2023 by HandPrince
Edith Takes A Bath
Edith heaved a sigh of relief
at the peal of Miss Field's hand bell. Her
corner time had passed at last. Turning to
her governess, "Please Miss Field, may I-" she
swallowed, "May I rub my- may I rub the back of my
frock now?" Flora nodded assent.
Both palms across the satin seat of
her dress, Edith pressed inward through
layers of ample petticoats, striving to
cup a well-smacked little buttock in each hand and
knead it soothingly. Actually, a greater
portion of their soreness had faded. But
still, an uncomfortable heat remained, along with
an occasional smarting twinge, and a stubborn
itchiness - all of which her rubbing ministrations
reduced, but failed to banish in their entirety.
To Edith's surprise, Miss Field
announced that Edith would adjourn to the nursery
for a bath. "Why must I have a bath in the
middle of the morning?" sputtered the bewildered
"Because your governess has
determined that you shall! Let us hear no
more of your cheek! Come with me."
Edith hadn't thought herself at
all cheeky, merely having asked a question. But in
the nick of time, she stifled her impulse to
express that view indignantly and aloud.
Instead she chose to quietly accompany her new
governess out of the classroom rather than risk an
utterance Miss Field might deem "more cheek."
Flora's mastery of the 108-room
manor's floor plan, far from complete, found her
uncertain of the way to the nursery. She carefully
shadowed Edith's steps as the child made her way
through two turnings down richly carpeted
corridors; Edith never realised that she led her
governess rather than the reverse. Flora thought
it best that Edith never fancied herself possessed
of any knowledge her governess lacked.
Turning yet another corner,
Flora recognised this corridor as one she had
traversed the previous day with Mrs. Fogarty en
route to her introductions to the downstairs
staff. The door to the kitchen stairway
stood slightly ajar. The corridor opened onto the
entrance hall farther down, and she remembered
that the grand staircase lay around its far corner
to the right. Oddly, a little girl slightly
younger than Edith, barefoot and in a stained
pinafore and kitchen maids cap, had pressed
herself against the right-hand wall. She
peeped around that corner and up at the grand
staircase, with its bass relief marble walls
inlaid with gold leaf, looming paintings of
Fogarty ancestors, and the family coat of
arms. With her back turned, the child didn't
hear the two approach until they were almost upon
her and Edith imperiously demanded, "Who are
With a gasp, a brown-eyed
coppery-haired little girl spun about at Edith's
words, her face pale with fright. Beneath
her dirty pinafore, she wore a threadbare grey
frock which wanted washing, with every appearance
of having nothing else on underneath. She dropped
two hurried but deep curtsies, first to Flora,
then to Edith, stammering, "Begging your
pardons, Misses, I-I must about me work!" She
attempted to scurry in the direction of the
kitchen stair doorway, but Flora checked the child
with a steady grasp of her slender shoulder as she
attempted to pass. Steering the little girl
to face them again, Flora introduced herself and
Edith, and then gently chided her for failing to
answer Mistress Fogarty's query. "I'm
s-sorry Miss," she stammered to Edith, "I-I
am Lily... Lily Reid. Me mum is the
new scullery maid."
Flora now recollected the gamin from
the previous day's introductions below stairs,
although barely. The housekeeper and head
butler had displayed courtesy towards Flora but
with an unmistakable aloofness. Several of the
other servants had scarcely disguised their
contempt, while others' faces Flora found
unreadable. And one of the young footmen
made no attempt to conceal his leering appraisal
of her womanly form, assessing her from boot tips
to head in a manner Flora found most
disquieting. She'd had her breakfast brought
to the classroom that morning, on the pretext of
busyness with preparations - but in truth, to
forestall having to take that meal downstairs.
Luncheon, too, could be brought up to the
schoolroom, and tea as well. But come
evening, thought Flora with a dull edge of
anxiety, dinner in the downstairs dining hall
"My papa," boasted Edith, "is
in Parliament! He is a very important man!"
Lily nodded respectfully. "My governess,"
continued Edith, with a glance up at Flora and
back at Lily, "says I must have a bath now.
But I daresay," she crinkled her nose in distaste,
"you need one more than I!"
"Yes Miss," whispered Lily, eyes
downcast, "I'm sorry, Miss."
"You shall address me as 'Miss
"Yes Miss Edith."
