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Can You Forgive Her?
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The Trollope Project - Archives > Can You Forgive Her? Chapters 33-38: Oct 22-28

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message 1: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1800 comments Mod
Poor Alice-what has she done? It quickly becomes apparent that there is no love on either side in this new engagement. Alice, having entered into a second engagement with her cousin for vague reasons of wanting to assist him financially to enter politics, now realizes that there is more to marriage than an exchange of money.

George Vavasor is turning out worse and worse. He would perhaps have been a better man if he were not so desperate for money, and yet he will go forward with this clearly doomed marriage for the sake of Alice's savings.

John Grey now appears clearly to be the better man, both in Alice's eyes and no doubt in the view of most readers. What do you think he is scheming at to spare Alice her fortune, and do you think this is a good plan?

Is Trollope commenting on the difficulty of entering politics for all but the independently wealthy?


message 2: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rosemarie | 2785 comments Mod
Poor Alice indeed. She is in a horrible situation and can see no way out. Maybe something will happen to George?
Alice is also a lonely young woman. Her mother died when she was young, I think, and her father spends most of the time at his club. Not only that, their home is ugly.
As for the politics, the money that George spends on electioneering shows how corrupt the system was. Without unlimited funds, the chance of getting elected are slim. George is mistaken if he thinks he has a chance to win. Not only will he not win, he will be in debt.

The meeting between Kate and George shows that maybe Kate is developing some scruples as to her behaviour to Alice, since she doesn't want to write to ask her for money.
George has sunk even lower and thinks only about the money--always the money and his own wishes.


Phrodrick Since some one has finally noticed that the Palliser novels are called the political novels, maybe a mo on that topic makes sense.

Elections cost money. Not always a matter of corruption but a matter of fact. In fact the amounts of money we have seen discussed are high, but not really. Milady's jewels may well have cost 10 or 100 times what an election might cost some candidates. Many would need none.

OTOH there was almost nothing like the modern problem of fund raising. Members of the house most often had money and the amounts required were along the lines of a night's gambling money.

Among the things that made British politics of the time peculiar:
1. You did not have to live in the borough were you run for office.
Some of the money was so that the electors would know your name.
2. There were some borrows that were in a person's pocket , so called pocket borrows, meaning that the local landlord or similar big wig could guaranty the turnout of the electors. (More about them in a mo.) If that person did not want to be in the House of Commons (the position was without pay) they could hand it off to anyone, for any reason.

3. Reapportionment was pretty much unknown, creating so called rotten burrows, where very few people lived.

4. Voter enfranchisement was tiny. So a small number of voters, the so called electors; and no secret ballot. With a few people allowed to vote, and all of them known by name, and all votes cast in public... it was easy to insure that the votes went your way. You could lean on anyone who owed you anything and make miserable anyone who did not follow instructions. This was almost openly done and very rarely challenged.

I realize that none of this is romantic, and therefore it is easy to slough off, but this is part of what these books are about.
BTW Trollope had political ambitions but never got elected, He just Might have had an ax to grind.


message 4: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2066 comments Mod
Thanks for the info about voting. We saw some of this in Dickens, such as The Pickwick Papers. It's a shame Alice couldn't have been the one in politics, as she actually wants to do something. It seems George wants the glamour and power but I doubt he is interested in the issues. If Alice can't do it herself, she can help George. This is the opposite of Glencora, who really doesn't want to do anything to help Planty.

I was surprised when I read this section that Alice would change her mind yet again. Yes, John looks better now, but once she is buried in his estate, will she regret the opportunity she thought she had to make a difference in helping George? Will she just get tired of John's company? She is already tired of George. It seems there was a spark between them earlier on, but now she is just repulsed. She's not passionate about either man, maybe not in general. She's trying to choose the lesser of evils.

It's common for heroes/heroines in Victorian novels to be orphans. This is convenient for the story as no parents are there to intervene in the plot. As Rosemarie pointed out, Alice is practically an orphan who raised herself. When her father tries to order her around, she reminds him that she is independent now.

