I am dreamily astonished at this. Dead—so soon! I cannot understand it; and I drift off again into a state of confused imaginings. As I look back now to that time, I find I have no specially distinct recollection of what afterward happened to me. I know I suffered intense, intolerable pain—that I was literally tortured on a rack of excruciating anguish—and that through all the delirium of my senses I heard a muffled, melancholy sound like a chant or prayer. I have an idea that I also heard the tinkle of the bell that accompanies the Host, but my brain reeled more wildly with each moment, and I cannot be certain of this. I remember shrieking out after what seemed an eternity of pain, “Not to the villa! no, no, not there! You shall not take me—my curse on him who disobeys me!”
I remember then a fearful sensation, as of being dragged into a deep whirlpool, from whence I stretched up appealing hands and eyes to the monk who stood above me—I caught a drowning glimpse of a silver crucifix glittering before my gaze, and at last, with one loud cry for help, I sunk—down—down! into an abyss of black night and nothingness!
There followed a long drowsy time of stillness and shadow. I seemed to have fallen in some deep well of delicious oblivion and obscurity. Dream-like images still flitted before my fancy—these were at first undefinable, but after awhile they took more certain shapes. Strange fluttering creatures hovered about me—lonely eyes stared at me from a visible deep gloom; long white bony fingers grasping at nothing made signs to me of warning or menace. Then— very gradually, there dawned upon my sense of vision a cloudy red mist like a stormy sunset, and from the middle of the blood-like haze a huge black hand descended toward me. It pounced upon my chest—it grasped my throat in its monstrous clutch, and held me down with a weight of iron. I struggled violently—I strove to cry out, but that terrific pressure took from me all power of utterance. I twisted myself to right and left in an endeavor to escape—but my tyrant of the sable hand had bound me in on all sides. Yet I continued to wrestle with the cruel opposing force that strove to overwhelm me—little by little—inch by inch—so! At last! One more struggle—victory! I woke! Merciful God! Where was I? In what horrible atmosphere—in what dense darkness? Slowly, as my senses returned to me, I remembered my recent illness. The monk—the man Pietro—where were they? What had they done to me? By degrees, I realized that I was lying straight down upon my back—the couch was surely very hard? Why had they taken the pillows from under my head? A pricking sensation darted through my veins—I felt my own hands curiously—they were warm, and my pulse beat strongly, though fitfully. But what was this that hindered my breathing? Air—air! I must have air! I put up my hands—horror!