Hilda Husso

Issue 1/1980 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Kun on tunteet (‘When you have feelings’,1913). Introduction by Irmeli Niemi

A Phone call between Hotels

‘Hello – is that the Francesca?’

‘— — —’

‘I’d like to speak to Mr Aksel Lundqvist, the maître d’hotel, if it’s possible, please.’

‘— — —’

‘Oh, I see, that is Mr Lundqvist. I’m ringing from the Iris Hotel. It’s Hilda Husso here – do you remember me, Mr Lundqvist?’

‘— — —’

‘I used to be at Ekbom’s, as a cleaner, in the Brasserie, and I got pregnant – it was a boy, you may remember?’

‘— — —’

‘Hello, what was that, I can’t hear?’

‘— — —’

‘No, no, not a soul here now. No need to be frightened, Mr Lundqvist, no one’s listening, just speak quite freely.’

‘— — —’

‘Yes, thank you, the lad’s doing fine. Been tucked away in the country all these years. Just like his father too, he was, when I dropped in to see him a couple of years ago. Lundqvist to a tee, that tickled me most.’

‘— — —’

‘Oh no, nothing – I’m not providing for him myself any more.’

‘— — —’

‘Well, you did give us that couple of hundred at the time, Mr Lundqvist. More than most folk’d have done. Thanks again. It quite did the trick, anyway. No, no, really, no more.’

‘— — —’

‘Yes, thank you for asking. I’ve been very well myself. Six years ago, it is, since those days. Thank the Lord, I’ve dropped into one or two good posts. Cleaner on a ship, then hotels in Viipuri and St Petersburg.’

‘— — —’

‘Oh no, never a morsel of trouble from the lad. It was daft to frighten you with the police, that time, Mr Lundqvist, what on earth had the police to do with a thing like that. But when you’re young and green you do get up to some silly childish tricks. You don’t still feel bad about that, do you, Mr Lundqvist?’

‘— — —’

Oh no, you weren’t to blame. Who’s to blame? Why talk about blame? It just happened, that’s all, one of those things. Blame inexperience and innocence. And, as I was saying, the lad’s all right, no trouble at all. Growing up into a person, of course, he is, and he’ll die like one as well, like the rest of us – but how, that’s his own business, not ours.’

‘— — —’

‘Naturally he does still cost me a bit for his upkeep, though I don’t feel it. The money’s coming in quite nicely, you see, and I haven’t any other children besides this one I had with you.’

‘— — —’

‘Well, that’s nice of you, wanting to see the boy. Of course, you can, Mr Lundqvist, if you really want to, though there’s no necessity to put yourself out. You see, I dropped in myself on the way here I – was coming down anyway to sort out a few things.’

‘— — —’

‘Only a flying visit, that’s all. I’m packing my job in.’

‘— — —’

‘Boyfriends? Phoo, Mr Lundqvist, all that’s a thing of the past. Still you could say yes, in a manner of speaking. All sorts of strange things do happen in your life.’

‘— — —’

‘I mean you do bump into people who’re mad enough to want to marry you.’

‘— — —’

‘Yes that’s what I’ve been thinking. I’ve been thinking of saying yes to him. He will do. There are a few things to be said for him. His legs and his oldness.’

‘— — —’

‘Nice of you, as always. Not so pretty these days, though. If we ever met, you’d not be saying I was pretty any more. People change.’

‘— — —’

‘From Sweden, he is. In business. Eriksson, that’s his name. I’ve been thinking of going over there.’

‘— — —’

‘The Iad? He’ll stay here, of course. What would I do with him or her there? When they grow up what do they want with their parents: you’re nothing but a nuisance to them. Don’t you think so, Mr Lundqvist?

‘— — —’

‘Please don’t be getting nervous, Mr Lundqvist, I’m not going to shove him off onto you, for godness’ sake. Just let him stay where he is, and I’ll go on sending him his allowance there.’

‘— — —’

‘Oh no, Eriksson doesn’t know a thing about him. Upset him? I doubt it very much. But what’s it got to do with him anyway?’

‘— — —’

‘Mr Lundqvist, you mustn’t in any way think I want to put a burden on you. No, that’d be quite horrible. What I did think was that, as the boy is yours too, you might just bring yourself, later on, when he’s old enough to be a page, to help him, if you can, to find a post in some hotel.’

