Sarah’s Journal2021-12-20T02:45:12+00:00



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November 13, 1853

The Crimean War
Dr. Peter Parker’s Shipwreck
The Middle Kingdom by S. Wells Williams
Final Memorials of Charles Lamb by Thomas Noon Talfourd
Who Was Charles Lamb?

November 13th

We hope to reach St. Helena early tomorrow. Williams says just long enough to get water, which we can signal for and have nearly by the time we approach, so I shall be disappointed and not go on shore. Mr. Taylor will go off in a boat and get papers, all being anxious for the latest news, particularly about Turkey and Russia. Seems to be that Russia will hardly go to war when she will have England and France to cooperate with Turkey. I hope we shall gain certain news.

Our voyage thus far has been very good. There is not more than three days difference between last year’s voyage from China and this, though this was commenced at a bad season of the year. I regret this stopping at St. Helena, if not able to go on shore. We shall lose one day by it, perhaps more.

Our whole party have settled down as quietly as possible; reading is the order of the day. Certainly we ought to gain much knowledge. However, I must except Mr. Taylor who at present is rewriting letters on India and China intended for the “Tribune”. The original ones were committed to the care of Doctor Parker when about to return to Canton from Shanghai but the steamer was wrecked on the rocks and the letters lost. He finds it rather a wearying job but perfectly remembers all that he formerly wrote.

Mr. Contee is deep in Gibbon. Mr. Parkman in Macauley’s “England”. My good husband in Layard’s “Nineveh”, etc. I, in the “Middle Kingdom” which I do not find anything like as dry as expected. Indeed I am quite interested but I do not confine to this, having read since I last wrote in this Talfourd’s Volume on “Charles Lamb”, Bulwer-Lytton’s “Disowned” and Kimball’s “Saint Leger”; the last I read yesterday and liked exceedingly. I like these discoursings – revealings of the inner life. It is well-written and shows a well cultivated and reflecting mind. I had a pleasant conversation with Mr. Taylor on the book this morning before breakfast, he having read it lately.

With Talfourd’s Volume, I was exceedingly interested. How beautiful the friendship between Charles and Mary. So pure and holy. I feel as if I loved them like old and dear friends. A singular and sad lot was theirs on earth and how nobly born. I have ever felt deep interest in their history from the first time I knew aught of Charles Lamb and his delightful writings, but this work has doubly interested me. Their sad lot at times, made me shed bitter tears as I read. I feel now as if I must read again all his writings. Now that I know and love the man, his writings will have double interest. I shall enter into all his feelings and thoughts and understand them as I never could before. I feel that they will be indeed to me like the writings of some loved friend.

I have just been looking at my Willie who stands naked in his tub; he is in fine glee, eyes bright, cheeks all rose, certainly Cupid never looked more bewitching; his little tongue is going as fast as possible. Willie is very, very good. Williams and myself both came to the conclusion last evening while walking on deck that he was a good as any child need to be. He is as full of life, spirits, fun and frolic as can be, and he loves to do little mischievous things but nothing that is ugly or naughty. It has been a great thing for Willie thus constantly to have been under his parents’ care; he is ever with us. We let him enjoy all that he can and encourage him to make the most of everything, talk with him, play with him in every way we can think of and also with his playthings. When he is inclined we enter into all his little pursuits; make cows, horses, etc. with and for him and in return the little fellow feels that we are his own dear parents, his companions and playmates and his blessed and dearest friends. Not all the little children of Macao could entice him from me when I came among them and thus may it ever be. May his parents be his first, dearest and most confidential friends. May his thoughts, feelings and wishes ever be fully told to his mother. It is my wish and intention ever thus to enter into his occupations and pursuits and as he grows older we will read and study together with how much pleasure. I look forward to superintending the early part of his education.

I have ever endeavored to make him observant and call forth his love of the beautiful and I have ever, even from his infancy, met with a response. When no more than eight, indeed seven, months he loved to look at the moon and stars and would clap his little hands with glee to see them. I shall never forget my taking him out on the terrace the first time we visited China to see the full moon. It was August and he but 9 months. Owing to the long afternoons the little fellow had not seen this moon, but this evening his Amah had kept him out longer than usual and l kept him up on purpose a little longer. Mrs. Williams and several others were out on the terrace at the time I carried him out in my arms. They hardly knew what to think when they saw a baby stretch out his arms towards the moon and say “pretty, pretty moon”. He was delighted and would not take his eyes from the moon till I carried him in the house. I was told to make up my mind to the child’s being a poet; for one he certainly would be. Content shall I be if he is a noble and grand one – one to rank with the first, sorry if otherwise.

