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The Mark Of Cain
by Andrew Lang
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"But yours, when I first had the pleasure of meeting you, was not carrying you at all."

"Something had gone wrong with the mechanism," answered Winter, sighing. "It is always so. An inventor has many things to contend against. Remember Ark-wright, and how he was puzzled hopelessly by that trifling error in the thickness of the valves in his spinning machine. He had to give half his profits to Strutt, the local blacksmith, before Strutt would tell him that he had only to chalk his valves! The thickness of a coating of chalk made all the difference. Some trifle like that, depend on it, interfered with my machine. You see, I am obliged to make my experiments at night, and in the dark, for fear of being discovered and anticipated. I have been on the verge—nay, over the verge—of success. 'No imaginable invention,' Bishop Wilkins says, 'could prove of greater benefit to the world, or greater glory to the author.' A few weeks ago that glory was mine!"

"Why a few weeks ago?" asked Barton. "Was your machine more advanced then than when I met you?"

"I cannot explain what had happened to check its motion," said Winter, wearily; "but a few weeks ago my machine acted, and I may say that I knew the sensations of a bird on the wing."

"Do you mean that you actually flew?"

"For a very short distance, I did indeed, sir!"

Barton looked at him curiously: two currents of thought—one wild and credulous, the other practical and professional—surged and met in his brain. The professional current proved the stronger for the moment.

"Good-night," he said. "You are tiring and over-exciting yourself. I will call again soon."

He did call again, and Winter told him a tale which will be repeated in its proper place.



CHAPTER XIV.—Found.

"All precious things, discovered late, To those that seek them issue forth; For Love, in sequel, works with Fate, And draws the veil from hidden worth." —The Sleeping Beauty.

That Margaret and Barton were losing their hearts to each other could not, of course, escape the keen eye of Mrs. St. John Deloraine. She noticed that Margaret, though perfectly restored to health, and lacking only the clear brown over the rose of her cheeks, was by no means so light of heart as in the very earliest days of her recovery. Love makes men and women poor company, and, to speak plainly, takes the fun out of them. Margaret was absent-minded, given to long intervals of silence, a bad listener—all of them things hateful to Mrs. St. John Delo-raine, but pardoned, in this instance, by the benevolent lady. Margaret was apt to blush without apparent cause, to start when a knock came to the door, to leave the room hurriedly, and need to be sought and brought back, when Barton called. Nor was Barton himself such good company as he had been. His manner was uncertain and constrained; his visits began to be paid at longer intervals; he seemed to have little to say, or talked in fits and starts; and yet he did not know how to go away.

Persons much less clear-sighted than Mrs. St John Deloraine could have interpreted, without difficulty, this awkward position of affairs.

Now, like most women of her kindly and impulsive character (when it has not been refined away into nothing by social hypocrisies), Mrs. St. John Deloraine was a perfectly reckless match-maker. She believed in love with her whole heart; it was a joy to her to mark the beginnings of inclination in two young souls, and she simply revelled in an "engagement." All considerations of economy, prudence, and foresight melted away before the ardor of her enthusiasm: to fall in love first, to get engaged next, and to be married as soon as possible afterward, without regard to consequences of any kind, were, in this lady's mind, heroic actions, and almost the whole duty of men and women.

In her position, and with her opportunities, she soon knew all that was to be known about Margaret's affections, and also about Barton's.

"He's as much in love with you as a man can be, my dear," she said to Margaret "Not worthy of him? Your past a barrier between you and him? Nonsense, Daisy; that is his affair. I know you are as good a girl as ever lived. Your father was poor, no doubt, and that wretched Mr. Cranley—yes, he was a wretch—had a spite against you. I don't know why, and you won't help me to guess. But Mr. Barton is too much of a man to let that kind of thing disturb him, I'm sure. You are afraid of something, Margaret Your nerves have been unstrung. I'm sure I don't wonder at it. I know what it is to lose one's nerve. I could no more drive now, as I used to do, or go at the fences I used to think nothing of! But once you are married to a man like Mr. Barton, who is there can frighten you? And as to being poor," and Mrs. St. John Deloraine explained her generous views as to arrangements on her part, which would leave Margaret far from portionless.

Then Margaret would cry a little, and lay her head on her friend's shoulder, and the friend would shed some natural tears for company; and they would have tea, and Barton would call, and look a great deal at his boots, and fidget with his hat.

"I've no patience with you, Mr. Barton," said Mrs. St. John Deloraine at last, when she had so manouvred as to have some private conversation with him, and Barton had unpacked his heart. "I've no patience with you. Why, where is your courage? 'She has a history?' She's been persecuted. Well, where's your chivalry? Why don't you try your fortune? There never was a better girl, nor a pleasanter companion when she's not—when she's not disturbed by the nervousness of an undecided young man. If you don't take your courage in both hands, I will carry Margaret off on a yachting voyage to the Solomon Islands, or Jericho, or somewhere. Look here, I am going to take her for a drive in Battersea Park; it is handy, and looking very pretty, and as lonely as Tadmor in the wilderness. We will get out and saunter among the ponds. I shall be tired and sit down; you will show Margaret the marvels of natural history in the other pond, and when you come back you will both have made up your minds!"

With this highly transparent ruse Barton expressed his content. The carriage was sent for, and in less than half an hour Barton and Margaret were standing alone, remote, isolated from the hum of men, looking at a pond where some water-hens were diving, while a fish ("coarse," but not uninteresting) occasionally flopped on the surface, The trees—it was the last week of May—were in the earliest freshness of their foliage; the air, for a wonder, was warm and still.

"How quiet and pretty it is!" said Margaret "Who would think we were in London?"

Barton said nothing. Like the French parrot, mentioned by Sir Walter Scott, he thought the more.

"Miss Burnside!" he exclaimed suddenly, "we have known each other now for some time."

This was a self evident proposition; but Margaret felt what was coming, and trembled. She turned for a moment, pretending to watch the movements of one of the water-fowls. Inwardly she was nerving herself to face the hard part of her duty, and to remind Barton of the mystery in her life.

"Yes," she said at last; "we have known each other for some time, and yet—you know nothing about me."

With these words she lifted her eyes and looked him straight in the face. There seemed a certain pride and nobility in her he had not seen before, though her beautiful brown eyes were troubled, and there was a mark of pain on her brow. What was she going to tell him?

Barton felt his courage come back to him.

