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Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851 [1831], The water-witch, volume 1 (Carey & Lea, Philadelphia) [word count] [eaf061v1].
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“—Truth will come to light;
Murder cannot be hid long, a man's son may;
But in the end, truth will out.—”

The officer of the Queen had leaped into the pavilion,
with the flushed features and all the hurry of
an excited man. The exclamations and retreat of
la belle Barbérie, for a single moment, diverted his
attention; and then he turned, suddenly, not to say
fiercely, towards her companion. It is not necessary
to repeat the description of the stranger's person, in
order to render the change, which instantly occurred
in the countenance of Ludlow, intelligible to the
reader. His eye, at first, refused to believe there
was no other present; and when it had, again and
again, searched the whole apartment, it returned to
the face and form of the dealer in contraband, with
an expression of incredulity and wonder.

“Here is some mistake!” exclaimed the commander
of the Coquette, after time had been given for a
thorough examination of the room.

“Your gentle manner of entrance,” returned the
stranger, across whose face there had passed a glow,
that might have come equally of anger or of surprise,
“has driven the lady from the room. But as
you wear the livery of the Queen, I presume you

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have authority for invading the dwelling of the subject?”

“I had believed—nay, there was reason to be
certain, that one whom all of proper loyalty execrate,
was to be found here;” stammered the still-confused
Ludlow. “There can scarce be a deception, for I
plainly heard the discourse of my captors,—and yet
here is none!”

“I thank you for the high consideration you bestow
on my presence.”

The manner, rather than the words, of the
speaker, induced Ludlow to rivet another look on
his countenance. There was a mixed expression of
doubt, admiration, and possibly of uneasiness, if not
of actual jealousy, in the eye, which slowly read all
his lineaments, though the former seemed the stronger
sensation of the three.

“We have never met before!” cried Ludlow,
when the organ began to grow dim, with the length
and steadiness of its gaze.

“The ocean has many paths, and men may journey
on them, long, without crossing each other.”

“Thou hast served the Queen, though I see thee
in this doubtful situation?”

“Never, I am not one to bind myself to the servitude
of any woman that lives,” returned the free-trader,
while a mild smile played about his lip,
“though she wore a thousand diadems! Anne never
had an hour of my time, nor a single wish of my

“This is bold language, Sir, for the ear of her
officer. The arrival of an unknown brigantine, certain
incidents which have occurred to myself this
night, your presence here, that bale of articles forbidden
by the law, create suspicions that must be
satisfied. Who are you?”

“The flagrant wanderer of the ocean—the outcast

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of society—the condemned in the opinions of the
world—the lawless `Skimmer of the Seas!' ”

“This cannot be! The tongues of men speak of
the personal deformity of that wanderer, no less than
of his bold disregard of the law. You would deceive

“If then men err so much in that which is visible
and unimportant,” returned the other, proudly, “is
there not reason to doubt their accuracy in matters
of more weight. I am surely what I seem, if I am
not what I say.”

“I will not credit so improbable a tale;—give me
some proof that what I hear is true.”

“Look at that brigantine, whose delicate spars
are almost confounded with the back-ground of
trees,” said the other, approaching the window, and
directing the attention of his companion to the Cove:
“'Tis the bark that has so often foiled the efforts of
all thy cruisers, and which transports me and my
wealth whither I will, without the fetters of arbitrary
laws, and the meddling inquiries of venal hirelings.
The scud, which floats above the sea, is not
freer than that vessel, and scarcely more swift. Well
is she named the Water-Witch! for her performances
on the wide ocean have been such as seem to
exceed all natural means. The froth of the sea does
not dance more lightly above the waves, than yonder
graceful fabric, when driven by the breeze. She is
a thing to be loved, Ludlow; trust me, I never yet
set affections on woman, with the warmth I feel for
the faithful and beautiful machine!”

“This is little more than any mariner could say,
in praise of a vessel that he admired.”

“Will you say it, Sir, in favor of yon lumbering
sloop of Queen Anne? Your Coquette is none of the
fairest, and there was more of pretension than of
truth, at her christening.”

