She half-wakes up, feeling only the dark. The silence is palpable; she feels a cool wind, and as if she was being transported down a tunnel in the earth. She hears the rumbling of many voices, which suddenly cease. A slit of light opens and she tries to roll away from it; she tries to move but feels wrapped up like a mummy. Through "the thick, warm, furry dark, a voice cried, 'Mother!'"
Time passes and she wakes up in hospital room; she feels warm but can't see anything clearly: "I can't see," she says. A doctor is unwrapping gauze from around her head and assures her she isn't blind. A nurse tells her she has a visitor and her mother appears, looking terrible. Esther has nothing to say to her mother; her mother says the nurses said she called for her.
She talks a nurse into showing her a mirror; she doesn't even recognize herself: half her head is shaved and her face was all swollen and discolored. She drops the mirror with a crash, which brings another nurse running, who scolds the first. The second nurse tells her she'll have seven years of bad luck now, speaking slowly to her as if she was a child. Esther overhears one nurse say to the other, "At you-know-where they'll take care of her."
Because she broke the mirror, she's sent to a different hospital in the city because the first hospital doesn't have a mental ward. At the new hospital she takes pleasure in scaring her roommate, Mrs. Tomolillo, who tries to be friendly; Esther quickly tells her she's there because she tried to kill herself. She's further annoyed when a group of doctors and medical students question her.
During visiting hours, she is sitting outside with her mother and is convinced that Mrs. Tomolillo, who is sitting behind her mother, is mimicing her mother to mock Esther. She's also sure that several doctors, who keep coming up and introducing themselves, are trying to listen in on her conversation. She asks her mother to get her out of there; her mother agrees to try.
Later, at dinner, Esther notices there's a new worker, a "Negro" as she calls him, who brings the carts with the food. She can tell it's the first time he's seen crazy people. Esther also notices this is the first time a certain red-haired woman, Mrs. Mole, has been allowed at the table; the woman snatches a bowl from Esther and turns the whole thing over. She's immediately banished back to her room. The Negro tries to clear the dishes before they're done eating, and Esther stops him. He mocks her under his breath for being so insolent. She looks in several of the bowls and realizes they were served not only string beans but baked beans; Esther is annoyed at the inappropriateness of this - one never serves two kinds of beans for dinner. As she leaves the table, she kicks the Negro hard in the leg and tells him he deserves it.
One morning, despite having the nurse tell her her temperature is normal, she refuses to get up. The nurse unwisely sets the tray full of thermometers down on the end of Esther's bed. Esther moves around to make it look like an accident and kicks the tray off her bed. Within minutes, she's rolled down the hallway and locked into Mrs. Mole's old room. Esther has carefully saved a big rolling globule of mercury in her hands. She wondered what they'd done with Mrs. Mole.
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