"I know one thing about you, and that is enough for me. I know I love you!" he said. "Margaret, can't you care for me a little? Don't tell me anything you think you should not say. I'm not curious."

Margaret turned back again to her inspection of the pond and its inmates, grasping the iron railing in front of her and gazing down into the waters, so that he could not see her face.

"No," she said at last, in a very low voice; "it would not be fair." Then, after another pause, "There is someone—" she murmured, and stopped.

This was the last thing Barton had expected. If she did not care for him, he fancied she cared for nobody.

"If you like someone better—" he was beginning.

"But I don't like him at all," interrupted Margaret. "He was very kind, but—"

"Then can't you like me?" asked Barton; and by this time he was very near her, and was looking down into her face, as curiously as she was still studying the natural history of Battersea Ponds.

"Perhaps I should not; it is so difficult to know," murmured Margaret. And yet her rosy confusion, and beautiful lowered eyes, tender and ashamed, proved that she knew very well. Love is not always so blind but that Barton saw his opportunity, and was assured that she had surrendered. And he prepared, a conqueror, to march in with all the honors and rewards of war; for the place was lonely, and a covenant is no covenant until it is sealed.

But when he would have kissed her, Margaret disengaged herself gently, with a little sigh, and returned to the strong defensible position by the iron railings.

"I must tell you about myself," she said. "I have promised never to tell, but I must. I have been so tossed about, and so weak, and so many things have happened." And she sighed.

However impassioned a lover may be, he does naturally prefer that there should be no mystery about her he adores. Barton had convinced himself (aided by the eloquence and reposing on the feminine judgment of Mrs. St. John Deloraine) that Margaret could have nothing that was wrong to conceal. He could not look at her frank eyes and kind face and suspect her; though, to anyone but a lover, these natural advantages are no argument. He, therefore, prepared to gratify an extreme curiosity, and, by way of comforting and aiding Margaret, was on the point of assuming an affectionate attitude. But she moved a little away, and, still turning toward the friendly ponds, began her story:

"The person—the gentleman whom I was thinking of was a friend of my father's, who, at one time, wanted him"—here Margaret paused—"wanted me to—to be his wife some day."

The rapid imagination of Barton conjured up the figure of a well-to-do local pawnbroker, or captain of a trading vessel, as the selected spouse of Margaret. He fumed at the picture in his fancy.

"I didn't like him much, though he certainly was very kind. His name—but perhaps I should not mention his name?"

"Never mind," said Barton. "I dare say I never heard of him."

"But I should tell you, first of all, that my own name is not that which you, and Mrs. St. John Deloraine know me by. I had often intended to tell her; but I have become so frightened lately, and it seemed so mean to be living with her under a false name. But to speak of it brought so many terrible things back to mind."

"Dear Margaret," Barton whispered, taking her hand.

They were both standing, at this moment, with their backs to the pathway, and an observer might have thought that they were greatly interested in the water-fowl.

"My name is not Burnside," Margaret went on, glancing over her shoulder across the gardens and toward the river; "my name is—"

"Daisy Shields!" cried a clear voice. "Daisy, you're found at last, and I've found you! How glad Miss Marlett will be!"

But by this time the astonished Barton beheld Margaret in the impassioned embrace of a very pretty and highly-excited young lady; while Mrs. St. John Deloraine, who was with her, gazed with amazement in her eyes.

"Oh, my dear!" Miss Harman (for it was that enthusiast) hurried on, in a pleasant flow of talk, like a brook, with pleasant interruptions. "Oh, my dear! I was walking in the park with my maid, and I met Mrs. St. John Deloraine, and she said she had lost her friends, and I came to help her to look for them; and I've found you! It's like Stanley finding Livingstone. 'How I Found Daisy.' I'll write a book about it. And where have you been hiding yourself? None of the girls ever knew anything was the matter—only Miss Mariett and me! And I've left for good; and she and I are quite friends, and I'm to be presented next Drawing Room."

While this address (which, at least, proved that Margaret had acquaintances in the highest circles) was being poured forth, Mrs. St. John Deloraine and Barton were observing all with unfeigned astonishment and concern.

They both perceived that the mystery of Margaret's past was about to be dispelled, or rather, for Barton, it already was dispelled. The names of Shields and Miss Marlett had told him all that he needed to know. But he would rather have heard the whole story from his lady's lips; and Mrs. St. John Deloraine was mentally accusing Janey Harman of having interrupted a "proposal," and spoiled a darling scheme.

It was therefore with a certain most unfamiliar sharpness that Mrs. St John Deloraine, observing that the day was clouded over, requested Margaret to return to the carriage.

"And as Miss Harman seems to have a great deal to say to you, Margaret," added the philanthropic lady, "you two had better walk on as fast as you can; for you must be very careful not to catch cold! I see Miss Harman's maid waiting for her in the distance there. And you and I, Mr. Barton, if you will give me your arm, will follow slower; I'm not a good walker."

"Now," said Barton's companion eagerly, when Margaret and Janey, about three yards in advance, might be conventionally regarded as beyond earshot—"Now, Mr. Barton, am I to congratulate you?"

Barton gave a little shamefaced laugh, uneasily.

"I don't know—I hope so—I'm not sure."

"Oh, you're not satisfactory—not at all satisfactory. Are you still shilly-shallying? What is the matter with young people?" cried the veteran of twenty-nine. "Or was it that wretched Janey, rushing in, like a cow in a conservatory? She's a regular school-girl!"

"It isn't that exactly, or at least that's not all. I hope—I think she does care for me, or will care for me, a little."

"Oh, bother!" said Mrs. St John Deloraine. She would not, for all the world, reveal the secrets of the confessional, and tell Barton what she knew of the state of Margaret's heart But she was highly provoked, and showed it in her manners, at no time applauded for their repose.

"The fact is," Barton admitted, "that I'm so taken by surprise I hardly know where I am! I do think, if I may say so without seeming conceited, that I have every reason to be happy. But, just as she was beginning to tell me about herself, that young lady, who seems to have known her at school, rushed in and explained the whole mystery."

"Well," said Mrs. Si John Deloraine, turning a little pale and looking anxiously at Barton, "was it anything so very dreadful?"

"She called her Daisy Shields," said Barton.

"Well, I suppose she did! I always fancied, after what happened at The Bunhouse, that that dreadful Mr. Cranley sent her to me under a false name. It was not her fault. The question is, What was her reason for keeping her real name concealed?"