Alice is the opposite of Lily in Small House who made up her mind once and would never change it regardless of circumstances, which was annoying. Alice is annoying in a whole new way. Each time she makes a decision, she quickly comes to regret it.


LindaH | 97 comments Alice wants to be effective at something in public life, thus her attraction to George’s interest in politics and her repulsion concerning John’s desire to stay at home. I could see her in the early women’s rights movement. Maybe Trollope wants us to consider in his title not just Alice’s plight but the plight of the ambitious independent woman at the time.


message 6: by Madge UK (last edited Oct 23, 2017 01:21AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments Among the things that made British politics of the time peculiar:
1. You did not have to live in the borough were you run for office.


You still do not have to live in the constituency where you become an MP although candidates in safe seats are strongly encouraged to do so.

The spelling is Rotten Boroughs, not borrows. A borough is an administrative district comprising several villages and towns which raise their own taxes in addition to government taxes.

Trollope is referencing the discussion then taking place around the Reform Acts which took such patronage away from the aristocracy and weakthy farmers, 'Squires', and made constituencies of a more equal size by redrawing boundaries. Until that time the bribery of voters was common, often by the issue of free beer on voting day and a village could have as few as 7 voters and yet elect 2 MPs. Also, voting was not secret so a landlord could tell who his tenants were voting for. Palliser, as a Liberal, is aware of the unfairness of this system and eventually ceases to interfere in the elections within his hereditary jurisdiction thereby reflecting the mood of the era.

http://spartacus-educational.com/PRro...


message 7: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments Trollope wasn't much of a feminist in politics but he had a career minded mother and highly respected his wife so was receptive to p.o.v. being debated in his lifetime. His narrative regarding Alice therefore reflects the arguments on The Woman Question which were raging around him.

The reason there are so many orphans in Victorian novels is because mortality rates were so high and there were many deaths due to childbirth, disease and accidents at work. This is why Victorians became so morbid about death, as we see in Widow Greenow's mourning attire and attitude toward the death of her husband. Child mortality and a mother's death at birth, or soon after, was extremely high and led to a cult surrounding death, later encouraged by Queen Victoria's excessive mourning after Prince Albert's death.

http://www.unhingedhistorian.com/2012...


message 8: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1800 comments Mod
Robin wrote: "Alice is the opposite of Lily in Small House who made up her mind once and would never change it regardless of circumstances, which was annoying. Alice is annoying in a whole new way. Each time she makes a decision, she quickly comes to regret it. "

Agreed in one sense, however I remember thinking that Alice was the same as Lily in that she has this overdeveloped sense of what she ought to do, and so carries forward on a path which she doesn't want to be on as she feels there is some moral obligation to do so-in Lily's case, never to marry anyone else once she had chosen one man, In Alice's case to marry George and carry on his life's work, even though she feels no attraction to him whatsoever.


LindaH | 97 comments Thanks for the info about politics at the time. I now can appreciate the leverage the pub-owner had in his meeting with George, as well as the weight pubs would have getting political support. Also, George needs more money than other candidates because he is already in debt.

What is John Grey planning? He seems to be doing a very smart thing, to test George publicly so that Alice will see his true character. “I wish that he should have what money he wants, and then we shall find what it is he really wants.” Grey thinks that Alice will come to him when she thinks her funds are gone, but I don’t see Alice doing that. Grey, with his plan, could win the battle but not the war.

Re the narrator’s remarks about his delicate reader forgiving her, Alice, by the end of the book ...I’m not sure I forgive “him” for calling the reader “delicate”!


message 10: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments I don’t think Alice knows at all what she wants out of life after this section. Could it be that Trollope is commenting upon the new type of woman who has decided she wants more out of life than being the Angel in the House? If Alice had wanted to accept this role, she would have married John Grey, an honorable but traditional man, in the first place. The fact that she would have had to subserve herself to his desires would have been fine. However, she wanted to assert her independence. The problem is she keeps changing her mind as to how to accomplish this. That she wants to aid George in his election demonstrates her interest in things outside the home, but is she genuinely committed to this? Since she changes her mind every minute, I’m not totally convinced. Does deciding to move beyond the traditional have to mean chaos? Trollope asks if we can forgive Alice, so does he have an opinion on this new type of woman or is he only pointing out the possible consequences of forging a new path?

