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Children's Rhymes. Children's Games, Children's Songs, Children's Stories
Schoolroom Facts and Fancies

These are so numerous as to demand a separate chapter.

Talking of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, a lady teacher asked her class what a serpent was like, when a boy aptly replied, "It's like a lang rope furlin'."

On another occasion, in the same class, the question was, "What does the devil tempt little boys and girls to do?" when the comical answer came, "To chap at fouk's doors, mem."

It has been often told, but is worth repeating, how a pupil teacher was doing his level best to make the children remember Samson's mighty deeds with the jawbone of an ass, and, recapitulating, he asked, "What did Samson slay ten thousand Philistines with? Eh?" No reply carne. Then, pointing to his jawbone, he asked, "What is this?" And at once the answer belched proudly from half-a-dozen throats in unison, "The jawbone of an ass."

In a country school the lesson was on "The Prodigal Son," and the question, "What were the husks that the swine did eat? " met with the prompt answer, "Tawtie peelin's."

In a city seminary a teacher asked her class, "Who knows everything we say and do?" when she received the unexpected reply, "The fouk that bides next door to us."

Expecting to get the answer "Carnivorous" (as it bore on the lesson), a teacher asked his class for an example of a bird of prey, and among other answers he got was "A yellow yite." The boy who responded so, on being asked to explain, continued, "Because it eats worms."

"What do you call the bird or beast that feeds on both animal and vegetable foods?" was the next question. The teacher anticipated "Omnivorous" this time, but it did not come. There was silence for a little. Then a boy, who evidently had been ruminating, responded nonchalantly, "A gutsy brute, sir."

In examining the boys in the composition of sentences, a master began: "If I ask you," said he, "what have I in my hand? you must not say simply 'Chalk,' but make a full sentence of it, and say, 'You have chalk in your hand.' Now I will proceed. What have I on my feet? " The answer came immediately, "Boots." "Wrong; you haven't been observing my directions," he rebukingly replied. "Stockings," another heedlessly ventured to answer. "Wrong again worse than ever," wrathfully exclaimed the magister. "Well?" he continued interrogatively to a lad near him. "Please, sir," then he paused perhaps he thought it might sound funny, but he felt it must be right, and so he recklessly gasped out "Corns!"

But the answers are not always so stupid.

"Why is it," asked a teacher, "the sun never sets on the British possessions?" "Because," slowly responded an ingenuous youngster, "the British possessions are in the north, south, and east, and the sun always sets in the west."

During; a recent School Board examination in the west of Scotland, the examiner asked a little girl to explain what was meant by the expression, He was amply rewarded. " Paid for't," was her instant reply.

"No, no; you are wrong. Suppose you have to go into a baker's shop and buy a half-quarter loaf, and lay down fourpence, would you say you had amply rewarded the baker?" Unhesitatingly she replied "Yes." "Why?" "Because the loafs only twopence-three-farthings," was the unlooked-for answer.

Quite like that is the story of a small boy into whose head a teacher was one day labouring almost in vain to get, as he thought, even the faintest correct notion of the first rule in arithmetic. "Look here now, Johnnie," he said at length. ''if I were to give you two rabbits and your father were to give you three rabbits, how many rabbits would you then have?" "Six." "No, no:" and the teacher set out bits of chalk to show how he could only have five. "Ah, but,' drawled out Johnnie, "I have a rabbit at hame already.''

It was a notion of multiplication that another teacher was endeavouring to get properly lodged within the skull of another boy, and by way of putting the effort to a practical test, he said: "Now, Peter, suppose I was at a tailor who supplied your father with a suit of clothes for three pounds, which he promised to pay me in weekly instalments of one shilling, how much would your father be due me at the end of a year?" "Three pounds," replied Peter slowly. "Nonsense, Peter; think again." Peter thought again, but again answered as before. "You don't know that simple sum!" exclaimed the teacher in amazement. "Ay, I ken it weel enough," responded Peter, "but ye dinna ken my faither.''

"Did any of you ever see an elephant's skin?" asked the master of an infant school. "I have," shouted a
six-year-old at the foot of the class. "Where?" "On the elephant."