"Edith," admonished Flora, "It is
rude to tell someone they need a bath."
"Yes Miss Field. But," Edith
continued, confidently believing herself in the
right, "She is a servant!"
Before Flora could formulate a
response, Edith turned to the girl. Pointing
downward, she scolded, "Your dirty feet shall soil
our nice clean carpet. Why do you not wear
"I 'ave no shoes, Miss Edith,"
replied the waif sadly.
Turning her gaze from Edith to
the urchin, Flora chided, with a note of
sternness, "Miss Lily Reid, I deem it highly
improbable that you are permitted upstairs."
On the verge of tears, Lily
blurted, "I'm sorry Miss Field truly I am. I
only wanted to see! I shan't come upstairs
ever again I swear on it. Please don't tell
me mum. I shall surely be whipped! Please oh
please don't tell 'er!"
Before that morning Edith would
have dismissed with scorn a craven child so
frightened by the prospect of nought but a mere
whipping. But Edith newly comprehended that
some whippings quite rightly inspired fear.
She surmised that Lily's mum's chastisements
likely resembled Miss Field's, more so than
Nanny's. An up-welling of sympathy arose in
Edith's bosom for what poor Lily would surely soon
Flora regarded Lily for several
seconds, as the child anxiously awaited her
response. "A little girl who wilfully
disobeys her mother rightfully earns herself a
whipping," Flora declared, with seeming
finality. Lily hung her head miserably, her
hands shifting, perhaps unconsciously, from her
sides to her backside. Her lips trembled. First
one tear, then a second, tumbled down Lily's
cheeks as Flora allowed her portentous words to
impress themselves for a few moments upon the
child's heart. "However, Lily," she
continued at last, "I believe you have learned
your lesson. I shan't notify your mother of
your transgression on this occasion. But see
to it you never again repeat this fault of yours."
Then, with a dismissive wave, "Off you go then."
Scarcely able to comprehend her
good fortune, Lily dropped a rushed curtsy,
stammered "Yes'm" and hurriedly disappeared down
the kitchen stairway, closing its door behind her.
Flora now knew her way without
Edith's aid, and as she began to climb the
stairway with her pupil, she thought with
satisfaction that now she had at least one ally
among the downstairs servants. In any
downstairs intrigues within which Flora might find
herself entangled, Lily, who now owed her a large
favour, could perhaps provide certain
intelligences and perhaps perform certain needful
errands as well. And should the child balk,
the governess mused, Flora still possessed the
threat of informing her mother of Lily's trespass,
providing Flora with a power to compel the child's
co-operation if need be.
Meanwhile, as Edith mounted the
grand staircase at Miss Field's side, her
intimation of an injustice done continued to grow.
Once they had gained the upper floor, traversing
the hallway towards the nursery, Edith looked
askance at her governess and said, "That dirty
girl was naughty, but you wouldn't see her
whipped. Yet you gave me no second chance!"
"She was disobedient indeed,"
mused Flora, "but only from childish curiosity
overcoming her better judgement. Her manners?
Exemplary. And her contrition?
Genuine. Had she addressed us with rudeness
and insolence," Flora gave Edith a sharp sidelong
glance which the child carefully avoided meeting,
"I should have ensured that her mother apprehend
the full measure of her malefactions and deal with
Edith said no more, as they
passed through the green baize door to the
nursery. Mrs. Henrietta Brown, Edith's aged,
arthritic nanny, looked up from her book in
surprise as they entered, and immediately began
the laborious process of lifting herself from her
armchair, wincing visibly from discomfort. Upon
learning that Flora wished for Edith to have a
bath, she promised to put a pot of water on the
fire to boil straightaway. But Flora
instructed her not to bother with that chore, as
Edith was to have a cold bath today.
The little girl wheeled upon her
governess. "A cold bath! With no hot
water at all?? I shall surely freeze and take
ill! I shan't climb into the tub with nought
there but cold water!"
"Mind your tone, my girl!"
scolded Flora severely, "You shall choose
obedience to your elders, or you shall choose
another smack bottom this very instant. Is
Stunned, Edith nodded in
silence, not quite prepared to believe Miss Field
capable of making her bathe in cold water, but in
no doubt regarding her governess's capability of
administering a bottom smacking.
