– Thank you, mother honey! Because you have sewn this so I haven’t seen it at all?
Helvi lifted up the white apron decorated with blue ribbons and made her big, inquisitive eyes. Mom smiled.
– Pianha is sewing something like that, for example, when you go to get milk.
– Today, I’ll immediately renew it. But you know, Mom, I’m almost scared to go to school there. Sadly, there were no more aspirants for the third grade. Now I alone come among all the former, like a strange sheep to a flock.
– You’re glad there were no others. Maybe you wouldn’t have had a chance at that time because the class already has thirty-nine students.
– Yeah, that awful lot! I just calculated to myself that if all classes had the same number in school and postgraduate school, it would be a total of four hundred girls. And then maybe forty more teachers! No, Mom, yes in elementary school and priest Loan classes was better!
– You must be a brisk girl, Helvisen. Do you remember how you wanted to go to school here in Helsinki? After all, I would never have left our housekeeper other than because of your schooling …
Helvi threw himself into his mother’s embrace.
– Don’t mind, dear mother, – she said. – I am semmoinen hare. But now I have to leave, and yes I am trying to encourage my mind.
Quickly he tied the apron, took off his hat, and so he was ready. Mom looked at him long after she had gone. It was an important milestone day for Helville. It was no wonder that he was uneasy with joy, for everyone was so new and strange. Mom’s thoughts flew to that quiet home in the remote area of Häme, where Helvi had grown up so far. He again saw a familiar cub in the shade of birches on the shore of the Pacific Inner Lake. There he had moved out of the chapel, having made his wife sleep forever next to an old white stone church, the walls of which had been repeated so many times by his loud voice. It was a hard time … But Helvi’s girl laughed and cheered and didn’t realize she wanted anything, neither father nor her former home … “Quiet”
The door was knocked and Mrs. Aaltonen awoke to her thoughts. She went to open, and on the doorstep appeared a scarf-wearing girl, asking if “the pastor should sew a plush.”
– I would like to do something just like the Riga that serves upstairs in the chamber – yes pastorska knows – that’s where I was advised.
The measurements were taken, the test date was agreed, and the girl left. Mrs. Aaltonen sighed as she spread a large-flowered bright cretonne from the scroll. “After all, I was eligible for a landlord gentleman’s seamstress, but here only the servants and other poor people give me work,” he thought. – Of course, not much can be made of them as artificial wages, but perhaps with God’s help we can do it. Whenever I could have such food, that Helvi would do well …
At least for the moment, he looked flourishing and brisk, as though life’s concerns had not touched him in the first place. With cheeks red and brilliant eyes, he walked his wand through the extreme wig of Kruunuha towards Yrjönkatu. Already there was the great white building that was his journey. Helvi’s heart beat harder and he grabbed hold of the door. It didn’t open so easily; but before Helvi was able to jerk again, his other hand had caught a rib and had gotten a heavy door open. A dark-haired, brown-eyed girl in a light suit and hat like a flower garden stood beside her. He gave Helv a happy, friendly look and said:
– It’s a tight door.
Helvi said thankfully. That girl had kind eyes, but she was so great that Helvi didn’t dare to talk. And he didn’t seem to have to hear Helvi, for he was already inside the door, leaping up the stairs to the other door in three steps and slipping from it into the hallway. When Helvi did, there was no glimmer of him.
Oh, whimpering and buzzing, and how many girls! Hell was so confused that he didn’t know where to turn. A quarter of an hour later, he hardly remembered the shelf on which his hat had fallen and how he had flushed into a large, beautiful ballroom where the headmistress warmly prayed for the work to begin the semester. But then a friendly teacher grabbed her by the hand and led her into a third-grade room. There he was now standing by the door, again not knowing where he had to settle. All the other girls sat at the consoles, making noises, chatting, moving and creating curious glimpses of that newcomer. Helvi lowered his head and he would have liked to be far from there.
Then the noise suddenly stopped. The students got up and sat down again. The same teacher who had just brought Helv to the class had stepped inside. He soon noticed how confused the girl was, walked up to her, motherly lowered her hand to his shoulder, and pulled her closer to the console.
