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Clay and Langham left MacWilliams and Stuart to look after their prisoner, and returned to the Palms, where they dined in state, and made no reference, while the women were present, to the events of the day.
The moon rose late that night, and as Hope watched it, from where she sat at the dinner-table facing the open windows, she saw the figure of a man standing outlined in silhouette upon the edge of the cliff. He was dressed in the uniform of a sailor, and the moonlight played along the barrel of a rifle upon which he leaned, motionless and menacing, like a sentry on a rampart.
Hope opened her lips to speak, and then closed them again, and smiled with pleasurable excitement. A moment later King, who sat on her right, called one of the servants to his side and whispered some instructions, pointing meanwhile at the wine upon the table. And a minute after, Hope saw the white figure of the servant cross the garden and approach the sentinel. She saw the sentry fling his gun sharply to his hip, and then, after a moment's parley, toss it up to his shoulder and disappear from sight among the plants of the garden.
The men did not leave the table with the ladies, as was their custom, but remained in the dining-room, and drew their chairs closer together.
Mr. Langham would not believe that the downfall of the Government was as imminent as the others believed it to be. It was only after much argument, and with great reluctance, that he had even allowed King to arm half of his crew, and to place them on guard around the Palms. Clay warned him that in the disorder that followed every successful revolution, the homes of unpopular members of the Cabinet were often burned, and that he feared, should Mendoza succeed, and Alvarez fall, that the mob might possibly vent its victorious wrath on the Palms because it was the home of the alien, who had, as they thought, robbed the country of the iron mines. Mr. Langham said he did not think the people would tramp five miles into the country seeking vengeance.
There was an American man-of-war lying in the harbor of Truxillo, a seaport of the republic that bounded Olancho on the south, and Clay was in favor of sending to her captain by Weimer, the Consul, and asking him to anchor off Valencia, to protect American interests. The run would take but a few hours, and the sight of the vessel's white hull in the harbor would, he thought, have a salutary effect upon the revolutionists. But Mr. Langham said, firmly, that he would not ask for help until he needed it.
"Well, I'm sorry,'' said Clay. "I should very much like to have that man-of-war here. However, if you say no, we will try to get along without her. But, for the present, I think you had better imagine yourself back in New York, and let us have an entirely free hand. We've gone too far to drop out,'' he went on, laughing at the sight of Mr. Langham's gloomy countenance. "We've got to fight them now. It's against human nature not to do it.''
Mr. Langham looked appealingly at his son and at King.
They both smiled back at him in unanimous disapproval of his policy of non-interference.
"Oh, very well,'' he said, at last. "You gentlemen can go ahead, kill, burn, and destroy if you wish. But, considering the fact that it is my property you are all fighting about, I really think I might have something to say in the matter.'' Mr. Langham gazed about him helplessly, and shook his head.
"My doctor sends me down here from a quiet, happy home,'' he protested, with humorous pathos, "that I may rest and get away from excitement, and here I am with armed men patrolling my garden-paths, with a lot of filibusters plotting at my own dinner-table, and a civil war likely to break out, entirely on my account. And Dr. Winter told me this was the only place that would cure my nervous prostration!''
Hope joined Clay as soon as the men left the dining-room, and beckoned him to the farther end of the veranda. "Well, what is it?'' she said.
"What is what?'' laughed Clay. He seated himself on the rail of the veranda, with his face to the avenue and the driveway leading to the house. They could hear the others from the back of the house, and the voice of young Langham, who was giving an imitation of MacWilliams, and singing with peculiar emphasis, "There is no place like Home, Sweet Home.''
"Why are the men guarding the Palms, and why did you go to the Plaza Bolivar this morning at daybreak? Alice says you left them there. I want to know what it means. I am nearly as old as Ted, and he knows. The men wouldn't tell me.''
"King's men from the 'Vesta'. I saw some of them dodging around in the bushes, and I went to find out what they were doing, and I walked into fifteen of them at your office. They have hammocks swung all over the veranda, and a quick-firing gun made fast to the steps, and muskets stacked all about, just like real soldiers, but they wouldn't tell me why.''
"We'll put you in the carcel,'' said Clay, "if you go spying on our forces. Your father doesn't wish you to know anything about it, but, since you have found it out for yourself, you might as well know what little there is to know. It's the same story. Mendoza is getting ready to start his revolution, or, rather, he has started it.''
