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The castle : a new translation, based on the restored text /

Main Author: Kafka, Franz, 1883-1924.
Other Authors: Harman, Mark.
Format: Book
Language: English
German
Published: New York : Schocken Books, 1998
Edition: 1st ed.
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Arrival It was late evening when K. arrived. The village lay under deep snow. There was no sign of the Castle hill, fog and darkness surrounded it, not even the faintest gleam of light suggested the large Castle. K. stood a long time on the wooden bridge that leads from the main road to the village, gazing upward into the seeming emptiness.         Then he went looking for a night's lodging; at the inn they were still awake; the landlord had no room available, but, extremely surprised and confused by the latecomer, he was willing to let K. sleep on a straw mattress in the taproom, K. agreed to this. A few peasants were still sitting over beer, but he did not want to talk to anyone, got himself a straw mattress from the attic and lay down by the stove. It was warm, the peasants were quiet, he examined them for a moment with tired eyes, then fell asleep.         Yet before long he was awakened. A young man in city clothes, with an actor's face, narrow eyes, thick eyebrows, stood beside him with the landlord. The peasants, too, were still there, a few had turned their chairs around to see and hear better. The young man apologized very politely for having awakened K., introduced himself as the son of the Castle steward and said: "This village is Castle property, anybody residing or spending the night here is effectively residing or spending the night at the Castle. Nobody may do so without permission from the Count. But you have no such permission or at least you haven't shown it yet."         K., who had half-risen and smoothed his hair, looked at the people from below and said: "What village have I wandered into? So there is a castle here?"         "Why, of course," the young man said slowly, while several peasants here and there shook their heads at K., "the Castle of Count Westwest."         "And one needs permission to spend the night here?" asked K., as though he wanted to persuade himself that he hadn't perhaps heard the previous statements in a dream.         "Permission is needed" was the reply, and this turned into crude mockery at K.'s expense when the young man, stretching out his arm, asked the landlord and the guests: "Or perhaps permission is not needed?"         "Then I must go and get myself permission," said K., yawning and pushing off the blanket, as though he intended to get up.         "Yes, but from whom?" asked the young man.         "From the Count," said K., "there doesn't seem to be any alternative."         "Get permission from the Count, now, at midnight?" cried the young man, stepping back a pace.         "Is that not possible?" K. asked calmly. "Then why did you wake me up?"         The young man now lost his composure, "The manners of a tramp!" he cried. "I demand respect for the Count's authorities. I awakened you to inform you that you must leave the Count's domain at once."         "Enough of this comedy," said K. in a remarkably soft voice as he lay down and pulled up the blanket: "You are going a little too far, young man, and I shall deal with your conduct tomorrow. The landlord and those gentlemen there will be my witnesses, should I even need witnesses. Besides, be advised that I am the land surveyor sent for by the Count. My assistants and the equipment are coming tomorrow by carriage. I didn't want to deprive myself of a long walk through the snow, but unfortunately lost my way a few times, which is why I arrived so late. That it was too late then to report to the Castle is something that was already apparent to me without the benefit of your instructions. That's also the reason why I decided to content myself with these lodgings, where you have been so impolite--to put it mildly--as to disturb me. I have nothing further to add to that statement. Good night, gentlemen." And K. turned toward the stove.         "Land surveyor?" he heard someone asking hesitantly behind his back, and then everyone was silent. But the young man soon regained his composure and said to the landlord, softly enough to suggest concern for K.'s sleep, yet loudly enough to be audible to him: "I shall inquire by telephone." So there was even a telephone in this village inn? They were certainly well equipped. True, certain details took K. by surprise, but on the whole everything was as expected. As it turned out, the telephone hung from the wall almost directly above his head, in his sleepiness he had overlooked it. If the young man had to use the telephone, then even with the best intentions he could not avoid disturbing K.'s sleep, it was simply a matter of deciding whether or not to let him use the telephone, K. decided to allow it. But then of course it no longer made sense to pretend