The Tansy Patchby@lmmontgomery

The Tansy Patch

by L.M. MontgomeryJuly 15th, 2023
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EMILY and Ilse had a splendid fortnight of fun before their first fight. It was really quite a terrible fight, arising out of a simple argument as to whether they would or would not have a parlour in the playhouse they were building in Lofty John’s bush. Emily wanted a parlour and Ilse didn’t. Ilse lost her temper at once, and went into a true Burnley tantrum. She was very fluent in her rages and the volley of abusive “dictionary words” which she hurled at Emily would have staggered most of the Blair Water girls. But Emily was too much at home with words to be floored so easily; she grew angry too, but in the cool, dignified, Murray way which was more exasperating than violence. When Ilse had to pause for breath in her diatribes, Emily, sitting on a big stone with her knees crossed, her eyes black and her cheeks crimson, interjected little sarcastic retorts that infuriated Ilse still further. Ilse was crimson, too, and her eyes were pools of scintillating, tawny fire. They were both so pretty in their fury that it was almost a pity they couldn’t have been angry all the time.
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Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. The Tansy Patch

CHAPTER XII. The Tansy Patch

EMILY and Ilse had a splendid fortnight of fun before their first fight. It was really quite a terrible fight, arising out of a simple argument as to whether they would or would not have a parlour in the playhouse they were building in Lofty John’s bush. Emily wanted a parlour and Ilse didn’t. Ilse lost her temper at once, and went into a true Burnley tantrum. She was very fluent in her rages and the volley of abusive “dictionary words” which she hurled at Emily would have staggered most of the Blair Water girls. But Emily was too much at home with words to be floored so easily; she grew angry too, but in the cool, dignified, Murray way which was more exasperating than violence. When Ilse had to pause for breath in her diatribes, Emily, sitting on a big stone with her knees crossed, her eyes black and her cheeks crimson, interjected little sarcastic retorts that infuriated Ilse still further. Ilse was crimson, too, and her eyes were pools of scintillating, tawny fire. They were both so pretty in their fury that it was almost a pity they couldn’t have been angry all the time.

“You needn’t suppose, you little puling, snivelling chit, that you are going to boss me, just because you live at New Moon,” shrieked Ilse, as an ultimatum, stamping her foot.

“I’m not going to boss you—I’m not going to associate with you ever again,” retorted Emily, disdainfully.

“I’m glad to be rid of you—you proud, stuck-up, conceited, top-lofty biped,” cried Ilse. “Never you speak to me again. And don’t you go about Blair Water saying things about me, either.”

This was unbearable to a girl who never “said things” about her friends or once-friends.

“I’m not going to say things about you,” said Emily deliberately. “I am just going to think them.”

This was far more aggravating than speech and Emily knew it. Ilse was driven quite frantic by it. Who knew what unearthly things Emily might be thinking about her any time she took the notion to? Ilse had already discovered what a fertile invention Emily had.

“Do you suppose I care what you think, you insignificant serpent? Why, you haven’t any sense.”

“I’ve got something then that’s far better,” said Emily, with a maddening superior smile. “Something that you can never have, Ilse Burnley.”

Ilse doubled her fists as if she would like to demolish Emily by physical force.

“If I couldn’t write better poetry than you, I’d hang myself,” she derided.

“I’ll lend you a dime to buy a rope,” said Emily.

Ilse glared at her, vanquished.

“You go to the devil!” she said.

Emily got up and went, not to the devil, but back to New Moon. Ilse relieved her feelings by knocking the boards of their china closet down, and kicking their “moss gardens” to pieces, and departed also.

Emily felt exceedingly badly. Here was another friendship destroyed—a friendship, too, that had been very delightful and satisfying. Ilse had been a splendid chum—there was no doubt about that. After Emily had cooled down she went to the dormer window and cried.

“Wretched, wretched me!” she sobbed, dramatically, but very sincerely.

Yet the bitterness of her break with Rhoda was not present. This quarrel was fair and open and above-board. She had not been stabbed in the back. But of course she and Ilse would never be chums again. You couldn’t be chums with a person who called you a chit and a biped, and a serpent, and told you to go to the devil. The thing was impossible. And besides, Ilse could never forgive her—for Emily was honest enough to admit to herself that she had been very aggravating, too.

