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THE bird in his cage pursued me into my room; I sat down close to my table, and leaning my head upon my hand, I began to figure to myself the miseries of confinement. I was in a right frame for it, and so I gave full scope to my imagination.
I was going to begin with the millions of my fellow-creatures, born to no inheritance but slavery: but finding, however affecting the picture was, that I could not bring it near me, and that the multitude of sad groups in it did but distract me
I took a single captive, and having first shut him up in his dungeon, I then look'd through the twilight of his grated door to take his picture.
I beheld his body half wasted away with long expectation and confinement, and felt what kind of sickness of the heart it was which arises from hope deferr'd. Upon looking nearer I saw him pale and feverish: in thirty years the western breeze had not once fann'd his blood he had seen no sun, no moon, in all that time nor had the voice of friend or kinsman breathed through his lattice: his children
But here my heart began to bleed and I was forced to go on with another part of the portrait.
He was sitting upon the ground upon a little straw, in the furthest corner of his dungeon, which was alternately his chair and bed: a little calendar of small sticks were laid at the head, notch'd all over with the dismal days and nights he had passed there he had one of these little sticks in his hand, and with a rusty nail he was etching another day of misery to add to the heap. As I darkened the little light he had, he lifted up a hopeless eye towards the door, then cast it down shook his head, and went on with his work of affliction. I heard his chains upon his legs, as he turned his body to lay his little stick upon the bundle. He gave a deep sigh I saw the iron enter into his soul I burst into tears I could not sustain the picture of confinement which my fancy had drawn I started up from my chair, and called La Fleur I bid him bespeak me a rιmise, and have it ready at the door of the hotel by nine in the morning.
I'll go directly, said I, myself to Monsieur le Duc de Choiseul.
La Fleur would have put me to bed; but not willing he should see any thing upon my cheek which would cost the honest fellow a heart-ach I told him I would go to bed by myself and bid him go do the same.
I GOT into my remise the hour I promised: La Fleur got up behind, and I bid the coachman make the best of his way to Versailles.
As there was nothing in this road, or rather nothing which I look for in travelling, I cannot fill up the blank better than with a short history of this self-same bird, which became the subject of the last chapter.
Whilst the Honourable Mr. **** was waiting for a wind at Dover, it had been caught upon the cliffs before it could well fly, by an English lad who was his groom; who not caring to destroy it, had taken it in his breast into the packet and by course of feeding it, and taking it once under his protection, in a day or two grew fond of it, and got it safe along with him to Paris.
At Paris the lad had laid out a livre in a little cage for the starling, and as he had little to do better the five months his master staid there, he taught it in his mother's tongue the four simple words (and no more) to which I own'd myself so much its debtor.
Upon his master's going on for Italy the lad had given it to the master of the hotel But his little song for liberty being in an unknown language at Paris, the bird had little or no store set by him so La Fleur bought both him and his cage for me for a bottle of Burgundy.
In my return from Italy I brought him with me to the country in whose language he had learn'd his notes and telling the story of him to Lord A- , Lord A begg'd the bird of me in a week Lord A gave him to Lord B---; Lord B made a present of him to Lord C---; and Lord C's gentleman sold him to Lord D's for a shilling Lord D gave him to Lord E---, and so on half round the alphabet From that rank he pass'd into the lower house, and pass'd the hands of as many commoners But as all these wanted to get in and my bird wanted to get out he had almost as little store set by him in London as in Paris.
It is impossible but many of my readers must have heard of him; and if any by mere chance have ever seen him, I beg leave to inform them, that that bird was my bird or some vile copy set up to represent him.
I have nothing farther to add upon him, but that from that time to this, I have borne this poor starling as the crest to my arms. Thus
And let the heralds' officers twist his neck about if they dare.
I SHOULD not like to have my enemy take a view of my mind when I am going to ask protection of any man; for which reason I generally endeavour to protect myself; but this going to Monsieur le Duc de C**** was an act of compulsion had it been an act of choice, I should have done it, I suppose, like other people.
How many mean plans of dirty address, as I went along, did my servile heart form? I deserved the Bastile for every one of them.
