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Harriet T. (Harriet Theresa) Comstock.

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WHEN THE BRITISH CAME




Frontispiece Wllen the British Came.

"Hi: \VAS GONE, WITH BOWED HEAD AND NEVER A

BACKWARD LOOK."

See page



WHEN



The British Came

f



BY

Harriet T. Comstock

Author of "Molly, the Drummer Boy," "Then Marched the

Brave," Etc.



Illustrations by Curtis Wager-Smith



L-
C ^

PHILADELPHIA

HENRY ALTEMUS COMPANY
v

T



THE NEW YORK
PUBLIC LIBRARY

331848B

i 'TOR, LENOX AND

T,UEN FOUNDATIONS

B 1945 L



BY THE SAME AUTHOR



THEN MARCHED THE BRAVE
MOLLY, THE DRUMMER BOY

Fifty cents each



Copyright, 1904, by Henry Altemus



CONTENTS



PAGE

CHAPTER I
THE HIDING OF THE TREASURE 13

CHAPTER II
THE DISCOVERY OF THE Loss 26

CHAPTER III
POOR PETER, 43

CHAPTER IV
LEARNING THE NEWS IN JONES' LANE .... 57

CHAPTER V
IN THE SECRET PASSAGE 80

CHAPTER VI
THE MESSENGER FROM WASHINGTON 96

CHAPTER VII
INTERNATIONAL COMPLICATIONS .... . 117

CHAPTER VIII

CORNERED 132

vii



ILLUSTRATIONS



PAGE

" He was gone, with bowed head and never a backward
look" . . .... Frontispiece

" Anetje came back with the box in her arms" . . 19
" He struck at the light with his riding whip " 69

" ' I forbid your entering,' she said distinctly " . 137



ix



WHEN THE BRITISH CAME



WHEN THE BRITISH CAME



CHAPTER I

THE HIDING OF THE TKEASURE

44 T T is all that we have, Anetje, and we must

1 save it! It is a terrible responsibility

for two mere girls !' ! There was a

laugh in Femmetia's voice that belied the

modesty of her words. She sat on the floor,

beside the broad fireplace, and eyed her pretty

sister, who sat opposite, a perfect picture of

despair.

"I do not suppose, Anetje Stryker, that by
any chance you have thought of a place to hide
this treasure!' 1 Fern spoke in -good, broad
Dutch, which was quite proper in that time
and place. "Oh, Xetje, if you were only a
boy!"

"Well, I'm not!" sighed the girl, "and I have
not thought of a place. I would not dare to
hide it if I had. It is perfectly awful, Fem!' ;

13



WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

Anetje shook her yellow pigtails dolefully, and
looked into the fire.

"I've thought of a place," Fern calmly an-
nounced, "and I'm going to take things
into my own hands!" This remark had the
effect desired. Anetje looked up interested and
alarmed.

"You mean to take the the treasure and
hide it, without Father and Mother knowing?"
she whispered.

Fern nodded.

"Where is the place!"

"Right under this hearthstone!" Anetje
sprang up as if the stone were an explosive.

' ' Femmetia ! ' ' she gasped, and then sat heav-
ily down.

"Yes," the older girl went on, "if we leave
it to Father he'll worry and put it off, and
Mother will fret and leave it to him, and in the
meantime the British will come and settle the
question by taking the treasure back to England.
No ; I 'm going to take things in my own hands.
It is bad enough to be a girl in these stirring
times, without acting like one! You are girl

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WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

enough for one family. Look at that stone,
Netje!"

Netje obeyed, lying flat down to get a better
view.

"It is quite loose," Fern laughed. "I have
been working at it for weeks. To-night is our
chance. Father and Mother are sleeping just
hear them!" Indeed, the audible snores from
above gave proof that Fem was right.

"The servants are at church. Even Cato
went. It is now or never for the hiding of the
treasure. J!

"But perhaps the British will not land after
all," Anetje quivered. "They may not, you
know. ' :

"I am sure they will," comforted Fem. "In
any case we ought to be ready for them. In
that box upstairs is our fortune. Anetje, just
think of those diamonds and pearls, left to us
by Grandmother Stryker ! She used to say we
ought to be ashamed of ourselves if we did not
live up to the jewels. There isn't a family in
Midtown that has anything to compare with
them. Are you going to leave them around

15



WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

loose and let the British walk off with that box
under their arms just because you thought they
might not come! Fie, Netje! General Wash-
ington is taking precautions. He doesn't go
about acting upon the idea that the foe may
not land. He's ready for them, and I'm going
to follow his example. General Washington
and I think alike on all great questions!" The
little Dutch patriot struck an attitude that was
so comical that even Netje's face broke into a
slow smile.

