are telephones for internal and external calls in front of
me on the desk, I continually receive visits from people,
representatives, officials, but besides that, and most importantly, I'm
always occupied with my work, that's to say I'm always alert, it would
even be a pleasure for me to find myself faced with something of that
sort. But now it's over with, and I didn't really even want to talk
about it any more, only I wanted to hear what you, as a sensible woman,
thought about it all, and I'm very glad to hear that we're in agreement.
But now you must give me your hand, an agreement of this sort needs to
be confirmed with a handshake. "

Will she shake hands with me? The supervisor didn't shake hands,
he thought, and looked at the woman differently from before, examining
her. She stood up, as he had also stood up, and was a little self-
conscious, she hadn't been able to understand everything that K.
said. As a result of this self consciousness she said something that
she certainly did not intend and certainly was not appropriate. "Don't
take it so hard, Mr. K.," she said, with tears in her voice and also, of
course, forgetting the handshake. "I didn't know I was taking it hard,"
said K., feeling suddenly tired and seeing that if this woman did agree
with him it was of very little value.

Before going out the door he asked, "Is Miss Bürstner home?"
"No," said Mrs. Grubach, smiling as she gave this simple piece of
information, saying something sensible at last. "She's at the theatre.
Did you want to see her? Should I give her a message?" "I, er, I just
wanted to have a few words with her." "I'm afraid I don't know when
she's coming in; she usually gets back late when she's been to the
theatre." "It really doesn't matter," said K. his head hanging as he
turned to the door to leave, "I just wanted to give her my apology for
taking over her room today." "There's no need for that, Mr. K., you're
too conscientious, the young lady doesn't know anything about it, she
hasn't been home since early this morning and everything's been tidied
up again, you can see for yourself." And she opened the door to Miss
Bürstner's room. "Thank you, I'll take your word for it," said K, but
went nonetheless over to the open door. The moon shone quietly into the
unlit room. As far as could be seen, everything was indeed in its
place, not even the blouse was hanging on the window handle. The
pillows on the bed looked remarkably plump as they lay half in the
moonlight. "Miss Bürstner often comes home late," said K., looking at
Mrs. Grubach as if that were her responsibility. "That's how young
people are!" said Mrs. Grubach to excuse herself. "Of course, of
course," said K., "but it can be taken too far." "Yes, it can be," said
Mrs. Grubach, "you're so right, Mr. K. Perhaps it is in this case. I
certainly wouldn't want to say anything nasty about Miss Bürstner, she
is a good, sweet girl, friendly, tidy, punctual, works hard, I
appreciate all that very much, but one thing is true, she ought to have
more pride, be a bit less forthcoming. Twice this month already, in the
street over the way, I've seen her with a different gentleman. I really
don't like saying this, you're the only one I've said this to, Mr. K., I
swear to God, but I'm going to have no choice but to have a few words
with Miss Bürstner about it myself. And it's not the only thing about
her that I'm worried about." "Mrs. Grubach, you are on quite the wrong
track ," said K., so angry that he was hardly able to hide it, "and you
have moreover misunderstood what I was saying about Miss Bürstner, that
is not what I meant. In fact I warn you quite directly not to say
anything to her, you are quite mistaken, I know Miss Bürstner very well
and there is no truth at all in what you say. And what's more, perhaps
I'm going to far, I don't want to get in your way, say to her whatever
you see fit. Good night." "Mr. K.," said Mrs. Grubach as if asking him
for something and hurrying to his door which he had already opened, "I
don't want to speak to Miss Bürstner at all, not yet, of course I'll
continue to keep an eye on her but you're the only one I've told what I
know. And it is, after all something that everyone who lets rooms has
to do if she's to keep the house decent, that's all I'm trying to do."
"Decent!" called out K. through the crack in the door, "if you want to
keep the house decent you'll first have to give me notice." Then he
slammed the door shut, there was a gentle knocking to which he paid no
more attention.

He did not feel at all like going to bed, so he decided to stay
up, and this would also give him the chance to find out when Miss
Bürstner would arrive home. Perhaps it would also still be possible,
even if a little inappropriate, to have a few words with her. As he lay
there by the window, pressing his hands to his tired eyes, he even
thought for a moment that he might punish Mrs. Grubach by persuading
Miss Bürstner to give in her notice at the same time as he would. But
he immediately realised that that would be shockingly excessive, and
there would even be the suspicion that he was moving house because of
the incidents of that morning. Nothing would have been more nonsensical
and, above all, more pointless and contemptible.

