DIVISION OF PAGES
To The Reader
It is an error for the maker of an
international language to let himself be limited
by the narrow outlook of those who are
only conscious of the existence of other
countries when they do trade with them
or go on a journey. But it is equally an
error for him to get the idea that it is
possible to make a language which will
be a sort of looking—glass for all the other
languages, in which he will be able to say
everything in a completely parallel way.
Writing as an art makes use of the
power words have of acting on our feelings;
and this power comes only through long
use of the word in different sorts of
connections. For this reason, though it is
possible to make new words which will
have the same sense as old words, it is
quite impossible for them to take over the
feeling of the old words, because naturally
they have no history. In addition, it is
clear that a language which puts no limit
on the invention of new words will
certainly not be simple.
Basic takes the middle way. Though
it has only 850 words, it is not designed
only or even chiefly for the man with
simple needs. It is an all-round language
for everyday use, which may be turned
into a language for the expert by the
addition of short special lists. Examples
of how this is done are given in Basic
English Applied (Science) and Basic for
Economics. A simple account of the
system itself is given in Basic English and
step by step, in The ABC of Basic English.
Wide as the uses of Basic are, the
suggestion has not ever been made that
the works of great writers will have the
same sort of value in Basic. Basic is
able to give the sense of such writing and
may be used for separating sense from
feeling, but the full experience is open
only to those who have a knowledge of
the language of the writer and are able
to get under his skin.
It is foolish, however, to make
water-tight divisions where all is so much a
question of degree. At the highest levels,
it is true, Basic is able to do little more
than give an outline of what the writer
said, his feelings when he said it, and the
reactions desired in the reader. A very
interesting account of the value of Basic
in this connection is given by Mr. Rossiter
in Statement and Suggestion. But not all
writing is at the complex level of Donne's
verse or the prose of Religio Mediei, and
much of the work from lesser pens may
be turned into Basic without much loss.
It is now the business of the experts to
see what sort of books go best into Basic
and why. Their discoveries may give
interesting light on the psychology of
reading and the power of words.
The writer of these stories has three
works of fiction to her credit -- the two
last being Born Old Died Young and Friend
of the Family -- and there are others on
As an expert in the special art of short
stories Inez Holden has a very wide public
in England and America, and all these
stories were first printed (though not
in Basic) in such papers as The Sketch,
Harpers Bazaar, Nash's, and The Evening
Standard. It is because they are representative
of an important part of the
reading material on which the value ot
Basic for general purposes has to be tested
that they have a place in the Basic Library.
The selection, in fact, has had the approval
of judges with a sharp nose for a good
thing in a field where competition is strong.
We are happy to have the chance of
ornamenting our front page with the
picture by Mr. Augustus john.
C. K. OGDEN.
The Orthological Institute,
10, King's Parade, Cambridge, England.
DEATH IN HIGH SOCIETY
There was no one in the house ; and after shutting the door, the two women who did the cleaning went away together, talking quickly.
Esmée Earnshaw, watching them from the window of her long, gray Hispano, was angry that they seemed so pleased to go away form her house. In her opinion, the chance to go into it at all was, even to her friends, a sort of special reward. For this reason it would have been natural if the brushing and cleaning of the home had been a special event, valued in the memory of such women, but there they were -- shutting the door and smiling, without even looking back while they went down the street.
It seemed to Esmée that they had been a long time getting ready to go. They were dressed with so much attention to detail and with so little harmony. The high boots done up, the buttons on their coats and the pins in their hats, and the old-time Edwardian feathers now only seen on such persons. They were talking quickly and smiling to one another. Esmée was not clear what they were saying . . .
They went by her.
"Lady Hearnshaw . . ."
"She's nothing but the last-word."
"The last word !"'-- How was it possible for a cleaner to have such an idea?
But, after all, Esmée was quite pleased, because if she was not the last word now she would not ever be. Esmée Earnshaw was one of those women who are frequently to be seen here, there, and everywhere with this that and the other person -- running round dance clubs, getting into the news. She had no other existence outside this, but her days were full. Though she saw t it that so much was said about her, there was in fact nothing at all to he said for
Esmée was quite good-looking, foolish, but not foolish enough to let it be seen ; she was married to a man who was well-off and not very old ; she was quietly unkind, and the very last word. And now . . . even the two old cleaners were conscious of it.
