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Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 16

July 23, 2020 02:46PM
I believe I have said this before, but this story has grown beyond anything I had envisioned when I started. I had two ideas this chapter that may throw a wrench into my plans to get the Bingley’s to Meryton within 4 or so chapters.








Chapter 16


Netherfield Park, Meryton
Sunday, June 9, 1811



Joseph Thomas Fitzwilliam was grateful for the short rest he was afforded before departing for an afternoon of games and food at Netherfield. He was disappointed in himself for how he responded to Georgie’s innocent comment. He was taught better self-control and proper manners. His mother would be furious and Miss Sakville would be well within her rights to refuse to acknowledge they had previously been introduced.


JT was brought out of his self-chastisement when the Hurst carriage stopped in front of a mansion he assumed was Netherfield Park. He was the last to exit and was surprised when Miss Hurst grabbed his arm and led him to the occupants who exited the other carriage.


“Miss Bennet, would you please introduce us to your parents?” Miss Hurst asked.


JT heard one of the younger ladies whisper to her mother, louder than she intended, hopefully, “Poor mama. If you have a sudden fit of nerves, you could avoid the introduction,” and saw Mrs. Bennet pat her daughter’s hand and with a stern look chide, “Lydia!” He knew this was just the beginning of what he would have to endure on this visit.


After they had been introduced to the last two members of the Bennet family, Miss Hurst smirked at him before saying, “Lord Halburn has taken a nap and is in a much more sociable attitude now. We would like to apologize, again, for the thoughtless tirade he delivered after church services.”


“I have heard all about it, young man. If truth be told, since the moment we entered our carriage to return home after church, my wife and daughters have spoken of nothing but what was said. I wonder if Lord Halburn looks at any woman and does not see a blemish,” Mr. Bennet said with a twinkle in his eye. “I imagine you will not be hungry at the picnic, My Lord. You have already consumed a prodigious amount of boot leather, and if I know my niece as well as I think I do, you will have to eat your words, most likely while grovelling, possibly with her shoving them forcibly down your throat.”


“Papa, you will give Lord Halburn the wrong impression of Juliet. She, at least, will act with complete propriety,” Miss Elizabeth said with a raised eyebrow.


“Oh, Elizabeth,” Miss Hurst quickly responded, “I am not advocating that you should all immediately forgive Lord Halburn for his insensitive and thoughtless comment, but please try to understand the circumstances. On Saturday, His Lordship had returned to his father’s townhouse in London after a trip to look at horses, with three new young foals in tow. Can you imagine how His Lordship then felt to walk into the parlour and have his father hand him an express from the Colonel asking him to travel to Meryton? Dutiful son that he is, he ignored his discomfort and left London almost immediately to be of service to his mother. I am not sure how I would have handled the situation. Truthfully, I believe I would have retired for the night and travelled on Monday.”


Mr. Bennet had nodded thoughtfully and, unless he was deceiving himself, the ladies looked less hostile. Miss Hurst explaining his Saturday the way she had, made JT realize how much travelling he had done on one day.


Miss Hurst took a deep breath and continued, “His Lordship arrived at Haye Park very late last night, the rest of the household was asleep, after travelling most of the day with three young unfamiliar horses to care for, woke very early this morning, and then his younger brother started harassing him right away.”


“Now wait just a moment,” Richard said.


“Did I say anything that was inaccurate, Colonel Fitzwilliam,” Miss Hurst asked with a glare.


Perhaps the visit will not go as badly as JT thought.


“You have the right of it, cousin.”


“Thank you, Harold,” Miss Hurst said.


“The word harassing was perhaps a bit too light under the circumstances,” Darcy added. “I probably would have used torturing, irritating, pestering, badgering, stressing, hounding, or annoying, to name a few.”


“Thank you, Mr. Thesaurus,” Miss Hurst told Darcy with a giggle that matched the Bennet ladies’ response. “Elizabeth, I spent a season in society with Lord Halburn and he is pursued relentlessly, as is Mr. Darcy. The three of us formed a pact to help each other avoid compromising situations. Lord and Lady Matlock are understandably anxious for His Lordship to marry and secure an heir to the Earldom. Lord Halburn was already exhausted when the Colonel started irritating him, thank you for that word Mr. Darcy, about a family full of beautiful women and, combined with his fatigue, lashed out when Miss Darcy offered to introduce him to the very same beautiful women.”