When he had become tired of looking out onto the empty street he
slightly opened the door to the living room so that he could see anyone
who entered the flat from where he was and lay down on the couch. He
lay there, quietly smoking a cigar, until about eleven o'clock. He
wasn't able to hold out longer than that, and went a little way into the
hallway as if in that way he could make Miss Bürstner arrive sooner. He
had no particular desire for her, he could not even remember what she
looked like, but now he wanted to speak to her and it irritated him that
her late arrival home meant this day would be full of unease and
disorder right to its very end. It was also her fault that he had not
had any dinner that evening and that he had been unable to visit Elsa as
he had intended. He could still make up for both of those things,
though, if he went to the wine bar where Elsa worked. He wanted to do
so even later, after the discussion with Miss Bürstner.

It was already gone half past eleven when someone could be heard
in the stairway. K., who had been lost in his thoughts in the hallway,
walking up and down loudly as if it were his own room, fled behind his
door. Miss Bürstner had arrived. Shivering, she pulled a silk shawl
over her slender shoulders as she locked the door. The next moment she
would certainly go into her room, where K. ought not to intrude in the
middle of the night; that meant he would have to speak to her now, but,
unfortunately, he had not put the electric light on in his room so that
when he stepped out of the dark it would give the impression of being an
attack and would certainly, at the very least, have been quite alarming.
There was no time to lose, and in his helplessness he whispered through
the crack of the door, "Miss Bürstner." It sounded like he was pleading
with her, not calling to her. "Is there someone there?" asked Miss
Bürstner, looking round with her eyes wide open. "It's me," said K. and
came out. "Oh, Mr. K.!" said Miss Bürstner with a smile. "Good
Evening," and offered him her hand. "I wanted to have a word with you,
if you would allow me?" "Now?" asked Miss Bürstner, "does it have to be
now? It is a little odd, isn't it?" "I've been waiting for you since
nine o'clock." "Well, I was at the theatre, I didn't know anything
about you waiting for me." "The reason I need to speak to you only came
up today" "I see, well I don't see why not, I suppose, apart from being
so tired I could drop. Come into my room for a few minutes then. We
certainly can't talk out here, we'd wake everyone up and I think that
would be more unpleasant for us than for them. Wait here till I've put
the light on in my room, and then turn the light down out here." K. did
as he was told, and then even waited until Miss Bürstner came out of her
room and quietly invited him, once more, to come in. "Sit down," she
said, indicating the ottoman, while she herself remained standing by the
bedpost despite the tiredness she had spoken of; she did not even take
off her hat, which was small but decorated with an abundance of flowers.
"What is it you wanted, then? I'm really quite curious." She gently
crossed her legs.
"I expect you'll say," K. began, "that the matter really isn't all that
urgent and we don't need to talk about it right now, but ..." "I never
listen to introductions," said Miss Bürstner. "That makes my job so
much easier," said K. "This morning, to some extent through my fault,
your room was made a little untidy, this happened because of people I
did not know and against my will but, as I said, because of my fault; I
wanted to apologise for it." "My room?" asked Miss Bürstner, and
instead of looking round the room scrutinised K. "It is true," said K.,
and now, for the first time, they looked each other in the eyes,
"there's no point in saying exactly how this came about." "But that's
the interesting thing about it," said Miss Bürstner. "No," said K.
"Well then," said Miss Bürstner, "I don't want to force my way into any
secrets, if you insist that it's of no interest I won't insist. I'm
quite happy to forgive you for it, as you ask, especially as I can't see
anything at all that's been left untidy." With her hand laid flat on
her lower hip, she made a tour around the room. At the mat where the
photographs were she stopped. "Look at this!" she cried. "My
photographs really have been put in the wrong places. Oh, that's
horrible. Someone really has been in my room without permission." K.
nodded, and quietly cursed Kaminer who worked at his bank and who was
always active doing things that had neither use nor purpose. "It is
odd," said Miss Bürstner, "that I'm forced to forbid you to do something
that you ought to have forbidden yourself to do, namely to come into my
room when I'm not here." "But I did explain to you," said K., and went
over to join her by the photographs, "that it wasn't me who interfered
with your photographs; but as you don't believe me I'll have to admit
that the investigating committee brought along three bank employees with
them, one of them must have touched your photographs and as soon as I