Esmée Earnshaw was at all times interested in other. That female quality, which is happily less marked in a number of women of the present day, had most unhappily become strong again in Esmée. She was for ever being interested in some small, unimportant detail of another person's existence. Her interest, in fact, was like a disease, troubling her all the time.
Esmée had no feeling against the man to whom she was married. Her knowledge of him was certainly limited, but sometimes she had doubts about him. Friends were from time to time foolish enough to put the question : "How is Sir Arthur ?" or "Where is Sir Arthur ?" Every time Esmée would give an answer smilingly, stiffly, but all the same a little angrily ;because when Esmée herself was before them, warm, bright and beautiful, with a dancing light in her eyes and all the attraction of a tall, delicate flower, why was anyone interested in Arthur ? Arthur, who was the same all the year round -- working in the City in the day-time, and sleeping in the library at night, with From Kreuger to Stavisky
on his knee.
Esmée had doubts about her lovers till her doubts sent them away, and sometimes she had doubts about Arthur, till her fears were put at rest by seeing him, still there, as uninterested and unquestioning as ever. Arthur was away now -- with the guns ; and it was said publicly that Esmée had gone on one of those journeys to the South from which she still got amusement. Secretly she had been in the country before starting, or reasons equally important.
She took a long look at her home -- their house. She gave a smile at the thought of Arthur going on being so English, having arguments with other men on the Exchange, firing at birds, and quite unconscious of her. For three weeks this house would be shut up ; then the cleaners would come back and take off the dust covers ; all the servants would come back ; Arthur and Esmée would be together again in this very house, and go through a somewhat uninteresting married talk ; and Arthur would see about the payment of some more accounts.
This quite payment was one of the things which made Esmée interested in Arthur. Other women had to take trouble about their behavior to get one or two pounds out of a man -- Esmée had been shocked and troubled at women's behaviour to their men when they had to get money. but if Arthur had been unready to give her money she would have gone through the same business, forcing herself into the belief that it was doing the right thing in the very best way. But with Arthur all this was not necessary ; a little overconsciously kind, possibly, but quite quietly he went on making payments.
Very unready to be parted from money herself, Esmée was unable to see why Arthur did this. She was unable to see why everyone did not take great care of their money in small ways. Would the two cleaners, with no one looking after them and small payment, have done their work well ? Arthur gave her separate money for the housekeeping, and she had made the point of getting the best work possible from her servants. It was this great desire for cheap living which had given Esmée the idea of having two cleaners for two or three hours in place of a caretaker for three weeks. For three weeks the house would have as little in it as Esmée's heart.
She had two or three hours before the Dover train went. Acting wisely at all times, she had come to London with no servant and only a small bag ; as with a number of other small and uninteresting secrets, no one had any knowledge of her designs but herself.
The Hispano had been sent away. There was no one about ; she took out her door-key, and secretly, with the feeling that she had no right to be there, went into her house.
The house was quiet and dark. There was nothing in it but the dead shades of things with dust covers over them and the living shades of sad owners. But Esmée was not much troubled by this and made a start on her well ordered way through the house. She had quite a system for the discovery of bad work and dust, frequently saying to herself that she did not give out housekeeping money for nothing. Though unconscious of the fact, she was hated by all her servants. She did not see how she put persons against her by her uncontrolled desire to come upon them doing something wrong -- her unkind heart and her small secret designs.
Walking slowly on purpose, she went up four floors to the door of Arthur's library. Here she saw the first sign of bad work. When they went away the door was at all times to be kept locked. Arthur gave the key to his servant, and was very angry if his letters and papers were torched by anyone. Now the key was in the door.
Esmée got it open and went in. Hard as she was, she was unable to keep herself from feeling and fearing this room. She had not been conscious that it was possible for a room with no one in it to be full of such dark, unhappy suggestions. She put her finger up and down the top of Arthur's writing-table ; there was a long, thin line. Her lips became an equally hard, thin line. The writing-table had not been dusted.
She went over to the window and got the shutters open. The room was over a quiet little side-street ;there was no one to be seen. On the window-shelf Esmée saw a key. She put it in the lock of Arthur's writing-table and it came open. It was getting cold, and she was feeling it a little so she put her coat more tightly round her. There was a great number of letters in the writing-table. Esmée was uncertain what they were about. She took them up, with a feeling of fear and of doing something secretly -- violently interested.