If anyone had any doubt as to George’s character, his true nature is firmly established. Even his sister is having a hard time with him.

John Grey, who always was honorable but seemed dull, now is being portrayed as misunderstood by Alice and, in fact, is quiet capable of passion.


message 11: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2066 comments Mod
it seems everyone is competing to buy off George. I don't think Alice has any illusions about him. John may think he is showing George's true colors but Alice already understands that, I think. Now if it were just a matter of George needing money to get out of debt, I think things would be different. But of course he's going to use her money for everything. I find it hard to believe that George had success in a couple of different fields before this story started. Although he does have a talent for manipulation, as we saw with his performance of selling his horse.


message 12: by Hilary (new) - added it

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 181 comments Oh dear, I find myself cringing somewhat at Alice's not appearing to know her own mind, but then I suppose 'noble' society, as it was then, must carry a share of the blame - the pressure that was placed on these, if not unsuspecting, at least, unprepared young monied people, was shocking. How could they be sure what it was that they wanted out of life?! It seems that Alice suffered from not knowing her own mind and little wonder! Pressures from different corners must have made it terribly confusing for her!


Renee M | 747 comments I just got finished reading everyone's posts and now I'm starting to think of Alice as a college student who keeps changing her major. It seems that she is choosing not only a life-partner with whom to create a family and home, but the person through whom she has the only hope of influencing the world around her. That's a pretty tough choice. Originally, I was frustrated with her, but now I'm not surprised that she's over-thinking.


Renee M | 747 comments Just finished Chapter 38. George is such a manipulator! Twisting everything Kate says in order to get his way. (Oh, I hate people like that! ) I love that Trollope shows how Kate is twisted into thinking agreeing that she will write to her aunt and Alice to get money for him if he will come and be reconciled to his grandfather... which is only for his own benefit. I hope someone mistakes him for a fox!


message 15: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments As I keep reading, I change my mind about the ending of the question “Can You Forgive Her?” Can we forgive her (Alice) for jilting the honorable John Grey, can we forgive her for absolutely not knowing her own mind, can we forgive her for wanting more from her life than being a subservient and dutiful wife and mother? Since we’re only half way through, I’m sure the list will keep growing!


message 16: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments And what about forgiving Glencora and the Widow Greenow? And Victorian society (including Queen Victoria) for putting them in those situations? Or is it the men we really have to forgive, including Trollope?


message 17: by Hilary (new) - added it

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 181 comments Haha, Renee, that's just what it's like: changing her majors, though at least then she would only be messing with her own life, oh and perhaps a few caring family members!

I had thought that John Grey was a controlling horror; so patronising, but I don't think that I could trust George as far as I could throw him.

Yes, Linda, who is the lady for whom forgiveness might be treasured? Does she or will she feel the need to be forgiven? Indeed, Madge, what about Glencora and Mrs Greenow? Who is immune? It may well be that, in Victorian Times, a man was exempt from such requirements. It seems to me that the automatic obedience that is expected from the wife almost outlaws any scenario whereby men might 'fall from grace'!


message 18: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments And let us not absolve religion from these scenarios since it was the Church's idea that a woman's place was in the home etc, indeed that everyone had a god-given place, as the hymn said:

The rich man in his castle
The poor man at his gate
God made them high or lowly
And ordered their estate


Phrodrick "The reason there are so many orphans in Victorian novels is because mortality rates were so high and there were many deaths due to childbirth, disease and accidents at work. This is why Victorians became so morbid about death, as we see in Widow Greenow's mourning attire and attitude toward the death of her husband."


