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Artomonov stood up, his face oddly pale. "You must excuse me, gentlemen. I must get in touch with Moscow immediately." He strode out of the room.

The four men remaining in the room just stared at each other for a long moment. There wasn't much else they could do.



By Owen Gregory



AS this book is little more than a transcript of a document originally written in the form of a journal by a man who, until about a year ago, was an entire stranger to me, and as the document itself contains not a few statements which make large demands upon the credulity of the average reader, it seems necessary to offer some explanation regarding both the journal and its author, Mr. Ming--or, to give him his full name, Ming Yuen-hwuy.

If I were able to go bail for Mr. Ming and assure the British Public that he was an entirely credible and impartial witness, the book might have stood on the same foundation as other volumes of 'revelations' concerning a country with which Englishmen are still insufficiently acquainted. But I cannot go bail for Mr. Ming. The chief source of my knowledge of him is the journal itself. It has even been suggested to me that Mr. Ming did not write the journal, but must have stolen it from some European, probably an Englishman. On this point I shall have something to say presently. Perhaps the best solution of these difficulties will be to say what I know of the origin of the book.

Mr. Ming was introduced to me, by a friend whose name it is unnecessary to give, in November or December 1917. My friend said he remembered meeting him in London as far back as 1909. Since then, however, Mr. Ming had not only lived in London and travelled throughout England, but had also spent about two years in France and Italy, and had visited America. What his previous career had been I do not know, nor did my friend know. He appeared always to have plenty of money, and we surmised that he might have been attached in some way to the Chinese Legation; but he never gave the least hint about any such connection. What I do know is that he had a remarkable knowledge of our language, and a remarkable familiarity with our laws, customs and political institutions. He professed a great admiration for our British Constitutions, a circumstance which may account for some of the political views to which he gives expression in his journal.

A day or two after he had been introduced to me I invited him to dinner and on this occasion we found much to talk about--chiefly European politics. At length, after we had finished a bottle of wine and a liqueur or two, he remarked that of all the countries he had visited in Western Europe he had been most impressed by Meccania. (He pronounced the word' Mek-kah'-nia.') My knowledge of Geography is not complete, I admit, but I thought I knew all the countries of Western Europe (the war has helped wonderfully to fill up certain gaps). I replied that I had never heard of such a country.

"Probably not," he answered. "But it exists. And the proof of it is that I spent some five months there in 1970, and kept a journal of my experiences."

"You mean 1870," I said.

"No, 1970," he replied.

I hardly knew whether he were experimenting upon my sense of humour, or had got confused between Chinese and European chronology; or whether the liqueur had gone to his head. Possibly aai and here I became a little nervous--he was a little' abnormal.' "Anyhow," he said, "one of my chief objects in seeking an interview with you was to consult you about publishing this journal."

We were dining in my chambers and he begged permission to fetch his hand-bag from the anteroom. He returned with a bulky manuscript. I wondered if he were hard up and wanted to draw me into some sort of bargain, but I reflected that he seemed to be a much wealthier man than I. He said he was convinced that his journal was an important contribution to political literature, and would be found of interest not only in Great Britain but in France and America as well. It would be a good thing also if the Meccanians themselves could read it. Unfortunately there was no chance of that, he said, because nothing was read in Meccania except by permission of the Government. He went on to explain that the journal had been kept partly in English, partly in Chinese and partly in Meccanian; but that he had since written a rough translation of the whole in English. His knowledge of English, though sufficient for most practical purposes, was not such as to satisfy the literary critics; and that was one of the reasons why he sought my assistance. The upshot was that I promised to read the manuscript, which I did in a few hours next day.

I found that it purported to be the journal of a visit or tour, made in 1970, to a country he called Meccania. I had little difficulty in penetrating the fiction. (It was obvious what country was meant.) As to the date, 1970, I soon came to the conclusion that this was another literary device, to enable him to describe with greater freedom what he considered to be the probable, or as he would be inclined to say, the inevitable development of the tendencies he had observed in that country. Whilst some parts of the description were clear, and even vivid, many things were left in obscurity. For instance, the extent and the limits of the country were quite vague. Only two cities were described in any detail. Little was said about domestic life, little about religion, little about women and children.

