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    The Lost Palace

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    Chapter 5
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    [From the Ingham Papers.]

    "Passengers for Philadelphia and New York will change cars."

    This annoying and astonishing cry was loudly made in the palace-car "City of Thebes," at Pittsburg, just as the babies were well asleep, and all the passengers adapting themselves to a quiet evening.

    "Impossible!" said I, mildly, to the "gentlemanly conductor," who beamed before me in the majesty of gilt lace on his cap, and the embroidered letters P. P. C. These letters do not mean, as in French, "to take leave," for the peculiarity of this man is, that he does not leave you till your journey's end: they mean, in American, "Pullman's Palace Car." "Impossible!" said I; "I bought my ticket at Chicago through to Philadelphia, with the assurance that the palace-car would go through. This lady has done the same for herself and her children. Nay, if you remember, you told me yourself that the 'City of Thebes' was built for the Philadelphia service, and that I need not move my hat, unless I wished, till we were there."

    The man did not blush, but answered, in the well- mannered tone of a subordinate used to obey,

    Here are my orders, sir; telegram just received here from headquarters: '"City of Thebes" is to go to Baltimore.' Another palace here, sir, waiting for you." And so we were trans-shipped into such chairs and berths as might have been left in this other palace, as not wanted by anybody in the great law of natural selection; and the "City of Thebes" went to Baltimore, I suppose. The promises which had been made to us when we bought our tickets went to their place, and the people who made them went to theirs.

    Except for this little incident, of which all my readers have probably experienced the like in these days of travel, the story I am now to tell would have seemed to me essentially improbable. But so soon as I reflected, that, in truth, these palaces go hither, go thither, controlled or not, as it may be, by some distant bureau, the story recurred to me as having elements of vraisemblance which I had not noticed before. Having occasion, nearly at the same time, to inquire at the Metropolitan station in Boston for a lost shawl which had been left in a certain Brookline car, the gentlemanly official told me that he did not know where that car was; he had not heard of it for several days. This again reminded me of "The Lost Palace." Why should not one palace, more or less, go astray, when there are thousands to care for? Indeed had not Mr. Firth told me, at the Albany, that the worst difficulty in the administration of a strong railway is, that they cannot call their freight-cars home? They go astray on the line of some weaker sister, which finds it convenient to use them till they begin to show a need for paint or repairs. If freight-cars disappear, why not palaces? So the story seems to me of more worth, and I put it upon paper.

    It was on my second visit to Melbourne that I heard it. It was late at night, in the coffee-room of the Auckland Arms, rather an indifferent third-class house, in a by-street in that city, to which, in truth, I should not have gone had my finances been on a better scale than they were. I laid down, at last, an old New York "Herald," which the captain of the "Osprey" had given me that morning, and which, in the hope of home-news, I had read and read again to the last syllable of the "Personals." I put down the paper as one always puts down an American paper in a foreign land, saying to myself, "Happy is that nation whose history is unwritten." At that moment Sir Roger Tichborne, who had been talking with an intelligent-looking American on the other side of the table, stretched his giant form, and said he believed he would play a game of billiards before he went to bed. He left us alone; and the American crossed the room, and addressed me.

    "You are from Massachusetts, are you not?" said he. I said I had lived in that State.

    "Good State to come from," said he. "I was there myself for three or four months,--four months and ten days precisely. Did not like it very well; did not like it. At least I liked it well enough: my wife did not like it; she could not get acquainted."

    "Does she get acquainted here?" said I, acting on a principle which I learned from Scipio Africanus at the Latin School, and so carrying the war into the enemy's regions promptly. That is to say, I saw I must talk with this man, and I preferred to have him talk of his own concerns rather than of mine.

    "O sir, I lost her,--I lost her ten years ago! Lived in New Altoona then. I married this woman the next autumn, in Vandalia. Yes, Mrs. Joslyn is very well satisfied here. She sees a good deal of society, and enjoys very good health."

    I said that most people did who were fortunate enough to have it to enjoy. But Mr. Joslyn did not understand this bitter sarcasm, far less resent it. He went on, with sufficient volubility, to give to me his impressions of the colony,--of the advantages it would derive from declaring its independence, and then from annexing itself to the United States. At the end of one of his periods, goaded again to say something, I asked why he left his own country for a "colony," if he so greatly preferred the independent order of government.

