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   Chapter 2 No.2

A Mere Accident By George Augustus Moore Characters: 61644

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Mrs Norton had known William Hare all her life. She was the youngest daughter, he the youngest son of equal Yorkshire families. Separated by about a mile of pasture and woodland, these families had for generations lived unanimous lives. In England the hunting field, the grouse moor, the croquet and tennis lawn, with its charming adjunct the five-o'clock tea-table, have made life in certain classes almost communal; and Mrs Norton and William Hare had stood in white frocks under Christmas trees and shared sweetmeats. He often thought of the first time he saw her, wearing a skirt that fell below her ankles, with her hair done up. And she remembered his first appearance in evening clothes, and how surprised and delighted she was to hear him ask her if he might have the pleasure of a waltz.

He went to Oxford to take his degree; she was taken to London for the season, and towards the end of the third year she married Mr Norton, and went to live at Thornby Place. Through the excitement of the marriage arrangements, and the rapid impressions of her honeymoon, the thought of having for neighbour the playmate of her youth had flitted across, but had not rested in, her mind, and she did not realize the charm that it was for her until one afternoon, now more than twenty years ago, a young curate, bespattered with the grey mud of the downs, had startled her and her husband by addressing her as Lizzie. Lizzie she had remained to him, he was William to her, and henceforth their lives had been indissolubly linked. Not a week had passed without their seeing each other. There were visits to pay, there was hunting, and then habit intervened; and for many years, in suffering, in joy, in hope, their thoughts had instinctively looked to each other for reflective sympathy, and every remembrable event was full of mutual associations. He had sat by her when, after the birth of her first and only child, she lay pale, beautiful, and weak on a sofa by a window blown by the tide of summer scent; and the autumn of that same year he had walked with her in the garden, where the leaves fell like the last illusion of youth under the tears of an incurable grief; and staying in their walk they looked on the house which was to be for evermore one of widowhood.

Had she ever loved him? Had he ever loved her? In moments of passionate loneliness she had yearned for his protection; in moments of deep dejection he had dreamed of the happiness he might have found with her; but in the broad day of their lives they had ever thought of each other as friends. He had advised her on the management of her estate, on the education of her son; and in his afflictions-in his widowerhood-when his children quickly followed their mother to the grave, Mrs Norton's form, face, and words had steadied him, and had helped him to bear with a life of crumbling ruin. Kitty was now the only one that remained to him.

Mrs Norton had had projects of wealth and title for her son, but his continued disdain of women and the love of women had long since forced her to abandon her hopes, and now any one he might select she would gladly welcome; but she whom Mrs Norton would have preferred to all others was the daughter of her old friend. Her son had deserted her, and now all her affections were centred in Kitty. Kitty was as much at Thornby Place as at the Rectory, and in the gaiety of her bright eyes, and in the shine of her gold-brown hair-for ever slipping from the gold hair-pins in frizzed masses-Mrs Norton continued her dreams of her son's marriage.

Mr Hare thought it harsh that his daughter should be so constantly taken from him, but the parsonage was so lonely for Kitty, and there were luncheon and tennis parties at Thornby Place, and Mrs Norton took the girl out for drives, and together they visited all the county families. A suspicion of matchmaking sometimes crossed Mr Hare's mind, but it faded in the knowledge that John was always at Stanton College; and to send this fair flower to his great-to his only-friend, was a joy, and the bitterness of temporary loss was forgotten in the sweetness of the sharing. He had suffered much; but these last years had been quiet, free from despair at least, and he wished to drift a little longer with the tide of this time. Why strive to hasten events? If this thing was to be, it would be. So he had thought of his daughter's marriage. Fancies had long hung about the confines of his mind, but nothing had struck him with the full force of a thought until suddenly he understood the exact purport of his mission to Stanton College. He leaned forward as if he were going to tell the driver to return, but before he could do so the lodge-keeper opened the great gate, and the hansom cab rattled under the archway.

Then he viewed the scheme in general outline and in remote detail. It was very simple. Lizzie had been to Shoreham, and had taken Kitty away with her; he had been sent to Stanton College to beg John Norton to return to Thornby Place, and to say what he could in favour of marriage generally. This was very compromising. He had been deceived; Lizzie had deceived him. She had no right to do such a thing; and, striving to determine on a line of conduct, Mr Hare examined abstractedly the place he was passing through.

In large and serpentine curves the road wound through a wood of small beech trees-so small that in the November dishevelment the plantations were like so much brushwood; and, lying behind the wind-swept opening, gravel walks appeared in grey fragments, and the green spaces of the cricket field with a solitary divine reading his breviary. The drive turned and turned again in great sloping curves; more divines were passed, and then there came a long terrace with a balustrade and a view of the open country, now full of mist. And to see the sharp spire of the distant church you had to look closely, and slanting slowly upwards the great plain drew a long and melancholy line across the sky. The lower terrace was approached by an imposing flight of steps, there were myriads of leaves in the air, and the college bell rang in its high red tower.

The high red walls of the college faced the dismal terraces, and the triple line of diamond-paned and iron-barred windows stared upon the ugly Staffordshire landscape. A square tower squatted in the middle of the building, and out of it rose the octagon of the bell tower, and in the tower wall was the great oak door studded with great nails.

"How Birmingham the whole place does look," thought Mr Hare, as he laid his hand on an imitation medi?val bell-pull.

"Is Mr John Norton at home?" he asked when the servant came. "Will you give him my card, and say that I should like to see him."

On entering, Mr Hare found himself in a tiled hall, around which was built a staircase in varnished oak. There was a quadrangle, and from three sides the interminable latticed windows looked down on the green sward; on the fourth there was an open corridor, with arches to imitate a cloister. All was strong and barren, and only about the varnished staircase was there any sign of comfort. There a virgin in bright blue stood on a crescent moon; above her the ceiling was panelled in oak, and the banisters, the cocoa nut matting, the bit of stained glass, and the religious prints, suggested a mock air of hieratic dignity. And the room Mr Hare was shown into continued this impression. Cabinets in carved oak harmonised with high-backed chairs glowing with red Utrecht velvet, and a massive table, on which lay a folio edition of St Augustine's "City of God" and the "Epistol? Consolitori?" of St Jerome.

The bell continued to clang, and through the latticed windows Mr Hare watched the divines hurrying along the windy terrace, and the tramp of the boys going to their class-rooms could be heard in passages below.

