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Five minutes later he was sitting in his room, with his head bowed within the circle of his arms, on the table--final attitude of grief and despair. His tears were flowing fast, and now and then a sob broke upon the stillness. Presently he said:
"I knew her when she was a little child and used to climb about my knees; I love her as I love my own, and now--oh, poor thing, poor thing, I cannot bear it!--she's gone and lost her heart to this mangy materializee! Why didn't we see that that might happen? But how could we? Nobody could; nobody could ever have dreamed of such a thing. You couldn't expect a person would fall in love with a wax-work. And this one doesn't even amount to that."
He went on grieving to himself, and now and then giving voice to his lamentations.
"It's done, oh, it's done, and there's no help for it, no undoing the miserable business. If I had the nerve, I would kill it. But that wouldn't do any good. She loves it; she thinks it's genuine and authentic. If she lost it she would grieve for it just as she would for a real person. And who's to break it to the family! Not I--I'll die first. Sellers is the best human being I ever knew and I wouldn't any more think of--oh, dear, why it'll break his heart when he finds it out. And Polly's too. This comes of meddling with such infernal matters! But for this, the creature would still be roasting in Sheol where it belongs. How is it that these people don't smell the brimstone? Sometimes I can't come into the same room with him without nearly suffocating."
After a while he broke out again:
"Well, there's one thing, sure. The materializing has got to stop right where it is. If she's got to marry a spectre, let her marry a decent one out of the Middle Ages, like this one--not a cowboy and a thief such as this protoplasmic tadpole's going to turn into if Sellers keeps on fussing at it. It costs five thousand dollars cash and shuts down on the incorporated company to stop the works at this point, but Sally Sellers's happiness is worth more than that."
He heard Sellers coming, and got himself to rights. Sellers took a seat, and said:
"Well, I've got to confess I'm a good deal puzzled. It did certainly eat, there's no getting around it. Not eat, exactly, either, but it nibbled; nibbled in an appetiteless way, but still it nibbled; and that's just a marvel. Now the question is, what does it do with those nibblings? That's it--what does it do with them? My idea is that we don't begin to know all there is to this stupendous discovery yet. But time will show--time and science--give us a chance, and don't get impatient."
But he couldn't get Hawkins interested; couldn't make him talk to amount to anything; couldn't drag him out of his depression. But at last he took a turn that arrested Hawkins's attention.
"I'm coming to like him, Hawkins. He is a person of stupendous character--absolutely gigantic. Under that placid exterior is concealed the most dare-devil spirit that was ever put into a man--he's just a Clive over again. Yes, I'm all admiration for him, on account of his character, and liking naturally follows admiration, you know. I'm coming to like him immensely. Do you know, I haven't the heart to degrade such a character as that down to the burglar estate for money or for anything else; and I've come to ask if you are willing to let the reward go, and leave this poor fellow--"