    Mr. Joslyn looked round somewhat carefully, shut the door of the room in which we were now alone,--and were likely, at that hour of the night, to be alone,--and answered my question at length, as the reader will see.

    "Did you ever hear of the lost palace?" said he a little anxiously.

    I said, no; that, with every year or two, I heard that Mr. Layard had found a palace at Nineveh, but that I had never heard of one's being lost.

    "They don't tell of it, sir. Sometimes I think they do not know themselves. Does not that seem possible?" And the poor man repeated this question with such eagerness, that, in spite of my anger at being bored by him, my heart really warmed toward him. "I really think they do not know. I have never seen one word in the papers about it. Now, they would have put something in the papers,--do you not think they would? If they knew it themselves, they would."

    "Knew what?" said I, really startled out of my determination to snub him.

    "Knew where the palace is,--knew how it was lost."

    By this time, of course, I supposed he was crazy. But a minute more dispelled that notion; and I beg the reader to relieve his mind from it. This man knew perfectly well what he was talking about, and never, in the whole narration, showed any symptom of mania,--a matter on which I affect to speak with the intelligence of the "experts" indeed.

    After a little of this fencing with each other, in which he satisfied himself that my ignorance was not affected, he took a sudden resolution, as if it were a relief to him to tell me the whole story.

    "It was years on years ago," said he. "It was when they first had palaces."

    Still thinking of Nimrod's palace and Priam's, I said that must have been a great while ago.

    "Yes, indeed," said he. "You would not call them palaces now, since you have seen Pullman's and Wagner's. But we called them palaces then. So many looking- glasses, you know, and tapestry carpets and gold spit- boxes. Ours was the first line that run palaces."

    I asked myself, mentally, of what metal were the spit-boxes in Semiramis's palace; but I said nothing.

    "Our line was the first line that had them. We were running our lightning express on the 'Great Alleghanian.' We were in opposition to everybody, made close connections, served supper on board, and our passengers only were sure of the night-boat at St. Louis. Those were the days of river-boats, you know. We introduced the palace feature on the railroad; and very successful it was. I was an engineer. I had a first-rate character, and the best wages of any man on the line. Never put me on a dirt-dragger or a lazy freight loafer, I tell you. No, sir! I ran the expresses, and nothing else, and lay off two days in the week, besides. I don't think I should have thought of it but for Todhunter, who was my palace conductor."

    Again this IT, which bad appeared so mysteriously in what the man said before. I asked no question, but listened, really interested now, in the hope I should find out what IT was; and this the reader will learn. He went on, in a hurried way:--

    "Todhunter was my palace conductor. One night he was full, and his palace was hot, and smelled bad of whale- oil. We did not burn petroleum then. Well, it was a splendid full moon in August; and we were coming down grade, making up the time we had lost at the Brentford junction. Seventy miles an hour she ran if she ran one. Todhunter had brought his cigar out on the tender, and was sitting by me. Good Lord! it seems like last week.

    "Todhunter says to me, 'Joslyn,' says he, 'what's the use of crooking all round these valleys, when it would be so easy to go across?' You see, we were just beginning to crook round, so as to make that long bend there is at Chamoguin; but right across the valley we could see the stern lights of Fisher's train: it was not more than half a mile away, but we should run eleven miles before we came there."

    I knew what Mr. Joslyn meant. To cross the mountain ranges by rail, the engineers are obliged to wind up one side of a valley, and then, boldly crossing the head of the ravine on a high arch, to wind up the other side still, so that perhaps half an hour's journey is consumed, while not a mile of real distance is made. Joslyn took out his pencil, and on the back of an envelope drew a little sketch of the country; which, as it happened, I still preserve, and which, with his comments, explains his whole story completely. "Here we are," said he. "This black line is the Great Alleghanian,--double track, seventy pounds to the yard; no figuring off there, I tell you. This was a good straight run, down grade a hundred and seventy-two feet on the mile. There, where I make this X, we came on the Chamoguin Valley, and turned short, nearly north. So we ran wriggling about till Drums here, where we stopped if they showed lanterns,--what we call a flag- station. But there we got across the valley, and worked south again to this other X, which was, as I say, not five-eighths of a mile from this X above, though it had taken us eleven miles to get there."