Then a young man entered. He was thin, and he was dressed in black. His face was very Roman, the profile especially was what you might expect to find on a Roman coin-a high nose, a high cheek-bone, a strong chin, and a large ear. The eyes were prominent and luminous, and the lower part of the face was expressive of resolution and intelligence, but above the eyes there were many indications of cerebral distortions. The forehead was broad, but the temples retreated rapidly to the brown hair which grew luxuriantly on the top of the head, leaving what the phrenologists call the bumps of ideality curiously exposed, and this, taken in conjunction with the yearning of the large prominent eyes, suggested at once a clear, delightful intelligence,-a mind timid, fearing, and doubting, such a one as would seek support in mysticism and dogma, that would rise instantly to a certain point, but to drop as suddenly as if sickened by the too intense light of the cold, pure heaven of reason to the gloom of the sanctuary and the consolations of Faith. Let us turn to the mouth for a further indication of character. It was large, the lips were thick, but without a trace of sensuality. They were dim in colour, they were undefined in shape, they were a little meaningless-no, not meaningless, for they confirmed the psychological revelations of the receding temples. The hands were large, powerful, and grasping; they were earthly hands; they were hands that could take and could hold, and their materialism was curiously opposed to the ideality of the eyes-an ideality that touched the confines of frenzy. The shoulders were square and carried well back, the head was round, with close-cut hair, the straight-falling coat was buttoned high, and the fashionable collar, with a black satin cravat, beautifully tied and relieved with a rich pearl pin, set another unexpected but singularly charmful detail to an aggregate of apparently irreconcilable characteristics.

"And how do you do, my dear Mr Hare? and who would have expected to see you here? I am so glad to see you."

These words were spoken frankly and cordially, and there was a note of mundane cheerfulness in the voice which did not quite correspond with the sacerdotal elegance of this young man. Then he added quickly, as if to save himself from asking the reason of this very unexpected visit-

"But you have never been here before; this is the first time you have seen our college. And seeing it as it now is, you would not believe all the delightful detail that a ray of sunlight awakens in that hideous brown monotony, soaked with rain and bedimmed with mist."

"Yes, I can quite understand that the college is not looking its best on a day like this. We have had very wet weather lately."

"No doubt, and I am afraid these late rains have interfered with the harvest. The accounts from the North are very alarming, but in Sussex, I suppose, everything was over at least two months ago. Still even there the farmers have been losing money for some time back. I have had to make some very heavy reductions. Pearson declared he could not possibly continue at the present rent with corn as low as eight pounds a load. This is very serious, but it is very difficult to arrive at the truth. I want to talk to you; but we shall have plenty of time presently; you'll stay and dine? And I'll show you over the college: you have never been here before, and now I come to reckon it up, I find I have not seen you for nearly five years."

"It must be very nearly that; I missed you the last time you were at Thornby Place, and that was three years ago."

"Three years! It sounds very shocking, doesn't it? to have a beautiful place in Sussex and not to live there: to prefer an ugly red-brick college-Birmingham Tudor; my mother invented the expression. When she is in a passion she hits on the very happiest concurrence of words; and I must say she is right,-the architecture here is appallingly ugly; and I don't think anything could be done to improve it, do you?"

"I can't say that I can suggest anything for the moment, but I thought it was for the sake of the architecture, which I frankly confess I don't in the least admire, that you lived here."

"You thought it was for the sake of the architecture...."

"Then why do you not come home and spend Christmas with your mother!"

"Christmas! Well, I suppose I ought to. But it will be hard to bear with the plain Protestantism, the smug materialism of Sussex at such a season; and when one thinks what the day is commemorative of-"

"You surely do not mean that you would prefer to see the people starving? If your dislike of Protestantism rests only on roast beef and plum pudding...."

"No, you don't understand. But I beg your pardon-I had really forgotten ...."

"Never mind," said Mr Hare smiling; "continue: we were talking of roast beef and plum pudding-"

"Well, roast beef and plum pudding, say what you like, is a very complete figuration of the Protestant ideal. Now let us think of Sussex.... The villas with their gables, and railings, and laurels, the snug farm-houses, the market-gardening, but especially the villas, so representative of a sleepy smug materialism.... Oh, it is horrible; I cannot think of Sussex without a revulsion of feeling. Sussex is utterly opposed to the monastic spirit. Why, even the downs are easy, yes, easy as one of the upholsterer's armchairs of the villa residences. And the aspect of the county tallies exactly with the state of soul of its people. In that southern county all is soft and lascivious; there is no wildness, none of that scenical grandeur which we find in Scotland and Ireland, and which is emblematic of the yearning of man's soul for something higher than this mean and temporal life."

There was rapture in John's eyes. With a quick movement of his hands he seemed to spurn the entire materialism of Sussex. After a pause, he continued:

"There is no asceticism in Sussex, there is no yearning for anything higher or better. You-yes, you and the whole place are, in every sense of the word, Conservative-that is to say, brutally satisfied with the present ordering of things."

"Now, now, my dear John, by your own account Pearson is not by any means so satisfied with the present condition of things as you yourself would wish him to be."

John laughed loudly, and it was clear that the paradox in no way displeased him.

"But we were speaking," he continued, "not of temporal, but of spiritual pains and penalties. Now, anyone who did not know me-and none will ever know me-would think that I had not a care in the world. Well, I have suffered as horribly, I have been tortured as cruelly, as ever poor mortal was.... I have lain on the floor of my room, my heart dead within me, and moaned and shrieked with horror."

"Horror of what?"

"Horror of death and a worse horror of life. Few amongst men ever realise the truth of things, but there are rare occasions, moments of supernatural understanding or suffering (which are two words for one and the same thing), when we see life in all its worm-like meanness, and death in its plain, stupid loathsomeness. Two days out of this year live like fire in my mind. I went to my uncle Richard's funeral. There was cold meat and sherry on the table; a dreadful servant asked me if I would go up to the corpse-room. (Mark the expression.) I went. It lay swollen and featureless, and two busy hags lifted it up and packed it tight with wisps of hay, and mechanically uttered shrieks and moans.

"But, though the funeral was painfully obscene, it was not so obscene as the view of life I was treated to last week....