Then nothing would serve me, when I got within sight of Versailles, but putting words and sentences together, and conceiving attitudes and tones to wreath myself into Monsieur le Duc de C****'s good graces This will do, said I Just as well, retorted I again, as a coat carried up to him by an adventurous taylor, without taking his measure Fool! continued I see Monsieur le Duc's face first observe what character is written in it take notice in what posture he stands to hear you mark the turns and expressions of his body and limb and for the tone the first sound which comes from his lips will give it you; and from all these together you'll compound an address at once upon the spot, which cannot disgust the Duke the ingredients are his own, and most likely to go down.
Well! said I, I wish it well over Coward again! as if man to man was not equal throughout the whole surface of the globe; and if in the field why not face to face in the cabinet too? And trust me, Yorick, whenever it is not so, man is false to himself, and betrays his own succours ten times where nature does it once. Go to the Duc de C**** with the Bastile in thy looks My life for it, thou wilt be sent back to Paris in half an hour with an escort.
I believe so, said I Then I'll go to the Duke, by Heaven! with all the gaiety and debonairness in the world.
And there you are wrong again, replied I A heart at ease, Yorick, flies into no extremes 't is ever on its center Well! well! cried I, as the coachman turn'd in at the gates, I find I shall do very well: and by the time he had wheel'd round the court, and brought me up to the door, I found myself so much the better for my own lecture, that I neither ascended the steps like a victim to justice, who was to part with life upon the topmost nor did I mount them with a skip and a couple of strides, as I do when I fly up, Eliza! to thee, to meet it.
As I entered the door of the saloon, I was met by a person who possibly might be the maitre d'hτtel, but had more the air of one of the under-secretaries, who told me the Duc de C**** was busy I am utterly ignorant, said I, of the forms of obtaining an audience, being an absolute stranger, and what is worse in the present conjuncture of affairs, being an Englishman too. He replied, that did not increase the difficulty. I made him a slight bow, and told him, I had something of importance to say to Monsieur le Duc. The secretary look'd towards the stairs, as if he was about to leave me to carry up this account to some one But I must not mislead you, said I, for what I have to say is of no manner of importance to Monsieur le Duc de C****-but of great importance to myself. C'est une autre affaire, replied he Not at all, said I, to a man of gallantry. But pray, good Sir, continued I, when can a stranger hope to have accesse? In not less than two hours, said he, looking at his watch. The number of equipages in the courtyard seemed to justify the calculation, that I could have no nearer a prospect- and as walking backwards and forwards in the saloon, without a soul to commune with, was for the time as bad as being in the Bastile itself, I instantly went back to my remise, and bid the coachman to drive me to the Cordon Bleu, which was the nearest hotel.
I think there is a fatality in it I seldom go to the place I set out for.
BEFORE I had got half-way down the street I changed my mind: as I am at Versailles, thought I, I might as well take a view of the town; so I pull'd the cord, and ordered the coachman to drive round some of the principal streets I suppose the town is not very large, said I. The coachman begg'd pardon for setting me right, and told me it was very superb, and that numbers of the first dukes and marquisses and counts had hotels The Count de B****, of whom the bookseller at the Quai de Conti had spoke so handsomely the night before, came instantly into my mind And why should I not go, thought I, to the Count de B****, who has so high an idea of English books and English men and tell him my story? so I changed my mind a second time In truth it was the third; for I had intended that day for Madame de R**** in the Rue St. Pierre, and had devoutly sent her word by her fille de chambre that I would assuredly wait upon her but I am governed by circumstances I cannot govern them: so seeing a man standing with a basket on the other side of the street, as if he had something to sell, I bid La Fleur go up to him and enquire for the Count's hotel.
La Fleur returned a little pale: and told me it was a Chevalier de St. Louis1 selling patιs It is impossible, La Fleur, said I. La Fleur could no more account for the phenomenon than myself; but persisted in his story: he had seen the croix set in gold, with its red ribband, he said, tied to his buttonhole and had looked into the basket and seen the pates which the Chevalier was selling; so could not be mistaken in that.
Such a reverse in man's life awakens a better principle than curiosity: I could not help looking for some time at him as I sat in the remise-the more I look'd at him, his croix, and his basket, the stronger they wove themselves into my brain I got out of the remise, and went towards him.
He was begirt with a clean linen apron, which fell below his knees, and with a sort of a bib that went half-way up his breast; upon the top of this, but a little below the hem, hung his croix. His basket of little patιs was covered over with a white damask napkin: another of the same kind was spread at the bottom; and there was a look of propretι and neatness throughout, that one might have bought his patιs of him, as much from appetite as sentiment.
