Fiction > Harvard Classics > Victor Hugo > Notre Dame de Paris > Book VII > Chapter IV
Victor Marie Hugo (1802–1885).  Notre Dame de Paris.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction.  1917.
Book VII
IV. Fate
ONE fine morning in the same month of March—it was Saturday, the 29th, St. Eustache’s Day, I think—our young friend, Jehan Frollo of the Mill, discovered, while putting on his breeches, that his purse gave forth no faintest chink of coin. “Poor purse!” said he, drawing it out of his pocket, “what, not a single little parisis? How cruelly have dice, Venus, and pots of beer disembowelled thee! Behold thee empty, wrinkled, and flabby, like the bosom of a fury! I would ask you, Messer Cicero and Messer Seneca, whose dog-eared volumes I see scattered upon the floor, of what use is it for me to know better than any master of the Mint or a Jew of the Pont-aux-Change that a gold crown piece is worth thirty-five unzain at twenty-five sous eight deniers parisis each, if I have not a single miserable black liard to risk upon the double-six? Oh, Consul Cicero! this is not a calamity from which one can extricate one’s self by periphrases—by quemadmodum, and verum enim vero!”   1
  He completed his toilet dejectedly. An idea occurred to him as he was lacing his boots which he at first rejected: it returned, however, and he put on his vest wrong side out, a sure sign of a violent inward struggle. At length he cast his cap vehemently on the ground, and exclaimed: “Be it so! the worst has come to the worst—I shall go to my brother. I shall catch a sermon, I know, but also I shall catch a crown piece.”   2
  He threw himself hastily into his fur-edged gown, picked up his cap, and rushed out with an air of desperate resolve.   3
  He turned down the Rue de la Harpe towards the City. Passing the Rue de la Huchette, the odour wafted from those splendid roasting-spits which turned incessantly, tickled his olfactory nerves, and he cast a lustful eye into the Cyclopean kitchen which once extorted from the Franciscan monk, Calatigiron, the pathetic exclamation: “Veramente, queste rotisserie sono cosa stupenda!” But Jehan had not the wherewithal to obtain a breakfast, so with a profound sigh he passed on under the gateway of the Petit-Châtelet, the enormous double trio of massive towers guarding the entrance to the City.   4
  He did not even take time to throw the customary stone at the dishonoured statue of that Perinet Leclerc who betrayed the Paris of Charles VI to the English, a crime which his effigy, its face all battered with stones and stained with mud, expiated during three centuries at the corner of the streets de la Harpe and de Bussy, as on an everlasting pillory.   5
  Having crossed the Petit-Pont and walked down the Rue Neuve-Sainte-Geneviève, Jehan de Molendino found himself in front of Notre Dame. Then all his indecision returned, and he circled for some minutes round the statue of “Monsieur Legris,” repeating to himself with a tortured mind:   6
  “The sermon is certain, the florin is doubtful.”   7
  He stopped a beadle who was coming from the cloister. “Where is Monsieur the Archdeacon of Josas?”   8
  “In his secret cell in the tower, I believe,” answered the man; “but I counsel you not to disturb him, unless you come from some one such as the Pope or the King himself.”   9
  Jehan clapped his hands.  10
  “Bédiable! what a magnificent chance for seeing the famous magician’s cave!”  11
  This decided him, and he advanced resolutely through the little dark doorway, and began to mount the spiral staircase of Saint-Gilles, which leads to the upper stories of the tower.  12
  “We shall see!” he said as he proceeded. “By the pangs of the Virgin! it must be a curious place, this cell which my reverend brother keeps so strictly concealed. They say he lights up hell’s own fires there on which to cook the philosopher’s stone. Bédieu! I care no more for the philospher’s stone than for a pebble; and I’d rather find on his furnace an omelet of Easter eggs in lard, than the biggest philosopher’s stone in the world!”  13
  Arrived at the gallery of the colonnettes, he stopped a moment to take breath and to call down ten million cartloads of devils on the interminable stairs. He then continued his ascent by the narrow doorway of the northern tower, now prohibited to the public. A moment or two after passing the belfry, he came to a small landing in a recess with a low Gothic door under the vaulted roof, while a loophole opposite in the circular wall of the staircase enabled him to distinguish its enormous lock and powerful iron sheeting. Any one curious to inspect this door at the present day will recognise it by this legend inscribed in white letters on the black wall: “j’adore Coralie, 1823. Signé, Ugène.” (This signé is included in the inscription.)  14