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“By the title of my royal mistress, young beardless,
but there is an insolence in this language, that
might become him you wish to represent! My ship,
heavy or light of foot, as she may be, is fated to bring
yonder false trader to the judgment.”

“By the craft and qualities of the Water-Witch!
but this is language that might become one who was
at liberty to act his pleasure,” returned the stranger,
tauntingly imitating the tone, in which his angry
companion had spoken. “You would have proof of
my identity: listen. There is one who vaunts his
power, that forgets he is a dupe of my agent, and
that even while his words are so full of boldness, he
is a captive!”

The brown cheek of Ludlow reddened, and he
turned toward the lighter and far less vigorous frame
of his companion, as if about to strike him to the
earth, when a door opened, and Alida appeared in
the saloon.

The meeting, between the commander of the Coquette
and his mistress, was not without embarrassment.
The anger of the former and the confusion
of the latter, for a moment, kept both silent; but as
la belle Barbérie had not returned without an object,
she was quick to speak.

“I know not whether to approve, or to condemn,
the boldness that has prompted Captain Ludlow to
enter my pavilion, at this unseasonable hour, and in
so unceremonious a manner,” she said, “for I am
still ignorant of his motive. When he shall please to
let me hear it, I may judge better of the merit of
the excuse.”

“True, we will hear his explanation before condemnation,”
added the stranger, offering a seat to
Alida, which she coldly declined. “Beyond a doubt,
the gentleman has a motive.”

If looks could have destroyed, the speaker would
have been annihilated. But as the lady seemed

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indifferent to the last remark, Ludlow prepared to
enter on his vindication.

“I shall not attempt to conceal that an artifice
has been practised,” he said, “which is accompanied
by consequences that I find awkward. The air and
manner of the seaman, whose bold conduct you witnessed
in the boat, induced me to confide in him
more than was prudent, and I have been rewarded
by deception.”

“In other words, Captain Ludlow is not as sagacious
as he had reason to believe,” said an ironical
voice, at his elbow.

“In what manner am I to blame, or why is my
privacy to be interrupted, because a wandering seaman
has deceived the commander of the Coquette?”
rejoined Alida. “Not only that audacious mariner,
but this—this person,” she added, adopting a word
that use has appropriated to the multitude, “is a
stranger to me. There is no other connexion between
us, than that you see.”

“It is not necessary to say why I landed,” continued
Ludlow; “but I was weak enough to allow
that unknown mariner to quit my ship, in my company;
and when I would return, he found means to
disarm my men, and make me a prisoner.”

“And yet, art thou, for a captive, tolerably free!”
added the ironical voice.

“Of what service is this freedom, without the
means of using it? The sea separates me from my
ship, and my faithful boat's-crew are in fetters. I
have been little watched, myself; but though forbidden
to approach certain points, enough has been seen
to leave no doubts of the character of those whom
Alderman Van Beverout entertains.”

“Thou wouldst also say, and his niece, Ludlow?”

“I would say nothing harsh to, or disrespectful of,
Alida de Barbérie. I will not deny that a harrowing

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idea possessed me,—but I see my error, and repent
having been so hasty.”

“We may then resume our commerce,” said the
trader, coolly seating himself before the open bale,
while Ludlow and the maiden stood regarding each
other in mute surprise. “It is pleasant to exhibit
these forbidden treasures to an officer of the Queen!
It may prove the means of gaining the royal patronage.
We were last among the velvets, and on
the lagunes, of Venice. Here is one of a color and
quality to form a bridal dress for the Doge himself,
in his nuptials with the sea! We men of the ocean
look upon that ceremony as a pledge Hymen will
not forget us, though we may wander from his altars.
Do I justice to the faith of the craft, Captain Ludlow?—
or are you a sworn devotee of Neptune, and
content to breathe your sighs to Venus, when afloat?
Well, if the damps and salt air of the ocean rust the
golden chain, it is the fault of cruel nature!—Ah!
here is—”

A shrill whistle sounded among the shrubbery, and
the speaker became mute. Throwing his cloths
carelessly on the bale, he arose again, and seemed to
hesitate. Throughout the interview with Ludlow,
the air of the free-trader had been mild, though, at
times, it was playful; and not for an instant had he
seemed to return the resentment which the other
had so plainly manifested. It now became perplexed,
and, by the workings of his features, it would
seem that he vacillated in his opinions. The sounds
of the whistle were heard, again.