When I questioned him subsequently on these points, he said that the obstacles to obtaining full information had proved insuperable: he had not been at liberty to travel about when and where he pleased, nor to get into close contact with the common people. The journal itself if carefully read, he said, gave a sufficient answer on these points, and he had preferred to give a faithful account of what had actually happened to him, and of the conversations he had had with representative Meccanians, leaving the evidence to speak for itself. If he had said little about Education the little that he had said would be found most illuminating, by the aid of insight and imagination. If he had said little about military matters, that was because it would have been positively dangerous to be suspected of spying.

I then questioned him about his references to Luniland, which occur on the very first page of the journal and are scattered throughout the book. Did he mean to indicate England by this term? If so, it was not exactly flattering.

Mr. Ming said he intended no offence. The references were perhaps a little obscure. The simple fact was that some years ago he had, for his own amusement, written a harmless satire upon some of our national characteristics. He had then hit upon the phrase Luniland and Lunilanders, and he could not get it out of his head. It was just an instance of his whimsicality.

"But why Luniland?" I asked.

"Why not?" he said. "You do such funny things without seeing that they are funny."

"Such as what?" I asked.

"Well, to take a few things that have happened recently in connection with your great war. You are intensely proud of all your soldiers, and rightly. Yet you seem to pay the citizens who stay at home about three times as much as the soldiers who go out to fight; and I have been told, although this seems more difficult to believe, that you pay the men who volunteered from the very first less than those whom you subsequently had to compel to serve in your armies."

"I am afraid these things you allege are true," I replied, "but they do not seem funny to us."

"No, probably not," he said. "Each nation has its own sense of humour!"

"Have you noticed anything else of the same kind?" I asked.

"Oh, a great many things," he said, "but I just gave you a sample of what first occurred to me. I did hear of some men being excused from serving in the army because they were engaged in carving gravestones."

"For the soldiers, I suppose?"

"Oh no," he replied, "there is no time to carve gravestones for the soldiers; for people who die in their beds at home. Yet you do not profess to be worshippers of the dead."

"Do not misunderstand me," he added. "You are a wonderful people, and it is perhaps because you are Lunilanders that I cannot help liking you. We are Lunilanders ourselves if only we knew it. If you were to come to my country you would find many things just as funny as those I have observed here. Perhaps when you have more time and the opportunity is favourable you may like to read my book of observations on Luniland, but Meccania is a more important subject."

After a careful reading of Mr. Ming's account of Meccania I was inclined to agree with him. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the dangers to be apprehended from Meccania, or Meccanianism, are far more real and imminent than the dangers from what he would call our Lunilandishness, and for that reason I have done my best to bring before the British Public his account of Meccania, although I hope at some future time to produce, perhaps for a smaller circle of readers, his notes on Luniland and the Lunilanders.

Lastly, a word about the suggestion that the journal cannot be the work of a Chinaman. It is implied that the sentiments professed by Mr. Ming, his interests and his way of looking at things, are those of an Englishman. What does this really amount to? Mr. Ming does not like the Meccanians. Certainly we should not like the Meccanians. Therefore Mr. Ming is an Englishman. Mr. Ming does not like interferences with his personal habits: he has some belief in the political value of individual liberty. An Englishman resents interference and is also credited with a passion for Liberty. Therefore Mr. Ming must be an Englishman. Now I would suggest that, so far from Mr. Ming's ?entimerits being evidence against him, they really substantiate his character as a Chinaman and remove all suspicion of his having stolen the document from some Englishman, or some other European. In the first place, he submits calmly to indignities that a typical Englishman would fiercely resent. In the second place, he records things with a detachment that few Englishmen would be capable of, and resigns himself to the customs of the country n the manner of a mere spectator. In the third place, he betrays a philosophical interest, which is again very different from the behaviour of most of our countrymen. He records at great length conversations which we perhaps find tedious, because he thinks the ideas of the Meccanians even more significant than their customs. An Englishman's journal, in the same circumstances, would be certain to contain angry diatribes against the Meccanians, whereas Mr. Ming writes with singular restraint, even when he is describing features of Meccanian life which we should consider revolting.

Possibly the style in which the book is presented, the turns of expression and the colloquialisms, give the journal an English appearance; but for these features the editor is responsible, as it was Mr. Ming's wish that the book should not suffer from the most common defects of a mere translation.