A little boy of my acquaintance, while yet a pupil in the infant department, was one day given a slate more to engage his attention than aught else. But he had some notion of drawing, and when the teacher came round she was astonished to find he had set down a fair picture of a bird on a bough. "Ha! who drew this?": she asked. "Mysel'," was the canny Scotch reply. "And who's mysel'?" she queried. "Oh, I'm fine," was the second response, not less Scotch than the first. The English reader, of course, won t fairly understand the word "fine" as spoken there; but every Scotsman will, as also how "who's" may be mistaken for "how's."

There is another "fine" story. It was asked of a class, "How did the Israelites get across the Red Sea?" "Fine," exclaimed a youth with brightening eyes; "'twas the 'Gyptians was droon'd."

"What do you mean by a temperate region?" asked an inspector of a class, putting due emphasis on the word temperate. "The region, sir," responded a boy "where they drinks only temperants drinks."

Not long ago a class of boys were being examined on the different kinds of wood; and one little chap was asked to name the specimen (a piece of mahogany) which was held in the examiner's hand. He hesitated, and the inspector, by way of suggestion, remarked, "Why, don't you know the materials that your mother's drawers are made of?" 1 This seemed to simplify the matter, and, amidst a roar of laughter came the quick reply "Flannelette!"

"Name anything friable," .said a teacher, "Ham." was the ready answer.

"What is a papal bull?"

"A golden calf."

"What is ice?"

"Water fast asleep."

"What is a skeleton?"

"A man without any meat on it."

A teacher was examining a class on the battle of Bannockburn, and asked, "Who killed de Bohun?"

No one knew. He raised his arm in an attitude of striking, and yelled, with flashing eyes, "Who killed de Bohun, I say?" A little fellow near him, who expected the blow, raised his arm in a defensive attitude, and whined, "Oh, please, sir, it wasna me."

"What is meant by faith?" was one day asked of a class. "Faith," responded a thoughtful youth, "is the faculty which enables us to believe things that we know to be not true."

In the lesson of a class of country boys not long ago, the words "above the average" occurred, and the lady teacher asked if any one could tell what the word "average" meant. There was no response for a time, and she passed the question from one to another until a more than average specimen eagerly responded, "It's a thing that hens lay on." The teacher was dumb-founded, and asked for an explanation. "Well," drawled the budding Solomon, "my mother says that our hens lay each four eggs a week on an average."

It is a teacher's business to observe that his scholars are clean as well as clever, and the Rev. David Macrae, in his entertaining little book of Quaint Sayings of Children, tells how a teacher, after glancing round the class one day, said to a boy, "I'll let you off if you can find a hand in all the school as dirty as that one," indicating the boy's own grimy exposed paw. The youth promptly brought forth and showed his other fist, which was certainly dirtier still, and the master, in view of his pledge, had no resource but to let the offender go for that time any way.

An old story, which has had a lively currency, tells of how a boy when he returned from school was always asked where he stood in his class, and whose invariable answer was, "I'm second dux." For the regular holding of this excellent position he received many fine things in the shape of sweets and biscuits, and pennies, etc., until at length it occurred to one of the family to ask him how many were in his class. It was then the gilt fell off the ginger-bread. "Oh," said he, "there's just me and anither lassie."

Dean Ramsay tells of a very practical answer given by a little girl who had been asked the meaning of "darkness," as it occurred in Scripture reading "Just steek your een." In the same place, he says, on the question, "What is the pestilence that walketh in darkness?" being put to a class, a little boy answered, after consideration, "Oh, its just bugs."

Our friend, Dr. John Ker, has often told of an occasion when he was examining a class in mathematics, and put the question to a boy "If a salmon weighed 16 Ibs., and was to be sold at 2d. per lb., what would it be worth?" and how the lad, who was the son of a fishmonger, hastily replied "It wadna be worth a curse!" Salmon at that price, I should say, would nowhere in these days be esteemed above suspicion, anyway. And boys will be frank, even although their replies at times appear more smart than respectful.

Once a Cockney manufacturer was taking part in a school examination, and asked a boy pompously "Wat's the capital of 'Olland?" "H," was the unconsciously smart reply given. And that recalls a good dialect story, under the early Board system,, which tells how an English clergyman and a Lowland Scotsman entered one of the best schools in Aberdeen. The master received them kindly, and enquired

"Would you prefer that I should spier (question) the boys, or that you should spier them?"

