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Sillanpää, Frans Eemil, 1888-1964 / People in the summer night; an epic suite (1966)

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[chapter 10]

  [p. 35]  

10

When Arvid had turned in at Teliranta on Saturday, he noticed, even before the car stopped, that a window in one of the side buildings flew open and was held by a graceful arm; in the opening he saw the familiar face of a girl, he saw brown curls which the other hand was pushing back, he saw a summer-clad figure in an attitude which revealed more than a welcoming cry would have done. Soon the vision disappeared — and Helka rushed out of the porch door to receive him.

Arvid did in fact notice Helka's dress — noticed it for the reason that it was so utterly different from the one she was wearing the last time they met. This was a light, floral summer dress, which suggested the wearer's figure in all its sprightliness better than the evening dress had done before . . . that earlier time when he had seen from the car, as it nosed its way to the door, the pairs of red, gold, white, and green shoes walking up the steps from the pavement and vanishing between two white pillars. Afterward, inside, he had seen more of their wearers; the shoes were only small, two-stanzaed motifs, as it were . . . . But Arvid could not get it out of his mind that even from the car he had seen one particular pair of shoes and feet, both of which he recognized at once in the drawing room. Later, over cocktails, he spoke of this to Helka in word and look — and a detached   [p. 36]   observer among the guests could have seen expressions on the face of each that were hardly conventional. Then the hostess had come to remind them both of their promise. "Yes, later, during the evening entertainment proper . . . ."

And there came that girl, summery, light of movement, sun-tanned. The contrast made his heart leap — or perhaps it was the similarity. Helka — she had accompanied faultlessly, even though Arvid had let his violin tease her slightly — the evening was then well advanced; they had conferred alone together for a few moments in a secluded guest room . . . . But Arvid remembered how his accompanist, toward the end of the performance, had retaliated with some runs and chords . . . . Later still, they had had a tête-à-tête in the library by the light of the reading lamp with its yellow shade. There they had made that half-promise which was now being kept. On such flimsy grounds it was rather a delicate matter to turn into a farm one had never visited before. But the newcomer was given a look which seemed to open doors, to rush out to meet him, almost to embrace him. The look and the nod that Helka had given him as she left the library ahead of him had therefore been what they seemed. Now they were confirmed.

"Granny, here is the guest I have sometimes spoken of!"

Arvid saw Helka in profile: her temple, the corner of her eye, the speaking mouth, the teeth; saw them in the courtyard of this farm, in the light of a summer's day — then at a side door of the building he saw a slightly bent old woman who, at Helka's words, came toward him, holding out her hand to the young man and saying:

"Welcome!"

Then the grandmother led the way to the front door. She walked so slowly that Arvid had plenty of time to look around him, to note that the other dwelling-house was larger,   [p. 37]   to look at the view. He was not looking at Helka now — nor did they speak to each other. The old lady and the sunshine united them.

Helka soon had reason to disappear from the guest's view: she must help her grandmother.

"In the country a guest is always left alone at first," the old lady said as she looked for something in the front sitting room to which Arvid had been conducted.

But Arvid soon absorbed the atmosphere once he had made the acquaintance of his hosts in the main farmhouse. The introduction took place outside, he was not yet invited in. As evening approached, the farm came to life: Arvid saw cows, farm hands, servant girls; there was talk of the sauna and visiting the barn where the servant girls slept, and someone mentioned going to church next day.

So Saturday afternoon passed. Arvid was at peace with the world and his sense of well-being was only heightened by the fact that he caught no more than a glimpse of Helka now and then. Once she nodded to him from the kitchen steps. She was wearing a large white apron.

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