He made an offer of them to neither; but stood still with them at the corner of a hotel, for those to buy who chose it, without solicitation.
He was about forty-eight of a sedate look, something approaching to gravity. I did not wonder. I went up rather to the basket than him, and having lifted up the napkin, and taken one of his pates into my hand I begg'd he would explain the appearance which affected me.
He told me in a few words, that the best part of his life had pass'd in the service, in which, after spending a small patrimony, he had obtain'd a company and the croix with it; but that, at the conclusion of the last peace, his regiment being reformed, and the whole corps, with those of some other regiments, left without any provision, he found himself in a wide world without friends, without a livre and indeed, said he, without anything but this (pointing, as he said it, to his croix) The poor Chevalier won my pity, and he finished the scene with winning my esteem too.
The king, he said, was the most generous of princes, but his generosity could neither relieve or reward every one, and it was only his misfortune to be amongst the number. He had a little wife, he said, whom he loved, who did the patisserie; and added, he felt no dishonour in defending her and himself from want in this way unless Providence had offer'd him a better.
It would be wicked to withhold a pleasure from the good, in passing over what happen'd to this poor Chevalier of St. Louis about nine months after.
It seems he usually took his stand near the iron gates which lead up to the palace, and as his croix had caught the eye of numbers, numbers had made the same enquiry which I had done He had told the same story, and always with so much modesty and good sense, that it had reach'd at last the king's ears who hearing the Chevalier had been a gallant officer, and respected by the whole regiment as a man of honour and integrity he broke up his little trade by a pension of fifteen hundred livres a year.
As I have told this to please the reader, I beg he will allow me to relate another, out of its order, to please myself the two stories reflect light upon each other and 't is a pity they should be parted.
1 The military order of St. Louis was founded by Louis XIV. in 1692.
WHEN states and empires have their periods of declension, and feel in their turns what distress and poverty is I stop not to tell the causes which gradually brought the house d'E**** in Brittany into decay. The Marquis d'E**** had fought up against his condition with great firmness; wishing to preserve, and still shew to the world some little fragments of what his ancestors had been their indiscretions had put it out of his power. There was enough left for the little exigencies of obscurity But he had two boys who look'd up to him for light he thought they deserved it. He had tried his sword it could not open the way the mounting was too expensive and simple oeconomy was not a match for it there was no resource but commerce.
In any other province in France, save Brittany, this was smiting the root for ever of the little tree his pride and affection wish'd to see reblossom But in Brittany, there being a provision for this, he avail'd himself of it; and taking an occasion when the states were assembled at Rennes, the Marquis, attended with his two boys, entered the court; and having pleaded the right of an ancient law of the duchy, which, though seldom claim'd, he said, was no less in force, he took his sword from his side Here, said he, take it; and be trusty guardians of it, till better times put me in condition to reclaim it.
The president accepted the Marquis's sword. he staid a few minutes to see it deposited in the archives of his house, and departed.
The Marquis and his whole family embarked the next day for Martinico, and in about nineteen or twenty years of successful application to business, with some unlook'd-for bequests from distant branches of his house, return'd home to reclaim his nobility and to support it.
It was an incident of good fortune which will never happen to any traveller, but a sentimental one, that I should be at Rennes at the very time of this solemn requisition: I call it solemn it was so to me.
The Marquis enter'd the court with his whole family: he supported his lady his eldest son supported his sister, and his youngest was at the other extreme of the line next his mother he put his handkerchief to his face twice
There was a dead silence. When the Marquis had approach'd within six paces of the tribunal, he gave the Marchioness to his youngest son, and advancing three steps before his family he reclaim'd his sword. His sword was given him, and the moment he got it into his hand, he drew it almost out of the scabbard 'twas the shining face of a friend he had once given up he look'd attentively along it, beginning at the hilt, as if to see whether it was the same when observing a little rust which it had contracted near the point, he brought it near his eye, and bending his head down over it I think I saw a tear fall upon the place: I could not be deceived by what followed.
"I shall find," said he, "some other way to get it off"
When the Marquis had said this, he return'd his sword into its scabbard, made a bow to the guardians of it and with his wife and daughter, and his two sons following him, walk'd out.