The first letter, at which she tool a quick look, was a receipt for the coat she had on. The second letter was from a bookmaker. The third was a loving letter from a woman -- so loving, in fact, that to a woman of good sense it would have given the suggestion of nothing but the kind thoughts of some old friend. But Esmée had a limited outlook -- to her the letter only seemed loving. She went on looking, and came across a number of other letters in the same handwriting, all to Arthur.
In a second, he was no longer in Esmée's mind 'poor old Arthur' but the man to whom she was married, and very possibly at the same time another's lover. She suddenly became interested in this man of millions to whom she had given so little thought for so long, and was overcome with the fear that he might be using his money for other women. The thought came into her mind that possibly he said so little about her accounts only because he was making other payments for women of greater attraction.
She had no sons or daughters of Arthur's and no money which was hers. Then her position might not be so safe ?
Esmée had been comforted by the thought that Arthur probably had no women friends at all. He had such a number of friends on the Exchange ; and though she was not interested in them, she did not let him see it. Her love-making was not ever unwise, she was not responsible for any shame to his name, she was good-looking and well-dressed, a very pleasing woman to be married to ; there was every reason for him to have, and no doubt he did have a high opinion of her.
But those letters from a woman which he kept in his writing-table, were to Esmée a sign that he had been untrue to her -- and while she gave thought to it, the quiet of the house was broken by the sound of blows. She went down on her knees in the greatest fear. It was the sound of the clock on the shelf over the fire-place getting ready to give the hours, the disgusting-looking clock which had been given to Arthur by some of his office workers. Esmée had no love for the face of this clock, and the way it had of coughing before it made any sound at all ; even then it had sometimes gone thirteen and fourteen times It did not keep good time, and was far from beautiful -- so why have it ? But Arthur, with a fixed idea in which there was no reason, would not give it away
Esmée was conscious now that she was in fear of Arthur. She saw how false and foolish her position in this house was when she was said to be away in Europe. She was in fear of the house itself, Arthur's room, the dust covers, the uncertain clock. For the first time in her existence Esmée became conscious of dead things with their shocking suggestion ; dead things hammering into her brain -- a sense of death hanging over her. Pushing the letters into her handbag, she went out of the room, locking the door after her. It was not possible to go through the letters there. but, when she was outside this room, which in all their married existence she had only been in two or three times, she seemed safe again, more her natural, interesting, doubting self -- with a desire to get away from the house, but with an equal desire to go through these strange letters.
She had had a lift put in for the servants. It was some time before it was complete, because she had taken weeks making her selection of the business house which would give her the cheapest price. But at last it had been put in -- an apparatus for getting more work done in less time. She made a decision to be go down by this lift and go quietly out of the house by the back door. When she was by herself, she would go straight through the letters and come to a decision about what she would do -- how to make the best use of them. She had a good opinion of herself ; she "kept her head when in a serious position", she "took everything into account" gave "attention to detail."
Esmée put her finger on the electric button and the lift made a start to go down. The last two or three ours in London had been more than enough for her, and she would be pleased to be gone.
Half-way between two floors the lift came to a stop. She was unable to make it go on. She gave jumps, loud cries. It was dark, so dark that she was unable to see the handwriting on the letters. She was in fear of the dark. She took a cigarette out of her box , and from her handbag a little lighter which she had tot that day. It had had an attraction for her because it was so cheap. She was unable to get a light. The dark made her unhappy, gave her a feeling of fear.
Two or three minutes went by before she became conscious that she was shut up in a small, dark death-prison. There was not hope. No one had any idea she was in London. Arthur was away --firing at birds, exchanging view with bankers. The house was shut up for three weeks.
* * *
Three weeks later, the two cleaners came back to get the house open again. They went in by the front door, took the pins out of their hats, undid their boots and but on house-shoes, took off their coats and put on overalls ; one them put the old feathers from round her neck on a seat.
"Well, here we are again, dear. Where is she now, eh ?"
"Keep your noise out of other cats' milk," said the second, while with slow, stiff feet she made her way in the direction of the lift.
* * *
Sir Arthur Earnshaw was a man who said little ; and he was not ready to go into the discussion of the shocking details of Esmée's prison in the shut-up house ; the slow death from need of food, the giving up of hope, and at last, the loss of reason.
