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KxBurns
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PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole

It is 1921 in Grace's thoughts, and Teddy has followed his father's footsteps. I can imagine how bitter I would be if I were Hannah... And then later in the chapter, I was astonished to find that Teddy had been a Nazi sympathizer!

On page 294, Grace openly disagrees with Hannah about seeing the fortune teller, but Hannah does not listen. I believe she values Grace's opinion, but I wonder if she must exert her free will over the only person she can? As a result, Grace becomes not just Hannah's maid but her guardian, following her in secret. What did the fortune teller say that left Hannah so ashen, I wonder?

In the modern day narrative, I couldn't help but feel that Sylvia was exploiting Grace a little bit for the sake of her boyfriend's project, selling out the secrets of the person she should have been protecting. Did you feel the same way?

Finally, as the chapter ends, the line between past and present becomes blurry for Grace. Her movement back and forth between the two is no longer voluntary.

What did you think of this chapter?

Karen
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dhaupt
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole

What a correct title for this chapter where Grace finds the lines between past and present getting thinner.
I'm not sure what the fortune teller said to Hannah, just adds to the growing lists of secrets in the book.
I was really disappointed in Sylvia in this chapter and I'm reevaluating my opinion of her, I thought she really cared until now.
I think this chapter gives us further insight as to what the future holds.
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psujulie
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole

I agree that the title of the chapter is a great one! Of course, so many of the chapter names are brilliant! I think reliving all of these secrets are really wearing down Grace she seems very disoriented throughout this chapter. On pg. 305, she describes what she is feeling as "a million tiny particles falling through the funnel of time."

I was glad to see that Alfred is back in the story -- I find his character very interesting. He felt he had to go to the war out of an obligation, and he was very obviously traumatized during the war. It seems like his sense of duty/obligation have changed as he matured. He is now very interested in reading about classes, workers and trade unions. He also challenged Grace's dedication to Hannah over her own life. He definitely raises the question of "How far does the duty of a servant have to go?"

I agree that Sylvia might be exploiting Grace, and I'm a little disappointed! I think that Sylvia does care about Grace, but she certainly doesn't have the same sense of obligation or duty that Grace felt towards Hannah. I think seeing Alfred's change may be representative of what has happened in society as a whole. We are definitely more focused on self in today's culture. I don't think that Sylvia is a bad person, but she is definitely willing to put herself and her happiness ahead of Grace. I think Grace felt such a sense of obligation that she was willing to cover up/protect Hannah's secrets.

It seems that Frederick is in a similar situation to Hannah. Of course, he and Hannah are both stubborn and neither one has gotten in touch with the other; and, they both appear very lonely. Alfred even mentions that Frederick has no purpose now that the factory is gone -- very similar to Hannah's feelings. We also see that Emmeline is free to do as she pleases -- could this be a sign that Emmeline is getting a little wild?

There are so many of Grace's memories with fog and haze in this chapter -- pg. 296, Grace met Alfred on a foggy evening, pg. 301 Grace's description of photos "glimpsed through the fog of events," pg. 301 there is smoke which gives the impression of a haze, the reference to the fire at Riverton and that it smoked for weeks." In contrast, on pg. 304, Grace is in the present under a bright light getting interviewed by Anthony. I pictured this almost as a police interrogation.
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lamorgan
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole

This chapter seems to reveal that Teddy is perhaps too attached to his family and not able to make a complete commitment to Hannah. He seems to take their side over hers and allows his family to dictate how they should live. If Teddy had more of a backbone, perhaps Hannah's "like" for him could have turned to love eventually.
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lamorgan
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole

And what is Teddy doing running for politics in England when he is an American?
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bentley
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole

Down the Rabbit Hole is an apt title to this jarring chapter. I think Morton was trying to accomplish too much in this chapter even though most readers I am sure were able to catch up and hang on.