''What shall I do?" she asked softly, "for I
suppose you want me to help, or you would not
have told me.' :

" Exactly, ' : nodded Fern. "I want you to
raise that end of the stone.' 1 Anetje tugged at
it, and to her surprise it responded to her effort.
Fern worked at her end of the slab with bated
breath, and the stone was soon standing on end.

' ' Dig ! ' ' she then briefly commanded, and bent
to her own task. Netje looked at her pretty
plump hands in alarm.

"It's dirt!" she panted in disgust.

"Of course," laughed Fern. "What did you

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WHEN THE BRITISH C A AI E

expect, dough! Pitch in, Netje, you can wash
afterward. ' :

For a few moments there was silence while
the dirt flew; then there was a hole sufficiently
deep to bury the treasure.

"Now, Netje," said Fern, "you must creep
through Mother 's room and bring that box ! ' :

"I'll wake them!" chattered Netje.

"Then I'll shake the life out of you!" Fern
pointed her finger warningly. "I'm going to
gather the silver together, and we must hurry.
Pewter will have to do for us while we entertain
the British nobility -

"But the key of the silver-closet?' gasped
Netje.

"Is in my pocket. I rifled Father's pocket
after he went to bed. ' :

Anetje's blue eyes widened with horror.
"You're no better than a common thief!" she
groaned.

Fern laughed lightly. "I'm sorry to hear
it," she said. "I flattered myself that I was a
most uncommon one. Now, Netje, do not stand
gaping and preaching. Go! You'll be glad

2 17



WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

enough to eat with silver and wear your share
of the jewels by and by. Take off your shoes ! ' ;

Anetje obeyed and departed, tiptoeing
through the darkness on her plump little feet.
Fern, in like stealthy fashion, ran to the oak
closet and took the precious silver spoons, forks,
sugar-bowl, tongs, and so forth that were valued
above all price by the thrifty Dutch family.

"I'll leave a fork and spoon for father and
mother,'- smiled Fern. "Thief or no thief, I
believe in the proprieties."

Presently Anetje came back with the box of
jewels in her arms. Sire was breathing hard
from excitement and haste.

"The money-bag is in this box," 1 she whis-
pered. "Perhaps we'll need the money, but I
couldn't get the box open. The key is in Moth-
er's pocket, and I refuse to steal it!"

"Oh, well," nodded Fern, ignoring the taunt,
"we'll probably need the money after our
British guests go more than we are likely to
while they are here. Put the box in, my saint.
I'll wrap the silver in this old table-cloth, and
then for the finish!"

18




When the British Came.

"ANETJE CAME BACK WITH THE BOX IN HER ARMS.'

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WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

Into the excavation the treasure was rever-
ently laid, and, after a quarter of an hour of
hard work, the stone was in its place.

"It looks rather bumpetty," said Anetje, look-
ing anxiously at the stone.

' ' We '11 have to dance on it whenever we can, ' '
answered Fern. "Just for now, we'll hope
nobody will notice."

The two girls sat down exhausted.

"I feel,' 1 quivered Anetje, "as if we had
buried some one real dear with our own hands."

"We look so, too," laughed Fern, stretching
forth her grimy fingers toward the fire's glow.

"And to think of the fearsome things that
may be going to happen ! ' ' groaned Xet je, hiding
her hands beneath her trim apron. "Oh, Fern,
it is awful ! ' '

"I think it's rather fun, ' ; Fern heartlessly
replied, "now that we have nothing to do but
outwit a lot of silly soldiers. I can see the sport
of the thing. ' '

"Outwit them!" groaned Netje. "Oh! you
think you are very wise, Fern, but you are only
talking. Think of us with a half-sick father,

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WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

one old black man and woman, and a small black
boy! What could we do against all the King's
men?' ;

' ' Perhaps the whole army will not come down
upon us at once,' ! ventured Fem. "If they
come in detachments I think Cato and I can
manage them; that is if you will do your part."