Willie’s great love for stories does not abate one jot. Indeed he loves them better than ever. I remember for him those I loved in childhood. I make stories out of what I read for him and describe beautiful scenes to him. He loves them all and hears more or less of them every day. When I describe scenes to him such as the Falls of Niagara, etc., the little fellow listens most intensely; looks as if he almost saw them in imagination, then says “Mamma and Willie will go there when Willie is a big boy”. “Why Willie?” “Because Willie wants to see them”. I really believe if the little fellow were to see them now they would make an impression that a hundred years could not efface.

Last Sunday I wrote a long letter to Georgie. I must now write John Cobb and Mr. Morgan.

Mary seems quite to have recovered her good nature and is indeed quite pleasant. I trust she now understands why and the spirit in which I spoke to her. It would all be right and pleasant if it were not for some intolerably impudent things she said in what I suppose was anger. When I told Williams, he was most indignant and said I ought not to forgive till she made an apology. However, I do not think she has any idea of doing so and I should be sorry if (which I much doubt) she is inclined to remain with me to send her away. If she leaves me and I take another voyage, I think I shall content myself with my Chinese boy to run after Willie.

November 16, 1853

St. Helena
Bayard Taylor’s Description of St. Helena
Bayard Taylor’s Description of The Ascent
Bayard Taylor’s Description of The Briars
Bayard Taylor’s Description of Longwood
Bayard Taylor’s Description of The Tomb
The Great Exhibition of 1853

November 16th

At 11 o’clock am we anchored off Jamestown, St. Helena. St. Helena is indeed a rock bound isle. It looks like solid rock as seen from the water. There is not a sign of a beach, the rock rises up precipitously from the water on all sides in many instances to great height – sometimes towering up to peaks, then in some places broken and ragged, looking somewhat like ruined castles. The rock generally is a rich looking brown, altogether it is an exceedingly picturesque looking isle. Jamestown as seen from the water looks very pretty; it is situated in a valley, or rather a ravine, that is so very narrow, hills, high, towering up on either side during its whole length.

“The Briars”, the place of Napoleon’s first residence on the island, is nearly at the head of this valley. This can be seen from a ship when directly opposite the town. At the head of the valley where it is closely enclosed by the hills on either side is a waterfall. The height of the falls is considerable, I know not the number of feet. It looks beautifully, adding much to the picturesqueness of the scene.

Our passengers, Willie, Mary and myself went on shore immediately. Williams, on account of business not being able to accompany us on our excursion. The first thing one sees on landing are the stone walls, cannon, piles of shot, the soldiers, etc. all telling of a fortified place. Fortifications are on the hills on either side, on the right is a steep, dizzy looking ladder leading to the heights above – nothing would have tempted me to mount it. It actually made me dizzy to see the men going up. They say they are going up and down all the time, not only men but women.

As soon as we anchored, Mr. Carroll, an Englishman, our former Commercial Agent, his son and one or two other gentlemen came on board and it was with Mr. Carroll, Jr. that we left the ship. He took us direct to their house where we were introduced to Mr. Kimball our present Commercial Agent and Mr. Carroll, Jr’s two sisters. We were there a half hour or more while the carriage was getting ready. Miss Carroll had just returned from the U.S. where she had been making a visit. She was delighted with all she saw. Mr. Kimball showed me a set of engraving scenes from St. Helena, all connected with Napoleon. There were six. I should liked much to have had them, but two pounds was thought by us all a great price to give for common engravings. Mr. Kimball had been in St. Helena but a short time; was in New York at the opening of great “Exhibition”; spoke of it as being very fine. From what the papers say of its continuance we hope to see it.

Our carriage was announced; there was room for four. Mr. Taylor, under whose particular care we had been placed, rode with us. Mr. Parkman was on horseback. Mr. Contee did not accompany us, he having been already twice at St. Helena and visited all its scenes.

