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The Cody enterprise and the Park County enterprise. (Cody, Wyo.) 1921-1923, September 06, 1922, Image 6

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The Strength of the Pines
SYNOPSIS.—At the death of his
foster father, Bruce. Duncan, in an
eastern city, receives a mysterious
message, sent by a Mrs. Ross, sum
moning him peremptorily to south
ern Oregon—to meet “Linda.”
Bruce has vivid but baffling recol
lections of his childhood in an or
phanage, before his adoption by
Newton Duncan, with the ; *1 I.in
da. At his destination. Trail’s End.
news that a message has been sent
to Bruce is received with marked
displeasure by a man introduced
to the reader as “Simon.” Leaving
the train, Bruce is astonished at
his apparent familiarity with the
surroundings, though to his knowl
edge he has never beer, there.
Obedient to the message, Bruce
makes his way to Martin's cross
roads store, for direction as to
reaching Mrs. Ross’ cabin. On the
way, “Simon” sternly warns him
to give up his quest and return
East. Bruce refuses. Mrs. Ross,
aped and infirm, welcomes him
with emotion. She hastens him on
nls way—the end of “Pine-Needle
CHAPTER Vlll—Continued.
He examined the mud about the
spring, and there was plenty of evi
dence that the forest creatures had
passed that way. Here was a little
triangle where a buck had stepped,
and further away he found two pairs
of deer tracks —evidently those of a
doe with fawn. A wolf had stopped
to cool his heated tongue In the wa
ters, possibly in the middle of some
terrible hunt in the twilight hours.
Then he found a huge abrasion in
the mud that puzzled him still more.
At the first he couldn’t believe that
it was a track. The reason was sim
ply that the size of the thing was In
credible—as if some one had laid a
flour sack in the mud and taken it up
again, lie did not think of any of
the modern-day forest creatures as
being of such proportions. It was
very stale and had been almost oblit
erated by many days of sun. Perhaps
he had been mistaken in thinking it
an imprint of a living creature. He
went to his knees to examine it.
But in one instant he knew that he
had not been mistaken. It was a
track not greatly different from that
of an enormous human foot; and the
separate toes were entirely distinct.
It was a bear track, of course, but
one of such size that the general run
of little black bears that inhabited
the hills could almost use it for a den
of hibernation I
He got up and went on—farther
toward Trail’s End. He walked more
swiftly now, for he hoped to reach
the end of Pine-Needle Trail before
nightfall, but he had no intention of
halting in case night came upon him
before he reached it. He had waited
too long already to find Linda.
Another hour ended the day’s sun
light. The shadows fell quickly, but
It was a long time yet until darkness.
He yet might make the trail-end. He
gave no thought to fatigue. In the
first place, he had stood up remark
ably well under the tramp for
no other reason than that he had al
ways made a point of keeping in the
best of physical condition. Besides,
there was something more potent than
mere physical strength to sustain
him now. It was the realization of
the nearing end of the trail —a knowl
edge of tremendous revelations that
would come to him in a few hours
Already great truths were taking
shape in his brain; he only needed a
single sentence of explanation to con
nect them all together. He began
to feel a growing excitement and Im
It was quite dark now, and he
could barely see the trail. For the
first time be began to despair, feeling
that another night of overpowering
impatience must be spent before he
could reach Trail’s End. The stars
began to push through the darkening
sky. Then, fainter than the gleam of
a firefly, he saw the faint light of a
far distant camp fire.
His heart bounded. He knew what
was there. It was the end of the
trail at last And It guided him the
rest of the way. When he reached
the top of a little rise in the trail, the
whole scene was laid out lu mystery
below’ him.
The fire had been built at the door
of a mountain house —a log structure
of perhaps four rooms. The firelight
ployed in its open doorway. Some
thing beside It caught his attention,
and instinctively he followed it with
his eyes until it ended in an Incred
ible region of the stars. It was a
great pine tree, the largest he had
ever seen—seemingly a great sentinel
over all the land.
But the sudden awe that came over
him at the sight of it was cut short
by the sight of a girl’s figure In the
firelight. He had an Instant’s sense
that he had come to the wilderness’
heart at last, that this tall tree was
Its symbol, that if he could under
stand the eternal watch that it kept
pver this mountain world, he would
have an understanding of all things—
but all these thoughts were submerged
In the realization that he had come
back to Linda at last.
