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“I have exhausted your sympathy,” said Drosselmeier, “is that it? I have at long last run out your patience.”

“I only want to understand your purpose.”

“Have you ever?”

“I thought I had,” said the astronomer.

“Perhaps,” said Drosselmeier. “Oh, that my purpose were constant; oh, that it were beacon and buoy on the dark sea of this search. But it has not been, my friend! It shifts, and I tack to follow, with patched sails and a splintered rudder.”

The cannons were quiescing, the storm setting in with silent fury. Snowflakes, white as age, caught on their beards and eyebrows.