  “Whew!” said the scholar; “this must be it.”  15
  The key was in the lock, the door slightly ajar; he gently pushed it open and poked his head round it.  16
  The reader is undoubtedly acquainted with the works of Rembrandt—the Shakespeare of painting. Among the many wonderful engravings there is one etching in particular representing, as is supposed, Doctor Faustus, which it is impossible to contemplate without measureless admiration. There is a gloomy chamber; in the middle stands a table loaded with mysterious and repulsive objects—death’s heads, spheres, alembics, compasses, parchments covered with hieroglyphics. Behind this table, which hides the lower part of him, stands the Doctor wrapped in a wide gown, his head covered by a fur cap reaching to his eyebrows. He has partly risen from his immense arm-chair, his clenched fists are leaning on the table, while he gazes in curiosity and terror at a luminous circle of magic letters shining on the wall in the background like the solar spectrum in a camera obscura. This cabalistic sun seems actually to scintillate, and fills the dim cell with its mysterious radiance. It is horrible and yet beautiful.  17
  Something very similar to Faust’s study presented itself to Jehan’s view as he ventured his head through the half-open door. Here, too, was a sombre, dimly lighted cell, a huge arm-chair, and a large table, compasses, alembics, skeletons of animals hanging from the ceiling, a celestial globe rolling on the floor, glass phials full of quivering goldleaf, skulls lying on sheets of vellum covered with figures and written characters, thick manuscripts open and piled one upon another regardless of the creased corners of the parchment; in short, all the rubbish of science—dust and cobwebs covering the whole heap. But there was no circle of luminous letters, no doctor contemplating in ecstasy the flamboyant vision as an eagle gazes at the sun.  18
  Nevertheless the cell was not empty. A man was seated in the arm-chair, leaning over the table. Jehan could see nothing but his broad shoulders and the back of his head; but he had no difficulty in recognising that bald head, which nature seemed to have provided with a permanent tonsure, as if to mark by this external sign the irresistible clerical vocation of the Archdeacon.  19
  Thus Jehan recognised his brother; but the door had been opened so gently that Dom Claude was unaware of his presence. The prying little scholar availed himself of this opportunity to examine the cell for a few minutes at his ease. A large furnace, which he had not remarked before, was to the left of the arm-chair under the narrow window. The ray of light that penetrated through this opening traversed the circular web of a spider, who had tastefully woven her delicate rosace in the pointed arch of the window and now sat motionless in the centre of this wheel of lace. On the furnace was a disordered accumulation of vessels of every description, stone bottles, glass retorts and bundles of charcoal. Jehan observed with a sigh that there was not a single cooking utensil.  20
  In any case there was no fire in the furnace, nor did any appear to have been lighted there for a long time. A glass mask which Jehan noticed among the alchemistic implements, used doubtless to protect the Archdeacon’s face when he was engaged in compounding some deadly substance, lay forgotten in a corner, thick with dust. Beside it lay a pair of bellows equally dusty, the upper side of which bore in letters of copper the motto: “Spiro, spero.” 1  21
  Following the favourite custom of the hermetics, the walls were inscribed with many legends of this description; some traced in ink, others engraved with a metal point; Gothic characters, Hebrew, Greek and Roman, pell-mell; inscribed at random, overlapping each other, the more recent effacing the earlier ones, and all interlacing and mingled like the branches of a thicket or the pikes in a mêlée. And, in truth, it was a confused fray between all the philosophies, all the schemes, the wisdom of the human mind. Here and there one shone among the others like a banner among the lanceheads, but for the most part they consisted of some brief heads, Latin or Greek sentence, so much in favour in the Middle Ages, such as: “Unde? Inde?—Homo homini monstrum.—Astra, castra.—Nomen, numen.—[Greek]—Sapere aude.—Flat ubi vult,” etc. 2 Or sometimes a word devoid of all meaning as [Greek], which perhaps concealed some bitter allusion to the rules of the cloister; sometimes a simple maxim of monastic discipline set forth in a correct hexameter: “Cœlesten Dominum, terrestrem dicite domnum.” 3  22
