Only one person in the wild procession was serious. Already his outward appearance, armour that was deep black broken up with tender gold, indicated how the person it covered thought. He was the noble Duke Leopold of Austria. This man did not speak a word and seemed completely lost in anxious thoughts. His face looked like that of a person who is being pestered by a fly that is impudently flying round his eye. This fly may well have been a presentiment that something bad was going to happen for a smile that was permanently both contemptuous and sad played over his mouth. He kept his head lowered. The whole world, however cheerful it looked, seemed to him to roll and thunder angrily. Or was it just the thunder of the trampling hooves of horses as the army was now passing over a wooden bridge that spanned the river Reuss? Nevertheless something foreshadowing misfortune hovered horribly around the duke's bodily form.
End of story
Robert Walser (1878–1956) was born into a German-speaking family in Biel, Switzerland. He left school at fourteen and led a wandering, precarious existence while writing his poems, novels, and vast numbers of the “prose pieces” that became his hallmark. In 1933 he was confined to a sanatorium, which marked the end of his writing career. Among Walser’s works available in English are Jakob von Gunten andBerlin Stories (available as NYRB Classics), The Tanners, Microscripts, The Assistant, The Robber,Masquerade and Other Stories, and Speaking to the Rose: Writings, 1912–1932. From The New York of Books.
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