Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 May 2022
Then came the last Sunday of Renate's stay at the hillside house. The midday meal was early, in good bourgeois fashion, and the restful holiday atmosphere allowed them so much time together that Renate finally had to smoke her after-dinner cigar in front of everyone.
Branhardt assured her she needn't feel bad on his account, since there was no way a harmless cigar could make her appear more emancipated to him than she already did. She protested in vain: her bit of independent living an emancipation! It was merely a much-needed way of restoring her will. That was like branding someone a mermaid for taking a cold-water cure. It was the same with her short hair, a result not of her convictions about women's rights but of her stay at the hospital.
With feigned melancholy, Branhardt reminisced about the long braids and ladylike flowing skirts of her first visits. He also mentioned the domestic skills she had revealed when she arrived unexpectedly at the crucial moment before Balduin's birth. Renate found she looked splendid in Anneliese's long housecoats and even claimed she could cook, if need be. Oddly enough, everything turned out to be beefsteak, nearly raw in the English style, with an egg. Those middays together — with little Gitta in her wicker pram next to the table and all their thoughts with Anneliese and the newborn — brought Branhardt and Renate very close.
She was aware that, since then, he had acquired a bit of prejudice against her, perhaps because he tacitly believed her “emancipation” entailed certain female issues, rumors of which had occasionally reached him. He struck Renate as one of those men who are far more tolerant in theory than in practice and who become less so if such a person comes closer to them or theirs. She had to content herself with his very indirect flattery. In any case, she had no doubt that, in the majority of cases, Branhardt would have a very energetic response to the gentle Liese-question, “What are weeds?”
After dinner Gitta hurried into town to catch her train to Hasling, planning to stop first to pick up Anna Leutwein, the pharmacist's daughter, a school friend of hers and Gertrud’s.