"Why don't you stop him?'' asked Hope.
"You are very flattering,'' said Clay. "Even if I could stop him, it's not my business to do it as yet. I have to wait until he interferes with me, or my mines, or my workmen. Alvarez is the man who should stop him, but he is afraid. We cannot do anything until he makes the first move. If I were the President, I'd have Mendoza shot to-morrow morning and declare martial law. Then I'd arrest everybody I didn't like, and levy forced loans on all the merchants, and sail away to Paris and live happy ever after. That's what Mendoza would do if he caught any one plotting against him. And that's what Alvarez should do, too, according to his lights, if he had the courage of his convictions, and of his education. I like to see a man play his part properly, don't you? If you are an emperor, you ought to conduct yourself like one, as our German friend does. Or if you are a prize-fighter, you ought to be a human bulldog. There's no such thing as a gentlemanly pugilist, any more than there can be a virtuous burglar. And if you're a South American Dictator, you can't afford to be squeamish about throwing your enemies into jail or shooting them for treason. The way to dictate is to dictate,--not to hide indoors all day while your wife plots for you.''
"Does she do that?'' asked Hope. "And do you think she will be in danger--any personal danger, if the revolution comes?''
"Well, she is very unpopular,'' Clay answered, "and unjustly so, I think. But it would be better, perhaps, for her if she went as quietly as possible, when she does go.''
"Is our Captain Stuart in danger, too?'' the girl continued, anxiously. "Alice says they put up placards about him all over the city last night. She saw his men tearing them down as she was coming home. What has he done?''
"Nothing,'' Clay answered, shortly. "He happens to be in a false position, that's all. They think he is here because he is not wanted in his own country; that is not so. That is not the reason he remains here. When he was even younger than he is now, he was wild and foolish, and spent more money than he could afford, and lent more money to his brother-officers, I have no doubt, than they ever paid back. He had to leave the regiment because his father wouldn't pay his debts, and he has been selling his sword for the last three years to one or another king or sultan or party all over the world, in China and Madagascar, and later in Siam. I hope you will be very kind to Stuart and believe well of him, and that you will listen to no evil against him. Somewhere in England Stuart has a sister like you--about your age, I mean, that loves him very dearly, and a father whose heart aches for him, and there is a certain royal regiment that still drinks his health with pride. He is a lonely little chap, and he has no sense of humor to help him out of his difficulties, but he is a very brave gentleman. And he is here fighting for men who are not worthy to hold his horse's bridle, because of a woman. And I tell you this because you will hear many lies about him--and about her. He serves her with the same sort of chivalric devotion that his ancestors felt for the woman whose ribbons they tied to their lances, and for whom they fought in the lists.''
"I understand,'' Hope said, softly. "I am glad you told me. I shall not forget.'' She sighed and shook her head. "I wish they'd let you manage it for them,'' she said.
Clay laughed. "I fear my executive ability is not of so high an order; besides, as I haven't been born to it, my conscience might trouble me if I had to shoot my enemies and rob the worthy merchants. I had better stick to digging holes in the ground. That is all I seem to be good for.''
Hope looked up at him, quickly, in surprise.
"What do you mean by that?'' she demanded. There was a tone of such sharp reproach in her voice that Clay felt himself put on the defensive.
"I mean nothing by it,'' he said. "Your sister and I had a talk the other day about a man's making the best of himself, and it opened my eyes to--to many things. It was a very healthy lesson.''
"It could not have been a very healthy lesson,'' Hope replied, severely, "if it makes you speak of your work slightingly, as you did then. That didn't sound at all natural, or like you. It sounded like Alice. Tell me, did Alice say that?''
The pleasure of hearing Hope take his part against himself was so comforting to Clay that he hesitated in answering in order to enjoy it the longer. Her enthusiasm touched him deeply, and he wondered if she were enthusiastic because she was young, or because she was sure she was right, and that he was in the wrong.