Some of my thoughts:


Teddy:

It is too bad that the sparks of individuality that Teddy originally exhibited were also dashed to bits by his family and what they wanted of him and for him. All of what he changed about himself was what Hannah liked about him and now that too had vanished. He is pretty much under his family's thumbs and is marching to a different drummer far different than what he imagined and discussed with Hannah. Maybe the reason he got sick on the honeymoon was a foreboding of what he had to face with Hannah when they returned home and it was not to his liking then and he was afraid to discuss it with his new wife. If that was the reason, it is too bad that he did not take a chance on her and discuss this with Hannah; it may have made all of the difference. She had felt stirrings for him at the lake when he rescued her locket and she possibly could have felt that again.

Also Teddy seemed more a man of words rather than actions and Hannah had become used to the "chasm between Teddy's intentions and his actions." This too might have eroded the respect that Hannah had for him as a man and partner. Also, there is something unspeakable going on with their love life; maybe that is just a supposition but something is not right.

Sympathizing with the Nazis isn't good either; this will not bode well for the Hartford family since as Frederick said: "David was killed by a German bullet."

Hannah:

Hannah now seems so bored that she is becoming much more of a risk taker and doing things that she knows would be disagreeable if discovered. She also is becoming more and more vulnerable emotionally and more repressed and discouraged as days go by. Grace seems to be her only salvation. She has so little hope in her future and in her ability to control her destiny that she resorts to going to fortune tellers.

Grace:

Grace is now turning into more of a guardian/nanny than just the life of a lady's maid. She had become Hannah's refuge but what about her own life. I love the line: "I am resigned to my future. It is the past that troubles."

Sylvia:

I know that nobody is perfect but in the previous chapter I was concerned about Grace being left in the sun and that her skin was becoming burned. What is happening to Sylvia: is she neglecting Grace? And then I frankly believe that Sylvia set Grace up to talk to Anthony without asking her permission after leaving her alone for so long. It is no wonder that Grace collapsed from the strain of the day's events; she could have been dehydrated.

The chapter itself is confusing; but one can still see the transitions even though they are not awfully smooth. It was a little jarring. I don't think that the past is becoming blurred with the present so much as Grace has been neglected and has been baking in the sun and probably has become burned, dehydrated and disorientated and then the stress of being interrogated by Anthony (someone she neither met before or likes). Right now, I am also beginning to dislike Sylvia.

Bentley
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole

His father (Simion) is from Great Britain.



lamorgan wrote:
And what is Teddy doing running for politics in England when he is an American?


Melissa W.
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LucNesbitt
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole

I too am disappointed to learn that Teddy has fallen into his father's way of thinking. With all the societal changes occuring at this time, I was hoping Teddy would be more progressive but with his Conservative constituants to think about, he appears to be erring on the opposite side as Hannah.

Once again, the life Hannah had hoped for and dreamed about is not happening, largely due to greater influences than she can overcome.
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Peppermill
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole


pedsphleb wrote: His father (Simion) is from Great Britain.

lamorgan wrote:
And what is Teddy doing running for politics in England when he is an American?

His mother is the American.

P. 189 "While it's true Mrs Luxton is one of the New York Stevensons, I think you'll find Mr Luxton as English as you or I. He hails from the north, according to The Times." Mr. Hamilton is speaking to Mrs. Townsend.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Iulievich
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole

[ Edited ]

KxBurns wrote:
And then later in the chapter, I was astonished to find that Teddy had been a Nazi sympathizer.



Teddy would scarcely have been alone as a Nazi sympathizer in England of the 1930's. Before the second war -- and especially before 1938 -- Hitler was seen by many as a needed force for stability. To expect Teddy to see beyond the conventional wisdom of his peers strikes me as asking a bit much of his character.

The disruption and turmoil had not stopped when the guns fell silent at 11:00 am, November 11, 1918. Much of a generation of young men had been annihilated, like the Major and David, causing a distressing shortage of suitable males for the organizers of balls like the one in this story. Millions more carried scars, whether physical or psychic. Much of Europe was in revolutionary turmoil throughout the 1920's. England itself suffered a crippling general strike that was widely believed to have been hatched by the Labour Party at the behest of the Communist International. The Russian Empire had given way to a militantly revolutionary Soviet Union, which was actively encouraging revolution throughout Europe and supporting anticolonial movements in India and China. (In those days Great Britain was THE major colonial power.) Then came the Depression, and with it an exponential growth in Socialist and Communist revolutionary activity.