The whole island of St. Helena is broken up into hills, valleys and ravines. Longwood is situated on very high land and some five miles from the town. Our ride there was almost a continuous ascent and a very steep one. All the first part of the ride was on the side of the mountain to the left of the town and we had a steep precipice on the one side and a steep ascent on the other. The precipice side of the road was protected by a strong stone parapet some two feet high. The views as we rode along were various and very fine. On account of the steepness of the hill, the road had to wind backwards and forwards, but ever extending farther inland to carry us to the top. We had a fine view of the town, looking right down upon it. It is long and very, very narrow, the houses having much the appearance of wooden boxes – no beauty about them. The barracks were quite extensive and we saw a good many soldiers. The view of the “Briars” is very pleasant and pretty with the closing valley and the delicate waterfall for its background. There are two buildings composing this place, the house where the family lived, and what was called the pavilion where the Emperor had his rooms. I should liked much to have gone over to the house where Napoleon had spent his happiest hours on the island but it was situated on our road but below us; also, it is occupied by a private family.

As we reached the top of this high and steep hill, the view became magnificent. Look where you would, high towering hills with steep sides, beautiful walks and ravines met the eye. Here and there, up and down, a white house would meet the eye with its beautiful garden and cultivated fields. Every spot of earth was made the most of, even if it was but a little isolated place with rock all around. These lovely cultivated spots and valleys looked doubly beautiful and green from the immense rocky frame works with which they were surrounded.

The day was delightful, quite warm in the town and the sun shone hot on us during the first part of our ride, but as we neared the top, the air became cool and fresh. I was glad to put my large shawl round me and wrap my Willie in another. All day the clouds hovered round and hid some of the highest of the mountain tops. One or two magnificent scenes reminded Mr. Taylor strongly of Switzerland; and then, as another bend of the road brought to our view another set of high hills or mountains as the others, all broken up into hills and valleys, he exclaimed how like the hills round the Dead Sea, and this he said again and again as we rode onward.

No vegetation was seen on their sides, they looked old and seared. But I must not forget the flowers on our roadsides, nearly the whole ride we had quantities and of quite a variety. Wherever there was earth, there were flowers plenty, and several kinds seem to grow on the very rock itself. There was quantities of the Broom, with its golden flowers, also what we call the “wax plant” at home with its exquisite pinkish white flowers, varieties of cactus plants, some with red flowers, some with white delicately tinged with pink or purple and quantities with an extremely rich purple flower growing in clusters. Also, geraniums in many places lined the roads.

As we approached nearer Longwood, the scenes became exquisitely beautiful. We would look down upon the most beautiful little valleys occasionally with a pretty house most picturesquely situated and then our road would now and then take us through pine groves with little bewitching pathways leading here and there. How I longed for a week’s time to spend in wandering about this interesting island. Just before Longwood came in sight, we had a fine view of the “Tombs” in the valley below us.

My heart failed me as we reached Longwood, much a miserable wretched looking place met our eyes. Before entering the gate, a card was handed us stating under what terms we could visit the place. The door was opened, and we stepped directly into a room. Never can I forget the indescribable feeling that took possession of me. I thought before I landed that I should wander over St. Helena, view its scenery with feelings unlike any I had every felt before. During my ride I had again and again said to myself Napoleon has stood here and regarded again and again this same scene, but the thought did not produce any peculiar feeling. But it was not so when I entered that house. To be sure, it is now uninhabited and defaced, almost a ruin, but even in its best days, what a place to put Napoleon, almost the conqueror of the world; the dweller in magnificent palaces. If it had been a fine house with aught that could have told of even comfort for such a man, perhaps I should have had none of these feelings, but such as they were, I could scarce control them at times. I felt a shot of indignant horror that the great Napoleon had lived and died there.

The first room that we entered was called the “Billiard Room”, a small square room; the next, the room in which he died, which I believe was called the Library. It was very small and narrow; in this room all remains of plaster had vanished and the bare stone walls met the eye on all sides. There was one very small window and the head of Napoleon’s bed rested against this window. A stone from the side of the window just where his head came had been detached and carried to France. While looking at the engraving of this room, Mr. Kimball told me that Frenchmen would stand and weep as they looked upon this place. I did not wonder, as I thought of it while standing there. If I had been alone sure am I that I too would have wept. From this room we passed into the dining room, another small miserable place through which a door opened directly into the yard. A few steps here led us to a door at the side, this also opened directly into a room which was the bedroom of Napoleon. This room was larger than the others and in the corner behind the door General Montholon slept. This room is the only one used and it is used as a stable; when we were there some five or six cows were its occupants.

