A cup of black coffee steamed away in the open window. The stationmaster, drowsy after an extended breakfast, had cocked his chair at a lazy angle. His head was lolling over the backrest. Tracts of sleepy propaganda, the leaves of an official newspaper – some already detached – gently vibrated with each explosive emission from his nostrils. Lunch was a long way off.
Outside, the penumbral shadow that darkened the windowpanes had been granted a broader presence, and this, a fact of no consequence, was open to a chance observer, who glanced at the whole, at the accidental arrangement of sidings, huts, and offices – all in the semblance of a question mark. At this elevation, there were no clues – in the shade or the sunshine – to more sinister signs of interrogation. Semidarkness had arrived with the morning sun, the sun rising up behind the mountains of Mertzburg, to wheel round irresistibly over the course of the day. A shadow would encroach – with supernatural ease – farther, farther to the east.
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