That well delights thy brand!

Physical endurance is not a more necessary quality to the soldier than
mental elasticity. There seemed to be no want of the latter among our
fellows, when we unbitted our horses and sat down to a meal which was
improvised by our servants near a grove of turpentine and caper trees.
It was a lovely evening now, and many a wreath of purple and golden
cloud lay cradled in the amber sunset. The infantry had piled their
arms by regiments, brigades, and divisions, and the thousands of our
host lay panting on the sward, or preparing to cook their rations in
such a fashion as suited the emergency or their fancy. In the distance
were flocks of bustards crossing the now arid plain, which in summer had
been covered by a profusion of aromatic herbs. Our accoutrements were
cast on the grass, our uniforms were unbuttoned, cigar-cases went from,
hand to hand, freely interchanged, and even the last copies of _Punch_
were conned over and laughed at.

Thanks to me, and the use of a _kabitka_ I procured, we had plenty of
provisions. A ham, some cold fowls, Bass’s pale ale, sherry, even
champagne, were produced by some of ours; and these, with a few
cucumbers and gourds, medlars, and filberts, which Willie Pitblado had
found in the deserted garden of a Tartar, formed, all things considered,
a sumptuous repast, and what it lacked in style and equipage was amply
made up for in fun and jollity, for “men accommodate themselves
unconsciously to the modes of living that are forced upon them. It is a
law of our being, and it is well that it should be so. A bomb bursting
in the midst of a fashionable London dinner party would do no more
mischief than one of the numbers which used to burst daily within the
walls of Lucknow; but assuredly it would produce a far greater
impression.”

“This is really the tug of war!” exclaimed Wilford, who, after various
ineffectual efforts to uncork a champagne bottle, adroitly struck off
its head by the stroke of a knife.

“Yes, by Jove! and think of the mess!” added Jocelyn.

“To feel,” said the colonel, “that one has a soul—and what is more, an
appetite, a taste, and decided predilection for turtle soup and
_recherché entrées_—and yet compelled to appreciate this style of
thing!”

“I can appreciate everything and anything,” exclaimed the paymaster.

“Even an ’aggis, eh?—haw!” said Berkeley.

“Yes, even a haggis. My stomach is as empty as a kettledrum,” replied
the paymaster, as he sliced away at the ham.

“I think there is something going on in front,” observed Wilford,
pausing in the act of dissecting a fowl.

“Yes,” said Beverley; “Lord Raglan, with some squadrons of the 11th and
13th, has crossed the river to reconnoitre; but let us make the most of
the present, our turn will come all in good time. Pass the wine,
M’Goldrick; a slice of meat, Studhome—thanks.”

“Ugh!” remarked the paymaster; “’the bed of honour,’ as Jean Paul
Richter says, ’since whole regiments lie on it, and frequently have
received their last unction, should really be filled anew, beaten and
sunned.’”

“What—aw, haw—does that quotation mean?” asked Berkeley, adjusting his
eyeglass, contracting the muscles of his eye, and giving our old Scots
paymaster an inquiring and quizzical stare. “It sounds doocid queer,
and—haw—unpleasant.”

“I was thinking of the hard bed I shall sleep on to-night, sir,” replied
M’Goldrick, rather sternly.

“By Jove, some of us may sleep sound enough to-night yet,” said the
colonel, half starting up. “There is a decided movement in front, and
here comes a French mounted officer.”

At that moment a subaltern of Zouaves, mounted on a French dragoon
horse, in a somewhat excited manner, dashed up to where we lay lounging
on the grass, reined his trooper sharply in on the bit, shouting
something of which I could only make out the prefix, “_Messieurs les
officiers_!”

“_Diable!_ you don’t speak French?” he added, in English, to Travers of
ours.

“No, sir; I am sorry——”

“_Peste!_” interrupted the Frenchman; “every staff officer should speak
at least two European languages.”

“_Dioul na bocklish_! There, I can speak my mother tongue, being an
Irishman; and if that won’t do, the devil is in it. But I am not a
staff officer,” he added, to the stranger, in whom I now recognized M.
Jolicoeur, of the 2nd Zouaves.

“The enemy is in great force in front, and your commander-in-chief, with
the two regiments of your advanced guard, will be surrounded and cut
off.”