he was asleep, so he turned over on his back again. He watched the peasants gathering timidly and conferring, the arrival of a land surveyor was no trifling matter. The door to the kitchen had opened; filling the doorway was the mighty figure of the landlady, the landlord approached her on tiptoes in order to report to her. Then the telephone conversation began. The steward was asleep, but a substeward, one of the substewards, a Mr. Fritz, was there. The young man, who introduced himself as Schwarzer, said that he had found K., a man in his thirties, rather shabby-looking, sleeping quietly on a straw mattress, with a tiny rucksack for a pillow and a knobby walking stick within reach. Well, he had of course suspected him, and since the landlord had obviously neglected his duty, it was his, Schwarzer's, duty to investigate the matter. K.'s response on being awakened, questioned, and duly threatened with expulsion from the Count's domain had been most ungracious but perhaps not unjustifiably so, as had finally become evident, for he claimed to be a land surveyor summoned by the Count. He was duty-bound to check this claim, if only as a formality, and so Schwarzer was asking Mr. Fritz to inquire at the central office whether a land surveyor of that sort was really expected and to telephone immediately with the answer.         Then there was silence, Fritz made his inquiries over there while everyone here waited for the answer, K. stayed where he was, did not even turn around, seemed completely indifferent, stared into space. With its mixture of malice and caution Schwarzer's story gave him a sense of the quasi-diplomatic training that even lowly people at the Castle such as Schwarzer could draw on so freely. Nor did they show any lack of diligence there, the central office had a night service. And obviously answered very quickly, for Fritz was already on the line again. Yet it seemed to be a brief message, since Schwarzer immediately threw down the receiver in a rage. "Just as I said," he shouted, "no trace of a land surveyor, only a liar and a common tramp, and probably worse still." For a moment K. thought that everybody, Schwarzer, the peasants, the landlord and landlady, was about to jump on him, and he crawled all the way under the blanket to escape at least the first assault, when--he was slowly stretching his head back out--the telephone rang again, especially loud, it seemed to K. Although it was unlikely that this call also concerned K., everyone froze, and Schwarzer came back to the telephone. After listening to a fairly long explanation, he said softly: "So it's a mistake? This is most unpleasant. The department head himself telephoned? Odd, very odd! And how am I supposed to explain this to the land surveyor?"         K. listened intently. So the Castle had appointed him land surveyor. On one hand, this was unfavorable, for it showed that the Castle had all necessary information about him, had assessed the opposing forces, and was taking up the struggle with a smile. On the other hand, it was favorable, for it proved to his mind that they underestimated him and that he would enjoy greater freedom than he could have hoped for at the beginning. And if they thought they could keep him terrified all the time simply by acknowledging his surveyorship--though this was certainly a superior move on their part--then they were mistaken, for he felt only a slight shudder, that was all.         After waving aside Schwarzer, who was timidly approaching, K. rejected their insistent pleas that he move into the landlord's room, accepted only a nightcap from the landlord and a wash basin with soap and towel from the landlady, and did not even have to request that the room be cleared, for all rushed to the door, averting their faces so that he wouldn't recognize them tomorrow, then the lamp was extinguished and he finally had some peace. He slept soundly until morning, only briefly disturbed once or twice by scurrying rats.         After breakfast, which the landlord said would be covered by the Castle along with K.'s full board, he wanted to go immediately to the village. Recalling the landlord's conduct yesterday, K. spoke to him only when strictly necessary, but since the landlord kept circling him in a silent plea, K. took pity on him and let him sit down for a moment beside him.         "I still haven't met the Count," said K., "they say he pays good money for good work, is that so? Anybody traveling as far from his wife and child as I am wants to have something to take home with him."         "The gentleman need have no worries in that regard, one doesn't hear any complaints about bad pay here."         "Well," said K., "I'm not at all shy and am quite capable of saying what I think, even to a Count, though it is naturally far better if one can remain on friendly terms with those gentlemen."         