Mrs. Brown led them into a side
room opening off of the far side of the nursery,
illuminated by a small high window. It contained a
galvanised steel boat tub on its far wall, a water
closet in the corner, and shelves along the near
wall containing tins of soap powder, diverse
dentifrices, brushes, sponges, and stacks of
carefully folded clean washcloths and
towels. When her nanny turned on the faucet
and the tub began to fill, Edith could contain
herself no longer. Taking care to adopt what
she hoped was her least-cheeky demeanour, Edith
asked, "Please Miss Field, why must I have my bath
in cold water? Mayn't I please have some hot
water put in as well?"
"Your elders know best, my
girl," replied Flora, "and your part is to obey
us, even when you don't wish to, and even when
such obedience brings you discomfort. And
indeed, you are not necessarily entitled to
explanations, although you may ask, respectfully,
as you did just now. Cold baths have an
altogether salubrious effect upon a child's
constitution, and a wholesome influence upon her
character as well." And, Flora added to
herself, this cold bath will diminish the redness
of your bottom, lest you attempt to use its
appearance to win your mother's sympathy and turn
her against me. Flora knew her position as
governess might prove precarious at first, and she
resolved to take every precaution.
Edith had seated herself on the
edge of the tub, and placed her right boot upon a
stool, imperiously waiting as Mrs. Brown
laboriously knelt and began unlacing it, with
obvious arthritic difficulty.
"Please leave off, Mrs. Brown,"
directed Flora. "Edith isn't an infant and
she can jolly well divest herself of her boots and
stockings without assistance."
"Unlace my boots? myself?"
blurted the indignant Edith, "That is servants'
"Edith Anne Fogarty!" fumed
Flora, "Consider yourself twice cautioned for
taking an impudent tone to your governess.
You shall not receive such caution thrice.
Should you persist in your impertinence, I shall
march you to the nursery couch where you shall
receive another smack bottom. Is that
"Yes Miss Field," Edith
mumbled, scarcely able to stifle outward evidence
of her fury and frustration. Her gaze turned
to a cloud drifting past the small high window as
the little girl longingly wished herself
elsewhere. Suddenly Miss Field's hand
gripped her lower jaw and turned Edith's face to
her own. Miss Field's countenance dismayed Edith,
clearly she daren't make her governess any crosser
than she already was.
"You are sailing near the wind,
my girl!" Edith had never heard that phrase, but
had little doubt of its meaning. When Miss
Field released Edith from her grasp, Edith,
despite her distaste for 'servants work,' removed
her boots and stockings. Then, while she
held her arms aloft, Nanny removed first Edith's
frock, then her chemise and soft corset.
Edith wrapped her arms about her chest as cool air
of the unheated chamber met her bare skin.
Next went each of her petticoats, followed at last
by her knickers.
"Oh, my poor little lamb,"
cooed Nanny sympathetically, as she viewed the
evidence of Miss Field's chastisement. But
unbeknownst to Edith, Mrs. Brown also met Flora's
eye for a moment and smiled, indicating that her
sympathy for Edith's discomfort implied neither
disapproval of the method employed to produce it,
nor of the hand which had administered it.
Deeming the tub sufficiently
full, Mrs. Brown turned off the faucet and bade
Edith climb in. The little girl tentatively
extended her left foot, immersing it partway for a
brief moment, then withdrew with a shriek of
alarm, declaring the bath water "perfectly
Flora stepped forward and took
a firm hold of Edith's upper arm. "I've had
quite enough, young lady. It's time I turned you
To Flora's surprise, Mrs.
Brown, who had not until this point demonstrated
any capacity for self assertion, placed her
withered hand decisively over Flora's and silenced
her with a sharp look and a frown - such a frown
as had doubtlessly served to check misbehaviour in
numerous Fogarty children over the years.
Turning to Edith, in a gentle
tone, Mrs. Brown explained that she'd had cold
baths regularly as a little girl, since those were
the only kind available. She had gotten used
to them and she had every confidence a brave
little girl such as Edith could do likewise.
