When she laid her white arm on his black coat he felt that at the bottom he was as unworthy as Peter Klausson. He certainly would not sully her, he held her punctiliously away from him.
He spent the evening, while waiting for the steamer to Christiania, with Peter Klausson and a few friends, and it was not long before they discovered on what errand he had been, and how he had sped. They knew, too, how he had fared on former occasions.
Certainly Peter Klausson did press her too close to his waistcoat! Olsen therefore sought her out as soon as the waltz was over, but it was not so easy to secure a dance; a waltz was the first one for which she was free, and she gave him that. Just as this was arranged, every one pressed towards the platform, on which the Choral Society now appeared.
She was thus alone until some one knocked at the door. It was Peter Klausson again. He saw her astonishment and smiled. "We are to lunch together," he said. "Are we?" she replied. She looked at the table; it was laid for five. "Have you heard lately from your husband?" "No." A long pause. Was Peter Klausson fit company for Aksel Aarö? Her husband's boon companion!
A stableman took their horses; the waiter who was to attend to them, a German, was quickly at hand, and a bareheaded jovial man joined them as well it was Peter Klausson. He seemed to have been expecting them, and wished to relieve Ella of her wraps, but he smelt of cognac or something of the sort, and to get rid of him she inquired for the room in which they were to lunch.
Hjalmar Olsen was tall enough to catch glimpses of her in all parts of the room. She also noticed him; he soon became a lighthouse in her voyage, but a lighthouse which interested itself in the ships. Thus he now felt that she was in danger so near to Peter Klausson's waistcoat. He knew Peter Klausson. Her tiny feet tripped a waltz, while the plait kept up an accompanying polka.
"Oh, it's all right," answered Peter Klausson, evidently delighted. "But Aarö does not drink wine!" "Aarö? When he asked me to come here to-day I chanced to look in on him we had some first-rate cognac together." Ella turned to the window, for she felt that she had grown pale. Very soon Aarö came in, so courteous and stately that Peter Klausson felt compelled to take his hands out of his pockets.