1884 - Lady Martin. Our Maoris - CHAPTER VII: BUSH JOURNEY. 1846.

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  1884 - Lady Martin. Our Maoris - CHAPTER VII: BUSH JOURNEY. 1846.
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WE started for Tauranga and the Lake District in the spring of 1846, accompanied by a faithful party of Waiheke natives. The Bishop took us all in his little cutter, Flying Fish, across the Gulf of Hauraki to the valley of the Thames. We went on board on a lovely evening, our patients and their friends all coming out to wish us good-bye and to watch our departure. We ran by moonlight between the mainland and islands. The Bishop stood at the helm steering. I lay, wrapped in cloaks, on the deck, enjoying at once the beauty of the moonlit waters and of the cliffs fringed with trees, and the deep talk of the two friends. The captain was an Englishman, a tall, handsome man, and the only sailor was an equally tall, noble-looking Maori, from the Southern Island. At a late hour we turned in to the tiny cabin, furnished with two bunks of canvas. The Bishop, wrapped in his shepherd's plaid, lay on the deck outside, and our men found some place forward. There was hardly a breath of wind stirring the next day. Long sweeps were used to propel us along, our

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Maoris willingly offering their services. At sunset we put to shore, opposite to a native village called Ta-ra-ru, which nestled under the long range of wooded hills. The people came swarming down to the beach to welcome us and to crowd round the Bishop. The still evening, the water like a lake, the little ship, the boat upon the shore, the eager, upturned faces, all reminded one of scenes on another lake long ago.

Our men soon pitched our little tent on the sand, and piled up freshly-cut fern for a bed. The natives do this in an artistic way. The stems are bent underneath the branchy heads of the strong fern, so that they are as elastic as a spring bed. The smell of the fronds is as agreeable as heather; over the fern was laid a piece of waterproof and our blankets. I had heard so much from travellers of the sweetness of the notes of the birds in the bush, that I was grievously disappointed when only cocks crowed shrilly, at intervals, all night! Half the village had gathered round the tent before we emerged, and after a friendly chatter, a canoe was lent to us for six weeks on very easy terms, and we were soon paddling along the coast till we entered the wide mouth of the Waihou River, called by the English the Thames. To our right another river ran into the gulf, fringed at the mouth by an extensive wood of white pine-trees. All day, as we paddled up against the stream, we passed by villages with fleets of canoes drawn up on

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the beach, or by great jungles of flax and reed-bushes. We stopped at sunset, and in a few minutes our canoe was made fast to a bush on the bank; the tent, bedding, and food box were brought on shore, and in ten minutes more the tent was pitched, our bed made, and a bright fire lit, over which our camp kettle was hung. Tea, biscuits, and a slice or two of bacon, frizzled over the hot embers, made a capital supper. The men over their fire cooked a mess of rice and potatoes, and long after we had settled for the night, we heard their merry laugh and chatter as they hunted for eels in the mud of the river's bank. We did hear the birds next morning, at sunrise, in all their sweetness, as Captain Cook had described; first, the bell bird gave its one clear, full note, and then came such a "jargoning" as made one's heart glad; and looking out at the tent door we saw the rising sun lighting up the woods and flax-bushes in ruddy glory. By seven o'clock we were in the canoe again, and paddled all day long, save when we rested at mid-day for dinner. The men did not row with the steadiness of Englishmen. They had spurts when they dashed along at a tremendous pace, encouraging one another with cries and snatches of old boat songs. Their paddles flashed in the sunlight. Then would come a season of dreamy dawdling and silence. We passed our Sunday at a little village perched on a cliff above the river. After service in Maori, the people came to the tent door; some for