"Last week I was in London; I went to a place they call the 'Colonies.' Till then I had never realised the foulness of the human animal, but there even his foulness was overshadowed by his stupidity. The masses, yes, I saw the masses, and I fed with them in their huge intellectual stye. The air was filled with lines of the most inconceivable flags, lines upon lines of pale yellow, and there were glass cases filled with pickle bottles, and there were piles of ropes and a machine in motion, and in nooks there were some dreadful lay figures, and written underneath them, 'Indian corn-seller,' 'Indian fish-seller.' And there was the Prince of Wales on horseback, three times larger than life; and there were stuffed deer upon a rock, and a Polar bear, and the Marquis of Lome underneath. In another room there were Indian houses, things in carved wood, and over each large placards announcing the popular dinner, the buffet, the table d'h?te, at half-a-crown; and there were oceans of tea, and thousands of rolls of butter, and in the gardens the band played 'Thine alone' and 'Mine again.'

"It seemed as if all the back-kitchens and staircases in England had that day been emptied out-life-tattered housewives, girls grown stout on porter, pretty-faced babies, heavy-handed fathers, whistling boys in their sloppy clothes, and attitudes curiously evidencing an odious domesticity....

"In the Greek and Roman life there was an ideal, and there was a great ideal in the monastic life of the Middle Ages; but an ideal is wholly wanting in nineteenth century life. I am not of these later days. I am striving to come to terms with life."

"And you think you can do that best by folding vestments and reviling humanity. I do not see how you reconcile these opinions with the teaching of Christ-with the life of Christ."

"Oh, of course, if you are going to use those arguments against me, I have done; I can say no more."

Mr Hare did not answer, and at the end of a long silence John said:

"But, what do you say, supposing I show you over the college now, and when that's done you will come up to my room and we'll have a smoke before dinner?"

Mr Hare raised no objection, and the two men descended the staircase into the long stony corridor. The quadrangle filled the diamond panes of the latticed windows with green, and the divine walking to and fro was a spot of black. There were pictures along the walls of the corridor-pictures of upturned faces and clasped hands-and these drew words of commiseration for the artistic ignorance of the College authorities from John's lips.

"And they actually believe that that dreadful monk with the skull is a real Ribera.... The chapel is on the right, the refectory on the left. Come, let us see the chapel; I am anxious to hear what you think of my window."

"It ought to be very handsome; it cost five hundred, did it not?"

"No, not quite so much as that," John answered abruptly; and then, passing through the communion rails, they stood under the multi-coloured glory of three bishops. Mr Hare felt that a good deal of rapture was expected of him; but in his efforts to praise, he felt he was exposing his ignorance. John called attention to the transparency of the green-watered skies; and turning their backs on the bishops, the blue ceiling with the gold stars was declared, all things considered, to be in excellent taste. The benches in the body of the church were for boys; the carved chairs set along both walls between the communion rails and the first steps of the altar were for the divines. The president and vice-president knelt facing each other. The priests, deacons, and sub-deacons followed according to their rank. There were slenderer benches, and these were for the choir; and from a music-book placed on wings of the great golden eagle, the leader conducted the singing.

The side altar, with the rich Turkey carpet spread over the steps, was St George's, and further on, in an addition made lately, there were two more altars, dedicated respectively to the Virgin and St Joseph.

"The maid-servants kneel in that corner. I have often suggested that they should be moved out of sight. You do not understand me. Protestantism has always been more reconciled to the presence of women in sacred places than we. We would wish them beyond the precincts. And it is easy to imagine how the unspeakable feminality of those maid-servants jars a beautiful impression-the altar towering white with wax candles, the benedictive odour of incense, the richness of the vestments, treble voices of boys floating, and the sweetness of a long day spent about the sanctuary with flowers and chalices in my hands, fade in a sense of sullen disgust, in a revulsion of feeling which I will not attempt to justify."

Then his thoughts, straying back to sudden recollections of monastic usages and habits, he said:

"I should like to scourge them out of this place." And then, half playfully, half seriously, and wholly conscious of the grotesqueness, he added:

"Yes, I am not at all sure that a good whipping would not do them good. They should be well whipped. I believe that there is much to be said in favour of whipping."

Mr Hare did not answer. He listened like one in a dark and unknown place. But, as if unconscious of the embarrassment he was creating, John told of the number of masses that were said daily, and of the eagerness shown by the boys to obtain an altar. Altar service was rewarded by a large piece of toast for breakfast. Handsome lads of sixteen were chosen for acolytes, the torch-bearers were selected from the smallest boys, the office of censer was filled by John Norton, and he was also the chief sacristan, and had charge of the altar plate and linen and the vestments. He spoke of the organ, and he depreciated the present instrument, and enlarged upon some technical details anent the latest modern improvements in keys and stops.

They went up to the organ loft. John would play his setting of St Ambrose's hymn, "Veni redemptor gentium," if Mr Hare would go to the bellows, and feeling as if he were being turned into ridicule, Mr Hare took his place at the handle; and he found it even more embarrassing to give an opinion on the religiosity of the music, than on the arch?ological colouration of the bishops in the window. But John did not court any very detailed criticism on his hymn, and alluding to the fact that even in the fourth century accent was beginning to replace quantity, he led the way to the sacristy.

And it was impossible to avoid noticing that the opening of the carved oaken presses, smelling sweet and benignly of orris root and lavender, acted on John almost as a physical pleasure, and also that his hands seemed nervous with delight as he unfolded the jewelled embroideries, and smoothed out the fine linen of the under vestments; and his voice, too, seemed to gain a sharp tenderness and emotive force, as he told how these were the gold vestments worn by the bishop, and only on certain great feast-days, and that these were the white vestments worn on days especially commemorative of the Virgin. The consideration of the censers, candlesticks, chalices, and albs took some time, and John was a little aggressive in his explanation of Catholic ceremonial, and its grace and comeliness compared with the stiffness and materialism of the Protestant service.

From the sacristy they went to the boys' library. John pointed out the excellent supply of light literature that the bookcases contained.

"We take travels, history, fairy-tales-romances of all kinds, so long as sensual passion is not touched upon at any length. Of course we don't object to a book in which just towards the end the young man falls in love and proposes; but there must not be much of that sort of thing. Here are Robert Louis Stevenson's works, 'Treasure Island,' 'Kidnapped,' &c.c., charming writer-a neat pretty style, with a pleasant souvenir of Edgar Poe running through it all. You have no idea how the boys enjoy his books."

"And don't you?"

