"Guard.--Qui est la? Puc.--Paisans,
pauvres gens de
France."--King Henry VI
During the rapid movement from the blockhouse, and until the
party was deeply buried in the forest, each individual was
too much interested in the escape to hazard a word even in
whispers. The scout resumed his post in advance, though his
steps, after he had thrown a safe distance between himself
and his enemies, were more deliberate than in their previous
march, in consequence of his utter ignorance of the
localities of the surrounding woods. More than once he
halted to consult with his confederates, the Mohicans,
pointing upward at the moon, and examining the barks of the
trees with care. In these brief pauses, Heyward and the
sisters listened, with senses rendered doubly acute by the
danger, to detect any symptoms which might announce the
proximity of their foes. At such moments, it seemed as if a
vast range of country lay buried in eternal sleep; not the
least sound arising from the forest, unless it was the
distant and scarcely audible rippling of a water-course.
Birds, beasts, and man, appeared to slumber alike, if,
indeed, any of the latter were to be found in that wide
tract of wilderness. But the sounds of the rivulet, feeble
and murmuring as they were, relieved the guides at once from
no trifling embarrassment, and toward it they immediately
held their way.
When the banks of the little stream were gained, Hawkeye
made another halt; and taking the moccasins from his feet,
he invited Heyward and Gamut to follow his example. He then
entered the water, and for near an hour they traveled in the
bed of the brook, leaving no trail. The moon had already
sunk into an immense pile of black clouds, which lay
impending above the western horizon, when they issued from
the low and devious water-course to rise again to the light
and level of the sandy but wooded plain. Here the scout
seemed to be once more at home, for he held on this way with
the certainty and diligence of a man who moved in the
security of his own knowledge. The path soon became more
uneven, and the travelers could plainly perceive that the
mountains drew nigher to them on each hand, and that they
were, in truth, about entering one of their gorges.
Suddenly, Hawkeye made a pause, and, waiting until he was
joined by the whole party, he spoke, though in tones so low
and cautious, that they added to the solemnity of his words,
in the quiet and darkness of the place.
"It is easy to know the pathways, and to find the licks and
water-courses of the wilderness," he said; "but who that saw
this spot could venture to say, that a mighty army was at
rest among yonder silent trees and barren mountains?"
"We are, then, at no great distance from William Henry?"
said Heyward, advancing nigher to the scout.
"It is yet a long and weary path, and when and where to
strike it is now our greatest difficulty. See," he said,
pointing through the trees toward a spot where a little
basin of water reflected the stars from its placid bosom,
"here is the 'bloody pond'; and I am on ground that I have
not only often traveled, but over which I have fou't the
enemy, from the rising to the setting sun."
"Ha! that sheet of dull and dreary water, then, is the
sepulcher of the brave men who fell in the contest. I have
heard it named, but never have I stood on its banks before."
"Three battles did we make with the Dutch-Frenchman* in a
day," continued Hawkeye, pursuing the train of his own
thoughts, rather than replying to the remark of Duncan. "He
met us hard by, in our outward march to ambush his advance,
and scattered us, like driven deer, through the defile, to
the shores of Horican. Then we rallied behind our fallen
trees, and made head against him, under Sir William--who
was made Sir William for that very deed; and well did we pay
him for the disgrace of the morning! Hundreds of Frenchmen
saw the sun that day for the last time; and even their
leader, Dieskau himself, fell into our hands, so cut and
torn with the lead, that he has gone back to his own
country, unfit for further acts in war."
* Baron Dieskau, a German, in the service
A few years previously to the period of the tale, this
officer was defeated by Sir William Johnson, of Johnstown,
New York, on the shores of Lake George.
"'Twas a noble repulse!" exclaimed Heyward, in the heat of
his youthful ardor; "the fame of it reached us early, in our
"Ay! but it did not end there. I was sent by Major
Effingham, at Sir William's own bidding, to outflank the
French, and carry the tidings of their disaster across the
portage, to the fort on the Hudson. Just hereaway, where
you see the trees rise into a mountain swell, I met a party
coming down to our aid, and I led them where the enemy were
taking their meal, little dreaming that they had not
finished the bloody work of the day."
"And you surprised them?"
