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

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[chapter 28]

  [p. 84]  


Syrjämäki-Jalmari drove the tired horse for all it was worth and came at last to the doctor's house. It never occurred to him to use the doorbell of the office; in the manner handed down from his fathers he went around to the back steps and knocked on the kitchen door. The night was quiet and Jalmari began to hear whispering from inside, but his knocking could produce no movement. He realized that the servant girl was not alone. He banged again on the door and did get those inside to stop their whispering and at last to twitch the window curtain. A girl appeared in the crack of the door.

"No, the doctor's at Mahanala bandaging up a man who's been knifed. He's dead by now I imagine, but the doctor went off anyway, seeing he'd been sent for."

It was becoming more and more obvious to Jalmari that his efforts were futile, but his agitation only grew worse. He explained his troubles as well as he could to the servant girl, and his voice almost quavered. The horse standing nearby snorted uneasily.

But it was not in vain that the girl had grown up in the village and had already been in service with this doctor for a couple of years. She decided the matter quite simply.

"Can't you row across to your place from Teliranta?"

  [p. 85]  

"Yes, we often have; why, only today the boat was over . . . ."

"I'll phone Teliranta and ask them to stop the doctor when he returns and take him across to you — of course, now, if forceps are needed, he hasn't got any with him — but I can give them to you — but remember now without fail, you'll have to drive anyway so as to meet him on the way back because he mightn't ever have stopped at Teliranta and we can't have the forceps left behind there — you wait here while I go and phone, and then I'll put the forceps and the ether into the bag."

The servant girl had warmed to her task and was talking about things unknown to Jalmari. All he grasped was that there might be terrible things in store for Hilja. It was as if he, Jalmari, were standing there with this unknown female mistreating poor Hilja, even from this distance and all the way home.

The girl vanished inside — and at the same moment a couple of sorry-looking village youths came out of the kitchen door — the ones who had been inside just now whispering with the girl. Having heard all that went on, they began to feel ill at ease and made off to find their way into some other kitchen in the village. Unless they had had enough of all such attempts. They guffawed at the glum-looking man, well knowing the cause of his gravity.

To Jalmari's mind the servant girl was away for an eternity, but at last she came back carrying a small bag which she handed to the sober-faced man as she repeated her warnings.

"The master at Teliranta promised to keep an eye out for the doctor as he drives past. Go on, now, straight to Teliranta without fail. . . ."

So Syrjämäki-Jalmari was off again along the highway, this   [p. 86]   time with the mysterious bag — it was like a specter crouching there in the bottom of the cart; he felt as if it was his poor Hilja's fate which he had to carry along and deliver. Heavy-hearted, he knew that forces other than his own were pushing and pulling him to and fro this night. He had known it ever since he had tried to catch the confounded horse — and then he had just acted, acted, yet knowing it was useless. It must be well after midnight by now.

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