She asked the child if she should wish to learn
the secret of entering a cold bath, to which Edith
emphatically nodded her assent. The secret,
the old woman confided, was to enter the water all
at once rather than slowly. The shock would
last less than a minute, she assured her, and as
her skin numbed, the cold wouldn't feel quite so
dreadful. Would she try Nanny's secret
method now? Teary eyed, Edith nodded Yes,
and after a couple deep breaths, mustered her
courage and scrambled into the tub, quickly lying
down so the water covered all of her except her
head and neck. She let out a cry of dismay,
followed by "Nanny! OH! It's so FRIGHTFULLY
cold!" then fell silent, eyes tightly shut,
breathing hard and rapidly.
As Edith strove to endure the
terrible chill - colder than she had ever
experienced in her brief, cosseted life - it
dawned upon her that the nagging discomfort in her
hindparts had vanished. And a minute's
passage vindicated Nanny's words. Truly, her bath
still felt very cold, but not frightfully
"There there, my lamb,"
murmured Mrs. Brown, taking her hand tenderly,
"that's my brave girl. That's my brave little
Rooted to her spot Flora stood,
her mind a welter of emotions. She abhorred
being thwarted, and her authority compromised,
especially by another servant whom Flora deemed
her inferior, and especially in front of
Edith. Complicating the picture, though,
Mrs. Brown's method had succeeded where Flora's
Mrs. Brown, over her shoulder,
explained that Edith's frock had become wrinkled,
and needed pressing. Would Flora be so kind
as to pick a fresh one from the child's
wardrobe? Flora happily complied, glad, for
the moment, to be quit of that room and its
Flora, after flipping through
an abundance of splendid little dresses, found a
sturdy, well crafted, but unassuming
cream-coloured muslin, and set it aside.
Searching past Edith's voluminous collection of
lacy pinafores took a while longer, but at length
she discovered a long-sleeved paint-stained
garment of the type she sought. Setting the
artwork smock on the back of a chair, Flora
returned to the bathroom with Edith's frock draped
over one arm. Mrs. Brown and Edith scarcely
noticed her return, so intent were they both in
finishing the child's ablutions.
"Nanny?" inquired Edith, "why
has Lily no shoes?"
"Who?" asked Mrs. Brown,
pausing from her labours.
"Lily, the little girl below
"Ah," sighed Mrs. Brown,
resuming sponging Edith's back, "she'd be the new
scullery maid's imp. When your mama hired
her, she promised your mum that she'd have four
hands for the wages of two. That child works
terribly hard, poor little mite. The
previous scullery maid were dismissed without
reference just this past Saturday evening, she
was." In a lower, conspiratorial tone, turning
towards Flora, Mrs. Brown continued, "The Missus
saw the lass spooning in the garden with a young
follower. Dismissed her that very hour, she
did!" Flora nodded, relieved at the
conversation moving beyond Lily, agreed that no
proper house could countenance kitchen maids
having followers, and pronounced the entire affair
"shocking." An innocent remark of Edith's
might have revealed the little maid's presence
upstairs. Might Mrs. Brown feel duty-bound to
report that infraction? Then Lily would
receive the whipping she'd feared, and Flora would
lose the use of her knowledge of Lily's trespass
as a means of compelling the child's co-operation,
should Flora ever have need of it.
Edith took careful note of her
elders' discussion of the dismissed servant. She
had little idea what they meant by a "follower,"
and found herself quite baffled as to how a spoon
might lead to a servant losing her position.
"Nanny? What is 'spooning?'"
"It is something for little
girls to ask questions about," replied Nanny with
a chuckle and a surprise tweak to Edith's nose,
eliciting a playful squeal from the shivering
Nanny then pronounced Edith
"brand spanking clean," gave her leave to step
from the tub onto a towel laid on the floor, and
quickly blotted her dry with another. Edith
regarded with wonder how pleasantly warm the room
now felt, although it had earlier felt
disagreeably cool while equally unclothed.
How very like magic in books!
Watching as closely yet as
unobtrusively as she could manage, Flora caught a
fleeting glimpse of Edith's posteriors, pleased to
note that each remained merely a solid,
well-spanked pink, their earlier angry redness
having largely vanished.
Once dressed and shod, Edith
asked Flora if she might go out and play
now. At first crestfallen when told No, the
child brightened when Flora took up the art smock
and declared that Edith shall have a painting
lesson now. "Oh shall I?!" Her spirits lifted, and
after bidding her nanny adieu, she spoke with
animation to Miss Field concerning how she simply
adored to paint, as the two of them made their way
back to the class room.