The names which occur in the narrative are exactly as given by Mr. Ming in his journal, but it would appear that he has taken some liberties with the language in attempting to give an approximate English equivalent for the original meaning. The translation of personal names and place-names is notoriously difficult as many names are either corrupt or obscure.





I HAD already spent several years in various parts of Western Europe, staying for long periods in Francaria, Romania and Luniland, before I made up my mind to pay a visit to Meccania. Before coming to Europe I had read a great deal about Western civilisation generally and had conceived a great admiration for many of its features. My experiences during my travels had, on the whole, strengthened my feelings of admiration; although even an Oriental may be allowed to criticise some of the characteristics of Western nations. In Romania I had been delighted with the never-ending spectacle of history displayed in every part of the country. The whole land was like an infinite museum; but it was not in Romania that the living forces of the present were to be found. In Francaria, on the other hand, the people were more interesting than the country, charming as that country was in many ways. One perceived that the people were highly civilised; they displayed a combination of intellectual and moral refinement, an appreciation of the material and sensuous enjoyment of life as well as a traditional standard of conduct and manners, while at the same time they were keenly alive to the most modern political ideas, and were perpetually discussing new phases of all those problems which must constantly emerge wherever political liberty is held as an article of popular faith.

But it was in Luniland that I felt most at home. Just what it was that kept me constantly pleased and interested it would take long to tell, and I must reserve my observations on Luniland for another occasion. It will be sufficient to say here that I was not so much impressed with the wealth of ideas current in society in Luniland--Francaria was more prolific in ideas, and in Francaria intellectual discussion was more brilliant--as with the stability of certain political principles which, as it seems to me at any rate, are destined to prevail ultimately throughout the world.

For many reasons I thoroughly enjoyed the three or four years which, with short intervals of absence, I had spent there. I had made many acquaintances and even a considerable number of friends. In fact, I had stayed so long, contrary to my original intention, that there was little time left for carrying out the project of visiting Meccania, and I was in some doubt whether I should not have to return home without seeing that remarkable country. For I had already received one or two pressing reminders from my family that they were expecting my return. Before leaving home, however, I had promised some of my political friends, who were interested in the subject of Meccanian culture, that I would not return without investigating the social and political life of Meccania. They had, in fact, written several times to remind me of my promise, and I had put them off by explaining that, whilst travelling in the rest of Europe was a simple and easy matter, I could not enter Meccania without elaborate preparation.

When I began to talk to some of my friends in Luniland of my idea of investigating Meccanian culture on the spot, I received the most conflicting advice. Some said, "Don't go on any account. You will be arrested as a spy, and probably shot!" Others said Meccania was ahead of Luniland in every respect, and that I should certainly see something worth remembering if I went there. Others, again, said that if I did go, I should be looked upon with suspicion on my return. In fact, I gathered that most of my friends would never open their doors to me again. Finally, I took counsel with Mr. Yorke, a gentleman occupying an important position in Lunopolis, a man of wide culture and sober views, whom it was a great privilege to count among my friends.

He discussed the matter very frankly with me. I remember it was a cold evening early in March, and we sat by the fire in his study after an excellent dinner. "We Lunilanders," he said, "do not like the Meccanians, and few of us ever visit Meccania. We prefer to have nothing to do with that country, and if you followed the advice which nine out of ten of my countrymen would give you, you would not go near Meccania. But you have come to Europe partly, at all events, to study our civilisation, and not simply to amuse yourself; and although there is little intercourse between the Meccanians and the rest of us, if you want to know Europe you cannot afford to neglect Meccania. If I may advise you, I should say, Go there by all means. See as much as you can with your own eyes. But try to see the country as a whole. Don't be content to see just what interests you, or amuses you, or what excites your admiration. If you do that, you will be like certain cranks from this country who come back and tell us there is no poverty in Meccania, there are no strikes, there is no disorder, no ignorance, no preventible disease. You at any rate are not a simpleton to be taken in by any sort of hocus-pocus. But the Meccanians are very clever, and they manage to impose on many people who are not so wideawake as you are. How much you will be allowed to see I don't know. It is a good many years since I was there, but, if things are managed as I am told they are now, you will not see all you want by any means. In fact, in one sense, you would learn far more from books--you read Meccanian easily already, I know--than from an actual visit. But unless you go there you will not feel satisfied that what you read is true, and you will not have the same sense of reality.