"It is to be hoped," he said in a self-important way, "that before the end she was at peace, and conscious of nothing."
DEATH IN HIGH SOCIETY
2 THE VALUE OF BEING SEEN
The mornings in Charles Street were
like the last stages in producing a play
before the opening night.
Mrs. Ascot had taken the house for
the winter, there were frequent troubles
with new servants and with tradesmen,
who had no knowledge of Mrs. Ascot and
naturally had doubts about her.
The telephone was going all the time,
and though Mrs. Ascot had seen to it that
three different newspapers were to make
public the fact that she and her daughter
Miss Daphne Ascot had taken this house
for the winter, quite half the time it was
friends of the family who had been living
there before. Was it possible, Mrs. Ascot
said to herself, that there were still such
numbers in existence who did not see the
Daphne's schooling in England was at
an end, she had been ‘ polished ' in Paris,
and her mother had come to the decision
that it was time for her to give up being
a schoolgirl and take her place in London
" My dear," she said, " it is quite time
you came out."
Daphne had nothing to say about this
because she did not ever have anything
to say about anything ; she would be no
trouble ; she would go quietly from dance
to dance, in the same way as at school
she had gone from room to room, and in
Paris from the Louvre to Notre Dame
Mrs. Ascot was of the opinion that it
was only necessary to give her daughter
the general idea, the keynote, of being a
" The important thing is to be seen,"
she said. " Keep in mind, Daphne, that
are not made in one night ; whatever
others may say, it takes weeks of
Mrs. Ascot herself had undertaken all
the work of organization, getting on the
lists, getting into the society news, getting
together the right young men, and keeping
the wrong ones away. She would take
care of the selection of Daphne's dresses,
she would keep an eye on her talk and her
friends and she would give the papers a
‘ story ' of Daphne.
It was hard to make Daphne into a
story ; more than a good newspaper man
was necessary for it. Only Mrs. Ascot
herself would be able to make anything
out of such poor material.
Daphne's face was regular but
uninteresting ; her hair light and at all times in
order, she was not short or tall, and she
was not good or bad looking.
The day came for Daphne to go to her
dance. She did not have
to get ready because she was ‘ got ready ' ;
two servants and Mrs. Ascot herself
seemed to get her worked into her clothing
with their hands as if she was an iced sweet
being got ready for Lucullus; and as if
that was not enough, they had to have an
argument over the ornaments -- which
jewels she was to put round her neck,
and how a somewhat foolish little bit of
hair was to be placed. They all seemed
pleased with their part in the work,
because they all had the feeling that they
had made something where before there
had been nothing. Something dressed up
to seem like a person had become a living
and had now to be sent out
among men and women, well taken care of.
Daphne herself, seated in her mothers
automobile, gave no thought to anything.
This was because she was not used to
thought; in place of it, she was half
conscious of things. She had no fixed
ideas, only a quiet, deep-down feeling like
one of the lower animals. In addition to
this, her mother had said to her: " All
you have to do is to be seen, and that is
simple enough for any girl. I will do the
And then suddenly Daphne was in the
middle of it. It gave her a shock, made
her come out of her normal half-sleeping
condition; it was as if she had been
walking unconsciously by the side of a
deep river and someone had come up at
the back of her and given her a push.
There was the same ice-cold feeling, the
fighting for breath, before making the
decision to go on swimming and not to
give up. Being a débutante
was no amusement.
She seemed to be seeing hundreds of
eyes, which had no separate existence
-- simply a mass of eyes like caviar
among noses ; they did not seem to be
anyone's specially, they were only a great
number of eyes, liquid and dead. So this
was her first dance. Her mother's words
about the value of being seen came into
her mind, but these eyes did not seem to
be looking at her. They seemed to be
looking, not at anyone or anything, but
Daphne did not get on very well.
Persons did their best for her ; they took
young men up to her, white, thin, young
men still learning the rules, who seemed
only to have a desire for food and drink,
and made no secret of the sad fact that
but for this they would not have come
there at all.
Daphne had a feeling as if she had been
pushed into the middle of some competition,
and no one had made the rules
clear to her. There was a garden at the
back of the house where men and women
who had been dancing together were
walking; they seemed to be talking to
one another without any trouble, but
Daphne took it as probable that their talk
was quite as stiff and unnatural as hers.