get the chance I'll ask to have him dismissed from the bank. Yes, there
was an investigating committee here," added K., as the young lady was
looking at him enquiringly. "Because of you?" she asked. "Yes,"
answered K. "No!" the lady cried with a laugh. "Yes, they were," said
K., "you believe that I'm innocent then, do you?" "Well now, innocent
... " said the lady, "I don't want to start making any pronouncements
that might have serious consequences, I don't really know you after all,
it means they're dealing with a serious criminal if they send an
investigating committee straight out to get him. But you're not in
custody now - at least I take it you've not escaped from prison
considering that you seem quite calm - so you can't have committed any
crime of that sort." "Yes," said K., "but it might be that the
investigating committee could see that I'm innocent, or not so guilty as
had been supposed." "Yes, that's certainly a possibility," said Miss
Bürstner, who seemed very interested. "Listen," said K., "you don't
have much experience in legal matters." "No, that's true, I don't,"
said Miss Bürstner, "and I've often regretted it, as I'd like to know
everything and I'm very interested in legal matters. There's something
peculiarly attractive about the law, isn't there? But I'll certainly be
perfecting my knowledge in this area, as next month I start work in a
legal office." "That's very good," said K., "that means you'll be able
to give me some help with my trial." "That could well be," said Miss
Bürstner, "why not? I like to make use of what I know." "I mean it
quite seriously," said K., "or at least, half seriously, as you do.
This affair is too petty to call in a lawyer, but I could make good use
of someone who could give me advice." "Yes, but if I'm to give you
advice I'll have to know what it's all about," said Miss Bürstner.
"That's exactly the problem," said K., "I don't know that myself." "So
you have been making fun of me, then," said Miss Bürstner exceedingly
disappointed, "you really ought not to try something like that on at
this time of night." And she stepped away from the photographs where
they had stood so long together. "Miss Bürstner, no," said K., "I'm not
making fun of you. Please believe me! I've already told you everything
I know. More than I know, in fact, as it actually wasn't even an
investigating committee, that's just what I called them because I don't
know what else to call them. There was no cross questioning at all, I
was merely arrested, but by a committee." Miss Bürstner sat on the
ottoman and laughed again. "What was it like then?" she asked. "It was
terrible" said K., although his mind was no longer on the subject, he
had become totally absorbed by Miss Bürstner's gaze who was supporting
her chin on one hand - the elbow rested on the cushion of the ottoman -
and slowly stroking her hip with the other. "That's too vague," said
Miss Bürstner. "What's too vague?" asked K. Then he remembered himself
and asked, "Would you like me to show you what it was like?" He wanted
to move in some way but did not want to leave. "I'm already tired,"
said Miss Bürstner. "You arrived back so late," said K. "Now you've
started telling me off. Well I suppose I deserve it as I shouldn't have
let you in here in the first place, and it turns out there wasn't even
any point." "Oh, there was a point, you'll see now how important a
point it was," said K. "May I move this table away from your bedside
and put it here?" "What do you think you're doing?" said Miss Bürstner.
"Of course you can't!" "In that case I can't show you," said K., quite
upset, as if Miss Bürstner had committed some incomprehensible offence
against him. "Alright then, if you need it to show what you mean, just
take the bedside table then," said Miss Bürstner, and after a short
pause added in a weak voice, "I'm so tired I'm allowing more than I
ought to." K. put the little table in the middle of the room and sat
down behind it. "You have to get a proper idea of where the people were
situated, it is very interesting. I'm the supervisor, sitting over
there on the chest are two policemen, standing next to the photographs
there are three young people. Hanging on the handle of the window is a
white blouse - I just mention that by the way. And now it begins. Ah
yes, I'm forgetting myself, the most important person of all, so I'm
standing here in front of the table. the supervisor is sitting
extremely comfortably with his legs crossed and his arm hanging over the
backrest here like some layabout. And now it really does begin. the
supervisor calls out as if he had to wake me up, in fact he shouts at
me, I'm afraid, if I'm to make it clear to you, I'll have to shout as
well, and it's nothing more than my name that he shouts out." Miss
Bürstner, laughing as she listened to him, laid her forefinger on her
mouth so that K. would not shout, but it was too late. K. was too
engrossed in his role and slowly called out, "Josef K.!". It was not as
loud as he had threatened, but nonetheless, once he had suddenly called
it out, the cry seemed gradually to spread itself all round the room.