“Lord Raglan, with the 11th and 13th!” we exclaimed, starting to our
feet; and just at that moment an aide-de-camp, Captain Bolton, of the
1st Dragoon Guards, came galloping up, and exclaimed—

“Boot and saddle, Colonel Beverley; the 11th and 13th, under Lord
Cardigan, are engaged in front. Cavalry supports and horse artillery
are instantly required.”

The trumpets sounded, the regiment formed by troops, and joined the
brigade, which formed in squadrons, and advanced rapidly in search of
the enemy.

“Aw—doocid bore, after our pleasant little tiffin,” I heard Berkeley
say, with a bantering air; but I could see that he looked very white for
all that, and Beverley only smiled superciliously, as he twisted his
thick moustaches.

“I wonder Berkeley has not his white gloves on,” he whispered to me, and
I saw some of our men smiling, for it was a regimental joke, or
notoriety, that he was in the habit of pencilling on his gloves the
words of command he had to issue in succession.

As the junior regiment, we were in the centre of the brigade, the senior
corps being on the right, and the next in seniority on the left; and we
advanced at a rapid trot, in a column of squadrons at wheeling distance,
while the artillery, making a dreadful clatter, with all their tumbrils
limbered up, their spare wheels, forge waggons, rammers, sponges,
buckets, and other apparatus, went thundering at full gallop to the
front.

“In a few minutes, my lads, we may be hand to hand with the enemy,”
shouted Beverley, as he stood up in his stirrups and brandished his
sword; “let us be true to the old motto of the regiment!”

All knew what he meant, and responded by a long and ringing cheer, for
our lancers had been raised as light dragoons in 1759, by Colonel John
Hale, the officer who came to London with the news of Wolfe’s fall and
victory at Quebec; and in that year it was ordered by his Majesty George
II. that “on the front of the men’s caps, and on the left breast of
their uniforms, there was to be a death’s head, with two crossbones over
it, and underneath the motto, ’_Or Glory_.’” And this grim but
significant badge we still wear on all our appointments.[*] It would
appear that, early in the afternoon, and before the whole army had
halted, our old and one-armed leader, the good Lord Raglan, who had
ridden far in advance of the first division of infantry, observed a
group of Cossacks hovering on the brow of a green hill, towards the
south, on which he ordered part of Lord Cardigan’s command, the 11th
Hussars and 13th Light Dragoons, forward to reconnoitre. On this
occasion Lord Lucan was also present.

[*] Our predecessors in the service were the old Scots 17th Light
Dragoons, raised at Edinburgh in the winter of 1759, during the alarm of
the projected invasion under the Marechal Duc d’Aiguillon, by Sholto,
Lord Aberdour, afterwards sixteenth Earl Morton, who died in Sicily in
1774. This corps, which never consisted of more than two troops, served
in the Seven Years’ War, and was disbanded in 1763. One of its
officers, Lieutenant the Honourable Sir T. Maitland, son of the Earl of
Lauderdale, died so lately as 1824, a lieutenant-general, G.C.B.,
governor of Malta and the Ionian Isles.

Where the road from Eupatoria to Sebastopol crosses the Bulganak, the
bank of the river rises for several hundred yards, and then the ground
slopes down into a valley, beyond which rises a succession of grassy
undulations. The hussars and light dragoons rode boldly forward.
Formed in four squadrons, they splashed through the stream, galloped up
the bank, and descended into the hollow, before they became aware that
no less than two thousand Russian cavalry were advancing to meet them,
with a line of skirmishers in front in extended order.

“Forward, skirmishers!” was now the command.

