In Heikki Halldin’s childhood years, the house with its yards was his real world

In his backyard, he played for days long in large herds of children. The children of the workers and little civil servants were mostly his comrades. Many of them were allowed to run in the courtyards and corners from morning till late evening without being hardened to food or sleep in the middle of everything. Heikki envied them infinitely. He himself could only get out in the beautiful air and on the food, and he had to go to sleep whenever a mother or maid appeared on the stairs to call, no matter how much fun the games had been interrupted. And although he himself thought he was already a great boy when he was already six years old, he was strictly forbidden to go out of the home gate, alone or with other children. It had long been infinitely humiliating for him. Many boys smaller than him, like Kalle Sandström and Väinö of Hellfors, all the houses in the block already knew better, or at least as well as he knew the squares in the “mother-in-law’s pot,” which the girls always jumped in front of Martola’s stairs in the spring, as soon as the snow melted. But Mom was quite unshakable in such matters.

Already in the early days of May, many of his comrades were allowed to run in the yard barefoot. They said the ground was burning hot and despised infinitely Heikki and all the other children who had to walk in socks and shoes for many more weeks. Then he had to wash every night, no matter how tired he was. And yet he knew that many other children in the same house were allowed to go to bed, even if their feet were a little clayey. Heikki learned early on to know the joys of the people and to see their grief in this old house, surrounded by a flat, large courtyard, four low-rise buildings. How did they come to his consciousness? Who told them? All… or not really anyone. Things gradually became clear to him as private trees and parts of the landscape became clear to the walker in the fog. The intermittent sentence heard here and there one day became whole as if by itself. What he did not understand today, and did not come to ask anyone, he clearly understood tomorrow, after hearing and seeing something new.

Everything was so strange. Everything was new…

Big people often talked about strange things as they talked to each other, on spring bridges, sitting on a swing board under a siren bush or facing each other at the gate and in the yard. They never thought the children would understand anything…

But much more bizarre, Heikki heard and saw the lower building in small chambers, each accessed from a large communal kitchen with no stove in the first place, but a large fireplace on the grate of which each family had their pan feet and footrests. In two chambers lived the factory girls, three, four in one room. In the third chamber lived Wilkman’s widow, whose son was in the tarragon regiment and whose daughter was sewing. But opposite Wilkman’s chamber lived carpenter Rödman with his Riga.

The Riga Chamber was the most beautiful and wonderful of Heikki. There was a fairy tale on the drawing board as well. The two sides of the mirror was a large paper rose-notebooks, silvery flower vases. Then there was an entire army of porcelain girls and boys, a large-horned porcelain deer, and chickens and birds. – Heikki was always allowed to watch these treasures to the fullest, even if he got to stand in a chair next to the drawing room, as he did not touch anything.

On the wall of Rödman’s chamber were silver Bible verses in cork frames, as well as three other larger paintings depicting Osman Pasha, Skobelev, and Beatrice Cenc. Carpenter Rödman had once said of Beatrice, “a beautiful girl, but a sad history.” When Heikki had asked him to tell more about the beautiful Beatrice, Rödman had wandered around and said that he did not know much more about it when it was thought that Beatrice had murdered his father, and that he had therefore been tortured and finally beheaded in prisons. However, even this brief explanation already gave Heik a lot to think about, and he often looked at the picture as some mysterious mystery.

But about Osman’s Passover and Skobelev and their bravery in Plevna, Rödman knew a lot instead, as his uncle had been in the Turkish war. When telling his war story, Rödman usually glued some of his neighbors ’small items that he didn’t bother to take to his workshop in another house. And finally, he usually hummed:

“Much has been buried in the sand of Balkan, on the other side of the Danube…”

But the deepest impression on Heikki, however, had been that Rödman had said Osman Pasha to be the very first men of the Turkish sultan. And his picture of Heikki became even more interesting when one day he heard Ahonen sing in Janne’s yard:

“On top
of the gate of Constantinople was a picture and a picture of the Turkish emperor.
The Finnish boys said, ‘Hell damn,
when it’s ugly and ugly.’
After that, Heikki Osman tried to get even a hint of the miraculous sultan himself from the picture of Pasha, when they were once so close… But probably the sultan was uglier, because Osman Pasha didn’t scare him at all…

Skobelev, on the other hand, became, as it were, more familiar after Rödman once competed with Paulina Hakala in the well, saying this to be black like Skobelev’s puppy.