"That's what I'm coming to," said Barton. "I have a friend, a Mr. Maitland."

"Mr. Maitland of St. Gatien's?" asked the widow.

"Yes."

"I know him."

"Yes, I have often heard him speak of you," said Barton. "Well, he had a protegee—a kind of ward, to tell a long story in few words—a girl whom he had educated, and whom he was under some kind of promise to her father to marry. The father died suddenly; the girl disappeared mysteriously from school at the same moment; and Maitland, after many efforts, has never been able to find out anything about her. Now, this girl's name, this girl in whom my friend was interested, was Margaret Shields. That is the very name by which your friend, Miss Harman, called Margaret. So, you see, even if I am right, and if she does care for me, what a dreadful position I am in! I want to marry the girl to whom my friend is, more or less, engaged! My friend, after doing his best to find his ward, and after really suffering a great deal of anxiety and annoyance, is living abroad. What am I to say to him?"

"Mr. Barton," said Mrs. St John Deloraine, "perhaps you alarm yourself too much. I think"—here she dropped her voice a little—"I think—I don't think Mr. Maitland's heart is very deeply concerned about Miss Shields. I may be wrong, but I know him pretty well"—she gave a little nervous laugh—"and I don't think he's in love with Margaret."

By the time she reached the end of this interrupted and tentative discourse Mrs. St. John Deloraine was blushing like a rose in June.

Barton felt an enormous weight lifted from his heart, and a flood of welcome light poured into his mind. The two philanthropists were in love with each other!

"He's an awfully good fellow, Maitland," he replied. "But you are right; I'm sure you are right. You must know. He is not in love with Margaret."

Mrs. St. John Deloraine seemed not displeased at the tribute to Maitland's unobtrusive virtues, and replied:

"But he will be very glad to hear that she is found at last, and quite safe; and I'll write to him myself, this very evening. I heard from him—about a charity, you know—a few days ago, and I have his address."

By this time they had reached the carriage. Janey, with many embraces, tore herself from Margaret, and went off with her attendant; while Mrs. St John Deloraine, with a beaming face, gave the coachman the order "Home."

"We shall see you to-morrow at luncheon," she cried to Barton; and no offer of hospitality had ever been more welcome.

He began to walk home, turning over his discoveries in his thoughts, when he suddenly came to a dead halt.

"By George!" he said out loud; "I'll go back and have it out with her at once. I've had enough of this shillyshally."

He turned and strode off in the direction of Cheyne Walk. In a few minutes he was standing at the familiar door.

"Will you ask Miss—Miss Burnside if she can see me for one moment?" he said to the servant "I have forgotten something she wished me to do for her," he added in a mumble.

Then he was taken into the boudoir, and presently Margaret appeared, still in her bonnet and furs.

"I couldn't help coming back, Margaret," he said, as soon as she entered the room. "I want to tell you that it is all right, that you needn't think—I mean, that I know all about it, and that there is nothing, nothing to prevent us—I mean" Margaret, if you really care for me—"

Then he came to a dead stop.

It was not a very easy situation. Barton could not exactly say to Margaret, "My dear girl, you need not worry yourself about Maitland. He does not care a pin for you; he'll be delighted at being released. He is in love with Mrs. St. John Deloraine."

That would have been a statement both adequate and explicit; but it could not have been absolutely flattering to Margaret, and it would have been exceedingly unfair to her hostess.

The girl came forward to the table, and stood with her hand on it, looking at Barton. She did not help him out in any way; her attitude was safe, but embarrassing.

He made a charge, as it were, at the position—a random, desperate charge.

"Margaret, can you trust me?" he asked.

She merely put out her hand, which he seized.

"Well, then, believe me when I tell you that I know everything about your doubts; that I know more than anyone else can do; and that there is nothing to prevent us from being happy. More than that, if you will only agree to make me happy, you will make everyone else happy too. Can't you take it on trust? Can't you believe me?"

Margaret said nothing; but she hid her face on Barton's shoulder. She did believe him.

The position was carried!



CHAPTER XV.—The Mark of Cain.

Next morning Barton entered his sitting-room in very high spirits, and took up his letters. He had written to Maitland the night before, saying little but, "Come home at once. Margaret is found. She is going to be my wife. You can't come too quickly, if you wish to hear of something very much to your advantage." A load was off his mind, and he felt as Romeo did just before the bad news about Juliet reached him.

In this buoyant disposition, Barton opened his letters. The first was in a hand he knew very well—that of a man who had been his fellow-student in Paris and Vienna, and who was now a prosperous young physician. The epistle ran thus:

"Dear Barton.—I'm off to the West of Ireland, for a fortnight People are pretty fit, as the season has not run far. Most of my patients have not yet systematically overeaten themselves. I want you to do something for me. Martin & Wright, the lawyers, have a queer little bit of medical jurisprudence, about which young Wright, who was at Oriel in our time, asked my opinion. I recommended him to see you, as it is more in your line; and my line will presently be attached to that eminent general practitioner, 'The Blue Doctor.' May he prosper with the Galway salmon!

"Thine,

"Alfred Franks."

"Lucky beggar!" thought Barton to himself, but he was too happy to envy even a man who had a fortnight of salmon-fishing before him.

The next letter he opened was in a blue envelope, with the stamp of Messrs. Martin & Wright. The brief and and formal note which it contained requested Dr. Barton to call, that very day if possible, at the chambers of the respectable firm, on "business of great importance."

"What in the world can they want?" thought Barton. "Nobody can have left me any money. Besides, Franks says it is a point in medical jurisprudence. That sounds attractive. I'll go down after breakfast."

He walked along the sunny embankment, and that bright prospect of houses, trees, and ships have never seemed so beautiful. In an hour he was in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and had shaken hands with young Wright, whom he knew; had been introduced to old Wright, a somewhat stately man of business, and had taken his seat in the chair sacred to clients.

"Dr. Barton," said old Mr. Wright, solemnly, "you are, I think, the author of this book?"

He handed to Barton a copy of his own volume, in its gray paper cover, "Les Tatouages Etude Medico-Legale".

"Certainly," said Barton. "I wrote it when I was in Paris I had plenty of chances of studying tattooing in the military hospitals."

"I have not read it myself," said old Mr. Wright, "because I am not acquainted with the French language; but my son tells me it is a work of great learning."