“Ay, ay, Master Tom!” muttered the dealer in
contraband. “Thy note is audible, but why this
haste? Beautiful Alida, this shrill summons is to say,
that the moment of parting is arrived!”

“We met with less of preparation,” returned la
belle Barbérie, who preserved all the distant reserve
of her sex, under the jealous eyes of her admirer.

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“We met without a warning, but shall our separation
be without a memorial? Am I to return with
all these valuables to the brigantine, or, in their
place, must I take the customary golden tribute?”

“I know not that I dare make a traffic which
is not sanctioned by the law, in presence of a servitor
of the Queen,” returned Alida, smiling. “I
will not deny that you have much to excite a woman's
envy; but our royal mistress might forget her
sex, and show little pity, were she to hear of my

“No fear of that, lady.—'Tis they who are most
stern in creating these harsh regulations, that show
most frailty in their breach. By the virtues of honest
Leadenhall itself, but I should like to tempt the
royal Anne, in her closet, with such a display of
goodly laces and heavy brocades!”

“That might be more hazardous than wise!”

“I know not. Though seated on a throne, she is
but woman. Disguise nature as thou wilt, she is a
universal tyrant, and governs all alike. The head
that wears a crown dreams of the conquests of the
sex, rather than of the conquests of states; the
hand that wields the sceptre is fitted to display its
prettiness, with the pencil, or the needle; and though
words and ideas may be taught and sounded forth
with the pomp of royalty, the tone is still that of

“Without bringing into question the merits of our
present royal mistress,” said Alida, who was a little
apt to assert her sex's rights, “there is the example
of the glorious Elizabeth, to refute his charge.”

“Ay, we have had our Cleopatras in the sea-fight,
and fear was found stronger than love! The sea has
monsters, and so may have the land. He, that made
the earth gave it laws that 'tis not good to break.
We men are jealous of our qualities, and little like
to see them usurped; and trust me, lady, she that

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forgets the means that nature bestows, may mourn
in sorrow over the fatal error.—But, shall we deal in
velvet, or is your taste more leaning to brocade?”

Alida and Ludlow listened in admiration to the
capricious and fanciful language of the unaccountable
trader, and both were equally at a loss to estimate
his character. The equivocal air was in general
well maintained, though the commander of the
Coquette had detected an earnestness and feeling in
his manner, when he more particularly addressed la
belle Barbérie, that excited an uneasiness he was
ashamed to admit, even to himself. That the maiden
herself observed this change, might also be inferred,
from a richer glow which diffused itself over
her features, though it is scarce probable that she
was conscious of its effects. When questioned as to
her determination concerning his goods, she again
regarded Ludlow, doubtingly, ere she answered.

“That you have not studied woman in vain,” she
laughingly replied, “I must fain acknowledge. And
yet, ere I make a decision, suffer me to consult those
who, being more accustomed to deal with the laws,
are better judges of the propriety of the purchases.”

“If this request were not reasonable in itself, it
were due to your beauty and station, lady, to grant
it. I leave the bale in your care; and, before to-morrow's
sun has set, one will await the answer.
Captain Ludlow, are we to part in friendship, or
does your duty to the Queen proscribe the word.”

“If what you seem,” said Ludlow, “you are a
being inexplicable! If this be some masquerade, as
I half suspect, 'tis well maintained, at least, though
not worthily assumed.”

“You are not the first who has refused credit to
his senses, in a manner wherein the Water-Witch
and her commander have been concerned.—Peace,
honest Tom—thy whistle will not hasten Father

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Time! Friend, or not, Captain Ludlow need not be
told he is my prisoner.”