The English clergyman desired the master to proceed.

He did so with great success, and the boys answered satisfactorily numerous interrogatories as to the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. The clergyman then said he would be glad to "spier the boys," and at once began:-

"How did Pharaoh die?"

There was a dead silence.

In his dilemma the Lowland gentleman interposed.

"I think, sir, the boys are not accustomed to your English accent; let me try what I can make of them."

And he inquired in broad Scotch:-

"Hoo did Phawroah dee?"

Again there was a dead silence, upon which the master said"-

"Noo, boys, fat cam' to Phawroah at his hinner end?"

The boys with one voice answered

"He was drooned."

And a smart little fellow added:-

"Ony lassie could hae tell't ye that."

Not unlike the above is a story told by Dr. Ker. The venerable inspector was one day putting a class "through its facings," and asked a boy where the River Dee was. The answer came correctly, "In Aberdeenshire."

"Assuming quite a serious look (says Dr. Ker), I asked him if he was not mistaken, adding that I thought the Dee was in Kirkcudbright, and flowed into the Solway Firth. He was a bashful boy, and made no reply. To give the class a needed fillip, I appealed to them to settle whether I or the boy was right. To give a verdict against the inspector was, of course, not to be thought of, and there was silence for a time; but at last a boy put his hand to his mouth, and said to his neighbour in a stage whisper not meant for, but which reached my ear 'He disna ken there's twa Dees.'

Once by way of stimulant, the doctor asked a somewhat sleepy history class which of the four Georges
wore the largest hat? and a boy who had not till then opened his mouth, replied "Him that had the biggest heid."

In an Ayrshire town, immediately after the Whit-Sunday term a year or two ago, a female teacher asked her class of little ones to be sure all of them and bring their new addresses to her on the morrow, as these were required for the re-adjustment of the register.

"Please, mem," blurted out a wee fellow in petticoats, "my mither says I'm no' to get ony mair dresses. She's gaun to mak' a suit for me oot o' my faither's auld breeks."

Sunday school stories are not inferior to those of the week-day seminary in their irresistible fun and drollery.

A Sunday school teacher asked her scholars to learn an appropriate text to say as they gave in their pennies to the next collection. The first was "He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord; and all went well until it came to the last boy who, reluctantly dropping his penny into the box, said to the great amusement of teachers and scholars "The fool and his money are soon parted! "

As an example of the error of talking figuratively to those who do not appreciate, and who are apt to take
everything literally, a story is worth telling. The respected superintendent of a Sunday school had told his boys that they should endeavour to bring their neighbours to the school, saving that they should be like a train, the scholar being the engine, and his converts the carriages. Judge of his surprise when, next Sunday, the door opened during lessons, and a little boy, making a noise like an engine, ran in, followed by half-a-dozen others in single file at his back! He came to a halt before the superintendent, who asked the meaning of it all. The naive answer was "Please, sir, I'm the engine, and them's the carriages."

A Sabbath school teacher, at the finish of a lesson on "The Fall," asked "Now, children, what lesson can we learn from the story of Adam and Eve? Well, Johnnie?" Johnnie "Never believe what your wife says!"

A lady asked one of the children in her class, "What was the sin of the Pharisees?" "Eating camels, ma'am,'' was the reply. The little girl who answered had read that the Pharisees "strained at gnats and swallowed camels.'' "In what condition was the patriarch Job at the end of his life?" questioned a teacher
of a stolid-looking boy. "Dead," was the quiet response.

"What is the outward and visible sign in baptism?" asked a lady. There was silence for some seconds, and then a girl broke in triumphantly with, "The baby, please, mem."

The Rev. David Macrae tells that in a Brooklyn Sunday school a small boy was asked the question, "Who was the first man?" and, with characteristic American cocksureness, he immediately replied, "General Washington." The teacher smiled., then asked "Did you never hear of Adam?' "Why, yes," responded the child, "I've heard of Adam; but I didn't know you were counting foreigners."

Recently, in a Sunday school in Scotland, a little boy, who had been transferred to a new class, was asked on arrival if he had had the Shorter Catechism. For a moment he looked puzzled, and then replied
"I'm no sure, mem, until I ask my mither; but I ken I've had the measles."