Barton could only bow, and mutter that he was glad Mr. Wright liked it. Why he should like it, or what the old gentleman wanted, he could not even imagine.

"We are at present engaged in a very curious case, Dr. Barton," went on the lawyer, "in which we think your special studies may assist us. The position is this: Nearly eight months ago a client of ours died, a Mr. Richard Johnson, of Linkheaton, in the North. You must excuse me if I seem to be troubling you with a long story?"

Barton mentioned that he was delighted, and added, "Not at all," in the vague modern dialect.

"This Mr. Richard Johnson, then, was a somewhat singular character. He was what is called a 'statesman' in the North. He had a small property of about four hundred acres, on the marches, as they say, or boarders of the Earl of Birkenhead's lands. Here he lived almost alone, and in a very quiet way. There was not even a village near him, and there were few persons of his own position in life, because his little place was almost embedded, if I may say so, in Lord Birkenhead's country, which is pastoral. You are with me, so far?"

"Perfectly," said Barton.

"This Mr. Johnson, then, lived quite alone, with an old housekeeper, dead since his decease, and with one son, called Richard, like himself. The young man was of an adventurous character, a ne'er-do-weel in fact; and about twenty years ago he left Linkheaton, after a violent quarrel with his father. It was understood that he had run away to sea. Two years later he returned; there was another quarrel, and the old man turned him out, vowing that he would never forgive him. But, not long after that, a very rich deposit of coal—a very rich deposit," said Mr. Wright, with the air of a man tasting most excellent claret—"was discovered on this very estate of Linkheaton. Old Johnson, without much exertion on his part, and simply through the payment of royalties by the company that worked the coal, became exceedingly opulent, in what you call most affluent circumstances."

Here Mr. Wright paused, as if to see whether Barton was beginning to understand the point of the narrative, which, it is needless to remark, he was not. There is no marked connection between coal mines, however lucrative, and "Les Tatouages, Etude Medico-Legale."

"In spite of his wealth, Mr. Johnson in no way changed his habits. He invested his money carefully, under our advice, and he became, as I said, an extremely warm man. But he continued to live in the old farmhouse, and did not, in any way, court society. To tell the truth, except Lord Birkenhead, who is our client, I never knew anyone who was at all intimate with the old man. Lord Birkenhead had a respect for him, as a neighbor and a person of the old-fashioned type. Yes," Mr. Wright added, seeing that his son was going to speak, "and, as you were about to say, Tom, they were brought together by a common misfortune. Like old Mr. Johnson, his lordship has a son who is very, very—unsatisfactory. His lordship has not seen the Honorable Mr. Thomas Cranley for many years; and in that lonely country the two boys had been companions in wild amusements, long before. He is very unsatisfactory, the Honorable Thomas Cranley;" and Mr. Wright sighed heavily, in sympathy with a client so noble and so afflicted.

"I know the beast," said Barton, without reflecting.

Mr. Wright looked at him in amazement and horror. "The beast!" A son of Lord Birkenhead's called "The beast!"

"To return to our case, Dr. Barton," he went on severely, with some stress laid on the doctor. "Mr. Johnson died, leaving, by a will made on his death-bed, all that he possessed to his son Richard, or, in case of his decease, to the heirs of his body lawfully begotten. From that day to this we have hunted everywhere for the man. We have traced him all over the world; we have heard of him in Australia, Burmah, Guiana, Smyrna, but at Smyrna we lose sight of him. This advertisement," said the old gentleman, taking up the outside sheet of the Times, and folding it so as to bring the second column into view, "remained for more than seven months unanswered, or only answered by impostors and idiots."

He tapped his finger on the place as he handed the paper to Barton, who read aloud:

"Linkheaton.—If Richard Johnson, of Linkheaton, Durham, last heard of at Smyrna in 1875, will apply to Messrs. Martin and Wright, Lincoln's Inn Fields, he will hear of something very greatly to his advantage. His father died, forgiving him. A reward of L1,000 will be paid to anyone producing Richard Johnson, or proving his decease."

"As a mixture of business with the home affections," said old Mr. Wright proudly (for the advertisement was of his own composition), "I think that leaves little ta be desired."

"It is admirable," said Barton—"admirable; but may I ask——"

"Where the tattooing comes in?" said Mr. Wright. "I am just approaching that. The only person from whom we received any reliable information about Richard Johnson was an old ship-mate of his, a wandering, adventurous character, now, I believe, in Paraguay, where we cannot readily communicate with him. According to his account, Johnson was an ordinary seafaring man, tanned, and wearing a black beard, but easily to be recognized for an excellent reason. He was tattooed almost all over his whole body."

Barton nearly leaped out of his chair, the client's chair, so sudden a light flashed on him.

"What is the matter, Dr. Barton! I thought I should interest you; but you seem quite excited."

"I really beg your pardon," said Barton. "It was automatic, I think; besides, I am extremely interested in tattooing."

"Then, sir, it is a pity you could not have seen Johnson. He appears, from what our informant tells us, to have been a most remarkable specimen. He had been tattooed by Australian blacks, by Burmese, by Arabs, and, in a peculiar blue tint and to a particular pattern, by the Dyacks of Borneo. We have here a rough chart, drawn by our informant, of his principal decorations."

Here the lawyer solemnly unrolled a great sheet of drawing-paper, on which was rudely outlined the naked figure of a man, filled up, on the breast, thighs, and arms, with ornamental designs.

The guess which made Barton leap up had not been mistaken: he recognized the tattooings he had seen on the dead body of Dicky Shields.

This confirmation of what he had conjectured, however, did not draw any exclamation or mark of excitement from Barton, who was now on his guard.

"This is highly interesting," he said, as he examined the diagram; "and I am sure, Mr. Wright, that it should not be difficult to recognize a claimant with such remarkable peculiarities."

"No, sir; it is easy enough, and we have been able to dismiss scores of sham Richard Johnsons. But one man presented himself the day before yesterday—a rough sailor fellow, who went straight to the point; asked if the man we wanted had any private marks; said he knew what they were, and showed us his wrist, which exactly, as far as we could verify the design, corresponded to that drawing."

"Well," asked Barton, controlling his excitement by a great effort, "what did you do with him?"

"We said to him that it would be necessary to take the advice of an expert before we could make any movement; and, though he told us things about old Johnson and Linkheaton, which it seemed almost impossible that anyone but the right man could have known, we put him off till we had seen you, and could make an appointment for you to examine the tattooings. They must be dealt with first, before any other identification."

