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CHAPTER VIII

THE IMMIGRANTS.

Is a preceding chapter, a sketch of the rise and progress of Hermannstadt has been given,-a part only, though an important one, of that "Konigs Bud,"1 to which I shall often have to allude. In order to comprehend more clearly how it came to pass, that strangers from a far distant land should have immigrated hither,-reversing the known order of the progress of civilization, and instead of pouring westward, going backward from the West to lands of the rising sun,-it will, I think, be well to devote a few pages to the history of these men, to see what they were formerly, and what they are now.

To the German reader, such story ought to be doubly interesting, though from it he may learn a lesson that can hardly be acceptable to his self-esteem. For he will see how, at a time when in the mother-country the people, will-less, were bending to the mere fiat of their rulers, bowing before their every whim, his brothers by language and by origin were, amid many difficulties, far from their home and in the land of the stranger, boldly and successfully upholding their rights as free men. And this contrast is perhaps more striking, if we recur to a later period, when, throughout Germany, science and literature were flourishing, when there was constant communication with other lands, when it was in high places that the greatest ignorance was to be found. Yet at such time, we know how abject was the subject's political position in all the different little German autocracies, -how tamely he submitted to indignity, and thought a kick was sweetness if given by a prince.

Contemporary with this state of things, Germans in that "land beyond the forest" were living with municipal institutions, freer perhaps than the citizens of London at this day possess. At first, it is true, these had been asked for, and they had been given them; later, however, as was natural, prince and nobles grew jealous of their independence, and now openly, now by stealth, endeavoured to lessen it. But instead of bowing to count or king or minister, these men bearded them; what the result was we have seen. They maintained their liberties, and secured them so well, that they lived for more than a century and a half directly under Austrian rule, -oppressive, tyrannous, treacherous Austria, as we are accustomed to say in England,-enjoying the completest autonomy; in some instances, more independent of the sovereign than any town, parish, or commonalty with us.

"Where there's a will there's a way," and had there been really the firm will, not even the thirty-eight petty lords of Germany could, in that country, have so long retarded the abolition of abuses which at last has come.

But if attention be directed to the brave bearing of the immigrant strangers, let us not overlook the wisdom, clear-sightedness, and generous aspirations of those who guaranteed their privileges. The princes of Hungary must have had an innate love and just appreciation free institutions, to have tolerated and protected them; for they did so, even though occasionally in an ebullition of aristocratic feeling, they were angered by the sight of such thorough independence. And we must not judge their toleration and countenance by our own English notions of to-day. it was a great thing, and, assuredly, a proof how imbued those Hungarian kings were with a sense for liberty, that they should at that time have perceived what good would accrue to the land by freedom of thought and action,-instead of imagining, as many European rulers still do, that all freedom in the subject brought evil, and was an abomination. The new-comers were of a different race to their own people, more addicted to order and to cultivate the arts of peace; and wisely far-sighted, the native princes fostered their endeavours, and held their privileges in respect. They acted with a political sagacity and justice, which was centuries in advance of their time. But if the Hungarian kings conscientiously kept their word, and faithfully maintained the rights they had promised to respect, the conduct of the nobles, who later ruled in Transylvania, and who were continually intriguing for their own ambitious ends, was very different; they neither respected rights, privileges, nor property. They oppressed and plundered the very men who received them in their strong towns, and who gave them money when their own spendthrift lives had left them without resources. Although they reaped the benefits of order, thrift, industry, culture, free institutions, these things were so opposed to their own tastes and mode of life, that they looked on them with suspicion, and, with few exceptions, gave oppressive evidence of their repugnance and illwill.

Though boosting of their love of independence, they were well content that their land should pay tribute to the Infidel, if, by doing so, their own lust for rule could be gratified. When all was at peace, and agriculture and trade were thriving, when the citizen and the husbandman, perfectly contented, were enjoying in safety the quiet of their homes, love of their country never withheld these men from bringing devastation on a land which was blooming like a garden; for strong as that feeling might be, a desire for power and personal aggrandisement was still great.

Instead, every page of the history of the Saxons in Transylvania shows how justified they were in watching with suspicion any advance of the Hungarian noble, and in waging "war to the knife" in defence, of those privileges with which they had fenced themselves round, -in repulsing every attempt to sap the bulwarks which were their sole protection. For on doing so depended their very existence.