She went into the garden by herself,
and when she saw her mother she was
ready to go straight back to Charles Street.
" Certainly not," said Mrs. Ascot.
" What an idea at your first dance ! Get
a young man and have a dance
There were Japanese lights hanging in
the garden. In Mrs. Ascot's opinion it
was all very beautiful.
" My daughter was fearing that I would
not be interested," she made clear to
another mother, " but it gives me great
pleasure to see young persons having a
While she was talking, Daphne, who
had been unable to get a young man, was
crying in the dressing-room.
After this, Daphne went to a great
number of dances. There were dances all
the time; sometimes her mother made
her go to two or three in one night, but
though she was a good number of hours
in the dressing-room doing nothing, she
gave no sign of being happy or unhappy ;
she did not even have much dancing,
because it was hard to get men to have
Daphne's existence went on. There
were more dances, tea meetings, Lord's,
Goodwood, helping with plays for good
causes ; the unending putting on of dresses
and having pictures taken ; Daphne went
about in a group of other débutantes
the time. They had nothing of any
interest to say to one another -- only cries
of approval, foolish little laughs, and
accounts of dances fixed for the future.
There was not a quiet minute, and through
it all no one seemed to see Daphne. She
was unconscious of herself, and she went
on being unseen.
Though there was no point in her
existence, it did not come to an
end. It had become an uninteresting,
automatic business without any purpose
and which she was unable to put a stop
to because she had no strong desire for
anything. She had no memory of the
past and she saw no future; there was
nothing, only this automatic being a
Mrs. Ascot no longer went with her
daughter to all the dances, because she
said that there were times when mothers
were not desired, so the old woman who
had taken care of Daphne as a baby went
with her in the automobile, waiting all
night in the dressing-room ready to go
back with her again.
" There will be no driving with young
men for my daughter," Mrs. Ascot said ;
and it was no use for Daphne to say to
her mother that in her mind there had
been no question of driving anywhere
with any young man.
Sometimes when Daphne got back late,
she was questioned by Mrs. Ascot to see
if she had had a good time, and she would
give the same untrue answer, without any
sign of interest, " Yes, mother; it was a
beautiful dance." But the strange thing
was that whenever Mrs. Ascot gave her
daughter's opinion of any special dance,
her friends said in surprise. " Oh, was
your girl there ? I did not see her." Mrs.
Ascot was unhappy that Daphne had not
been more of ‘ a noise ', but took comfort
from the thought that while one person
was getting some food another was dancing
and it was simple enough to go through a
night in this way without seeing quite
But Daphne herself was unable to keep
from noting the fact that her friends were
getting more and more uncertain about
her; no one ever seemed able to keep
her name in mind; frequently she said
something and got no answer, and when
she said it over again they gave a little
jump as if it had been a sudden voice
coming out of the dark.
And then one night at a dance where
Daphne was seated by herself at the table,
with persons all round her who were not
talking to her, she saw a very beautiful
girl in the doorway looking for a place
where she would be able to take a seat
and get some food.
Beautiful girls were " here today and
gone tomorrow " and Daphne did not
give much attention to her. She went on
quietly with her ice. And then she saw
that the beautiful débutante
near her table. The others at the table
gave a cry of, " Here you are, Gloria;
here's a seat," pointing at Daphne's, and
if she had not got quickly out of the way
the girl would have taken a seat on top
Then she was conscious what had taken
place. It had been going on for some
time. She was no longer able to be seen.
She was nothing more now than the shade
of a débutante.
After this, strange persons frequently
gave her a sudden touch and seemed
surprised, so that she got quite quick at
getting out of the way.
Mrs. Ascot was quite unconscious of the
sad change which had overtaken her
daughter. She did not give much attention
to Daphne, because she was certain
in her mind that till her daughter got
married she would be there. She only
had a desire for others to see her.
" Don't get over1ooked," she said. " It
is the worst of all possible errors for a
débutante to make."
" All right mother," was Daphne's
answer, in her uninteresting, feeble voice.