"My part!" murmured Anetje, turning pale.
' ' Do you take me for a bold Dutch soldier ! My
part! I'll have you know, Fem, that my part
was finished when I buried the jewels. "

"Oh, dear!" laughingly sighed Fem. "You
have not begun your part yet! You must be
polite, and entertain our British guests. You
must soften their hearts while Cato and I
break their heads!' 1 Fem was shaking with
laughter. "You may not believe it, Netje, but
when this war is over, I'n\ going to figure in
history, and so are you, if I have to drag you
in by the hair of your head.' :

Anetje caught her flaxen pigtails in grimy
but protecting fingers.

"Play false!" she said in horrified whisper.
"Play false and make up to to the British?

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WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

I'd rather dig up the jewels and give them to
them ! Think shame to yourself, Femmetia, f or
joking in such an unmaidenly way in the face
of an awful danger ! ' '

Fern was struggling with laughter. "You
were born a beauty," she chuckled, "but I was
born to be great. I feel it! I know it! This
war is General Washington's chance and mine!
England is going to hear of. him and me!
Anetje, you may not realize it, but you are sit-
ting on the hearthstone with a genuine Dutch
heroine ! ' '

Anetje tried not to laugh, but the dimples
would break through the soft roundness of her
pretty pink cheeks. "I hear Caesar singing,"
she said, springing to her feet. "We were not
any too soon."

Both sisters went to the window. They had
sat up to let the servants in, and now that their
other task was finished, they were glad to be
free to go to bed. Up the lane leading from the
main road, the three servants came. Old Caesar,
Juno, and "little gran 'son Cato, " who was
taller than his grandparents, and well past his

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WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

sixteenth year, but would always be little Cato
to them.

The three had been to meetin', and there had
been an ' l awakenin. ' The glory was still shin-
ing on the dusky faces, that were distinct in the
white moonshine.

The awakened ones were singing a revival
tune of pathetic beauty as they came along.
They had lowered their voices, but in the solemn,
white silence, the tune rose and fell sweetly.

"How peaceful and beautiful it is, " whis-
pered Anetje, her heart touched by the scene.
"Surelv God will not let war and bloodshed



come. '



"King George may," Fern broke in gleefully.
"I have less confidence in him. But we are
ready ! ' :

"I believe," shuddered Xetje, "that you are
actually thirsting for for blood!"

Fern put her arms around her pretty sister.
"If only I were a boy!" she whispered half in
earnest, "I think I would not mind. I would
fight for you all right gladly. The King is
wrong, Xetje dear, and if we hope to have peace

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WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

and freedom by and by, we must struggle for it
now. It seems quite plain to me, and and I am
willing to do what I can to help!"

Together the girls went and let the servants
in. Gently and lovingly they talked to them, in
whispers, about the wonderful "movin' of the
Spirit, ' : ' then they parted with a kindly good-
night.



CHAPTER II

THE DISCOVERY OF THE LOSS

44 /^~> IRLS, we have been robbed!' 1 Fem-

\^ metia and Anetje sprang up at the
words and stared into the pale face of
their mother.

"Never mind!" said Fern sleepily, "it might
have been a great deal worse !' :

' ' Worse ! You talk like a mad one. It could
not possibly be worse. Everything is gone!
Jewels, money, everything but two silver forks
and spoons and the pewter. We must try and
keep this from your father. I fear it would
kill him."

"Oh, we will," Anetje chimed in. "We will
keep it from him. It all depends upon you,
Mother. Fern and I will never say a word. ' ;

"I do not see how we can live without the
money." The mother's eyes filled with tears.
"Father needs so many things now that he is

not strong."

26



WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

"We'll work," comforted Fern, "and we'll
do without ourselves. Father shall never suf-
fer."

Somehow she had not planned the night before
to mislead her father and mother to this ex-
tent. Vaguely she had expected to tell them
the treasure was hidden and safe, but now a new
thought came to her quick brain. She would not
speak at present, and, unless some one was ac-
cused, she would let the story circulate that they
had been robbed. It would divert the British
attention, and perhaps save them from much
discomfort and trouble. She looked at Anetje,
and Anetje returned an understanding glance,
but Fern was reckoning without her father. A
half-hour later, when she and Anetje entered
the living-room, they faced that august person
as he stood upon the hearthstone, his pale, stern
face turned upon his wife.

"I tell you, Gretchen," he was saying,
"pewter is very disagreeable to me. 1 am a
plain man, and can do without much, but I do
not forget what is proper, and the silver on the
table I will have ! ' '

27



WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

The condition that faced the family was one
that must be met.