Transylvania covers a space of little morn than 1100 square miles, locked in on all aides by the Carpathian mountains; " a barricade against northern barbarism, and Turkish hate and tyranny." Here dwelt the Dacians, who in their forays penetrated, plundering, to Greece, and hence the Greek coins still often found in the country. The victories of Trajan made it a Roman province, governed by Roman officers and by Roman law. The language too, in the hundred and fifty years of foreign sway, received a Roman stamp; and when at last, threatened constantly by neighbouring barbarians, the conquerors withdrew, they left behind them a people in whom admixture of race was, in varied wise, indubitably marked. These and the Sclave and German races, who in the ninth and tenth century amalgamated with them, are the progenitors of the Wallacks of to-day. But before the soldiers of the "mistress of the world" returned to Italy, mines were explored, roads made, towns and temples erected, which accounts for the monuments, inscriptions, weapons, gems, and household implements, the ploughshare daily makes the soft yield up. It was in the lovely Hatzeg valley, that the town Ulpia Trajana stood.

Now came the savages pouring down from the north, the Goths, the Hun, and Tartar hordes; at last the Magyars appeared. They had already taken possession of Pannonia (Hungary), the peaceful inhabitants having fled to the mountains for safety. A warlike people were these masters of Pannonia; they marched forth into neighbouring Germany, and, had King Henry the Fowler, and later, his son Otho I., at Augsburg, not opposed and routed them after a terrific overthrow, they might perhaps, in their onward course, have stopped only when they beheld the Rhine.

Duke Geisa, a Magyar chief, who now followed, was a lover of peace; and his wife, a Christian, converted him to her religion. Stephen, his son, drew his sword against the opposers of Christianity, and aided by the German knighthood, he crushed their resistance once and for ever. His near relation, the leader of the Petschenegen, dwellers in that neighbouring "land beyond the forest," he took prisoner, and joined the conquered province to his own Hungary, of which he was now crowned king, A.D. 1000. This new dependency was governed by a Vayvode, or Vicegerent. It comprised however only a part of the present Transylvania ; the rest was an arena for the wandering tribes to combat in, a no-man's-laud, in sooth, like the woods and prairies of America when the white man first came to settle there.

It was King Geisa II. who thought of calling in the foreigner. The Crusaders had passed here on their way to Jerusalem, and through them the land was not wholly, Unknown to the dwellers in western Europe. Many a colonist accepted the invitation; and about the same time as the German mountain-towns were founded in Hungary, Transylvania saw the first German immigrants. This was when the great Hohenstaufen Conrad III. and Frederic Barbarossa wore the imperial crown. It must not be forgotten that the new-comers were summoned thither, and that the land bestowed upon them was stated explicitly to be "a desert."

First one band of immigrants arrived, then another. The earliest comers settled on the frontier, where the river Alt opens way through the mountains, and where consequently the foe might moat easily break in. So here they planted themselves before the breach. Thus Hermannstadt was founded, and the territory-the chapters as they are called, from the ecclesiastical division-of Hermannstadt, Leschkirch, and Schenk, is named "the old land" to the present day. These colonists were summoned to till the land, to defend it, and to uphold the crown. They came as freemen and as sole possessors of the soil on which they were to dwell; and they had the precaution to ensure their position by a treaty signed and sealed by the king, which succeeding rulers ratified anew.

And where, it will be asked, was the old home of these men ? Some were from Flanders, others from the neighbourhood of Cologne, and even higher up the Rhine,- a fact proved by their language as well as by customs, which in seven hundred years have not bean forgotten. They soon separated, and the seven burghs which, for protection, they speedily built in various parts of the land, gave the country its name (Sieben Burgen).

Their position was in every respect an exceptional one. They were not amenable to the Vayvode, but had their own judges; they chose their own priest, to whom they gave tithes; from other imposts they were exempt, and it was only when the king in person went to battle that they were bound to appear.

The favour and protection accorded to these foreign settlers by the sovereign, may partly be accounted for by the desire to form a counterpoise to the increasing power of the nobles, who obtained additional rights, even that of rising against the king, at the same time that they freed themselves from every burden, and almost every duty, of a subject. In the strangers, who were so zealously befriended, he hoped to gain new and firm supporters of his throne.