Flora selected a print of a
pastoral scene, and after getting Edith smocked
and set up before her little easel, bade the girl
render the scene in watercolours as closely as she
could manage, with Flora promising to return anon
and check on her progress.
Flora made her way to the
kitchen, and requested that Cook, a sour-faced
corpulent woman in her late 40's, arrange for
luncheon now on trays in the classroom for herself
and Edith, and also tea at quarter past
three. Cook nodded, but Flora's several
attempts at light conversation yielded only terse
single word responses, until Flora abandoned her
efforts. Two of the parlour maids seated at the
servants' dining table stared at her as she passed
en route to the stairs, but made no move to greet
or otherwise acknowledge her. They exchanged
whispers, continuing to regard her all the while.
Flora couldn't discern their words and preferred
not to. Miss Windgate had warned Flora that
a governess oftentimes finds herself resented by
the other staff as too posh and educated, and
hence not truly one of them, while the upstairs
family regard her as just another one of the
Flora closed the kitchen stair door behind her,
with a sigh of relief at her withdrawal from
hostile territory. She chanced to wander into the
drawing room and finding it unoccupied, took the
liberty of seating herself upon a comfortable
chair near the fire as her thoughts continued to
churn. Mrs. Brown had usurped Flora's
authority, in Edith's full view no less. And
that didn't sit well. But how could Flora
argue with the old woman's success in getting
Edith to co-operate with her bath? Flora had
suffered a trying day - a day not yet half over.
The hearth's warmth soothed her though, and before
long, she nodded off.
"Miss Field?" came a familiar
voice. Flora nearly leapt from her seat, hastily
curtsying to Mrs. Fogarty, dismayed at the
prospect of her employer fancying Flora a slothful
layabout governess slacking off on her job.
"Begging your pardon, Madam. Your daughter
is at work on a painting and I promised I should
give her some time alone before I came and checked
on her progress. I never intended to doze
off. I'm truly sorry. Please forgive
me. I shall go at once."
But before Flora could take a
step, Mrs. Fogarty motioned for her to resume her
seat, then settled herself adjacent. To
Flora's relief Mrs. Fogarty didn't appear cross
with her, and seemed in a mood for conversation.
After an exchange of pleasantries regarding the
weather's prospects, and the condition of the
roads, Edith's mother asked for an account of her
daughter's progress thus far.
Flora provided Mrs. Fogarty
with a more-or-less accurate account, beginning
with Edith wishing Flora and every other governess
gone forever, and addressing her as "you old
witch." Mrs. Fogarty's countenance saddened
at this report, but she evinced no surprise,
knowing her daughter all too well. Flora,
while acknowledging that Edith had earned herself
a smacked bottom in consequence, de-emphasised its
duration and severity, describing it merely as "a
sound one." Mrs. Fogarty gravely nodded her
approval, Miss Field's extensive experience as a
disciplinarian of little girls having been an
essential element in Mrs. Fogarty's choice to
Flora assured the woman that
Edith's correction had borne fruit, stressing the
improvement in Edith's tone and deportment
following her chastisement. Nonetheless, Flora
added, the child would doubtless require
subsequent corrections betimes, and acknowledged
that at present, Edith's improvement remained far
Mrs. Fogarty straightened in
her seat and evinced greater concern when Flora
mentioned Edith's cold bath. "Mightn't that
be shock to her system? What if she were to
Flora assured Mrs. Fogarty that
eminent physicians no less than Dr. Hunter and Dr.
Cullen themselves prescribed such ablutions, and
added that Mrs. Brown had grown up taking her
baths that way. Edith's nanny appeared
nowhere else in Flora's account to Mrs.
Field. If Mrs. Fogarty came away with the
impression that Flora lay behind every success
with Edith that afternoon, while sparing Flora
from expressly affirming such a falsehood, Flora
felt content to allow that impression to endure.
Flora rose again to take her
leave, explaining that she must check on Edith's
work, and that she'd never meant to leave the
child so long unattended. But before she
could quit the room, Mrs. Fogarty asked if Flora
might do her the honour of dining with herself and
Edith that evening. Flora curtsied with
unfeigned gratitude, assuring her employer that
the honour was entirely Flora's, while inwardly
exulting at having secured yet another reprieve,
albeit temporary, from having to take her meal in
the downstairs servants' hall.