No care whatsoever is taken of the grounds around. All looks dreary and desolate within and without. We walked to what was called Napoleon’s fish pond, its shape semi-circular. The edges were built up with stone on the little tongue of land in the center. Napoleon used to sit and feed the fish with bread.

The woman proposed that we should go over the house that was built (all called Longwood) for Napoleon by the English Government. It was not finished at the time of his death and, of course, never occupied by him. Why could they not have left him at the “Briars” till this building was complete? There he was patient and comparatively happy, at that wretched building to which they took him, his life was fretted away. I should think every Englishman would feel ashamed when they look upon that place and hate to have strangers go there; for their own sakes, they ought to destroy every vestige of it.

On our way to the new house, which is but a few steps, we encountered a singular looking tree. It is old, the trunk large – after growing a foot or two from the ground, it leans and grows parallel with the ground. Sure was I that Napoleon had oft sat there, perhaps by the hour, with book in hand. Mr. Taylor seemed to think the same, for we both found ourselves standing at the same time on the tree.

The new house at Longwood is situated in a pleasant, sheltered place, the house square and very large, having several rooms on either side. The rooms are large and handsome, each having large double windows, the house has been occupied, but vacant now, and will soon to ruins go unless better care is taken of it. If handsomely furnished and the grounds well taken care of, it would be a charming place. In the bathroom is the same bathing tub that Napoleon used at the other house, the marble with which it had been lined some gentleman had purchased and carried off. There were many flowers round the grounds, and we all picked large bouquets – many of these flowers I have pressed. I have now two large bouquets by my side, one from Longwood, the other from the lovely vale where Napoleon was buried.

It was getting late as we bade adieu to Longwood. We then rode back to where a pathway leads to the Tomb. On the road at this spot is a small tavern called the “Rose and Crown”; here we stopped for a few moments. It was now after half past four, none of us had dinner. I had taken with me for Willie a large cracker. The child demolished it. I inquired for something to eat – bread was all they had in that line. I was but happy to secure a large slice of that for the little fellow, every bit of which he ate.

Willie’s wants, being attended to, we all set off for the Tomb, the carriage going on before to take us up at another place ahead. Our path led us through beautiful grounds situated on the side of a hill, vale – one of the most lovely spots I ever saw, beautiful grassy hills with trees of various kinds scattered over them, rise on three sides. Our path to the tomb wound down the sides of two. The tomb is situated in the middle of this vale and has willows and Italian cypresses extending on either side so as to form nearly a circle round the tomb. There is a common paling surrounding this spot which seems to be under the care of an old colored woman who says she lived nearby in the days of Napoleon. She presented a slate which informed us that we must pay a certain price to gain admittance. We found this old woman very ready to tell us all she knew. Said she used to see Napoleon when he came there to walk; that she always said “good morning, Sir”, but that he never seemed to take any kind of notice of her. She said she would show us how he walked, and onward she strode with her little short, fat person.

She conducted us to the spring called Napoleon’s. It is said that he was very fond of this water and even carried a mug (silver as the old lady most particularly told us) when coming hither, that he might drink of the water. Toward the latter part of his life he would drink no other. Jars were sent here to be filled for his use. The old lady had tumblers and we all drank of the water which was indeed excellent.

The tomb is some 12 to 14 feet deep, I should think, has a railing round it, no covering, with the exception of a cloth thrown over the top. This was removed and we descended by a flight of wooden steps; beneath the steps is where the body lay. The large stone which covered the coffin was removed to France at the same time the body was taken there. Our attention was attracted to a paper hanging against the side of the vault. This contained the ridiculous effusion of some visitor. It was so excessively ridiculous and nonsensical that Mr. Taylor copied it. I also am enriched with a copy.

