Szegedin. -- The Banat -- its History. -- Fertility. -- State of Agriculture. -- Climate. -- Mines.-- Population -- Prosperous Villages. -- The Peasant and the Bishop of Agram. -- The New Urbarium. -- The Kammeral Administration. -- Temesvar. -- Roads. -- Baron Wenkheim's Reforms. -- A Wolf Hunt.
IT was by Szegedin that we entered this El Dorado -- this land of promise for Christianized Jews, and ennobled Greeks. Szegedin is itself one of the most disagreeable towns in Hungary; its streets are wide, and traversed by planks, which, however useful they may be in keeping people on foot out of the muddy abyss on each side, are particularly unpleasant to those who are bumped over them to the imminent hazard of their carriage-springs. The houses look damp and deserted ; and the ruins of the old fortress, which once commanded the passage of the Theiss, add to the desolation, without increasing the beauty of the place. I doubt, however, if Szegedin really merits the character  which, perhaps, my feelings have associated with it: a dull day, or his own ill-humour, often give a most incorrect colouring to the passing traveller's observations. It is, in fact, a town of considerable traffic, with which its situation, at the confluence of two such rivers as the Theiss and Maros, has naturally endowed it.
9 Though not directly in our present route, I have thought it best to take the whole of the Baiiat together, that I might give a more complete idea of its position and extent.
It was Sunday when we passed ; and, among the holiday-makers, I remarked what I suspect to be a remnant of Turkish habits. The women of the lower classes wore slippers without heels, fancifully worked on the front in silk or worsted; just, in fact, the in-door chaussure of the ladies of Constantinople. Beyond the town, the Maros had overflowed its banks, and formed an immense lake, extending for several miles to tbe south. This appeared, however, so frequent an occurrence, as to have induced the people to provide against it, for we passed through the waters on a good raised road to Szöreg.
Our route from thence to Temesvár, lay through a flat, and often swampy country; but at the same time so overladen with the riches of production that I do not recollect ever to have seen so luxuriant a prospect in any other part of the world. It was the month of July, and the harvest was already begun. Every field was waving with the bright yellow corn, often so full in the head as to have sunk under its own weight, and the whole plain seemed alive with labourers, though apparently there were  not half the number required for the work before them.
The Banat is a district in the south-east corner of Hungary, lying between the Theiss, Maros, and Danube, and containing the three counties of Tho-rontal, Temesvar, and Krasso. It is not one hundred years since the Turks were in possession of this province; and it was not till the close of tlie last century, that it was entirely free from Moslem incursion. Those who have visited any of the countries under the Ottoman rule, will easily understand the wild and savage state in which this beautiful land then was. The philanthropic Joseph TT. determined to render it equally populous and ci vilized with the rest of Hungary. From the flatness of a large portion of the surface, and from the quantity of rivers by which it is watered, immense morasses were formed, wliicli tainted the air, and made it really then what some French writer now undeservedly calls it "le tombeau des étranyers," To tempt settlers, the land was sold at exceedingly moderate prires; and Germans, Greeks, Turks, Servians, Wallacks, nay, oven French and Italians, were brought over to people this luxuriant wilderness. The soil, a rich black loam, hitherto untouched by the plough, yielded the most extraordinary produce. Fortunes were rapidly made; and, at the present day, some of the wealthiest of the Hungarian gentry were, half a century ago, poor adventurers in the Banat.
To those who have never lived in any but an old country, the soil of which is impoverished by the use of many ages, it is difficult to believe what riches are hidden in untilled ground. The productive powers of a naturally good soil, deposited by swamps and rivers, when heightened by a climate more nearly tropical than temperate, are wonderful. The same crops are here repeated year after year, on the same spots; the ground is only once turned up to receive the seed; a fallow is unknown ; manure is never used, but is thrown away as injurious; and yet with the greatest care and labour in other places, 1 never saw such abundant produce as ill-treated unaided Nature here bestows upon her children. Except the olive and orange, there is scarcely a product of Europe which does not thrive in the lianat. I do not know that I can enumerate all the kinds of crop raised; but, among others, arc wheat, barley, oats, rye, rice, maize, flax, hemp, rape, sun-flowers (for oil), tobacco of different kinds, wine, and silk, -- nay, even cotton, tried as an experiment, is said to have succeeded.
