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

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[chapter 16]

  [p. 53]  

16

At Teliranta they were sitting outside again just as they had done the evening before, but much had changed. It had been the Sabbath day; all were aware that it was the last perfect, real summer Sunday — a week later the dense rows of stakes piled with hay would be casting their shadows across these fields where now the summer evening, as yet unbroken, was slowly and smoothly approaching. Because of the Sabbath, everyone was dressed a little differently. There was even a Sunday look about the cows' gait as they were taken to the barnyard for the evening milking. And the girls who went off in a boat to milk the cows on the far side of the lake were in their Sunday best, which seemed to shine with expectation of pleasures to come.

Granny, the old mistress, was again sitting on her steps and apropos of some remark had occasion to say:

"You two must have been whispering there in the parlor until daybreak — not a wink of sleep did I get." She cast a motherly look at Arvid, the guest of whom she knew so little.

Over by the barnyard two raftsmen appeared, their hands full of milk cans. The mistress had to get up and go over to keep an eye on them.

"Have you drawn the milk out of your moo-cows yet?" one of the newcomers called to her.

  [p. 54]  

He was bareheaded, with fair hair combed neatly upward, and pale-blue, roving eyes. He didn't really look like a raftsman at all. The dairymaids already knew his name. It was Yrjö Salonen.

He was from the third timber-raft, the one that was anchored at the foot of the Heikkilä cornfield. Because of a head wind the rafts had been lying in this reach of the lake for several days; now, when the wind had died down at last, it was Sunday and they could not very well leave until the evening. The men picked up milk from the neighboring farms, the crew of this raft getting it from Teliranta.

"Is Mettälä-Jukka back yet?" one of the dairymaids asked the men.

"That vagabond's in no hurry to come back once he gets home to his old woman," Yrjö Salonen said.

The girl had asked because Mettälä was married to a relative of hers, in the third parish to the north.

"He's no worse a vagabond than you are," the girl retorted.

The men got their milk and went off. The rhythmical creak of the oarlocks was heard once more from the expanse of the lake. The sun had been setting while they were talking to the dairymaids. Before they reached their raft, the rim of the moon was visible.

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