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.No false sentiment.”“Nothing false about me at all.”“Oh?” said Ragna archly.“In that case you’re very unusual.”“Absolutely.I don’t deny it.” He shrugged, and she had the feeling he was only half joking.He indicated the aurora.“It’s caused by magnetism, you know.Electrons charging into the upper atmosphere at up to twelve hundred miles a second.The friction makes the atmosphere glow.Oxygen glows red and green.And I think it’s nitrogen that produces the bluish purple.”“Oh, dear.That explanation rather lacks romance, doesn’t it?”She felt his eyes on her.He reached out and, turning her face to his, kissed her softly on the mouth.She was so surprised she didn’t respond at first, then, just as she was about to kiss him firmly back, he pulled away.She gave a short and rather nervous laugh, aware that he had thrown her off-balance.She rallied with: “Was that the missing romance, then?”He laughed and they began to stroll back to the car.He put his arm around her shoulders.The gesture was oddly familiar, as if they’d known each other for years.Almost, Ragna couldn’t help thinking, as if they were lovers.Lovers.Ragna turned the idea over in her mind.As a distant prospect, it wasn’t unattractive.No—she glanced up at him—not unattractive at all“Perhaps they’ve already been and gone,” suggested the waitress.“Do you want to order?”Hal looked at the time.Nine.The waitress was right—he must have missed them.“No thanks,” he said.He paid for his beer and made for the door.A diner smiled at him as he approached and leaned out to touch his arm.“Off on another trip soon, eh?”Hal looked at him blankly.He’d never met the man before in his life.With a brief shake of the head he passed quickly by.From the sound of the muttered exclamations behind, he’d obviously caused offense.To hell with it: he wasn’t answerable to the public.He wasn’t answerable to anyone anymore.Nevertheless he was angry with himself as he walked briskly through the streets to Berg’s hotel.The receptionist shot him a white toothy smile.She was sorry but Mr.Berg had not returned.Did he want to wait in the adjoining café?Hal shook his head.Someone in the café was bound to want to talk to him and he wasn’t in the mood for small talk.He waited impatiently near the main door, then sat restlessly on a sofa by a large spiky tropical plant.There was nothing to read.He stood up again and wandered over to the window.Taxis and the occasional bus went past, their studded tires scrunching softly on the snow.A family party came in from the street, chattering loudly.Hal felt his anger simmering up again.He was about to turn away when a car swooped in to the curb.A woman was driving.She had rich dark hair.He recognized the car.Ragna.She turned and, smiling, opened the door and climbed out.Rolf Berg appeared from the other side and came around.Taking Ragna’s arm, he paused and put his mouth to her ear.With a wide smile she cocked her head slightly to one side so as to hear him better.They pulled back, laughing at some joke, and came toward the hotel doors.Obviously Ragna was having no trouble enjoying herself.An unpleasant feeling spread through Hal’s stomach.He stood back and waited for them to come in.Ragna was breathless and flushed, her eyes dark and sparkling.Seeing Hal she stopped with a tiny gasp and put a hand to her chest.“Hal!” Her expression cleared and, coming up, she gave his arm a small hug then automatically offered him her cheek.He leaned down to kiss it.It was cool under his lips.Rolf was smiling broadly.“Hal!”Hal said: “We’re very honored.”Rolf retorted: “I’ll bet!”Rolf had changed, Hal noticed; he looked tireder and rather unfit.Or was it simply that they were both getting older.Ragna said hastily: “We missed you at dinner.”“I was there just before nine,” Hal said quietly.“We must have only just missed you, then! What a pity!” A smile fluttered across her lips.She seemed flustered.She chattered on.“We’ve just been to see some of the local sights.”“Tromsø by moonlight,” Rolf said, with a touch of irony.There was a short silence.Ragna made a show of looking at her watch.“Well, if we’re really starting at five…”“What are the arrangements?” Hal asked.“Oh, didn’t I tell you?”“No.That’s why I’ve been waiting.”She looked embarrassed.“Sorry—” She ran quickly through the morning’s arrangements, her eyes darting everywhere except up to his face.“We meet here, then,” Hal agreed [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]