All through Hungary, the state of agriculture, among the peasantry,, is in a very primitive state. Tn the poorer parts, they allow the ground to fallow every other year, and sometimes manure it, though rarely. As for changing the crops, that is little attended to. Here they will continue year after year the same thing, without its making any apparent  difference. Nowhere are the agricultural instruments of a ruder form, or more inefficiently employed than in the Banat. The plough is generally a simple one-handled instrument, heavy, and ill adapted for penetrating deeply into the soil. The fork is merely a branch of a tree, which happened to fork naturally, and which is peeled and sharpened for use. The corn is rarely stacked, being commonly trodden out by horses as soon as it is cut. In the Wallack villages, notwithstanding the capabilities of the soil, maize is almost the only crop cultivated. Barley is rarely found in any part of Hungary; and, strange to say, where so many horses are kept, horse-beans are unknown. Green crops, except among a few agricultural reformers, are completely neglected. The crop of hay is commonly cut twice in a season. I do not remember ever to have seen irrigation practised, though there are few countries in which it would be productive of greater advantages.
The climate of the Banat, in summer, approaches nearly to that of Italy; but the winter, though less inclement than in the rest of Hungary, is still too long and severe for the olive or the orange. Even in summer, the nights are often intensely cold. After the hottest day, the sun no sooner sets than a cool breeze rises, refreshing at first, but which becomes dangerous to those who are unprepared for it. The Hungarian never travels without his fur or sheep-skin coat; and the want of such a defence  is often the cause of fever to the unsuspecting stranger.
The scenery of the Banat is extremely various; from the flat plains of Thoroutál to the snowy mountains of Krasso, almost every variety may be found which the lover of Nature can desire. The rare, though seldom visited, beauties of the Maros, the smiling neighbourhood of Lugos, the darker attractions of the Cscrna and the Reka, and the fine woods aud pretty streams with which the Banat abounds, may justly entitle it to boast itself among the most favoured parts of Hungary.
The mines of the Banat, though of great antiquity,10 and still worked, are less productive than those of the north. Near Orawitza, coal has been found, and is now in use for the steam-boats, which the English engineers declare to be in no way inferior to the best Newcastle. The Banat mines are worked chiefly for copper, lead, tin, and zinc: of copper, about 7,000 cent, are annually produced; of lead, about 2,000 cent.; and of zinc, about 500 cent. The quantity of iron obtained I could not ascertain. About five thousand miners are employed. It is a curious fact that, owing it is said to mal-administration, the coal is as dear as that obtained from England viâ Constantinople, notwithstanding the distance of carriage.
10 Some time since a silver coin was found, indicating the date at which these mines were first worked by the Romans.
But one of the most curious features of the Banat is the motley appearance of its inhabitants, who, as the different races are generally in distinct villages, have preserved their national characteristics quite pure. In one village which, from the superiority of its buildings, and from the large and handsome school-house, you at once recognise to be German, you still see the old-fashioned costume of the Bavarian broom-girl, and the light blue eyes and sandy hair of their colder fatherland. A few miles off, you enter a place formed only of the wooden hovels of the Wallacks; and here, though it is in the midst of harvest, you find a number of lazy fellows lying about their doors, while their half-robed wives amuse themselves with an occupation about their husbands' heads, for which the English language has no word n't for ears polite. The languages are preserved as pure as other nationalisms; and though the German can often speak Wallachian, you may be quite sure that the Wallack can only speak his own barbarous tongue. The Magyar and the Ratz, are equally characteristic and distinct. In one place, I think Kánisa, on finding the drivers spoke neither German, Hungarian, nor Wallack -- for the ear soon teaches one to distinguish these languages -- I inquired of a respectable-looking person, who was standing in the inn-yard, from whence they were? "Bulgarians," he answered in German: " and it is just one hundred years since they left  Turkey, and established themselves on this spot, under the protection of the Emperor." The size of the village, and the appearance of the houses, sufficiently bespoke them to bo a prosperous and flourishing colony.
In some places, people of two or three nations are mixed together, and it not unfrequently happens, that next door neighbours cannot understand each other. The different nations rarely intermarry, -- a Magyar with a Wallack, never. I do not here enter into the manners or customs of the inhabitants of the Banat, because every nation retains its own, and most of these, except the Wallacks, we have already spoken of, and of them we shall say more when we get into Transylvania.