Yet, when Emily went to the playhouse next morning, bent on retrieving her share of broken dishes and boards, there was Ilse, skipping around, hard at work, with all the shelves back in place, the moss garden re-made, and a beautiful parlour laid out and connected with the living-room by a spruce arch.

“Hello, you. Here’s your parlour and I hope you’ll be satisfied now,” she said gaily. “What’s kept you so long? I thought you were never coming.”

This rather posed Emily after her tragic night, wherein she had buried her second friendship and wept over its grave. She was not prepared for so speedy a resurrection. As far as Ilse was concerned it seemed as if no quarrel had ever taken place.

“Why, that was yesterday,” she said in amazement, when Emily, rather distantly, referred to it. Yesterday and to-day were two entirely different things in Ilse’s philosophy. Emily accepted it—she found she had to. Ilse, it transpired, could no more help flying into tantrums now and then than she could help being jolly and affectionate between them. What amazed Emily, in whom things were bound to rankle for a time, was the way in which Ilse appeared to forget a quarrel the moment it was over. To be called a serpent and a crocodile one minute and hugged and darling-ed the next was somewhat disconcerting until time and experience took the edge off it.

“Aren’t I nice enough between times to make up for it?” demanded Ilse. “Dot Payne never flies into tempers, but would you like her for a chum?”

“No, she’s too stupid,” admitted Emily.

“And Rhoda Stuart is never out of temper, but you got enough of her. Do you think I’d ever treat you as she did?”

No, Emily had no doubt on this point. Whatever Ilse was or was not, she was loyal and true.

And certainly Rhoda Stuart and Dot Payne compared to Ilse were “as moonlight unto sunlight and as water unto wine”—or would have been if Emily had as yet known anything more of her Tennyson than the Bugle Song.

“You can’t have everything,” said Ilse. “I’ve got Dad’s temper and that’s all there is to it. Wait till you see him in one of his rages.”

Emily had not seen this so far. She had often been down in the Burnley’s house but on the few occasions when Dr. Burnley had been home he had ignored her save for a curt nod. He was a busy man, for, whatever his shortcomings were, his skill was unquestioned and the bounds of his practice extended far. By the sickbed he was as gentle and sympathetic as he was brusque and sarcastic away from it. As long as you were ill there was nothing Dr. Burnley would not do for you; once you were well he had apparently no further use for you. He had been absorbed all through July trying to save Teddy Kent’s life up at the Tansy Patch. Teddy was out of danger now and able to be up, but his improvement was not speedy enough to satisfy Dr. Burnley. One day he held up Emily and Ilse, who were heading through the lawn to the pond, with fishing-hooks and a can of fat, abominable worms—the latter manipulated solely by Ilse—and ordered them to betake themselves up to the Tansy Patch and play with Teddy Kent.

“He’s lonesome and moping. Go and cheer him up,” said the doctor.

Ilse was rather loth to go. She liked Teddy, but it seemed she did not like his mother. Emily was secretly not averse. She had seen Teddy Kent but once, at Sunday School the day before he was taken seriously ill, and she had liked his looks. It had seemed that he liked hers, too, for she caught him staring shyly at her over the intervening pews several times. He was very handsome, Emily decided. She liked his thick, dark-brown hair and his black-browed blue eyes, and for the first time it occurred to her that it might be rather nice to have a boy playmate, too. Not a “beau” of course. Emily hated the school jargon that called a boy your “beau” if he happened to give you a pencil or an apple and picked you out frequently for his partner in the games.

“Teddy’s nice but his mother is queer,” Ilse told her on their way to the Tansy Patch. “She never goes out anywhere—not even to church—but I guess it’s because of the scar on her face. They’re not Blair Water people—they’ve only been living at the Tansy Patch since last fall. They’re poor and proud and not many people visit them. But Teddy is awfully nice, so if his mother gives us some black looks we needn’t mind.”

Mrs. Kent gave them no black looks, though her reception was rather distant. Perhaps she, too, had received some orders from the doctor. She was a tiny creature, with enormous masses of dull, soft, silky, fawn hair, dark, mournful eyes, and a broad scar running slantwise across her pale face. Without the scar she must have been pretty, and she had a voice as soft and uncertain as the wind in the tansy. Emily, with her instinctive faculty of sizing up people she met, felt that Mrs. Kent was not a happy woman.