JT could tell the Bennet ladies were starting to soften towards him. Hopefully Miss Darcy was having as much luck inside. The thought that he was essentially hiding behind two young ladies, amused him.


“I empathize with you, My Lord. I do not have a title, but I was also pursued the single time I was in town for a short period of the season. I knew the moment I returned from university that I wanted to make Frances my wife, but as she is so much younger than me, I had to wait for her to grow up. Like you, my father was also eager for my sister and I to marry and secure a future for our estate by the way of grandchildren. I will be eternally grateful to my mother for her interference. She knew where my interest lay and assisted my sister when she received attention from an unwanted suitor. I also know, from living in a house full of women, how irrational people can be when they do not get enough rest.” Mr. Bennet said the last sentence with a smirk and the air of a man who expected a reaction and then laughed when his wife and daughters started to complain loudly.


“That is not the worst of it, Mr. Bennet,” Miss Hurst continued after Mr. Bennet’s laughter ceased. “The Colonel withheld a significant piece of information from the letter he sent to his brother.”


JT heard the Bennet ladies gasp and visibly transfer their ire to his younger brother. He did not comprehend what was happening.


“Brilliant!” Mr. Bennet exclaimed. “This day gets better and better. My brother Phillips told me your presence at Haye Park would liven up Meryton society over the summer and you do not disappoint.”


“I do not understand. What did Richard not tell me about?” JT was perplexed.


“It was not my information to share,” Richard defended himself. “As an officer, I am routinely trusted with confidential information. It is in my nature to offer as few details as possible.”


If the response of the ladies was any indication, his brother was in trouble. “Richard, I am beginning to think you were trying to provoke my reaction earlier, or something similar, little brother. You had best hope we do not end up as fencing partners soon.”


“I think it is time we go inside,” Darcy interrupted. “The housekeeper is waiting and JT calling Richard ‘little brother’ means their argument will shortly devolve to one you would expect from boys in short pants.”


“Shame on you for stopping them, Mr. Darcy, I was highly diverted. In Meryton we do not normally see shows as entertaining as this one,” Mr. Bennet said with a chuckle before escorting his wife up the stairs.


Before the housekeeper finished announcing the large group, JT had his arms full of a sobbing blonde young lady who kept apologizing for her part in his actions.


“Georgie, you were not at fault. I am the fool who let my tongue run away. Here is my handkerchief, please dry your eyes before you ruin my jacket. Remember, my valet will not arrive with my trunks until tomorrow,” he gently told his cousin and was pleased to hear her chuckle quietly as she stepped back.


JT felt the awkwardness of the situation and looked up... straight into the narrowed eyes of The Marquess of Milham. Suddenly he knew why Mrs. Sakville looked so familiar and what his brother withheld from him.


“Why you...” he yelled as he started moving towards Richard.


“Whoa there, JT,” Darcy said as he moved to block his path.


“This is neither the place nor the time,” Dobbs said from his position in front of Richard.


“You knew? You all knew Richard did not tell me and did nothing? How could you?” he asked.


“Georgie and I were unaware. I realized you did not know when you wondered why Mrs. Sakville looked so familiar. I thought to tell you then, but we would have been at Netherfield soon and I decided it was Mrs. Sakville’s ultimate decision whether or not you were informed,” Miss Hurst responded with an apology in her eyes.


“I knew last night, JT. I apologize for not making you aware first thing this morning, but never in my wildest dreams did I think you would respond as you did,” Darcy said.


JT thought back on what he could remember saying when Georgie wanted to perform introductions after church and was humiliated. Heaven help him, he all but accused the daughter of a duke of seeking an introduction to a gentleman with a title. It could have been worse, he supposed. At least he did not outright call her a fortune hunter.


“What did you do, Joseph Thomas Fitzwilliam?” his mother asked in a dangerously quiet voice.


“Lady Matlock, think nothing more of the interaction. Before you arrived, Miss Darcy explained to us why your son was out of sorts this morning. We do understand and empathize with his rather unique series of circumstances,” Mrs. Sakville graciously told his mother. “However, Lord Halburn, while I may have decided you are to be forgiven, my children will likely take longer.”