It is scarcely possible, in passing through some of the German villages of the Banat, such for instance as Hatzfeld, not to exclaim as a Scotch friend of mine did, "Would to God our own people could enjoy the prosperity in which these peasants live." It is, in fact, impossible to imagine those who live by tlie labour of their hands, enjoying more of the material good things of the world than they do. In addition to the richest land in the country, the Banat peasant has many privileges peculiar to himself, conferred when it was an object to attract settlers from other districts, and these he still preserves. Among other things he is free from the "longjourneys," the "hunting," the "spinning," the  "chopping and carrying of wood," and from the tithe of fruit and vegetables. He has, moreover, free rights of fishing, of cutting reeds, and feeding his pigs, and gathering sticks in his master's forests, many of which, though trifling in themselves, give to the sober and industrious peasant, a great opportunity to improve his position. But, more than all, he has the liberty to redeem half his days of labour, at the rate of ten kreutzers, or five pence per day, an advantage of which he never fails to avail himself.
From the station, before we arrived at Temesvár, a German peasant was our driver, who, on my inquiring to whom the village, Billiet, belonged, shook his head, and said, "The Bishop of Agram." I was sure that portentous shake of the head meant something sorrowful; and, as I never yet saw man in sorrow that did not wish to tell his woes, I knew I had only to encourage him, to get it all out; and accordingly, from an inquiring look, he took courage, pulled his horses up to a walk, and, turning half-round on the box, began, "Why, sir, Billiet, and many other villages round here belong to the Bishop of Agram, who lives a long way off, and keeps his prefects here. Now, sir, this year the crops are very heavy, so the prefect comes with the new urbarium, and says, 'I have the right to order you peasants to send from each house two men four days in each week during the harvest, that the corn may be the sooner in, and accordingly, I expect you to obey.' But in our village, as indeed in  all others, this urbarium is kept, and many have read it carefully, and found nothing of the sort in it; for, on the contrary, it is stated that a peasant holding an entire fief must send in harvest time one man for four days in two weeks, only, but then no more can be demanded for a fortnight. And so, sir, the Biro thought also, and he goes to the prefect to tell him his orders were unjust, and that he could not put them into execution. With that the prefect flies into a passion, tells the judge his business is to do what is ordered, not to bother his head about what he does not understand, and calls him a rogue, and other bad names which he did not deserve, for he is a very honest man, and respected by all the village, Determined not to suffer such an insult, the Biro replied that he neither could nor would act against the law and his conscience, and said that if he was a rogue, lie could be no fit person to execute any longer the duties of Biro, and he therefore begged to lay down his stick of office. The next day the prefect sent orders to the peasants to elect a new Biro, but the peasants re-chose their former one, declaring that they would obey no other; and so at present the affair stands, no one knowing how it will terminate."
All these misfortunes, the poor fellow seemed to think came from living under a bishop, and he complained sadly that the Emperor had so soon given them another after the death of the last. "We had hardly done rejoicing that our old Bishop  was dead," he continued, "when a new one came in his place."
It is a prerogative of the Hungarian crown to retain the revenue of a bishopric for three years, between the death of one incumbent and the installation of another, and it is very rarely that the right is not taken full advantage of, but in the present instance, the see remained vacant only six months. It must not be supposed that the tenants of the late bishop bore him any personal ill-will ; indeed, as he lived in Croatia, and they in the Banat, they could know very little of him; but absenteeism begets no good-will anywhere, and the hope of being under the officers of the Kamrner or Exchequer for three years, instead of the Bishop's steward, would more than have consoled them for the death of a dozen such prelates- I believe I must let the reader a little into the mysteries of this Exchequer Stewardship, tliis Kammeral Administration, before he can fully comprehend the peasant's joy at his Bishop's death, or his disappointment at his successor's speedy appointment.