‘— — —’

‘No, of course I’m not specially thinking of an hotel. It doesn’t have to be. But it’s a job like any other, quite a good one too, if the person’s up to it, if he can do what’s wanted and doesn’t kick against the pricks. That depends, of course, on what he’s made of, that’s all, at least that’s how I always see it.’

‘— — —’

‘No, Mr Lundqvist. I’ll look after him till then. Yes, of course I’ve got enough coming in for that. Just leave that to me. And I’ve got my savings as well, you know.’

‘— — —’

‘Not all that much. It must be about six thousand by now.’

‘— — —’

‘Well, that’s how it’s accumulated.’

‘— — —’

‘Hee … Well-off, if you’re well-loved, that’s what I always say.’

‘— — —’

‘Ha-ha-haa. In a good trade, you see. The cleaning alone brings it in, of course, and then you get the tips on top. You know how it is yourself.’

‘— — —’

‘Ha-ha-haa, don’t you believe it, not even a single sugar daddy.’

‘— — —’

‘Oh no. You’re joking, Mr Lundqvist. Up to now I’ve let nobody give me any old fiddle-faddle about love and all that stuff – apart from what you yourself said in your day, Mr Lundqvist, nobody else.’

‘— — —’

‘In chastity, did you say? Ha-ha-haa, what’re you on about now? Naturally I’ve been sort of living in chastity, it depends what you mean.’

‘— — —’

‘Names? That’s right – people throw names around. Ha-ha-haa, if people are green, stick a label on a thing, and they think they’ve got it. If you know what’s what, what do you care about names?’

‘— — —’

‘The chap’s well-off – call it cupboard love, if you like. And I’m telling you straight, I’m not certain I’ll be getting another offer sharp. Getting a bit long in the tooth. A steady husband’s a steady husband.’

‘— — —’

‘What’s he got? Nothing special, who cares about that? He’s not even particularly bright. He suits me, though. Well-off he is, and no relations either, so that’s all right too. It’s a good swop we’re making and we’re well-off all round. Got a dowry from Eriksson himself, in fact, five thousand in the bank in advance, do you know that, Mr Lundqvist?’

‘— — —’

‘Not short of cash, no. This five thousand’ll be savings for a rainy day, the other six thousand, it’s far more than I’ve need of.’

‘— — —’

‘No, not to the lad. But if you’d like it yourself, Mr Lundqvist, it’s another matter.’

‘— — —’

‘No, not to the lad. It’d be bad for him. Best for people to grow up from the beginning earning their own cash. Then they’re satisfied with a little and can know how to enjoy themselves. It’s good for people to have to battle their way through. So no money for the lad. But I’d be delighted if you took it – used it yourself, just as you like.’

‘— — —’

‘Yes, me as well. Why can’t two old mates like us, who’ve had some lovely times together, say just what we think, come right out with it to each other? I’ve got to admit, you’ve been a lot more charming than any other gentleman-friend, and there has been the odd one running after me. So that’s why I thought, why not let Mr Lundqvist have it?’

‘— — —’

‘Dear old Mr Lundqvist, stop saying no. A crackpot idea in my addled old head? Now what would I be doing taking my pitiful little savings over there to a strange man? Don’t be so pussy-footed, Mr Lundqvist. Lundqvist – who’s such a daredevil! Ha-ha-haa – especially foxy with the women.’

‘— — —’

‘Oh no. There you go again, kidding as usual. Us two, not any more, not me any more. I know how you like them, Lundqvist. I’m getting past it for you, I’ll be getting wrinkles in no time at all. You like them toothsome and fresh!’

‘— — —’

‘No Lundqvist, stop kidding me. It was different then. How that love it. And how he used to go at it, too. Lord Jesus!’

‘— — —’

‘Ha-ha-haa — right, let’s get together, and I’ll bring the bank book along.’

‘— — —’

‘Ha-ha-haa. Pulling my leg, as usual. A little get-together and a party, though — I’ve nothing against that.’

‘— — —’

‘Missing me? Come off it, don’t give me that.’

‘— — —’

‘Ha-ha-haa. The old Lundqvist, dozens he tells that to, never mind …

‘— — —’

‘Oh yes, definitely be there — late night till morning, your off-duty hours.

Bye bye till then!’

‘— — —’

‘Ha-ha-haa, no, definitely not!’

Translated by Herbert Lomas

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