The Tansy Patch was east of the Disappointed House, between the Blair Water and the sand-dunes. Most people considered it a bare, lonely, neglected place, but Emily thought it was fascinating. The little clap-boarded house topped a small hill, over which tansy grew in a hard, flaunting, aromatic luxuriance, rising steeply and abruptly from a main road. A straggling rail fence, almost smothered in wild rosebushes, bounded the domain, and a sagging, ill-used little gate gave ingress from the road. Stones were let into the side of the hill for steps up to the front door. Behind the house was a tumble-down little barn, and a field of flowering buckwheat, creamy green, sloping down to the Blair Water. In front was a crazy veranda around which a brilliant band of red poppies held up their enchanted cups.

Teddy was unfeignedly glad to see them, and they had a happy afternoon together. There was some colour in Teddy’s clear olive skin when it ended and his dark-blue eyes were brighter. Mrs. Kent took in these signs greedily and asked the girls to come back, with an eagerness that was yet not cordiality. But they had found the Tansy Patch a charming place and were glad to go again. For the rest of the vacation there was hardly a day when they did not go up to it—preferably in the long, smoky, delicious August evenings when the white moths sailed over the tansy plantation and the golden twilight faded into dusk and purple over the green slopes beyond and fireflies lighted their goblin torches by the pond. Sometimes they played games in the tansy patch, when Teddy and Emily somehow generally found themselves on the same side and then no more than a match for agile, quick-witted Ilse; sometimes Teddy took them to the barn loft and showed them his little collection of drawings. Both girls thought them very wonderful without knowing in the least how wonderful they really were. It seemed like magic to see Teddy take a pencil and bit of paper and with a few quick strokes of his slim brown fingers bring out a sketch of Ilse or Emily or Smoke or Buttercup, that looked ready to speak—or meow.

Smoke and Buttercup were the Tansy Patch cats. Buttercup was a chubby, yellow, delightful creature hardly out of kittenhood. Smoke was a big Maltese and an aristocrat from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. There was no doubt whatever that he belonged to the cat caste of Vere de Vere. He had emerald eyes and a coat of plush. The only white thing about him was an adorable dicky.

Emily thought of all the pleasant hours spent at the Tansy Patch the pleasantest were those, when, tired with play, they all three sat on the crazy veranda steps in the mystery and enchantment of the borderland ’tween light and dark when the little clump of spruce behind the barn looked like beautiful, dark, phantom trees. The clouds of the west faded into grey and a great round yellow moon rose over the fields to be reflected brokenly in the pond, where the Wind Woman was making wonderful, woven lights and shadows.

Mrs. Kent never joined them, though Emily had a creepy conviction that she was watching them stealthily from behind the kitchen blind. Teddy and Ilse sang school ditties, and Ilse recited, and Emily told stories; or they sat in happy silence, each anchored in some secret port of dreams, while the cats chased each other madly over the hill and through the tansy, tearing round and round the house like possessed creatures. They would spring up at the children with sudden pounces and spring as suddenly away. Their eyes gleamed like jewels, their tails swayed like plumes. They were palpitating with nervous, stealthy life.

“Oh, isn’t it good to be alive—like this?” Emily said once. “Wouldn’t it be dreadful if one had never lived?”

Still, existence was not wholly unclouded—Aunt Elizabeth took care of that. Aunt Elizabeth only permitted the visits to the Tansy Patch under protest, and because Dr. Burnley had ordered them.