Ho bad known how the mountains
would seem. All that he had beheld
today was just the recurrence of
things beheld long ago. Nothing had
seemed different from what he hud
exported; rather he had a sense that
n lost world had been returned to him,
and It was almost us If he had never
toon away. But the girl in the fire-
Author of “The Voice of the Pack”
light did not answer in the least de
gree the picture he had carried of
He remembered her as a blond
headed little girl w’ith irregular fea
tures and a rather unreasonable al
lowance of homeliness. All the way
he had thought of her as a baby sis
ter —not as a woman In her flower.
For a long second he gazed at her In
speechless amazement.
Her hair was no longer blond.
True, it had peculiar red lights when
the firelight shone through it; but he
knew by the light of day it would be
deep brown. He remembered her as
an awkward little thing that was
hardly able to keep her feet under
her. This tall girl had the wilderness
grace—which Is the grace of a deer
and only blind eyes cannot see it He
dinfly knew that she wore a khaki
colored skirt and a simple blouse of
white tied with a blue scarf. Her
arms were bare in the fire’s gleam.
And there was a dark beauty about
her face that simply could not be
She came toward him, and her
hands were open before her. And her
lips trembled. Bruce could see them
in the firelight.
It was a strange meeting. The fire
light gave it a tone of unreality, and
the whole forest world seemed to
pause in its whispered business as if
to watch. It was as if they had been
brought face to face by the mandates
of an inexorable destiny.
“So you’ve come?” the girl said.
The words were spoken unusually
soft, scarcely above a whisper; but
they were inexpressibly vivid to
Bruce. They told first of a boundless
relief and. joy at his coming. But
more than that, in these deep vibrant
tones was the expression of an un
quenchable life and spirit. Every
fiber of the body lived in the fullest
sense; he knew this fact the instant
that she spoke.
She smiled at him, ever so quietly.
“Bwovaboo,” she said, recalling the
name by which she called him in her
babyhood, "you’ve come to Linda.”
As the fire burned down to coals
and the stars wheeled through the
sky, Linda told her story. The two
of them were seated in the soft grass
in front of the cabin, and the moon
light was on Lindaus face as she
talked. She talked very low at first.
Indeed there was no need for loud
tones. The whole wilderness world
was heavy with silence, and a whis
per carried far. Besides, Biuce was
just beside her, watching her with
narrowed eyes, forgetful of every
thing except her story.
“I’ve waited a long time to tell you
this,’* she told him. “Os course, when
we were babies together in the or
phanage, I didn’t even know It. It
has taken me a long time since to
learn all the details; most of them I
got from my aunt, old Elmira, whom
you talked to on the way out. Part
of it I knew by Intuition, and a little
of It is still doubtful.
“You ought to know first how hard
I have tried to reach you. Os course,
I didn’t try openlj’ except at first—
the first years after I came here, and
before I was old enough to under
stand.” She spoke the last word with
a curious depth of feeling and a per
ceptible hardness about her lips and
eyes. “I remembered just two things. I
That the man who had adopted you
was Newton Duncan; one of the
nurses at the asylum told me that.
And I remembered the name of the
city where he had taken you.
“You must understand the difficul
ties I worked under. There is no
rural free delivery up here, you know,
Bruce. Our mail is sent from ami
delivered to the little post office at
Martin’s store over fifteen miles
from here. And some one member of
a certain family that Ilves near here
goes down every week to get the mall
for tlie entire district.
“At first—and that was before I
really understood—l wrote you many
letters and gave them to one of this
family to mail for me. I was just a
child then, must know, and I
lived In the same house with these
people. They were Just baby let
ters from—from Linda-Tinda to Bwov
aboo—letters about the deer and the
berries and the squirrels—and all the
wild things that lived up here.”
“Berries!’’ Bruce cried. “I had some
on the way up.” His tone wavered,
and he seemed to be speaking far
away. “I had some once—long ago.”
“Yes. You will understand, soon.
I didn’t understand why you didn’t
answer my letters. I understand now,
though. You never got them.”
“No. I never got them. But there
are several Duncans in my city. They
might have gone astray.”
“They went astray—but It was be
fore they ever reached the post office.
