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William and Louisa Anderson
Part III - Old Calabar Period, 1849-1889, & Closing Years, 1889-1895
Chapter 24


Changes in Old Calabar—Death of Mr. Ashworth, 1871—Mr. George Thomson's Sanatorium—Ordination of Ukpabio, 1872 —Arrival of Rev. D. Campbell—Deaths of King Archibong II., etc.—"Young Calabar"

On Aug. 8, 1871, the first anniversary of the death of Mr. Lewis, Mr. George Ashworth, the European missionary teacher at Creek Town, died from debility following a slight gastric derangement, after a little over twenty-seven months' service in Calabar. In his last letter to the Foreign Mission Secretary, dated June 27, he wrote:—

I have cause to thank God for the excellent health and strength I have enjoyed since I came to Old Calabar. 1 have not had one day's sickness, and I prefer both the climate and the country to that of my own. Of course we cannot expect all constitutions to be adapted to a tropical climate like this. "Some have come out here that ought to have remained at home," is what some people tell us, as if God's servants were not called upon to face danger, and even death, that the heathen may be brought to life eternal.

Dr. Robertson, writing of his death, remarked, "The will to serve long was taken for the deed"; and Mr. Anderson, writing on Aug. 10, said :—

To us at Duke Town the event appeared to be very sudden. We never heard of his illness till he had been dead eight hours ! It might be well to return to our old custom of signalling from one mission-house to another, though, to be sure, the progress of vegetation in some measure prevents this. Mr. Ashworth was of an ardent poetic temperament, which is, perhaps, not the best for a climate like this. I have no doubt that it suits him well where he is to-day. . . .

Our repeated bereavements may have a damping influence on the minds of some of the young men of the Church. This ought not to be the result. Surely no youth belonging to the United Presbyterian Church needs to be informed, though it might be well that all, both old and young, were occasionally reminded that "the post of danger is the post of honour."

May He, in whose hands are all hearts, incline some— yea, many—of the youth of the Church to buckle on their armour, and to come forth to "the help of the Lord—the help of the Lord against the mighty"! . . .

At this time appeals for four missionaries (two of them ordained), besides a medical missionary for Old Calabar, were appearing in the Missionary Record.

On Dec. 22, 1871, Mr. Anderson wrote a letter, addressed to Rev. J. Law, George Gray, John Chisholm, James Duncan, and R. Elliot:—

Friends greatly Beloved and Esteemed,— I addressed you in this manner about the beginning of the year, when it was judged necessary for Mrs. A. to take a voyage and a change for restoration of shattered health. She speaks very warmly of the reception which she met from all old friends in what is in some measure to her a strange land. She feels especially indebted to you for the munificent donation which you subscribed for her. £10 in money and a quantity of goods beside was what she never dreamed of receiving from you or from any other. She was quite astonished when Mrs. Chisholm handed her the above-named sum as a contribution from you whose names are at the head of this page, and also (she thinks) from one or two others. May Eskbank not suffer for the liberality manifested towards us! "Blessed be ye in basket and store, in going out and coming in."

You will have heard ere now that she arrived here safe and sound on Nov. ist, having had a new experience at sea, however, viz. a taste of shipwreck. The Biafra was mercifully preserved, while other vessels, as good and strong, foundered. The last week of October was to me a very anxious one. We began to look out on the 22nd, and expected the Biafra every hour, but she appeared not. After an anxious watch of a week, we concluded that something had gone wrong. On Oct. 30th a steamer rounded Seven Fathoms Point. There she comes at length, yet, when she approaches, it is surely not the Biafra. A telescope enables us to read Lagos,— we hurry on board — what can have happened? The mind is made up for the worst, and it is a relief to hear, the moment we step on board, "The Biafra disabled in a gale in the Channel—put back to Falmouth for repairs — will be here in a week." Letters from herself soon put all right. The Lagos left A.M. Wednesday, November 1st; so we thought, Well, four or five days more and we may again look out for the Biafra. In three hours, however, my little people come jumping into my room to say, "Ma k'edi! Ma k'edi!" "Mammy is coining! Mammy is coming!" All right, though unexpectedly at the time, she comes, and we have renewed reasons for grateful acknowledgments to the Ruler of winds and waters. Hymn 104, U.P. Hymn-Book, suitable to us. She feels greatly benefited by the change, and continues active and vigorous as in her earlier days.