"I suppose you have made some other necessary inquiries? Did he say why he was so late in answering the advertisement? It has been out for several months."

"Yes, and that is rather in his favor," said Mr. Wright. "If he had been an impostor on the lookout he would probably have come to us long ago. But he has just returned from the Cape, where he had been out of the way of newspapers, and he did not see the advertisement till he came across it three or four days ago."

"Very well," said Barton. "Make an appointment with the man for any time to-morrow, and I will be with you."

As he said this he looked very hard and significantly at the younger Mr. Wright.

"Very good, sir; thank you. Shall we say at noon tomorrow?"

"With pleasure," answered Barton, still with his eye on the younger partner.

He then said good-by, and was joined, as he had hoped, in the outer office by young Wright.

"You had something to say to me?" asked the junior member of the firm.

"Several things," said Barton, smiling. "And first, would you mind finding out whether the coast is clear—whether any one is watching for me?"

"Watching for you! What do you mean?"

"Just take a look round the square, and tell me whether any suspicious character is about."

Young Wright, much puzzled, put on his hat, and stood lighting a cigarette on the outer steps.

"Not a soul in sight but lawyers' clerks," he reported.

"Very well; just tell your father that, as it is a fine morning, you are taking a turn with me."

Barton's friend did as he wished, and presently the pair had some serious conversation.

"I'll do exactly as you suggest, and explain to my father," said the young lawyer as they separated.

"Thanks; it is so much easier for you to explain than for a stranger like myself," said Barton, and strolled westward by way of Co vent Garden.

At the noted establishment of Messrs. Aminadab, theatrical costumiers, Barton stopped, went in, was engaged some time with the Messrs. Aminadab, and finally had a cab called for him, and drove home with a pretty bulky parcel.

* * * * *

At five minutes to twelve on the following day, a tall, burly, mahogany-colored mariner, attired, for the occasion, in a frock-coat and hat, appeared in Lincoln's Inn Fields. He seemed to be but ill acquainted with those coasts, and mooned about for some minutes before he reached the door of Messrs. Wright Then he rang, the door was opened, and he was admitted into the presence of the partners.

"I have come, gentlemen, in answer to your letter," he said with a Northern burr, bowing awkwardly, and checking a disposition to salute by touching his forelock.

His eyes wandered round the room, where he saw no one but the partners, with whom he was already acquainted, and a foreign-looking gentleman—a gentleman with hay-colored hair, a soft hat, spectacles, and a tow-colored beard. He had a mild, short-sighted expression, a pasty complexion, and the air of one who smoked too much.

"Good morning, Mr.—h'm—Mr. Johnson," said old Mr. Wright. "As we told you, sir, we have, as a necessary preliminary to the inquiry, requested Professor Lieblein to step in and inspect—h'm—the personal marks of which you spoke. Professor Lieblein, of Bonn, is a great authority on these matters—author of 'Die Tattuirung,' a very learned work, I am told."

Thus introduced, the Professor bowed.

"Glad to meet you, sir," said the sailor-man gruffly, "or any gentleman as really knows what's what."

"You have been a great traveller, sir?" said the learned Professor, whose Teutonic accent it is superfluous to reproduce. "You have in many lands travelled? So!"

"Yes, sir; I have seen the world."

"And you are much tattooed: it is to me very interesting. You have by many races been decorated?"

"Most niggers have had a turn at me, sir!"

"How happy you are to have had such experiences! Now, the Burmese—ah! have you any little Burmese marks?"

"Yes, sir; from the elbow to the shoulder," replied the seafaring man. "Saving your presence, I'll strip to the buff."

"The buff! What is that? Oh, thank you, sir," this was in reply to young Mr. Wright "The naked body! why, buff! 'Buff,' the abstract word, the actual stuff, the very wesen of man unclothed. 'Buffer,' the concrete man, in the 'buff,' in the flesh; it is sehr interessant."

While the learned Professor muttered these metaphysical and philological reflections, the seaman was stripping himself to the waist.

"That's the Burmese style, sir," he said, pointing to his shoulders and upper arm.

These limbs were tattooed in a beautiful soft blue; the pattern was a series of diminishing squares, from which long narrow triangles ran down to the elbow-joints.

"Sehr schon, sehr schon," exclaimed the delighted Professor. "It is very hubsch, very pretty, very well. We cannot now decorate, we Germans. Ach, it is mournful!" and he sighed. "And now, sir, have you to show me any moko? A little moko would be very instructive."

"Moko? Rather! The Maori pattern, you mean; the New Zealand dodge? Just look between my shoulders," and the seaman turned a broad bare back, whereon were designs of curious involuted spirals.

"That is right, that is right," whispered the Professor. "Moko, schlange, serpent-marks, so they call it in their tongue. Better moko, on an European man, have I never seen. You observe," he remarked to the elder Mr. Wright, waving his hand as he followed the tattooed lines—"you observe the serpentine curves? Very beautiful."

"Extremely interesting," said Mr. Wright, who, being no anthropologist, seemed nervous and uncomfortable.

"Corresponds, too, with the marks in the picture," he added, comparing the sketch of the original Shields with the body of the claimant.

"Are you satisfied now, governor?" asked the sailor.

"One little moment. Have you on the Red Sea coast been? Have you been at Suakim? Have you any Arab markings?"

"Oh, yes; here you are!" and the voyager pointed to his breast.

The Professor inspected, with unconcealed delight, some small tattooings of irregular form.

"It is, it is," he cried, "the wasm, the sharat,* the Semitic tribal mark, the mark with which the Arab tribes brand their cattle! Of old time they did tattoo it on their bodies. The learned Herr Professor Robertson Smith, in his leedle book, do you know what he calls that very mark, my dear sir?"

* Sharat or Short.—"The shart was in old times a tattooed mark.... In the patriarchal story of Cain...the institution of blood revenge is connected with a 'mark' which Jehovah appoints to Cain. Can this be anything else than the sharat, or tribal mark, which every man bore on his person?" —Robertson Smith, Kinship in Ancient Arabia, p.215.

"Not I," said the sailor; "I'm no scholar."

"He says it was—I do not say he is right," cried the Professor, in a loud voice, pointing a finger at his victim's breast—"he says it was the mark of cain!"

The sailor, beneath his mahogany tan, turned a livid white, and grasped at a bookcase by which he stood.