The landlord sat opposite K. on the edge of the window seat, not daring to sit more comfortably and keeping his large, anxious brown eyes fixed on K. At first he had thrust himself on K., but now it seemed as if he wanted to run away. Was he afraid of being questioned about the Count? Was he afraid that the "gentleman" whom he saw in K. was unreliable? K. had to distract him. He looked at the clock and said: "Well, my assistants will be here soon, can you put them up?"         "Certainly, sir," he said, "but won't they be staying with you at the Castle?"         Was he parting that easily and that gladly with his guests, especially K., whom he was quite determined to transfer to the Castle?         "That hasn't been settled," said K., "first I must find out what kind of work they have for me. For instance, if I'm to work down here, then it would make more sense for me to live here, too. And I fear that the life up there at the Castle wouldn't appeal to me. I want to be free at all times."         "You don't know the Castle," the landlord said softly.         "Of course," said K, "one shouldn't judge matters too hastily. All I can say about the Castle for now is that they know how to choose the right land surveyor. There might be other advantages there, too." And he stood up in order to release the landlord--who kept anxiously biting his lips--from his presence. It certainly wasn't easy to win the confidence of this man.         On the way out, K. observed on the wall a dark portrait in a dark frame. He had already noticed it from his bed, but unable to discern any details from that distance, he had thought that the actual picture had been taken from the frame, and only the dark backing was to be seen. But it was indeed a picture, as now became evident, the half-length portrait of a man around fifty. He held his head so low over his chest that one barely saw his eyes, the drooping seemed to be caused by the high, ponderous forehead and the powerful, crooked nose. His beard, pressed in at the chin owing to the position of his head, jutted out farther below. His left hand was spread out in his thick hair but could no longer support his head. "Who is that," asked K., "the Count?" K. stood before the picture and did not even turn to glance at the landlord. "No," said the landlord, "the steward." "They do have a handsome steward at the Castle, that's for sure," said K., "what a pity his son turned out so badly." "No," said the landlord, drawing K. down and whispering in his ear, "Schwarzer exaggerated yesterday, his father is only a substeward, and one of the lowest at that." Just then the landlord seemed like a child to K. "The rascal," said K., laughing, but the landlord said without laughing: "Even his father is powerful." "Come on!" said K., "you consider everyone powerful. Me too, perhaps?" "No," he said, timidly but gravely, "I do not consider you powerful." "Well, you're very observant, then," said K., "for, speaking in confidence now, I'm really not powerful at all. And so I probably have no less respect for those with power than you do, only I'm not as honest as you are and don't always care to admit it." K. tapped the landlord on the cheek in order to comfort him and to gain his affection. And now he even gave a little smile. He was really a boy with his soft, almost beardless face. How had he come by his stout, older wife, whom one could see through a small window, bustling about with her elbows sticking out? Yet K. did not want to question him any further and risk chasing away the smile he had finally elicited, so he merely signaled to him to open the door and stepped out into the beautiful winter morning.         Now he saw the Castle above, sharply outlined in the clear air and made even sharper by the snow, which traced each shape and lay everywhere in a thin layer. Besides, there seemed to be a great deal less snow up on the hill than here in the village, where it was no less difficult for K. to make headway than it had been yesterday on the main road. Here the snow rose to the cottage windows only to weigh down on the low roofs, whereas on the hill everything soared up, free and light, or at least seemed to from here.         On the whole the Castle, as it appeared from this distance, corresponded to K.'s expectations. It was neither an old knight's fortress nor a magnificent new edifice, but a large complex, made up of a few two-story buildings and many lower, tightly packed ones; had one not known that this was a castle, one could have taken it for a small town. K. saw only one tower, whether it belonged to a dwelling or a church was impossible to tell. Swarms of crows circled round it. Keeping his eyes fixed upon the Castle, K. went ahead, nothing else mattered to him. But as he came closer he was disappointed in the Castle, it was only a rather miserable little town, pieced together from village houses, distinctive only because everything was perhaps built of stone, but the paint had long since flaked off, and the stone seemed to be crumbling. Fleetingly K. recalled his old hometown, it was scarcely inferior to this so-called Castle; if K. had merely wanted to visit it, all that wandering would have been in vain, and it would have made more sense for him to visit his old homeland again, where he had not been in such a long time. And in thought he compared the church tower in his homeland with the tower up there. The church tower, tapering decisively, without hesitation, straightaway toward the top, capped by a wide roof with red tiles, was an earthly building--what else can we build?