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teaching and friendly chat, some sick folk for medicine. I had brought a box of pills on the chance, and they received them with much gratitude and entire faith. One poor old woman prayed us to give her spectacles. The banks of the river, up to this time, had been low, without any special beauty; but on Monday morning a sharp bend brought us into sight of loveliness, such as one can never forget. The river became deep and narrow, and wound for many miles through a forest. It was spring-time, and the great white clematis and the yellow kowai blossoms hung over the brim of the river in masses of gold and silver, which were reflected in the clear blue water. We thought of the twelve princesses in Grimm's fairy stories, who saw trees with gold and silver branches. The great forest came down to the water's edge. Once we came to a little opening where a pathway had been made, just wide enough to drag a newly-made canoe down to the river. Far away up this vista, some thin blue smoke went up from a bush fire. Now and then the forest receded, and a range of hills with grassy slopes appeared instead. Some day, doubtless, stately mansions will be built there, and the park-like ground stocked with deer. As we slowly paddled past one of these ranges, one of our men pointed to a hill and said: "That is part of my property. I have got a store of potatoes up there. If we had but time to stop, I would run and get you some."

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Yet it is sometimes asserted that the greater part of the country is untilled and ownerless. As far as we could learn, every man had his share in the tribal property, and knew as well as any old English squire what tracts belonged to him.

We had to stop one whole day in our encampment; there was such a steady rain. We did not find time pass heavily. We had Guizot's "Histoire de la Civilisation" to read, as a contrast to our rude surroundings; and our men sat by the fire and smoked, and were very merry. Towards evening the weather cleared, and an old man, attracted by our camp fire, came from a distance to visit us. He had learned to read, and was well disposed to impart his knowledge of Scripture and to gain more. He told us, in the most naive, graphic way, the story of the cleansing of Naaman, and made seven distinct stages in the process, till at last the leper came out with a man's skin. He might have stayed longer, had not his quick eye caught sight of a wild pig, and he went off stealthily to capture it. The next day we reached the highest point of the river that we needed to ascend. The canoe was dragged on shore and half-hid among some bushes to keep it from the heat of the sun, and the paddles stuck upright beside it. On one of these a word or two was scratched, to say to whom they belonged, and that no one must take them away. We pitched for the night at the foot of a high hill, over the face

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of which a grand waterfall dashed headlong into the valley below. We encamped beside a mountain stream, which hurried down over great boulders to the river. The distant roar of the waterfall, the brawling of the stream and the hoarse cry of the night-owls made us wakeful, and by five in the morning every one was astir, as we had a long day's march before us.

We had engaged, the night before, eight bearers from a neighbouring village to carry me. Breakfast was over, prayers read with the people, and the tent taken down, when the men struck for higher pay. One of them, a tall, powerful, wild-looking fellow, began to run up and down, brandishing his spear as he delivered his speech. He spoke for himself and for his kinsmen; the way was long, the burden great, they must have higher wages. Our own people dared not interfere. I am afraid, as I sat and shivered in the valley, I should soon have given in, but my husband remained quite quiet, and after half-an-hour's vigorous declamation on the part of the insurgents, he calmly turned to our boy Josiah; directing him to go over to Tauranga, where we were bound to spend Sunday, and to bring back with him a party of men on the Monday. A stage aside from him that our meat was nearly gone and the bread running short, met with no reply; so he packed up his knapsack and blanket, and, waving his hand, began his solitary march. Before he

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had gone a hundred yards, the leader of the strike burst out laughing and said: "Oh, friend, it was only fun of mine, we'll go on your terms," and in a few minutes, with good-humour beaming on all our faces, we began the steep ascent. The native litter was very light. It consisted of two thin, elastic poles tied at each end, with a light network of flax in the middle and bits of wood across for head and foot rest; a pillow and a cloak completed the arrangement; the bearers changed every three minutes, and wore pads on their shoulders. They had proposed to tie me in, but I indignantly declined, till I found myself apparently standing nearly upright in the air, with a fall of 100 feet below me, and my hands too cold to be able to hold on to the poles; when I was obliged meekly to request them to make me safe; they strapped a long rope of flax across my waist and feet, and I felt as safe as an Indian papoose in its bark cradle. We had a glorious view from the top of the hill; the river lay like a silver thread below, and far away in the distance rose the snow-capped peak of Tongariro; we could not but picture to ourselves what the stir and hum of life will be in years to come, in this well-watered plain, now lying solitary and waste. Our way down the mountain lay for many miles through a tangled forest; no word-painting can describe the beauty of the trees, their trunks green with parasitical plants and ferns, while tangled