Besides these artificers and tillers of the land, there carne, under King Andrew IL, other Germans to Transylvania. Barbarian people descended continually from the mountains into the valley of the Alt, and to protect it, the territory called the Burzen land was given by the sovereign to the Order of Teutonic Knight. Large were their possessions, and many were the castles built by them, whence the land around was administered and rendered fruitful. But with their power grew their pride, and they extended their boundaries, built stone castles, contrary to the stipulation that all their strong places should only be of wood, coined money, and deported themselves with arrogance. At last, when their bearing grew too lordly, the king withdrew his mandate, and they were forced to leave the land.

It was in the year 1224 that King Andrew II. drew up the charter which defined the rights and privileges of the Saxons. For there had been great turmoil land, and their position had grown precarious, and their existence as freemen doubtful. The king, acknowledging the justice of their complaints, gave them back all their former liberties, authorizing them to choose their own head- or Comes- to elect their clergy, and to transact all their ecclesiastical affairs according to their own ancient usage; woods and streams, with right of fishing and of chase, were bestowed on them; and they were to be free of toll or tax when visiting markets or the fairs. Nor was the property of a Saxon who died without heirs claimed by the king, as was the case with the goods or land of a noble; but it fell at once to the Saxon community. Their Comes, or chief, was like the head of a Scottish clan,-at once judge and leader. His duties and position were indicated by the insignia of office, a banner, war-club, and sword. Those cases, and those only, in which he could come to no decision, were brought before the king. Not even the Palatine had a voice here. And is was because the king alone, in the name of the law, could proclaim sentence, that the territory where the Saxons were was called Konigsboden, or King's land. On it there was perfect equality before the law; no man was a noble, none a serf. Many exceptions too are noted in this memorable "golden charter," which throw light on the manners of the time. All is so interesting, so unique, that I might be excused for dwelling longer on the topic. Let me add only that all we read of this period of Transylvanian history is alike honourable for Hungarian kings and for Saxon subjects.

Later, others came, sent for by King Bela after the Mongols had poured in and devastated the land. These too were freed from the jurisdiction of the Vayvode, and from the obligation to entertain him, chose their own judge, paid only half the tolls that others were subject to, could trade in salt a part of the year by land or water without let or hindrance, and had to furnish only four bowmen in time of war. And so they spread abroad, in Thorenburg, Dees, Toroczko, to which last place they had been called to work the mines. And the summoned these simple burghers, to the imperial Diet, to debate there with the nobility and clergy on the welfare of the realm.

This act alone stamps the Hungarian monarch Andrew II. as a man far in advance of his time. When we remember what was then the position of him not born a noble, and how the toilers were regarded by those who lived from their labour, we can hardly conceive, and cannot sufficiently admire, that freedom from old prejudice which this act of the king displays. For despite its absurdity, nothing is more firmly rooted than conventional usage; and how difficult it is to overcome our notions of what is "customary," or the "fashion" or reçu, we may see by ourselves every hour of each day of our lives; and this, too, with all the lights of the nineteenth century burning radiantly to illumine us.

It is true, many of the Saxons grew by industry so rich that they acquired large possessions in land beyond the boundary of their territory, and, with the property, obtained also a standing like that which the nobles had. These however were exceptions, and the circumstance in nowise lessens the merit of the great-minded kings.

But such facts showed that ambition was creeping in among the foreigners, leading to abuses, whose evil consequences lasted for centuries. He who owned an estate on Hungarian territory, tried to extend the privileges there acquired to his own Saxon land, and would fain play the noble among his brother-citizens; or, what was worse, some would congregate round a farm or mansion built beyond the territory that was their own, and which therefore, was looked upon as not being amenable to Saxon law or governed by Saxons usage. And thus it happened that, up to the present century, there existed in the land Saxon villages, which were not free, and where the peasant was subject to villeinage like his serf neighbour in the next Hungarian hamlet.

When Charles Robert, of the House of Anjou, sat on the Hungarian throne, the position of the colonists improved considerably. They are no longer named immigrants, he calls them "University (Universitat) of the Saxons of Hermannstadt," "the Saxon People of Bistritz," etc. Ancient rights which, in the confusion of civil broils, had been disregarded, he restored to them. He ratified anew the independence of the Klausenburgers, for example, -thus confirming a municipal system as free as that of Bath or Birmingham to-day. But indeed, throughout this early period, examples are continually recurring of firm protection rendered by the sovereigns, in grateful recognition of Saxon faith and succour.