"It started this way,'' Clay began, carefully. He was anxious to be quite fair to Miss Langham, but he found it difficult to give her point of view correctly, while he was hungering for a word that would re-establish him in his own good opinion. "Your sister said she did not think very much of what I had done, but she explained kindly that she hoped for better things from me. But what troubles me is, that I will never do anything much better or very different in kind from the work I have done lately, and so I am a bit discouraged about it in consequence. You see,'' said Clay, "when I come to die, and they ask me what I have done with my ten fingers, I suppose I will have to say, 'Well, I built such and such railroads, and I dug up so many tons of ore, and opened new countries, and helped make other men rich.' I can't urge in my behalf that I happen to have been so fortunate as to have gained the good-will of yourself or your sister. That is quite reason enough to me, perhaps, for having lived, but it might not appeal to them. I want to feel that I have accomplished something outside of myself--something that will remain after I go. Even if it is only a breakwater or a patent coupling. When I am dead it will not matter to any one what I personally was, whether I was a bore or a most charming companion, or whether I had red hair or blue. It is the work that will tell. And when your sister, whose judgment is the judgment of the outside world, more or less, says that the work is not worth while, I naturally feel a bit discouraged. It meant so much to me, and it hurt me to find it meant so little to others.''
Hope remained silent for some time, but the rigidity of her attitude, and the tightness with which she pressed her lips together, showed that her mind was deeply occupied. They both sat silent for some few moments, looking down toward the distant lights of the city. At the farther end of the double row of bushes that lined the avenue they could see one of King's sentries passing to and fro across the roadway, a long black shadow on the moonlit road.
"You are very unfair to yourself,'' the girl said at last, "and Alice does not represent the opinion of the world, only of a very small part of it--her own little world. She does not know how little it is. And you are wrong as to what they will ask you at the end. What will they care whether you built railroads or painted impressionist pictures? They will ask you 'What have you made of yourself? Have you been fine, and strong, and sincere?' That is what they will ask. And we like you because you are all of these things, and because you look at life so cheerfully, and are unafraid. We do not like men because they build railroads, or because they are prime ministers. We like them for what they are themselves. And as to your work!'' Hope added, and then paused in eloquent silence. "I think it is a grand work, and a noble work, full of hardships and self-sacrifices. I do not know of any man who has done more with his life than you have done with yours.'' She stopped and controlled her voice before she spoke again. "You should be very proud,'' she said.
Clay lowered his eyes and sat silent, looking down the roadway. The thought that the girl felt what she said so deeply, and that the fact that she had said it meant more to him than anything else in the world could mean, left him thrilled and trembling. He wanted to reach out his hand and seize both of hers, and tell her how much she was to him, but it seemed like taking advantage of the truths of a confessional, or of a child's innocent confidences.
"No, Miss Hope,'' he answered, with an effort to speak lightly, "I wish I could believe you, but I know myself better than any one else can, and I know that while my bridges may stand examination--I can't.''
Hope turned and looked at him with eyes full of such sweet meaning that he was forced to turn his own away.
"I could trust both, I think,'' the girl said.
Clay drew a quick, deep breath, and started to his feet, as though he had thrown off the restraint under which he had held himself.
It was not a girl, but a woman who had spoken then, but, though he turned eagerly toward her, he stood with his head bowed, and did not dare to read the verdict in her eyes.
The clatter of horses' hoofs coming toward them at a gallop broke in rudely upon the tense stillness of the moment, but neither noticed it. "How far,'' Clay began, in a strained voice, "how far,'' he asked, more steadily, "could you trust me?''
Hope's eyes had closed for an instant, and opened again, and she smiled upon him with a look of perfect confidence and content. The beat of the horses' hoofs came now from the end of the driveway, and they could hear the men at the rear of the house pushing back their chairs and hurrying toward them. Hope raised her head, and Clay moved toward her eagerly. The horses were within a hundred yards. Before Hope could speak, the sentry's voice rang out in a hoarse, sharp challenge, like an alarm of fire on the silent night. "Halt!'' they heard him cry. And as the horses tore past him, and their riders did not turn to look, he shouted again, "Halt, damn you!'' and fired. The flash showed a splash of red and yellow in the moonlight, and the report started into life hundreds of echoes which carried it far out over the waters of the harbor, and tossed it into sharp angles, and distant corners, and in an instant a myriad of sounds answered it; the frightened cry of night-birds, the barking of dogs in the village below, and the footsteps of men running.
Clay glanced angrily down the avenue, and turned beseechingly to Hope.
"Go,'' she said. "See what is wrong,'' and moved away as though she already felt that he could act more freely when she was not near him.
