Franziska zu Reventlow
Translated from the German by Daniel Kennedy
Franziska zu Reventlow (1871–1918) was a German artist, writer and translator who gained notoriety in Munich's bohemian circles in the early part of the 20th century.
Daniel Kennedy is a literary translator based in Tours, France. His forthcoming translations include A Death: Notes of a Suicide by Zalman Shneour (Wakefield Press, 2019) and Warsaw Stories by Hersh Dovid Nomberg (Yiddish Book Center, 2019).
Lawn tennis—downhill from the old, tall trees that lay in deep shade, on the shadowless green court overlooking a panorama of cornfields and, beyond them, the blue Baltic Sea. The shimmering sun blazed down from the summer sky; it was three in the afternoon, that hot, weary hour. But the young people playing lawn tennis were oblivious to this, and the old people sat watching from the shade of the beech trees, on the verge of nodding off.
A fierce battle was underway on the tennis court, balls flew in every direction, and youthful figures twisted, bent and stretched like circus acrobats in order to keep the balls in motion. Every face was glowing. Here and there a fleeting laugh, a passing joke, but otherwise all eyes were zealously absorbed in the game.
When one game finished, the configuration changed as new players arrived and the old players moved to the sidelines, to watch proceedings with eager interest, or else they would head inside to rest in the cool rooms of the castle.
A young girl with thick blonde hair trudged up the wide, carpeted stairs. The whole house was quiet; everyone was outside in the sun. All the shutters were closed so that barely a ray of light could enter; everything seemed to sleep. The door to the billiard room was ajar; she pushed it softly and stepped inside to find an empty room. Here too the blinds had been lowered. Easels and books lay around as though wondering why no one was touching them today; the billiard table looked bored, and the white balls seemed adrift on the dark green cloth.
A uniform lay on the sofa, and the blonde girl knew who it belonged to. It was his uniform, the one he had taken off in favour of a safari jacket for the hot afternoon game.
Downstairs the gong was ringing to call everyone to dinner. The muffled sound rumbled up through the hall and reached the ears of the young woman as she knelt in front of the sofa. She burrowed her aching head into the cool, dark fabric of the uniform, crushing it with sad lovesick kisses, while heavy, fearful tears poured from her eyes.
And he knew nothing of it.