The forgetfulness of kings, for services received is proverbial, but it must be owned that the Hungarian rulers showed they were not unmindful of benefits; for they not only compensated their Saxon subjects for any sacrifice, but they did so generously, and, what is so rare, made concessions when all danger was past.

A perfectly free political life acted beneficially on the development of trade. The guilds grew in importance, and though many of their laws show jealousy and narrow- mindedness, they undoubtedly had a good influence on handicraft and the handicraftsman, by raising tile standard of work and giving to the worker consideration, self-respect, and merited honour.

Towards the end of the fourteenth century these dwellers on the "King's land" had to encounter a foe as difficult to deal with as it would be to repel a flight of locusts or any other similar visitation. And the fact deserves attention, as it was the genesis of a state things growing ever since with a steady growth. The same features which characterize the encroachments of that early time we find again in the usurpations of the Wallack population of 1864, for it is of them I have now to speak.

In the mountainous districts of the Alt dwelt Wallack hordes, who, when peace reigned, roved down into the vales, settled there, and became serfs on the lands of the Hungarian nobles. They were a wild uncultivated people, without a sense even of law or property. They drove their herds on the pastures of the Saxons, they pillaged, burned, and murdered. The Saxons killed them where they could, as they would slay a wolf which they found near a fold. This could not last, and peace was agreed on,-the Wallacks promising no longer to commit their depredations, not to carry bow or arrow save in case of necessity, and to harbour no murderer, incendiary, or robber. He who did so was to be burnt with the culprit: he, too, was to be burnt who only threatened to set fire to a wooden dwelling, if seven men swore that they heard him do so. And two hundred years later, when in certain districts, the woods were being devastated, a mutual agreement was entered into that he who barked a tree and caused it to die, should be hanged on the tree he had thus destroyed. Such severity was the only means of obtaining security; and even now may be seen gallows on the roadside, and all along the hilly banks of the Maros from Toplitza downwards, erected quite recently, on which to hang incendiaries whom lynch-law had condemned.

But stringent as these enactments were, they proved futile in presence of men who had-and who still have- no just notion of right. A Wallack peasant of to-day will take all the fruit in your garden or orchard,- he having none, and being too indolent to cultivate any; and on remonstrating with him he will not allow it as a theft, "for what God makes grow must belong to him much as to you."2 By the same mode of reasoning he steals now-as he did three hundred years ago- the trees from neighbour's forest, and drives his herds on their carefully-kept meadow. They were little or no better than a tribe of Red Indians, and, once excited, as cruel too as they. In 1599 they bored a gimlet into the backbone of the clergyman of Grossau, and hung him up by it in his own sacristy; and during the late Hungarian revolution they daily committed similar cruelties, if not worse. Enyed and other Hungarian towns still bear witness to their fury.

Attracted, no doubt, by the fertility showing itself in the plains, these tribes came nearer to the dwelling of civilization, and gradually wore tolerated on the soil. 3 To this or that labourer a hut was given, or a patch of ground; and, prolific as the Wallacks are, they soon grew in number, and in equal ratio their demands and depredations increased. They were always a bad neighbourhood ; and twice the Salon authorities decided on driving them away. For they had no civic rights, and were under the jurisdiction of that place on whose land they had encamped.

How insidious their encroachments must have been, and how wary, is shown by their success. The Turks and Tartars were driven back, and other foes happily repulsed. Yet the Wallacks, more indolent and less bold than either, have contrived to establish themselves in the land, where in numbers they now surpass any of the other nations. In the course of three centuries, these people have undergone little change. They still demand as a right to share with another what he possesses, and what they want; and their necessity and possession are in their eyes all that is needed to establish the claim. But of this later. It was only intended to call attention to what, unless boldly checked, may yet prove of fatal importance.