  Here and there, too, were obscure Hebrew passages, of which Jehan, whose Greek was already of the feeblest, understood nothing at all; and the whole crossed and recrossed in all directions with stars and triangles, human and animal figures, till the wall of the cell looked like a sheet of paper over which a monkey has dragged a pen full of ink.  23
  Altogether the general aspect of the study was one of complete neglect and decay; and the shocking condition of the implements led inevitably to the conclusion that their owner had long been diverted from his labours by pursuits of some other kind.  24
  The said owner, meanwhile, bending over a vast manuscript adorned with bizarre paintings, appeared to be tormented by some idea which incessantly interrupted his meditations. So at least Jehan surmised as he listened to his musing aloud, with the intermittent pauses of a person talking in his dreams.  25
  “Yes,” he exclaimed, “Manou said it, and Zoroaster taught the same! the sun is born of fire, the moon of the sun. Fire is the soul of the Great All, its elementary atoms are diffused and constantly flowing by an infinity of currents throughout the universe. At the points where these currents cross each other in the heavens, they produce light; at their points of intersection in the earth, they produce gold. Light—gold; it is the same thing—fire in its concrete state; merely the difference between the visible and the palpable, the fluid and the solid in the same substance, between vapour and ice—nothing more. This is no dream; it is the universal law of Nature. But how to extract from science the secret of this universal law? What! this light that bathes my hand is gold! All that is necessary is to condense by a certain law these same atoms dilated by certain other laws! Yes; but how? Some have thought of burying a ray of sunshine. Averroës—yes, it was Averroës—buried one under the first pillar to the left of the sanctuary of the Koran, in the great Mosque of Cordova; but the vault was not to be opened to see if the operation was successful under eight thousand years.”  26
  “Diable!” said Jehan to himself, “rather a long time to wait for a florin!”  27
  “Others have thought,” continued the Archdeacon musingly, “that it were better to experiment upon a ray from Sirius. But it is difficult to obtain this ray pure, on account of the simultaneous presence of other stars whose rays mingle with it. Flamel considers it simpler to operate with terrestrial fire. Flamel! there’s predestination in the very name! Flamma! yes, fire—that is all. The diamond exists already in the charcoal, gold in fire—But how to extract it? Magistri affirms that there are certain female names which possess so sweet and mysterious a charm, that it suffices merely to pronounce them during the operation. Let us see what Manou says on the subject: ‘Where women are held in honour, the gods are well pleased: where they are despised, it is useless to pray to God. The mouth of a woman is constantly pure; it is as a running stream, as a ray of sunshine. The name of a woman should be pleasing, melodious, and give food to the imagination—should end in long vowels, and sound like a benediction.’ Yes, yes, the sage is right; for example, Maria—Sophia—Esmeral—Damnation! Ever that thought!”  28
  And he closed the book with a violent slam.  29
  He passed his hand over his brow as if to chase away the thought that haunted him. Then taking from the table a nail and a small hammer, the handle of which bore strange, painted, cabalistic figures—  30
  “For some time,” said he with a bitter smile, “I have failed in all my experiments. A fixed idea possesses me, and tortures my brain like the presence of a fiery stigma. I have not even succeeded in discovering the secret of Cassiodorus, whose lamp burned without wick or oil. Surely a simple matter enough!”  31
  “The devil it is!” muttered Jehan between his teeth.  32
  “One miserable thought, then,” continued the priest, “suffices to sap a man’s will and render him feeble-minded. Oh, how Claude Pernelle would mock at me—she who could not for one moment divert Nicholas Flamel from the pursuit of his great work! What! I hold in my hand the magic hammer of Zechieles! At every blow which, from the depths of his cell, the redoubtable rabbi struck with this hammer upon this nail that one among his enemies whom he had condemned would, even were he two thousand leagues away, sink an arm’s length into the earth which swallowed him up. The King of France himself, for having one night inadvertently struck against the door of the magician, sank up to his knees in his own pavement of Paris. This happened not three centuries ago. Well, I have the hammer and the nail, and yet these implements are no more formidable in my hands than a hammer in the hand of a smith. And yet all that is wanting is the magic word which Zechieles pronounced as he struck upon the nail.”  33