Matters are moving on pretty smoothly with us just now. King Archibong is always wonderfully civil, but immersed in superstition. Would to God that it were otherwise! I often remember what Mr. Law said to me when I was spending a day with him in Innerleithen in 1857—"It would be a great matter to get some of your kings converted. The soul of a slave is doubtless as valuable as that of a king, but from his position a converted king could do more good than a converted slave." Notwithstanding the coldness of some of our great men and the opposition of others, our influence is being extended. We have had larger congregations on Sabbath at Duke Town this year than during any previous year. There are some of whom we have good hope, even although they have not become members of the Church. There is a young man, of whom till lately I knew but little, a slave of an apostate member of the Church, and manager of his master's business. Some months ago he was sent to one of the interior markets, but would on no account trade on Sabbath. It came to his master's ears that he (the slave) had lost some splendid opportunities of both buying and selling, owing to his Sabbath-keeping. On his return he was called to account, and acknowledged that he had not traded on God's day, as his heart would not allow him to break God's law. His master was very wroth— chained him to a post on a daily allowance of a morsel of yam and a glass of water, declaring that he should remain there till he should promise to trade as other market-people do. A week passed away, but no promise of amendment could be wrung from the lad (Asuquo Etifit). His services were again needed, and he went off again to market, avowing to his master, as well as to others, his resolution never to trade on the day of God. I knew nothing of all this till weeks after it had occurred. Though not a member of the Church, I wish all who are so would walk as consistently as he. . . .

We are withal rather presumptuous here. We are preparing a Memorial for next meeting of Synod, urging on in our small way the union of the Churches. I sometimes said in services at home—and we are all of the same mind on the matter—"Here is a small town with, say, 3000 to 4000 inhabitants—and, behold, 2 Established Churches— 1 or 2 Free—1 or 2 U.P.—a Baptist—a Congregationalist —and a Methodist—7 or 8 churches and ministers: now, it is a downright shame to see the means of the Church frittered away in that style," etc. etc. Here is poor Duke Town, with its 6000 inhabitants and the 60,000 belonging to its plantations, with only one church and one minister ! Is this right?

In the Annual Report for 1S71, Dr. MacGill, in giving details from the pen of Mr. Anderson regarding Duke Town, said:—

Mr. Anderson continues to labour with unabated vigour in preaching and teaching, and has done even more in visiting from house to house than during former years. He refers to another period of his own " unbroken health " ; and, as an evidence of the great benefit Mrs. Anderson derived from her brief visit to this country, notes that in a great measure she has renewed her youth. Miss Patterson, a new European agent from Jamaica, after teaching for four months at Duke Town, was removed to Ikoneto, where her services are much required. Mrs. Sutherland, to whose indefatigable and most useful labours among the women Mr. Anderson always bears the most emphatic testimony, has been following out her wonted winning and persistent course of usefulness in visiting her own sex. She has thereby drawn many to the house of God, and "has continued," says Mr. Anderson, "her great work among the masses of women who are not allowed to attend either church or market." ... A very fine spirit, due to the influence of the Mission, has fallen on the headmen of young Henshaw Town. The chiefs of the town, over whom our missionary has gained a pleasing and just ascendency, are desirous of "raising the tone of morality among their people, and delivering both themselves and their dependents from the reign of superstition." To the influence of this movement, in a great degree, Mr. Anderson ascribes the fact that the Sabbath attendance at Duke Town during 1871 has exceeded that of any other period ; and he is thankful for the past and trustful for the future.

The statistics for the year are as follows:—

European Female Teacher—Mrs. Sutherland. Native Teachers—William Cobham and James Ballantyne. Members ......... 47

Sabbath attendance in Church.....400

Candidates.........14

Sabbath-school pupils.......150

Day-school pupils.......120

Contributions— £51. 18s. 0½d

Out-stations—Henshaw Towns (North and South), Efut, and Ed'i'be-Edibe.

With reference to the day-school, Mr. Anderson said:—

William Cobham has been nominally in charge of the school; but owing to his absence for a month at Dr. Robb's Training Institution, and to repeated attacks of sickness since, which have prostrated him somewhat, I have had a good deal of the teaching work to attend to myself. The attendance has not been encouraging. Our proximity to the shipping, and especially now that we have four or five steamers monthly, gives strong inducements to our rising young men, and particularly to the more energetic among them, to abandon continuous study, and devote themselves to commerce.