The two horses fell back on their haunches before the steps, and MacWilliams and Stuart tumbled out of their saddles, and started, running back on foot in the direction from which the shot had come, tugging at their revolvers.
"Come back,'' Clay shouted to them. "That's all right. He was only obeying orders. That's one of King's sentries.''
"Oh, is that it?'' said Stuart, in matter-of-fact tones, as he turned again to the house. "Good idea. Tell him to fire lower next time. And, I say,'' he went on, as he bowed curtly to the assembled company on the veranda, "since you have got a picket out, you had better double it. And, Clay, see that no one leaves here without permission--no one. That's more important, even, than keeping them out.''
"King, will you--'' Clay began.
"All right, General,'' laughed King, and walked away to meet his sailors, who came running up the hill in great anxiety.
MacWilliams had not opened his lips, but he was bristling with importance, and his effort to appear calm and soldierly, like Stuart, told more plainly than speech that he was the bearer of some invaluable secret. The sight filled young Langham with a disquieting fear that he had missed something.
Stuart looked about him, and pulled briskly at his gauntlets. King and his sailors were grouped together on the grass before the house. Mr. Langham and his daughters, and Clay, were standing on the steps, and the servants were peering around the corners of the house.
Stuart saluted Mr. Langham, as though to attract his especial attention, and then addressed himself in a low tone to Clay.
"It's come,'' he said. "We've been in it since dinner-time, and we've got a whole night's work cut out for you.'' He was laughing with excitement, and paused for a moment to gain breath. "I'll tell you the worst of it first. Mendoza has sent word to Alvarez that he wants the men at the mines to be present at the review to-morrow. He says they must take part. He wrote a most insolent letter. Alvarez got out of it by saying that the men were under contract to you, and that you must give your permission first. Mendoza sent me word that if you would not let the men come, he would go out and fetch them in him self.''
"Indeed!'' growled Clay. "Kirkland needs those men to-morrow to load ore-cars for Thursday's steamer. He can't spare them. That is our answer, and it happens to be a true one, but if it weren't true, if to-morrow was All Saints' Day, and the men had nothing to do but to lie in the sun and sleep, Mendoza couldn't get them. And if he comes to take them to-morrow, he'll have to bring his army with him to do it. And he couldn't do it then, Mr. Langham,'' Clay cried, turning to that gentleman, "if I had better weapons. The five thousand dollars I wanted you to spend on rifles, sir, two months ago, might have saved you several millions to-morrow.''
Clay's words seemed to bear some special significance to Stuart and MacWilliams, for they both laughed, and Stuart pushed Clay up the steps before him.
"Come inside,'' he said. "That is why we are here. MacWilliams has found out where Burke hid his shipment of arms. We are going to try and get them to-night.'' He hurried into the dining-room, and the others grouped themselves about the table. "Tell them about it, MacWilliams,'' Stuart commanded. "I will see that no one overhears you.''
MacWilliams was pushed into Mr. Langham's place at the head of the long table, and the others dragged their chairs up close around him. King put the candles at the opposite end of the table, and set some decanters and glasses in the centre. "To look as though we were just enjoying ourselves,'' he explained, pleasantly.
Mr. Langham, with his fine, delicate fingers beating nervously on the table, observed the scene as an on-looker, rather than as the person chiefly interested. He smiled as he appreciated the incongruity of the tableau, and the contrast which the actors presented to the situation. He imagined how much it would amuse his contemporaries of the Union Club, at home, if they could see him then, with the still, tropical night outside, the candles reflected on the polished table and on the angles of the decanters, and showing the intent faces of the young girls and the men leaning eagerly forward around MacWilliams, who sat conscious and embarrassed, his hair dishevelled, and his face covered with dust, while Stuart paced up and down in the shadow, his sabre clanking as he walked.