"If death can be a surprise to men who are thinking only of
the cravings of their appetites. We gave them but little
breathing time, for they had borne hard upon us in the fight
of the morning, and there were few in our party who had not
lost friend or relative by their hands."
"When all was over, the dead, and some say the dying, were
cast into that little pond. These eyes have seen its waters
colored with blood, as natural water never yet flowed from
the bowels of the 'arth."
"It was a convenient, and, I trust, will prove a peaceful
grave for a soldier. You have then seen much service on
"Ay!" said the scout, erecting his tall person with an air
of military pride; "there are not many echoes among these
hills that haven't rung with the crack of my rifle, nor is
there the space of a square mile atwixt Horican and the
river, that 'killdeer' hasn't dropped a living body on, be
it an enemy or be it a brute beast. As for the grave there
being as quiet as you mention, it is another matter. There
are them in the camp who say and think, man, to lie still,
should not be buried while the breath is in the body; and
certain it is that in the hurry of that evening, the doctors
had but little time to say who was living and who was dead.
Hist! see you nothing walking on the shore of the pond?"
"'Tis not probable that any are as houseless as ourselves in
this dreary forest."
"Such as he may care but little for house or shelter, and
night dew can never wet a body that passes its days in the
water," returned the scout, grasping the shoulder of Heyward
with such convulsive strength as to make the young soldier
painfully sensible how much superstitious terror had got the
mastery of a man usually so dauntless.
"By heaven, there is a human form, and it approaches! Stand
to your arms, my friends; for we know not whom we encounter."
"Qui vive?" demanded a stern, quick voice, which sounded
like a challenge from another world, issuing out of that
solitary and solemn place.
"What says it?" whispered the scout; "it speaks neither
Indian nor English."
"Qui vive?" repeated the same voice, which was quickly
followed by the rattling of arms, and a menacing attitude.
"France!" cried Heyward, advancing from the shadow of the
trees to the shore of the pond, within a few yards of the sentinel.
"D'ou venez-vous--ou allez-vous, d'aussi bonne heure?"
demanded the grenadier, in the language and with the accent
of a man from old France.
"Je viens de la decouverte, et je vais me coucher."
"Etes-vous officier du roi?"
"Sans doute, mon camarade; me prends-tu pour un provincial!
Je suis capitaine de chasseurs (Heyward well knew that the
other was of a regiment in the line); j'ai ici, avec moi,
les filles du commandant de la fortification. Aha! tu en as
entendu parler! je les ai fait prisonnieres pres de l'autre
fort, et je les conduis au general."
"Ma foi! mesdames; j'en suis fÉche pour vous," exclaimed
young soldier, touching his cap with grace; "mais--fortune
de guerre! vous trouverez notre general un brave homme, et
bien poli avec les dames."
"C'est le caractere des gens de guerre," said Cora, with
admirable self-possession. "Adieu, mon ami; je vous
souhaiterais un devoir plus agreable a remplir."
The soldier made a low and humble acknowledgment for her
civility; and Heyward adding a "Bonne nuit, mon camarade,"
they moved deliberately forward, leaving the sentinel pacing
the banks of the silent pond, little suspecting an enemy of
so much effrontery, and humming to himself those words which
were recalled to his mind by the sight of women, and,
perhaps, by recollections of his own distant and beautiful
France: "Vive le vin, vive l'amour," etc., etc.
"'Tis well you understood the knave!" whispered the scout,
when they had gained a little distance from the place, and
letting his rifle fall into the hollow of his arm again; "I
soon saw that he was one of them uneasy Frenchers; and well
for him it was that his speech was friendly and his wishes
kind, or a place might have been found for his bones among
those of his countrymen."
He was interrupted by a long and heavy groan which arose
from the little basin, as though, in truth, the spirits of
the departed lingered about their watery sepulcher.
"Surely it was of flesh," continued the scout; "no spirit
could handle its arms so steadily."
"It was of flesh; but whether the poor fellow still belongs
to this world may well be doubted," said Heyward, glancing
his eyes around him, and missing Chingachgook from their
little band. Another groan more faint than the former was
succeeded by a heavy and sullen plunge into the water, and
all was still again as if the borders of the dreary pool had
never been awakened from the silence of creation. While
they yet hesitated in uncertainty, the form of the Indian
was seen gliding out of the thicket. As the chief rejoined
them, with one hand he attached the reeking scalp of the
unfortunate young Frenchman to his girdle, and with the
other he replaced the knife and tomahawk that had drunk his
blood. He then took his wonted station, with the air of a
man who believed he had done a deed of merit.