“That I have fallen into the power of a miscreant—”

“Hist!—if thou hast love of bodily ease and
whole bones. Master Thomas Tiller is a man of
rude humor, and he as little likes contumely as another.
Besides, the honest mariner did but obey my
orders, and his character is protected by a superior

“Thy orders!” repeated Ludlow, with an expression
of eye and lip that might have offended one
more disposed to take offence than him he addressed,
“The fellow who so well succeeded in his artifice, is
one much more likely to command than to obey. If
any here be the `Skimmer of the Seas,' it is he.”

“We are no more than the driving spray, which
goes whither the winds list. But in what hath the
man offended, that he finds so little favor with the
Queen's captain? He has not had the boldness to
propose a secret traffic with so loyal a gentleman!”

“'Tis well, Sir; you choose a happy occasion for
this pleasantry. I landed to manifest the respect
that I feel for this lady, and I care not if the world
knows the object of the visit. 'Twas no silly artifice
that led me hither.”

“Spoken with the frankness of a seaman!” said
the inexplicable dealer in contraband, though his
color lessened and his voice appeared to hesitate.
“I admire this loyalty in man to woman; for, as
custom has so strongly fettered them in the expression
of their inclinations, it is due from us to leave as
little doubt as possible of our intentions. It is difficult
to think that la belle Barbérie can do wiser than
to reward so much manly admiration!”

The stranger cast a glance, which Alida fancied
betrayed solicitude, as he spoke, at the maiden, and
he appeared to expect she would reply.

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“When the time shall come for a decision,” returned
the half-pleased and yet half-offended subject
of his allusion, “it may be necessary to call upon
very different counsellors for advice. I hear the
step of my uncle.—Captain Ludlow, I leave it to
your discretion to meet him, or not.”

The heavy footstep was approaching through the
outer rooms of the pavilion. Ludlow hesitated; cast
a reproachful look at his mistress; and then he instantly
quitted the apartment, by the place through
which he had entered. A noise in the shrubbery
sufficiently proved that his return was expected, and
that he was closely watched.

“Noah's Ark, and our grandmothers!” exclaimed
Myndert, appearing at the door with a face red with
his exertions. “You have brought us the cast-off
finery of our ancestors, Master Seadrift. Here are
stuffs of an age that is past, and they should be bartered
for gold that hath been spent.”

“What now! what now!” responded the free-trader,
whose tone and manner seemed to change, at
will, in order to suit the humor of whomsoever he was
brought to speak with. “What now, pertinacious
burgher, that thou shouldst cry down wares that are
but too good for these distant regions! Many is the
English duchess who pines to possess but the tithe of
these beautiful stuffs I offer thy niece, and, faith—
rare is the English duchess that would become them
half so well!”

“The girl is seemly, and thy velvets and brocades
are passable, but the heavy articles are not fit to
offer to a Mohawk Sachem. There must be a reduction
of prices, or the invoice cannot pass.”

“The greater the pity. But if sail we must, sail
we will! The brigantine knows the channel over the
Nantucket sands; and, my life on it! the Yankees
will find others than the Mohawks for chapmen.”

“Thou art as quick in thy motions, Master

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Sea-drift, as the boat itself. Who said that a compromise
might not be made, when discussion was prudently
and fairly exhausted? Strike off the odd
florins, leave the balance in round thousands, and thy
trade is done for the season!”

“Not a stiver. Here, count me back the faces
of the Braganza; throw enough of thin ducats into
the scales to make up the sum, and let thy slaves push
inland with the articles, before the morning light
comes to tell the story. Here has been one among
us, who may do mischief, if he will; though I know
not how far he is master of the main secret.”

Alderman Van Beverout stared a little wildly
about him, adjusted his wig, like one fully conscious
of the value of appearances in this world, and then
cautiously drew the curtains before the windows.

“I know of none more than common, my niece
excepted;” he said, when all these precautions had
been observed. “'Tis true the Patroon of Kinderhook
is in the house, but as the man sleeps, he is a
witness in our favor. We have the testimony of his
presence, while his tongue is silent.”