  “A mere trifle!” thought Jehan.  34
  “Come, let us try,” resumed the Archdeacon eagerly. “If I succeed, I shall see the blue spark fly from the head of the nail. Emen-Héten! Emen-Héten! That is not it—Sigeani! Sigeani! May this nail open the grave for whomsoever bears the name of Phœbus! A curse upon it again! Forever that same thought!”  35
  He threw away the hammer angrily. He then sank so low in his arm-chair and over the table that Jehan lost sight of him. For some minutes he could see nothing but a hand clenched convulsively on a book. Suddenly Dom Claude arose, took a pair of compasses, and in silence engraved upon the wall in capitals the Greek word:
  “My brother’s a fool,” said Jehan to himself; “it would have been much simpler to write Fatum. Everybody is not obliged to know Greek.”  37
  The Archdeacon reseated himself in his chair and clasped his forehead between his two hands, like a sick person whose head is heavy and burning.  38
  The scholar watched his brother with surprise. He had no conception—he who always wore his heart upon his sleeve, who observed no laws but the good old laws of nature, who allowed his passions to flow according to their natural tendencies, and in whom the lake of strong emotions was always dry, so many fresh channels did he open for it daily—he had no conception with what fury that sea of human passions ferments and boils when it is refused all egress; how it gathers strength, swells, and overflows; how it wears away the heart; how it breaks forth in inward sobs and stifled convulsions, until it has rent its banks and overflowed its bed.  39
  The austere and icy exterior of Claude Frollo, that cold surface of rugged and inaccessible virtue, had always deceived Jehan. The light-hearted scholar had never dreamed of the lava, deep, boiling, furious, beneath the snow of Ætna.  40
  We do not know whether any sudden perception of this kind crossed Jehan’s mind; but, scatter-brained as he was, he understood that he had witnessed something he ought never to have seen; that he had surprised the soul of his elder brother in one of its most secret attitudes, and that Claude must not discover it. Perceiving that the Archdeacon had fallen back into his previous immobility, he withdrew his head very softly and made a slight shuffling of feet behind the door, as of some one approaching and giving warning of the fact.  41
  “Come in!” cried the Archdeacon, from within his cell. “I was expecting you, and left the key in the door on purpose. Come in, Maˆtre Jacques!”  42
  The scholar entered boldly. The Archdeacon much embarrassed by such a visitor in this particular place started violently in his arm-chair.  43
  “What! is it you, Jehan?”  44
  “A J at any rate,” said the scholar, with his rosy, smiling, impudent face.  45
  The countenance of Dom Claude had resumed its severe expression. “What are you doing here?”  46
  “Brother,” answered the scholar, endeavouring to assume a sober, downcast, and modest demeanour, and twisting his cap in his hands with an appearance of artlessness, “I have come to beg of you.”  47
  “What?”  48
  “A moral lesson of which I have great need,” he had not the courage to add—“and a little money of which my need is still greater.” The last half of his sentence remained unspoken.  49
  “Sir,” said the Archdeacon coldly, “I am greatly displeased with you.”  50
  “Alas!” sighed the scholar.  51
  Dom Claude described a quarter of a circle with his chair, and regarded Jehan sternly. “I am very glad to see you.”  52
  This was a formidable exordium. Jehan prepared for a sharp encounter.  53
  “Jehan, every day they bring me complaints of you. What is this about a scuffle in which you belaboured a certain little vicomte, Albert de Ramonchamp?”  54
  “Oh,” said Jehan, “a mere trifle! An ill-conditioned page, who amused himself with splashing the scholars by galloping his horse through the mud.”  55
  “And what is this about Mahiet Fargel, whose gown you have torn? ‘Tunicam dechiraverunt,’ says the charge.”  56
  “Pah! a shabby Montaigu cape. What’s there to make such a coil about?”  57
  “The complaint says tunicam, not cappettam. Do you understand Latin?”  58