"Oh no; I have just glanced at him: for my own reading, I can admit none who does not write in the first instance for scholars, and then to the scholarly instincts in readers generally. Here is Walter Pater. We have his Renaissance; studies in art and poetry-I gave it myself to the library. We were so sorry we could not include that most beautiful book, 'Marius the Epicurean.' We have some young men here of twenty and three and twenty, and it would be delightful to see them reading it, so exquisite is its hopeful idealism; but we were obliged to bar it on account of the story of Psyche, sweetly though it be told, and sweetly though it be removed from any taint of realistic suggestion. Do you know the book?"

"I can't say I do."

"Then read it at once. It is a breath of delicious fragrance blown back to us from the antique world; nothing is lost or faded, the bloom of that glad bright world is upon every page; the wide temples, the lustral water-the youths apportioned out for divine service, and already happy with a sense of dedication, the altars gay with garlands of wool and the more sumptuous sort of flowers, the colour of the open air, with the scent of the beanfields, mingling with the cloud of incense."

"But I thought you denied any value to the external world, that the spirit alone was worth considering."

"The antique world knew how to idealise, and if they delighted in the outward form, they did not leave it gross and vile as we do when we touch it; they raised it, they invested it with a sense of aloofness that we know not of. Flesh or spirit, idealise one or both, and I will accept them. But you do not know the book. You must read it. Never did I read with such rapture of being, of growing to spiritual birth. It seemed to me that for the first time I was made known to myself; for the first time the false veil of my grosser nature was withdrawn, and I looked into the true ethereal eyes, pale as wan water and sunset skies, of my higher self. Marius was to me an awakening; the rapture of knowledge came upon me that even our temporal life might be beautiful; that, in a word, it was possible to somehow come to terms with life.... You must read it. For instance, can anyone conceive anything more perfectly beautiful than the death of Flavian, and all that youthful companionship, and Marius' admiration for his friend's poetry?... that delightful language of the third century-a new Latin, a season of dependency, an Indian summer full of strange and varied cadences, so different from the monotonous sing-song of the Augustan age; the school of which Fronto was the head. Indeed, it was Pater's book that first suggested to me the idea of the book I am writing. But perhaps you do not know I am writing a book.... Did my mother tell you anything about it?"

"Yes; she told me you were writing the history of Christian Latin."

"Yes; that is to say, of the language that was the literary, the scientific, and the theological language of Europe for more than a thousand years."

And talking of his book rapidly, and with much boyish enthusiasm, John opened the doors of the refectory. The long, oaken tables, the great fireplace, and the stained glass seemed to delight him, and he alluded to the art classes of monastic life. The class-rooms were peeped into, the playground was viewed through the lattice windows, and they went to John's room, up a staircase curiously carpeted with lead.

John's rooms! a wide, bright space of green painted wood and straw matting. The walls were panelled from floor to ceiling. In the centre of the floor there was an oak table-a table made of sharp slabs of oak laid upon a frame that was evidently of ancient design, probably early German, a great, gold screen sheltered a high canonical chair with elaborate carvings, and on a reading-stand close by lay the manuscript of a Latin poem.

"And what is this?" said Mr Hare.

"Oh! that is a poem by Milo, his 'De Sobricate.' I heard that the manuscript was still preserved in the convent of Saint Amand, near Tournai, and I sent and had a copy made for me. That was the simplest way. You have no idea how difficult it is to buy the works of any Latin authors except those of the Augustan age. Milo was a monk, and he lived in the eighth century. He was a man of very considerable attainments, if he were not a very great poet. He was a contemporary of Floras, who, by the way, was a real poet. Some of his verses are delightful, full of delicate cadence and colour. The MS. under your hand is a poem by him-

"'Montes et colles, silv?que et flumina, fontes,

Pr?rupt?que rupes, pariter vallesque profond?

Francorum lugete genus: quod munere christi,

Imperio celsum jacet ecce in pulvere mersum.'

"That was written in the eighth century when the language was becoming terribly corrupt; when it was hideous with popular idiom barbarously and recklessly employed. But even in that time of autumnal decay and pallid bloom, a real poet such as Walahfrid Strabat could weave a garland of grace and beauty; one, indeed, that lived through the chance of centuries in the minds of men. It found numberless imitators and favour even with the Humanists, and it was reprinted eight times in the seventeenth century. This poem is of especial interest to me on account of the illustration it affords of a theory of my own concerning the unconsciousness of the true artist. For breaking away from the literary habitudes of his time, which were to do the gospels or the life of a favourite saint into hexameters, he wrote a poem, 'Hortulus,' descriptive of the garden of the monastery. The garden was all the world to the monks; it furnished them at once with the pleasures and the necessaries of their lives. Walahfrid felt this; he described his feelings, and he produced a chef d'?uvre." Going over to the bookcase, John took down a volume. He read:-

"'Hoc nemus umbriferum pingit viridissima Rut?

Silvula c?rule?, foliis qu? pr?dita parvis,

Umbellas jaculata brevis, spiramina venti

Et radios Ph?bi caules transmittit ad imos,

Attactuque graves leni dispergit odores,

H?c cum multiplici vigeat virtute medel?,

Dicitur occultis apprime obstare venenis,

Toxicaque invasis incommoda pellere fibris.'

"Now, can anything be more charming? True it is that pingit in the first line does not seem to construe satisfactorily, and I am not certain that the poet may not have written fingit. Fingit would not be pure Latin, but that is beside the question."

"Indeed it is. I must say I prefer the Georgics. I have known many strange tastes, but your fancy for bad Latin is the strangest of all."

"Classical Latin, with the exception of Tacitus, is cold-blooded and self-satisfied. There is no agitation, no fever; to me it is utterly without interest."

To the books and manuscripts the pictures on the walls afforded an abrupt contrast. No. 1. "A Japanese Girl," by Monet. A poppy in the pale green walls; a wonderful macaw! Why does it not speak in strange dialect? It trails lengths of red silk. Such red! The pigment is twirled and heaped with quaint device, until it seems to be beautiful embroidery rath

er than painting; and the straw-coloured hair, and the blond light on the face, and the unimaginable coquetting of that fan....