The King of Hungary is heir, in default of male descendants, of all fiefs male, under which title most of the land in Hungary is held, with the condition, however, that he shall, when he sees fit, confer it on others, as the reward of public services. All newly-conquered land of course helongs, in like manner, to the crown, so that at one time, the whole of the Banat. and the greater part of it still, as well  as many estates11 in other parts of the country, are enjoyed by the king under this title. The stewardship of such vast possessions necessarily employs a great number of persons, all of whom, particularly the inferiors, arc, according to the rule of the Austrian Government, very badly paid. As might naturally be expected under such a system, none but the very highest officers are insensible to the charms of a bribe. If an estate is to be purchased, the valuer must be fee'd that he may not over-value it, the resident-steward must be fee'd that he may not injure him in another point, and the clerks of the offices must also be fee'd in order to induce them to open their books and afford the necessary information. If the peasant of the Kammer wishes to escape a day's labour, a fat capon, or a dozen fresh eggs make the overseer of the Kammer forget to rail him out; if his land is bad or wet, and if a portion in the neighbourhood farmed by the Kammer be better, a few florins adroitly distributer! to the overseer, steward, valuer, clerks, and commissioners, make them all think it for the Kammer's benefit to exchange the good land for the bad. In many parts where this corrupt system has been carried out to its full extent, the peasant has no idea, when any favour of this kind is refused him, that it has been denier! from a sense of its injustice, but  believes only that the offered bribe lias not been high enough. So openly is this system pursued, that it is a matter of constant joke among the officers themselves. The knowledge of these practices has produced such a want of confidence on the part of the superior members of the Kammer in their subalterns, that they have put a stop to everything like improvement in the lands of Government, as affording only additional opportunities for robbery on the part of their officers. Many very worthy officers -- for honourable men are to be found even under such corrupting circumstances -- disgusted at this want of energy at the source, dispirited by the damp thrown upon every scheme they have proposed for improving the property, and increasing the revenue, and irritated at being suspected of crimes they are incapable of, have sunk into inactive followers of a bad system, instead of becoming what they might have been, its efficient reformers. I remember a steward one day pointing out to me some beautifully rich land, overgrown with thorns, in one of the loveliest valleys of the Banat. "You see the riches the soil offers us here," said he; "you observe that the peasants sow nothing but maize, and that the greater portion of the land is useless. We have not even wheat for our own use. Shocked at so great a waste, and convinced that the soil would produce wheat, I tried the experiment on ground before untilled, and raised as fine a crop as I could wish. In my yearly report, of course this  was mentioned, and I suggested the importance of more extended trials: would you believe that I received a severe reprimand for my experiment, that the correspondence on the subject lasted two years, and that, had not the success been so very evident, I should have lost my place? As it was, I was desired for the future not to depart from the usual routine without positive orders from my superiors !"
11 These estates must not be confounded with the Fiscal or Crown Estates ; a vast and inalienable property, from which a great part of the King of Hungary's revenues are derived.
If such is the administration of estates which have been for years in the hands of the Kammer, it may easily be imagined how it must be with the estates of the church when the officers of the Kammer obtain a casual and only temporary possession of them, -- what glorious opportunities for speculation ! how certain the officers would be to make the best of their short harvest! and how easily the peasants might find their profit under such a stewardship !
Now we are on the subject of the Kammer, we may as well point out another of the inconveniences arising from a bad system of administration. The Government, oppressed by the greatest financial difficulties, wishes to sell the whole of the Kam-meral property to pay some of the state debts. I ought to add, by way of parenthesis, that the donation of these estates, as a reward for public services, has become merely a legal fiction of late years; and though it has been frequently protested against by the Diet, they really are sold like any  other property. Whether it is that his Majesty does not think any of his subjects' services of such sterling value as to merit reward, or whether he thinks the payment of a good round sum into the Royal exchequer the most acceptable service they can render, T leave for those to decide who better understand royal estimations of such matters -- but so it is.12 The sale, however, has progressed but slowly ; in fact, the stewards liked their situations, the valuers were good friends of the stewards, and so the prices set on the estates were such, that few were tempted to disturb them in their possession : only those who wish to obtain the rights of nobility, as ricli citizens, christened Jews, or foreign settlers, now buy land of the exchequer.
12 Entre nous, reader, I believe it is better it should remain so. The king would be responsible to no one for the disposal of this powerful source of patronage, and it would naturally be exercised in favour of political partisans of the court party. In the mean time it is a pet grievance of the Diet, and serves very well to talk about
That the consequences have been a serious injury to Government, a great impediment to the improvement of the country, and in fact an advantage to none but lazy and unjust stewards, are facts which every one admits, but no remedy has yet been applied.