--but with a higher goal than the low jumble of houses and with a clearer expression than that of the dull workday. The tower up here--it was the only one in sight--the tower of a residence, as now became evident, possibly of the main Castle, was a monotonous round building, in part mercifully hidden by ivy, with little windows that glinted in the sun--there was something crazy about this--and ending in a kind of terrace, whose battlements, uncertain, irregular, brittle, as if drawn by the anxious or careless hand of a child, zigzagged into the blue sky. It was as if some melancholy resident, who by rights ought to have kept himself locked up in the most out-of-the-way room in the house, had broken through the roof and stood up in order to show himself to the world.         Again K. stood still, as if he had greater powers of judgment at a standstill. But he was distracted. Behind the village church, beside which he had stopped--it was actually only a chapel with a barnlike annex to accommodate the congregation--was the school. A long, low building, an odd combination of makeshift and ancient features, it lay behind a fenced-in garden, which was now a field of snow. Just then the children came out with their teacher. Bunched about the teacher, the children all had their eyes on him, there was constant chatter from all sides, K. could not follow their rapid speech. The teacher, a small narrow-shouldered young man but also, without thereby seeming ridiculous, quite erect, had fixed his eyes from afar on K., who was the only person anywhere around, aside from the teacher's group. As a stranger, K. was the first to say hello, especially faced with such a domineering little man. "Good day, Teacher," he said. All of a sudden the children fell silent, having this sudden silence before he spoke must have pleased the teacher. "You're taking a look at the Castle?" he asked, more gently than K. had expected, but as though he did not approve of what K. was doing. "Yes," said K., "I'm a stranger here, I only arrived in the village yesterday evening." "You don't like the Castle?" the teacher said quickly. "What?" countered K., somewhat baffled, but then, rephrasing the question more delicately, he said: "Do I like the Castle? What makes you think I don't like it?" "Strangers never do," said the teacher. To avoid giving offense then, K. changed the subject and asked: "You must know the Count?" "No," said the schoolteacher, and he was about to turn aside, but K. did not give up and asked again: "So you don't know the Count?" "How could I know him?" the schoolteacher said softly, adding loudly in French: "Keep in mind that there are innocent children present." To K. this was sufficient justification for asking: "Teacher, could I call on you? I'll be staying for some time and already feel a little isolated, I don't belong among the peasants nor in all likelihood at the Castle." "There is no difference between the peasants and the Castle," said the teacher. "Maybe so," said K., "but that has no effect on my situation. May I call on you?" "I live in Swan Street at the butcher's." Though this sounded more like an address than an invitation, K. said: "Very well, I shall come." The schoolteacher nodded and moved on with his little bunch of children, who instantly resumed their shouting. They soon disappeared down a steep side street.         But K. was distracted, the conversation had irritated him. For the first time since coming here, he felt truly tired. At first, the long journey hadn't seemed like much of a strain to him--how he had kept wandering through the days, steadily, one step at a time!--but the consequences of those exertions had to go and make themselves felt now, at the worst possible time, of course. He felt an irresistible urge to seek out new acquaintances, but each new acquaintance had only increased his weariness. In his present state, if he could force himself to prolong this walk to the Castle entrance, that would be more than enough.         So he set off again, but it was a long way. The street he had taken, the main street in the village, did not lead to the Castle hill, it only went close by, then veered off as if on purpose, and though it didn't lead any farther from the Castle, it didn't get any closer either. K. kept expecting the street to turn at last toward the Castle and it was only in this expectation that he kept going; no doubt out of weariness he was reluctant to leave this street, what amazed him, too, was the length of this village, which wouldn't end, again and again those tiny little houses and the frost-covered windowpanes and the snow and not a living soul--finally he tore himself away from this clinging street, a narrow side street took him in, the snow here was even deeper, lifting his sinking feet was hard work, he broke out in perspiration, suddenly came to a stop and could go no farther.         