The wonderful fertility of a virgin soil accounts for the facility with which the inhabitants seem always a to have recovered from forage and devastation. Industry alone could never have achieved this. As it was, Saxon cities arose and flourished; in the south-east, Kronstadt, in the north, Bistritz, and Klausenburg in the centre of the land. Gradually they were fortified, and became strong places where right could defend itself against might, where wealth was gained and kept secure, and mental culture fostered and propagated. In the village,, the church was always surrounded by a wall, like a castle, with ,watchtowers, strong gate, a portcullis, moat, or inner wall, as the case might be. It was a place of refuge for the community when the foe appeared, and thither too they brought their property and corn, so that if the land were harried and the crops destroyed, they might of least have wherewith to avert the horrors of a famine. At such times, if the danger and the siege lasted long, the village teacher continued his duties, and in several of the old "Burgen" I have seen one tower which still retained its, name of the "School Tower." Besides this they built, when the ground was favourable, a fortress on a neighbouring hill, as at Reps, or Rosenau, or Kaisd, -erecting high walls on the steep declivities or uniting them with solid rock; placing strong towers on the different sides, and at the massy doorway. From the battlements and loop-holes the defenders could discharge their matchlocks and arquebuses, whilst the height of the walls, and frequently the precipice on which they stood, made an assault impossible. When the Turk or the Tartar had retired, they emerged from their stronghold, and descending into the plain, built up their razed dwellings, sowed the devastated fields anew, re-planted their vineyard, and, as the land brought forth abundantly, soon made it look as smiling as before.

Such occurrences were frequent. When a Vayvode, or later, a Hungarian noble, needed help for the realization of his ambitious projects, he made no scruple of choosing the Infidel for ally. Thus, in 1432, the Turks were called in, and the land was made an altar, from which smoke and the smell of blood ascended to heaven. Then the peasants rose against the nobles. This was the occasion of a covenant-the first league formed,--by reason of which the three nations of Transylvania, the Hungarians, the Szekler, and the Saxons, agreed to aid each other. They swore to hold together, to consider the foe of one the foe of all. Only when the king violated a right of one of the three, the other nations were to bow the knee before him and implore his grace. As yet, that unfortunate jealousy of the German stranger which since has had so evil air influence, had not arisen. The province had to fight its own battles, and a community of danger united all parties, and made them, for a time at least, good friends. Each party was only too glad of the help of the other, -the nobility to have Saxon support in their contests with the peasantry, and the Saxons to be strengthened by the Hungarians and Szeklers when the Turks, made their inroads.

We should hardly expect to find in this eastern corner of Europe, shut out even at present from general intercourse with Europe, the same view of the sacredness of the dwelling as we to-day on British ground express bythe words, "An Englishman's house is his castle." Yet such was the tenor of the law which the German, Sigismund of Brandenburg, King of Hungary, pronounced binding in Rösner and Burzen land, in the north and south Saxon districts of Transylvania. And this was at the end of the fourteenth century. Not even a murderer's dwelling might lawlessly be violated. And it is a striking proof of the respect in which the law was held, and how an inner sense connected it with majesty, that abusive epithets uttered in court by plaintiff or defendant against each other were punished by a heavy fine,-no less than five marks in silver. But this feeling existed only within the Salon frontier; beyond it, there was neither law nor the wish for any. What also is remarkable is that the sight of such well-ordered social life, the protection given by it to life and property, the justice rendered to every claimant, irrespective of rank, should have had no influence on the surrounding non-German population; that it neither found acceptance among them nor induced imitation. It would seem as if the laws determining the world's development were immutable, and that all culture and progress must advance from East to West. Here motion, being abnormal, explains perhaps why it proved infecund and resultless.

The worst misrule to which, till this time, the Saxons were exposed, was that of the Church. The Bishops had introduced and fostered abuses which weighed heavily on the people; their hold was tenacious, and not to be shaken off. Some towns, however, and with wonted secrets Hermannstadt the first, wrested itself free. John Huss's voice penetrated hither, and prepared for that great reform which was soon to take place in European Christendom.

Again, in the middle of the fifteenth century, the Turks poured like a flood over the land. It is now that we, for the first time, hear the great name of Hunyadi. But with it is coupled an innovation which led to evil. King Ladislaus (1452), in recognition of Hunyadi's signal service, named him hereditary Count (comes) of the Bistritz district. Hitherto the office was elective. It was an act fraught with danger for the liberties of the Saxons, they themselves choosing the man they deemed most fit. When, later, Bistritz suffered from the tyranny of its Count, the King (Matthew) came to the rescue of the people, and, with characteristic justice and generosity, secured them from oppression. He ordained that the Saxons, certain districts should be one and indivisible; that all privileges they had had from former kings should be theirs still and for ever; and should he, the King, or his descendants, by any act attempt to endanger their freedom, it should be invalid, nor need they respect it.