  Jehan did not reply.  59
  “Yes,” went on the priest shaking his head, “this is what study and letters have come to now! The Latin tongue is scarcely understood, Syriac unknown, the Greek so abhorred that it is not accounted ignorance in the most learned to miss over a Greek word when reading, and to say, Græcum est non legitur.”  60
  The scholar raised his eyes boldly. “Brother, shall I tell you in good French the meaning of that Greek word over there upon the wall?”  61
  “Which word?”  62
  [Greek].  63
  A faint flush crept into the parchment cheeks of the Archdeacon, like a puff of smoke giving warning of the unseen commotions of a volcano. The scholar hardly noted it.  64
  “Well, Jehan,” faltered the elder brother with an effort, “what does the word mean?”  65
  “Fatality.”  66
  Dom Claude grew pale again, and the scholar went on heedlessly:  67
  “And the word underneath it, inscribed by the same hand, [Greek] signifies ‘impurity.’ You see, we know our Greek.”  68
  The Archdeacon was silent. This lesson in Greek had set him musing.  69
  Little Jehan, who had all the cunning of a spoilt child, judged the moment favourable for hazarding his request. Adopting, therefore, his most insinuating tones, he began:  70
  “Do you hate me so much, good brother, as to look thus grim on account of a few poor scufflings and blows dealt all in fair fight with a pack of boys and young monkeys—quibusdam marmosetis? You see, good brother Claude, we know our Latin.”  71
  But this caressing hypocrisy failed in its customary effect on the severe elder brother. Cerberus would not take the honeyed sop. Not a furrow in the Archdeacon’s brow was smoothed. “What are you aiming at?” he asked dryly.  72
  “Well, then, to be plain, it is this,” answered Jehan stoutly, “I want money.”  73
  At this piece of effrontery the Archdeacon at once became the school-master, the stern parent.  74
  “You are aware, Monsieur Jehan, that our fief of Tirechappe, counting together both the ground rents and the rents of the twenty-one houses, only brings in twenty-nine livres, eleven sous, six deniers parisis. That is half as much again as in the time of the brothers Paclet, but it is not much.”  75
  “I want some money,” repeated Jehan stolidly.  76
  “You know that the Ecclesiastical Court decided that our twenty-one houses were held in full fee of the bishopric, and that we could only redeem this tribute by paying to his Reverence the Bishop two marks silver gilt of the value of six livres parisis. Now, I have not yet been able to collect these two marks, and you know it.”  77
  “I know that I want money,” repeated Jehan for the third time.  78
  “And what do you want it for?”  79
  This question brought a ray of hope to Jehan’s eyes. He assumed his coaxing, demure air once more.  80
  “Look you, dear brother Claude, I do not come to you with any bad intent. I do not purpose to squander your money in a tavern, or ruffle it through the streets of Paris in gold brocade and with my lackey behind me—cum meo laquasio. No, brother, ’tis for a good work.”  81
  “What good work?” asked Claude, somewhat surprised.  82
  “Why, two of my friends wish to purchase some swaddling-clothes for the infant of a poor widow of the Haudriette Convent. ’Tis a charity. It will cost three florins, and I would like to add my contribution.”  83
  “Who are your two friends?”  84
  “Pierre l’Assommeur 4 and Baptiste Croque-Oison.” 5  85
  “Humph!” said the Archdeacon; “these are names that go as fitly with a good work as a bombard upon a high altar.”  86
  It cannot be denied that Jehan had not been happy in the choice of names for his two friends. He felt it when it was too late.  87
  “Besides,” continued the shrewd Claude, “what sort of swaddling-clothes are they which cost three florins—and for the infant of a Haudriette? Since when, pray, do the Haudriette widows have babes in swaddling-clothes?”  88
  Jehan broke the ice definitely.  89
  “Well, then, I want some money to go and see Isabeau la Thierrye this evening at the Val-d’ Amour!”  90
  “Vile profligate!” cried the priest.  91
  “[Greek],” retorted Jehan.  92
  This quotation, selected by the boy no doubt in sheer malice from those on the wall of the cell, produced a singular effect upon the priest. He bit his lip, and his anger was lost in his confusion.  93
  “Get you gone!” said he to Jehan; “I am expecting some one.”  94
  The scholar made one last attempt.  95
  “Brother Claude, give me at least one little parisis to get some food.”  96
  “How far have you advanced in the Decretals of Gratian?” asked Dom Claude.  97
  “I have lost my note-books.”  98
  “Where are you in Latin classics?”  99