The scout dropped one end of his rifle to the earth, and
leaning his hands on the other, he stood musing in profound
silence. Then, shaking his head in a mournful manner, he
"'Twould have been a cruel and an unhuman act for a white-
skin; but 'tis the gift and natur' of an Indian, and I
suppose it should not be denied. I could wish, though it
had befallen an accursed Mingo, rather than that gay young
boy from the old countries."
"Enough!" said Heyward, apprehensive the unconscious sisters
might comprehend the nature of the detention, and conquering
his disgust by a train of reflections very much like that of
the hunter; "'tis done; and though better it were left
undone, cannot be amended. You see, we are, too obviously
within the sentinels of the enemy; what course do you
propose to follow?"
"Yes," said Hawkeye, rousing himself again; "'tis as you
say, too late to harbor further thoughts about it. Ay, the
French have gathered around the fort in good earnest and we
have a delicate needle to thread in passing them."
"And but little time to do it in," added Heyward, glancing
his eyes upwards, toward the bank of vapor that concealed
the setting moon.
"And little time to do it in!" repeated the scout. "The
thing may be done in two fashions, by the help of
Providence, without which it may not be done at all."
"Name them quickly for time presses."
"One would be to dismount the gentle ones, and let their
beasts range the plain, by sending the Mohicans in front, we
might then cut a lane through their sentries, and enter the
fort over the dead bodies."
"It will not do--it will not do!" interrupted the generous
Heyward; "a soldier might force his way in this manner, but
never with such a convoy."
"'Twould be, indeed, a bloody path for such tender feet to
wade in," returned the equally reluctant scout; "but I
thought it befitting my manhood to name it. We must, then,
turn in our trail and get without the line of their
lookouts, when we will bend short to the west, and enter the
mountains; where I can hide you, so that all the devil's
hounds in Montcalm's pay would be thrown off the scent for
months to come."
"Let it be done, and that instantly."
Further words were unnecessary; for Hawkeye, merely uttering
the mandate to "follow," moved along the route by which they
had just entered their present critical and even dangerous
situation. Their progress, like their late dialogue, was
guarded, and without noise; for none knew at what moment a
passing patrol, or a crouching picket of the enemy, might
rise upon their path. As they held their silent way along
the margin of the pond, again Heyward and the scout stole
furtive glances at its appalling dreariness. They looked in
vain for the form they had so recently seen stalking along
in silent shores, while a low and regular wash of the little
waves, by announcing that the waters were not yet subsided,
furnished a frightful memorial of the deed of blood they had
just witnessed. Like all that passing and gloomy scene, the
low basin, however, quickly melted in the darkness, and
became blended with the mass of black objects in the rear of
Hawkeye soon deviated from the line of their retreat, and
striking off towards the mountains which form the western
boundary of the narrow plain, he led his followers, with
swift steps, deep within the shadows that were cast from
their high and broken summits. The route was now painful;
lying over ground ragged with rocks, and intersected with
ravines, and their progress proportionately slow. Bleak and
black hills lay on every side of them, compensating in some
degree for the additional toil of the march by the sense of
security they imparted. At length the party began slowly to
rise a steep and rugged ascent, by a path that curiously
wound among rocks and trees, avoiding the one and supported
by the other, in a manner that showed it had been devised by
men long practised in the arts of the wilderness. As they
gradually rose from the level of the valleys, the thick
darkness which usually precedes the approach of day began to
disperse, and objects were seen in the plain and palpable
colors with which they had been gifted by nature. When they
issued from the stunted woods which clung to the barren
sides of the mountain, upon a flat and mossy rock that
formed its summit, they met the morning, as it came blushing
above the green pines of a hill that lay on the opposite
side of the valley of the Horican.
The scout now told the sisters to dismount; and taking the
bridles from the mouths, and the saddles off the backs of
the jaded beasts, he turned them loose, to glean a scanty
subsistence among the shrubs and meager herbage of that
"Go," he said, "and seek your food where natur' gives it
you; and beware that you become not food to ravenous wolves
yourselves, among these hills."
"Have we no further need of them?" demanded Heyward.
