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

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[chapter 45]

  [p. 147]  

45

Manu's charcoal pit had indeed gone out. But Manu always grew fond of every pit he fired; it was like a person with whom he had spent a few summer days and nights on very intimate terms. Or rather it was like a ward entrusted to his charge, whose development he, as guardian, had to watch over every second. If he let it out of his sight for too long, it had a good mind to burn itself out. But when it was a complete success, it gave several barrels of that noble fluid in which the secret power of the sun and the deep pressure of the earth are so splendidly combined. Tar is sticky and flows sluggishly, but if a vessel holds water, that does not mean that it will hold tar. Perhaps the same is true of wine, which is also a joint product of earth and sun.

The artist had once put forward this surmise to Manu.

"Aww, I don't know nothin' about wine, but liquor is certainly choosy about a vessel," Manu had answered. "And here in the north liquor seems to go better with tar, sort of. And sauna."

The artist had then reeled off to Manu a whole list of names of substances contained in tar and in smoke from the sauna — and had also explained the origin of liquor. Manu's wide lips had done their best to stumble along and to repeat the awkward names.

But on this early Monday morning the two men spoke very   [p. 148]   little when they met beside the dead charcoal pit. Manu was in his ordinary working clothes — the same trousers, the same boots — except that in honor of the Sabbath he had put on the master's old best coat. "This here's a very fine coat, but since the master has no son, he gave it to me. . . ." This outfit — and also, no doubt, certain of the night's happenings that had reached his ears — made Manu taciturn and matter-of-fact. True, he had no idea what the artist had been up to during the night and had no intention of asking, but as the man was mooning about here stone-cold sober at this hour of the day, there was no doubt something the matter. Everyone had his own worries.

"There was a man killed in the night," Manu said with a frown, glancing toward where the murder had happened. "Nowadays they kill people like they used to kill fleas in the old days. And it's no wonder them lumberjacks do that sort of thing when their betters do."

The artist said nothing, merely nodded, and looked in the same direction as Manu.

"And at Syrjämäki there must have been a bit of trouble with Hilja, because they sent for the doctor."

"Have you heard anything from there?" the artist asked, turning to Manu.

"I've not heard nothing, but I did see as how they were very cheerful when they returned, so I suppose everything were all right."

"Oh, I see . . . hm, very likely."

"Yeh, that's how it is. We're all inclined to think sometimes that our own trials are far worse than anybody else's — when you forget about everything but your own troubles, that is. . . . Oh well, it's about time I was getting along home. Isn't your boat down on the shore here?"

"Yes, just beside yours."

  [p. 149]  

Manu, however, glanced again at his handiwork, and the artist glanced at Manu — the experienced old workman who, from his long life, had reaped a harvest of simple, calm wisdom. The artist knew something of Manu's life story, just as Manu guessed at his, though they had never talked about it — and not much about Manu's either. Now the two cronies — Manu in front, the artist behind — made their way down to the water's edge; each in his own way pushed his boat out onto the lake, nodded to the other, and rowed toward home.

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