  “Somebody stole my copy of Horatius.” 100
  “And where in Aristotle?” 101
  “Faith, brother! what Father of the Church is it who says that the errors of heretics have ever found shelter among the thickets of Aristotle’s metaphysics? A straw for Aristotle! I will never mangle my religion on his metaphysics.” 102
  “Young man,” replied the Archdeacon, “at the last entry of the King into Paris, there was a gentleman named Philippe de Comines, who displayed embroidered on his saddle-cloth this motto—which I counsel you to ponder well: ‘Qui non laborat non manducet.’” 6 103
  The scholar stood a moment silent, his eyes bent on the ground, his countenance chagrined. Suddenly he turned towards Claude with the quick motion of a wagtail. 104
  “So, good brother, you refuse me even a sou to buy a crust of bread?” 105
  “Qui non laborat non manducet.” 106
  At this inflexible answer Jehan buried his face in his hands, like a woman sobbing, and cried in a voice of despair: 107
  “[Greek]!” 108
  “What do you mean by this, sir?” demanded Claude, taken aback at this freak. 109
  “Well, what?” said the scholar, raising a pair of impudent eyes into which he had been thrusting his fists to make them appear red with tears; “it’s Greek! it is an anapæst of Æschylus admirably expressive of grief.” And he burst into a fit of laughter so infections and uncontrolled that the Archdeacon could not refrain from smiling. After all, it was Claude’s own fault: why had he so spoiled the lad? 110
  “Oh, dear brother Claude,” Jehan went on, emboldened by this smile, “look at my broken shoes. Is there a more tragic buskin in the world than a boot that gapes thus and puts out its tongue?” 111
  The Archdeacon had promptly resumed his former severity. 112
  “I will send you new shoes, but no money.” 113
  “Only one little parisis, brother,” persisted the suppliant Jehan. “I will learn Gratian by heart, I am perfectly ready to believe in God, I will be a very Pythagoras of science and virtue. But one little parisis, for pity’s sake! Would you have me devoured by famine, which stands staring me in the face with open maw, blacker, deeper, more noisome than Tartarus or a monk’s nose——?” 114
  Dom Claude shook his head—“Qui non laborat——” 115
  Jehan did not let him finish. “Well!” he cried, “to the devil, then! Huzza! I’ll live in the taverns, I’ll fight, I’ll break heads and wine cups, I’ll visit the lasses and go to the devil!” 116
  And so saying, he flung his cap against the wall and snapped his fingers like castanets. 117
  The Archdeacon regarded him gravely. “Jehan,” said he, “you have no soul.” 118
  “In that case, according to Epicurus, I lack an unknown something made of another something without a name.” 119
  “Jehan, you must think seriously of amending your ways.” 120
  “Ah ça!” cried the scholar, looking from his brother to the alembics on the furnaces, “everything seems awry here—tempers as well as bottles!” 121
  “Jehan, you are on a slippery downward path. Know you whither you are going?” 122
  “To the tavern,” answered Jehan promptly. 123
  “The tavern leads to the pillory.” 124
  “’Tis as good a lantern as any other, and one, may-be, with which Diogenes would have found his man.” 125
  “The pillory leads to the gibbet.” 126
  “The gibbet is a balance with a man at one end and the whole world at the other. It is good to be the man.” 127
  “The gibbet leads to hell.” 128
  “That’s a good big fire.” 129
  “Jehan, Jehan! all this will have a bad end!” 130
  “It will have had a good beginning.” 131
  At this moment there was a sound of footsteps on the stairs. 132
  “Silence!” said the Archdeacon, his finger on his lips, “here is Maître Jacques. Hark you, Jehan,” he added in a low voice, “beware of ever breathing a word of what you have seen or heard here. Hide yourself quickly under this furnace, and do not make a sound.” 133
  The scholar was creeping under the furnace when a happy thought struck him. 134
  “Brother Claude, a florin for keeping still!” 135
  “Silence! I promise it you!” 136
  “No, give it me now.” 137
  “Take it, then!” said the Archdeacon, flinging him his whole pouch angrily. Jehan crept under the furnace, and the door opened. 138

Note 1.  Blow, hope. [back]
Note 2.  Whence, whither?—Man is a monster unto men.—The stars, a fortress.—The name, a wonder.—A great book, a great evil.—Dare to be wise.—It bloweth where it listeth. [back]
Note 3.  Account the Lord of heaven thy ruler upon earth. [back]
Note 4.  The slaughterer. [back]
Note 5.  The rook. [back]
Note 6.  He who will not work shall not eat. [back]



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