"What do you mean?" he cried, through his chattering teeth; "what do you mean with your damned Hebrew-Dutch and your mark of Cain? The mark's all right! A Hadendowa woman did it in Suakim years ago. Ain't it on that chart of yours?"

"Certainly, good sir; it is," answered the Professor. "Why do you so agitate yourself? The proof is complete!" he added, still pointing at the sailor's breast.

"Then I'll put on my togs, with your leave: it's none so warm!" grumbled the man.

He had so far completed his dressing that he was in his waistcoat, and was just looking round for his coat.

"Stop!" said the Professor. "Hold Mr. Johnson's coat for a moment!"

This was to young Wright, who laid his hands on the garment in question.

"You must be tired, sir," said the Professor, in a very soft voice. "May I offer you a leedle cigarette?"

He drew from his pocket a silver cigarette-case, and, in a thoroughly English accent, he went on:

"I have waited long to give you back your cigarette-case, which you left at your club, Mr. Thomas Cranley!"

The sailor's eye fell on it. He dashed the silver box violently to the ground, and trampled on it, then he made one rush at his coat.

"Hold it, hold it!" cried Barton, laying aside his Teutonic accent—"hold it: there's a revolver in the pocket!"

But there was no need to struggle for the coat.

The sailor had suddenly staggered and fallen, a crumpled but not unconscious mass, on the floor.

"Call in the police!" said Barton. "They'll have no difficulty in taking him."

"This is the man against whom you have the warrant," he went on, as young Wright opened the door and admitted two policemen. "I charge the Honorable Thomas Cranley with murder!"

The officers lifted the fallen man.

"Let him be," said Barton. "He has collapsed. Lay him on the floor: he's better so. He needs a turn of my profession: his heart's weak. Bring some brandy."

Young Wright went for the spirits, while the frightened old lawyer kept murmuring:

"The Honorable Thomas Cranley was always very unsatisfactory!"

It had been explained to the old gentleman that an impostor would be unmasked, and a criminal arrested; but he had not been informed that the culprit was the son of his great client, Lord Birkenhead.

Barton picked up the cigarette-case, and as he, for the first time, examined its interior, some broken glass fell out and tinkled on the floor.



CHAPTER XVI.—The Verdict of Fate.

Maitland did not dally long in the Levant after getting Barton's letter. He was soon in a position to receive, in turn, the congratulations which he offered to Margaret and Barton with unaffected delight.

Mrs. St. John Deloraine and he understood each other!

Maitland, for perhaps the first time in his life, was happy in a thoroughly human old-fashioned way.

Meanwhile the preparations for Cranley's trial dragged on. Interest, as usual, was frittered away in examinations before the magistrates.

But at last the day of judgment shone into a court crowded as courts are when it is the agony of a gentleman that the public has to view.

When the prisoner, uttering his last and latest falsehood, proclaimed himself "Not Guilty," his voice was clear and strong enough, though the pallor of his face attested, not only the anxiety of his situation, but the ill-health which, during his confinement, had often made it doubtful whether he could survive to plead at the bar of any earthly judgment.

The Counsel for the Crown, opening the case, stated the theory of the prosecution, the case against Cranley. His argument is here offered in a condensed form:

First, Counsel explained the position of Johnson, or Shields, as the unconscious heir of great wealth, and set forth his early and late relations with the prisoner, a dishonored and unscrupulous outcast of society. The prisoner had been intimately acquainted with the circumstances of Johnson's early life, with his history and his home. His plan, therefore, was to kill him, and then personate him. A celebrated case, which would be present to the minds of the jury, proved that a most plausible attempt at the personation of a long-missing man might be made by an uneducated impostor, who possessed none of the minute local and personal knowledge of the prisoner. Now, to personate Johnson, a sailor whose body was known to have been indelibly marked by the tattooing of various barbarous races, it was necessary that the prisoner should be similarly tattooed. It would be shown that, with unusual heartlessness, he had persuaded his victim to reproduce on his body the distinctive marks of Johnson, and then had destroyed him with fiendish ingenuity, in the very act of assuming his personality. The very instrument, it might be said, which stamped Cranley as Johnson, slew Johnson himself, and the process which hallmarked the prisoner as the heir of vast wealth stigmatized him with the brand of Cain. The personal marks which seemed to establish the claimant's case demonstrated his guilt He was detected by the medical expert brought in to prove his identity, and was recognized by that gentleman, Dr. Barton, who would be called, and who had once already exposed him in a grave social offence—cheating at cards. The same witness had made a post-mortem examination of the body of Richard Johnson, and had then suspected the method by which he had been murdered.

The murder itself, according to the theory of the prosecution, was committed in the following manner: Cranley, disguised as a sailor (tbe disguise in which he was finally taken), had been in the habit of meeting Johnson, and being tattooed by him, in a private room of the Hit or Miss tavern, in Chelsea. On the night of February 7th, he met him there for the last time. He left the tavern late, at nearly twelve o'clock, telling the landlady that "his friend," as he called Johnson, had fallen asleep upstairs. On closing the establishment, the landlady, Mrs. Gullick, found the room, an upper one, with dormer windows opening on the roof, empty. She concluded that Johnson—or Shields, as she called him—had wakened, and left the house by the back staircase, which led to a side-alley. This way Johnson, who knew the house well, often took, on leaving. On the following afternoon, however, the dead body of Johnson, with no obvious marks of violence on it, was found in a cart belonging to the vestry—a cart which, during the night, had remained near a shed on the piece of waste ground adjoining the Hit or Miss. A coroner's jury had taken the view that Johnson, being intoxicated, had strayed into the piece of waste ground (it would be proved that the door in the palisade surrounding it was open on that night), had lain down in the cart, and died in his sleep of cold and exposure. But evidence derived from a later medical examination would establish the presumption, which would be confirmed by the testimony of an eye-witness, that death had been wilfully caused by Cranley, employing a poison which it would be shown he had in his possession—a poison which was not swallowed by the victim, but introduced by means of a puncture into the system. The dead man's body had then been removed to a place where his decease would be accounted for as the result of cold and exhaustion. A witness would be put in the box who, by an extraordinary circumstance, had been enabled to see the crime committed by the prisoner, and the body carried away, though, at the moment, he did not understand the meaning of what he saw. As the circumstances by which this witness had been enabled to behold what was done at dead of night, in an attic room, locked and bolted, and not commanded from any neighboring house nor eminence, were exceedingly peculiar, testimony would be brought to show that the witness really had enjoyed the opportunity of observation which he claimed.