In the general introduction to the Report of the Old Calabar Mission for 1871, Dr. MacGill wrote:—

Our mission in West Africa has proved a trying one. It has cost life as well as labour and funds; but, with all our regrets over those graves, to which no less than three were added during the year before last, yet no labourer in that insalubrious and depressing climate has ever hinted at abandonment. On the contrary, all our brethren in the field unite in urging its claim, and in asking additional labourers; and from their near and vivid view of the obduracy of the field, and of the inadequate number who labour in it, repeat words which have an awful pathos there, however coldly they may be uttered here: "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few." After many earnest appeals repeated for years, we have succeeded in obtaining the services of one missionary, the Rev. Dugald Campbell, who has completed his medical as well as his theological curriculum, and has put himself at the disposal of the Mission Board for Calabar. As Duke Town has the strongest claim, on his services, whether regard is had to the number of agents there, or to the amount of the population, it has been resolved that he be located at that interesting station as the colleague of Mr. Anderson.

It is only justice to the Mission Board to mention their cordial appreciation of the services of George Thomson, Esq., architect, who, after a long and deeply-cherished interest in the Old Calabar Mission, has spontaneously devoted himself, and no small amount of time and means, to the solution of a problem, in practically resolving which he hopes to provide our own and other missionaries on the West African coast with an asylum where they may find shelter from fever and death without returning to this country. Without attempting to answer his own earnest questions upon this subject by correspondence, he resolved to go and see. Accordingly, at his own charges and at the risk of his life, he has gone to try the country, and to find some mountain retreat for the missionaries, far above the miasma of the climate. . . . He has swept along its coast; he has ascended its rivers; he has visited its mission stations far and near. He has done what few attempted before; he has climbed its mountains, and has found, as he thinks, a summit [Cameroons] where a debilitated missionary, by dint of breathing fresh air, without returning to this country, might by God's blessing obviate a fatal fever, and prolong his days for future service. Though no official correspondence has taken place between Mr. Thomson and the Mission Board, yet the Board, considering the importance of the enterprise, and the self-denial displayed in the attempt to carry it into effect, has authorised their Secretary ... to express their cordial appreciation of an undertaking so disinterested and an object so important.

It is a matter for regret that the United Presbyterian Church has never taken steps to establish a sanatorium for its missionaries in Calabar, as other missionary societies working on the West Coast have done. A change to another station does not mean a change of climate. A regular holiday change each year is even more necessary in Calabar than at home; but such change and rest are impossible to be got in Calabar itself. A few days' trip to Opobo in the mail steamer is all that can be got now that Calabar is one of the termini of the West Coast boats, and the boats for the South-West Coast no longer call at Duke Town.

The Report goes on to notice the ordination of the first native pastor:—

There is yet one other fact in the history of this Mission which we hope will render 1872 a memorable year, and that is the ordination of the first convert of the Old Calabar Mission, Ukpabio, to the Christian ministry. Every month goes to deepen the conviction of those who think most anxiously on the subject, of the necessity of developing a native ministry. While our experience in Calabar has gone to prove that West Africa, and Central Africa too, beyond the eastern mountains seen in clear weather from our mission stations, can be converted to Jesus Christ, yet that experience has also demonstrated that we have no right to expect this to be done without a native ministry. The first ordination, therefore, of an African negro to read and to expound that Efik Bibje which our Mission has given them, in a language having not one scrap of literature when that negro first saw our missionaries, is an epoch in the history of Calabar which calls for devout thanks to God.

Esien Esien Ukpabio was licensed on January 9, and ordained by Mr. Goldie on April 9, the twenty-sixth anniversary of the Mission. A vigorous ordination charge was delivered in Efik by Mr. Anderson from Tim. iv. 14-16,and the congregation was addressed by Mr.Edgerley.

In anticipation of the arrival of a colleague, Mr. Anderson wrote a letter, in giving extracts from which Dr. MacGill said:—

The Rev. W. Anderson, writing under a recent date, begins the following communication with allusions to his abundant labours. lie is entitled to do so, for his work comprises constant and exhausting occupation as a schoolmaster as well as a missionary, his conviction being that one of the most effectual means of exerting Christian influence upon the Efik race is in the school, upon the minds and hearts of the rising generation.