"Well, it happened like this,'' MacWilliams began, nervously, and addressing himself to Clay. "Stuart and I put Burke safely in a cell by himself. It was one of the old ones that face the street. There was a narrow window in it, about eight feet above the floor, and no means of his reaching it, even if he stood on a chair. We stationed two troopers before the door, and sent out to a cafe' across the street for our dinners. I finished mine about nine o'clock, and said 'Good night' to Stuart, and started to come out here. I went across the street first, however, to give the restaurant man some orders about Burke's breakfast. It is a narrow street, you know, with a long garden-wall and a row of little shops on one side, and with the jail-wall taking up all of the other side. The street was empty when I left the jail, except for the sentry on guard in front of it, but just as I was leaving the restaurant I saw one of Stuart's police come out and peer up and down the street and over at the shops. He looked frightened and anxious, and as I wasn't taking chances on anything, I stepped back into the restaurant and watched him through the window. He waited until the sentry had turned his back, and started away from him on his post, and then I saw him drop his sabre so that it rang on the sidewalk. He was standing, I noticed then, directly under the third window from the door of the jail. That was the window of Burke's cell. When I grasped that fact I got out my gun and walked to the door of the restaurant. Just as I reached it a piece of paper shot out through the bars of Burke's cell and fell at the policeman's feet, and he stamped his boot down on it and looked all around again to see if any one had noticed him. I thought that was my cue, and I ran across the street with my gun pointed, and shouted to him to give me the paper. He jumped about a foot when he first saw me, but he was game, for he grabbed up the paper and stuck it in his mouth and began to chew on it. I was right up on him then, and I hit him on the chin with my left fist and knocked him down against the wall, and dropped on him with both knees and choked him till I made him spit out the paper--and two teeth,'' MacWilliams added, with a conscientious regard for details. "The sentry turned just then and came at me with his bayonet, but I put my finger to my lips, and that surprised him, so that he didn't know just what to do, and hesitated. You see, I didn't want Burke to hear the row outside, so I grabbed my policeman by the collar and pointed to the jail-door, and the sentry ran back and brought out Stuart and the guard. Stuart was pretty mad when he saw his policeman all bloody. He thought it would prejudice his other men against us, but I explained out loud that the man had been insolent, and I asked Stuart to take us both to his private room for a hearing, and, of course, when I told him what had happened, he wanted to punch the chap, too. We put him ourselves into a cell where he could not communicate with any one, and then we read the paper. Stuart has it,'' said MacWilliams, pushing back his chair, "and he'll tell you the rest.'' There was a pause, in which every one seemed to take time to breathe, and then a chorus of questions and explanations.
King lifted his glass to MacWilliams, and nodded.
" 'Well done, Condor,' '' he quoted, smiling.
"Yes,'' said Clay, tapping the younger man on the shoulder as he passed him. "That's good work. Now show us the paper, Stuart.''
Stuart pulled the candles toward him, and spread a slip of paper on the table.
"Burke did this up in one of those paper boxes for wax matches,'' he explained, "and weighted it with a twenty- dollar gold piece. MacWilliams kept the gold piece, I believe.''
"Going to use it for a scarf-pin,'' explained MacWilliams, in parenthesis. "Sort of war-medal, like the Chief's,'' he added, smiling.
"This is in Spanish,'' Stuart explained. "I will translate it. It is not addressed to any one, and it is not signed, but it was evidently written to Mendoza, and we know it is in Burke's handwriting, for we compared it with some notes of his that we took from him before he was locked up. He says, 'I cannot keep the appointment, as I have been arrested.' The line that follows here,'' Stuart explained, raising his head, "has been scratched out, but we spent some time over it, and we made out that it read: 'It was Mr. Clay who recognized me, and ordered my arrest. He is the best man the others have. Watch him.' We think he rubbed that out through good feeling toward Clay. There seems to be no other reason. He's a very good sort, this old Burke, I think.''
"Well, never mind him; it was very decent of him, anyway,'' said Clay. "Go on. Get to Hecuba.''
" 'I cannot keep the appointment, as I have been arrested,' '' repeated Stuart. " 'I landed the goods last night in safety. I could not come in when first signalled, as the wind and tide were both off shore. But we got all the stuff stored away by morning. Your agent paid me in full and got my receipt. Please consider this as the same thing--as the equivalent'--it is difficult to translate it exactly,'' commented Stuart--" 'as the equivalent of the receipt I was to have given when I made my report to-night. I sent three of your guards away on my own responsibility, for I think more than that number might attract attention to the spot, and they might be seen from the ore- trains.' That is the point of the note for us, of course,'' Stuart interrupted himself to say. "Burke adds,'' he went on, " 'that they are to make no effort to rescue him, as he is quite comfortable, and is willing to remain in the carcel until they are established in power.' ''
"Within sight of the ore-trains!'' exclaimed Clay. "There are no ore-trains but ours. It must be along the line of the road.''