Sometimes, when Riikka was in a really good mood, she lifted a couple of porcelain chickens and a dog to the floor and picked up a gingerbread or apple from her drawing box and chatted with Heik just like big people…

But Heikki had noticed that of the flavors he got during his visits, as well as everything else he heard and saw, but which he didn’t really understand, it was best not to talk about them at all. Mom was so weird at times… She often resented even what other people had quite naturally talked about and where Heikki hadn’t been able to imagine anything bad.

For once, on one beautiful spring day, Heikki had heard Mrs. Hultman’s lady call Mrs. Bast, a fishmonger, a bread wolf, which was also well said of Heikki, for Mrs. Bast had two gnashing teeth – Then it so happened that the same afternoon Ruusa Martola snatched a gingerbread cake from Heikki’s hand, which he had just received from Rödman’s Riga. Heikki ran around the yard, trying to reach Rose, shouting: your bread wolf! bread wolf! But at the same time there was a severe knock on the window of the dining room and Heikki saw his mother in the window, looking numb, pointing inside him. What evil had he done? Instead of her mother even scolding Rose, she took her to a corner of the dining room to sit for a long time, and did not alleviate the punishment even after Heikki had admitted that he had heard Mrs. Hultman say so… On the contrary, his mother threatened that he would not get out as much as before. And in the evening, Heikki heard his mother say to a strange lady that there were so brutal people living in the house that she did not dare to let her child out properly. Then school began.

The weakest world suddenly expanded. After a day, he was allowed to go to school alone and in the afternoons he was allowed to stop by his comrades living in neighboring houses. As a result, already in his first school year, he knew, not to mention people, almost all the cats and dogs in his own city block.

But in his home, however, he still enjoyed himself the best. There he got to go wherever he wanted and as the “host” of the house he was welcome everywhere. In those little chambers, he was much warmer and more cozy than in the fine homes of most of his schoolmates. And much more wonderful all…

At that time, their maid had told Heikki that Ester
Forssner would one day probably become the most beautiful girl in town and that
Heikki would marry her.
There was nothing miraculous about Heikki. When he grew up, almost all the people got married, and he had no quarrels or fights with Ester Forssner more than with his other girls or boys. Only once had he very severely pulled Esther out of her hair when she had momentarily thrown water from the eaves at Heikki’s new suit. But Esther had also scratched him. Then he had hated Ester for a couple of days, and by no means wanted to admit that she was beautiful, and at no cost would have wanted to marry her, even though Hilda started talking about it as soon as she just put her head in the head… Then she wouldn’t even want to go to Forssner again even for guests. She had cried and would rather have stayed home even in the corner of the dining room to sit…

But he had to leave. However, the visit had ended unexpectedly well, as Esther had had new toys, so they could no longer remember the whole dispute.

The most beautiful girl Heikki knew at the time was Hulda Martola, Ruusa’s eldest sister. The Martolas were Narinkka merchants and they lived in another building opposite the street, where they had two chambers and a kitchen.

The whole house was often talked about by the people of Martola. Heikki had heard it said that the merchant Martola had been a student and even a lady better people. But now Martola sometimes drank for weeks and the lady was alone to take care of the whole family.

Hulda Martola was a beauty. He himself had said this to Heikki and Ruusa, once combing her hair in front of the mirror. And indeed, she was also very beautiful about Heikki. Her red hair was so curly that she always complained that not even the comb could really do it. Then he had greenish, round eyes, just like Wiikman’s widow’s kitten, which he reminded me of anyway… And then he had a very similar mouth to Ester Forssner’s favorite doll.

“Beauty” was a whole new word for Heikki and she was glad she learned what it was like…

But Hulda Martola was more than just a beauty: she was engaged! Hulda herself had said that one day, and a couple of days later Heikki had seen Hulda sitting in the arms of conductor Kahn, so that of course it was true.

Conductor Kahn had friendly black eyes, a long mustache, a silk vest, and a red tie. He was always in a good mood: he smiled, burned paperbacks and sang. Heikki admired them both, conductor Kahn and Hulda Martola, and he could not understand what his mother had against them. But he had something against them, for if he had any idea that the conductor was visiting Martola, then it was useless to ask there.