People were genuinely (and justifiably) afraid so that Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco appeared to be essential bulwarks against Europe's descent into chaos. Hitler's reindustrialization and the resurgence of the German economy were welcome sources for much-needed profit for many British industrial and engineering firms and for American companies like Ford and AT&T. And with those profits came jobs for Depression-era workers.

Among those with strong pro-Nazi sympathies were the Duke of Windsor (the recently abdicated king) and his American wife. In the United States, a similar view was represented by Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh, with a significant following.

Winston Churchill and his little group of supporters were considered mildly deranged and lived the decade in the political wilderness.

All of which reinforces one of the underlying themes of The House at Riverton. Unfortunately, talking about how Kate Morton has so ably developed this will require filling the discussion with spoilers. Oh well, another time, another thread!

But we can at least state the theme and talk about it without reference to the story of Grace, Hannah, et al.

The theme in this case might be expressed, "If I had only known ... but then again, how could I have? If I had only understood ... but then, how could I have?"

People's understanding of the choices before them is conditioned by their frame of reference, which is -- in turn -- conditioned by their experiences, their perception of those experiences, and their conceptions of themselves and the world and their place in it. Their knowledge and understanding of all the elements that can affect the outcome of their choices is NEVER complete. As Yogi Berra says, "Things are hard to predict. Especially the future."

How imperfect is our knowledge and understanding of the challenges we face -- even on the level of individuals? And yet, we are condemned to make our choices in life each day based upon dangerously incomplete understanding! And then not only do we have to live with the unforeseen consequences of our decisions, but we are cursed with hindsight to make us aware that what we needed to know was there all along but we did not see it!

Is it any wonder that the apparent promises of youth so typically fade into a reality of regret, guilt, and sometimes tragedy?

It doesn't seem fair somehow, does it?

Message Edited by Iulievich on 01-12-2008 02:04 AM
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an action but a habit." -Aristotle
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Iulievich
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole

[ Edited ]

KxBurns wrote:
On page 294, Grace openly disagrees with Hannah about seeing the fortune teller, but Hannah does not listen. I believe she values Grace's opinion, but I wonder if she must exert her free will over the only person she can? As a result, Grace becomes not just Hannah's maid but her guardian, following her in secret. What did the fortune teller say that left Hannah so ashen, I wonder?

Karen



Could it be that at this point in her story Hannah is beginning to play The Game again -- albeit in a darker, more adult version? It seems pretty clear that she is looking for escape from the consequences of her choice of Teddy.

If only there had not been the war! Would there not have been a more suitable match for someone like Hannah? Surely there would have been some honorable and imaginative young man for her instead of this creature who not only stayed behind when others ventured out but who turned the whole thing to his personal profit!

But those potential soulmates all lie "in Flanders' fields where poppies grow."

And so in the end it was Teddy.

Nevertheless, by training, inheritance, position, and inclination Hannah has never been one to be long content with whatever humdrum life might dish up.

Message Edited by Iulievich on 01-12-2008 03:22 AM
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an action but a habit." -Aristotle
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Peppermill
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole


Iulievich wrote:
....Hitler's reindustrialization and the resurgence of the German economy were welcome sources for much-needed profit for many British industrial and engineering firms and for American companies like Ford and AT&T...

Iulievich -- please explain your inclusion of AT&T here. Was this before the agreements that kept AT&T out of international business? Or do you perhaps mean ITT? Or ....?
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Iulievich
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole

[ Edited ]

Peppermill wrote:
Iulievich -- please explain your inclusion of AT&T here. Was this before the agreements that kept AT&T out of international business? Or do you perhaps mean ITT? Or ....?



You may be right. I suppose it would more likely have been ITT. The detail was based on an old recollection. There were many such companies. If AT&T did do business with the Reich, it would have been in some ancillary field and not in the provision of actual carrier services.

Thanks for picking up on that.

I would be very sorry if an incorrect detail should distract from the real point, which was that many people like Teddy would have had (and important and honorable people did have) such sympathies for what -- at the time -- seemed to them to be good reasons. And yet, just as in this example, the Devil is quite literally in the details. ;-D

"If only I had known! But how could I have?"