    He had said it was not more than half a mile; but this half-mile grew to five-eighths as he became more accurate and serious.

    "Well," said he, now resuming the thread of his story, "it was Todhunter put it into my head. He owns he did. Todhunter says, says he, 'Joslyn, what's the use of crooking round all these valleys, when it would be so easy to go across?'

    "Well, sir, I saw it then, as clear as I see it now. When that trip was done, I had two days to myself,--one was Sunday,--and Todhunter had the same; and he came round to my house. His wife knew mine, and we liked them. Well, we fell talking about it; and I got down the Cyclopaedia, and we found out there about the speed of cannon-balls, and the direction they had to give them. You know this was only talk then; we never thought what would come of it; but very curious it all was."

    And here Mr. Joslyn went into a long mathematical talk, with which I will not harass the reader, perfectly sure, from other experiments which I have tried with other readers, that this reader would skip it all if it were written down. Stated very briefly, it amounted to this: In the old-fashioned experiments of those days, a cannon-ball travelled four thousand and one hundred feet in nine seconds. Now, Joslyn was convinced, like every other engineman I ever talked to, that on a steep down-grade he could drive a train at the rate of a hundred miles an hour. This is thirteen hundred and fourteen feet in nine seconds,--almost exactly one-third of the cannon-ball's velocity. At those rates, if the valley at Chamoguin were really but five-eighths of a mile wide, the cannon-ball would cross it in seven or eight seconds, and the train in about twenty-three seconds. Both Todhunter and Joslyn were good enough mechanics and machinists to know that the rate for thirty-three hundred feet, the width of the valley, was not quite the same as that for four thousand feet; for which, in their book, they had the calculations and formulas; but they also knew that the difference was to their advantage, or the advantage of the bold experiment which had occurred to both of them when Todhunter had made on the tender his very critical suggestion.

    The reader has already conceived the idea of this experiment. These rash men were wondering already whether it were not possible to leap an engine flying over the Chamoguin ravine, as Eclipse or Flying Childers might have leaped the brook at the bottom of it. Joslyn believed implicitly, as I found in talk with him, the received statement of conversation, that Eclipse, at a single bound, sprang forty feet. "If Eclipse, who weighed perhaps one thousand two hundred, would spring forty feet, could not my train, weighing two hundred tons, spring a hundred times as far?" asked he triumphantly. At least, he said that he said this to Todhunter. They went into more careful studies of projectiles, to see if it could or could not.

    The article on "Gunnery" gave them just one of those convenient tables which are the blessing of wise men and learned men, and which lead half-trained men to their ruin. They found that for their "range," which was, as they supposed, eleven hundred yards, the elevation of a forty-two pounder was one degree and a third; of a nine- pounder, three degrees. The elevation for a railway train, alas! no man had calculated. But this had occurred to both of them from the beginning. In descending the grade, at the spot where, on his little map, Joslyn made the more westerly X, they were more than eleven hundred feet above the spot where he had made his second, or easterly X. All this descent was to the advantage of the experiment. A gunner would have said that the first X "commanded" the second X, and that a battery there would inevitably silence a battery at the point below.

    "We need not figure on it," said Todhunter, as Mrs. Joslyn called them in to supper. "If we did, we should make a mistake. Give me your papers. When I go up, Monday night, I'll give them to my brother Bill. I shall pass him at Faber's Mills. He has studied all these things, of course; and he will like the fun of making it out for us." So they sat down to Mrs. Joslyn's waffles; and, but for Bill Todhunter, this story would never have been told to me, nor would John Joslyn and "this woman" ever have gone to Australia.

    But Bill Todhunter was one of those acute men of whom the new civilization of this country is raising thousands with every year; who, in the midst of hard hand-work, and a daily duty which to collegians and to the ignorant men among their professors seems repulsive, carry on careful scientific study, read the best results of the latest inquiry, manage to bring together a first-rate library of reference, never spend a cent for liquor or tobacco, never waste an hour at a circus or a ball, but make their wives happy by sitting all the evening, "figuring," one side of the table, while the wife is hemming napkins on the other. All of a sudden, when such a man is wanted, he steps out, and bridges the Gulf of Bothnia; and people wonder, who forget that for two centuries and a half the foresighted men and women of this country have been building up, in the face of the Devil of Selfishness on the one hand, and of the Pope of Rome on the other, a system of popular education, improving every hour.