"See, and judge with your own eyes," said the scout,
advancing toward the eastern brow of the mountain, whither
he beckoned for the whole party to follow; "if it was as
easy to look into the heart of man as it is to spy out the
nakedness of Montcalm's camp from this spot, hypocrites
would grow scarce, and the cunning of a Mingo might prove a
losing game, compared to the honesty of a Delaware."
When the travelers reached the verge of the precipices they
saw, at a glance, the truth of the scout's declaration, and
the admirable foresight with which he had led them to their
The mountain on which they stood, elevated perhaps a
thousand feet in the air, was a high cone that rose a little
in advance of that range which stretches for miles along the
western shores of the lake, until meeting its sisters miles
beyond the water, it ran off toward the Canadas, in confused
and broken masses of rock, thinly sprinkled with evergreens.
Immediately at the feet of the party, the southern shore of
the Horican swept in a broad semicircle from mountain to
mountain, marking a wide strand, that soon rose into an
uneven and somewhat elevated plain. To the north stretched
the limpid, and, as it appeared from that dizzy height, the
narrow sheet of the "holy lake," indented with numberless
bays, embellished by fantastic headlands, and dotted with
countless islands. At the distance of a few leagues, the
bed of the water became lost among mountains, or was wrapped
in the masses of vapor that came slowly rolling along their
bosom, before a light morning air. But a narrow opening
between the crests of the hills pointed out the passage by
which they found their way still further north, to spread
their pure and ample sheets again, before pouring out their
tribute into the distant Champlain. To the shout stretched
the defile, or rather broken plain, so often mentioned. For
several miles in this direction, the mountains appeared
reluctant to yield their dominion, but within reach of the
eye they diverged, and finally melted into the level and
sandy lands, across which we have accompanied our
adventurers in their double journey. Along both ranges of
hills, which bounded the opposite sides of the lake and
valley, clouds of light vapor were rising in spiral wreaths
from the uninhabited woods, looking like the smoke of hidden
cottages; or rolled lazily down the declivities, to mingle
with the fogs of the lower land. A single, solitary, snow-
white cloud floated above the valley, and marked the spot
beneath which lay the silent pool of the "bloody pond."
Directly on the shore of the lake, and nearer to its western
than to its eastern margin, lay the extensive earthen
ramparts and low buildings of William Henry. Two of the
sweeping bastions appeared to rest on the water which washed
their bases, while a deep ditch and extensive morasses
guarded its other sides and angles. The land had been
cleared of wood for a reasonable distance around the work,
but every other part of the scene lay in the green livery of
nature, except where the limpid water mellowed the view, or
the bold rocks thrust their black and naked heads above the
undulating outline of the mountain ranges. In its front
might be seen the scattered sentinels, who held a weary
watch against their numerous foes; and within the walls
themselves, the travelers looked down upon men still drowsy
with a night of vigilance. Toward the southeast, but in
immediate contact with the fort, was an entrenched camp,
posted on a rocky eminence, that would have been far more
eligible for the work itself, in which Hawkeye pointed out
the presence of those auxiliary regiments that had so
recently left the Hudson in their company. From the woods,
a little further to the south, rose numerous dark and lurid
smokes, that were easily to be distinguished from the purer
exhalations of the springs, and which the scout also showed
to Heyward, as evidences that the enemy lay in force in that
But the spectacle which most concerned the young soldier was
on the western bank of the lake, though quite near to its
southern termination. On a strip of land, which appeared
from his stand too narrow to contain such an army, but
which, in truth, extended many hundreds of yards from the
shores of the Horican to the base of the mountain, were to
be seen the white tents and military engines of an
encampment of ten thousand men. Batteries were already
thrown up in their front, and even while the spectators
above them were looking down, with such different emotions,
on a scene which lay like a map beneath their feet, the roar
of artillery rose from the valley, and passed off in
thundering echoes along the eastern hills.
"Morning is just touching them below," said the deliberate
and musing scout, "and the watchers have a mind to wake up
the sleepers by the sound of cannon. We are a few hours too
late! Montcalm has already filled the woods with his
"The place is, indeed, invested," returned Duncan; "but is
there no expedient by which we may enter? capture in the
works would be far preferable to falling again into the
hands of roving Indians."