O how I envied him his feelings!
I FOUND no difficulty in getting admittance to Monsieur le Count de B****, The set of Shakespeares was laid upon the table, and he was tumbling them over. I walk'd up close to the table, and giving first such a look at the books as to make him conceive I knew what they were I told him I had come without any one to present me, knowing I should meet with a friend in his apartment, who, I trusted, would do it for me it is my countryman the great Shakespeare, said I, pointing to his works et ayez la bontι, mon cher ami, apostrophizing his spirit, added I, de me faire cet honneur-lΰ
The Count smiled at the singularity of the introduction; and seeing I look'd a little pale and sickly, insisted upon my taking an arm-chair; so I sat down; and to save him conjectures upon a visit so out of all rule, I told him simply of the incident in the bookseller's shop, and how that had impelled me rather to go to him with a story of a little embarrassment I was under, than to any other man in France And what is your embarrassment? let me hear it, said the Count. So I told him the story just as I have told it the reader.
And the master of my hotel, said I, as I concluded it, will needs have it, Monsieur le Count, that I should be sent to the Bastile but I have no apprehensions, continued I for in falling into the hands of the most polish'd people in the world, and being conscious I was a true man, and not come to spy the nakedness of the land, I scarce thought I laid at their mercy. It does not suit the gallantry of the French, Monsieur le Count, said I, to shew it against invalids.
An animated blush came into the Count de B****'s cheeks as I spoke this Ne craignez rien Don't fear, said he Indeed I don't, replied I again Besides, continued I a little sportingly, I have come laughing all the way from London to Paris, and I do not think Monsieur le Duc de Choiseul is such an enemy to mirth, as to send me back crying for my pains.
My application to you, Monsieur le Count de B**** (making him a low bow), is to desire he will not.
The Count heard me with great good-nature, or I had not said half as much and once or twice said C'est bien dit. So I rested my cause there and determined to say no more about it.
The Count led the discourse: we talk'd of indifferent things of books, and politics, and men and then of women God bless them all! said I, after much discourse about them there is not a man upon earth who loves them so much as I do: after all the foibles I have seen, and all the satires I have read against them, still I love them; being firmly persuaded that a man, who has not a sort of an affection for the whole sex, is incapable of ever loving a single one as he ought.
Heh bien! Monsieur l'Anglois, said the Count, gaily You are not come to spy the nakedness of the land I believe you ni encore, I dare say that of our women But permit me to conjecture if, par hazard, they fell into your way, that the prospect would not affect you.
I have something within me which cannot bear the shock of the least indecent insinuation: in the sportability of chit-chat I have often endeavoured to conquer it, and with infinite pain have hazarded a thousand things to a dozen of the sex together the least of which I could not venture to a single one to gain heaven.
Excuse me, Monsieur le Count, said I as for the nakedness of your land, if I saw it, I should cast my eyes over it with tears in them and for that of your women (blushing at the idea he had excited in me), I am so evangelical in this, and have such a fellow-feeling for whatever is weak about them, that I would cover it with a garment, if I knew how to throw it on But I could wish, continued I, to spy the nakedness of their hearts, and through the different disguises of customs, climates, and religion, find out what is good in them to fashion my own by and therefore am I come.
It is for this reason, Monsieur le Count, continued I, that I have not seen the Palais Royal nor the Luxembourg nor the Faηade of the Louvre nor have attempted to swell the catalogues we have of pictures, statues, and churches I conceive every fair being as a temple, and would rather enter in, and see the original drawings, and loose sketches hung up in it, than the transfiguration of Raphael itself.
The thirst of this, continued I, as impatient as that which inflames the breast of the connoisseur, has led me from my own home into France and from France will lead me through Italy 'tis a quiet journey of the heart in pursuit of NATURE, and those affections which arise out of her, which make us love each other and the world, better than we do.
The Count said a great many civil things to me upon the occasion; and added, very politely, how much he stood obliged to Shakespeare for making me known to him But, ΰ-propos, said he, Shakespeare is full of great things he forgot a small punctilio of announcing your name it puts you under a necessity of doing it yourself.
