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

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[chapter 43]

  [p. 137]  


It was a happy house at Teliranta.

The master and mistress slept a good, sound sleep. They had both felt the coolness of the night air on their skin, and it had given them — this middle-aged couple — a convenient excuse for a joke and an embrace as they went into their bed room.

Though elsewhere on the farms nearby one or two bright and early mowing machines were already clattering — some had been on the go since before midnight and were now heading for home — everyone at Teliranta had time for another couple of hours' sleep before the start of a busy working day. Since in many respects the night had been spoiled as far as rest was concerned, the master did not really want to start a long, heavy day's haymaking without forty winks. And like master, like man. What did it matter, after a night like this? A few hours made no difference. It was more important to have a good, satisfying rest, however short. Soon all at Teliranta were asleep. Even the kitchen maid, half-dressed as she was, threw herself onto the bed in the servant's room off the kitchen, after hosts and guests had finished their coffee and said goodbye. A jesting remark made to her by the doctor drew the girl's lips into a smile at the very moment she dropped back into a deep sleep.

Everyone slept — except the grandmother, who could not   [p. 138]   get to sleep even though she had seen the whole family come safely home — had even heard Helka and Arvid come here to their rooms, though they seemed to stay up talking.

Some hours earlier the grandmother had been rather anxious about her daughter-in-law, who had been kept so long over at Syrjämäki. The times were such that, on leaving home, one never knew, not even a woman, when disaster would strike — or in what way. . . .

Also, she had been thinking the whole evening and night of the girls, those young descendants of hers. She had not exactly been worried about them — except that a motorcar like that, however grand it was, might drive into the ditch, and that was not at all the same as when a sleigh overturned during sleigh rides in the old days. Nor could she quite escape the thought that those two young men were complete strangers. Helka did seem to know Arvid, and she trusted Helka, having followed the girl's development ever since she was a child and knowing her as well as she knew herself. But Selma's escort, who had come here only as the friend of a friend . . . that's why Grandmother had her doubts, not otherwise . . . she knew Selma too. But the young man's company might cause her heartache, and Selma, especially with her nature, was at the age when any unpleasant experience on such an evening excursion would be most unfortunate — it could spoil her whole life, so that subsequent evenings, however nice, would not make amends.

Grandmother pondered all this quietly as evening turned to night, night to morning, and it grew later than was really advisable at her age. But what of that — if sleep would not come, it wouldn't. After all, she didn't have to climb onto the seat of a mower or get to work with a pitchfork. She had done her share of mowing and done it with an old-fashioned   [p. 139]   scythe, and she had raked with a rowan-toothed hand-rake which a young farm hand had carved for her. . . .

She also knew that in any case she would not sleep much later in the morning, however late she stayed up. But she could have a little nap during the hottest time of the day.

So she went back to bed. But her bed was not the same place of rest as it had been — for nearly twenty years, ever since she had got rid of the pain and the misery that her husband's death had caused her for almost six months, just at this bedtime hour. . . . It had been a difficult time — strange that she should be thinking of it just tonight. It had taken almost a year before she had stopped crying herself softly to sleep. She had not told anyone about it — what was there to tell? — she merely smiled when others remarked how quickly she had aged. She liked to joke about marrying again — "if only there were a suitable go-between, but even old Lepsi is a bit past it now." She had found no balm for her secret grief until, more than a year after her husband's death, she had gone to stay for some time with her daughter three parishes away. There, her daughter's children with their delightful romping had so scattered their old granny's thoughts that, when she returned home after three weeks, she slept like a log, and from then on she had been a mother, to everyone at the farm — not only to her son, who was now the master, and to his wife, but also to the servants and tenants.

Strange how all this now came into her mind, old matters and new all jumbled up. . . . And by this time she was quite sure that Martta, her daughter-in-law, had had to stay and help Hilja.

The old lady got up again and went out onto the steps. She saw her son standing fully dressed in the yard; he answered his mother's questions without a glance at her, but   [p. 140]   otherwise good-humoredly. Since his marriage he had adopted this manner toward his mother, so that Martta had many times, in her mother-in-law's hearing, remarked on it to her husband.

Granny went back inside, slamming the door behind her so hard that the horse tethered down by the corner of the barn gave a whinny. She was overtired, and her whole body told her that it would be a long time yet before she got to sleep.

She felt an increasing anguish, which, however, did not last very long. Only for one moment she felt as if she were returning to her own birth — to the time that can never be remembered.

Just then her rest was disturbed yet again, for the last time. She heard a car start. Going to the window with an effort, she saw the figures of Helka and Arvid in the front seat, both of them looking straight ahead at the road that lay in the morning sun. There went her daughter's daughter — and for a few seconds the grandmother knew the deepest, tenderest love, which wanted to open up the road in front of the car into a future that made her old head dizzy; and she knew, too, the deepest, most bitter misery — the feeling that she was left out, unneeded!

She reached her bed, and a deep sensation of rest was the last to fill her consciousness.

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