I cannot but think that the appearance of such men as many of these Hungarian kings were, is most remarkable. Of this one, the people in their lamentations said, "The King is dead; and dead now is justice!" Perhaps he, like his predecessors, had been just in self-defence. For it seems anomalous that, in such time and such country, where the noble's will and own good pleasure was his sole law, the man whose rank was highest should, for himself, draw lines of demarcation which under no pretext he might pass. Probably, he perceived that the barriers he thus formed might also prove a rampart to keep off attacks upon himself. For that the nobility would be inimical to him, he might be sure : they would not countenance his efforts introduce order and justice, as it was by ignoring both that they maintained their splendour and exercised power. Hence the opposition to all such rulers. They formed a strong phalanx against the introduction of lawful authority, and of all sensible reform; just as, in Russia, the noble still covertly circumvents every attempt to bring the social state of his country somewhat in accordance with the civilization of the West.

I have no wish to detract feel, the undoubted merit of these monarchs. I only seek to account to myself for what is so astonishing, because so frequent. That, from time to time, a ruler should appear towering above his contemporaries is quite intelligible; less so, however, that several, distinguishing themselves by the same sense of justice, should, in such an age, follow each other. It strikes me that these kings, comprehending their position, seized at once upon its salient points, and framed their policy accordingly. Its adoption, and the consistency with which they followed it, are alike proofs of their wisdom.

We have seen with what determination Hermannstadt opposed the admission of Hungarians to settle within its walls. At first, this jealousy may seem illiberal, and at the present day it would be so ; but in their then position the precaution was a wise one, as the fall of Klausenburg showed. The town was Saxon; but gradually other settlers came, and were admitted. At first, being there merely on sufferance, they lived together apart from the rest, as the name of the Ungar Gasse (Hungarian Street) still shows. But it soon grew otherwise. The new-comers asked now for this, now for that, -demanded a share of the civic offices; that part of the judges should be Hungarian as well as Saxon, and the income of the town be enjoyed in common. Thus began a change which is now complete. At a later period, a great part of the remaining Saxon population voluntarily emigrated when Unitarianism began to spread. The doctrine was so hateful to the Lutherans, that they fled before it as they would from a pestilence. This abandonment of their old dwelling-place was the complement, and Klausenburg, from a Saxon, became a Hungarian town.

That the three nations of Transylvania formed a compact to stand by each other in time of need, already indicates a degree of independence, tending to separate the province from the Hungarian crown. The battle of Mohatsch, in which the Turks routed the Hungarian force, and dragged 200,000 prisoners into captivity, completed the separation.

The Vayvode of Transylvania, John Zápoyla, was not exempt from the chronic sickness of his race,-personal ambition. With the army which, from unknown causes, stood idle while Soliman took Ofen and destroyed the land, he bided his time, in order, if possible, to obtain for himself a portion of the old kingdom of Hungary, and so wear a crown. By law and treaty, it was Ferdinand of Austria who should have worn it; but a strong party of the nobles would not acknowledge him, and in order to carry out their plans allied themselves with the Infidel. Zápoyla, who would not bow to the rightful supremacy of the Emperor, went out to meet the Sultan, and, kissing his hand, acknowledged him his liege : the ardently coveted crown was his reward.

The contention which ensued brought sorrow upon the land. The Saxons naturally suffered most; for in their towns and communes was order, good government, traffic, wealth. Besides their other losses, they were mulcted of large sums. After Zápoyla's death, came Queen Isabella, to place her crowned boy upon the throne. Some opposed, but men were worn out by the long war, and ready for conciliation. And the three nations agreed upon the principles which henceforth were to guide them in ordering the affairs of their common country. Each had the same interest in its welfare: each had the same duties, and the right of all were alike. And this was the first treaty of the three nations under a Transylvanian king.

1 "King's Ground." 2 He still looks on fruit as common property. 3 In the harsh words of law, "tolerated in order to make use of them."

Chapters 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38




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