THERE is not a more perplexing affair in life to me, than to set about telling any one who I am for there is scarce any body I cannot give a better account of than myself; and I have often wish'd I could do it in a single word and have an end of it. It was the only time and occasion in my life I could accomplish this to any purpose for Shakespeare lying upon the table, and recollecting I was in his books, I took up Hamlet, and turning immediately to the gravediggers scene in the fifth act, I laid my finger upon YORICK, and advancing the book to the Count, with my finger all the way over the name Me voici! said I.
Now whether the idea of poor Yorick's skull was put out of the Count's mind by the reality of my own, or by what magic he could drop a period of seven or eight hundred years, makes nothing in this account 'tis certain the French conceive better than they combine I wonder at nothing in this world, and the less at this; inasmuch as one of the first of our own church, for whose candour and paternal sentiments I have the highest veneration, fell into the same mistake in the very same case, "He could not bear," he said, "to look into the sermons wrote by the king of Denmark's jester." Good my lord! said I; but there are two Yoricks. The Yorick your lordship thinks of has been dead and buried eight hundred years ago; he flourish'd in Horwendillus's1 court the other Yorick is myself, who have flourish'd, my lord, in no court He shook his head Good God! said I, you might as well confound Alexander the Great with Alexander the Coppersmith, my lord 'T was all one, he replied.
If Alexander king of Macedon could have translated your lordship, said I, I'm sure your lordship would not have said so.
The poor Count de B**** fell but into the same error
Et, Monsieur, est il Yorick? cried the Count. Je le suis, said I. Vous? Moi moi qui ai l'honneur de vous parler, Monsieur le Comte Mon Dieu! said he, embracing me Vous κtes Yorick!
The Count instantly put the Shakespeare into his pocket, and left me alone in his room.
1 Horwendil was the father of Amleth (i. e. Hamlet). See Saxo Grammaticus's Danish History.
I COULD not conceive why the Count de B**** had gone so abruptly out of the room, any more than I could conceive why he had put the Shakespeare into his pocket. Mysteries which must explain themselves are not worth the loss of time which a conjecture about them takes up: twas better to read Shakespeare; so taking up "Much Ado about Nothing," I transported myself instantly from the chair I sat in to Messina in Sicily, and got so busy with Don Pedro and Benedict and Beatrice, that I thought not of Versailles, the Count, or the Passport.
Sweet pliability of mans spirit, that can at once surrender itself to illusions, which cheat expectation and sorrow of their weary moments! Long long since had he numberd out my days, had I not trod so great a part of them upon this enchanted ground; when my way is too rough for my feet, or too steep for my strength, I get off it, to some smooth velvet path which fancy has scattered over with rosebuds of delights; and having taken a few turns in it, come back strengthend and refreshd When evils press sore upon me, and there is no retreat from them in this world, then I take a new course I leave it and as I have a clearer idea of the elysian fields than I have of heaven, I force myself, like Ζneas, into them I see him meet the pensive shade of his forsaken Dido, and wish to recognize it I see the injured spirit wave her head, and turn off silent from the author of her miseries and dishonours I lose the feelings for myself in hers, and in those affections which were wont to make me mourn for her when I was at school.
Surely this is not walking in a vain shadow nor does man disquiet himself in vain by it he oftener does so in trusting the issue of his commotions to reason only I can safely say for myself, I was never able to conquer any one single bad sensation in my heart so decisively, as by beating up as fast as I could for some kindly and gentle sensation to fight it upon its own ground.
When I had got to the end of the third act, the Count de B**** entered with my passport in his hand. Mons. Le Duc de C****, said the Count, is as good as a prophet, I dare say, as he is a statesman. Un homme qui rit, said the duke, ne sera jamais dangereux. Had it been for anyone but the kings jester, added the Count, I could not have got it these two hours. Pardonnez moi, Mons. Le Count, said I I am not the kings jester But you are Yorick? Yes. Et vous plaisantez? I answered, Indeed I did jest but was not paid for it twas entirely at my own expence.
We have no jester at court, Mons. Le Count, said I; the last we had1 was in the licentious reign of Charles II. since which time our manners have been so gradually refining, that our court at present is so full of patriots, who wish for nothing but the honours and wealth of their country and our ladies are all so chaste, so spotless, so good, so devout there is nothing for a jester to make a jest of
Voila un persiflage! cried the Count.