No. 2. "The Drop Curtain," by Degas. The drop curtain is fast descending; only a yard of space remains. What a yardful of curious comment, what satirical note on the preposterousness of human existence! what life there is in every line; and the painter has made meaning with every blot of colour! Look at the two principal dancers! They are down on their knees, arms raised, bosoms advanced, skirts extended, a hundred coryphées are clustered about them. Leaning hands, uplifted necks, painted eyes, scarlet mouths, a piece of thigh, arched insteps, and all is blurred; vanity, animalism, indecency, absurdity, and all to be whelmed into oblivion in a moment. Wonderful life; wonderful Degas!

No. 3. "A Suburb," by Monet. Snow! the world is white. The furry fluff has ceased to fall, and the sky is darkling and the night advances, dragging the horizon up with it like a heavy, deadly curtain. But the roof of the villa is white, and the green of the laurels shaken free of the snow shines through the railings, and the shadows that lie across the road leading to town are blue-yes, as blue as the slates under the immaculate snow.

No. 4. "The Cliff's Edge," by Monet. Blue? purple the sea is; no, it is violet; 'tis striped with violet and flooded with purple; there are living greens, it is full of fading blues. The dazzling sky deepens as it rises to breathless azure, and the soul pines for and is fain of God. White sails show aloft; a line of dissolving horizon; a fragment of overhanging cliff wild with coarse grass and bright with poppies, and musical with the lapsing of the summer waves.

There were in all six pictures-a tall glass filled with pale roses, by Renoir; a girl tying up her garter, by Monet.

Through the bedroom door Mr Hare saw a narrow iron bed, an iron washhand-stand, and a prie-dieu. A curious three-cornered wardrobe stood in one corner, and facing it, in front of the prie-dieu, a life-size Christ hung with outstretched arms. The parson looked round for a seat, but the chairs were like cottage stools on high legs, and the angular backs looked terribly knife-like.

"Sit in the arm-chair. Shall I get you a pillow from the next room? Personally I cannot bear upholstery; I cannot conceive anything more hideous than a padded arm-chair. All design is lost in that infamous stuffing. Stuffing is a vicious excuse for the absence of design. If upholstery was forbidden by law to-morrow, in ten years we should have a school of design. Then the necessity of composition would be imperative."

"I daresay there is a good deal in what you say; but tell me, don't you find these chairs very uncomfortable. Don't you think that you would find a good comfortable arm-chair very useful for reading purposes?"

"No, I should feel far more uncomfortable on a cushion than I do on this bit of hard oak. Our ancestors had an innate sense of form that we have not. Look at these chairs, nothing can be plainer; a cottage stool is hardly more simple, and yet they are not offensive to the eye. I had them made from a picture by Albert Durer. But tell me, what will you take to drink? Will you have a glass of champagne, or a brandy and soda, or what do you say to an absinthe?"

"'Pon my word, you seem to look after yourself. You don't forget the inner man."

"I always keep a good supply of liquor; have a cigar?" And John passed to him a box of fragrant and richly coloured Havanas.... Mr Hare took a cigar, and glanced at the table on which John was mixing the drinks. It was a slip of marble, rested, café fashion, on iron supports.

"But that table is modern, surely?-quite modern!"

"Quite; it is a café table, but it does not offend my eye. You surely would not have me collect a lot of old-fashioned furniture and pile it up in my rooms, Turkey carpets and Japaneseries of all sorts; a room such as Sir Fred. Leighton would declare was intended to be merely beautiful."

Striving vainly to understand, Mr Hare drank his brandy and soda in silence. Presently he walked over to the bookcases. There were two: one was filled with learned-looking volumes bearing the names of Latin authors; and the parson, who prided himself on his Latinity, was surprised, and a little nettled, to find so much ignorance proved upon him. With Tertullian, St Jerome, and St Augustine he was of course acquainted, but of Lactantius, Prudentius, Sedulius, St Fortunatus, Duns Scotus, Hibernicus exul, Angilbert, Milo, &c.c., he was obliged to admit he knew nothing-even the names were unknown to him.

In the bookcase on the opposite side of the room there were complete editions of Landor and Swift, then came two large volumes on Leonardo da Vinci. Raising his eyes, the parson read through the titles of Mr Browning's work. Tennyson was in a cheap seven-and-six edition; then came Swinburne, Pater, Rossetti, Morris, two novels by Rhoda Broughton, Dickens, Thackeray, Fielding, and Smollett; the complete works of Balzac, Gautier's Emaux et Camées, Salammbo, L'Assommoir; add to this Carlyle, Byron, Shelley, Keats, &c.c.

At the end of a long silence, Mr Hare said, glancing once again at the Latin authors, and walking towards the fire:

"Tell me, John, are those the books you are writing about? Supposing you explain to me in a few words the line you are taking. Your mother tells me that you intend to call your book the History of Christian Latin."

"Yes, I had thought of using that title, but I am afraid it is a little too ambitious. To write the history of a literature extending over at least eight centuries would entail an appalling amount of reading; and besides only a few, say a couple of dozen writers out of some hundreds, are of the slightest literary interest, and very few indeed of any real ?sthetic value. I have been hard at work lately, and I think I know enough of the literature of the Middle Ages to enable me to make a selection that will comprise everything of interest to ordinary scholarship, and enough to form a sound basis to rest my own literary theories upon. I begin by stating that there existed in the Middle Ages a universal language such as Goethe predicted the future would again bring to us....

"Before the formation of the limbs, that is to say before the German and Roman languages were developed up to the point of literary usage, the Latin language was the language of all nations of the western world. But the day came, in some countries a little earlier, in some a little later, when it was replaced by the national idioms. The different literatures of the West had therefore been preceded by a Latin literature that had for a long time held out a supporting hand to each. The language of this literature was not a dead language, It was the language of government, of science, of religion; and a little dislocated, a little barbarised, it had penetrated to the minds of the people, and found expression in drinking songs and street ditties.

"Such is the theme of my book; and it seems to me that a language that has played so important a part in the world's history is well worthy of serious study.

"I show how Christianity, coming as it did with a new philosophy, and a new motive for life, invigorated and saved the Latin language in a time of decline and decrepitude. For centuries it had given expression, even to satiety, to a naive joy in the present; on this theme, all that could be said had been said, all that could be sung had been sung, and the Rhetoricians were at work with alliteration and refrain when Christianity came, and impetuously forced the language to speak the desire of the soul. In a word, I want to trace the effect that such a radical alteration in the music, if I may so speak, had upon the instrument-the Latin language."

"And with whom do you begin?"

"With Tertullian, of course."

"And what do you think of him?"