Small Point both parents have to die to be an orphan, so we may as well mention regular occurrences of the various wars and military suppressions were also part of Pax Britanica.

That said: Of Victorian Orphans, the subject is a major plot driver in The Pirates of Penzance the topic is a major comedic plot device -
Fredrick . Well, then, it is my duty, as a pirate, to tell you that you are too tender-hearted. For instance, you make a point of never attacking a weaker party than yourselves, and when you attack a stronger party you invariably get thrashed.

Pirate King. There is some truth in that.

Fred. Then, again, you make a point of never molesting an orphan !

Sam. Of course : we are orphans ourselves, and know what it is.

Fred. Yes, but it has got about, and what is the consequence ? Every one we capture says he's an orphan. The last three ships we took proved to be manned entirely by orphans, and so we had to let them go. One would think that Great Britain's mercantile navy was recruited solely from her orphan asylums — which we know is not the case.


message 20: by Madge UK (last edited Oct 25, 2017 08:55PM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments Phodrick: 'Foundlings' became de facto orphans - as in Oliver Twist, Tom Jones etc. 'Foundlings' were children abandoned by poor women, often servants seduced by employers. 74% of London children died before they were 5 in the 1700s and Thomas Coram was so appalled by the dead and dying children he saw on the streets that he campaigned for a Foundling Hospital which was built in 1739 to accommodate such children and was funded by Hogarth and Handel. Dickens was a later patron. It is a Museum now and has a cabinet full of heartrending little tokens of love left by mothers when they parted with their children. (Remember how Oliver was identified...) These children were taught trades and yes, quite a few ended up in the army and navy which is why Gilbert & Sullivan featured them. Coram had been a merchant seaman. Major childrens' homes like Barnardos were founded by Victorians because of the continuing high incidence of orphans and abandoned babies.

https://foundlingmuseum.org.uk/about/...

http://www.coram.org.uk/thomas-corams...


Phrodrick Thanks for the additional info,

I suspect that given that the young ladies of Pirates are Wards in Chancery, and the Pirates are all gentlemen and all orphans (later noblemen) it is possible , not necessary that almost all of the cast were foundlings.
But because of class were or had been wards in...

Maj. General Stanley. (aside) Hah! an idea! (aloud) And do you mean to say that you would deliberately rob me of these, the sole remaining props of my old age, and leave me to go through the remainder of my life unfriended, unprotected, and alone?

Pirate King. Well, yes, that’s the idea.

General. Tell me, have you ever known what it is to be an orphan?

Pirates. (disgusted) Oh, dash it all!

King. Here we are again!

General. I ask you, have you ever known what it is to be an orphan?

King. Often!

General. Yes, orphan. Have you ever known what it is to be one?

King. I say, often.

Pirates. (disgusted) Often, often, often. (Turning away)

General. I don’t think we quite understand one another. I ask you, have you ever known what it is to be an orphan, and you say “orphan”. As I understand you, you are merely repeating the word “orphan” to show that you understand me.

King. I didn’t repeat the word often.

General. Pardon me, you did indeed.

King. I only repeated it once.

General. True, but you repeated it.

King. But not often.

General. Stop! I think I see where we are getting confused. When you said “orphan”, did you mean “orphan” – a person who has lost his parents, or “often”, frequently?

King. Ah! I beg pardon – I see what you mean – frequently.

General. Ah! you said "often", frequently.

King. No, only once.

General. (irritated) Exactly – you said “often”, frequently, only once.


message 22: by Madge UK (last edited Oct 26, 2017 11:37PM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments Wards too are generally orphans or foundlings so G&S are referencing a well known social problem in Victorian society just as Trollope is. Such children were thought to be the product of illegitimate, immoral liaisons and represented the seamy side of an outwardly respectable life. Like The Woman Question they were a topic of conversation among Victorian social reformers and as such were frequently characters in ĺiterature and art.