“Aunt Elizabeth does not aprove of Teddy,” Emily wrote in one of her letters to her father—which epistles were steadily mutiplying on the old garret sofa shelf. “The first time I asked her if I might go and play with Teddy she looked at me severely and said, Who is this Teddy person. We do not know anything about these Kents. Remember, Emily, the Murrays do not assosiate with every one. I said I am a Starr—I am not a Murray, you said so yourself. Dear Father I did not mean to be impertnent but Aunt Elizabeth said I was and would not speak to me the rest of the day. She seemed to think that was a very bad punishment but I did not mind it much only it is rather unpleasant to have your own family preserve a disdaneful silence towards you. But since then she lets me go to the Tansy Patch because Dr. Burnley came and told her to. Dr. Burnley has a strange inflewence over Aunt Elizabeth. I do not understand it. Rhoda said once that Aunt Elizabeth hoped Dr. Burnley and Aunt Laura would make a match of it—which, you know means get married—but that is not so. Mrs. Thomas Anderson was here one afternoon to tea. (Mrs. Thomas Anderson is a big fat woman and her grandmother was a Murray and there is nothing else to say about her.) She asked Aunt Elizabeth if she thought Dr. Burnley would marry again and Aunt Elizabeth said no, he would not and she did not think it right for people to marry a second time. Mrs. Anderson said Sometimes I have thought he would take Laura. Aunt Elizabeth just swept her a hawty glance. There is no use in denying it, there are times when I am very proud of Aunt Elizabeth, even if I do not like her.

“Teddy is a very nice boy, Father. I think you would aprove of him. Should there be two p’s in aprove? He can make splendid pictures and he is going to be a famus artist some day, and then he is going to paint my portrate. He keeps his pictures in the barn loft because his mother doesn’t like to see them. He can whistle just like a bird. The Tansy Patch is a very quante place—espesially at night. I love the twilight there. We always have such fun in the twilight. The Wind Woman makes herself small in the tansy just like a tiny, tiny fairy and the cats are so queer and creepy and delightful then. They belong to Mrs. Kent and Teddy is afraid to pet them much for fear she will drown them. She drowned a kitten once because she thought he liked it better than her. But he didn’t because Teddy is very much attatched to his mother. He washes the dishes for her and helps her in all the house work. Ilse says the boys in school call him sissy for that but I think it is noble and manley of him. Teddy wishes she would let him have a dog but she wont. I have thought Aunt Elizabeth was tirannical but Mrs. Kent is far worse in some ways. But then she loves Teddy and Aunt Elizabeth does not love me.

“But Mrs. Kent doesn’t like Ilse or me. She never says so but we feel it. She never asks us to stay to tea—and we’ve always been so polite to her. I believe she is jellus of us because Teddy likes us. Teddy gave me the sweetest picture of the Blair Water he had painted on a big white cowhawk shell but he said I mustn’t let his mother know about it because she would cry. Mrs. Kent is a very misterious person, very like some people you read of in books. I like misterious people but not too close. Her eyes always look hungry though she has plenty to eat. She never goes anywhere because she has a scar on her face where she was burned with a lamp exploding. It made my blood run cold, dear Father. How thankful I am that Aunt Elizabeth only burns candles. Some of the Murray tradishuns are very sensible. Mrs. Kent is very relijus—what she calls relijus. She prays even in the middle of the day. Teddy says that before he was born into this world he lived in another one where there were two suns, one red and one blue. The days were red and the nights blue. I don’t know where he got the idea but it sounds atractive to me. And he says the brooks run honey instead of water. But what did you do when you were thirsty, I said. Oh, we were never thirsty there. But I think I would like to be thirsty because then cold water tastes so good. I would like to live in the moon. It must be such a nice silvery place.

“Ilse says Teddy ought to like her best because there is more fun in her than in me but that is not true. There is just as much fun in me when my conshence doesn’t bother me. I guess Ilse wants Teddy to like her best but she is not a jellus girl.