They were never mailed, Bruce. I
was to know why, later. Even then
it was part of the plan that I should
never get In communication with you
again—that you would be lost to me
“When I got older. I tried other
tucks. I wrote to the asylum, enclos
ing a letter to you. But those letters
were not mailed, either.
“Now we can skip a long time. I
.grew up. I knew everything at last
and no longer lived with the family
I mentioned before. I came here, to
this old house—and made it decent
to live in. I cut my own wood for my
fuel except when one of tlie men
tried to please me by cutting it for
me. I wouldn’t u.«e it at first. Oh,
Bruce—l wouldn’t touch it!”
Her face was no longer lovely. It
was drawn with terrible passions.
But she quieted at once.
“At last I saw plainly that I was? a
little fool—that all they would do for
me, the better off I was. At first, I
almost starved to death because I
wouldn’t use the food that they sent
me. I tried to grub it out of the hills.
But I came to It at last. But, Bruce,
there were many things I didn’t come
to. Since I learned the truth, I have
never given one of them a smile ex
cept in scorn, not a word that wasn’t
a word of hate.
“You are a city man. Bruce. You
don’t know what hate mem It
doesn’t live in the cities. But it lives
up here. Believe me, if you ever be
lieved anything—that it lives up here.
The most bitter and the blackest bate
—from birth until death! It burns
out the heart, Bruce. Bpt I don’t
know that I can make yott under
She paused, and Bruce looked eway
Into the pine forest. He believed the
girl. He knew that tills grim land
was the home of direct and primitive
emotions. Such things as mercy and
remorse were out of place in the
game trails where the wolf pack
hunted the deer.
“When they knew how I hated
them,” she went on, “they began to
watch me. And once they knew that
I had fully understood the situation,
I was no longer allowed to leave this
little valley. There are only two
trails, Bruce. One goes to Elmira’s
cabin on the way to the store. The
other encircles the mountain. With
all their numbers, it was easy to keep
watch of those trails. Apd they told
me what they would do if they found
me trying to go past.”
“You don’t mean—they threatened
She threw back her head and
laughed, but the sound had no joy In
it. “Threatened! If you think
threats are common up here, you are
a greener tenderfoot than ever I took
you for. Bruce, the law up here Is
the law of force. The strongest wins.
The weakest dies. Walt till you. see,
Simon. You’ll understand then—and
you'll shake in your shoes.”
The words grated upon him, yet he
didn’t resent them. “I’ve seen Si
mon.” he told her.
She glanced toward him quickly,
and It was entirely plain that the
quiet tone in his voice had surprised
-a ■
Perhaps the Faintest Flicker of Ad
miration Came Into Her Eyes.
her. Perhaps the faintest flicker of
admiration came into her eyes.
“He tried to stop you, did he? 6f
course he would. And you came, any
way. May heaven bless you for it,
Bruce!” She leaned toward him, ap
pealing. “And forgive me what I
B~uce stared at her in amazement.
He could hardly realize that this was
the same voice that had been so torn
with passion a moment before. In an
instant all her hardness was gone,
and the tenderness of a sweet and
wholesome nature bad taken its place.
He felt a curious warmth stealing
over him.
“They meant what they said, Bruce.
Believe me, If those men can do no
other thing, they can keep their word.
They didn’t just threaten death to
me. I could have run the risk of that.
Badly as I wanted to make them pay
before I died, I would have gladly
run that risk.
“You are amazed at the free way I
speak of death. The girls you know,
In the city, don’t even know the word.
They don’t know what it means. They
don’t understand the sudden end of
the light—the darkness—the cold —
the awful fear that it Is! It’s a real
ity here, something to fight against
every hour of every day. There are
just three things to do in the moun
tains —to Jive and love and hate.
There’s no softness. There’s no mid
dle ground.” She smiled grimly.
“I’ve lived with death, and I’ve
heard of it, and I’ve seen it all my
life. If there hadn’t been any other
way, I would have seen it in the dra
mas of the wild creatures that, go on
around me all the time. You’ll get
down to cases here, Bruce—or else
you’ll run away. These men said
they’d do worse things to me than
kill me—and I didn’t dare take the
"But once or twice I was able .to
get word to old Elmira —the only ally
I had left. She was of the true breed,
Bruce. You’ll call her a hag, but
she’s a woman to be reckoned with.