    At this moment Bill Todhunter was foreman of Repair Section No. II on the "Great Alleghanian,"--a position which needed a man of first-rate promptness, of great resource, of good education in engineering. Such a man had the "Great Alleghanian" found in him, by good luck; and they had promoted him to their hardest-worked and best-paid section,--the section on which, as it happened, was this Chamoguin run, and the long bend which I have described, by which the road "headed" that stream.

    The younger Todhunter did meet his brother at Faber's Mills, where the repair-train had hauled out of the way of the express, and where the express took wood. The brothers always looked for each other on such occasions; and Bill promised to examine the paper which Joslyn had carefully written out, and which his brother brought to him.

    I have never repeated in detail the mass of calculations which Bill Todhunter made on the suggestion thus given to him. If I had, I would not repeat them here, for a reason which has been suggested already. He became fascinated with the problem presented to him. Stated in the language of the craft, it was this:

    Given a moving body, with a velocity eight thousand eight hundred feet in a minute, what should be its elevation that it may fall eleven hundred feet in the transit of five-eighths of a mile?" He had not only to work up the parabola, comparatively simple, but he had to allow for the resistance of the air, on the supposition of a calm, according to the really admirable formulas of Robins and Coulomb, which were the best be had access to. Joslyn brought me, one day, a letter from Bill Todhunter, which shows how carefully he went into this intricate inquiry.

    Unfortunately for them all, it took possession of this spirited and accomplished young man. You see, he not only had the mathematical ability for the calculation of the fatal curve, but, as had been ordered without any effort of his, he was in precisely the situation of the whole world for trying in practice his own great experiment. At each of the two X X of Joslyn's map, the company had, as it happened, switches for repair-trains or wood-trains. Had it not, Bill Todhunter had ample power to make them.

    For the "experiment," all that was necessary was, that under the pretext of re-adjusting these switches, he should lay out that at the upper X so that it should run, on the exact grade which he required, to the western edge of the ravine, in a line which should be the direct continuation of the long, straight run with which the little map begins.

    An engine, then, running down that grade at the immense rapidity practicable there, would take the switch with its full speed, would fly the ravine at precisely the proper slopes, and, if the switch had been rightly aligned, would land on the similar switch at the lower X. It would come down exactly right on the track, as you sit precisely on a chair when you know exactly how high it is.

    "If." And why should it not be rightly aligned, if Bill Todhunter himself aligned it? This he was well disposed to do. He also would align the lower switch, that at the lower X, that it might receive into its willing embrace the engine on its arrival.

    When the bold engineer had conceived this plan, it was he who pushed the others on to it, not they who urged him. They were at work on their daily duty, sometimes did not meet each other for a day or two. Bill Todhunter did not see them more than once in a fortnight. But whenever they did meet, the thing seemed to be taken more and more for granted. At last Joslyn observed one day, as he ran down, that there was a large working-party at the switch above Drums, and he could see Bill Todhunter, in his broad sombrero, directing them all. Joslyn was not surprised, somehow, when he came to the lower switch, to find another working-party there. The next time they all three met, Bill Todhunter told them that all was ready if they were. He said that he had left a few birches to screen the line of the upper switch, for fear some nervous bungler, driving an engine down, might be frightened, and "blow" about the switch. But he said that any night when the others were ready to make the fly, he was; that there would be a full moon the next Wednesday, and, if there was no wind, he hoped they would do it then.

    "You know," said poor Joslyn, describing it to me, "I should never have done it alone; August would never have done it alone; no, I do not think that Bill Todhunter himself would have done it alone. But our heads were full of it. We had thought of it and thought of it till we did not think of much else; and here was everything ready, and neither of us was afraid, and neither of us chose to have the others think he was afraid. I did say, what was the truth, that I had never meant to try it with a train. I had only thought that we should apply to the supe, and that he would get up a little excursion party of gentlemen,--editors, you know, and stockholders,--who would like to do it together, and that I should have the pleasure and honor of taking them over. But Todhunter poohed at that. He said all the calculations were made for the inertia of a full train, that that was what the switch was graded for, and that everything would have to be altered if any part of the plan were altered. Besides, he said the superintendent would never agree, that he would insist on consulting the board and the chief engineer, and that they would fiddle over it till Christmas.