“Thank you for being so compassionate, Mrs. Sakville. If I may ask...” JT was unsure who knew the family’s true rank and whether or not to ask his question.


“How are we able to be addressed as we are in Meryton?” the duchess asked discreetly with a twinkle in her eye that matched Mr. Bennet’s.


He had a flash of inspiration and stated definitively, “Mr. Bennet is your brother.”


“Very good, Lord Halburn. Yes, I was raised in Meryton. My husband inherited Netherfield from his maternal grandmother whose primary residence was her husband’s estate. My father always referred to her as the ‘Old Bird’ when she made her semi-annual visits. She was by all accounts a right proper harridan who tried to force my father to pay for all repairs when issues were on shared property, such as fences and bridges. My husband was able to take possession of his inheritance with his background completely unknown. I fell in love with Mr. Frederick Sakville and did not find out about his eligibility until the minister pronounced us as man and wife using our titles. Meryton is a small town and none of the residents are active in society. Our privacy has been easy to maintain.”


“Fascinating! If I had not seen it in action for myself, I would have thought the concept unbelievable,” JT said.


“Aunt Phoebe, Alfie picked up the post from Reginald’s townhouse and I received letters from Clara and Lady Sheldon. The Sheldon’s must leave London on a family matter and asked if Clara may visit Haye Park for a month until the Owens family returns from Scotland. Mr. Darcy was concerned there would only be two chaperones for three young ladies living in a household with five unmarried gentlemen,” Miss Hurst explained to her aunt.


“I agree with Mr. Darcy, it would not be entirely proper with Mrs. Annesley visiting her family, although we must help if we can. Lady Sheldon turned to me because she trusts me. After all, having been raised on neighbouring estates, we have been friends our entire lives as have you and Clara. I cannot let them both down,” Lady Dobbs said with a nervous look between Miss Hurst and Richard.


“Lady Dobbs, if my parents agree, Miss Hurst, Miss Darcy, and Miss Owens could stay at Longbourn,” Miss Elizabeth offered. “It would leave us with one guestroom.”


“I would not want to imposition your household, Miss Elizabeth,” Lady Dobbs answered politely.


JT saw Mr. and Mrs. Bennet share a look he had only ever seen happily married couples use. After a moment, Mr. Bennet discretely nodded to his wife.


“What a wonderful idea, Lizzy. Lady Dobbs, it would be our pleasure to host the young ladies at Longbourn for a month,” Mrs. Bennet offered with a sincere smile. “If Miss Darcy’s companion returns before Miss Owens’ family retrieves her, we will discuss whether she moves into the remaining guest room at Longbourn or if everyone returns to Haye Park.”


“You would allow complete strangers to stay with you for a month,” Lady Dobbs asked, surprised.


“My sister has known you, the Darcy’s, and the Matlock’s for many years, My Lady. She told me after church that Miss Darcy was a pleasant young lady and that Miss Hurst improves upon acquaintance. I also could see that my sister was about to make the same offer. You must admit, with my nephew in residence at Netherfield, it makes perfect sense to have Longbourn entirely full of young ladies. Afterall, with my five daughters in residence, we are unlikely to notice three more females. If the girls do not get along well, we will discuss other options,” Mrs. Bennet said.


“Thank you, Mrs. Bennet,” Lady Dobbs said gratefully. “Mr. Darcy, may we send Alfie to London first thing in the morning to escort Miss Owens to Meryton?”


“May I go too, Reginald?” Miss Hurst asked. “I know it will be a long day of travel, but I would like to do some shopping and keep Clara company on the way back. I will stop and see Mrs. Mayes and pick up your post.”


“I want to go, brother,” Georgie begged. “We would bring Angus along for our protection. Please!”


JT could see Darcy was about to refuse. “Darcy, Richard must report for duty on Monday anyway. If they leave at first light, he could escort them and we could send a maid along for propriety’s sake. The ladies would be able to have a few hours shopping with a friend and then escort her back. We had planned to spend most of the day reviewing the records for my estate and the ladies would be left to their own devices.”


“I will be happy to ride with them if the Colonel needs to travel at a faster speed,” Dobbs offered. “I received a letter from a former shipmate who is in London for a few weeks. While the ladies are shopping, I will be able to meet Doyle and catch up on our lives and mutual acquaintances.”


