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

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[chapter 21]

  [p. 66]  

21

Salonen kept repeating the song that had come into his head: "Then one arm I put round your waist — diddle diddle dee — I put round your waist . . . ." Puolamäki got into the boat with him, and they were about to shove off to the raft when Mettälä's large frame appeared from nowhere.

"Stop singing, boy — stick to your reading instead," Mettälä growled, at the same moment himself bawling out something supposed to be a snatch of song. By that time Matti and Salonen's boat was some six feet from the shore.

"Keep your trap shut, you bum," Salonen shouted back.

"Not by your order, Nokia — that goes for now and for ever and ever, amen."

And bending down, he groped on the ground for a haystake that had lost its pegs.

"Come on, if you dare," Mettälä shouted, raising his large weapon.

The stake could no longer have reached to the boat — this circumstance was made quite clear later at the trial. The threatening gesture and the bullying words, however, threw Salonen into a blind fury. He could never at any time stand the sight of this hulking, big-boned man, whose chin was always covered with thick stubble and who had no suspenders to his trousers. They had been at swords' points for a long   [p. 67]   time. The horse on the raft was Mettälä's, but the men had to take turns at the different jobs, and whenever Nokia drove the horse, he tore needlessly at the reins and shouted abuse at the animal. True, he might then give it lumps of sugar, but both these actions of his enraged Mettälä equally.

Salonen jumped into the water, waded ashore, and rushed headlong at his enemy, who stood brandishing the stake. Being drunk as well as clumsy, however, Mettälä had no time to do anything with it before the long blade of a Kauhava knife — the same one that had so often thudded into the wall of the cabin — had sunk to the hilt into the left side of his chest, cracking a rib and piercing the heart muscle.

At that very moment Puolamäki was supposed to have shouted to Salonen the words, "Let him have it good and hard," on account of which he later stood a prisoner beside Salonen; no witness dared to swear to it, though.

Driven by some hazy instinct for flight, the wounded man staggered up the grassy slope from the water's edge. He had got as far as the ryefield when he fell on his side. Blood poured out; his eyes glazed over and seemed to have stopped to stare at the moon.

And yet — and yet this was the Sunday when he should have gone home — had a bath in his own sauna — lain down beside Santra — to rest — to rest — as before.

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