Elsewhere, a teacher had been carefully explaining the parable of the Prodigal Son, and that done, she proceeded to put questions. All went well until near the close, when she asked, "Now, tell me who was not pleased to see the prodigal son when he came home," and to her consternation got the reply, "Please, ma'am, the fatted calf."

In a Sunday school in Ayrshire, attended chiefly by miners' children, the lesson for the day had been the
parable of the ten wise and ten foolish virgins, and the teacher asked "Can any one of you tell me why the virgins' lamps went out?" "I ken," immediately responded the dullest boy in the class; "it was the wicks that was needin' pykin'."

And the story is hoary with age of how a teacher, when the lesson had been read which bore on Jacob's
dream, invited questions from the class, and how one little fellow asked "Why did the angels need a ladder for ascending and descending when they had wings and could flee?" The teacher was nonplussed, but got out of the difficulty by saying "Perhaps some of the other boys can answer." "I think I ken," ventured a little fellow, whose father was a bird fancier, "maybe they wad be moultin' at the time."

His solutions may be extraordinary, but nothing, you see, can baffle the young wit. It was again in a Sunday school that a teacher had been instructing a class in the relative positions of man and the lower animals in the scale of intelligence, and wishing to test how the lesson had been imbibed, she asked "Now, what is next to man?" and got the answer promptly "His shirt."

"What is meant by a 'hireling'?' I was asked of a class in a day-school. "You are a hireling," responded a little fellow; "you are hired to teach us."

Giving a reading lesson to his class in the presence of an inspector, a teacher asked his boys what was
meant by conscience a word that had occurred in the course of the reading and the class having been duly crammed for the occasion answered as one boy "An inward monitor." "But what do you understand by an inward monitor?" put in the inspector. To this further question, only one boy announced himself ready to respond, and his triumphantly given answer was "A hironclad, sir."

Their definitions are at all times interesting, if not constantly reliable. After a reading of Gray's "Elegy" by a fourth standard class, the boys were asked what was meant by "fretted vaults," and one youth replied "The vaults in which these poor people were buried; their friends came and fretted over them." Asked what he understood by "Elegy,'' another boy in the same class answered "Elegy is some poetry wrote out for schools to learn, like Gray's 'Elegy.'

Asked to describe a kitten, a boy, after a moment's thought, replied "A kitten is remarkable for rushing like mad at nothing whatever, and stopping before it gets there."

Another boy's definition of a lie was probably the fruit of good experience. "A lie" said he, "is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord,, but a very present help in time of trouble."

Asked to define the expression, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." "It just means", responded a
little fellow, "that the evil committed at the present day is quite sufficient without any more."

In a sixth standard examination, a vacuum was recently described as "an empty space without anything in it;" and a compass, at the same time, was explained as "a tripod with a round or circular box surmounting it, which always points due north."

A Government inspector not long ago gave the following in a list of historical and other "facts" elicited from boys under examination:

"Of whom was it said 'He never smiled again'?

"William Rufus, and this after he was shot by the arrow."

"My favourite character in English history is Henry VIII., because he had eight wives and killed them' all."

"The cause of the Peasants' Revolt was that a shilling poultice should be put on everybody over sixteen."

"Henry VIII. was a very good king. He liked plenty of money, he had plenty of waves, and died of ulcers in the legs."

"Edward III. would have been king of France if his mother had been a man."

"Doomsday Book. - A book signifying that each man should have seven feet of land for a grave."

"Alexander the Great was born in the absence of his parents."

"What followed the murder of Becket?" "Henry II. received wacks with a birch.''

"What is a watershed?'' "A shed for keeping water in."

"A watershed is a house between two rivers so that a drop of water falling on one side of the roof runs into one river, and a drop on the other side goes into the other river."

"The battle of Waterloo was fought off Cape Trafalgar. Nelson led up one squadron and Collingwood the other. When it was over, Wellington rode over the field by moonlight, and met Blucher, the French general, and they shook hands and were friends ever after."

"The Feudal System lies between the Humber and the Thames."

"Caractacus was a Roman Emperor who had conquered Britain. He had to abandon it shortly afterwards because it was overrun by the Picts and the Scots."

"The principal products of Kent are Archbishops at Canterbury."

"The chief clause in Magna Charta was that no free man should be put to death or imprisoned without his own consent."