"The great thing is to look at the country as a whole--I don't mean geographically, but spiritually. There is always a tendency for foolish people to take this idea from one country and that institution from another. Enthusiastic reformers are ready to shut their eyes to everything else if only they can get support for their particular fads. If you find after a real study of Meccanian life that you would like to turn your own country into a second edition of Meccania, I shall say, like old Dogberry, that you are not the man I took you for."

He impressed upon me the importance of a thorough knowledge of the language, but I was able to satisfy him on that score; for I had learnt to read easily before coming to Europe, and had already undertaken a long course of colloquial Meccanian under a good teacher during a visit to Francaria. Besides, I rather prided myself on my aptitude for languages, and considered myself well equipped. So I packed up all the miscellaneous goods I had collected, and stored them in Lunopolis, reserving only a couple of trunks filled with the usual necessaries for a mere tourist.

I had my passport from our own Government.

I procured another from the Luniland Foreign Office. I obtained, further, the necessary permission from the Meccanian Government, and, choosing the shortest route, arrived at the outer frontier on March 28th. As most people know, Meccania has a double frontier on the Western side. A belt of country twenty miles wide is preserved as neutral territory, a veritable No Man's Land. This is a relic from the Great War. It is entirely uninhabited and uncultivated. Not a single line of railway crosses it, and only five roads, which are merely rough tracks, lead across it from various points to the five frontier towns on the inner side. These are the only gates into Meccania on the West. The small town on the outer frontier in Francaria, through which I was to pass, is called Graves. Here my first delay occurred. Intercourse with Meccania is so limited that although the official conveyance goes only once a week, I found no more than a dozen persons collected there in readiness for the journey across No Man's Land. I was about to take my place in the conveyance provided to carry us to Bridgetown on the inner frontier, when it was discovered that I had no ticket authorising me to make this journey. I produced my passports and the letter giving me permission to travel in Meccania, but the official who took charge of foreigners pointed to a printed instruction on the back of the letter informing me that a ticket would be forwarded by a later post.

No explanations or expostulations were of any use. Until I had that ticket I could not enter Meccania. The conveyance went only once a week. There was nothing for it therefore but to stay at some hotel in Graves, or return to Lunopolis in search of my missing ticket. I put up at a small hotel in Graves and telegraphed to my last address for my letters. These arrived two days later, and among them was my precious ticket.

The week I spent in Graves forms no part of my Meccanian tour, so I will say nothing about it except that it gave me an opportunity of seeing the extraordinary sight of No Man's Land. It stretched like a belt of desert as far as one could see. Rough grass grew here and there, but no other vegetation. Every year, in the warm weather, the grass was fired, and other means were taken also to ensure that the weeds should not injure the vegetation on the cultivated side, which by contrast looked like a garden. At intervals of every twenty yards or so an iron pole was erected with wire between. Otherwise there was no obstacle; but no unauthorised person, so I was told, ever crossed the line.

At the end of the week a few more travellers arrived and were met by the conveyance from Bridgetown. It was something like a large prison van, but quite comfortable inside except for the fact that the passengers could not see outside. My fellow-passengers were evidently strangers to one another. One or two, I thought, were Meccanians returning home, but as there was little conversation and the journey lasted not more than an hour, I was able to learn nothing about any of them. When the car stopped--it was a sort of large motor-omnibus--the door was opened by a porter in a dark blue uniform, and I found myself in the large courtyard of the Bridgetown Police Office. What became of my fellow-passengers I have no idea, but I was conducted to a waitingroom, where another subordinate official in a grey uniform took my papers, and about ten minutes after led me into a small office adjoining, where a man in a green uniform sat at a desk surrounded by neat little bundles of papers of various colours. He was a rather stout man of middle age, with bushy iron-grey hair and whiskers, yet rather bald in front. With his light grey eyes slightly protruding, he looked at me for a few seconds and said,' Mr. Ming?"

I said, "I am Mr. Ming."

"I am Inspector of Foreigners Stiff," he said very distinctly, "and whilst you are in Bridgetown you will be responsible to me for your good conduct. By what title are you authorised to be addressed?"

"I am plain Mr. Ming, or Citizen Ming," I replied.

