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

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[chapter 41]

  [p. 129]  

41

At this time another group of people, in a much more cheerful frame of mind, was gathered at Syrjämäki, which now in the summer looked very pretty and inviting to whoever it was that approached it. The mistress of Teliranta had put the older children to bed in suitable corners, and they had gone to sleep in good time. So that when "the big event" began in earnest, those sensible and experienced women were alone together, and it did not worry them in the least that one was a crofter's wife and the other the educated mistress of a prosperous estate.

The delivery was an easy one, as it always was for Hilja — once it got under way. The two women were looking rather smug when a clatter was heard from the porch — by that time the baby was in the basket, newly washed, sleeping like a well-tended pig, and the women thought that it was Jalmari, the slowpoke, stumbling home at long last and no doubt bringing the midwife with him. For all their self-satisfaction, however, they were somewhat taken aback when those who crowded into the room were the local doctor, whom they knew by sight, a young and handsome man, and behind him a young couple. The girl was from Teliranta but the man was a complete stranger — well, Hilja had caught a glimpse of him earlier in the evening when she had gone to   [p. 130]   ask the mistress to help her with the cow. . . . And last of all came the master of Teliranta himself.

One glance at Hilja and the doctor saw how things stood. He sat down on the edge of the bed just the same and took the patient's hand.

"I seem to be too late everywhere tonight, whether I'm taken to those leaving this world or those coming into it — but my congratulations. Is everything fixed up — that last little matter as well?" he asked, his voice taking on a slightly more anxious tone.

"Yes, it's all over. All I want now is to get my old man home."

Everyone laughed. The baby merely slept. Helka regarded it with an expression of unconscious awe. She drew Arvid, her friend, silently over to the basket.

"Look at its skin; isn't it lovely?"

Hilja realized that the doctor and the rest of the party would soon be leaving — the sun was already shining. She tried to make signs to the mistress of Teliranta to show her where the housekeeping money was, so that the doctor could be paid, but he caught her at it and said good-humoredly:

"Oh no! I've been to see a dead man without being paid a penny, so I'm not going to take anything for looking at such a pretty baby girl."

He gave an admiring, manly glance first at the baby and then at the mother, Hilja, who certainly looked beautiful as she lay there pale from the loss of blood following the birth.

"I hope you get your old man back!" the doctor said as he gave her a farewell handshake.

And Hilja did. Just as the happy company was about to go out the door they met a man who had indeed had his trials that night. First, he had not even been able to catch that wretched horse except with a farm girl's help, and then that   [p. 131]   drive! And now the forceps, or whatever the gadget was called, and — why, there was the doctor too and the baby must be in the basket already, because everyone was smiling at him so warmly. There it was — oh, a girl, was it? — and was Jalmari capable now of looking after mother and daughter until the morning — until Alviina returned from her evangelical social — or should the mistress of Teliranta stay on?

"I'd give her a certificate as midwife in any parish at all," the doctor said.

"Oh, I'll manage all right till morning with my old man," Hilja said. "Didn't you say, doctor, that I don't need anything?"

"Nothing now that you've got your husband back. And let him see to it that his dear one doesn't get up too soon. They become so ugly when they're old if they start moving about too early after this business — and we have to keep these bundles of mischief even when they're old, once having taken them when they're young and pretty."

The doctor was in high spirits despite his gratuitous cases.

"Now, remember — don't get up too soon, however well you feel."

The party took their leave, and soon Hilja and Jalmari heard the hum of the motorboat from the lake shore. The sun rose in splendor, delighting them. Lake, forest, hayfields — they were all so beautiful and bright — the good Finnish earth they knew so well.

"Well, at least give me your hand before I drop off to sleep again," Hilja said to Jalmari, unspeakable tenderness and affection in her eyes.

Jalmari gave her his hand — but Hilja took his arm as well, and finally his head, which she pressed against her cheek. It was one of the night's happiest moments.

  [p. 132]  

"Oh, what a drive I've had. At one point, when I got to Vesajärvi, I met a phaeton or something, anyway it had two horses — where did they get hold of a carriage like that? — with girls in it, and there was a man, too, I think. So I thought, ah, that must be the midwife, so I didn't get out of the way but asked them. They gave such a laugh that I'm sure they scared every animal in the forest. Only then did I see that they were wearing some funny kind of old-fashioned clothes."

Jalmari's face was again obliged to bend down to Hilja's, as it had done a few moments earlier.

A quarter of an hour later the others were back at Teliranta. Selma and Hannu had the coffee ready as they had said, and a half-dressed, sleepy servant girl was also moving about — her proper pride would not allow her to lie in bed while someone else used her range and her pots and pans. The doctor also came in, but did not take off his overcoat or sit down; he drank his coffee standing up.

"A very interesting night. You missed a most charming idyll," he said, turning to Selma and Hannu. "Although I've seen hundreds of births, and even more deaths, I never cease to have a feeling of awe in both cases."

"But, doctor, if we had been with you at the idyll, no one would have got any coffee," Selma replied.

"Quite right," the doctor said with a bow to Selma. "And let us hope that the idyll will be renewed very often; it is charming at other times too, not only in July. Let us wait and see — and thank you so much for the coffee! Oh — my bag with all its dreadful instruments, where is it? And the Packard? Even if I have been on the go most of the night, I'm having a very grand ride home."

Soon the engine was purring, and the handsome car was racing along the level road toward the village. More and   [p. 133]   more mowers, each with a pair of horses, were now to be seen in the hayfields; others were met on the road so that the car had to stop — "so that there won't be a second body tonight," as the doctor said. Helka was sitting alone in the back seat and the two men in front.

"Well, Miss Helka, I'll hand over my seat — I suppose you'll sit here on the way back? Good night and thanks very much! It's been very interesting."

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