"See!" exclaimed the scout, unconsciously directing the
attention of Cora to the quarters of her own father, "how
that shot has made the stones fly from the side of the
commandant's house! Ay! these Frenchers will pull it to
pieces faster than it was put together, solid and thick
though it be!"
"Heyward, I sicken at the sight of danger that I cannot
share," said the undaunted but anxious daughter. "Let us go
to Montcalm, and demand admission: he dare not deny a child
"You would scarce find the tent of the Frenchman with the
hair on your head"; said the blunt scout. "If I had but one
of the thousand boats which lie empty along that shore, it
might be done! Ha! here will soon be an end of the firing,
for yonder comes a fog that will turn day to night, and make
an Indian arrow more dangerous than a molded cannon. Now,
if you are equal to the work, and will follow, I will make a
push; for I long to get down into that camp, if it be only
to scatter some Mingo dogs that I see lurking in the skirts
of yonder thicket of birch."
"We are equal," said Cora, firmly; "on such an errand we
will follow to any danger."
The scout turned to her with a smile of honest and cordial
approbation, as he answered:
"I would I had a thousand men, of brawny limbs and quick
eyes, that feared death as little as you! I'd send them
jabbering Frenchers back into their den again, afore the
week was ended, howling like so many fettered hounds or
hungry wolves. But, sir," he added, turning from her to the
rest of the party, "the fog comes rolling down so fast, we
shall have but just the time to meet it on the plain, and
use it as a cover. Remember, if any accident should befall
me, to keep the air blowing on your left cheeks--or,
rather, follow the Mohicans; they'd scent their way, be it
in day or be it at night."
He then waved his hand for them to follow, and threw himself
down the steep declivity, with free, but careful footsteps.
Heyward assisted the sisters to descend, and in a few
minutes they were all far down a mountain whose sides they
had climbed with so much toil and pain.
The direction taken by Hawkeye soon brought the travelers to
the level of the plain, nearly opposite to a sally-port in
the western curtain of the fort, which lay itself at the
distance of about half a mile from the point where he halted
to allow Duncan to come up with his charge. In their
eagerness, and favored by the nature of the ground, they had
anticipated the fog, which was rolling heavily down the
lake, and it became necessary to pause, until the mists had
wrapped the camp of the enemy in their fleecy mantle. The
Mohicans profited by the delay, to steal out of the woods,
and to make a survey of surrounding objects. They were
followed at a little distance by the scout, with a view to
profit early by their report, and to obtain some faint
knowledge for himself of the more immediate localities.
In a very few moments he returned, his face reddened with
vexation, while he muttered his disappointment in words of
no very gentle import.
"Here has the cunning Frenchman been posting a picket
directly in our path," he said; "red-skins and whites; and
we shall be as likely to fall into their midst as to pass
them in the fog!"
"Cannot we make a circuit to avoid the danger," asked
Heyward, "and come into our path again when it is passed?"
"Who that once bends from the line of his march in a fog can
tell when or how to find it again! The mists of Horican are
not like the curls from a peace-pipe, or the smoke which
settles above a mosquito fire."
He was yet speaking, when a crashing sound was heard, and a
cannon-ball entered the thicket, striking the body of a
sapling, and rebounding to the earth, its force being much
expended by previous resistance. The Indians followed
instantly like busy attendants on the terrible messenger,
and Uncas commenced speaking earnestly and with much action,
in the Delaware tongue.
"It may be so, lad," muttered the scout, when he had ended;
"for desperate fevers are not to be treated like a
toothache. Come, then, the fog is shutting in."
"Stop!" cried Heyward; "first explain your expectations."
"'Tis soon done, and a small hope it is; but it is better
than nothing. This shot that you see," added the scout,
kicking the harmless iron with his foot, "has plowed the
'arth in its road from the fort, and we shall hunt for the
furrow it has made, when all other signs may fail. No more
words, but follow, or the fog may leave us in the middle of
our path, a mark for both armies to shoot at."
Heyward perceiving that, in fact, a crisis had arrived, when
acts were more required than words, placed himself between
the sisters, and drew them swiftly forward, keeping the dim
figure of their leader in his eye. It was soon apparent
that Hawkeye had not magnified the power of the fog, for
before they had proceeded twenty yards, it was difficult for
the different individuals of the party to distinguish each
other in the vapor.