Temesvár, the capital of the Banat, and the winter residence of the rich Banatians, is one of the prettiest towns I know anywhere. ITt has two handsome squares, and a number of very fine buildings. The county-hall, the palace of the liberal and  enlightened Bishop of Csanád, the residence of the commander, and the Town-house, are all remarkable for their size and appearance. It was little better than a heap of huts in 1718, when Prince Eugene besieged the Turks, who then held it, and drove them for ever from this fair possession. At that time, too, the country round was a great swamp, and constantly infested with fevers of the most fatal character. Prince Eugene laid the plan of the present town, and commenced the fortifications by which it is surrounded. I have no doubt the defences are very good, for there are all manner of angles and ditches, and forts, and bastions, and great guns, and little guns; so that wherever a man goes, lie has the pleasant impression that half-a-dozen muzzles are pointing directly his way, and to an uninitiated son of peace that would appear just the impression a good fortification ought to convey.
It is scarcely necessary to remain half an hour in Temesvár, to be convinced that, however successfully Prince Eugene may have driven the Turks themselves from the country, neither he nor his soldiers could eradicate the strong marks of Turkish blood with which the good people of Tcmesvar are inoculated. A black eye and delicately arched nose, of a character perfectly eastern, cross one's path every moment. The Greek and Jewish families too who live here in great numbers, for the sake of trade, add to the foreign aspect of the population. We observed one or two beautiful heads under the  little red Greek caps, the long braids of dark hair mixing fancifully with the bright purple tassels of that most beautiful of head-dresses. Of the society of Temcsviir, I can say nothing from personal knowledge. Report, that scandal-bearing jade, rather laughs at the costly display of wealth indulged in by the beau monde here; accuses it of anything but an excess of mental cultivation ; and sneers about luxury and the fruit of newly acquired wealth, displayed without the taste which it requires a polished education and the habits of good society to confer. But then, after all, Report is probably poor and envious; and I have no doubt Temesvár has just as good a tale against her meanness and pride, and probably laughs just as heartily about great names and little means, proud hearts and empty pockets.
In that corner of the Banat, between Temesvár and the confines of Hungary, on the south and east, -- in other words, in the beautiful county of Krasso, -- the traveller can scarcely fail to notice the different state of the roads from those he has been previously accustomed to. Some thirty years ago the roads in this same county were impassable, the whole district was little better than a den of thieves, and the misery consequent on vice and disorder was everywhere most severely felt. Determined to remedy this evil, Government appointed as F6 Tspan of the county, Baron Wenkheim, a man of enlarged views and of great energy of character. Under his direction,  affairs soon assumed a different aspect. A police was formed and maintained with almost military strictness of discipline, justice was administered with unbending severity, and the Baron goon succeeded in establishing a fear and respect for the law which it had long wanted. Security once obtained, it became his object to render it permanent. From the scattered manner in which the villages were built, it was found exceedingly difficult to obtain evidence of a suspected person's movements; those of the peasantry who were anxious to screen an offender from the hands of justice, could always plead the distance of their dwellings, as a reason for their alleged or real ignorance of his movements. An order was given for the regulation of villages, by which they were brought near the public roads, built in a regular manner, no house being allowed to be at more than a certain distance from another, and every man was thus brought within the knowledge and observation of his neigh-, bours. Tn case of the trial of any peasant, his immediate neighbours were, and are to this day, summoned to give evidence of his outgoings and incomings, of his character, means of living, and common occupations. It is obligatory on the neighbours to give this evidence; and I believe, they are punishable if they do not take due notice of such facts. To the legal antiquary it will be scarcely necessary to mention the similarity of this system to the institution of frank pledges,  or tithings, as described by Hallam to have existed among the Anglo-Saxons, in very remote times.13
13 I am not sure whether the same rule extends to other parts of Hungary, but I am inclined to believe it does ; and I think that it offers a more probable explanation of the existence of those large villages, and the absence of single houses, than that given by Marmont, who has been pleased to theorise on this subject after his own particular fashion.