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masses of supple jack hung down from the branches; the daylight was almost shut out by the luxuriant foliage. We got on but slowly, as our track often lay down a steep, sharp bank to a clear mountain stream, the men clustering round the litter to lift me over the boulders, or over some huge tree that lay prone across the path; sometimes they had to clear away the tangled brushwood with hatchets; and so we went on again, struggling upward till we came to some sunny little opening--"places of light," as the natives call them--where the sun greeted us, and the birds sang, and the weary men laid me down among flowering, sweet-smelling shrubs; we could hear parrots screaming in the distance. My wild bearers, ten in number, were very kind; they could not make out why I wanted to look at some of the delicate little ferns which grew on the trees, but when I expressed a wish for one, they threw so many, all dripping with moisture, into my lap, that I had to cry "Enough." By one p. m. we had passed through the forest, and came out on a wide plain, from which we saw the sea and coast, stretching far away, and a mountain at the entrance of the harbour standing out against the blue sky; but our fatigues were not over: we knocked about till dark in a whale-boat on a rough sea, and when we landed the first sight that greeted us was a raging fire in the pah on an opposite hill. My bearers put me down on the

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beach, and rushed off to help extinguish the flames. A kind Maori woman, whose English husband was away, received us into her house, and gave us bread and coffee, and when, after stumbling along in the dark to the crossing-place and shouting in vain for a boat, we returned to her, she brought out a pile of new blankets and made a bed for us on the floor. About midnight, however, our host, Archdeacon Brown, arrived, and soon after we reached his comfortable Mission-house. After ten nights in the bush, an English bedroom seemed a great luxury.

I stayed for three weeks at Tauranga, while my husband went on to the hot springs. The house was all of native workmanship; the outer walls were of raupo, and the inner walls and ceilings reeded after the best Maori pattern. The windows of the bedroom were overhung with roses. One hardy shoot had worked its way in through the roof, and hung down in the room. I was ill for the first week, and was tenderly nursed by a Maori woman, who, but for skin and speech, might have been taken for a well-trained English maid. Her name was Margaret, and she had lived from childhood with Mrs. Brown, and had nursed her through many illnesses. She was delighted to find that I could talk Maori with her; every morning she used to come in, duster in hand, and steal gently about the room, dusting, and folding, and arranging; and then helping me to dress with

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so much care and tenderness that I used to long to show her to English people as a sample of a so-called savage. Her history is a pretty one; she was sent to be the little slave-girl of a damsel of her own age entrusted to Mrs. Brown's care. The latter, a chief's daughter, was to be taught English ways, and might sew or help "Mother" in any genteel way; but her father gave many strict injunctions as to her never preparing food or doing anything menial. So little Margaret came to do the rough work; and after a while a slave-boy was sent to Mr. Brown's school, who had nursed the little heiress in her babyhood, carrying her on his back, and waiting on her all day long. They all grew up together, and the heiress loved the boy, now grown into a man. Wonderful to say, the old father, in consideration of the lad's early care of her, consented to the match. But the course of true love never did run smooth; by a strange perversity the young man loved the maid instead of the mistress, and the maid loved him. The young mistress was very wroth when she found how matters stood, and for a long time refused her consent. At last Mr. Brown won her over by the dignity of giving a written consent to the match. She issued a sort of marriage licence, and she went to the wedding. Poor girl! she died some months after (not of a broken heart). Everything went on after such a quiet fashion, just as