“I am glad to say that Aunt Elizabeth and Aunt Laura both aprove of my friendship with Ilse. It is so seldom they aprove of the same thing. I am getting used to fighting with Ilse now and don’t mind it much. Besides I can fight pretty well myself when my blood is up. We fight about once a week but we make up right away and Ilse says things would be dull if there was never a row. I would like it better without rows but you can never tell what will make Ilse mad. She never gets mad twice over the same thing. She calls me dreadful names. Yesterday she called me a lousy lizard and a toothless viper. But somehow I didn’t mind it much because I knew I wasn’t lousy or toothless and she knew it too. I don’t call names because that is unladylike but I smile and that makes Ilse far madder than if I skowled and stamped as she does, and that is why I do it. Aunt Laura says I must be careful not to pick up the words Ilse uses and try to set her a good example because the poor child has no one to look after her propperly. I wish I could use some of her words because they are so striking. She gets them from her father. I think my aunts are too perticular. One night when the Rev. Mr. Dare was here to tea I used the word bull in my conversashun. I said Ilse and I were afraid to go through Mr. James Lee’s pasture where the old well was because he had a cross bull there. After Mr. Dare had gone Aunt Elizabeth gave me an awful skolding and told me I was never to use that word again. But she had been talking of tigers at tea—in connexshun with missionaries—and I can’t understand why it is more disgraceful to talk about bulls than tigers. Of course bulls are feroshus animals but so are tigers. But Aunt Elizabeth says I am always disgracing them when they have company. When Mrs. Lockwood was here from Shrewsbury last week they were talking about Mrs. Foster Beck, who is a bride, and I said Dr. Burnley thought she was devilishly pretty. Aunt Elizabeth said EMILY in an awful tone. She was pale with rath. Dr. Burnley said it, I cryed, I am only kwoting. And Dr. Burnley did say it the day I stayed to dinner with Ilse and Dr. Jameson was there from Shrewsbury. I saw Dr. Burnley in one of his rages that afternoon over something Mrs. Simms had done in his office. It was a groosome sight. His big yellow eyes blazed and he tore about and kicked over a chair and threw a mat at the wall and fired a vase out of the window and said terrible things. I sat on the sofa and stared at him like one fassinated. It was so interesting I was sorry when he cooled down which he soon did because he is like Ilse and never stays mad long. He never gets mad at Ilse though. Ilse says she wishes he would—it would be better than being taken no notis of. She is as much of an orfan as I am, poor child. Last Sunday she went to church with her old faded blue dress on. There was a tare right in front of it. Aunt Laura wepped when she came home and then spoke to Mrs. Simms about it because she did not dare speak to Dr. Burnley. Mrs. Simms was cross and said it was not her place to look after Ilses close but she said she had got Dr. Burnley to get Ilse a nice sprigged muslin dress and Ilse had got egg stane on it, and when Mrs. Simms skolded her for being so careless Ilse flew into a rage and went upstairs and tore the muslin dress to pieces, and Mrs. Simms said she wasn’t going to bother her head again about a child like that and there was nothing for her to ware but her old blue but Mrs. Simms didn’t know it was tore. So I sneaked Ilses dress over to New Moon and Aunt Laura mended it neetly and hid the tare with a pocket. Ilse said she tore up her muslin dress one of the days she didn’t believe in God and didn’t care what she did. Ilse found a mouse in her bed one night and she just shook it out and jumped in. Oh, how brave. I could never be as brave as that. It is not true that Dr. Burnley never smiles. I have seen him do it but not often. He just smiles with his lips but not his eyes and it makes me feel uncomfortable. Mostly he laughs in a horrid sarkastic way like Jolly Jim’s uncle.

“We had barley soup for dinner that day—very watery.

“Aunt Laura is giving me five cents a week for washing the dishes. I can only spend one cent of it and the other four have to be put in the toad bank in the sitting-room on the mantel. The toad is made of brass and sits on top of the bank and you put the cents in his mouth one at a time. He swallows them and they drop into the bank. It’s very fassinating (I should not write fassinating again because you told me I must not use the same word too often but I cant think of any other that deskribes my feelings so well). The toad bank is Aunt Laura’s but she said I could use it. I just hugged her. Of course I never hug Aunt Elizabeth. She is too rijid and bony. She does not aprove of Aunt Laura paying me for washing dishes. I tremble to think what she would say if she knew Cousin Jimmy gave me a whole dollar on the sly last week.

“I wish he had not given me so much. It worrys me. It is an awful responsibility. It will be so diffikult to spend it wisely also without Aunt Elizabeth finding out about it. I hope I shall never have a million dollars. I am sure it would crush me utterly. I keep my dollar hid on the shelf with my letters and I put it in an old envelope and wrote on it Cousin Jimmy Murray gave me this so that if I died suddenly and Aunt Elizabeth found it she would know I came by it honestly.

“Now that the days are getting cool Aunt Elizabeth makes me wear my thick flannel petticoat. I hate it. It makes me so bunchy. But Aunt Elizabeth says I must wear it because you died of consumption. I wish close could be both graceful and helthy. I read the story of Red Riding Hood to-day. I think the wolf was the most intresting caracter in it. Red Riding Hood was a stupid little thing so easily fooled.