“We will discuss the particulars later, but I see no problem with Grace going,” Mr. Hurst said.


“I agree,” Darcy stated. “It might be best if the ladies stay at Darcy House overnight and return on Tuesday, I will send a note for Mrs. Smythe. Dobbs, you should stay at Hurst’s townhouse.”


“That would not be possible, Mr. Darcy,” Lady Dobbs said. “All of the bedrooms at Reginald’s townhouse are being renovated.”


“Mr. Dobbs may stay at Matlock House with Michael,” JT’s mother said. “In fact, all of the ladies should stay there under the Earl’s protection. If it would make you feel better, Darcy, Mrs. Smythe may temporarily fill the role of companion.”


“Oh, mother, may I go too?” Miss Celia asked.


Mrs. Sakville thought for a moment before responding, “Celia, it would be better if you did not. You would potentially be recognized in town, but my dear think about how many people a carriage can comfortably accommodate. It does not make sense to take two carriages for a short trip to London. Perhaps we can all take a longer trip to London, say at the end of June or early July.”


“Georgie’s fifteenth birthday is in July,” Miss Hurst said before a devious smile crossed her face. “That would be a nice treat and Mr. Darcy could not deny her a shopping trip.”


“My birthday is at the end of June,” Miss Lydia said with a smile. “We are very close in age Georgie.”


“The season continues through to 24th July. You should all discuss what you would like to do while in London. Remember, we will be going for one week only and you must not plan every moment of every day, you will need time to rest. If Mr. Darcy would prefer to stay in Hertfordshire, Miss Darcy and Miss Hurst are welcome to join us at Dorset House. With the Bennet’s in residence, and depending on whether or not I can cajole a second trip to London out of my husband, we would have two married couples as chaperones.”


“I appreciate the offer, Mrs. Sakville, but I will send a note to Michael with Alfie informing him we will not leave for Matlock until after your trip to town. Georgie and Grace may stay with us at Matlock House,” JT’s mother offered.


“Very well, you have all convinced me. We will discuss the specifics of the week-long trip once a departure date has been agreed upon,” Darcy said. “JT, we should wait to look over the books for Halburn and Bouldermoss until Dobbs is back. There is no reason we should familiarize ourselves with his estate if he is not here to help. Also, reviewing both sets of books will help him learn faster.”


“I agree completely, Darcy. We can be gentlemen of leisure tomorrow and go for a ride and fence,” JT answered.


“Fencing, you say?” Mr. Sakville asked with a devilish smile. “Would you like a third opponent?”


Darcy smirked at him before answering, “I would, but I cannot answer for my cousin.”


JT chucked ruefully, “I welcome another competitor. I have fenced with you in town before I insulted your sister, Milham. I am not so sure I want to face you with a sharp object in your hand now.”


The occupants of the room laughed at his statement thinking it was a joke.


“I seem to recall my brother Phillips mentioning Mr. Dobbs had received a slight inheritance from his parents. Bouldermoss? Since when is an estate considered a slight inheritance?” Mr. Bennet asked with what JT assumed was a signature twinkle in his eyes.


“That is what I thought,” Hurst said with a grin. “Slight, indeed. My cousin is unassuming, Mr. Bennet. He also had the benefit of hearing me, Darcy, Halburn, and the Colonel complaining about the more audacious young ladies in society who attempt to ensnare any single gentleman with a title or an estate.”


“You decided to hide your light under a bushel? Smart man,” Mr. Bennet laughed.


“He did so with my blessing, Mr. Bennet,” Lady Dobbs explained. “My son has spent his entire adult life on a ship. Harold was only going to be in town for a few short weeks and learning the strategies necessary to endeavor to survive a season without being compromised takes a while. I have since made him join Miss Darcy’s lessons for her come out. He will be prepared next year.”


“Do not worry, Mr. Dobbs,” Miss Celia said, “Next season you will have five more ladies to run interference for you. You see, my cousin Mary and I are to come out.”


“Better and better, undeniably,” Mr. Bennet said through his chuckles. “Do any of you play chess?”


JT was deep in thought as the conversation continued around him. He was uneasy with the looks Miss Sakville was still giving him. He was not naïve enough to believe she would forgive him immediately, but he was hoping for less outright hostility.