    "'No,' said Bill, 'next Wednesday, or never! If you will not do it then, I will put the tracks back again.' August Todhunter said nothing; but I knew he would do what we agreed to, and he did.

    "So at last I said I would jump it on Wednesday night, if the night was fine. But I had just as lief own to you that I hoped it would not be fine. Todhunter-- Bill Todhunter, I mean--was to leave the switch open after the freight had passed, and to drive up to the Widow Jones's Cross Road. There he would have a lantern, and I would stop and take him up. He had a right to stop us, as chief of repairs. Then we should have seven miles down-grade to get up our speed, and then--we should see!

    "Mr. Ingham, I might have spared myself the hoping for foul weather. It was the finest moonlight night that you ever knew in October. And if Bill Todhunter had weighed that train himself, he could not have been better pleased,--one baggage-car, one smoking-car, two regular first-class, and two palaces: she run just as steady as an old cow! We came to the Widow Jones's, square on time; and there was Bill's lantern waving. I slowed the train: he jumped on the tender without stopping it. I 'up brakes' again, and then I told Flanagan, my fireman, to go back to the baggage-car, and see if they would lend me some tobacco. You see, we wanted to talk, and we didn't want him to see. 'Mr. Todhunter and I will feed her till you come back,' says I to Flanagan. In a minute after he had gone, August Todhunter came forward on the engine; and, I tell you, she did fly!

    "'Not too fast,' said Bill, 'not too fast: too fast is as bad as too slow.'

    "'Never you fear me,' says I. 'I guess I know this road and this engine. Take out your watch, and time the mile-posts,' says I; and he timed them. 'Thirty-eight seconds,' says he; 'thirty-seven and a half, thirty-six, thirty-six, thirty-six,'--three times thirty-six, as we passed the posts, just as regular as an old clock! And then we came right on the mile-post you know at Old Flander's. 'Thirty-six,' says Bill again. And then she took the switch,--I can hear that switch-rod ring under us now Mr. Ingham,--and then--we were clear!

    "Wasn't it grand? The range was a little bit up, you see, at first; but it seemed as if we were flying just straight across. All the rattle of the rail stopped, you know, though the pistons worked just as true as ever; neither of us said one word, you know; and she just flew--well, as you see a hawk fly sometimes, when he pounces, you know, only she flew so straight and true! I think you may have dreamed of such things. I have; and now,--now I dream it very often. It was not half a minute, you know, but it seemed a good long time. I said nothing and they said nothing; only Bill just squeezed my hand. And just as I knew we must be half over,--for I could see by the star I was watching ahead that we were not going up, but were falling again,--do you think the rope by my side tightened quick, and the old bell on the engine gave one savage bang, turned right over as far as the catch would let it, and stuck where it turned! Just that one sound, everything else was still; and then she landed on the rails, perhaps seventy feet inside the ravine, took the rails as true and sweet as you ever saw a ship take the water, hardly touched them, you know, skimmed--well, as I have seen a swallow skim on the sea; the prettiest, well, the tenderest touch, Mr. Ingham, that ever I did see! And I could just hear the connecting rods tighten the least bit in the world behind me, and we went right on.

    "We just looked at each other in the faces, and we could not speak; no, I do not believe we spoke for three quarters of a minute. Then August said, 'Was not that grand? Will they let us do it always, Bill?' But we could not talk then. Flanagan came back with the tobacco, and I had just the wit to ask him why he had been gone so long. Poor fellow! he was frightened enough when we pulled up at Clayville, and he thought it was Drums. Drums, you see, was way up the bend, a dozen miles above Clayville. Poor Flanagan thought we must have passed there while he was skylarking in the baggage- car, and that he had not minded it. We never stopped at Drums unless we had passengers, or they. It was what we call a flag-station. So I blew Flanagan up, and told him he was gone too long.

    "Well, sir, at Clayville we did stop,--always stopped there for wood. August Todhunter, he was the palace conductor; he went back to look to his passengers. Bill stayed with me. But in a minute August came running back, and called me off the engine. He led me forward, where it was dark; but I could see, as we went, that something was to pay. The minute we were alone he says,--

    "'John, we've lost the rear palace.'