“I wrote two poems yesterday. One was short and entitelled Lines Adressed to a blue-eyed-grass flower gathered in the Old Orchard. Here it is.

Sweet little flower thy modest faceIs ever lifted tords the skyAnd a reflexshun of its faceIs caught within thine own blue eye.The meadow queens are tall and fairThe columbines are lovely tooBut the poor talent I possessShall laurel thee my flower of blue.

Sweet little flower thy modest faceIs ever lifted tords the sky

And a reflexshun of its faceIs caught within thine own blue eye.

The meadow queens are tall and fair

The columbines are lovely too

But the poor talent I possess

Shall laurel thee my flower of blue.

“The other poem was long and I wrote it on a letter-bill. It is called The Monark of the Forest. The Monark is the big birch in Lofty John’s bush. I love that bush so much it hurts. Do you understand that kind of hurting. Ilse likes it too and we play there most of the time when we are not at the Tansy Patch. We have three paths in it. We call them the To-day Road, the Yesterday Road and the To-morrow Road. The To-day Road is by the brook and we call it that because it is lovely now. The Yesterday Road is out in the stumps where Lofty John cut some trees down and we call it that because it used to be lovely. The To-morrow Road is just a tiny path in the maple clearing and we call it that because it is going to be lovely some day, when the maples grow bigger. But oh Father dear I haven’t forgotten the dear old trees down home. I always think of them after I go to bed. But I am happy here. It isn’t wrong to be happy, is it Father. Aunt Elizabeth says I got over being homesick very quick but I am often homesick inside. I have got akwanted with Lofty John. Ilse is a great friend of his and often goes there to watch him working in his carpenter shop. He says he has made enough ladders to get to heaven without the priest but that is just his joke. He is really a very devowt Catholic and goes to the chapel at White Cross every Sunday. I go with Ilse though perhaps I ought not to when he is an enemy of my family. He is of stately baring and refined manners—very sivil to me but I don’t always like him. When I ask him a serius question he always winks over my head when he ansers. That is insulting. Of course I never ask any questions on relijus subjects but Ilse does. She likes him but she says he would burn us all at the stake if he had the power. She asked him right out if he wouldn’t and he winked at me and said Oh, we wouldn’t burn nice pretty little Protestants like you. We would only burn the old ugly ones. That was a frivellus reply. Mrs. Lofty John is a nice woman and not at all proud. She looks just like a little rosy rinkled apple.

“On rainy days we play at Ilse’s. We can slide down the bannisters and do what we like. Nobody cares only when the doctor is home we have to be quiet because he cant bear any noise in the house except what he makes himself. The roof is flat and we can get out on it through a door in the garret ceiling. It is very exiting to be up on the roof of a house. We had a yelling contest there the other night to see which could yell the loudest. To my surprise I found I could. You never can tell what you can do till you try. But too many people heard us and Aunt Elizabeth was very angry. She asked me what made me do such a thing. That is an okward question because often I cant tell what makes me do things. Sometimes I do them just to find out what I feel like doing them. And sometimes I do them because I want to have some exiting things to tell my grandchildren. Is it impropper to talk about haveing grandchildren. I have discovered that it is impropper to talk about haveing children. One evening when people were here Aunt Laura said to me quite kindly What are you thinking so ernestly about, Emily, and I said I am picking names for my children. I mean to have ten. And after the company had gone Aunt Elizabeth said to Aunt Laura icilly I think it will be better in the future Laura if you do not ask that child what she is thinking of. If Aunt Laura doesnt I shall be sorry because when I have an intresting thought I like to tell it.

“School begins again next week. Ilse is going to ask Miss Brownell if I can sit with her. I intend to act as if Rhoda was not there at all. Teddy is going too. Dr. Burnley says he is well enough to go though his mother doesnt like the idea. Teddy says she never likes to have him go to school but she is glad that he hates Miss Brownell. Aunt Laura says the right way to end a letter to a dear friend is yours affeckshunately.

“So I am yours very affeckshunately.

Emily Byrd Starr.

“P. S. Because you are my very dearest friend still, Father. Ilse says she loves me best of anything in the world and her red leather boots that Mrs. Simms gave her next.”

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