"What and where are the Pyramids?" "The Pyramids is a kind of night-lights as is generally used in the bed-rooms, but you can get Clark's as well."

"Where were the Kings of England crowned?" "On their heads."

"What were the most important Feudal dues?" "Friendship, courtship, marriage."

"What do you know of Dermot? " "Dermot's daughter married Magna Charta. Dermot himself married Strongbow."

"What do you know of Dryden and Buckingham?" "Dryden and Buckingham were at first friends, but soon became contemporaries."

"What is Milton's chief work?" "Milton wrote a sensible poem called the 'Canterbury Tails.'

"The gamut is a musical scale. The name is derived from gamut or catgut, the material from which the
strings of musical instruments used to be made."

An optimist is a man who looks after your eyes, and a pessimist is a man who looks after your feet."

"A man who looks on the bright side of things is called an optimist, and one who looks on the dull side is called a pianist."

Dr. Charles Wilson, in his general report on the Scottish Training Colleges, gives several curious answers which he had received from candidates and pupil-teachers. A young lady in commenting on the proverb, "Penny wise and pound foolish," wrote "This proverb clearly shows that for every wise and good action a man does, he will commit two hundred and forty foolish bad ones."

Under examination by Dr. John Ker, a boy wrote regarding Oliver Cromwell "Oliver Cromwell's eyes were of a dark grey, his nose was very large and of a deep, red colour, but underneath it was a truly religious soul."

Another wrote "By the Declaration of Indulgence people were allowed to worship God in their own way. Seven Bishops refused to do so. They were accordingly put on their trial and found not guilty."

Another declared that the Salic Law says "No one can be made King who was descended from a woman."

Speaking there of Oliver Cromwell, recalls the story of a boy's school essay which the late Mr. W. F. Gladstone was fond of telling albeit, the great Commoner had no very lively sense of humour. The "G.O.M.'s ' comically-mixed youthful historian wrote "Oliver Cromwell began his career by cutting off the head of his king, and when he was dying he said, "Had I served my God with half the zeal I have served my king, he would not in mine age have left me naked to mine enemies."

I have examples of other boys' essays not less surprising and entertaining.

"The horse," wrote a youthful Cuvier, in an essay on the "friend of man," "is a useful creacher. It eats corn, it is a sort of square animal with a leg at each corner, and has a head at one end and a tail at the other."

Here is a boy's essay on "Breath," well calculated to almost take any one's breath away "Breath is made of air. We breathe with our lungs, our livers, and our kidneys. If it wasn't for our lights and our breath we should die when we slept. Our breath keeps life agoing through the nose when we are asleep. Boys that stay in a room all day should not breathe. They should wait till they get outdoors. Boys in a room make carbonicide. Carbonicide is more poisonous than mad dogs. A heap of soldiers was in a black hole in India and carbonicide got into that black hole and killed nearly every one afore morning. Girls kill the breath with corsets that squeeze the diagram. Girls can't run or holler like boys because their diagram is squeezed too much. If I was a girl, I'd rather be a boy so I can run and holler and have a good big diagram."

The next looks rather knowing for a lad of eleven-and-a-half; but Dr. T. J. Macnamara, M.P., in an article on "Children's Witticisms," contributed to the New Liberal Review, vouches for its authenticity. The subject reveals itself in the work: "What I expect to do in my holidays is the greater part of the time to mind the baby. Two years and a half old. Just old enough to run into a puddle or to fall downstairs. Oh! what a glorious occupation, my aunt or Sunday-school teacher would say. But it is all very well for them; they ought to have a turn with him. I am going to have a game at tying doors, tying bundles of mud in paper, and then drop it on the pavement. I shall buy a bundle of wood and tie a piece of cord to it, and when some one goes to pick it up, lo! it has vanished not lost, but gone before. I shall go butterfly-catching, and catch some fish at Snob's Brighton (Lea Bridge). I shall finish up by having a whacking, tearing my breeches, giving a boy two black eyes, and then wake up on Monday morning refreshed and quite happy to make the acquaintance of Mr. -'s cane."