“Miss Sakville, allow me to humbly apologize for the insult I levied at you this morning. My statement should never have been said regardless of the circumstances. Even though Mrs. Sakville told her not to worry, I am sure my mother will take me to task later for my thoughtlessness. I was ill at ease and only intended to deter my cousin and brother from attempting to matchmake,” JT said regretfully. “I truly did not mean for my comment to be overheard nor was it directed at any person in particular.”


“You were mean to Miss Juliet?” the little girl, Anna, asked loudly. “You must be a mean man.”


~*~



Netherfield Park, Meryton
Sunday, June 9, 1811



Juliet Sakville had watched Viscount Halburn discreetly since the moment he entered the parlour. Miss Darcy’s story had been verified and she could well understand how someone would lash out under the circumstances. He seemed genuinely contrite. Perhaps she should not be as hard on him as she originally planned.


“Anna, quite frankly, I am amazed you managed to keep silent as long as you did,” Juliet told Anna with a smile on her face to soften the rebuke. “I appreciate your desire to protect me, however, Lord Halburn is not necessarily a mean man.”


“But Miss Juliet, he said he sulted you and that is mean,” Anna said, clearly confused.


“Yes, insulting a person is mean and ungentlemanly,” Juliet said looking at Lord Halburn. She took a certain amount of perverse pleasure in seeing him lower his head and blush. She turned her attention back to Anna and continued, “His Lordship was tired and said things he did not mean because he needed a nap. Do you understand?”


“I think so,” Anna admitted reluctantly. “Miss Lizzy calls me a little monster when I am cranky and then she makes me take a nap. Maybe Lord Burn needs a naptime fore he visits people? I think he should hafta sit in the naughty chair fore he can play dore and cluck or bocatch. It is only proper to punish him.”


“That is a good idea,” Juliet agreed solemnly as she heard the rest of the room snicker. “Although it may not be easy to make a grown man sit in a naughty chair.”


“Miss Darcy said he is Lady Lock’s son,” Anna proudly informed her. “I bet his mama could make him sit.”


Juliet caught her Uncle Bennet’s eye and it took all of her power to turn her attention back to Anna. She was afraid if she attempted to speak, she would burst out laughing so she nodded in agreement. She was thankful to Mrs. Nicholls for entering the room and telling her mother the garden was ready.


As the occupants of the room started following her mother outside, Lizzy gave her a wink and approached.


“Come along, Anna,” Lizzy said while taking the little girl’s hand. “We should go outside and play a game of bilbocatch.”


“Yay, Miss Lizzy! It is so much fun,” Anna said while jumping up and down. “Mr. William, you hafta come with us to get quainted with Miss Lizzy. Miss Jane and Mr. Hurs need to talk too.”


“Anna, that is enough,” Lizzy gently admonished.


“But Miss Lizzy, I didn’t talk about you getting married to Mr. William this time,” Anna pouted.


Juliet had to turn her head and bite her lip but unfortunately caught her uncle’s eye again and burst out laughing. She picked Anna up.


“Come along, you little monster, it is time for you to go outside.” It was cowardly and petty, she knew, but if she was able to keep Anna with her all afternoon, it would prevent Lord Halburn from trying to apologize directly to her.


~*~



Netherfield Park, Meryton
Sunday, June 9, 1811



Reginald Hurst was at the edge of the garden standing by himself and watching as the games continued. The spectacle in front of him was highly amusing. He should write a book. It would have to be a comedy for sure.


Lady Matlock had immediately cornered Lord Halburn alone and given him a stern talking to and continued to give him looks that promised more on the subject later. She then performed the same service with her younger son. Once free of his mother, the Colonel was putting himself in front of Grace and trying to lead her to the side of the garden, presumably to ask for forgiveness. His mischievous sister knew what the Colonel was about and frustrated him at every opportunity. Lord Halburn seemed to be trying to get Miss Sakville out of the hearing of the others for the same reason. Grace and Miss Sakville refused to acknowledge the brothers and stayed with Miss Bennet, Miss Elizabeth, Miss Darcy, and Anna. Darcy stood quietly next to their little group staring at Miss Elizabeth and spoke only to answer his sister and Miss Elizabeth when they attempted to pull him into their discussion. Anna, blissfully unaware of everything happening around her, was a delight to watch. She threw herself wholeheartedly into every game she played.