She could hate too—-worse than a
she-rattlesnake hates the man that
killed her mate—and hating is all
that’s kept her alive. You shrink
when I say the word. Maybe you
won’t shrink when I’m done.
"This old woman tried to get in
communication with every stranger
that visited the hills. You see, Bruce,
she couldn’t write, herself. And the
one time I managed to get a xA’ltten
message down to her, telling her to
give it to the first stranger to mall —
one of my enemies got it away from
her. I expected to die that night. I
wasn’t going to be alive when the
clan came. The only reason I didn’t
was because Simon—the greatest of
them all and the one I hate the most—
kept his clan from coming. He had
his own reasons.
‘‘From then on she had to depend
on word of mouth. But at last—Just
a few weeks ago—she found a man
that knew you. And it is your story
from now on.”
They were still a little while. Bruce
arose and threw more wood on the
"It’s only the beginning,” he said.
“And you want me to tell you all?"
she asked hesitantly.
“Os course. Why did I come here?”
“You won’t believe me when I say
that I’m almost sorry I sent for you.”
She spoke almost breathlessly. “I
didn’t know that it would be like this.
That you would come with a smile on
your face and a light in your eyes,
looking for happiness. And instead
of happiness—to find all this!”
She stretched out her arms to the
forests. Bruce understood her per
fectly. She did not mean the woods
in the literal sense. She meant the
primal emotions that were their spirit.
“To know the rest, you’ve got to go
back a whole generation!. Bruce, have
you heard of the terrible blood-feuds
that the mountain families sometimes
“Os course. Many times.”
“These mountains of Trail’s End
have been the scene of as deadly a
blood-feud as was ever known in the
West. And for once, the wrong was
all on one side.
“A few miles from here there Is a
wonderful valley, where a stream
flows. There is not much tillable land
in these mountains, Bruce, but there,
along that little stream, there are al
most five sections—three thousand
acres—of as rich land ns was ever
plowed. That tract of land was ac
quired long ago by a family named
Ross, and they got it through some
kind of grant. I can’t be definite as
to the legal aspects of all this story.
They don’t matter anyway—only the
results remain.
“These Ross men w’ere frontiersmen
of the first order. They were virtuous
men too—trusting every one, and oh!
what strength they had! With their
own hands they cleared away the for
est and put the land into rich pasture
and hay and grain. They raised great
herds of cattle and had flocks of sheep
“It was then that dark days began
to come. Another family—headed by
the father of the man I call Simon
migrated here from the mountain dis
tricts of Oklahoma. But they were
not so ignorant ns many mountain
people, and they were ‘killers.’ Per
haps that’s a word you don’t know.
Perhaps you didn’t know it existed. A
killer is a man that has killed other
men. It isn’t a hard thing to do at
all, Bruce, after you are used to it.
These people were used to It. And
because they wanted these great lands
—my own father’s home—they began
to kill the Rosses.
“At first they made no war on the
Folgers. The Folgers, you must know,
were good people, too, honest to the
last penny. They were connected, by
marriage only, to the Ross family.
They were on our side clear through.
At the beginning of the feud the head
of the Folger family was Just a young
man, newly married. And he had a
son after a while.
“The newcomers called It a feud.
But it wasn’t a feud—lt was simply
murder. Oh, yes, we killed some of
them. Folger and my father and all
his kin united against them, making a
great clan—but they were nothing in
strength compared to the usurpers.
Simon himself was just a boy when
It began. But he grew to be the great
est power, the leader of the enemy
clan before he was twenty-one.
“You must know, Bruce, that my
own father held the land. But he was
so generous that his brothers who
helped Idm farm it hardly realized
that possession was in his name. And
father was a dead shot. It took a
long time before they could kill him.”
The coldness that had come over
her words did not in the least hide her
depth of feeling. She gazed moodily
Into the darkness and spoke almost in
a monotone.
“But Simon—Just, a boy then —and
Dave, his brother, and the others of
them kept after us like so many
wolves. There was no escape. The
only thing we could do was to fight
back —and that was the way we
learned to hate. A man can hate,
Bruce, when he is fighting for his
home. lie can learn it very well when
he sees his brother fall dead, or his
father —or a stray bullet hit his wife.