1 This statement seems to be somewhat in error. The last jester at the English court was Muckle John, "fool" to Charles I. Although, on account of a bit of Pepysian gossip, Thomas Killigrew (1612-1683) is sometimes spoken of as a jester of Charles II.'s, he does not appear to have held an official position.
AS the Passport was directed to all lieutenant-governors, governors, and commandants of cities, generals of armies, justiciaries, and all officers of justice, to let Mr. Yorick the king's jester, and his baggage, travel quietly along I own the triumph of obtaining the Passport was not a little tarnish'd by the figure I cut in it But there is nothing unmix'd in this world; and some of the gravest of our divines have carried it so far as to affirm, that enjoyment itself was attended even with a sigh and that the greatest they knew of terminated in a general way, in little better than a convulsion.
I remember the grave and learned Bevoriskius, in his Commentary upon the Generations from Adam, very naturally breaks off in the middle of a note to give an account to the world of a couple of sparrows upon the out-edge of his window, which had incommoded him all the time he wrote, and at last had entirely taken him off from his genealogy.
'T is strange! writes Bevoriskius, but the facts are certain, for I have had the curiosity to mark them down one by one with my pen but the cock-sparrow, during the little time that I could have finished the other half of this note, has actually interrupted me with the reiteration of his caresses three-and-twenty times and a half.
How merciful, adds Bevoriskius, is heaven to his creatures!
Ill-fated Yorick! that the gravest of thy brethren should be able to write that to the world, which stains thy face with crimson, to copy in even thy study.
But this is nothing to my travels So I twice twice beg pardon for it.
AND how do you find the French? said the Count de B****, after he had given me the Passport.
The reader may suppose, that after so obliging a proof of courtesy, I could not be at a loss to say something handsome to the enquiry.
Mais passe, pour cela Speak frankly, said he: do you find all the urbanity in the French which the world give us the honour of? I had found every thing, I said, which confirmed it Vraiment, said the Count les Francois sont polis To an excess, replied I.
The Count took notice of the word excesse; and would have it I meant more than I said. I defended myself a long time as well as I could against it he insisted I had a reserve, and that I would speak my opinion frankly.
I believe, Mons. le Count, said I, that man has a certain compass, as well as an instrument; and that the social and other calls have occasion by turns for every key in him; so that if you begin a note too high or too low, there must be a want either in the upper or under part, to fill up the system of harmony. The Count de B**** did not understand music, so desired me to explain it some other way. A polish'd nation, my dear Count, said I, makes every one its debtor; and besides, urbanity itself, like the fair sex, has so many charms, it goes against the heart to say it can do ill; and yet, I believe, there is but a certain line of perfection, that man, take him altogether, is impower'd to arrive at if he gets beyond, he rather exchanges qualities than gets them. I must not presume to say, how far this has affected the French in the subject we are speaking of but should it ever be the case of the English, in the progress of their refinements, to arrive at the same polish which distinguishes the French, if we did not lose the politesse du coeur, which inclines men more to humane actions, than courteous ones we should at least lose that distinct variety and originality of character, which distinguishes them, not only from each other, but from all the world besides.
I had a few of King William's shillings as smooth as glass in my pocket; and foreseeing they would be of use in the illustration of my hypothesis, I had got them into my hand, when I had proceeded so far
The English, like ancient medals, kept more apart, and passing but few people's hands, preserve the first sharpnesses which the fine hand of Nature has given them they are not so pleasant to feel but, in return, the legend is so visible, that at the first look you see whose image and superscription they bear. But the French, Mons. le Count, added I (wishing to soften what I had said), have so many excellencies, they can the better spare this they are a loyal, a gallant, a generous, an ingenious, and good-temper'd people as is under heaven if they have a fault, they are too serious.
Mon Dieu! cried the Count, rising out of his chair.
Mais vous plaisantez, said he, correcting his exclamation. I laid my hand upon my breast, and with earnest gravity assured him it was my most settled opinion.
The Count said he was mortified he could not stay to hear my reasons, being engaged to go that moment to dine with the Duc de C****.
But if it is not too far to come to Versailles to eat your soup with me, I beg, before you leave France, I may have the pleasure of knowing you retract your opinion or, in what manner you support it. But if you do support it, Mons. Anglois, said he, you must do it with all your powers, because you have the whole world against you I promised the Count I would do myself the honour of dining with him before I set out for Italy so took my leave.
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