Back in the classroom, Flora
found Edith so absorbed in her work that she
didn't notice her governess quietly enter and
stand behind her. The quality of Edith's
work took Flora aback. It surpassed what she
herself had accomplished at Edith's age, although
she had no intention of informing the child of
Edith eagerly absorbed the tips
on shading provided by her instructress.
Flora, for the first time since she'd met Edith,
found herself teaching an earnest and engaged
pupil, and enjoying her time with the child.
A new side of Edith had come to the fore, and it
warmed Flora's heart. In the fullness of
time, might she come to love this child?
Such a notion had scarce crossed her mind ere
But Flora reminded herself that
she mustn't permit a misguided softness to hinder
her project of curing Edith of her illness - an
illness not of flesh but of character. The
disorder of impertinence, disobedience,
disrespect, and obstinacy, had taken deep
root. And only a sustained course of
treatments in the form of firm, consistent
discipline over Flora's knee, whenever such
symptoms manifested themselves, could provide the
little patient any hope of recovery. The
seedling of Edith's character, destined to become
a tree some day, had commenced its growth twisted
and misshapen. But Flora might yet retrain
that little stem to rectitude while still green
and supple. As Flora's nanny used to say,
"As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines."
At last, Edith straightened
herself in her chair, regarded her work for
several moments, and pronounced her painting
completed, to which Flora agreed. And she declared
Edith's lessons over for the day. Tearing
off her painting smock, the child cheered and
scampered out of the classroom. She had
passed the first landing tearing her way up the
stair before Flora could gain the hallway, lean
against the banister, and angrily summon her back.
Edith clambered back down the
stairs, her face bewildered and worried.
Flora pointed to Edith's smock discarded on the
floor. "In this schoolroom, Edith, we pick
up after ourselves," scolded Flora, pointing to a
series of hooks on the wall.
"Oh," scoffed Edith with
impatience, "one of the housemaids will do it,"
and turned to go.
"Edith!" snapped Flora, her
temper rising. The child returned and faced
her governess. "I told you your lessons were
over. But I did not excuse you yet!
First, you shall hang up your smock. Then,
you shall properly put away all of your painting
materials and leave this room shipshape and
"But Miss F-"
"Hush! You have received
your instructions. Now you shall carry them
out, promptly and without complaint. And if
you continue to play up to me, my girl, I shall
treat such misconduct," Flora pointed to the
window seat, "as a matter for discipline!"
She clapped her hands together to punctuate that
last portentous word. Edith visibly squirmed
with unease at this reminder of the sound of Miss
Field's palm. "Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes Miss Field," came the
"Begin at once! Spit
spot!" Flora clapped her hands twice more to
punctuate each of her two last words. Edith
quietly did as she was told until the schoolroom
"Now Edith, you may ask to be
excused." Edith asked. Flora assented.
And the little girl dashed for the doorway.
"Edith! Anne! Fogarty!" barked
Flora, "You come back here this instant!"
Edith returned, her lower lip
trembling to contain words of indignation best
left unuttered. "Please Miss Field," she asked
plaintively, "Whatever have I done wrong??"
"I shall overlook, just this
once, your failure to curtsy just now when taking
your leave of me. A proper little girl never
fails to curtsy to her governess when entering or
leaving her schoolroom, and when encountering her
in the hallway or elsewhere. Do I make
"Yes Miss Field. I'm sorry Miss
Field. May I be excused Miss Field?" recited Edith
in a monotone, her lower lip hinting at a sullen
Edith curtsied, eyes lowered,
and walked to the doorway, not once meeting Miss
Field's gaze. At the doorway, she paused,
and checked over her shoulder, wary of perhaps
breaking yet another of Miss Field's rules. When
no admonition came she quit the classroom and
hurried up the staircase, relieved at last to find
herself at liberty.
Edith had reconsidered her
initial harsh appraisal of Miss Field while the
woman had helped Edith improve her painting
technique. Perhaps she might find having
Miss Field as governess less unbearable than she'd
imagined? But in the last few minutes all of
Edith's resentment of Miss Field's tyranny had
flooded back. And she knew exactly what she
should do next - precisely as she had imagined
herself doing during her time in the corner.
This is fiction. Please don't
your children this way.
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