Husband Martola was sometimes away from home for many days and then Martola always had peace in the house. Mrs. Martola usually knitted hats in the front room and Ruusa played an oak game with Heikki, at a large table covered with a small cloth in the same room. But in the stern chamber Hulda sat on the conductor’s lap, knitting hats too. They often hummed “Axel and Hilda,” swung in the rocking chair, and kissed.

Mrs. Martola trampled her old sewing machine so that it swayed and swayed to one side and the other. Rose was attached to the game with all her soul and if she ever looked from an open door to another chamber, she wondered nothing. And so Heikki believed from the beginning that everything was as it should be when the beauty is engaged…

Although her mother became more and more severe day by day compared to Heikki’s visits and comrades, she still allowed her to socialize with Ruusa Martola and visit her home. And so often in the rain, when he couldn’t run outside, Heikki got permission to stop at Martola for a while. But of all the wondrous things he saw and heard there, and whatever preoccupied his thoughts, he visibly fell silent at home.

Suddenly, conductor Kahn was no longer seen in Martola. And for a while the beautiful Hulda knitted hats, her eyes constantly swollen, sometimes strangely silent, sometimes annoying and commanding Ruusa, so that she was terrified of the stranger… One day Ruusa believed to Heikki that Hulda was no longer engaged and that the conductor had traveled out of town. It was so incomprehensible and shocking for Heikki that she had to tell it to her mother as well, and at the same time she sympathetically asked if the mother would think that Ahonen Janne would start a new groom for Hulda. But Mom just laughed and told her to read her homework, not to take care of things like that.

One day, Hulda Martola was like another person again. He offered Heikki and Ruusa great chocolate candies and said that now he has a new groom with exactly the same eyes as Heikki, and that he loved, loved and was infinitely happy…

Hulda’s new groom was an office cross, but a really nice office cross, as Hulda assured. But for Heikki, he was very disappointing… compared to the conductor. He did not smile or sing, but drank a punch and stared at Hulda every day as if seeing him for the first time. Besides, he was red all over his face, just like the shoemaker Sjögren who made boots for Heikki. – But Hulda wasn’t engaged with the office worker for a long time, which was very understandable… And Hulda apparently didn’t even bother to cry for her, but went to the evening for fun, as if nothing had happened. Heikki was no longer worried about his fate and it was unnecessary, for a couple of weeks later Hulda chatted that she was engaged to a barber whose father was a real living baron. The barber could inherit and set up his own shop in Helsinki. Hulda also assured that he had great behavior and teeth as white as Heikki’s and only now said that he was very happy. Until now, he didn’t say he even knew what true love is…

Heikki and Ruusa usually listened to him in silence, for what could they say about such things. However, it was strange and incomprehensible for Heikki that Hulda, already engaged to the conductor, had not yet learned to understand what love is…

The same was then repeated often. Hulda Martola changed grooms more often as the seasons changed. The barber was followed by the mantal scribe and was followed by the cellar master of Seurahuone. But even in the worst case scenario, Hulda no longer mourned her former fiancées for a day, but all the more she always loved every new thing and convinced herself to learn more and more deeply what love is.

One day, Heikki heard a couple of maids at the well giggle giggling as Hulda Martola leaves every night and is constantly engaged. They laughed and talked about it as if there was something bad in it…

Then, a day later, came Pastorska Sandman, from the lower building, to pay his rent. Heikki was currently reading his homework in another room, and it was no longer followed by what the guest was talking about in the hall with his mother until he heard the old lady say something about Hulda Martola. It could by no means be any good, for the mother exclaimed blessing and quickly closed the door.

The next day, his mother sharply forbade, and without explanation, Heikki to go to Martola. With Ruusa, he was allowed to play in the yard as before or invite Ruusa to his home to play if he wanted to.

But as early as the following month, Martolat moved out of the house.

Heikki was in the first grade of the preparatory school at the time.

That same year, Aunt Forssner received a large plaque from engineer Nyman as a Christmas present, which was said to be “Romeo and Juliet.” Everyone praised it for being beautiful. My mother thanked me too. Heikki watched it for a long time. He said nothing to anyone, but he thought that when Hulda Martola had been engaged to conductor Kahn, they had been at least as beautiful… if not much more beautiful when they kissed in the rocking chair.