“Well, be it so;” rejoined the free-trader, reading,
in the imploring eyes of Alida, a petition that
he would say no more. “I knew by instinct there
was one unusual, and it was not for me to discover
that he sleeps. There are dealers on the coast, who,
for the sake of insurance, would charge his presence
in their bills.”

“Say no more, worthy Master Seadrift, and take
the gold. To confess the truth, the goods are in the
periagua and fairly out of the river. I knew we
should come to conclusions in the matter, and time
is precious, as there is a cruiser of the Queen so
nigh. The rogues will pass the pennant, like innocent
market-people, and I'll risk a Flemish gelding
against a Virginia nag, that they inquire if the captain
has no need of vegetables for his soup! Ah!

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ha-ha-ha! That Ludlow is a simpleton, niece of
mine, and he is not yet fit to deal with men of mature
years. You'll think better of his qualities, one
day, and bid him be gone like an unwelcome dun.”

“I hope these proceedings may be legally sanctioned,

“Sanctioned! Luck sanctions all. It is in trade
as in war: success gives character and booty, in
both. Your rich dealer is sure to be your honest
dealer. Plantations and Orders in Council! What
are our rulers doing at home, that they need be so
vociferous about a little contraband? The rogues
will declaim, by the hour, concerning bribery and
corruption, while more than half of them get their
seats as clandestinely—ay, and as illegally, as you
get these rare Mechlin laces. Should the Queen
take offence at our dealings, Master Seadrift, bring
me another season, or two, as profitable as the last,
and I'll be your passenger to London, go on 'change,
buy a seat in Parliament, and answer to the royal
displeasure from my place, as they call it. By the
responsibility of the States General! but I should
expect, in such a case, to return Sir Myndert, and
then the Manhattanese might hear of a Lady Van
Beverout, in which case, pretty Alida, thy assets
would be sadly diminished!—so go to thy bed, child,
and dream of fine laces, and rich velvets, and duty
to old uncles, and discretion, and all manner of agreeable
things—kiss me, jade, and to thy pillow.”

Alida obeyed, and was preparing to quit the room,
when the free-trader presented himself before her
with an air at once so gallant and respectful, that
she could scarce take offence at the freedom.

“I should fail in gratitude,” he said, “were I to
part from so generous a customer, without thanks
for her liberality. The hope of meeting again, will
hasten my return.”

“I know not that you are my debtor for these

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thanks,” returned Alida, though she saw that the
Alderman was carefully collecting the contents of
the bale, and that he had already placed three or
four of the most tempting of its articles on her dressing-table.
“We cannot be said to have bargained.”

“I have parted with more than is visible to vulgar
eyes,” returned the stranger, dropping his voice, and
speaking with an earnestness that caused his auditor
to start. “Whether there will be a return for the
gift, or perhaps I had better call it loss,—time and
my stars must show!”

He then took her hand, and raised it to his lips,
by an action so graceful and so gentle, as not to
alarm the maiden, until the freedom was done. La
belle Barbérie reddened to her forehead, seemed
disposed to condemn the liberty, frowned, smiled, and
curtsying in confusion, withdrew.

Several minutes passed in profound silence, after
Alida had disappeared. The stranger was thoughtful,
though his bright eye kindled, as if merry thoughts
were uppermost; and he paced the room, entirely
heedless of the existence of the Alderman. The
latter, however, soon took occasion to remind his
companion of his presence.

“No fear of the girl's prating,” exclaimed the
Alderman, when his task was ended. “She is an
excellent and dutiful niece; and here, you see, is a
balance on her side of the account, that would shut
the mouth of the wife of the First Lord of the Treasury.
I disliked the manner in which you would
have the child introduced; for, look you, I do not
think that either Monsieur Barbérie, or my late
sister, would altogether approve of her entering into
traffic, so very young;—but what is done, is done;
and the Norman himself could not deny that I have
made a fair set-off, of very excellent commodities,
for his daughter's benefit.—When dost mean to sail,
Master Seadrift?”