A woman can learn it, too, as old El
mira did, when she' finds her son’s
body in the dead leaves. There was
no law here to stop it. The little sem
blance of law that was in the valleys
below regarded It as a blood-feud, and
didn’t bother itself about it. Besides—
at first we were too proud to call for
help. And after our numbers were
few, the trails were watched—and
those who tried to go down Into the
valleys—never got there.
"One after another the Rosses were
killed, and I needn’t make it any
worse for you than I can help—by
telling of each killing. Enough to say
that at last no one was left except
a few old men whose eyes were too
dim to shoot straight, and my own
father. And I was a baby then —Just
“Then one night my father—seeing
the fate that was coming down upon
them —took the last course to defeat
them. Matthew Folger—a connection
The Girl Was Speaking Slowly Now,
Evidently Watching the Effect of
Her Words on Her Listener.
by mnrrlnire —wns still alive. Simon’s
clnn hadn't attacked him yet. He hail
no share In the land, hut Instead lived
In this house I live In now. He had
a few cattle and some pasture him’
farther down the Divide. There had
fceen no purpose In killing him. He
hadn't been worth the extra bullet.
“One night my father left me asleep
and stole through the forests to talk
to him. They made nn agreement. I
have pieced It out, a little nt a time.
Sly father deeded all his .land to Fol
“I can understand now. The enemy
clnn pretended It was a blood-feud
only—and that It was fair war to kill
the Rosses. Although my father knew
their real alm was to obtain the land,
he didn't think they would dare kill
Matthew Folger to get It. He knew
that he himself would fall, sooner or
later, but he thought that to kill Fol
ger would show their curds—and Hint
would be too much, even for Simon's
people. Hut he didn’t know. Ho
hadn't foreseen to wbut lengths they
would go."
Bruce leaned forward. “So they
killed—Matthew Folger?" he asked.
He didn't know that his face had
gone suddenly stark wiilte, and that
it curious glitter had come to his eyes.
Ho spoke breathlessly. For the name
—Matthew Folger—called up vague
memories that seemed to reveal great
truths to him. The girl smiled grimly.
"Let me go on. My father deeded
Folger the land. The deed wns to
go on record so Hint all the world
would know that Folger owned It, nnd
If the clan killed him It wns plainly
for the purposes of greed alone. But
there was also n secret agreement—
drawn up In black and white and to
be kept hidden for twenty-one years.
In this agreement, Folger promised to
return to me—the only living heir of
the Rosses —the lands acquired by the
deed. In reality, he wns only holding
them In trust for me, nnd was to re
turn them when I was twenty-one.
In case of my father’s denth, Folger
was to be my guardinn until that time.
"Folger knew the risk he ran, but
he wns a brave man nnd he did not
cure. Besides, he wns my father's
friend —nnd friendship goes fnr In the
mountains. And my father was shot
down before a week was past.
"The clan had acted quick, you see.
When Folger heard of It, before the
dnwn, he came to my father's house
and carried me away. Before another
night wns done he was killed too."
The perspiration leaped out on
Bruce's forehead. The red glow of
the lire was In his eyes.
“He fell almost where this fire Is
built, with a thirty-thirty bullet la his
brain. Which one of the clan killed
him Ido not know—but In nil prob
ability It wns Simon himself—at Hint
time only eighteen years of age. And
Folger’s little boy— something past
four years old—wandered out In the
moonlight, to find Ids father's body."
The girl wns speaking slowly now,
evidently watching the effect of her
wools on her listener. He wns bent
forward, nnd Ids breath came In queer,
whispering gusts. "Go onl" he or-
I dered snvngely. “Tell me the rest
Why , do you keep me waiting?”
The girl smiled again—like a sor
ceress. “Folger’s wife was from the
plains country,” she told him slowh
“If she had beer of the mountains sh<*
might have remained to do some kill
ing on her own account. Like old El
mini herself remained to do—kinin- /
on her own account! Bui she was
from cities, Just ns you are, but she
uijllke you—had no mountain blood in
her. She wasn’t used io death and
perhaps she didn’t know how to hate
She only knew how to be afraid.
