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

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[chapter 48]

  [p. 156]  


There is not yet any real night in the north at this time of year. Hardly has the evening's violet-dusky pianissimo died away into a pause, intense with feeling, when the morning's first violin awakens with a high, clear melody. Nor does it lack accompanists. Impelled by their passion, the larks spring into the air and hundreds of warblers chirrup so that one thinks their breasts will burst — the entire body is barely the size of a man's thumb. . . .

There is no night; and those who for generations have been used to conditions in the north, whether bird, beast, or human, need very little sleep. When Syrjämäki-Jalmari had taken the Ollila mare back to the meadow, it did not lie down to rest at all but began to crop grass vigorously; now and again it lifted its head, looked about it, and snorted. And when Jalmari had put the bridle back on the same twig of juniper from which he had taken it long, long ago, Emmi the servant girl's flabby face appeared at the window of the bake-house — of course, she would have to be there to see what bad luck Jalmari had had right to the end. . . . No, sleep is of little account at this time of year.

Helka came down the steps of her grandmother's house, followed by Arvid.

On their way back from the village they had spoken very little.

  [p. 157]  

"How sweet and clean the baby was," Helka had said, a gentle, faraway tone in her voice.

"Yes — and so was the mother," Arvid replied. "It's odd how beautiful a woman becomes at a time like that. This crofter's wife is pretty anyway, but did you notice what a sublime and pure joy radiated from her pale face? There's no more beautiful sight on earth than pure motherly love. It's always apparent in a happy childbirth, but sometimes you see it later too, when the child is already walking and talking. I've sometimes seen a young mother whose eyes, skin, everything, shine with complete girlish innocence."

"All the more credit to her husband," Helka said in a caressing, intimate tone.

So it had been as they returned from the village. Then Helka hurried inside and Arvid behind her, once more watching the way she walked. Without a word Helka went off to her own room and stayed there for some time. Arvid was quite sure, however, that she would come back.

And so she did — a warm, almost inquiring radiance in her eyes, her face, her whole being.

Arvid was the first to awaken from the light sleep into which both had fallen. He seemed to have been dreaming — or rather he had consciously followed the vision the whole time. In it were the earth and the sun, and one shone upon the other; there were a plowman and a sower, who were as one — and the earth was the color of skin and its hillocks and hollows reminded him of a woman's body. . . .

The sun was indeed shining on Arvid's face, glowing through his eyelids. Asleep on his arm was a loved and lovely head, which only now — relaxed like that — seemed to be really his own, bestowed upon him. Lightly he brushed aside a brown lock from the temple and kissed, long and gently, the lovable-smelling skin.

  [p. 158]  

The woman opened her eyes and looked at the man — her own man — and said in a sleepy voice:

"Am I as pretty as the young mother you were talking about before?"

She received no reply in words.

"Look how lovely the morning still is when the whole place is asleep. But soon the everyday week will begin with its work and its cares and its exertions."

"That too is lovely."

"Yes, it is — but it's loveliest of all when man ennobles it. Look at this old family estate all around us: how mighty it is in spirit and seemingly independent of the people who inhabit it today and live on what it yields. To me, this old bridal chamber is a shrine whose atmosphere I don't want to disturb with any base thought or commonplace word. I don't feel I can stay here now — the daily routine is beginning and I must face it elsewhere, I think I'll leave before the house wakes up."

"I'll go with you, wherever you go; I'll go with you, now and always. . . . Oh, how am I to bear this — this — I can't find a name for it. I only know that everything that has been up to now, has been for the sake of this — everything, everything."

"Let's go then. Let us draw the fairytale curtain over these two nights. One day, when we come back to these rooms, they will be places of memory for us, and as such, there will be nothing base or ordinary connected with them. If we have to face that kind of thing, let us live through it elsewhere."

They set off — along the sunny road of the summer morning.

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