I would rather have drawn the illustration of the point from Ms. Morton's devlopment of this and other tropes within the book that we are actually discussing, but I don't believe that it can be done until the discussion of the entire book is open. So I grabbed at a transient memory to try to illustrate how this theme would apply to Teddy in the particular (and tangential) matter of his Nazi sympathies.

Message Edited by Iulievich on 01-12-2008 03:25 AM
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an action but a habit." -Aristotle
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crazyasitsounds
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole

I was also astonished by the fact that Teddy had been a Nazi sympathizer, but the more I thought about it the less surprised I was. He & his father were looking for modern ideas & ideas that would leave nothing important in the hands of the common people. I can see how they might have seen some of that in Nazi Germany.

We can only assume that the fortune teller foresaw some kind of tragedy. Whether it was the one that actually occurred is another question. As for Grace following Hannah, it's another example of how Grace has changed since she moved from Riverton. To me, it feels like she's gotten too attached to Hannah (maybe because she doesn't have any friends in the city) & feel too responsible for her. It isn't really any of her business to be following Hannah around like that.

As much as I hated the young Grace's actions in this chapter, I felt terrible for the older Grace. Sylvia was definitely exploiting her. It's one thing to interview a ninety-eight year-old woman with a fascinating history, but it's quite another to bring her to an unfamiliar, disorienting place to do it without any warning. The poor woman.
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole

I'm late to posting anything but I had to stop to agree with your post. Sylvia did seem to be exploiting Grace with that interview but I think she wanted to impress her boyfriend and was willing to use Grace to do it.

I agree with your thoughts on Teddy. I was surprised at first but then it made sense.
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Iulievich
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole


crazyasitsounds wrote:
I was also astonished by the fact that Teddy had been a Nazi sympathizer, but the more I thought about it the less surprised I was. He & his father were looking for modern ideas & ideas that would leave nothing important in the hands of the common people. I can see how they might have seen some of that in Nazi Germany


All right. After this post, I am going to go meditate and get my obsessive-compuslive disorder under control. I promise!

I agree that Teddy and his father would be very happy to see control of anything important wrested from the hands of the common people. But wouldn't they be equally happy to see it wrested from the hands of England's traditional ruling classes -- e.g. the Hartford family? Do we not see the Luxtons' envy and resentment of the Hartfords' status as they capitalize on Frederick's financial troubles to make themselves more respectable by marrying into the "older" family?

The Luxtons want control ... period! They are not particularly squeamish about how they get it. Most of all, they appear to want the respectability and power of a class to which they are uncomfortably aware that they do not belong. They are one important element in the book's "dissolution by corruption of the established order" theme.

As a sidebar not really part of the book discussion, my comments on the Nazi-sympathizer issue are really directed at a theme of the book that we cannot very well discuss directly until the threads for the rest of the book are open. It relates to what Kate Morton, in the Author's Notes section refers to as "the centrality of inheritance (material, psychological and physical)." It relates, I think, to the manner in which psychological and cultural inheritance shapes and often misshapes perception, leading in turn to incorrect or incomplete understandings, faulty information, and ultimately bad -- even tragic -- outcomes that nobody intended or foresaw.

Had those Germans who VOTED the Nazi party into power been willing or able to perceive the demonic elements of its ideology and where they might tend to lead, do you think that they would have ELECTED Adolf Hitler to power as they did? But they did NOT look closely, because they had other concerns that took precedence over really analyzing what the Nazis were up to. They did NOT see because the destructive potential (which became reality) was outside their ordinary frame of reference. Those elements of Nazism that were within the structure of their cognition led them to see it as the best way out of triple-digit inflation, economic catastrophe, and Communist firing squads.

If they had only known! But how could they? Does not a human being process information, make decisions, and take actions that have consequences all based on his or her Weltanschauung? (Don't you love German words? Who else could mash two words together into a single compound to mean the entire framework of cognitive structure?)