– Is there a new comrade here for you, Helvi Aaltonen. Now where do we put him to sit? There seems to be an empty space next to the iris –
Helvi had calmed down, feeling secure in the teacher. Now he dared to raise his eyes and properly watch his future comrades. There was the empty place that the teacher was talking about, and Irya – that was the same girl who had opened the door to Helv! He was really excited to think he was getting next to him. After all, Irja seemed almost familiar because she was the only girl in this large group who had talked to Helvi.
But Irja stood up and exclaimed,
– No, teacher, this is not empty! It’s Elsa Kallion, even though she’s gone now. We’ve been sitting side by side for almost two years…
– Yesterday, we received a letter from Elsa’s father announcing that he had received a job title in Kuopio and was moving there. Elsa won’t come to this school anymore.
– Oo – oo – I heard a long murmur across the class. And then in the choir, “Isn’t Elsa going to school anymore!”
– Oh, Elsa won’t come to school anymore! Irja repeated loudest, adding her half-voice: “Now I again have no best friend.”
“I hope you make a good friend of this new comrade,” the teacher said with a smile, and accompanied Helvin to Irja.
He announced the lesson, left the classroom, and the former commotion began again. Irja was just trying to have a conversation with Helv when she heard her whisper behind her: – Apron on the first day of school!
Hell blushed down to her ears and forgot to answer Irja. Because of course the phrase meant him… Suddenly his eyes flew over the class. Yes, the others really didn’t have aprons. And he hadn’t noticed it at first! Was it bad then that you wore an apron? And my own mother had sewn this, and it was brand new and Helv thinks so pretty…
Irja must have heard her comrade’s words too, for she turned and created a look as if she wanted to pierce the speaker with her brown eyes. – How stupid you are, Stamp! – was clearly readable in those speaking eyes; but he could not put the idea into words, for at the same time another teacher came in again. Irja only had to see Suleima Saarela laugh, but at the same time flew red.
When the next day’s assignments were announced, the girls rushed out of the classroom and Helvi finally found his hat, then he hurried like a distressed hare towards home. No, it wasn’t really fun at school. Did people here on the street watch his apron? Oh, did she not know how Helsinki used to dress? And anyway … the whole bunch of strange girls … and that bustle …
At home, her mother comforted and reassured her at her best. Helvin had to remember all the good things he could learn here, and he would soon get used to comrades.
“But I’ll never wear the apron again,” Helvi finally said with determination.
Then her mother’s gaze became serious.
– You will, yes, my girl, even tomorrow. You don’t learn to be shy and useless. First and foremost, you don’t have to be ashamed of a clean apron or your simple suit as long as you keep it clean. Sure, there are girls dressed nicely in school, but there are a lot of kids from poor parents. You don’t poke your eyes at them, you think it’s just useless.
– But if they mock …
– You shouldn’t care about the speech of someone you don’t understand. Please tell me that you have a kind and friendly side partner. – But now you have to get the milk to get the grate on fire. Aren’t you hungry already?
Yes, it was already a lot. Helvi took a jug and rushed towards the store, where he picked up the milk they ordered each day.
– Good day again, Helvi! Where are you going? – there was a loud noise from the corner of the street. Irja and Leima stood there, and the former nodded his head cheerfully. But Helvi noticed that Mark’s eyes flickered into his jug, and he felt as if Irya had been watching him.
– To the shop, – he answered quickly and turned from the corner, his cheeks burning. Back he returned a long detour. After all, Irja and Leima could still stand or walk there chatting.
Mom wondered why Helvi had been staying longer than usual, and when the girl, with her eyes down, told it, her mother became more and more serious. He felt that the vanity of the capital had already set Helville on his network by the first day of school.
“Dear child,” he said sadly, “and you must be ashamed of your poor mother.”
– Mom, what are you talking about! Exclaimed Helvi repentantly. – I’ve been a bad girl; forgive me!
Mom kissed her gently, saying,
– Pray that God will give you a brave mind and a humble heart!