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in an English rectory and village, that it was strangely interesting to hear stories from the Browns of their experiences ten or fifteen years before. "Do you see those patches in these dimity curtains?" said my hostess to me one evening as she sat by my bedside. "I mended them when we recovered our property after the great Roto-rua War. They had been torn up to make garments by the spoilers. The war, which lasted for several years, and in which hundreds of lives were sacrificed and acts of heathen ferocity committed which must not be recorded, was begun through the revenge of one Roto-rua man. A powerful member of his own tribe had offended him, and others stood by the offender. The wretched man went off to Tauranga to a tribe long hostile to his own, and slew one of its members in cold blood. Of course, the Tauranga people came down with a war-party to take 'utu.' They not only attacked the Roto-rua natives, but they sacked the Mission station and burnt down the house. Not that they had any grudge against the good old missionary, Mr. Chapman, and his wife, but because they were their enemies' Pakehas. And then the Roto-ruas sacked the Tauranga Mission station." Mrs. Chapman was staying with the Browns for rest and change, for her heart was sad through the terrible sights and scenes around her, when she heard the wild shouts of a war-party, headed by the renowned Maori chief, Waha-

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roa (Long Mouth), as they returned in triumph home. She saw the men rushing by, loaded with spoils. One huge fellow had her neat, black silk bonnet (his only article of clothing) stuck on his head. Another had her much-prized wedding-gown thrown as a shawl across his shoulders, and she soon found that she was houseless. Dear little woman! she had a great dread of savages when she left England; but she followed her husband without a murmur, and as long as she remained in the north at the Waimate, where all was comparatively quiet, she was timid and unsettled; but, as soon as she was called to accompany Mr. Chapman into the heart of the country among fierce heathens, her fears vanished. She became a mother to all around her, and the eyes of the roughest would glisten as they spoke of "Mother," and of her goodness to them.

The Archdeacon told me of a lame old woman far away in a hilly part of the country who had earnestly desired to be baptised. She heard of the Bishop's intention to visit Taupo, and she besought some of her people to carry her thither in a litter. She started, but was too weak and ill to bear the fatigue, and had to return after a day or two of travelling. When Mr. Brown reached her village, a deformed, squalid old woman, with tangled, grizzled hair, crawled out of a hut. At first she was too shy to answer any questions, but after a while she gave a

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very clear, intelligent account of her reasons for desiring baptism. She had had no teaching but from her own people. She was baptised the next day.

For the first week of my stay, I was an object of great interest to Mrs. Brown's native girls. First they would peep in at the door or venture in to shake hands. After a while they would sit down on the floor and have a good look at me, and talk to one another about my dress and appearance. There was much blushing and laughing when I began to talk to them. When conversation flagged, they got up and walked off.

During our stay we saw a good deal of an old man, named Matthew. He was a Christian and native teacher of a neighbouring village. He was till past middle age a staunch heathen and a priest, and was so much feared for his knowledge of witchcraft, that during the war his plantations and other property were never harmed or touched by the enemy. No one dared to offend him lest he should curse them, and then their life would waste away under the power of his enchantments. When he became a Christian, and had been baptised, he called all the people together, and by one significant action showed that he had laid aside all his old pretensions. Under the old system the chiefs head, and, indeed, his whole person was most sacred; whenever he chose, he

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proclaimed himself to be in a state of tapu, when he could not be touched by any one, or even put his own hand to his mouth. For such a man as this old chief to allow food or any cooking vessel to come near his head was at once and for ever to bring himself down on a level with the common herd. The old man took up a vessel in which food had been cooked, and put it on his head, and so broke the tapu which had made him so formidable in the eyes of his countrymen, counting himself but dross. It is a noble story, and contrasts well with our northern King Olaf's compromise about the horseflesh broth. I was lying on a sofa when Matthew first came to see me. He came up in a most fatherly way to me, and holding my hand in his, told me to trust only in God, Who sends sickness, and Who alone can heal. He was talking one day with Archdeacon Brown about the difference of bur modes of thinking on many subjects from native notions, and said:

"You English have several sorts of gentlemen {rangatira): you call a man a gentleman if he has plenty of money and good clothes on his back; or if the Queen makes him into one, or if he is of good family. Now we have no standard but that of good birth. Be a man ever so ragged or dirty, if he comes of gentle blood, he is a gentleman. I'm a gentleman," said he, as he wrapped his old blanket round him. And so he was, in manner, thought, and action. The

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Maoris have a great respect for long pedigrees; many of the old chiefs could trace their family back through twelve or fourteen generations. They used too, in old days, to have a delight in lavish hospitality. This could be more easily done when they had many slaves, prisoners of war, to cultivate the land. Our Bishop was once remonstrating with a noble-looking young man, who was spending large sums on a feast to his neighbours. "How can I do otherwise?" he answered; "my fathers have been chiefs from the beginning of time!"

There was one woman in the neighbourhood of Tauranga whose history was an eventful one. Many years ago, a war-party from a hostile tribe came down and surprised the people of her village. Her husband and other relatives were killed, she and her infant were taken prisoners. The captors all camped on the beach, and slept by turns while one kept watch, intending to embark with their prisoner at break of day. She made up her mind to escape if possible, and lay or rather half sat with her child on her back, watching, when unobserved, the several sentinels. The last of these in the early dawn looked so stern and wakeful that her heart sank, but in time his eyes closed, opened again, and finally closed in a deep sleep. Then the poor creature began to crawl softly on hands and feet towards the door of the rough tent. All her fear was that the baby would wake and cry.

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But she succeeded in passing all the sleepers unobserved, and then like a lapwing she flew along the sea-shore, over the soft sand, till she came to a thick bush in which she could hide. The war-party dared not pursue her there for fear of reprisals from her people. She was a Christian woman when I was at Tauranga, and the baby was a middle-aged married woman with children of her own. This heroine died only two years ago. She was over ninety, and lived in an island near the mainland. Every Sunday she helped her daughter to paddle across to attend church. She always brought a little basket of potatoes or other food, to cook between the services. The missionary's wife said to her: "Why do you trouble yourself to do this? I will give you dinner." "No," the old woman would reply, "I do not come to get earthly food but heavenly." When Mr. Grace, the missionary, died two years ago, the poor old body had a long ta-ngi, and then just laid herself down to die. She only outlived him a few days.

We had a pleasant journey back. The Tauranga men were used to carrying English women, and did not race up and down hill with me as our wilder "boys" had done. When we got out of the wood we met a large party of natives, and I was amused at the amount of ceremonial observed on both sides. We and they met in solemn silence; a halt was called, then my litter was set

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down, and we all sat and looked at each other for some moments. Then friendly greetings were exchanged, the ice was broken, and questions and counter questions were asked with great liveliness. Finally we gave our new acquaintances some biscuits, and they gave our men some dried pork, and we went on our respective ways. Every day when we camped for dinner, as soon as the fire was lit and the pot of potatoes set on to boil, our men would stretch themselves on the ground and begin to play games of skill or chance, with sticks or bits of stone. They were always good-tempered and bubbling over with fun. We found them charming companions, and very intelligent. They had never passed their standards, but from childhood had exercised habits of observation; they knew the name of every plant, tree, shrub, bird, and insect. I have often wondered why it is that native people never speak ungrammatically. I have been corrected again and again in early days for using a wrong prefix to a noun, when asking a question (there is one for inanimate things and for animals, another for human beings). Then, too, the youngest child understands the use of the dual form, inclusive and exclusive, we two or you two, and never makes a mistake. Very different from our rustic form, "her doesn't belong to I."

We found our canoe and paddles quite safe in the spot where they had been placed five weeks before.

