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

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[chapter 37]

  [p. 111]  


The doctor got to the scene of the crime just as the men were lifting the body onto a long hay wagon. He could see the true state of affairs even from a distance. He waded through the dew-drenched grass, which wet his shoes and trouser legs up to the knees. Everyone fell silent as he came within earshot. A faint smile of complacency rippled across the policeman's face.

"Why send for the doctor? All that's needed here is the police and a gravedigger."

The corners of the doctor's mouth were strained downward, and by lifting his feet high, he tried to find a spot where the long shore grass was not so wet.

"The guilty party here thought for safety's sake . . . ."

"Well, there wasn't much point in bringing me here to look at a dead man," the doctor said, glancing with a pallid smile at the other men, who very sensibly answered at once with a similar look.

"Matti, your right hand's free, get my wallet out of the left breast pocket; there's a hundred marks left."

"You can leave the money where it is — I expect you'll need it," the doctor said, turning to speak to the officer about an official matter which the policeman was quite well aware of. "In this hot weather we must try to have the autopsy on Tuesday — I haven't been able to get those men to build   [p. 112]   even a proper cellar — there's time enough for the governor's authority afterwards — I'll have to do the postmortem myself since the county medical officer's on vacation."

The men listened to this conversation — all except Nokia, who to his annoyance now felt left out in the cold. The doctor, the policeman, and Mettälä there on the hay cart — they were now the center of attention. "Any kid can stick a hole in someone's chest, but there's a boy who can saw the top off a man's head and draw out his guts. . . ." So the men talked when the doctor — having flatly refused any payment — trudged off toward the road, still looking bothered as he tried to avoid the wet grass.

"Otherwise it would have been a very nice little trip; it's been rather quiet the last few days, but when you have to go through that confounded grass and get wet — and you can't wear hunting boots in the middle of summer. . . ." In this vein he talked to his driver, then asked where he came from — he didn't exactly remember. The man was from such and such a place: "The wife went to see you, doctor, when she had that growth. . . ."

"Oh yes, Eufrosyne Lehtimäki, yes, now I remember. But why is the master of Teliranta up and about so early?"

The driver also looked, but before he could suggest any reason, they were even with the house. The farmer, stepping out into the road, showed that he wanted to speak to them. "Good morning!"

And he went on to explain what had happened at Syrjämäki.

"I expect the husband will be here soon, but we can go now if you like; we can take the motorboat, and I'll go with you. I'll just tell that man. . . ."

"Well, since I've just been with the dead, it's fitting, in honor of this lovely morning, that I should go and see the   [p. 113]   newborn too," the doctor said briskly. "How shall we arrange things? You had better wait here for that crofter, my man, and when he comes, tell him to drive home at once and take the bag with him. . . . As for your man, sir, he needn't keep on the lookout; Lehtimäki here will wait and tell Syrjämäki — what with all these different Mäkis and Laaksonens it's a real case of hills and dales, isn't it? — er, now, where was I? Oh, yes, when Syrjämäki comes, Lehtimäki will send him straight off home, perhaps something special has happened since your wife has been kept so long."

As he was talking, a car suddenly appeared and drew up. The farmer saw that it was Selma driving and also recognized Hannu sitting beside her.

"We've come for morning coffee, Daddy!"

"Then you must make it yourselves. I have to take the doctor over to Syrjämäki."

"Why, is something wrong?" Selma was strangely elated.

"We're going over, but we shan't be long — make some coffee in the meantime; we could do with a cup too when we get back."

A second car now pulled up, with Helka and Arvid. Having heard what was going on, they asked if they could go too. In return they promised to drive the doctor home, more quickly than the horse would take him.

"Well, then, the horse can go back — no, confound it, my forceps — we must ask that haymaker to keep an eye out after all — this is complicated and no mistake."

Everything sorted itself out. The first lot of motorists went inside and the second lot down to the shore of the lake, where they got into a motorboat which soon was plowing even, triple furrows on either side in the surface of the water that lay so smooth in the early summer's morning. The clatter of the mowing machines did not reach the ears of the   [p. 114]   people in the boat; they merely saw, here and there, a solitary early-morning haymaker.

When they were half-way across the lake, someone noticed that a man with a horse and cart had stopped at the gate of Teliranta. They started waving from the boat and calling out. The Teliranta haymaker stopped his pair of horses, strode down the slope to the road, and said something to the man in the cart. From the boat they could see how the driver tried to urge his nag into a gallop, slapping and jerking at the reins.

"If you ask me, his hurry's all for nothing. He's too late now, and his wife has always managed very well before," the doctor said.

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