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

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[chapter 18]

  [p. 59]  

18

Mettälä had gone off without any clear goal. He avoided the village and made his way back to the hovels on the outskirts. Life there was the same as the life he had known in the outlying parts of his home parish. In each hovel lived a middle-aged man and woman, both rather wrinkled, and a brood of brats of all ages who, at the sight of such a big stranger, stood there gaping, picking their noses with the forefinger of the right hand and poking between the toes of the right foot with the big toe of the left foot. Mettälä lumbered about, feeling very important, sometimes bursting into song, snatches of a tune he remembered from the time when, very clumsily, he had courted Santra, now his wife . . . . "Fun for the boy to be dancing with another's girl — hey!" A crofter came out, rather gruff at first, but when he got talking to Mettälä and saw his bottle, everything was all right. Mettälä managed to visit two or three of the cottages before the liquor gave out; then he set off to make his way back to "the coast." This was one of the words he used, along with several others, from the big world. He claimed he had once been to America and assured everyone he was going back there, since "the old country" didn't seem to feed its man better than this . . . . Then he let out another yell or two.

After leaving his last port of call, Mettälä flung himself   [p. 60]   down full length in a green field. He hummed a song of sorts as he rested. From one of the cottages a boy was sent to see if anything was wrong; the boy crept up timidly, closer and closer to the recumbent man. Mettälä heard him but neither changed his position nor opened his eyes, he merely spoke to the boy from where he lay.

"Bring me some water from the well there! I gave you money just now — bring me water!"

"What'll I bring it in?"

"That's your business, but by God bring me water, and hurry up about it!"

The boy, scared, ran home. His mother was just coming to see what was the matter, and having heard what the drunken man had been harping about, went back, fetched a vessel, filled it with water from the well, and took it to the thirsty loafer.

Even the phlegmatic Mettälä had been troubled by a strange restlessness this weekend. As he sprawled there just now, it had again occurred to him that he had not been home. He should have gone, but — let's go off somewhere — down to the "coast."

"It's no Gold Coast or Pepper Coast or Ivory Coast, but that's the place to go all the same . . . . 'Fun for the boy to be dancing with another's girl — hey!'"

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