    "'Don't fool me, August,' says I.

    "'No fooling, John,' says he. 'The shackle parted. The cord parted, and is flying loose behind now. If you want to see, come and count the cars. The "General Fremont" is here all right; but I tell you the "James Buchanan" is at the bottom of the Chamoguin Creek.'

    "I walked back to the other end of the platform, as fast as I could go and not be minded. Todhunter was there before me, tying up the loose end of the bell-cord. There was a bit of the broken end of the shackle twisted in with the bolt. I pulled the bolt and threw the iron into the swamp far as I could fling her. Then I nodded to Todhunter and walked forward just as that old goose at Clayville had got his trousers on, so he could come out, and ask me if we were not ahead of time. I tell you, sir, I did not stop to talk with him. I just rang 'All aboard!' and started her again; and this time I run slow enough to save the time before we came down to Steuben. We were on time, all right, there."

    Here poor Joslyn stopped a while in his story; and I could see that he was so wrought up with excitement that I had better not interrupt, either with questions or with sympathy. He rallied in a minute or two, and said,--

    "I thought--we all thought--that there would be a despatch somewhere waiting us. But no; all was as regular as the clock. One palace more or less,--what did they know, and what did they care? So daylight came. We could not say a word, you know, with Flanagan there; and we only stopped, you know, a minute or two every hour; and just then was when August Todhunter had to be with his passengers, you know. Was not I glad when we came into Pemaquid,--our road ran from Pemaquid across the mountains to Eden, you know,--when we came into Pemaquid, and nobody had asked any questions?

    "I reported my time at the office of the master of trains, and I went home. I tell you, Mr. Ingham, I have never seen Pemaquid Station since that day.

    "I had done nothing wrong, of course. I had obeyed every order, and minded every signal. But still I knew public opinion might be against me when they heard of the loss of the palace. I did not feel very well about it, and I wrote a note to say I was not well enough to take my train the next night; and I and Mrs. Joslyn went to New York, and I went aboard a Collins steamer as fireman; and Mrs. Joslyn, she went as stewardess; and I wrote to Pemaquid, and gave up my place. It was a good place, too; but I gave it up, and I left America.

    Bill Todhunter, he resigned his place too, that same day, though that was a good place. He is in the Russian service now. He is running their line from Archangel to Astrachan; good pay, he says, but lonely. August would not stay in America after his brother left; and he is now captain's clerk on the Harkaway steamers between Bangkok and Cochbang; good place he says, but hot. So we are all parted.

    "And do you know, sir, never one of us ever heard of the lost palace!"

    Sure enough, under that very curious system of responsibility, by which one corporation owns the carriages which another corporation uses, nobody in the world has to this moment ever missed "The Lost Palace." On each connecting line, everybody knew that "she" was not there; but no one knew or asked where she was. The descent into the rocky bottom of the Chamouin, more than fifteen hundred feet below the line of flight, had of course been rapid,--slow at first, but in the end rapid. In the first second, the lost palace had fallen sixteen feet; in the second, sixty-four; in the third, one hundred and forty-four; in the fourth, two hundred and fifty-six; in the fifth, four hundred feet; so that it must have been near the end of the sixth second of its fall, that, with a velocity now of more than six hundred feet in a second, the falling palace, with its unconscious passengers, fell upon the rocks at the bottom of the Chamoguin ravine. In the dead of night, wholly without jar or parting, those passengers must have been sleeping soundly; and it is impossible, therefore, on any calculation of human probability, that any one of them can have been waked an instant before the complete destruction of the palace, by the sudden shock of its fall upon the bed of the stream. To them the accident, if it is fair to call it so, must have been wholly free from pain.

    The tangles of that ravine, and the swamp below it, are such that I suppose that even the most adventurous huntsman never finds his way there. On the only occasion when I ever met Mr. Jules Verne he expressed a desire to descend there from one of his balloons, to learn whether the inhabitants of "The Lost Palace" might not still survive, and be living in a happy republican colony there,--a place without railroads, without telegrams, without mails, and certainly without palaces. But at the moment when these sheets go to press, no account of such an adventure has appeared from his rapid pen.
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