The trumpet sounded, and from the flanks of each squadron, as it halted
to form line, the few selected men for this duty spread at intervals of
twenty yards from each other, at the distance of two hundred yards from
the column; sheathing their swords and unslinging their carbines, as
they took up their dressing from the right. Beyond the crest of the
second eminence, a steady glittering in the sunshine revealed to the
keen eyes of General Airey that it came from the points—the mere tips—of
fixed bayonets, and that there were concealed in the hollow way many
battalions of an infantry force, quietly waiting to open a close and
murderous fire upon our little body of cavalry, when they were lured
sufficiently far forward to secure their total destruction. In fact,
our advanced guard, composed of only two slender regiments, was thus
suddenly opposed to six thousand men of the 17th Russian division,
posted in ambush, with two batteries of artillery, a brigade of regular
cavalry, and nine sotnias of Cossacks, the whole under General
Carlovitch Baur. It was a perilous—a terrible dilemma! Lord Raglan
knew that he must avoid an action on one hand, and secure the retreat of
the 11th and 13th with complete honour on the other. To the
roughly-mounted and loosely-handled Russian horsemen, the beautiful and
ceremonious formation of our gay hussars, with their glittering dolmans,
and our smart light dragoons in blue and buff, with all their swords and
bright appointments flashing in the sunshine, was a cause of hesitation.
They could not suppose but that this slender force had a greater body of
troops at hand, and feared the very snare they were preparing for
others; thus they were quietly and tranquilly confronting each other,
out of musket-range, when we, with the light and second division, the
8th Hussars, and nine-pounder batteries, came up at a gallop, to succour
our comrades, and got into position. After this, the wily and savage
Muscovites found their opportunity gone, and the gallant Baur was rather
nonplussed.

When the regiments of the infantry divisions came up, they deployed into
line, and all their bright steel ramrods glittered in the sunshine, as
they loaded with ball cartridge and “capped.” We, the cavalry support,
took up a position in the left rear of the advanced force under Lord
Cardigan, and rapidly loaded our pistols and carbines, awaiting further
orders. In each of my holsters I carried a six-chambered revolver. So
close were we to our advanced guard, that we could hear the officers of
the 11th and the 13th recalling their skirmishers.

“Retire the skirmishers,” rang again and again on the clear air;
“shorten stirrups—girth up—reload and reform.”

Every heart was beating high, for we were now face to face with an
enemy—many among us for the first time.

“Keep your dressing, squadron leaders,” said Colonel Beverley, whose
eyes were lit up by a strange brightness—indeed, it seemed to spread
over all his handsome and sunburned face; “close up, gentlemen. We have
all been used to ride to hounds, and that is more than any of those
Russian fellows have done. By Jove! I should like to see them crossing
a stiff stone-wall country. In a few minutes, lancers, I repeat we may
be hand to hand with the enemy; so, when we come to close quarters,
remember the old fencing-school advice, ’Watch your antagonist’s eyes,
not his blade.’”

I was leader of our left squadron, and had my post, of course, half a
horse’s length in front of the standard, which was carried by Sergeant
Stapylton. It was a white swallow-tailed pennon, with a skull, and the
words, “Or Glory” embroidered beneath—terribly significant at such a
time, as it rustled out in the breeze. My secret enemy, Mr. Berkeley,
was a troop leader on my left, at some little distance, and at this
exciting moment there was a singular expression in his eyes. I thought
he was about to ride up and extend his hand to me, for I had known of
forgiveness being often asked and accorded when men were face to face
with death; but if it were so, I was pitiless. I remembered Lady Louisa
Loftus, and the cottage by the Reculvers, and resolved that the hard
expression of my glance should chill him. Little did I know the ideas
that were in his mind, and the mischief he was yet to work me, ere we
passed the heights of Alma. On this evening, so cool were some of our
fellows, that I detected several of the rear-rank men tickling the
front-rank horses, to make them kick. Lord Raglan now became
apprehensive that the numerous cavalry of General Baur, in their longing
for a little sword exercise, might be tempted to charge the Earl of
Cardigan’s slender force; thus it became necessary to draw it off
without further delay, and to express his desire to that officer,
despatched General Airey, whose movements we watched with irrepressible
excitement.

“Your brigade will immediately retire, my lord, and by alternate
squadrons,” said the general, reining in his horse, and saluting.

Lord Cardigan bowed, and gave the necessary orders for throwing back the
squadrons of direction.

“Right squadron and left—threes about—march—trot!”

The remainder of the 11th and 13th remained motionless in their saddles,
with swords drawn, waiting till the flank squadrons halted and fronted,
about a hundred yards in their rear, when their own turn came to retire,
and so the movement of retreating alternately in this fashion went on.
But the moment it began, General Baur’s Russian brigade of horse
artillery came galloping out of the hollow, and were wheeled round and
unlimbered in battery on the ridge. The red flash of the first
field-piece made every heart bound and every pulse quicken; and ere we
had time for reflection, another and another boomed, with a cloud of
white smoke, from the green eminence. Then a gap appeared here and
there in the ranks of the 11th and 13th, as a horse, a hussar, or light
dragoon went down, and we saw them rolling in agony on the sward; but
their comrades closed in, holster to holster, and still the retreat by
alternate squadrons went coolly and quietly on. The six-pounder guns
attached to Cardigan’s force had no power upon the enemy; but the
nine-pounders which accompanied our brigade slew many of the Russians at
their guns. At every boom that echoed through the still evening air,
the scared birds flew about, screaming and flapping their wings wildly,
till, at last, they actually grovelled among our horses’ hoofs.