Well, he certainly wasn't abandoned, there were peasant cottages right and left, he made a snowball and threw it at a window. The door opened right away--the first door to open on his way through the village--and standing there was an old peasant in a heavy brown fur jacket, head tilted sideways, friendly and weak. "May I join you for a little while?" said K., "I'm very tired." He didn't hear anything the old man said, but gratefully accepted the plank being pushed toward him, which immediately rescued him from the snow, and after taking a few steps he stood in the room.         A large dimly lit room. At first, the new arrival from outdoors could not see a thing. K. stumbled against a washtub, a woman's hand held him back. From one corner came the sound of children crying. From another, smoke billowed, turning the dim light to darkness, K. remained standing there as if in the clouds. "He must be drunk," someone said. "Who are you?" cried an imperious voice, and then, probably to the old man: "Why did you let him in?" "Can we let in everything that is slinking through the streets?" "I am the land surveyor of the Count," said K., trying to justify himself in front of these as yet invisible people. "Ah, it is the land surveyor," a woman's voice said, and then there was complete silence. "You know me?" asked K. "Of course," the same voice said, curtly. Their knowing K. did not seem to recommend him.         Finally the smoke dispersed a little, and K. was gradually able to get his bearings. It seemed to be washday. By the door, clothes were being washed. Yet the smoke had actually come from the left-hand corner, where in a wooden tub, larger than any K. had ever seen, it was about the size of two beds, two men were bathing in steaming water. But even more surprising, though one still couldn't make out the exact nature of the surprise, was the right-hand corner. Through a large garret window, the only one in the back wall, came pale snow-light, surely from the courtyard, which lent a luster as of silk to the dress of a woman who almost lay wearily in a tall armchair set deep in the corner. She held an infant at her breast. A few children were playing around her, peasant children by the looks of them, but she seemed out of place among them, though illness and weariness can make even peasants seem refined.         "Sit down!" said one of the men, who had a full beard in addition to the mustache over his mouth, which he kept open, snorting, and pointed--a comical sight--with one hand over the rim of the bath at a trunk, splashing warm water all over K.'s face. Seated on the trunk, already dozing off, was the old man who had let K. in. K. was glad he could finally sit down. No one was paying the slightest attention to him now. The woman at the washtub, blond, youthfully ample, sang softly as she worked, the men in the bath stomped their feet and thrashed about, the children tried to approach them but were repeatedly driven back by great splashes of water, from which not even K. emerged unscathed, the woman in the armchair lay there as if lifeless, without even glancing down at the infant on her breast, merely gazing vaguely upward.         K. must have spent a long time looking at them, at this unchanging, beautiful, sad picture, but then he must have fallen asleep, for when a loud voice called out to him he awoke with a start, his head was resting on the shoulder of the old man beside him. The men were finished with the bath--in which the children now romped under the blond woman's supervision--and stood before him fully clothed. The loudmouthed man with the full beard turned out to be the slighter of the two. The other one, no taller, but with a smaller beard than that of his full-bearded colleague, was a silent, slow-witted man, of stout build, with an equally stout face, he kept his head lowered. "Surveyor," he said, "you cannot stay here. Forgive the impoliteness." "I didn't want to stay," said K., "I simply wanted a rest. Now that I have had it, I am leaving." "This lack of hospitality may surprise you," said the man, "but there is no custom of hospitality here, we do not need guests." Somewhat refreshed after his sleep, somewhat keener of hearing than before, K. was glad to hear such frank words. He moved about more freely now, rested his stick here and there, approached the woman in the armchair, and was, incidentally, the biggest in the room.         "Certainly," said K., "what would you need guests for? But every now and then someone is needed, such as me, the land surveyor." "I don't know about that," the man said slowly, "if they summoned you, then they probably need you, this may be an exception, but we little people go by the rule, you shouldn't blame us for that." "No, no," said K., "I simply want to thank you, you and all the others here." And, to everyone's surprise, K. turned around almost in one bound and stood before the woman. With tired blue eyes she looked at K., a transparent silk kerchief had slipped down to the middle of her forehead, the infant was sleeping at her breast. "Who are you?" asked K. Dismissively, it was unclear whether the contempt was meant for K. or her own answer, she said: "A girl from the Castle."         All this had taken no more than an instant; now two men, right and left, seized K. and pulled him to the door, silently but with full force, as if there were no other means of communication. Something about this pleased the old man, who clapped his hands. The washerwoman laughed over near the children, who suddenly began making noise like mad.         Yet K. soon stood outside on the street, the men watched him from the threshold, it was snowing again, although it now seemed a little brighter outside. The man with the full beard cried impatiently: "Where do you want to go? Here's the way to the Castle, this way to the village." K. did not answer, but turned rather to the other man, who, despite his superiority, struck him as the more congenial of the two: "Who are you? Whom should I thank for the visit?" "I am Master Tanner Lasemann," came the reply, "but you needn't thank anybody." "Fine," said K., "perhaps we shall meet again." "I do not think so," said the man. Just then the man with the full beard, raising his arm, cried: "Good day, Artur, good day, Jeremias!" K. turned around, so other people were showing up on the streets of this village! Coming from the Castle were two young men of medium height, both quite slender, in tight-fitting clothes, with very similar, dark-brown faces and strikingly black goatees. They were going astonishingly fast for the state of these roads, flinging out their slender legs in step. "What's the matter?" cried the man with the full beard. One had to shout to make oneself heard, they were going so fast and did not stop. "Business," they shouted back, laughing. "Where?" "At the inn." "That's where I'm going," K. cried all of a sudden, louder than everyone else, he so wanted these two to take him along; though he did not consider this acquaintanceship all that rewarding, they were good traveling companions and could cheer one up. Yet, though they heard K.'s remark, they simply nodded and were gone. K. was still standing in the snow, he had no great desire to lift his foot out of the snow only to sink it back in a little farther on; the master tanner and his colleague, satisfied at having finally rid themselves of K., slowly pushed their way, eyes still fixed on him, through the barely open door into the house, leaving K. alone in the blanketing snow. "Cause for a slight attack of despair," was the thought that came to him, "if I were only here by accident, not on purpose."         Just then in the cottage to the left a tiny window opened; closed, it had seemed deep blue, perhaps in the reflection from the snow, and so tiny now that it was open that one couldn't see the full face of the onlooker, only the eyes, old brown eyes. "There he is," K. heard the tremulous voice of a woman saying. "It's the surveyor," a man's voice was speaking. Then the man came to the window and asked, not in an unfriendly way but as if he wanted everything to be in order on the street in front of his house: "Who are you waiting for?" "For a sleigh to take me," said K. "No sleighs come along here," said the man, "no traffic comes through here." "But this is the road that leads to the Castle," objected K. "Even so, even so," the man said rather implacably, "no traffic comes through here." Then the two of them fell silent. But the man was obviously contemplating something since he still hadn't closed the window, from which smoke was pouring. "A bad road," K. said to help him out. But all he said was: "Yes, indeed." After a little while, however, he said: "If you like, I will take you on my sleigh." "Please do," said K., delighted, "how much do you want?" "Nothing," the man said by way of explanation. K. was astonished. "You are after all the surveyor," said the man, "and you belong to the Castle. So where do you want to go?" "To the Castle," K. said quickly. "Then I will not go," the man said at once. "But I belong to the Castle," K. said, repeating the man's own words. "Maybe so," the man said dismissively. "Then take me to the inn," said K. "Very well," said the man, "then I'll be out right away with the sleigh." This did not leave the impression of any great friendliness but rather of an extremely egotistical, anxious, almost pedantic effort to get K. away from the street in front of his house.         