Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 May 2022
For eight days the upstairs guest room had been harboring a guest. Renate, Anneliese's friend since girlhood — her parents’ country estate had neighbored Anneliese's family home — was on her way from her residence in the capital to the southern part of the country, where she was to give some public lectures. She had studied library science and was often engaged by private archives or libraries in need of order. She was also responsible for several specialized studies in history, which had helped her earn a doctorate with a notable dissertation. Despite that, she was less a scholar than an expert in organization, and her talents were not restricted to putting wayward books back in order. Just as she had been able, even as a young woman, to sustain a charitable society on the international stage, she was later skilled at bringing an idea persuasively to bear among the most diverse groups of people and eliciting their support, and her public lectures, happily aided by her aristocratic bearing, often created a sensation.
Branhardt, who approved of all that was clever and competent, also marveled at the vitality of this almost morbidly delicate woman — on whom, as he put it, “a husband would be wasted.” But Anneliese was aware of how remarkable all this truly was, for she alone knew of Renate's tired nerves, her legacy from an ancient, dying lineage — knew her struggle against herself with “what remained of that squandered strength.” She alone could see Renate's “manliness,” which earned her both friends and enemies, as her heroism.
Sometimes they enjoyed music together. As little girls, they had begun piano lessons with the same teacher. Although lacking any notable talent for playing, Renate understood and loved music above all else, and never did she visit, even for a single day, without Anneliese’s having to offer up a treasure.
Then Renate would stretch her diminutive figure out in one of the armchairs, with a second one pushed under her feet and her hands clasped behind her head, which, since a bout of typhus, was adorned by a short, sparse crop of ash-blonde curls.