On ascending the steps, I found Mary and the old woman deep in conversation. “His head lay here, his feet there” were the first words that greeted my ears. During my visit below she had busied herself in picking bouquets for each from within the tomb enclosure, there being about a foot or two of earth on either side within the railing which is crowded with plants, mostly geranium. The old lady handed me a bouquet. “You can press these flowers and leaves in a book” said she “and then you can say that they came from the tomb of Napoleon”. We are cultivating the geranium in pots and I have pressed leaves and flowers both from the tomb, but whether from the advice of the good lady or if my own promptings is unnecessary to say, though I thank her just as much.

While in this beautiful and consecrated spot, I wished many times that I were going to spend a week at St. Helena and that I might visit this place many, many times; I liked to go and lean against the old willow tree that is either dead or dying and from there gaze around me. Certainly, the whole spot looked more lovely when seen from this old tree. I am sure it must have been Napoleon’s favorite resting place. This tree is situated toward the head of the grave, some few feet back. On either side of the grave there are two of the elegant Italian cypresses, also a number of willows. I felt reluctant and sad to leave this beautiful spot, but time passed quickly while here, and we had to take a farewell glance. We left the vale in the opposite direction from which we entered and walked some little distance to join our carriage. Our path wound up to the road above and the view, as we turned again, and again was exquisite.

Our little Willie had enjoyed all things very much and trudged onward unwearied between Mary and myself. It being late, Mr. Taylor offered to carry him as the most expeditious plan and raised Willie up in his arms, but the little fellow resented it as if it were an insult offered him, and insisted upon walking, and hurried along as fast as I could ask of him. Excitement had fatigued me much, and I felt in a quiet mood, so our ride back was quiet. We contented ourselves with remarks on the beautiful views and spots round us and familiarizing our eyes with them.

On reaching the town we met Williams and Mr. Contee walking. They had waited for us about an hour. We drove to Mr. Carroll’s to say farewell and while a box of earth was preparing for our plants, Mr. Carroll accompanied me to the store as I wished much to purchase some needles. Mr. Contee came in pursuit of gloves and the woman presented him with some. “Oh, Mr. Contee,” said I, “those would be enormous for you”, “why,” said he, “so they would, and to tell you the truth I wear ladies’ size, eights are abundantly large”. “Why, certainly” said I. The woman handed him eights and I thought they looked rather small. What his thoughts were, I know not. At any rate, we came away ungloved. Sadly does he need a pair, wearing them always on deck. His are almost rags – if one can speak of gloves that way.

We drove down to the boat and were soon on board our good ship. We had dinner at seven, just after our return, and I slept on the settee all the evening. Half past ten went on deck to take my last look at St. Helena, and then to bed.

November 23, 1853

The Middle Kingdom by S. Wells Williams

November 23rd

We are within a day’s sail of the Equator. The weather is charming, a delightful cool breeze all the time; as yet have not suffered in the least from heat and if we escape calms, it is not likely that we shall.

We all continue to go on in our quiet ways. Our deck which was oiled in China is being planed off. The carpenter has been at work ever since we left St. Helena and it will be two or three days ere he has finished. It is delightful to see it look so white and clean again, but it is a noisy job and I shall be glad when finished. A ship is a very noisy place at times, particularly when the work is going on overhead.

I have not felt quite well for several days; think it is in part owing to the change in the weather.

For the last three days have discontinued Willie’s morning nap. I intended to have kept the habit up till our arrival home, then I know he would find enough to do to pass away the day pleasantly, but his father wished it, and so we have commenced now. Thus far he has found the mornings long and seemed to get tired out before dinner. His occupations and amusements are so much the same day after day. However, he does very well.

Two or three days ago he carried some cakes from the table into my room, broke it up in small pieces and threw it on the floor. I told him to pick it up and give it to me. He hesitated a moment, then looked up in my face (meantime gesticulating with his hands in a most forcible manner), and said, “do you pick them up yourself”. I could not help a smile and could scarce keep from laughing. The young gentleman spoke with such a determined, also theatrical, air. However, I told him if he did not do it, I should have to shut him in the room As he showed no signs of compliance, but only laughed, I left him and shut the door. As I had smiled at his little impertinence, and he had felt inclined to laugh, I hardly knew how he would take the shutting up. As I heard no noise in the room, I opened the door in a minute or two, not knowing but that I might find him in some mischief, but I wronged the little fellow. There he sat on my low bench, his head hanging down, his little face looking very much ashamed and very red. “Come, jump Willie, and give Mama all the pieces of cracker”. He instantly picked them all up and gave them to me and was as good and bright as possible.