The state of the roads was another object of his attention. Extensive lines of road were laid down, by which in the course of a few years, not only all the large places, but every two villages also would be united by a good road. Wenkheim's doctrine was, that it was better to do such things at once -- for independently of the present benefit, it was as yet thought no hardship by the peasants that they should be made to work at them, and therefore was none; but the time was fast approaching when the peasant would have other ideas on such matters, and what was now easy might then be impossible. These lines of road are not yet completed; for after Wenkheim's death, which took place before his plans were executed, various causes retarded the finishing of them : but they are still in progress, and Krasso is already one of the most quiet and peaceable parts of the kingdom, and certainly the best-furnished with roads of any county in Hungary.
While on a visit to Baron B------ in the neighbourhood of Lugos, we had an opportunity of joining in an amusement common enough in the wooded  parts of the Banat. Among the baron's neighbours who had been invited to meet us at dinner, there was an eager sportsman, who of course led the conversation to his favourite theme. I had too much fellow-feeling not to be a willing listener, and glorious talcs did he recount to us of wolves, and boars, and bears which had fallen before his rifle. Though we were positively to have started the next morning, it somehow or other happened that before the evening was over, we were busy in giving orders to have our guns cleaned, arranging the plan of operations, and listening to our host's preparatory orders for a wolf-hunt. On inquiry in the village, he was assured that wolves had been seen and tracked in the vineyards only two days before, and every one was quite certain there were several in the neighbourhood.
Now, although in the Banat the peasant is not obliged to attend his lord for three days' hunting, as in other parts of Hungary, yet it is rarely he refuses the request to aid in the sport, especially when wolves are about, or when, as in the present case, he likes his master and receives refreshments for his trouble. Accordingly, when we got up next morning we found no less than a hundred peasants collected about the house, waiting for us. As soon as our party had assembled, which consisted of some of the neighbouring gentry and of the oHiccrs quartered at Lugos, and after a hearty breakfast, which would have done honour to Scotland, had been  concluded with a glass of Banat whisky, sliwowitz, out we sallied, three waggons and four being in attendance to conduct us to the place of meeting.
Here the peasants were already collected, and an old sportsman was arranging and pointing out their stations as we came up. Twenty of them were furnished with guns, some of them in a melancholy state of infirmity; but, as they were principally intended to frighten the game, it was of little consequence: the rest were to act merely as drivers.
We made our first cast in a low wood, half gorse, half timber, which occupied the two sides of a little valley, and which was traversed by the dry beds of several old water-courses. Towards one part of these courses the drivers were to make so as to force the game to break in that direction; and here, at twenty or thirty yards' distance from each other, we were stationed. A a the stranger, I was placed in the position most likely to have the first shot; and most anxiously did I listen to the yells and shouts of the treibers, as they called to each other to enable them to keep their lines, and to the dropping shots of the jägers, intended to rouse the game if any there should be. It is not the plea-santest thing in the world for an uncertain shot to have half-a-dozen sportsmen below him on such an occasion as this, for the special purpose of "wiping his eye," should he miss the first shot he ever made at a wolf, especially if he finds himself starting at  the crack of every dry bough and carrying his piece to his shoulder at every black-bird that flutters from her perch; for though their politeness might spare the stranger the joke aloud, a sportsman's instinct tells him they would not enjoy it the less in silence. In thinking over such a scene afterwards, it might occur to one that there was some little danger among so many guns in a thick wood, especially when balls or slugs were chiefly used; but, at the time, I defy a man who likes sport to plague himself with such fancies. By degrees the shouts became nearer, but there was nothing I could take for a view-halloo, -- the which, though I have no idea what sort of thing an Hungarian peasant would make of it, I would be bound to recognize by instinct, -- and at last one treiber and then another came up, and the Treib was declared out.
Several times did we make our cast in different woods, but still with the same ill success, till evening came on when we returned to bear the railings of the ladies -- always unmerciful on luckless sportsmen. So ended our Trcih-jagd. Our kind host, however, took it quite to heart; "Such ingratitude," he said, "of the worthless beasts! not a year passes that they do not worry me a colt or two; and now, on the only occasion when I have wished to see their grinning faces, not one would make his appearance." Let me add, that when I met him next year he was still inconsolable at the disappointment, though he had taken pretty good revenge a month after our  visit, when they had killed seven in one day out of the very wood we first beat.
A good dinner -- a necessary conclusion to hunting, be the country what it may -- soon drove all the thoughts of disappointment out of our heads, and we were only sorry we could not stay to accept the invitation to a boar-hunt, which our sporting friend of the preceding evening would fain have pressed on us.
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