Mr. Anderson wrote:—

At the risk of being considered egotistical, I feel it but right to state that, owing to the sickness of one of my teachers and the opening of a second school by the other, the burden of the work of the day-school devolves almost continuous on me. I wish the attendance were greater than it is, but at the same time I find it sufficient to tax all my energies, when viewed in connection with my other work. I have three full services on Sabbath, besides Sabbath school to attend to both forenoon and afternoon. I have four evening meetings to conduct weekly, palavers to settle now and then, and house-to-house visitation, in so far as I can overtake it. My Saturday half-holiday is devoted to preparation for Sabbath, and announcing its approach to the natives. Days, weeks-, and months sweep past so quickly that I have often to leave past and future to take care of themselves. I am rejoicing in hope that, ere many weeks more pass away, a brother possessed of youth and vigour will relieve me from several of my present engagements.

In glancing over my recent very brief jottings, I find that deaths have been occurring at the usual rate among both Europeans and natives; that there have been several bad cases of administering the esere, which led to the usual amount of remonstrance and condemnation on the part of the Mission; that there have been reported to us, but without that proof which would warrant a charge of breach of treaty, a number of murders of twin children; that one twin was saved and brought to the mission-house, where it died in a few days; that there have been several cases of murder among the natives—one a very bad case, for which a prince of the blood (a son of the late King Eyamba's) was condemned to die, but he made his escape to Fernando Po; that two native women were lately admitted to the fellowship of the Church. I find two very pleasant entries—one in reference to a young man, [See ante, p. 497. Asuquo Etifit Nsa, now an elder in Duke Town Church. There is an interesting letter from him in the article, "Young Men at Duke Town " (Record, May 1873)] not a member of the Church, who was put in chains by his master for refusing to trade, when at the interior markets, on the Sabbath. He was kept chained to a post for a week, in expectation that he would give in and promise to act like others in time to come ; but he was firm, and was at length released unconditionally. A few Sabbaths ago I observed that his master and he were sitting quite near each other in church. . . .

When lately visiting Henshaw Town North—it is separated from Duke Town by a small creek—I was earnestly requested by several of the influential men there to send over a teacher daily for the instruction of their children and people. They expressed themselves quite willing to build a schoolhouse, if I would ask King Archibong's consent, and get it, to such a step. The population is, I think, from 300 to 400, and there is a larger proportion of children among them than among the Duke Townites; so I promised to do for them what I could. On an early day thereafter I took over James Ballantyne with me to begin operations. On my recommendation, one of the headmen gave us the use of his yard, in order that we might see whether a considerable number would attend regularly, before they should be at the trouble of erecting a schoolhouse. For a time James had between 50 and 60 pupils daily, 10 or 12 of them adults; but latterly, owing to numbers having gone off to the plantation, the attendance has been from 20 to 30. The population of that suburb is very fluctuating.

After having considered the matter for a long period, we have introduced a change in the hours of public worship in the afternoon. The heat has often been so great from two o'clock to four that neither natives nor Europeans could engage in divine service with comfort; so we meet in the afternoon at the following hours:— Sabbath school, three; Efik service, four; English, five. The change has been kept up for some time, and we find that it answers well.

Our friend Mr. George Thomson had held a meeting with the young men connected with the Church, and had given them a good deal of information about societies of young men in Scotland, whose object is to use efforts for the spread of the truth in destitute localities, and had suggested to them that it would be well were they to go and do likewise. This led them to request me to call a meeting to consider the subject. When that meeting was held, ten of the male members of the Church formed themselves into a society for Christian work, and agreed to rules and regulations which they had previously requested Mr. Thomson to prepare. The work then agreed on was the regular visitation of the town and surrounding settlements. This work had been engaged in before, but in a desultory manner. Their formation into a society gave a fresh impulse to their efforts, and has proved very beneficial.

Of the arrival of the Rev. Dugald and Mrs. Campbell on July 7, Mr. Anderson wrote:—

They had been long looked for, and our rejoicing on account of their arrival was proportionately great. We earnestly pray that both may be long spared to each other and to the important work on which they are entering.