"But you have some other title, doubtless," he said. "What office do you hold in your own country?"

"Well," I replied, "I am what we call a National Councillor. I am also the President of the Literary Society of my own province, and I have been once the Mayor of my native town."

"Then you had better be addressed as National Councillor Ming, or as Literary President Ming, or Mayor Ming," he answered promptly. "Choose which you prefer, and write down the title on the third line of this form."

I wrote down, with a smile, "National Councillor Ming."

"National Councillor Ming," he said, as I handed the form back to him, "before we have any further conversation, you will please pass into the next room and undergo your medical examination."

I passed into the next room, where I found a man, also in a green uniform, but with different facings from those worn by Inspector of Foreigners Stiff. "National Councillor Ming," he said, "allow me to make my necessary medical examination." I wondered how he had got my name so pat. Then I remembered that immediately before passing me into the next room, Inspector Stiff had put a card into a pneumatic tube by the side of his desk. The doctor led me out of his office into a small bedroom, next to which stood a bathroom fitted with various apparatus. After undressing in the bedroom, I was ordered to step into the bathroom, where first of all I was carefully measured in at least a score of places: head, ears, arms, hands, legs, feet, chest, etc. etc. Thumb-prints and footprints were taken; I was weighed; my chest was sounded; my organs were investigated with various curious instruments; a record of my speaking voice was taken, for which purpose I had to pronounce several long sentences in Meccanian and in my own language. A lock of my hair was cut off, and finally I was photographed in several different positions. I was then ordered to bathe, at first in water, afterwards in a fluid which was evidently some sort of disinfectant. At the end of about an hour and a half the doctor pronounced me to be "disease -free," and asked me to dress myself in some garments specially used on these occasions. The garments were made either of paper, or of some substance like paper, and were intended to be destroyed after use. I was now in the bedroom. The doctor had disappeared, but a sort of orderly in a grey uniform knocked at the door and brought in a tray with some food and coffee. He announced that Inspector of Foreigners Stiff would be ready to see me again in fifteen minutes. I was very glad of the food, the first I had eaten since my arrival, and at the end of the fifteen minutes I was again led into Mr. Stiff's room, still wearing my paper suit.

"Now," said he, "you will remain in your room until morning, when your own clothes will be restored to you after having been thoroughly disinfected. You can have supper supplied to you in your room, and as you will have a few hours to spare I should advise you to make yourself acquainted with the contents of these documents. You will find they contain all the instructions you require for the first few days."

I retired to my room feeling rather fatigued by the various experiences I had already gone through, but for want of something more interesting I began to study my' Instructions.' The first document was a closely printed circular of eight foolscap pages containing numerous extracts from the Law relating to the Conduct of Foreign Observers. By the time I had waded through this I thought I had done enough for one day, and as the orderly came in with preparations for some supper I asked him if I might see the daily paper. He did not seem to understand what I meant. After some further explanation he said, "We have no daily paper in Bridgetown: we have only the weekly local gazette."

"But you have some kind of newspaper which circulates in Bridgetown," I said. "Perhaps it is published in some other large town, perhaps in Mecco?" I suggested. (Mecco is the capital of Meccania.) "We have no general newspaper published daily," he replied.

I thought he had misunderstood me, so I begged him to bring me the local Gazette. He said he would try to get me a copy. Presently, while I was eating my supper, another official, dressed in a bright chocolate-coloured uniform with green facings, made his appearance. He explained that Inspector Stiff had gone home--it was then about seven o'clock or later--and that he was left in charge of the office. I had asked for a newspaper. For what purpose did I require a newspaper?

"Oh," I said, "just to see the current news."

"News what about?" he asked.

"About anything," I replied. "One likes to see the newspaper to see what is going on."

"But no one wants anything except for some purpose," he replied, "and you have not explained the purpose for which you require a newspaper. Also, there are no general newspapers. There are the various gazettes issued by the different departments of Government, and there are a few local gazettes dealing with purely municipal matters. But until you have entered upon your authorised tour of observation, I should have no authority to supply you with any of these."

What a fuss about such a trifle, I thought, and wished I had never troubled him. I apologised for making the request, whereupon he said, "If you wish for something to read after supper there is a case of books in the office, from which, no doubt, I can supply your needs."