On the whole, then, as the prisoner had undeniably personated Johnson, and claimed Johnson's property; as he undeniably had induced Johnson, unconsciously, to aid him in the task of personation; as the motive for the murder was plain and obvious; as Johnson, according to the medical evidence, had probably been murdered; and as an eye-witness professed to have seen, without comprehending, the operation by which death, according to the medical theory, was caused, the counsel for the prosecution believed that the jury could find no other verdict than that the prisoner had wilfully murdered Richard Johnson on the night of February 7th.

This opened the case for the Crown. It is unnecessary to recapitulate the evidence of all the witnesses who proved, step by step, the statements of the prosecution. First was demonstrated the identity of Shields with Johnson. To do this cost enormous trouble and expense; but Johnson's old crony, the man who drew the chart of his tattoo marks, was at length discovered in Paraguay, and, by his aid and the testimony he collected, the point was satisfactorily made out. It was, of course, most important in another respect, as establishing Margaret's claims on the Linkheaton estate.

The discovery of the body of Johnson (or Shields) in the snow was proved by our old friends Bill and Tommy.

The prisoner was recognized by Mrs. Gullick as the sailor gentleman who had been with Johnson on the last night of his life. In spite of the difference of dress, and of appearance caused by the absence of beard—for Cranley was now clean shaved—Mrs. Gullick was positive as to his voice and as to his eyebrows, which were peculiarly black and mobile.

Barton, who was called next, and whose evidence excited the keenest interest, identified the prisoner as the man whom he had caused to be arrested in the office of Messrs. Martin and Wright, and whom he had known as Cranley. His medical evidence was given at considerable length, and need not be produced in full detail On examining the body of Richard Johnson, his attention had naturally been directed chiefly to the tattooings. He had for some years been deeply interested, as an ethnologist, in the tattooed marks of various races. He had found many curious examples on the body of the dead man. Most of the marks were obviously old; but in a very unusual place, generally left blank—namely, behind and under the right shoulder—he had discovered certain markings of an irregular character, clearly produced by an inexperienced hand, and perfectly fresh and recent. They had not healed, and were slightly discolored. They could not, from their position, possibly have been produced by the man himself. Microscopic examinations of these marks, in which the coloring matter was brown, not red or blue, as on the rest of the body, showed that this coloring matter was of a character familiar to the witness as a physiologist and scientific traveller. It was the Woorali, or arrow poison of the Macoushi Indians of Guiana.

Asked to explain the nature of this poison to the Court, the witness said that its "principle" (to use the term of the old medical writers) had not yet been disengaged by Science, nor had it ever been compounded by Europeans. He had seen it made by the Macoushi Indians, who combined the juice of the Woorali vine with that of certain bulbous plants, with certain insects, and with the poison-fangs of two serpents, boiling the whole amidst magical ceremonies, and finally straining off a thick brown paste, which, when perfectly dry, was used to venom the points of their arrows. The poison might be swallowed by a healthy man without fatal results. But if introduced into the system through a wound, the poison would act almost instantaneously, and defy analysis. Its effect was to sever, as it were, the connection between the nerves and the muscles, and the muscles used in respiration being thus gradually paralyzed, death followed within a brief time, proportionate to the size of the victim, man or animal, and the strength of the dose.

Traces of this poison, then, the witness had found in the fresh tattoo marks on Johnson's body.

The witness now produced the sharp wooden needle, the stem of the leaf of the coucourite palm, which he had found among Johnson's tattooing materials, in the upper chamber of the Hit or Miss. This needle had been, he said, the tip of one of the arrows used for their blowpipes, by the Macoushi of Guiana.

Barton also produced the Oriental silver cigarette-case, the instrument of his cheating at baccarat, which Cranley had left in the club on the evening of his detection. He showed that the case had contained a small crystal receptacle, intended to hold opium. This crystal had been broken by Cranley when he dashed down the case, in the office of Martin and Wright. But crumbs of the poison—"Woorali," or "Ourali"—perfectly dry, remained in this receptacle. It was thus clear that Cranley, himself a great traveller, was possessed of the rare and perilous drug.

The medical evidence having been heard, and confirmed in its general bearing by various experts, and Barton having stood the test of a severe cross-examination, William Winter was called.

There was a flutter in the Court, as a pale and partly paralyzed man was borne in on a kind of litter, and accommodated in the witness-box.

"Where were you," asked the counsel for the prosecution, when the officer had sworn the witness, "at eleven o'clock on the night of February 7th?"

"I was on the roof of the Hit or Miss tavern."

"On which part of the roof?"

"On the ledge below the dormer window at the back part of the house, facing the waste ground behind the plank fence."

"Will you tell the Court what you saw while you were in that position?"

Winter's face was flushed with excitement; but his voice, though thin, was clear as he said:

"There was a light streaming through the dormer window beside which I was lying, and I looked in."

"What did you see?"

"I saw a small room, with a large fire, a table, on which were bottles and glasses, and two men, one seated, the other standing."

"Would you recognize either man if you saw him?"

"I recognize the man who was seated, in the prisoner at the bar; but at that time he wore a beard."

"Tell the Court what happened."

"The men were facing me. One of them—the prisoner—was naked to the waist. His breast was tattooed. The other—the man who stood up—was touching him with a needle, which he applied, again and again, to a saucer on the table."

"Could you hear what they said?"

"I could; for the catch of the lattice window had not caught, and there was a slight chink open."

"You listened?"

"I could not help it; the scene was so strange. I heard the man with the needle give a sigh of relief, and say, 'There, it's finished, and a pretty job too, though I say it.' The other said, 'You have done it beautifully, Dicky; it's a most interesting art. Now, just out of curiosity, let me tattoo you a bit.' The other man laughed, and took off his coat and shirt while the other dressed. 'There's scarce an inch of me plain,' he said, 'but you can try your hand here,' pointing to the lower part of his shoulder."

"What happened then?"

"They were both standing up now. I saw the prisoner take out something sharp; his face was deadly pale, but the other could not see that. He began touching him with the sharp object, and kept chaffing all the time. This lasted, I should think, about five minutes, when the face of the man who was being tattooed grew very red. Then he swayed a little, backward and forward, then he stretched out his hands like a blind man, and said, in a strange, thick voice, as if he was paralyzed, 'I'm very cold; I can't shiver!' Then he fell down heavily, and his body made one or two convulsive movements. That was all."