Mr. Anderson wrote as follows, on Aug. 28, 1872, regarding the deaths of Archibong II. and David King, and Charles Haddison :—

I embrace the earliest opportunity of intimating to you that King Archibong n. died here, after a reign of thirteen years, on Monday evening last, the 26th inst. This is the date given officially, but many allege that he died the previous day. All agree, however, in regard to the fact that he is now in his grave.

Mr. Anderson received, in answer to questions about the king's health, the two following notes, the one signed by "Big Adam," the king's secretary, and both signed by George Duke:—

Aug. 26, 1872.

Mr. Anderson, My dear Friend,—It is not so. Except yesterday king had so much strong sick, and we have not allow any persons to go inside the king's house. Yesterday I been over yon to doctor house. One time doctor come and give medicine, other time he give me medicine to give king ; but now king very sick.

George Duke.

Duke Town, Old Calabar,
August 27, 1872.

Mr. Anderson, My dear Friend,—I am very much sorry indeed to write you this few lines for let you know that our King Archibong n. is no more here: the death has carry him away. Now he is died, in truth. Just now I trusting you well.—Yours very truly,

Big Adam Duke and George Duke.

From all that I can hear, I conclude that King Archibong has died as he lived, without God and without hope. I visited him Saturday after Saturday for many years, but he avoided as much as possible anything like attention to the truths of the gospel. Four Saturdays bygone I have not been permitted to see him. I suppose that he and his attendants knew that I would "make palaver" about the idiong by which he kept himself surrounded. His brother, Adam Archibong, now blind, will probably be his successor as king. I do not anticipate that the change will affect the operations of the Mission.

Another death took place on Sabbath morning [Aug. 25], viz., David King, king of Ikorofiong. David was the first man who was baptized at this station, but he has been neither a comfort nor an ornament to the Church. He ran well—or at least appeared to do so—for a few years, but fell away—alas, how sadly! In company with Mr. Campbell I saw him about a week before his death. Mr. Campbell warned him that his end was near; and I reminded him of past privileges and professions, and entreated him to make renewed application to the blood which cleanseth from all sin; but he seemed utterly callous. I prayed with him briefly, but there was nothing like an Amen from him. In some respects his deathbed was surrounded by a deeper gloom than that of King Archibong. Both have been men of blood, but King Archibong has not to deplore apostasy from the truth.

On the 19th inst. one of our Church members, Charles Haddison by name, entered on his rest. He has led a quiet, consistent Christian life for six or seven years. What a difference between his deathbed and those of the heathens at no great distance! He died in faith, committing his spirit with almost his latest breath into the hands of the great Mediator. These solemn dispensations call upon all of us to work while it is day. The night cometh.

On Sabbath, 14th ult., three young women, natives of neighbouring countries, were received into the fellowship of the Church by baptism.

During this month and the last we have had no fewer than six marriages, which we look upon as indicating progress.

Mr. Anderson gave in the Record for May 1873 some touching sketches of Young Calabar, which revealed something of the heart of the minister as well as of the youths in whom he was so deeply interested, one of which is subjoined :—

James Ballantyne has just been thrown on me by Providence—was bought by I Ienry Cobham, perhaps fifteen or sixteen years ago, when little more than an infant— a little slave—found wonderful attraction at school —dozed away for days and nights at the mission-house— then missed by Henry, sent for, beat, cursed, tied to a post—when loosed, would remain about his master's premises till he saw he was forgotten—off to school and the mission premises again—again missed, sent for, scolded, beat, tied to a post. Up to us again—another capture—another escapade (this may be amusing to read, but it causes the big salt tears to course down my cheeks)—till at length, when I had spoken to Henry the twentieth time in his behalf, he (Henry) exclaimed, to my satisfaction, "That little boy too bad boy ; I no fit to keep him; he run away all time; I no want to see him no more; let him stand for you." So he has "stood for me" —is now about twenty years of age, I suppose—is a member of the Church—has assisted William Cobham and myself in school for three years or so-—can write tolerably good English—can parse any common English sentence— is now at the second conjugation Latin Grammar—writes very full outlines of my Sabbath discourses, both Efik and English—and promises to be a useful agent of the Mission.