"MacWilliams says he knows every foot of land along the railroad,'' said Stuart, "and he is sure the place Burke means is the old fortress on the Platta inlet, because--''
"It is the only place,'' interrupted MacWilliams, "where there is no surf. They could run small boats up the inlet and unload in smooth water within twenty feet of the ramparts; and another thing, that is the only point on the line with a wagon road running direct from it to the Capital. It's an old road, and hasn't been travelled over for years, but it could be used. No,'' he added, as though answering the doubt in Clay's mind, "there is no other place. If I had a map here I could show you in a minute; where the beach is level there is a jungle between it and the road, and wherever there is open country, there is a limestone formation and rocks between it and the sea, where no boat could touch.''
"But the fortress is so conspicuous,'' Clay demurred; "the nearest rampart is within twenty feet of the road. Don't you remember we measured it when we thought of laying the double track?''
"That is just what Burke says,'' urged Stuart. "That is the reason he gives for leaving only three men on guard--'I think more than that number might attract attention to the spot, as they might be seen from the ore-trains.' ''
"Have you told any one of this?'' Clay asked. "What have you done so far?''
"We've done nothing,'' said Stuart. "We lost our nerve when we found out how much we knew, and we decided we'd better leave it to you.''
"Whatever we do must be done at once,'' said Clay. "They will come for the arms to-night, most likely, and we must be there first. I agree with you entirely about the place. It is only a question now of our being on time. There are two things to do. The first thing is, to keep them from getting the arms, and the second is, if we are lucky, to secure them for ourselves. If we can pull it off properly, we ought to have those rifles in the mines before midnight. If we are hurried or surprised, we must dump them off the fort into the sea.'' Clay laughed and looked about him at the men. "We are only following out General Bolivar's saying 'When you want arms take them from the enemy.' Now, there are three places we must cover. This house, first of all,'' he went on, inclining his head quickly toward the two sisters, "then the city, and the mines. Stuart's place, of course, is at the Palace. King must take care of this house and those in it, and MacWilliams and Langham and I must look after the arms. We must organize two parties, and they had better approach the fort from here and from the mines at the same time. I will need you to do some telegraphing for me, Mac; and, King, I must ask you for some more men from the yacht. How many have you?''
King answered that there were fifteen men still on board, ten of whom would be of service. He added that they were all well equipped for fighting.
"I believe King's a pirate in business hours,'' Clay said, smiling. "All right, that's good. Now go tell ten of them to meet me at the round-house in half an hour. I will get MacWilliams to telegraph Kirkland to run an engine and flat cars to within a half mile of the fort on the north, and we will come up on it with the sailors and Ted, here, from the south. You must run the engine yourself, MacWilliams, and perhaps it would be better, King, if your men joined us at the foot of the grounds here and not at the round-house. None of the workmen must see our party start. Do you agree with me?'' he asked, turning to those in the group about him. "Has anybody any criticism to make?''
Stuart and King looked at one another ruefully and laughed. "I don't see what good I am doing in town,'' protested Stuart. "Yes, and I don't see where I come in, either,'' growled King, in aggrieved tones. "These youngsters can't do it all; besides I ought to have charge of my own men.''
"Mutiny,'' said Clay, in some perplexity, "rank mutiny. Why, it's only a picnic. There are but three men there. We don't need sixteen white men to frighten off three Olanchoans.''
"I'll tell you what to do,'' cried Hope, with the air of having discovered a plan which would be acceptable to every one, "let's all go.''
"Well, I certainly mean to go,'' said Mr. Langham, decidedly. "So some one else must stay here. Ted, you will have to look after your sisters.''
The son and heir smiled upon his parent with a look of affectionate wonder, and shook his head at him in fond and pitying disapproval.
"I'll stay,'' said King. "I have never seen such ungallant conduct. Ladies,'' he said, "I will protect your lives and property, and we'll invent something exciting to do ourselves, even if we have to bombard the Capital.''
The men bade the women good-night, and left them with King and Mr. Langham, who had been persuaded to remain overnight, while Stuart rode off to acquaint Alvarez and General Rojas with what was going on.
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