Sometimes we have a little exciting conversation. Some days ago at dinnertime, it was about American and English ships. Williams, to my amazement, took the side of English, and had the others against him. He would have it that they built as fine and fast sailing vessels as we. All became considerably excited and in the midst of the talk, Mr. Taylor made a remark which Williams answered by telling him his remark showed he knew nothing about the subject. Mr. Taylor thereon gave a jump and vaulting over the seat, snatched up his hat and went to the deck. Mr. Contee was accused of a want of knowledge, and Williams of obstinacy, and the final remark was made by Mr. Contee as Williams was leaving the Cabin. “That he had never before heard an American express such opinions”. The fact was, I think, that they all got excited, and said more for the two sides than they meant. However, when they next met, all were pleasant but for a day or so, perhaps a little cool. This is one of the evils of a long voyage with a few companions.

Yesterday, another subject was discussed. Williams differed. “Well”, said Mr. Contee, “as a naval officer I should think I ought to know”. The subject was connected with American Consuls in foreign countries. Who was right I know not, but certainly our little naval officer thinks he knows a great deal, and seems to fancy himself somewhat better than those around him. He gives himself airs many and has plenty of little disagreeable ways – many which I think very ungentlemanly. I have wished him back in China more than once.

I find parts of Mr. Williams’ work on China very interesting, none of it as dry as Mr. Contee represented. Yesterday I was much interested with the subject of Chinese education. I rather think no other nation would exhibit father, son and grandson all contending at the same time for the same prize, and on the father’s part, after repeated failures year after year, will they still try for the prize. Some are so old that they die from fatigue and excitement. This intense desire for success in literary studies does not arise from the love of learning itself, for there is little of beauty in their literature to repay them, but the hope of civil advancement. Learning being the great and only stepping stone to power.

In another chapter the Chinese family relation is spoken of: the respect and care taken of age, etc.; the love of children, particularly of sons. They would consider it a dreadful calamity not to have a son to revere the memory of their ancestors and worship at their graves. Large families are common with them; nine families of Chung Kung’s inhabit one house. All these were his descendants and at the table of Chin, seven hundred mouths were daily fed.

Speaking of the cultivation of the land and its various products, Mr. Williams says that it is not known that one acre of land in all the Chinese Empire is sown with grass seed.

In China the stork is considered with the Tortoise and Fir trees – one of the emblems of longevity, and the three are grouped together on visiting cards at New Year’s in a pretty picture implying the wish that there may be many happy returns of the season.

Mr. Williams also speaks of Tibet as connected with the empire. Speaking of their dead, says they are exposed in the same manner as with the Parsees, the bodies of the lama only being burned. It seems to be one of the great objects of this people to prevent their increase as much as possible. The priests and lama are not allowed to marry, and one wife is sufficient for a large family of sons, the elder son has the right of choosing who shall be. In this he consults his fancy as the sexes are not kept apart as in China.

Mr. Williams gives a very interesting account of the Chinese pheasants; they are a magnificent bird. There are the golden and silver pheasants. The prevailing colors of the golden are yellow and red, finely blended with each other in different shades. The silver pheasant is the largest and is more stately in its gait. Its silver back and tail only show the more beautifully in contrast with the steel blue of the breast and belly. It is one of the most splendid birds known. The females of both species present a remarkable contrast by their plainness and humble bearing. The Phasianus Superbus, or bar tailed pheasant, is another magnificent member of the genus, remarkable for the great length of its tail feathers, some have been seen seven feet long; generally they are four feet. Their body is not so large or showy as the silver pheasant, nor so graceful in its movements.

One of the most remarkable of the tribe of monkeys is the Douc or Cochin-China monkey which is also found in Kwangsi, a province of China – one of the eighteen. It is a large species of great rarity and remarkable for the variety of colors with which it is adorned. Its body is about two feet long, and when standing in an upright position, its height is much greater. Its face is of an orange color and flattened in its form. A dark bank runs across the front of the forehead and the sides of the countenance are bordered by long spreading yellowish tufts of hair. The body and upper part of the forearms are brownish grey, the lower portions of the arms to the wrists being white. Its hands and thighs are black and the legs of a bright red color; while the tail and a large triangular spot above it, are pure white.

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