Everything real seemed to disappear; only dimly lighted, vacant space remained, pervaded by the smell of chloroform. He seemed to be in the interior of a huge cone, stretching along the ground like a tunnel. Far away in the distance, where it narrowed towards the opening, there was a sparkling white spot; if he could get there, he might escape. He seemed to be traveling day and night towards that chink along unending spiral lines running within the surface of the tunnel; he traveled under compulsion and with great effort, slowly, like a snail, although within him something leaped up like a rabbit caught in a snare, or as if wings were fluttering in his soul.
He knew what was beyond that chink. Only a few steps would lead him to the ridge under the wood … to his own four strips of potato-field! And whenever he roused himself mechanically from his apathy he had a vision of the potato-harvest. The transparent autumn haze in the fields was bringing objects that were far off into relief, and making them appear perfectly distinct. He saw himself together with his young wife, digging beautiful potatoes, large as their fists.
Bits of sticks
On the hillock, amid the stubble, the herdsmen were assembled in groups, their wallets slung round them; they were crouching on their heels, had collected dry juniper and lighted a fire; with bits of sticks they were scraping out the baked potatoes from the ashes. The rising smoke scented the air fragrantly with juniper.
At times, when he was better and more himself, when the fever tormented him less, he sank into the state of timidity and apprehension known only to those harassed almost beyond human endurance and to the dying. Fear oppressed him till his whole being shrank into something less than the smallest grain; he was hurled by fearful sounds and overawing obsessions into a bottomless abyss.
At last the wound on his foot began to heal, and the fever to abate. His mind returned from that other world to the familiar one, and to reflecting on what was taking place before his eyes. But the nature of these reflections had changed. Formerly he had felt self-pity arising from terror; now it was the wild hatred of the wounded man, his over-powering desire for revenge; his rage turned as fiercely even upon the unfortunate ones lying beside him as upon those who had maimed him. But another idea had taken even more powerfully possession of his mind; his thoughts darted forward like a pack of hounds on the trail, in frantic pursuit of the power which had thus passed sentence on him.
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