Dr. M. quotes the following as well the genuineness of which he also guarantees: "Man goes fishing, takes his rod and enough tackle to make a telegraph wire, and starts on his piscatorial expedition. He arrives, and happy man is he if he has not forgot something, a hook, his bait, or his float. He sits there, apparently contented; he catches a frog or some other fine specimen of natural history, and a cold, and a jolly good roasting from his bitter fellow half, when he arrives with some mackerel which he had bought at the fishmonger's. He, poor man, did not know that they were sea-fish, but his wife- did. When juveniles go fishing, they take a willow, their ma's reel of best six cord, a pickle jar. and a few worms, and proceed to the New River quite happy. When they arrive they catch about fifty (a small thousand, they call it), and are thinking of returning home, when a gent, with X.R. on his hat, and a good ash stick in his hand, comes up, 'Lllo. there,' says he, 'what are you doing there?' 'Fishing, sir,' answer they meekly. The man then takes away their fish and rod, and gives them some whales instead (on their back). And they return home sadder but wiser boys."

I can vouch myself for the genuineness of the next example, recently copied verbatim from the original manuscript in the possession of a friend in the teaching profession in Glasgow. The general subject had been "Athletic Sports," and a boy wrote: "Athletic sports is very useful football especially it strengthens the mussles, all sports is good for the helth for some people I think the best game is rugby there is more fun in it than anything else. I will give a description of football the Rangers have the best men that ever stood in the football park there is one man I know and that is Clias Raisback and he is center and a nother good player is Bobby M'Coll his wright wing and J. Drummond is another good player I think this is all about athletic sports I have got to say and I will never forget the good wee rangers the result was "Saturday Rangers 1 Morton 2". Good old Rangers. Isn't it beautiful?

To the question, "With what weapon did Samson slay the Philistines?" the correct answer has already been given, or extracted here; but I recall another, more ingenious, from a boy, who replied, "'With the axe of the Apostles."

"What are you talking about there?" demanded a teacher, addressing himself to the loquacious son of a
railway porter. But the teacher received no response, and was obliged to ask another lad who sat next the delinquent, "What was George talking about?" "Please, sir, he was saying as his father's trousers is
sent down to Brighton when they gets old, and they's made into sugar there, and that's how 'tis sugar 's gone down."

Home influences appeared in the answer of a child, whose father was a strong teetotaller, to the query "Do you know the meaning of syntax?" "Yes, syntax is the dooty upon spirits."

In reply to the question, "Why do we cook our food?" one child replied: "There are five ways of cooking potatoes. We should die if we eat our food raw." A second pupil wrote: "Food digested is when we put it into our mouths, our teeth chews it, and our mouth drops it down into our body. We should not eat so much bone-making food as flesh-making and warmth-giving foods, for, if we did, we should have too many bones, and that would make us look funny."

In answer to the question, "Mention any occupations that are injurious to health?' one child's reply was:
"Occupations which are injurious to health are carbonic acid gas, which is impure blood." Another responded: "A stone-mason's work is injurious, because when he is chipping, he breathes in all the little chips, and they are taken into the lungs." A third advanced the theory that "A boot-maker's trade is very injurious. because they press the boots against the thorax, and therefore it presses the thorax in. and it touches the heart, and if they do not die, they are cripples for life."

Finally, here is an extract from an essay on "The Moon," which in defiance of its title affords some very interesting glimpses of sublunary home life: "To look at the white moon shining threw your winder at night, sitting on the edge of the bed, and lissin to your father and mothers knives and forks rattlin on their plates while they are getting their nice suppers, is the prittist site you ever seed. When its liver and hunyens there a having, you can smell it all the way upstairs. It looks very brite and nearly all white. Once when they was a having fried fish and potaters I crept out of my bed-room to the top of the stairs all in the dark, just so as to have a better lissen and a nearer smell. I forget whether there was a moon that night. I don't think as there was, cose I got to the top of the stares afore I knew I was there, and I tumbled right down to the bottom of the stares, a bursting open the door at the bottom, and rolling into the room nearly as far as the supper table. My father thote of giving me the stick for it, but he let my mother give me a bit of fish on some bread, and told me to skittle off to bed again. I am sure there was not no moon, else I should have seed there wasn't a top stare when I put my foot out so slow. I only skratted my left eye and ear a bit with that last bump at the bottom, witch was a hard one, Stares are steeper than girls think, speshilly where the corner is."

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