The 11th and 13th retired beyond us, and then came our turn to go threes
about, and fall back by squadrons, under cover of our artillery, whose
balls told so well that Beverley mentioned he could reckon through his
glass at least thirty-five Russian dragoons, with their horses, lying
stiff enough on the slope, where our nine-pounders had roughly loosed
their “silver cords” for ever. Prior to this, we had moved ten paces to
the left—a lucky thing for me, as a shrub which my horse had been
nibbling was torn into pieces by a five-inch shell a second or so after.
Glory apart, I was not sorry when we got the order to retire, for we
could achieve little honour here. My horse seemed sensible of our
danger, when the balls of the Russian artillery began to plough and tear
up the earth at his feet, or to hum past with a sound that made him
shrink. He kicked, lashed out behind, pawed with his forefeet, bore
with his teeth on the bit, and uttered strange snorts.




“By heaven! there is one of ours down!” exclaimed Jocelyn, my sub, in an
excited manner, as he turned in his saddle; and we saw a lancer in blue
lying on his back in our rear, his horse galloping away, and three
Russian skirmishers busy about him, while four dragoons were cantering
on to join them.

“’Tis poor Rakeleigh,” said Studhome, galloping up; “a shot has just
smashed his right thigh.”

“Colonel, may I try to save him—to recover his body?” I asked,
hurriedly.

“Certainly; but, Norcliff, be wary.”

“Who will come with me?” cried I, wheeling round my horse.

“I, sir,” replied Sergeant Dashwood.

“And I!” added Pitblado.

“And I! and I!” said others, unslinging their lances.

“Thanks, my brave lads!” cried Beverley. “Go at those devils like
bricks, and show them what true British pluck is!”

Attended by the first six who spoke, I galloped back to where the poor
fellow lay, heedless of the Russian cannon shot, and the three
skirmishers, in long grey coats and flat blue caps, who, after firing
their rifles without effect at us, scampered off to meet their troopers.
We found poor Rakeleigh quite dead, almost stripped already, and
hideously mutilated about the body. He had always been particular in
his person, and studiously fashionable in his dress. How often had we
quizzed those bandolined moustaches, now covered with froth and blood
gouts! His handsome face was terribly distorted, and his uniform was
almost gone—torn from him by those brutal Russian plunderers! Watch,
purse, and rings were also gone. We could but cut off a lock of his
rich brown hair to send to his poor mother in Athlone. He probably had
not been dead when overtaken by the Russians, as a bayonet wound was
perceptible in his breast. I had barely time to remark this, when a
shot from a Minie rifle whistled past me; and just as I sprang into my
saddle there was a shout and a crash—we were engaged in a _mêlée_ with
the seven Russians. Sergeant Dashwood pinned an infantry man to the
turf with his lance, and shot a trooper with the pistol which he grasped
in his bridle-hand. A gigantic Russian dragoon, with a red snub nose, a
thick black beard, and coarse green uniform, all over red braid, cut
through the shaft of Pitblado’s lance, inflicting on his shoulder a
wound which many a volunteer officer would give a good round sum for the
honour of possessing; but, quick as lightning, Willie’s sword was out,
and, after a few passes, he clove him through the glazed helmet down to
the nose. It was one of those tremendous strokes we read of sometimes,
but seldom see; such a stroke as that which Bruce gave Bohun, when he
“broke his good battle-axe” in front of the Scottish line. It rather
appalled our new acquaintances, who spurred away, dragging their two
infantry men with them. We then rode back to the regiment at a
hand-gallop; for we were compelled to leave the body of poor Rakeleigh.
What became of it I know not; but every vestige of it had disappeared
when we marched past that way on the morrow.

