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

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[chapter 23]

  [p. 69]  


Salonen's right hand told him that the blade of the knife was in Mettälä's chest; he had also felt the resistance made by the rib as it broke. A queer shudder, almost of pleasure, went right through him and left him languid. He caught sight of the familiar, unshaven face, an expression of utter helplessness in the shallow gaze and the half-open mouth — and for a second he felt a consuming tenderness for his victim. This feeling reached its height as he slowly drew the blade of the knife out of Mettälä's chest. Then he came to and began shouting that they must get a doctor at once, but the foreman of the raft, who calmly examined the body, said heavily that Mettälä was past needing a doctor in this world. It was a very different official that was needed now, he added with a gloomy look at Salonen.

"Nokia my boy, it looks as if you've got yourself a meal ticket for a long time to come."

Salonen himself seemed strangely stupefied. At first he had muttered something to the effect that it was all Mettälä's fault — what did he want to start a quarrel for. Now, having heard what the foreman said, the youth really woke up and started shouting again that they must get a doctor.

"Go to the village and get a horse from there; I'll go myself if you like."

"Oh, yes, you wouldn't half mind going yourself."

  [p. 70]  

Salonen nevertheless set off toward the village.

"Hey, you two, Puolamäki and Heinonen, keep him company. We can't let a murderer go just like that."

Again the young man flared up. His words tumbled out and he moved agitatedly, his hands in his trouser pockets. He was bareheaded; the fair hair was still tidily combed upward, but as he blustered he ran his fingers through it, then shook his head as he always did so that the hair fell back into place.

"I'm no damned murderer — if anyone says that, I'll give him the same medicine — he never even used my proper name but called me Nokia — just like the rest of you for that matter."

Salonen ground his teeth; he seemed on the verge of sobbing.

"And I'm going to tell his wife what he was really like — oh, Jukka, what is it you've gone and done to yourself and to me . . . . But we must get a doctor — I must have the right to get a doctor for him — you come with me, Puolamäki and Heinonen, I won't run away — we can get a horse up at Kortsaani; the farmer there's a decent man — take care of that poor wretch as well as you can. Jesus Christ, life is so . . . ."

He never finished saying what this life really is. He went off with his companions, still talking and blustering. His conscious mind wanted, it seemed, to turn away from the irreparable fact which he himself had now grasped.

To Kortsaani — to ask for a horse and to get the doctor. On the advice of the foreman the other men left Mettälä's body untouched where it was, just as it had slumped down into the grass.

"It may be important for the police investigation," the foreman said. "And remember, men, exactly how it all happened; here's where Mettälä was standing at first . . . ."

  [p. 71]  

Together with the remaining men, the foreman, a grim expression on his face, began to go over what had happened.

And there among the cow parsley, which was turning to seed, and the meadowsweet, which was just about to bloom, lay Mettälä, head partly in the rye, in his gray serge clothes and patched, high-legged rafting boots. He lay with his eyes half open; they seemed to stare unblinkingly at the moon, which by then was setting. At this time of year the full moon does not stay long above the horizon. In the shed on the raft lay his horse and beside it stood his cart, both of them the worse for wear.

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