Reduce this process to a personal level (History is merely an aggregate of personal actions, anyway.) and consider many of the questions that people are asking in these threads about why a particular character takes certain actions that seem bound to lead to misunderstandings that may or may not have bad consequences? Why did Grace lie to the child Ruth about the locket? Why has she never in all these years told her? What could it mean for Ruth to know, anyway? Was Hannah still playing The Game even when she married Teddy? What is the significance of The Game as a window into who Hannah really is? Why does Emmeline take a path so different from that of her sister, and what do they keep in common that they have inherited from their childhood, their parents, their grandparents, and the society in which they grew up? Why does Grace never correct Hannah's misperception as to what she was doing in the doorway of the secretarial school? For what reason would Grace ever attach enough significance to that misperception that she would step "out of her place" to make such a confession to her mistress? How much of Grace's unwillingness to actually explore her own paternity is the result of the salutary lesson of what happened to her mother's life when her mother apparently "stepped out of her place?"

We could go on and on. But wait! I have already done that!
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an action but a habit." -Aristotle
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bookhunter
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole


Iulievich wrote:
...As a sidebar not really part of the book discussion, my comments on the Nazi-sympathizer issue are really directed at a theme of the book that we cannot very well discuss directly until the threads for the rest of the book are open. It relates to what Kate Morton, in the Author's Notes section refers to as "the centrality of inheritance (material, psychological and physical)." It relates, I think, to the manner in which psychological and cultural inheritance shapes and often misshapes perception, leading in turn to incorrect or incomplete understandings, faulty information, and ultimately bad -- even tragic -- outcomes that nobody intended or foresaw.






This is echoed in the PHYSICAL inheritance, too. The hemophilia is passed on genetically and was a problem because the royal and upper class families isolated themselves and only married each other.

Hated to snip away all that other good stuff, Iulievich. You gave me lots to think about. Not so much about Grace and Hannah, but ME!

Ann, bookhunter
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KxBurns
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole


Iulievich wrote:

Could it be that at this point in her story Hannah is beginning to play The Game again -- albeit in a darker, more adult version? It seems pretty clear that she is looking for escape from the consequences of her choice of Teddy.

If only there had not been the war! Would there not have been a more suitable match for someone like Hannah? Surely there would have been some honorable and imaginative young man for her instead of this creature who not only stayed behind when others ventured out but who turned the whole thing to his personal profit!

But those potential soulmates all lie "in Flanders' fields where poppies grow."

And so in the end it was Teddy.

Nevertheless, by training, inheritance, position, and inclination Hannah has never been one to be long content with whatever humdrum life might dish up.



I love this idea, that Hannah has returned to The Game as a form of escape from her life. And yet instead of being the rescuer, she is putting herself in the position normally reserved for Emmeline, the one needing rescue...

I really do feel sympathy for Hannah, in that she chose a husband who appeared to offer just what she was looking for from life. And then he changed.

But your comments made me wonder whether Hannah's dissatisfaction stems from not being able to have the adventurous life she craves or from a general tendency toward a constant, insatiable longing for more?

Karen
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole


lamorgan wrote:
And what is Teddy doing running for politics in England when he is an American?


lOL!! good question! lol
Vivian
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Re: PART THREE: Down the Rabbit Hole


crazyasitsounds wrote:
I was also astonished by the fact that Teddy had been a Nazi sympathizer, but the more I thought about it the less surprised I was. He & his father were looking for modern ideas & ideas that would leave nothing important in the hands of the common people. I can see how they might have seen some of that in Nazi Germany.




Well, I think it is a bit much at this point, the early to mid 30s to call Teddy a Nazi sympathizer. If so, you might as well include America at this time. This was when Hitler was just getting going about the working class and had not yet gained the popularity to become a Country's leader or the Genocidal maniac he was. His ideas at the time, touch the hearts of the German people because they were looking for help within their own country to better the economy and lifestyle of all. This was what Teddy got involved with it appears,the talk of the working class. This was not the "blame it all on the Jews and exterminate them" Hitler yet that was developing. America did not see him as such yet either. I think Grace even says in there somewhere, who could have known at the time! I don't know if Teddy backed away in time or got nailed by association later but the very fact that Grace brings it up that way means that it wasnt long after that, that yes then the world and England for sure, would see Teddy as such.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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