Daphne was conscious that she was still
a little more than a shade. Sometimes
two or three persons saw her in one day,
and the change had been so slow that the
servants were not conscious of it. All the
house did its work on a dead, automatic
system ; the footman and driver were so
used to taking the daughter of the house
out on these journeys every night that it
was all the same to them if she was there
or not. When the automobile door was
shut, they took it that she was inside, and
when she said " Goodnight ", it was clear
to them that she had got out of the
The old woman's eyes were getting so
feeble that the fact that she was unable
to see and that Daphne was unable to be
seen were the same thing to her, and she
had no idea that anything strange had
One night the old woman got a bad cold
and Daphne, seeing her chance, made her
mother a request to let her have her meal
in bed in place of going out to a dance,
but Mrs. Ascot only gave her daughter
a long look like a shocked bird and said :
" Your meal in bed ! Well ! When I
was as old as you, I took the greatest
pleasure in dances. Truly, it does put a
mother off. Here am I working hard to
get you all these dances, and the only
reward one has is this foolish suggestion
that you might have a meal in bed.
Naturally you will have to go to the dance.
If you don't, ‘they ' will have the idea
you are no longer on the best lists. And
no one ever sees Nanny, so you will have
to say that she is sleeping in the dressing-room
as she generally does."
" All right, mother," said Daphne's
automatic voice, and she went off to the
When she got there, she took her
shade-like way up the steps into the dance-room,
but she was surprised at the look of the
room. It was not like a débutantes'
no one seemed to have much desire to
be on the floor ; they were all resting on
long seats, drinking, smoking, and kissing,
long and frequently, but all the time
coldly. They were dressed in strange
clothing, a number of them as sailors, and
others had the look of having very quickly
put on any clothing they were able to
come across. Two or three persons were
dancing by themselves, sometimes running
into one another, but not troubling to
come to a stop or say anything. And
though she was conscious that no one was
able to see her, she was happier because
the room was so dark and so full of smoke
that she was unable to see them very
At first it seemed to Daphne that it
was like being dead, and then it seemed
like walking through Selfridge's in the
crush, with no idea what to get ; and at
last she was conscious that it was in every
detail like, what it in fact was, a Bohemian
night -- the sort of thing the débutantes
a great desire to go to and which they were
ordered by their mothers to keep away
from, the sort of place where anyone
might make love or get the worse for drink,
or get into a fight.
Daphne took a seat to have a look round
and made the discovery that she was on
top of a fat woman dressed in colour-printed
cotton pyjamas. She got up
quickly, but the woman had gone to sleep
and made no motion. Daphne had the
feeling that these persons were like her in
some ways, because they seemed as if they
had been doing the same thing for nights
and nights, and would probably keep it
up till they went slipping away for ever.
Some of them seemed so old that she had
an idea they were not far from that happy
Daphne saw a young man half out of
the window making a great noise, and
ready to take a jump into the street.
No one gave any attention but Daphne
herself, who had no idea that he did this
every night. She put her head out of
the window to say something to him and
make him come back, but because she
was unable to be seen he did not see her,
and he was very conscious that voices
which were not there frequently came to
his ears in the same way as he saw rats
in whose existence his friends had no
belief. If the voice had an owner, then
it was not important if he gave the person
he saw in his mind a push.
" Go away," he said, and gave Daphne
a blow, which sent her down into the
street under the window.
It did not seem that death was coming
to her. She had not ever taken a look
forward, not ever seen herself dead in her
mind. Her only idea was that because
the old woman was ill, the complete
automatic machine which was Charles
Street in the winter had gone wrong.
The footman had been given the wrong
house and Daphne had got into a Bohemian
dance, where, like most of the other
persons, her company had not been
requested. And because of this things were
taking place, strange things. Nothing was
working out as had been designed. She
had doubts about how she was going to
make it all clear to her mother, how it
would be possible for her to say, " You
see, mother, I am a shade -- and have been
for some time ; and because he was unable
to see me, this young man gave me a push
and I had a fall into the street." No,
it was not possible to say a thing like that
to a woman like Mrs. Ascot. Daphne was
conscious that it was impossible, and then
a minute after, she was not conscious of
anything. The street was no longer a
street, the Bohemians were only a half
memory of a sleep experience ; she had no
memory of being a shade; she had no
memory of anything at all.
The dance in the room at the top went
on and on ; a number of those present
had nowhere to go, and others, not desiring
to go back to a place where there was
nothing going on, had by this time no
idea where their houses were. There was
nothing for them now but one long,
unending night out.
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