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“With the morning tide. I little like the neighborhood
of these meddling guarda-costas.”

“Bravely answered! Prudence is a cardinal quality
in a private trader; and it is a quality that I
esteem in Master Skimmer, next to his punctuality.
Dates and obligations! I wish half of the firms, of
three and four names, without counting the Co.'s,
were as much to be depended on. Dost not think
it safer to repass the inlet, under favor of the darkness?”

“'Tis impossible. The flood is entering it like
water rushing through a race-way, and we have the
wind at east. But, fear not; the brigantine carries
no vulgar freight, and your commerce has given us
a swept hold. The Queen and the Braganza, with
Holland ducats, might show their faces even in the
Royal Exchequer itself! We have no want of passes,
and the Miller's-Maid is just as good a name to hail
by, as the `Water-witch.' We begin to tire of this
constant running, and have half a mind to taste the
pleasures of your Jersey sports, for a week. There
should be shooting on the upper plains?”

“Heaven forbid! Heaven forbid! Master Seadrift.—
I had all the deer taken for the skins, ten years
ago;—and as to birds, they deserted us, to a pigeon,
when the last tribe of the savages went west of the
Delaware. Thou hast discharged thy brigantine
to better effect, than thou couldst ever discharge thy
fowling-pieces. I hope the hospitality of the Lust
in Rust is no problem—but, blushes and curiosity! I
could wish to keep a fair countenance, among my
neighbors. Art sure the impertinent masts of the
brigantine will not be seen above the trees, when
the day comes? This Captain Ludlow is no laggard,
when he thinks his duty actually concerned.”

“We shall endeavor to keep him quiet. The
cover of the trees, and the berth of the boat, make
all snug, as respects his people. I leave worthy

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Tiller to settle balances between us; and so, I take
my leave. Master Alderman—a word at parting.
Does the Viscount Cornbury still tarry in the Provinces?”

“Like a fixture! There is not a mercantile house
in the colony more firmly established.”

“There are unsettled affairs between us.—A
small premium would buy the obligations—”

“Heaven keep thee, Master Seadrift, and pleasant
voyages, back and forth! As for the Viscount's responsibility—
the Queen may trust him with another
Province, but Myndert Van Beverout would not give
him credit for the tail of a marten; and so, again,
Heaven preserve thee!”

The dealer in contraband appeared to tear himself
from the sight of all the little elegancies that
adorned the apartment of la belle Barbérie, with
reluctance. His adieus to the Alderman were rather
cavalier, for he still maintained a cold and abstracted
air; but as the other scarcely observed the forms of
decorum, in his evident desire to get rid of his guest,
the latter was finally obliged to depart. He disappeared
by the low balcony, where he had entered.

When Myndert Van Beverout was alone, he shut
the windows of the pavilion of his niece, and retired
to his own part of the dwelling. Here the thrifty
burgher first busied himself in making sundry calculations,
with a zeal that proved how much his mind
was engrossed by the occupation. After this preliminary
step, he gave a short but secret conference
to the mariner of the India-shawl, during which there
was much clinking of gold pieces. But when the
latter retired, the master of the villa first looked to
the trifling securities which were then, as now, observed
in the fastenings of an American country-house;
when he walked forth upon the lawn, like
one who felt the necessity of breathing the open air.
He cast more than one inquiring glance at the

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windows of the room which was occupied by Oloff Van
Staats, where all was happily silent; at the equally
immovable brigantine in the Cove; and at the more
distant and still motionless hull of the cruiser of the
crown. All around him was in the quiet of midnight.
Even the boats, which he knew to be plying between
the land and the little vessel at anchor, were invisible;
and he re-entered his habitation, with the security
one would be apt to feel, under similar circumstances,
in a region so little tenanted, and so
little watched, as that in which he lived.

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Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851 [1831], The water-witch, volume 1 (Carey & Lea, Philadelphia) [word count] [eaf061v1].
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