"What did the prisoner do?"

"He looked like death. He seized the bottle on the table, poured out half a tumbler full of the stuff in it, drank it off, and then fell into a chair, and laid his face between his hands. He appeared ill, or alarmed, but the color came back into his cheek after a third or fourth glass. Then I saw him go to the sleeping man and bend over him, listening apparently to his breathing. Then he shook him several times, as if trying to arouse him. But the man lay like a log. Finally, about half-an-hour after what I have described, he opened the door and went out. He soon returned, took up the sleeping man in his arms—his weight seemed lighter than you would expect—and carried him out. From the roof I saw him push the door in the palisade leading into the waste land, a door which I myself had left open an hour before. It was not light enough to see what he did there; but he soon returned alone and walked away."

Such was the sum of Winter's evidence, which, if accepted, entirely corroborated Barton's theory of the manner of the murder.

In cross-examination, Winter was asked the very natural question:

"How did you come to find yourself on the roof of the Hit or Miss late at night?"

Winter nearly rose from his litter, his worn faced flushed, his eye sparkling.

"Sir, I flew!"

There was a murmur and titter through the court, which was, of course, instantly suppressed.

"You flew! What do you mean by saying that you flew?"

"I am the inventor of a flying machine, which, for thirty years, I have labored at and striven to bring to perfection. On that one night, as I was experimenting with it, where I usually did, inside the waste land bordering on the Hit or Miss, the machine actually worked, and I was projected in the machine, as it were, to some height in the air, coming down with a fluttering motion, like a falling feather, on the roof of the Hit or Miss."

Here the learned counsel for the defence smiled with infinite expression at the jury.

"My lord," said the counsel for the prosecution, noting the smile, and the significant grin with which it was reflected on the countenances of the twelve good men and true, "I may state that we are prepared to bring forward a large mass of scientific evidence—including a well-known man of science, the editor of Wisdom, a popular journal which takes all knowledge for its province—to prove that there is nothing physically impossible in the facts deposed to by this witness. He is at present suffering, as you see, from a serious accident caused by the very machine of which he speaks, and which can be exhibited, with a working model, to the Court."

"It certainly requires corroboration," said the judge. "At present, so far as I am aware, it is contrary to scientific experience. You can prove, perhaps, that, in the opinion of experts, these machines have only to take one step further to become practical modes of locomotion. But that is the very step qui coute. Nothing but direct evidence that the step has been taken—that a flying machine, on this occasion, actually flew (they appear to be styled volantes, a non volando)—would really help your case, and establish the credibility of this witness."

"With your lordship's learned remarks," replied the counsel for the crown, "I am not the less ready to agree, because I have an actual eye-witness, who not only saw the flight deposed to by the witness, but reported it to several persons, who are in court, on the night of its occurrence, so that her statement, though disbelieved, was the common talk of the neighborhood."

"Ah! that is another matter," said the judge.

"Call Eliza Gullick," said the counsel.

Eliza was called, and in a moment was curtsying, with eagerness, but perfect self-possession.

After displaying an almost technical appreciation of the nature of an oath, Eliza was asked:

"You remember the night of the 7th of February?"

"I remember it very well, sir."

"Why do you remember it so well, Eliza?"

"Becos such a mort o' things happened, sir, that night."

"Will you tell his lordship what happened?"

"Certainly, my lord. Mr. Toopny gave us a supper, us himps, my lord, at the Hilarity; for he said—"

"Never mind what he said, tell us what happened as you were coming home."

"Well, sir, it was about eleven o'clock at night, and I was turning the lane into the Hit or Miss, when I heard an awful flapping and hissing and whirring, like wings working by steam, in the waste ground at the side of the lane. And, as I was listening—oh, it frightens me now to think of it—oh, sir—"

"Well, don't be alarmed, my good child! What occurred?"

"A great thing like a bird, sir, bigger than a man, flew up over my head, higher than the houses. And then—did you ever see them Japanese toys, my lord, them things with two feathers and a bit of India-rubber as you twist round and round and toss them up and they fly—"

"Well, my girl, I have seen them."

"Well, just as if it had been one of them things settling down, the bird's wings turned round and fluttered and shook, and at last it all lighted, quite soft like, on the roof of our house, the Hit or Miss. And there I saw it crouching when I went to bed, and looked out o' the window, but they wouldn't none o' them believe me, my lord."

There was a dead silence in the Court as Eliza finished this extraordinary confirmation of Winter's evidence, and wove the net inextricably round the prisoner.

Then the silence was broken by a soft crashing sound, as if something heavy had dropped a short distance on some hard object.

All present turned their eyes from staring at Eliza to the place whence the sound had come.

The prisoner's head had fallen forward on the railing in front of him.

One of the officers of the Court touched him on the shoulder.

He did not stir. They lifted him. He moved not.

The faint heart of the man had fluttered with its last pulsation. The evidence had sufficed for him without verdict or sentence. As he had slain his victim, so Fate slew him, painlessly, in a moment!



EPILOGUE.

And what became of them all?

He who does not tell, on the plea that he is "competing with Life," which never knits up a plot, but leaves all the threads loose, acts unfairly.

Mrs. St. John Deloraine is now Mrs. Maitland, and the happy couple are visiting the great Colonies, seeking a site for a new settlement of the unemployed, who should lead happy lives under the peaceful sway of happy Mrs. Maitland.

Barton and Mrs. Barton have practised the endowment of research, in the case of Winter, who has quite recovered from his injuries, and still hopes to fly. But he has never trusted himself again on his machine, which, moreover, has never flown again. Winter, like the alchemist who once made a diamond by chance, in Balzac's novel, has never recovered the creative moment. But he makes very interesting models, in which Mrs. Barton's little boy begins to take a lively interest.

Eliza Gullick, declining all offers of advancement unconnected with the British drama, clings to the profession for which, as Mrs. Gullick maintains, she has a hereditary genius.

"We hear," says the Athenaeum, "that the long promised edition of 'Demetrius of Scepsis,' by Mr. Bielby, of St. Gatien's, is in the hands of the delegates of the Clarendon Press."

But Fiction herself is revolted by the improbability of the statement that an Oxford Don has finished his magnum opus!

EXPLICIT.

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