And so, as the twilight came down on land and ocean—on the plains of the
Chersonesus Taurica, and the waters of the Black Sea—ended this “first
approach to a passage at arms between Russia and the Western Powers;”
and Lord Raglan rejoiced in the steadiness and coolness displayed by his
slender force of cavalry in the now forgotten skirmish of Bulganak,
which the greater glories of the following day so completely eclipsed.

“Poor Rakeleigh,” said Beverley, as we gradually gathered at the place
where we had squatted before the alarm was given, and threw off our
accoutrements, while the grooms were unbitting our horses; “poor
lad—lying yonder to-night, mutilated and unburied—his first engagement,
too! Thank Heaven, his mother and sister don’t see him as we have done!
But greater work is to come.”

“Aw—the dooce, colonel!” said Berkeley, who, after the past danger, was
smoking his cigar vigorously, in a great flow, or rather revulsion, of
spirit; “what do you mean—haw—to infer?”

“That to-morrow we shall see the Russians, where their strength is all
concentrated in position on the heights of Alma!”

His words were rather prophetic; but all knew that matters must come to
the musket ere long. We passed the wine bottle from hand to hand, and
wrapped our cloaks and blankets about us preparatory to passing the
night as best we could. We were certainly less chatty and hilarious
than before, and had quite relinquished our jovial friend, _Mr. Punch_.
Doubtless each one was reflecting that poor Jack Rakeleigh’s fate might
have been his own. If mine, would Louisa have shed a tear for me? The
doubt was a pang! We saw no more of General Baur, who fell back towards
the river Alma in the night; but long after we thought the affair over,
a shell, the last missile fired, came souse from a long gun into our
bivouac, and caused a new alarm.

Pitblado, after his wound was dressed, was about to feed his horse, and
placed the corn in a tin platter on the ground. While grooming the
charger, he saw a large raven come to feed at the corn. Twice he threw
a stone at it in vain—the greedy bird continued its repast obstinately.
On the third occasion, armed with another stone, he ran towards it, on
which the raven flew into a tree, where he croaked as angrily as if he
had Elijah to feed as well as himself. At that moment a shell—a
five-inch one—-came whistling from the other side of the stream, and
exploded on the very place Pitblado had left, disembowelling and killing
his horse; so, in this instance, a raven was not the precursor of evil
fortune, or, as Willie said, sadly, while contemplating his dying
charger, “one hoodiecrow didna bode an ill wind.”

At a future period I was fated to see more of the gallant Schleswiger
who commanded the Russian reconnaissance at Bulganak; but there is an
anecdote connected with his origin, and how he became a soldier, so
creditable to human nature, and that which is dying fast among us,
genuine love of home, that I may be pardoned relating it here, just as
Beverley told it in our bivouac—especially as it is only to be found in
the old _Utrecht Gazette_, or the scarcer memoirs of a Scottish soldier
of fortune, Count Bruce, neither of which may be within the reader’s
reach. Prior to the conclusion of the dispute between Denmark and the
ducal house of Gottorp, when the Muscovite troops were in Schleswig and
Holstein, their cavalry were commanded by a general named Baur—a soldier
of fortune, who had attained his rank by merit and bravery alone, his
family and country being secrets to all save himself. His troops
occupied Husum, a small seaport at the mouth of the Hever, while he,
with his staff, lived in the old palace of the Duke Karl Peter of
Gottorp, who became Emperor of Russia, and lorded it over the people
with somewhat of a high hand. The little bailiwick was then a charming
place. The green meadows were fertile and rich, and spotted by golden
buttercups; the uplands were well tilled, and covered with wavy corn, or
deep rich clover; the farmhouses, of red brick and bright, yellow
thatch, were wondrously clean and pretty, their quaint porches covered
with flowing trailers, and borders gay with gorgeous hollyhocks.

The windmills whirled gaily in the breeze, and the laden boats, their
brown sails shining in the sun, floated lazily down the clear waters of
the river towards the calm and dark blue sea that stretched in the
distance far away—that sea where, as the Schleswigers aver, Waldemar and
Paine Jager, the Wild Huntsman, and Gron Jette, were never tired of
hunting and killing the mermaids, who sat on the slimy rocks, combing
their hair, and singing in the moonshine. All was peaceful, and all so
calm and rural, that the good men of Schleswig, their plump wives and
pretty daughters, trembled at the woes that might be wrought among them
by their bearded visitors from the Neva and the Wolga; and more than
ever were they alarmed on hearing that the general of the Muscovites had
sent for poor old Michel Baur, the miller by the wooden bridge, and also
for his wife, who went with many misgivings to the palace of the duke,
over which the standard with the cruel double eagle of the Czars was
flying.

