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

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[chapter 47]

  [p. 153]  

47

What the grandmother saw was no illusion. Manu and the artist had also heard the sound of the car starting. Only at Teliranta, the very scene of this event, were happy people sleeping so soundly that none of them saw the car move off — except Granny, who had not even been to sleep. She had only been tired.

For old Manu it was like leaving a phase of his life behind when he left one of his burnt-out charcoal pits. Each time he felt almost as if he had grown older. He rowed toward his home shore, rowed slowly, slackly, even giving a little yawn from time to time. The artist's boat drew farther and farther away and the sound of the oars grew fainter, the man whose fortunes Manu guessed at though he had never pondered over them, let alone asked about them.

Manu drew his boat up, busied himself with something by the water's edge, and, even as he climbed the steep slope, kept stopping to look around and take in the scene. Before him lay a gray cottage; near it was a smoke-blackened open kitchen, with a sooty pot on the pile of rounded stones that formed the fireplace, and a thriving tobacco patch where the frost did not blight the plants. Under a certain stone was the key to the door. The sun was shining; Manu's own pet bird was singing. He didn't know its name; he had hardly ever seen it properly. But he knew its note. He went quietly inside.

  [p. 154]  

All was as usual. In her bed in the far corner lay Manu's wife Jahanna — whether awake or asleep made little difference, for she was paralyzed, had been for many years. Even her speech was affected. But lying there she had developed another faculty; her eyes were so expressive that Manu, and especially Lyyti, the daughter, always sensed what she meant. The family atmosphere in Manu's cottage was always harmonious. . . . Many people wondered at it — and also at the fact that Manu and his family were able to shift for themselves and that Jahanna always had such spotlessly clean bedlinen. True, the son Kalle, who had gone out into the world but had remained in one place and was a steady-going and respectable bachelor, always wrote home and sent "a little something" to his mother. But all the same. . . .

Lyyti, though still young, was used to waking at the slightest sound and therefore awoke now.

"Is everything all right with mother?" her father asked, merely for the sake of asking.

"Yes," Lyyti replied, without stirring from where she lay.

Manu puttered about in the kitchen-living room, which was getting lighter and lighter, and even found something to do outside. It was then that he heard the car drive off at Teliranta. Had something more happened at Syrjämäki after all?

There was not the faintest suspicion of malice in Manu's thoughts as he shut his solid-timbered porch door behind him.


The artist also heard the car engine start as he rowed home for the second time that night — for the second time and in quite a different mood from that before. He was in no particular hurry now either, but his course was clear nevertheless. At a certain point he turned to look behind him, then headed his boat toward the shore, drew it up, and began without a moment's thought to walk up toward   [p. 155]   the house. Half-way up the path he heard the distant sound of the car driving off from Teliranta. The sun already shed a bright light everywhere. And the sun had an extraordinary effect on the artist. He felt as if he were like those other people: the master of Teliranta, Manu, and many others. And there on the hill, in the sunlight, he had relived his own youth — almost the same as it had been. He went inside — his wife had not locked the door when he left the house last time. He undressed and got into bed. His wife responded to his embrace without opening her eyes and without saying a word.

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