"Tertullian, one of the most fascinating characters of ancient or modern times. In my study of his writings I have worked out a psychological study of the man himself as revealed through them. His realism, I might say materialism, is entirely foreign to my own nature, but I cannot help being attracted by that wild African spirit, so full of savage contradictions, so full of energy that it never knew repose: in him you find all the imperialism of ancient times. When you consider that he lived in a time when the church was struggling for utterance amid the horrors of persecution, his mad Christianity becomes singularly attractive; a passionate fear of beauty for reason of its temptations, a fear that turned to hatred, and forced him at last into the belief that Christ was an ugly man."

"I know nothing of the monks of the eighth century and their poetry, but I do know something of Tertullian, and you mean to tell me that you admire his style-those harsh chopped-up phrases and strained antitheses."

"I should think I did. Phrases set boldly one against the other; quaint, curious, and full of colour, the reader supplies with delight the connecting link, though the passion and the force of the description lives and reels along. Listen:

"'Qu? tunc spectaculi latitudo! quid admirer? quid rideam? ubi gaudeam? ubi exultem, spectans tot ac tantos reges, qui in c?lum recepti nuntiabantur, cum ipso Jove et ipsis suis testibus in imis tenebris congemiscentes!-Tunc magis trag?di audiendi, magis scilicet vocales in sua propria calamitate; tunc histriones cognoscendi, solutiores multo per ignem; tunc spectandus auriga, in flammea rota totus rubens, &c.c.'

"Show me a passage in Livy equal to that for sheer force and glittering colour. The phrases are not all dove-tailed one into the other and smoothed away; they stand out."

"Indeed they do. And whom do you speak of next?"

"I pass on to St Cyprian and Lactantius; to the latter I attribute the beautiful poem of the Ph?nix."

"What! Claudian's poem?"

"No, but one infinitely superior. After Lactantius comes St Ambrose, St Jerome, and St Augustine. The second does not interest me, and my notice of him is brief; but I make special studies of the first and last. It was St Ambrose who introduced singing into the Catholic service. He took the idea from the Arians. He saw the effect it had upon the vulgar mind, and he resolved to combat the heresy with its own weapons. He composed a vast number of hymns. Only four have come down to us, and they are as perfect in form as in matter. You will scarcely find anywhere a false quantity or a hiatus. The Ambrosian hymns remained the type of all the hymnic poetry of succeeding centuries. Even Prudentius, great poet as he was, was manifestly influenced in the choice of metre and the composition of the strophe by the Deus Creator omnium....

"St Ambrose did more than any other writer of his time to establish certain latent tendencies as characteristics of the Catholic spirit. His pleading in favour of ascetic life and of virginity, that entirely Christian virtue, was very influential. He lauds the virgin above the wife, and, indeed, he goes so far as to tell parents that they can obtain pardon of their sins by offering their daughters to God. His teaching in this respect was productive of very serious rebellion against what some are pleased to term the laws of Nature. But St Ambrose did not hesitate to uphold the repugnance of girls to marriage as not only lawful but praiseworthy."

"I am afraid you let your thoughts dwell very much on such subjects."

"Really, do you think I do?" John's eyes brightened for a moment, and he lapsed into what seemed an examination of conscience. Then he said, somewhat abruptly, "St Jerome I speak of, or rather I allude to him, and pass on at once to the study of St Augustine-the great prose writer, as Prudentius was the great poet, of the Middle Ages.

"Now, talking of style, I will admit that the eternal apostrophising of God and the incessant quoting from the New Testament is tiresome to the last degree, and seriously prejudices the value of the 'Confessions' as considered from the artistic standpoint. But when he bemoans the loss of the friend of his youth, when he tells of his resolution to embrace an ascetic life, he is nervously animated, and is as psychologically dramatic as Balzac."

"I have taken great pains with my study of St Augustine, because in him the special genius of Christianity for the first time found a voice. All that had gone before was a scanty flowerage-he was the perfect fruit. I am speaking from a purely artistic standpoint: all that could be done for the life of the senses had been done, but heretofore the life of the soul had been lived in silence-none had come to speak of its suffering, its uses, its tribulation. In the time of Horace it was enough to sit in Lalage's bower and weave roses; of the communion of souls none had ever thought. Let us speak of the soul! This is the great dividing line between the pagan and Christian world, and St Augustine is the great landmark. In literature he discovered that man had a soul, and that man had grown interested in its story, had grown tired of the exquisite externality of the nymph-haunted forest and the waves where the Triton blows his plaintive blast.

"The whole theory and practice of modern literature is found in the 'Confessions of St Augustine;' and from hence flows the great current of psychological analysis which, with the development of the modern novel, grows daily greater in volume and more penetrating in essence.... Is not the fretful desire of the Balzac novel to tell of the soul's anguish an obvious development of the 'Confessions'?"

"In like manner I trace the origin of the ballad, most particularly the English ballad, to Prudentius, a contemporary of Claudian."

"You don't mean to say that you trace back our north-country ballads to, what do you call him?"

"Prudentius. I show that there is much in his hymns that recalls the English ballads."

"In his hymns?"

"Yes; in the poems that come under such denomination. I confess it is not a little puzzling to find a narrative poem of some five hundred lines or more included under the heading of hymns; it would seem that nearly all lyric poetry of an essentially Christian character was so designated, to separate it from secular or pagan poetry. In Prudentius' first published work, 'Liber Cathemerinon,' we find hymns composed absolutely after the manner of St Ambrose, in the same or in similar metres, but with this difference, the hymns of Prudentius are three, four, and sometimes seven times longer than those of St Ambrose. The Spanish poet did not consider, or he lost sight of, the practical usages of poetry. He sang more from an artistic than a religious impulse. That he delighted in the song for the song's own sake is manifest; and this is shown in the variety of his treatment, and the delicate sense of music which determined his choice of metre. His descriptive writing is full of picturesque expression. The fifth hymn, 'Ad Incensum Lucern?,' is glorious with passionate colour and felicitous cadence, be he describing with precious solicitude for Christian arch?ology the different means of artistic lighting, flambeaux, candles, lamps, or dreaming with all the rapture of a southern dream of the balmy garden of Paradise.

"But his best book to my thinking is by far, 'Peristephanon,' that is to say, the hymns celebrating the glory of the martyrs.