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The Bishop's cutter was awaiting us at the mouth of the river, and after a day of very rough, lively weather across the gulf, we landed at home on a calm, lovely summer morning. In spite of all the charms of bush travelling, civilisation is very agreeable. Snowy table and bed linen, plenty of water, food well served up, are comforts not to be despised. Our garden looked quite smiling in its trim brightness, after the sombreness of bush and forest. The forest trees which overhang and fringe our cliffs were out in crimson blossom; my husband had transplanted a good many of these and other native trees into the garden and paddock, some with grey-green leaves not unlike the olive, some with bright, glossy leaves like the laurel, and here and there young elms, and sycamores, and oaks, with delicate tints, held their own among their antipodean evergreen cousins. And such wealth of English flowers! Honeysuckle and cluster roses twined up the fences, while Cape bulbs, with their pink, wax-like flowers, and fuchsias and geraniums grew like weeds.

Both on this and all other journeys we met with the greatest kindness from our men, and from any natives we met with on the way. There has been a fashion among some travellers to complain of extortion and incivility. We have heard similar complaints in Italy of the people of the country. Of course, if a stranger, who knows nothing of the Maori language,

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and is unknown to the natives, suddenly appears among them and demands the use of a canoe, or horse, or the services of bearers, the temptation is great to make a hard bargain. My husband always engaged a party of men from some neighbouring village at the outset, told them what they would receive, how long we should be away and the like, and never heard one word of grumbling, however weary and wet they might be. The first and last thought all day was for us: "Are you very tired, mother?" "Are you cold, mother?" was often asked by my patient bearers.

We went once again to the Thames to stay with the missionary, whose house was perched on the top of a steep hill. The whole valley is now covered with houses, and the hills at the back quarried into for gold. When we knew the place they were covered with wood, and there were only one or two small native villages nestling at the foot of them, and a little fleet of canoes drawn up on the beach. A clear, rapid stream ran down to the sea. A party of our old friends volunteered to carry my litter across. It was amusing to watch the perplexity of my maid, a cockney born and bred, as she stood beside it, band-box in hand, and her dismay when a Maori caught her up in his arms and splashed through the water with her. We were welcomed by the teacher and his wife, in their master's absence, and we kept school for a day or two till he returned. The children were eager to

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be taught--bright-faced lads like Murillo's gipsies came up daily, full of fun, and delighting in mental arithmetic. A grey-haired old Maori woman was in charge, and headed her flock, singing, "We'll all march out in order." We were not a little afraid of Bishop Hatto's fate at night, there were so many rats in the house. We quite realised the description given by a Glasgow woman of a similar inroad: "I sleppit not till four, and I was awake at the back of five, for the rats jinkit and the cats jinkit." Only we had no cat. We went to see a fine old Maori house, with wooden shutters and doorway highly carved. It would have been needful to crawl in on all-fours, the entrance was so low. There was a magnificent war canoe at the pah which would hold forty men at least. The figure-head of the richly-carved prow represented the face of an ancestor, and, considering the rough tools of the sculptor, it was a wonderful work of art. The man who could execute it had the gifts of Niccola of Pisa in him. The native teacher and his wife were charming people, and had lived on the Mission station for many years. Walthan was sent once in a very small vessel, in charge of a flock of sheep of his master's. A tremendous gale came on and threatened to drive the cutter on a rock-bound coast. When things seemed desperate, the master and a seaman (both Englishmen) took to the boat and made for the shore, leaving shepherd and

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sheep to their fate. The Maoris of a village near by went off in canoes, at the peril of their lives, and succeeded in bringing Walthan and his charge safely to land. They were very indignant at the selfishness of the two Englishmen, but the good fellow said: "Let them alone; let us thank God that we are all safe." Mrs. Walthan was a big, tall, comfortable-looking woman, with very demonstrative manners. We kept up a great friendship for each other. She always embraced me when we met, and had a ta-ngi over me. She outlived her good husband for several years.

A native friend of Jane Walthan's wrote to us after her death: --"Her death was good, for she departed believing in God, and her prayer was this, 'O God, if it be good to Thee, take me'; and another prayer of hers was, 'This is my prayer for this people, that they may be kept by Thee in this world.' These were her last words."

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