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

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[chapter 31]

  [p. 92]  

31

With the happy young people at the restaurant, it soon turned out quite naturally that Arvid and Helka were mostly together, and likewise Hannu and Selma. They had finished their meal; the wine glasses were like stately, ruby-red flowers which the dusk had raised up against the white tablecloth. The couples had already been dancing. On their way to and from the dance floor, they had to walk through a dim passage where the cashier's desk was. The couple sitting at the table could see from afar when the others were making their way back from the dancing and could finish their conversation if they did not want them to join in.

Most of the tables on the long veranda had emptied — at the far end a couple of elderly men sat on, talking interminably. When one of them at last got up and began to walk stiffly away, the other called after him in Swedish, "Wait a moment!"

It seemed to Helka that she had not met Arvid until now — as though this were again the evening in the capital, long ago, in the spring. She thought of the events of the previous night in the parlor at Teliranta, far from here, when they stood looking out at the deepening twilight — Granny had said later that they had been whispering there for so long — and then all that had happened today — it was odd that   [p. 93]   only here in the dusk, when Selma and Hannu had gone off to dance and she and Arvid were left alone, did these events seem to make her feel shy — they had seemed so natural at the time. Arvid said nothing; he merely sipped his wine and put the glass gently on the table. Helka looked again at the lake — she seemed to be watching those last, lingering boats — but her glance was restless; she said something a trifle forced, as though the empty remark amused and pleased her.

"Let's dance too," she said after a while, and slipping her arm through Arvid's as they walked toward the dance floor, she moved her body in time to the music and tried to hum the tune. She seemed very young and inexperienced.

Hannu and Selma were dancing together in great contentment. Hannu was wearing a gay paper hat, and so were some of the others. The lights were covered with colored paper shades and the saxophonist, whenever he was not playing, kept throwing streamers. Paper lanterns had been hung here and there in the branches of the trees in front of the restaurant. Were the nights becoming longer already? No, not really, but the proprietor wanted to cheer his guests.

When the music came to an end — though the applause urged it to continue — Hannu and Selma stopped near the outer door. As Hannu stood there clapping, he soon found himself talking to a man who also seemed to have a girl with him. The band, encouraged by the applause, struck up another tune. The couples went on dancing. As he passed his friend Arvid, Hannu signaled to him to wait when the music stopped. But Helka and Arvid, chancing to be near the door, went back to the glass rotunda at the far end of the veranda. As she had done before, Helka hummed a snatch of the tune she had just been dancing to and thrummed her companion's arm in time to it.

They were now the only ones left on the veranda. After   [p. 94]   careful thought the proprietor had not hung any lanterns there — it was still so light, and the guests had gone.

Hannu came up to them in very gay spirits. He seemed bent on business.

"Now then, you lovers, some people I know quite well are sitting inside and there's room at their table — Miss Selma is already there. You can't sit here dreaming; this isn't a country house, but a restaurant — even if it is Finland's most fashionable in the summer. Come on, now!" Hannu offered his arm to Helka, who linked her other arm in Arvid's. The drop of wine she had drunk had evidently made her glow. She was like a little girl.

The moon had long since set.

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