“It is not too hard to guess the subject of your reverie, Mr. Hurst,” Miss Celia said as she approached from his side. “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.


“Quoting As You Like It again, Celia?” Mr. Bennet asked with a shake of his head approaching them from behind. “Just because my sister named you after one of the main characters, does not mean you are unable to quote other works of Shakespeare.”


“True, Uncle Bennet, however you must admit it is apropos in this instance,” Miss Celia responded pertly with a wicked grin.


“I do agree. I suggest you help Mr. Darcy out by separating Lizzy from Anna. If the two of them settle into a comfortable conversation, you may walk away and leave them to speak privately,” Mr. Bennet told his niece.


“You are almost as bad as Aunt Bennet,” Miss Celia responded with a bright smile. “It would be my honour to help their mutual attraction along.”


“Just do not let Lizzy know what you are doing,” Mr. Bennet warned.


“I am wounded, uncle,” Miss Celia said before walking away.


“The little imp,” Mr. Bennet grinned.


Reginald chucked along with Mr. Bennet.


“Mr. Hurst, do my eyes deceive me or are you another gentleman who is interested in one of my daughters?” Mr. Bennet asked. “Perhaps my Jane?”


He was not sure how to respond to Mr. Bennet’s question. Was he attracted to Miss Bennet? Definitely. Was he ready to think about marriage? That was not as easy to answer.


“Mr. Bennet, have you heard I am in half-mourning?”


“Yes, Mr. Hurst. You have my sympathies.”


“Thank you. What you may not know, is that my full year of mourning does not end until the twenty-sixth of November. While in half-mourning, I will be socializing and attending assemblies. The one thing I will not do, Mr. Bennet, is dishonour my wife’s memory by beginning a courtship before propriety allows.”


“I understand and am pleased to hear you plan to mourn the full year. So many young people nowadays care only about their own pleasure and comfort. It is reassuring to hear your convictions,” Mr. Bennet said. “I must point out though, I did not hear a denial that you were interested in my Jane.”


“I am intrigued, I will admit,” he said. “I am in no position to allow myself to feel more. It would be ungentlemanly to raise expectations I am unable to fulfill at present.”


“Again, I am pleased to hear that. You have yet to answer my original question. Are. You. Interested. In. My. Jane,” Mr. Bennet asked very slowly.


“I could be, very easily,” he finally admitted.


“That is what I suspected. I do not believe I would be breaking any confidences to tell you that Jane is intrigued with you too. What my Lizzy told me what happened when Jane saw you with young Reggie in the garden at Haye Park and what the maid Sally unintentionally intimated. Jane’s response, told me all I needed to know,” Mr. Bennet informed him with a smile. “My family knows you are in mourning for five more months. My Jane is very patient. I do not believe she would expect you to declare your intentions until you are free to do so. Take that time to become better acquainted with her.”


“I am worried Miss Bennet may become too attached and will end up hurt by me,” he admitted quietly. “Five months is a long time.”


“That is a possibility, I am afraid. As I said, I do not think Jane will expect you to offer more than friendship while you are in half-mourning. If, at any time, you realize you are falling in love with her, or either of us feel it would be in Jane’s best interest, we will sit down with her and explain why you are holding back,” Mr. Bennet said.


“I would prefer to be upfront and inform Miss Bennet of my interest and situation. I feel that she needs to know I will not be free to make any promises until my mourning period has ended. May I call on you at Longbourn tomorrow, sir?”


“I would be honoured, Mr. Hurst,” Mr. Bennet told him with a kindly smile.


“Heaven help us,” Mr. Bennet muttered.


“Sir?”


“Two of my nephew’s cousins have arrived, unexpectedly I believe,” Mr. Bennet answered with a discreet nod. “The gentleman on the left is The Marquess Brundel, John Sutton, and on the right is The Viscount Dover, Matthew Rogers. The three cousins are close in age and share a bond similar to that of Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam.”
SubjectAuthorPosted

Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 16

LizzySJuly 23, 2020 02:46PM

Re: Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 16

NobukoJuly 23, 2020 08:25PM



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