Orphans continue to appear in literature - Harry Potter is an Orphan - as a bildungsroman motif and as a representation of someone who is free from the trappings of convention, who can do anything, go anywhere.

Alice is a bildungsroman figure in that we see her taking a journey through life that adds to her education and growth as a person. She is also orphan-like in that she has no mother and a feckless father.

https://www.britannica.com/art/bildun...


Susan | 9 comments Renee wrote: "I just got finished reading everyone's posts and now I'm starting to think of Alice as a college student who keeps changing her major. It seems that she is choosing not only a life-partner with who..."

I couldn't agree more on your description of Alice! I had been struggling with the Alice being believable as a thrice engaged Victorian.

In finishing the chapters, my sympathies definitely moved from George to John as far as character and intention. Originally I felt sorry for George and thought he was a more complex individual and now he seems more vile.

I think John's intentions are more honorable but at times does not play well reading with a modern sensibility. I wonder if I had been reading at the time of publication if I would not find John to be more of a romantic/sympathetic character.


message 24: by Brian (last edited Nov 24, 2017 11:23PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brian Reynolds | 698 comments I agree with Susan that Trollope intends the reader to admire and root for John Grey but that modern readers find certain traits less attractive than Victorian readers. But then Victorian readers' favorite Trollope heroine was Lily Dale.
Grey's steadfast devotion to Alice seems, despite what he says, more a possessive devotion to having Alice as his wife. Trollope portrays Alice as seeing his persistence as showing the passion she thought he was missing, which makes her more attracted to him. And yet she was intending to make a more passionless decision on her spouse choice.
I think Alice and John Grey would be a good fit if they would compromise and just spend more time in London, I just wouldn't want to hang out with them.
And, yes, George is now being portrayed as merely vile. Its Burgo that is more complicated, Yet not really complicated, since he's actually endearingly simple; he's just evoking differing reactions at differing times.


Phrodrick "George is now being portrayed as merely vile"

Or the real person, beneath is being disclosed?


message 26: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1800 comments Mod
I think George could have gone either way, but poverty and falling into the clutches of a dishonest agent in trying to run a campaign turned him bitter and angry, and he could not control his temper. George with the sort of comfortable means (such as Palliser has) to run his campaign and smooth his way might have turned out quite differently.


message 27: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments I agree with Susan that Trollope's intends the reader to admire and root for John Grey

Or perhaps Trollope is signifying that he is as grey as his name?


message 28: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rosemarie | 2785 comments Mod
I have to say this:

There are many shades of grey.


message 29: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments LOL


message 30: by Phrodrick (last edited Nov 25, 2017 07:31AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Phrodrick Re George:
There is in the English, esp of this period a certain disregard for the "Striver" aka the "Sweat".
Roughly analogous to the American Nerd. Only roughly.

Because class is something you inherit, and along with it money and along with it automatic standing and automatic preference; anything that looks like your working too hard means that you are not old money, or not the scion of an ancient title.

The national romance, esp in the late Victorian era is that either it is your due, by birth or the making of extra effort marks you as a lessor being.

Again roughly analogous to the the notion that a true English beauty has very pale skin. In those days a tan meant that you had to work and even worse work outdoors. Hence de classe.

There is a case to be made that George is a striver and therefore a poor fit into a social structure that prefers style over effort. In the same way we look down on Plentagenet because he is more involved with work than his social and romantic duties.

I think a closer look at what Trollope both hints at and says outright is that George is not fundamentally a good person.

A problem as a 21st Century reader has with any of these characters: in a different milieu, or beginning from different starting points many of them would be different persons.