“They say that she went almost in
sane at the sight of that strong, brave
man of hers lying still j n the p| ne
needles. She hadn’t even known he
was out of the house. He had gone
out on some secret business— Into at
night. She had only one thing left—
her baby boy and her little foster
daughter—little Linda Ross, who
before you now. Her only thought
was to get tjsose children out of that
dreadful land of bloodshed and to
hide them so that they could never
come back. And she didn’t even want
them to know’ their true parentage. \
She seemed to realize that if they had ’
known, both of them would return
some time—to collect their debts.
Sooner or later, that boy with the Fol
ger blood In him nnd that girl with
the Ross blood would return, to at
tempt to regain their ancient holdings,
and to make the clan pay!
“All that was left were a few old
women with hate in their hearts and
a strange tradition to take the place
of hope. They said that some time, if
denth spared them, they would see
Folger’s son come back again, and
Assert his rights. They said that a
new champion would arise and right
their wrongs. But mostly death didn’t
spare them. Only’ old Elmira Is left.
“What became of the secret agree
ment I 40 not know. I haven’t any
hope that you do, either. The deed
was carried down to the courts by
Sharp, one of the witnesses who man
nged to get past the guard, and put
on file soon after it was written. The
rest is short. Simon and his clnn took
up the land, swearing thnt Matthew
Folger had deeded it to them the day
he had procured It. They had a dee I
to show for It—a forgery. Ami the
one thing thnt they feared, the one
weak chain, was thnt this -"it
agreement between Folger and niy
father would be found.
“You see what that would mean. It
would show that he hud no right to j
deed away the land, ns he was simply I
holding It in trust for me. Old Elmira
explained the mutter to me—if I get d
mixed up on the legal end of it. ex X
cuse it. If thnt document could be
found, their forged deed would bp ob
viously invalid. Ami It angered them
that they could not find It.
“Os course they never filed their
forged deed —afraid thnt the forgery
would be discovered —but they kept
It to show to any one that wns In
terested. But they wanted to make
themselves still safer.
“There had been two witnesses to
the agreement. One of them, a man
named Sharp, died—or was killed—
shortly after. The other, nn old trap*
IM»r named Hudson, was indifferent to
the whole matter—he wns Just pass*
ing through and was at Folger’s house
for dinner the night Ross came. He Is
still living in these mountains, and he
might be of value to us yet.
“Os course the clan did not feel at
nil secure. They suspected the secret
agreement had been mailed to sum
one to take care of, and they
afraid that it would be brought to light ’
when the time wns ripe. They knew |
perfectly that their forged deed would ;
never stand the test, so one of the j
things to do wns to prevent their claim |
ever being contested. Thnt meant to 1
keep Folger’s son in ignorance of the i
whole matter.
“I hope I can make thnt clear. Th? j
deed from my father to Folger was on j
record. Folger was dead, nnd Folg« , i’s j
son would hnve every right and op- ■
portunity to contest the chin’s claim to j
the land. If he could get the matter 1
into court, he would surely win.
"The second thing to do was to win
me over. I was Just a child, nnd it |
looked the easiest course of all. That’s .1
why I was stolen from the orphanage j
by one of Simon’s brothers. The idea 1
wns simply thnt when the time canto J
I would marry one of the clnn ami rs- 1
tabllsh their claim to the land forever. 1
“Up to a few weeks ngo It seem'd 1
to me that sooner or later I would win I
out. Bruce, you can’t dream what it j
meant I I thought that some time I
could drive them out and make thrin |
pay, a little, for all they have done. -
But they’ve tricked me, after all- JX'
thought that I would get word to i'X !
ger’s son, who by Inheritance would J
have a clear title to the land, and he. |
with the aid of the courts, could drive j
these usurpers out. But Just recently .
I’ve found out thnt even this chance
Is all but gone.
>■■■■■ ' rr—'
He put his arms about her
and he kissed her gently on
the lips.
Origin of the Zuider Zee.
The Zuider Zee Is n result of
bursting of the d.vkes. This huppeiieil
m the Thirteenth century, and. In
addition to Holland being cut in two,
.*nd Friesland being separated fr°,
the’ rest of the country by a 1111
sheet of water, hundreds <>f ' 4
were submerged and about SC.tMKI p«-«*%
sons were drowned.
Matrimony seems. genm-nlly I
Ing, to lie a court propos tl i H* 1 I
gins by suin;,: for her bin l '• 1 ’’ I
ends by suing him for r»n; < •

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