"I was saying just now that the hymns of Prudentius, by the dramatic rapidity of the narrative, by the composition of the strophe, and by their wit, remind me very forcibly of our English ballads. Let us take the story of St Laurence, written in iambics, in verses of four lines each. In the time of the persecutions of Valerian, the Roman prefect, devoured by greed, summoned St Laurence, the treasurer of the church, before him, and on the plea that parents were making away with their fortunes to the detriment of their children, demanded that the sacred vessels should be given up to him. 'Upon all coins is found the head of the Emperor and not that of Christ, therefore obey the order of the latter, and give to the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor.'

"To this speech, peppered with irony and sarcasm, St Laurence replies that the church is very rich, even richer than the Emperor, and that he will have much pleasure in offering its wealth to the prefect, and he asks for three days to classify the treasures. Transported with joy, the prefect grants the required delay. Laurence collects the infirm who have been receiving charity from the church; and in picturesque grouping the poet shows us the blind, the paralytic, the lame, the lepers, advancing with trembling and hesitating steps. Those are the treasures, the golden vases and so forth, that the saint has catalogued and is going to exhibit to the prefect, who is waiting in the sanctuary. The prefect is dumb with rage; the saint observes that gold is found in dross; that the disease of the body is to be less feared than that of the soul; and he developes this idea with a good deal of wit. The boasters suffer from dropsy, the miser from cramp in the wrist, the ambitious from febrile heat, the gossipers, who delight in tale-bearing, from the itch; but you, he says, addressing the prefect, you who govern Rome,[1] suffer from the morbus regius (you see the pun). In revenge for thus slighting his dignity, the prefect condemns St Laurence to be roasted on a slow fire, adding, 'and deny there, if you will, the existence of my Vulcan.' Even on the gridiron Laurence does not lose his good humour, and he gets himself turned as a cook would a chop.

"Now, do you not understand what I mean when I say that the hymns of Prudentius are an anticipation of the form of the English ballad?... And in the fifth hymn the story of St Vincent is given with that peculiar dramatic terseness that you find nowhere except in the English ballad. But the most beautiful poem of all is certainly the fourteenth and last hymn. In a hundred and thirty-three hendecasyllabic verses the story of a young virgin condemned to a house of ill-fame is sung with exquisite sense of grace and melody. She is exposed naked at the corner of a street. The crowd piously turns away; only one young man looks upon her with lust in his heart. He is instantly struck blind by lightning, but at the request of the virgin his sight is restored to him. Then follows the account of how she suffered martyrdom by the sword-a martyrdom which the girl salutes with a transport of joy. The poet describes her ascending to Heaven, and casting one last look upon this miserable earth, whose miseries seem without end, and whose joys are of such short duration.

"Then his great poem 'Psychomachia' is the first example in medi?val literature of allegorical poetry, the most Christian of all forms of art.

"Faith, her shoulders bare, her hair free, advances, eager for the fight. The 'cult of the ancient gods,' with forehead chapleted after the fashion of the pagan priests, dares to attack her, and is overthrown. The legion of martyrs that Faith has called together cry in triumphant unison.... Modesty (Pudicitia), a young virgin with brilliant arms, is attacked by 'the most horrible of the Furies' (Sodomita Libido), who, with a torch burning with pitch and sulphur, seeks to strike her eyes, but Modesty disarms him and pierces him with her sword. 'Since the Virgin without stain gave birth to the Man-God, Lust is without rights in the world.' Patience watches the fight; she is presently attacked by Anger, first with violent words, and then with darts, which fall harmlessly from her armour. Accompanied by Job, Patience retires triumphant. But at that moment, mounted on a wild and unbridled steed, and covered with a lionskin, Pride (Superbia), her hair built up like a tower, menaces Humility (Mens humilis). Under the banner of Humility are ranged Justice, Frugality, Modesty, pale of face, and likewise Simplicity. Pride mocks at this miserable army, and would crush it under the feet of her steed. But she falls in a ditch dug by Fraud. Humility hesitates to take advantage of her victory; but Hope draws her sword, cuts off the head of the enemy, and flies away on golden wings to Heaven.

"Then Lust (Luxuria), the new enemy, appears. She comes from the extreme East, this wild dancer, with odorous hair, provocative glance and effeminate voice; she stands in a magnificent chariot drawn by four horses; she scatters violet and rose leaves; they are her weapons; their insidious perfumes destroy courage and will, and the army, headed by the virtues, speaks of surrender. But suddenly Sobriety (Sobrietas) lifts the standard of the Cross towards the sky. Lust falls from her chariot, and Sobriety fells her with a stone. Then all her saturnalian army is scattered. Love casts away his quiver. Pomp strips herself of her garments, and Voluptuousness (Voluptas) fears not to tread upon thorns, &c.c. But Avarice disguises herself in the mask of Economy, and succeeds in deceiving all hearts until she is overthrown finally by Mercy (Operatica). All sorts of things happen, but eventually the poem winds up with a prayer to Christ, in which we learn that the soul shall fall again and again in the battle, and that this shall continue until the coming of Christ."

"'Tis very curious, very curious indeed. I know nothing of this literature."

"Very few do."

"And you have, I suppose, translated some of these poems?"

"I give a complete translation of the second hymn, the story of St Laurence, and I give long extracts from the poem we have been speaking about, and likewise from 'Hamartigenia,' which, by the way, some consider as his greatest work. And I show more completely, I think, than any other commentator, the analogy between it and the 'Divine Comedy,' and how much Dante owed to it.... Then the 'terza rima' was undoubtedly borrowed from the fourth hymn of the 'Cathemerinon.'"...

"You said, I think, that Prudentius was a contemporary of Claudian. Which do you think the greater poet?"

"Prudentius by far. Claudian's Latin was no doubt purer and his verse was better, that is to say, from the classical standpoint it was more correct."

"Is there any other standpoint?"

"Of course. There is pagan Latin and Christian Latin: Burns' poems are beautiful, and they are not written in Southern English; Chaucer's verse is exquisitely melodious, although it will not scan to modern pronunciation. In the earliest Christian poetry there is a tendency to write by accent rather than by quantity, but that does not say that the hymns have not a quaint Gothic music of their own. This is very noticeable in Sedulius, a poet of the fifth century. His hymn to Christ is not only full of assonance, but of all kinds of rhyme and even double rhymes. We find the same thing in Sedonius, and likewise in Fortunatus-a gay prelate, the morality of whose life is, I am afraid, open to doubt...

