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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 30]

  [p. 90]  


Syrjämäki-Hilja — Jalmari's Hilja, as she was also called, in the same way as people spoke of Hilja's Jalmari — was still healthy in body and sound in mind, even though she was "getting on." It did not take the mistress of Teliranta long to see that the baby would come into the world before the slowpoke Jalmari had brought any help. When Hilja's labor pains grew more frequent, she sent the eldest child to get Alviina, so that they could have at least some help. She herself, however, had no thought of leaving until she was sure that all was well.

When Hilja, without further ado, lay down on the bed and, as the pains returned, clutched the bedpost so that her nails looked as if they might sink into the wood, the mistress of Teliranta rolled up her sleeves and went straight into the kitchen to see if there were hot water, a suitable dish, and other similar things which she knew she would soon need. During a sudden lull in the pains, Hilja was her usual self. She uttered no more complaints about this happening to her again, but merely told the mistress of Teliranta where to find everything.

"Where is some suitable thread?"

"You'll find some sewing cotton on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard."

"And scissors?"

  [p. 91]  

"There, there. . . ." Hilja could only point to the window jamb, where a solid pair of scissors, forged by a village blacksmith, hung from a nail in their appointed place. They had been made by Hilja's late father, and it was almost a superstition of the daughter's that on such an occasion they should be used and not the factory-made ones that had been bought later. The mistress of Teliranta got everything ready — she even found a bottle of something suitable for cleansing her hands; having done so, she left her sleeves rolled up and said:

"You'd better get undressed now, my dear; we'll manage somehow." Without noticing, she had spoken familiarly to Hilja, as to her sister. In neither woman's soul and mind at this moment was there the slightest thought that the other did not understand.

As she undressed, Hilja said:

"Where can Jalmari have gone to that he doesn't come?"

At that moment the girl who had been sent to look for Alviina, the old woman who lent a hand with most things, burst into the room. She looked anxious, being old enough now to understand what it was all about.

"Alviina has gone to the evangelist meeting in the village; she's going to spend the night there and won't be back till tomorrow."

The child was on the verge of tears.

"Oh dear, oh dear, and there's the cow too," Hilja wailed.

"Never mind about the cow now, when it's a human being . . . you see, everything will soon be all right. . . . Run along now and have a look at the cow," the mistress of Teliranta said all in one breath to the girl in order to get rid of her, for it was almost time now.

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