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

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[chapter 19]

  [p. 61]  

19

Salonen had also gone off. He sauntered along the village street, his smooth young face ablaze with a kind of ecstasy. He addressed the girls he met very winningly in city fashion, made no advances, called them "Miss," and bowed so low that his long forelock flopped down. He put it back with an elegant sweep of his hand, swinging his head so that the hair settled back nicely into place. Then he strolled on, stopping to speak to an ugly old woman in the friendliest possible way, and when the woman hinted that she was poor, the young man gave her a five-mark note. She was taken aback at first, then laughed heartily, and went on her way. Mettälä's liquor had rather gone to the youth's head.

Then he sat down on the steps of a barn — a girl was sitting there in her Sunday best, and Yrjö Salonen turned to one side to chat with her. They talked of this and that, and the girl asked, almost like a man, how many timber-rafts were still to come on the upper waters. When the youth bent down to whisper a question in her ear, she replied loudly:

"That depends upon how nicely you can ask."

The girl was not especially pretty, her skin was rather coarse, the face was soft and broad, and she smelled of milk fresh from the cow. Salonen squeezed her waist. At the same moment a man stepped up to them from a nearby cottage.

  [p. 62]  

"This isn't your girl, is it?" Salonen asked.

"Well, even if she were, there's enough for two," the man replied, starting to push a cigarette into a holder. He looked a little nervous nonetheless, and the girl seemed to have a certain respect for him. He looked hard at her and she moved away, whereupon his manner changed and he said in a more intimate tone:

"If that's what you want, it's only a stone's throw away — got any money, buddy?"


The moon was perhaps still rising or had perhaps not yet begun to set, when the raftsmen started to assemble after their various outings. Matti Puolamäki had also been ashore; with a devout expression he had examined the ryefield on the steep slope near the water to see if the heads were getting ripe. He had sown a little rye at home and he watched the nights closely in case of frost. It was not very far away, and one could take it that the weather there was much the same as here. Puolamäki was a little childlike in all his ways. For some reason he had become very fond of log floating and worked like a madman, so the foremen were satisfied with him. (He had heard that term from his father and always used it himself, though the other men spoke of the "boss" or the "tenner." Their present boss they bluntly called the "fiver," since he had only one hand.)

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