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The Literature Collection

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

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[chapter 29]

  [p. 87]  

29

Salonen and Puolamäki had gone off together with Heinonen to Kortsaani to telephone for the doctor. Thanks to them, the dour, elderly folk at the farm lost their refreshing night's sleep, which they could have used in view of next morning's haymaking.

Nokia was still in the same state of mind, bordering on ecstasy, into which he had been thrown when he found he had committed a murder. The simple Puolamäki, plodding along beside him, glanced at him not only in admiration. Even to him, Nokia's best friend, there was now something frightening about his young fellow worker. The lad's eyes burned with a strange luster and he spoke incoherently, trying from time to time to hum a tune which even at its quietest expressed menace and defiance.

"If I killed a man, then it's my bad luck — I wonder if it was blessed by the Lord, that water of the Nokia River in which my mother washed her good-for-nothing son for the first time . . . . But you were watching, Matti — he was the one who started it, so it was his fault, not mine . . . . And that damned foreman wasn't going to let anyone get the doctor; who does he think he is, the one-armed bastard . . . . He's got to come, the doctor; this boy will see to that . . . . 'Oh, Mother dear, who bore me, your son . . .'"

Then followed the rest, "'. . . to be a slave in this world   [p. 88]   and to suffer want . . .,'" fiercely sung and with appropriate parts yelled out in a shrill voice. "Matti, have you ever seen a man drop like that from a stab?"

"I haven't seen nobody fall that neat, but I did once see when a farmer — Vattiset was the name of the place — stabbed an uninvited guest, but he only got a long gash on his left arm — but all the same he bled like a stuck pig; the man was as white as a sheet, and the doctor said if he'd come ten minutes later, he wouldn't have been needed at all. He was hot-tempered, that Vattiset farmer was. I remember once —"

"To hell with your Vattisets and Rattisets — we're going to plague the old boy at Kortsaani now. Hey there! Is anyone at home? Here come a couple of mankillers!" (These words were also later introduced as evidence at the trial, the chief constable attaching great importance to them.)

The farmer at Kortsaani was an old-fashioned man, rather short and withered, with a hooked nose and hair always carefully parted. Despite the distance, he went to church nearly every Sunday. His wife was the same. Seldom was the peace of their household disturbed even in the daytime. From one season to the next, from year to year, they kept quietly in touch with earth and sky and the events belonging to them, with those things in which, as they saw it, harshness and gentleness, austerity and abundance, alternated in a just way; those things which to them — even if they did not reason it out — represented the God familiar to them from their earliest childhood.

"I'm not letting any murderers in here," the farmer said to the men as they tried to force their way inside. He was old and shriveled, but he could be firm. He himself had never pried around behind anyone's door.

"Oh, yes, we're coming in all right, you can be sure of   [p. 89]   that. First we need a telephone and then we need a horse so as to get the doctor." And with that Nokia tried to push past the farmer, but the old man gripped him boldly by the arms and said, with an old man's rather whimpering voice, breathless from the exertion:

"I said — you're not — coming — in — and that's — that. You can say — what you — want to — here."

Oddly enough he managed to check Salonen before he got any farther. The others stood there in their boots and did not interfere.

"But don't you understand there's a man there who needs a doctor — he got my goat and before I knew it, I'd knifed him — but I'll damned well get help, if it's from the other side of Finland. . . ."

"Don't swear; there's an old lady asleep here."

"I beg your pardon!" A marvelous man was Nokia in Puolamäki's eyes, and he became still more so: stood there bowing and apologizing quite seriously. "Peace and honor to women always. I forgot. But you see now, don't you, there's no time to be lost. Give me a horse now; I'll damned well pay you in advance if you like." And he began feeling for his wallet. "But you'd better phone first and see if he's at home. And tell him he won't go without his money."

"Well, stay there quietly and I'll go and call."

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