They had made their little circuit to the left, and were
already inclining again toward the right, having, as Heyward
thought, got over nearly half the distance to the friendly
works, when his ears were saluted with the fierce summons,
apparently within twenty feet of them, of:
"Qui va la?"
"Push on!" whispered the scout, once more bending to the left.
"Push on!" repeated Heyward; when the summons was renewed by
a dozen voices, each of which seemed charged with menace.
"C'est moi," cried Duncan, dragging rather than leading
those he supported swiftly onward.
"Ami de la France."
"Tu m'as plus l'air d'un ennemi de la France; arrete ou
pardieu je te ferai ami du diable. Non! feu, camarades, feu!"
The order was instantly obeyed, and the fog was stirred by
the explosion of fifty muskets. Happily, the aim was bad,
and the bullets cut the air in a direction a little
different from that taken by the fugitives; though still so
nigh them, that to the unpractised ears of David and the two
females, it appeared as if they whistled within a few inches
of the organs. The outcry was renewed, and the order, not
only to fire again, but to pursue, was too plainly audible.
When Heyward briefly explained the meaning of the words they
heard, Hawkeye halted and spoke with quick decision and
"Let us deliver our fire," he said; "they will believe it
sortie, and give way, or they will wait for reinforcements."
The scheme was well conceived, but failed in its effects.
The instant the French heard the pieces, it seemed as if the
plain was alive with men, muskets rattling along its whole
extent, from the shores of the lake to the furthest boundary
of the woods.
"We shall draw their entire army upon us, and bring on a
general assault," said Duncan: "lead on, my friend, for your
own life and ours."
The scout seemed willing to comply; but, in the hurry of the
moment, and in the change of position, he had lost the
direction. In vain he turned either cheek toward the light
air; they felt equally cool. In this dilemma, Uncas lighted
on the furrow of the cannon ball, where it had cut the
ground in three adjacent ant-hills.
"Give me the range!" said Hawkeye, bending to catch a
glimpse of the direction, and then instantly moving onward.
Cries, oaths, voices calling to each other, and the reports
of muskets, were now quick and incessant, and, apparently,
on every side of them. Suddenly a strong glare of light
flashed across the scene, the fog rolled upward in thick
wreaths, and several cannons belched across the plain, and
the roar was thrown heavily back from the bellowing echoes
of the mountain.
"'Tis from the fort!" exclaimed Hawkeye, turning short on
his tracks; "and we, like stricken fools, were rushing to
the woods, under the very knives of the Maquas."
The instant their mistake was rectified, the whole party
retraced the error with the utmost diligence. Duncan
willingly relinquished the support of Cora to the arm of
Uncas and Cora as readily accepted the welcome assistance.
Men, hot and angry in pursuit, were evidently on their
footsteps, and each instant threatened their capture, if not
"Point de quartier aux coquins!" cried an eager pursuer, who
seemed to direct the operations of the enemy.
"Stand firm, and be ready, my gallant Sixtieths!" suddenly
exclaimed a voice above them; "wait to see the enemy, fire
low and sweep the glacis."
"Father! father!" exclaimed a piercing cry from out the
mist: "it is I! Alice! thy own Elsie! Spare, oh! save
"Hold!" shouted the former speaker, in the awful tones of
parental agony, the sound reaching even to the woods, and
rolling back in solemn echo. "'Tis she! God has restored
me to my children! Throw open the sally-port; to the field,
Sixtieths, to the field; pull not a trigger, lest ye kill my
lambs! Drive off these dogs of France with your steel."
Duncan heard the grating of the rusty hinges, and darting to
the spot, directed by the sound, he met a long line of dark
red warriors, passing swiftly toward the glacis. He knew
them for his own battalion of the Royal Americans, and
flying to their head, soon swept every trace of his pursuers
from before the works.
For an instant, Cora and Alice had stood trembling and
bewildered by this unexpected desertion; but before either
had leisure for speech, or even thought, an officer of
gigantic frame, whose locks were bleached with years and
service, but whose air of military grandeur had been rather
softened than destroyed by time, rushed out of the body of
mist, and folded them to his bosom, while large scalding
tears rolled down his pale and wrinkled cheeks, and he
exclaimed, in the peculiar accent of Scotland:
"For this I thank thee, Lord! Let danger come as it will,
thy servant is now prepared!"
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