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

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[chapter 38]

  [p. 115]  

38

"How many times have you seen Turku prison — like this at the government's expense?" the officer asked in his jocular tone.

"Oh, I've done time for a few small offenses — but now I suppose they'll lock me up for murder good and proper," said Salonen, bragging slightly. "Though I'm not guilty. He got my goat."

"That's always the way in this world, the innocent get nabbed and the guilty party — well, according to you he ends up on the scavenger's cart. I've clapped irons onto many a man in my life and most of 'em have been innocent. Heh heh."

The officer was never in a better mood than when, having done what he considered a good job, he chatted to the prisoners with just the right air of superiority. They plodded through the same dew-wet grass as had the doctor before them, but these men all wore high boots, so they were not afraid of getting wet; their walk expressed a certain arrogance — they could trample without compunction on that farmer's lush lakeside hay.

On the road they parted.

"Did the police chief say where I'm to take this one — will he question him tonight or shall I take him home?"

  [p. 116]  

"The police chief always holds a preliminary interrogation, whatever time it is."

"Well, I'll take the two of them to him, then," the guard said amiably, clicking his tongue at the horse. Things were now the same as they had been in the field not long before — Salonen, who felt himself to be the leading character, the one who got the bigwigs moving, was of no importance at all, still less Matti, that ridiculous bum — even if they were being talked about. It wasn't even worth starting up a song.

It was no better farther along the road; not even the grandest burst of song would have suited earth and sky now. The effect of the rising sun could already be plainly felt; the small birds were singing passionately; the crows also cawed harshly when a large flock of them was disturbed, and flew up from in front of the steps of a sleeping cottage. And when the men in the cart reached the wide, open fields near the village, the mowing machines were clattering here and there. The pulling movements of the horses, the shouts of the men, and the way they held the reins — all these told of eagerness for work on a weekday morning. For the farms, one of the hardest working weeks of the year had begun. In the course of it, no one had any wish for evening jaunts; having eaten their supper and had a good hot sauna, all men alike stretched out for a few hours' deep sleep.

The first chances for any amusement were a long way off, at the end of the week. Then once more the young countryman would have on a clean shirt; he would set off on his evening adventures . . . light of foot and light of heart, perhaps with a flower stuck in his hatband. By then the moon would look very different, and the seas of honeyed flowers in the meadows would have turned into forests of haycocks — which in the eyes of a laborer are just as lovely.

But this was not what the early-morning workers were   [p. 117]   thinking of. Their thoughts stretched no farther ahead than an attempt, based on experience, to judge whether the weather would hold. If the horsefly stung viciously, it could mean a sudden shower later in the day, no matter how fine the morning.

At one point a haymaker chanced to come to the end of his strip behind the fence bordering the road just as the cart with guard and prisoners was approaching. He pulled up his two horses so that they could rest and crop grass — insofar as the many biting insects let them. A rhythmic jingle was heard in time to the horse's trot — the guard had freed Salonen and Puolamäki from their coupling and put them into proper leg irons, which he had brought with him.

The haymaker had already heard during the evening that the raftsmen had been fighting in the neighboring village — now he saw them being taken away, two pale men, one of whom was still quite young. The haymaker did not feel particularly sorry for them — having gazed after them and jumped back into the seat of the mower, he felt a kind of thankful security more than anything else. And the tone of his voice as he started his horses moving was brisk rather than nervous.

A real, workaday Monday morning began to dawn even after this Sunday night.

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