The courtyard gate opened and let out a small sleigh, made for light loads, quite flat, without any seats, pulled by a small weak horse, and then the man himself, not old, but weak, bent, limping, with a lean red congested face, which seemed especially tiny because of the woolen shawl wrapped tightly round his neck. The man was clearly ill and had obviously only come out to carry K. away. K. said something to that effect, but the man shrugged it off. K. learned only that he was Coachman Gerstäcker and that he had simply chosen this uncomfortable sleigh because it happened to be ready and it would have taken too long to pull out another one. "Sit down," he said, pointing with his whip to the back of the sleigh. "I shall sit beside you," said K. "I will walk," said Gerstäcker. "But why?" asked K. "I will walk," repeated Gerstäcker, so shaken by a fit of coughing that he had to brace his feet in the snow and grasp the side of the sleigh with both hands. Without saying another word, K. sat down in the back of the sleigh, his coughing gradually eased, and they set off.         The Castle up there, oddly dark already, which K. had still been hoping to reach today, receded again. Yet as though he still had to be given a cue for this temporary parting, a bell up there rang out cheerfully, a bell that for a moment at least made one's heart tremble as if it were threatened--for the sound was painful too--with the fulfillment of its uncertain longings. Yet this large bell soon fell silent and was followed by a faint, monotonous little bell, perhaps still from up there, though perhaps already from the village. This tinkling was better suited to this slow journey and this wretched but implacable coachman.         "You there," K. cried suddenly--they were already near the church, the inn wasn't far off, K. could now afford to take a risk--"I'm very surprised you risk driving me around like this, on your own responsibility. Are you allowed to?" Gerstäcker ignored him and continued walking along quietly beside his little horse. "Hey," K. cried, then, rolling some snow from the sleigh, he threw it at Gerstäcker, hitting him right on the ear. Now Gerstäcker stopped and turned around; but when K. saw him standing so close by--the sleigh had slid forward a little--his bent and almost maltreated figure, with the red lean face and cheeks that were somehow different, one flat, the other sunken, and his rapt open mouth with only a few scattered teeth, he was obliged to repeat what he had just said out of malice, only this time out of compassion, and to ask Gerstäcker whether he might not be punished for conveying K. "What do you want?" asked Gerstäcker, baffled, but without waiting for further explanation, he called his little horse, and they moved on.         When they were almost at the inn--K. could see this from a curve in the road--it was, much to his astonishment, quite dark. Had he been away that long? But it was only about an hour or two, by his calculations. He had set out in the morning. And he hadn't needed to eat. And till a moment ago there had been steady daylight, then just now darkness. "Short days, short days," he said to himself as he slid off the sleigh and walked toward the inn.         Standing above on the small front steps of the inn, a welcome sight for K., was the landlord, raising a lantern and shining it at him. Suddenly remembering the coachman, K. stopped, someone coughed in the dark, it was he. Well, he would be seeing him again soon enough. Not until he was on the steps with the landlord, who greeted him deferentially, did he notice the two men, one on either side of the door. He took the lantern from the landlord's hand and shone it at them; these were the men he had already met whose names had been called out, Artur and Jeremias. They saluted. Thinking of his time in the army, those happy days, he laughed. "Who are you?" he asked, glancing from one to the other. "Your assistants," they answered. "Those are the assistants," said the landlord softly in confirmation. "What?" asked K., "you are the old assistants whom I told to join me and am expecting?" They said yes. "It's a good thing," said K., after a little while, "it's a good thing that you've come." "By the way," said K., after another little while, "you're very late, you've been most negligent!" "It was such a long way," said one of the assistants. "A long way," repeated K., "but when I met you, you were coming from the Castle." "Yes," they said, without further explanation. "Where did you put the instruments?" asked K. "We don't have any," they said. "The instruments I entrusted you with," said K. "We don't have any," they repeated. "Oh, you're a fine sort!" said K., "do you know anything about surveying?" "No," they said. "But if you are my old assistants, then you must know something about it," said K. They remained silent. "Well, come along, then," said K., pushing them ahead into the inn. Excerpted from The Castle: A New Translation Based on the Restored Text by Franz Kafka All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. 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