“Make yourselves easy, my good people,” said the Russian general,
kindly, as they entered the great hall, with eyes abashed and shrinking
hearts; “I mean only to do you a service, so this day you shall dine
with me.”

Dine—dine with him—the general of the Muscovites? Did they hear aright,
or did their ears deceive them? Then he set the goodman Michel and his
goodwife Gretchen at table among the splendidly attired and brilliantly
accoutred officers of his staff—those counts and colonels of Uhlans,
hussars and cuirassiers, who gnawed their moustaches, and raised their
fierce eyebrows superciliously, with wonder and inquiry, at proceedings
so novel; while some of the younger laughed covertly at the terror and
bewilderment of the worthy couple, who, however, ate heartily of
dainties to which they were all unused, after their first alarm
subsided. The Muscovite general, who sat between them, at the head of
the table, with a kind smile on his handsome face—for handsome it was,
though his hair was now thin and grey—asked Michel many questions about
his family and household affairs—how the mill prospered and flour sold
in the market.

Then Michel, who scarcely ventured to raise his eyes from the order,
with the cross batons and crown of St. Andrew of Russia, which sparkled
on the general’s breast, told him that he was the eldest son of his
father, who had been a miller at the same mill years and years ago, even
when Frederick V. of Denmark, married to the Princess Louisa of Great
Britain, was a boy.

“The eldest son, say you, Michel?”

“Yes, herr general,” replied the miller, smoothing down his white hair
nervously.

“Then you had, at least, a brother?”

“Yes, herr general; poor Karl. He disappeared.”

“How?”

“Some said he became a soldier, others that he was spirited away by the
fairies,” said Gretchen.

“Many a prayer my good wife and I have said for Karl, though it is so
long since he was lost; and in his memory we have named our only son
Karl, too.”

On hearing this, the Russian general became greatly moved, and, seeing
that the astonishment of his officers at the interest he took in these
humble rustics could no longer be repressed, he rose, and taking Michel
and his wife by the hand—”Gentlemen,” said he, “you know me but as a
soldier of fortune, and have often been curious to learn who I am, whose
breast the Emperor has covered with stars and orders, and whence I came.
This village is my native place. In yonder crumbling mill by the wooden
bridge I was born. This is my brother Michel, and Gretchen, his wife!
I am Karl Baur, son of old Karl, the miller of Husum. Here was I
_bairn_ ere I relinquished my miller’s dusty coat to become a soldier.
Oh, brother Michel, who then could have _spaed_[*] the present?” he
added, in their old native dialect, as he embraced the wondering pair.

[*] Foretold.

“I was supposed to have been stolen on St. John’s night by the
golden-haired Stillevolk of the marshes, or the cranky old red-capped
Trolds, who dwelt among the green holms; but it was not so. I became a
hussar under Duke Karl Peter of Gottorp, and have risen to be what thou
seest—general of cavalry under our father the Emperor! So drink a deep
becker of our Danish beer, brother Michel; drink to the old times of our
boyhood, and fear not. I know our patrimony is but one of the poor
_Bauerhafen_, which are divided according to the number of ploughs; but
to-morrow thy _hufe_ shall be a _Freihufen_, Michel, free of all
burdens, even to the duke’s bailiff or the King of Denmark.”

Next day the general dined at the old mill, where he sat upon the same
hard stool he had used in boyhood, supping his Schleswig _groute_ with a
horn spoon from a wooden platter. In memory of the olden time, he placed
a marble cross above his parent’s grave. Three days after the trumpets
were heard, and the army marched from Schleswig to return no more; but
the general—the same General Bauer who served under Suwarrow in the
famous campaigns of Italy—made a plentiful provision for his poor
relatives, and sent the miller’s only son, his namesake, Karl, to Court
for his education, Karl rose to a high place in the household of the
Czar, and it was his son, Karlovitch Bauer, who prepared so specious a
trap for our advanced guard on the Bulganak—a trap happily rendered
useless by the skill and foresight of our leader, the good and brave
Lord Raglan.

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