I thanked him, and presently went to see the books. There was a work on the Law in Relation to Foreign Observers, in three volumes; a History of the Development of Town Planning, in five volumes; a treatise on Sewage, in two volumes; a series of Reports on the various Municipal Departments of Bridgetown; an Encyclopedia of Building; and a few other works equally interesting. I took away a volume, hardly noticing what it was, intending to use it only as a means of inducing sleep, which it did most effectively.

I was awakened about half-past six next morning by the orderly in the grey uniform entering the bedroom to announce that my bath would be ready in five minutes, and that it was against the rules to be late. I promptly went into the bathroom and found the bath half filled with a thin, greeny-yellowish fluid which smelt like a strong disinfectant. The orderly explained that all foreigners were obliged to be disinfected in this way. "But," I said, "I was disinfected only yesterday." "The bath yesterday," he explained, "was to ensure that you brought no disease into the country."

"And what is this for?" I asked. "This is to prevent you from contracting any new disease through the change in climate," he answered.

I remarked that the authorities were very solicitous of the welfare of foreigners, to which he replied: "Ah, we must look after ourselves; a sick man is a source of infection."

I was told to remain in the bath forty-five minutes. I found I had no choice, for, once in, I had no power to get out.

At the end of the forty-five minutes the orderly came and lifted me out, turned on a shower bath, and said, "Breakfast in ten minutes." My own clothes had been returned to me. I dressed quickly, ate my breakfast, which was the usual light continental early breakfast of rolls and coffee, and was preparing to leave the Police Office when the orderly informed me that Inspector of Foreigners Stiff was ready to see me.

"National Councillor Ming," he began, as soon as I entered his room, "I find you have with you letters of introduction to several persons in Meccania." (So my private papers had been closely scrutinised during the process of disinfection.) "You will, of course, not present these until you have received permission from the proper authority. In no case can this be given until a period of three months has elapsed. Now after completing these forms, in accordance with the Instructions I handed you yesterday, you will be authorised to begin your tour of observation in Bridgetown." Here he handed me four forms. "You must first decide whether you mean to stay a week, or a month, or longer; for that will naturally determine the programme of your tour of observation. You cannot in any case leave without giving three clear days' notice and completing your arrangements as to the place you are proceeding to."

"Oh," I said in some surprise, "I had no idea that would be necessary. I thought I would just look round, perhaps for a day or two, then go on to one of your other important cities and make my way by degrees to Mecco."

"Then you cannot have read the Instruction Form No. 4, or you would know that is quite impossible. If you intend to stay a month, please fill up this blue form."

"I think, perhaps, it would be better to say a week," I replied; "then if I want to stay longer I suppose I could do so?"

"If you had read the Instructions you would have seen that the plan of a tour of a week is on quite a different scale from that of a tour of a fortnight or a month. You must decide now which you will take."

I stuck to the week, and we filled up the necessary forms for Tour No. I.

"Your conductor will be Sub-Conductor of Foreign Observers Sheep," he said next.

"My conductor?" I exclaimed. "Is it necessary to have a conductor?"

"You are not still in Luniland," he replied testily, "and I must again remind you that if you had read the extracts from the Law with reference to Foreign Observers you would not have asked the question. Sub-Conductor Sheep will be here in five minutes," he said, evidently anxious to get rid of me, "and as soon as you have discharged this bill of expenses he will take you to the Hotel for Foreign Observers, and you will begin your tour." Here he handed me a sort of invoice containing the following items:-- To food, 5s.; to bed, one night, 4s.; to medical examination, 10s.; to temporary garments, 2s.; to service, 2s.--total, 23s.

There was certainly nothing exorbitant about the charges; all the same, I grudged the 10s. for the medical examination.


BRIDGETOWN, TOUR No. 1 SUB-CONDUCTOR of Foreign Observers Sheep came in as I was paying the bill. He was a well-set-up man about fifty, and had the appearance of an old Non-Com. He looked quiet and rather stolid. I never saw him smile during the whole week I was with him, but he was not offensive in his manner. Like Inspector Stiff he wore a green uniform, but one with fewer facings and with chocolate- coloured buttons. Before we started to walk across to the hotel he asked if I had got my pocket-diary. I fished out a small notebook, such as I had used in Luniland for marking engagements.

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