There was a series of loud, curt and regular knocks at the door of
the adjoining room. Miss Bürstner went pale and laid her hand on her
heart. K. was especially startled, as for a moment he had been quite
unable to think of anything other than the events of that morning and
the girl for whom he was performing them. He had hardly pulled himself
together when he jumped over to Miss Bürstner and took her hand. "Don't
be afraid," he whispered, "I'll put everything right. But who can it
be? It's only the living room next door, nobody sleeps in there." "Yes
they do," whispered Miss Bürstner into K.'s ear, "a nephew of Mrs.
Grubach's, an captain in the army, has been sleeping there since
yesterday. There's no other room free. I'd forgotten about it too.
Why did you have to shout like that? You've made me quite upset."
"There is no reason for it," said K., and, now as she sank back onto the
cushion, kissed her forehead. "Go away, go away," she said, hurriedly
sitting back up, "get out of here, go, what is it you want, he's
listening at the door he can hear everything. You're causing me so much
trouble!" "I won't go," said K., "until you've calmed down a bit. Come
over into the other corner of the room, he won't be able to hear us
there." She let him lead her there. "Don't forget," he said, "although
this might be unpleasant for you you're not in any real danger. You
know how much esteem Mrs. Grubach has for me, she's the one who will
make all the decisions in this, especially as the captain is her nephew,
but she believes everything I say without question. What's more, she
has borrowed a large sum of money from me and that makes her dependent
on me. I will confirm whatever you say to explain our being here
together, however inappropriate it might be, and I guarantee to make
sure that Mrs. Grubach will not only say she believes the explanation in
public but will believe it truly and sincerely. You will have no need
to consider me in any way. If you wish to let it be known that I have
attacked you then Mrs. Grubach will be informed of such and she will
believe it without even losing her trust in me, that's how much respect
she has for me." Miss Bürstner looked at the floor in front of her,
quiet and a little sunk in on herself. "Why would Mrs. Grubach not
believe that I've attacked you?" added K. He looked at her hair in front
of him, parted, bunched down, reddish and firmly held in place. He
thought she would look up at him, but without changing her manner she
said, "Forgive me, but it was the suddenness of the knocking that
startled me so much, not so much what the consequences of the captain
being here might be. It was all so quiet after you'd shouted, and then
there was the knocking, that's was made me so shocked, and I was sitting
right by the door, the knocking was right next to me. Thank you for
your suggestions, but I won't accept them. I can bear the
responsibility for anything that happens in my room myself, and I can do
so with anyone. I'm surprised you don't realise just how insulting your
suggestions are and what they imply about me, although I certainly
acknowledge your good intentions. But now, please go, leave me alone, I
need you to go now even more than I did earlier. The couple of minutes
you asked for have grown into half an hour, more than half an hour now."
K. took hold of her hand, and then of her wrist, "You're not cross with
me, though?" he said. She pulled her hand away and answered, "No, no,
I'm never cross with anyone." He grasped her wrist once more, she
tolerated it now and, in that way, lead him to the door. He had fully
intended to leave. But when he reached the door he came to a halt as if
he hadn't expected to find a door there, Miss Bürstner made use of that
moment to get herself free, open the door, slip out into the hallway and
gently say to K. from there, "Now, come along, please. Look," she
pointed to the captain's door, from under which there was a light
shining, "he's put a light on and he's laughing at us." "Alright, I'm
coming," said K., moved forward, took hold of her, kissed her on the
mouth and then over her whole face like a thirsty animal lapping with
its tongue when it eventually finds water. He finally kissed her on her
neck and her throat and left his lips pressed there for a long time. He
did not look up until there was a noise from the captain's room. "I'll
go now," he said, he wanted to address Miss Bürstner by her Christian
name, but did not know it. She gave him a tired nod, offered him her
hand to kiss as she turned away as if she did not know what she was
doing, and went back into her room with her head bowed. A short while
later, K. was lying in his bed. He very soon went to sleep, but before
he did he thought a little while about his behaviour, he was satisfied
with it but felt some surprise that he was not more satisfied; he was
seriously worried about Miss Bürstner because of the captain.

Franz Kafka

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