In the Annual Report for 1872 it is noted:—

Mr. Anderson's district has in it now, its politics, its incipient public opinion, its antagonisms and affinities, if not its factions. The influence of the gospel has stimulated any thought or enterprise it has attained above mere trade in palm oil and rum. The extent of the moral changes already produced consists of a thousand details, difficult to be realised or numbered. It is saying much, but it is after all a feeble understatement of the fact, to affirm that the change produced is worth the labour of thirty years.

After referring to the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, and the death of Archibong II., Mr. Anderson says:—

A brother of King Archibong, known as yet by the name of Adam Archibong, is likely to be his successor. Already he executes the office of king. Adam is nearly if not altogether blind; and he will prove as a ruler very much what his Cabinet will make him. One of our old scholars, who now styles himself Prince Eyamba, seems to be already installed as Prime Minister.

Our Henshaw Town young men have for a considerable time been desirous to have a king of their own, and to be an independent community. But they have damaged their cause very much by precipitate action. Their best friends both in the Mission and in the river advised them to go on quietly building their town, drawing to it a large population, clearing off all debts to the shipping, increasing their trade, etc., till they should be able to command the respect of all neighbours and rivals, and tlien to consider any change in their position. But, instead of acting thus, they determined some months ago that they would have a king immediately. So they procured a sort of crown from a Dutch supercargo, and a few weeks ago they crowned their headman, calling him King Henshaw ill. This aroused the hostility of Duke Town, whose grandees seem determined that no one in their neighbourhood, save one of themselves, shall bear the English title of "king." They are quite willing that the headman of Henshaw Town, like the other headmen of all the other towns in the whole region, should exercise regal or even imperial authority; but to call such a one by the name of "king" is, they say, an infringement of their prerogative. The young premier of Duke Town, with great diplomatic skill,—aided, however, by some masked European,— enlisted the white traders and the whole Egbo fraternity on the side of Duke Town versus Henshaw Town. The result of this coalition is that Henshaw Town has been compelled to surrender the crown and the regal title for the present. No one, so far as can be ascertained, denies the abstract right of the Henshaw Town people to act as they choose on their own territory, but there can be only one opinion as to the inexpediency of their late movement. They will be subjected to a heavy fine, not, it is said, for making a king, but for a serious breach of Egbo law in connection with the matter. The fine will likely be such as will cripple their resources and their energies for years to come.

Some time ago they requested the Presbytery to send them a teacher. They named Miss Patterson, as one whom they would like to have among them. The Presbytery granted their request, in expectation that they would contribute liberally for Miss Patterson's support. In their present circumstances it is not likely that they will be able to do much in the way of contribution.

In regard to the day-schools, Mr. Anderson wrote:—

Owing to the long-continued sickness of the senior native teacher [W. Cobham], the senior missionary has had to do duty as schoolmaster for ten months during the year. This has been a very serious hindrance to the very important work of visitation from house to house. Indeed, the question has often forced itself on the missionary, whether it would not be better in the circumstances to keep school only once a day, for two and a half or three hours, that he might be able to devote other two or three hours to household visitation. . . . There is also a small school of from 20 to 30 scholars, taught by one of our young men at Henshaw Town (North). It is but right to mention here that there are several small schools in the town taught by immigrants from Accra quarter, so that the 120 or 130 names on the roll-books of our mission schools must not be looked on as the secular education gauge of the kingdom of Duke Town.

Old Town, Walkerwood, [A station, about two miles from Old Town, sustained by the liberality of Captain J. B. Walker, F.R.S.E., a trader in the river and member of Duke Town Church.] Qua, etc., will henceforth be more immediately under the superintendence of our vigorous young brother, Mr. Campbell, just as the Creek Town out-stations are under that of the junior brother there, Mr. Edgerley. Efut and Edibe-Ed'ibe farms have been visited weekly by several of the native members of the Church.

The Rev. D. Campbell devotes a portion of his time to medical and surgical work; he has for about six months relieved his senior brother from most of the duties connected with the English services, both on Sabbath days and week days; he has been diligent in the study of the Efik tongue, and has so far mastered it as to be able to conduct the reading department at our Efik services on Sabbath. Mrs. Sutherland's work among the women has necessarily been interrupted by her quinquennial trip to the north. It is hoped she will return with renewed vigour for the prosecution of her important labours.


 


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