My mother had an expression; the cleaned up version is:
If my Aunt was painted red and had four wheels and a handle she would be a little red wagon.


message 31: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments Susan wrote: "Renee wrote: "I just got finished reading everyone's posts and now I'm starting to think of Alice as a college student who keeps changing her major. It seems that she is choosing not only a life-pa..."
I agree that John Grey cannot be seen as anything other than honorable and that he does love Alice. However, my reaction to him (which might be 21st century) concerns whether or not he is the right choice for Alice. At the point in the novel where Alice definitely does not want to be married to someone who will be the master of their lives instead of someone who is looking for collaboration in a marriage, I agree with her decision that John would not be the proper choice for her husband. I know couples where the husband definitely exerts more control than I would tolerate, but if it works for them, then no problem. Alice at first seemed to be in the mold of the more modern Victorian woman, whereas John Grey was more the traditional Victorian man. However, Alice’s constant indecision does leave us wondering if she has any clue as to what she truly wants.
I also agree that while Trollope has nuanced George’s character to a certain extent, that he does express guilt over certain behavior, he fundamentally is not a good person.


message 32: by Lori, Moderator (last edited Dec 07, 2017 08:37AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1295 comments Mod
I also thought that she and John Grey wouldn't be a good match, and that she would be wasting her intellect with him. However, she appears to really love him.

I hope she doesn't marry George (and I doubt she will). As to whether or not she marries John Grey, there are both advantages and disadvantages there. Looking forward to see what happens.

I'm wondering whether Grey's scheme will work, as George especially wants to take Alice away from him and may not give up so easily when he finds out what Grey is up to.


message 33: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1295 comments Mod
John Grey is a good man with good intentions. His way of thinking and speaking may be a bit paternalistic for modern sensibilities - and maybe for Alice too, and this part of him might make her unhappy. But his heart is in the right place, at least


message 34: by Brian (last edited Dec 07, 2017 11:12AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brian Reynolds | 698 comments Lori wrote: "I also thought that she and John Grey wouldn't be a good match, and that she would be wasting her intellect with him. However, she appears to really love him.

Yes, Trollope does give us the impression that Alice would find a life with Grey to be boring and 'grey.' At first, there was more emphasis on their differing lifestyle choices than any 'love' talk.


message 35: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1295 comments Mod
I was thinking, and it occurred to me that Alice's best option would actually be to marry Jeffrey Palliser :-D

No, she doesn't love him, but she might or might not care about that now.

She likes him and he doesn't repulse her the way George does (although she wasn't repulsed by George until he came to her as a lover this last time). And he likes her, and could probably fall in love with her.

He's also into politics, and would probably be more likely to succeed and get a seat without losing all his (and her) fortune than George.

George thinks women are fools and, though he respects Alice more than he does other women, he would be unlikely to listen to her opinions, so she'd be unlikely to have any political influence.

With Jeffrey, Alice's opinions may actually count. Of course, we don't know him well enough to know that, but he just seemed to be a guy who would listen to a woman's advice, so Alice may be allowed to have some political influence through him since, sadly, she wouldn't have had any on her own.

Highly unlikely to happen, but just a thought :-D


message 36: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1800 comments Mod
I also thought they would be a great match, and then Alice and Glencora would be sisters, rather than cousins! He also seems quite a likeable young man, with more fun in him than his brother!


message 37: by Bonnie (last edited Feb 24, 2018 03:22PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bonnie | 217 comments It is certainly vile that George is willing to take the PRINCIPAL, not the income, of his cousin's and/or sister's small fortunes. If he takes 2000 pounds that is 20% of Alice's annual gone -- not just this year, but for the rest of her days. And that is the total of what Kate has. (Why isn't Kate's opinion of her brother lower than what it is? She can see that he is not honorable, in fact easier than others can because he is more honest and open with her.)

Also, how does George expect to make any of this campaign money back? I figured the Members of Parliament don't make much since it is only rich people who run; Phodrick said they didn't get paid at all. So how is running any kind of investment into his future? Not to mention that it is quite a gamble because he might not win the election. Only one guy can win!

He apparently has business skills and is willing to work, because he twice before made a lot of money. How about he goes back to work for a few years to make some money, and then he can run for MP if he wants?! I am going to go back to early chapters and re-read about his business projects.


message 38: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2066 comments Mod
I found it hard to believe in his early business successes, seeing how entitled and self-centered he is in this part of his life.


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