"He had all the qualities of a great poet, but he wasted his genius writing love verses to Radegonde. The story is a curious one. Radegonde was the daughter of the King of Thuringia; she was made prisoner by Clotaire I., son of Clovis, who forced her to become his wife. On the murder of her father by her husband, she fled and founded a convent at Poictiers. There she met Fortunatus, who, it appears, loved her. It is of course humanly possible that their love was not a guilty one, but it is certain that the poet wasted the greater part of his life writing verses to her and her adopted daughter Agnes. In a beautiful poem in praise of virginity, composed in honour of Agnes, he speaks in a very disgusting way of the love with which nuns regard our Redeemer, and the recompence that awaits them in Heaven for their chastity. If it had not been for the great interest attaching to his verse as an example of the radical alteration that had been effected in the language, I do not think I should have spoken of this poet. Up to his time rhyme had slipped only occasionally into the verse, it had been noticed and had been allowed to remain by poets too idle to remove it, a strange something not quite understood, and yet not a wholly unwelcome intruder; but in St Fortunatus we find for the first time rhyme cognate with the metre, and used with certainty and brilliancy. In the opening lines of the hymn, 'Vexilla Regis,' rhyme is used with superb effect....

"But for signs of the approaching dissolution of the language, of its absorption by the national idiom, we must turn to St Gregory of Tours. He was a man of defective education, and the lingua rustica of France as it was spoken by the people makes itself felt throughout his writings. His use of iscere for escere, of the accusative for the ablative, one of St Gregory's favourite forms of speech, pro or quod for quoniam, conformable to old French porceque, so common for parceque. And while national idiom was oozing through grammatical construction, national forms of verse were replacing the classical metres which, so far as syllables were concerned, had hitherto been adhered to. As we advance into the sixth and seventh centuries, we find English monks attempting to reproduce the characteristics of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse in Latin; and at the Court of Charlemagne we find an Irish monk writing Latin verse in a long trochaic line, which is native in Irish poetry.

"Poets were plentiful at the court of Charlemagne. Now, Angilbert was a poet of exquisite grace, and surprisingly modern is his music, which is indeed a wonderful anticipation of the lilt of Edgar Poe. I compare it to Poe. Just listen:-

"'Surge meo Domno dulces fac, fistula versus:

David amat versus, surge et fac fistula versus.

David amat vates, vatorum est gloria David

Qua propter vates cuncti concurrite in unum

Atque meo David dulces cantate cam?nas.

David amat vates, vatorum est gloria David.

Dulcis amor David inspirat corda canentum,

Cordibus in nostris faciat amor ipsius odas:

Vates Homerus amat David, fac, fistula, versus.

David amat vates, vatorum est gloria David.'"

"I should have flogged that monk-'ipsius,' oh, oh!-'vatorum.'... It really is too terrible."

John laughed, and was about to reply, when the clanging of the college bell was heard.

"I am afraid that is dinner-time."

"Afraid, I am delighted; you don't suppose that every one can live, chameleon-like, on air, or worse still, on false quantities. Ha, ha, ha! And those pictures too. That snow is more violet than white."

When dinner was over, John and Mr Hare walked out on the terrace. The carriage waited in the wet in front of the great oak portal; the grey, stormy evening descended on the high roofs, smearing the red out of the walls and buttresses, and melancholy and tall the red college seemed amid its dwarf plantation, now filled with night wind and drifting leaves. Shadow and mist had floated out of the shallows above the crests of the valley, and the lamps of the farm-houses gleamed into a pale existence.

"And now tell me what I am to say to your mother. Will you come home for Christmas?"

"I suppose I must. I suppose it would seem so unkind if I didn't. I cannot account even to myself for my dislike to the place. I cannot think of it without a revulsion of feeling that is strangely personal."

"I won't argue that point with you, but I think you ought to come home."

"Why? Why ought I to come to Sussex, and marry my neighbour's daughter?"

"There is no reason that you should marry your neighbour's daughter, but I take it that you do not propose to pass your life here."

"For the present I am concerned mainly with the problem of how I may make advances, how I may meet life, as it were, half-way; for if possible I would not quite lose touch of the world. I would love to live in its shadow, a spectator whose duty it is to watch and encourage, and pity the hurrying throng on the stage. The church would approve this attitude, whereas hate and loathing of humanity are not to be justified. But I can do nothing to hurry the state of feeling I desire, except of course to pray. I have passed through some terrible moments of despair and gloom, but these are now wearing themselves away, and I am feeling more at rest."

Then, as if from a sudden fear of ridicule, John said, laughing: "Besides, looking at the question from a purely practical side, it must be hardly wise for me to return to society for the present. I like neither fox-hunting, marriage, Robert Louis Stevenson's stories, nor Sir Frederick Leighton's pictures; I prefer monkish Latin to Virgil, and I adore Degas, Monet, Manet, and Renoir, and since this is so, and alas, I am afraid irrevocably so, do you not think that I should do well to keep outside a world in which I should be the only wrong and vicious being? Why spoil that charming thing called society by my unlovely presence?

"Selfishness! I know what you are going to say-here is my answer. I assure you I administer to the best of my ability the fortune God gave me-I spare myself no trouble. I know the financial position of every farmer on my estate, the property does not owe fifty pounds;-I keep the tenants up to the mark; I do not approve of waste and idleness, but when a little help is wanted I am ready to give it. And then, well, I don't mind telling you, but it must not go any further. I have made a will leaving something to all my tenants; I give away a fixed amount in charity yearly."

"I know, my dear John, I know your life is not a dissolute one; but your mother is very anxious, remember you are the last. Is there no chance of your ever marrying?"

"I don't think I could live with a woman; there is something very degrading, something very gross in such relations. There is a better and a purer life to lead ... an inner life, coloured and permeated with feelings and tones that are, oh, how intensely our own, and he who may have this life, shrinks from any adventitious presence that might jar or destroy it. To keep oneself unspotted, to feel conscious of no sense of stain, to know, yes, to hear the heart repeat that this self-hands, face, mouth and skin-is free from all befouling touch, is all one's own. I have always been strongly attracted to the colour white, and I can so well and so acutely understand the legend that tells that the ermine dies of gentle loathing of its own self, should a stain come upon its immaculate fur.... I should not say a legend, for that implies that the story is untrue, and it is not untrue-so beautiful a thought could not be untrue."


[1] Qui Romam regis.

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