"Get the silver, Femmetia!" commanded the
fretful voice. "I fear your mother thinks we
better hide it in case the British come. I fear
nothing. No king's men are going to force
pewter upon my table. The silver bring ! ' :

Fern moved feebly toward the oak closet.

"Your mother the key has!" said the weak
voice.

Anetje laughed nervously, and her father
frowned upon her.

"Jan, ' ; it was the mother who spoke, "I
feared it would kill you to know, but what you
see is all that we have left. We have been
robbed!"

"Bobbed!" cried the thin voice. "Robbed!
And I was going to have Caesar hide the silver
and jewels to-day ! How did the thieves get in?
What door or window was open! Where are
the footprints! Show them to me!' : He was
rushing about wildly. Anetje, pale and trem-
bling, clung to Fern.

"Not a door or window was unfastened,"

28



WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

Mother was saying. ''And as the good God
hears me, Jan, not a footmark leads away from
the house!"

' ' Then the thieves are hidden within ! I go to
find them! Give me my gun! I am yet a
man!' ; He started for the door, but Fern was
there before him and barred the way.

"Father," she panted, "I am the thief!"

The excited man fell back!

* ' You ! " he breathed ; " y ou ! "

"Yes." Fern's arms were around him now.
"You know, Father, if you had a great strong
son, you would trust him, now wouldn't you?"

"Not too far, ' ; the father answered. But
Fern saw the twinkle in his eye, and took courage.

"Yes, you would, Father dear. You are not
strong, and mother is nervous, and you would
just trust your son if if he were wise as I.
You know you are always going to do things,
Father; do not shake your head, you know you
are. That comes of being a scholar instead of a
farmer. I'm sixteen, Father, and better than
any boy. You take my word for it." She was
leading the tall, gaunt figure to the armchair at

29



WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

the head of the table, as she talked. "And
Anetje and I have hidden all the treasure in a
safe place. You can trust me. Now, Father,
eat your breakfast, it is pewter now, or pewter
forever. No one can find the treasure, Father ;
it is well hidden."

"I like it not!" grumbled the querulous voice.
i l This be man 's work, not maid 's. Are you sure
it is in a safe place ?' :

"Sure, Father! And it is better that the
servants should not know. If a Britisher
caught and tortured them how could they hold
out? I've heard terrible things of the British
doings, but the redcoats would not dare touch
Netje or me."

"They'd better try!" cried the father hotly.
"I'd like to see them!"

"No, no!" Anetje broke in. "Do not say
that, Father. Put it another way. It it
makes my blood run cold."

' ' Oh, it is all a joke, ' ' laughed Fern. By some
unknown method, she had gathered the family
around the table. "What did you tell Juno
about the silver, Mother ? ' ' she asked.

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WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

"I told her I thought we better not use it just
now until after the British had sailed away."

"Well, you were about right," laughed
Anetje, regaining her composure. "And, in-
deed, Father, you can trust Fern and me. It is
hidden in the most unlikely place."

1 i I was going to have Caesar put it under this
hearthstone, ' ' Father said, taking a slice of pork
upon his plate with a despised pewter spoon-
the silver one not being large enough. "I have
often read that hearthstones made fine hiding-
places."

Both girls started, but the father's near-
sighted eyes did not notice. The mother did,
and she gave a sigh of relief. If the wise father
would have chosen that place, and if the girls
had really done so, why all was well, and the
mother turned her attention to matters at hand.

Mr. Stryker grumbled during the meal at the
turn things had taken, bewailing the fact that
there was no strong son to take charge of affairs.

"Ah! Father. ' : Fern went behind his chair
and nestled her head against his thin cheek.
"Who knows? A sou is but a name. 'Tis the

31



WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

courage and wit that count. The war means less
to us than many, perhaps. We have no men to
fight and die-

' ' There is myself ! ' ' broke in the weak voice.

1 ' Oh, Father dear, 'tis not the sick our General
will call upon until the last. But a woman's
wit may save the treasure, and if the day come
when money is needed, and all other money is
gone, there will be ours to help the cause along.
Do you not see ? ' :

Mr. Stryker drew the girl closer. Even more
than pretty Netje, this merry, strong Fern was
near his heart.

"But you can whisper to me the place, maid.
I will then trust your wisdom. ' :

Fern patted his shoulder. "Oh,you foolish
old Father!" she laughed. "Can you not see
that if you knew and the British should get you,
they would punish you and perhaps drag the
secret from you?"

"They will think I know. Whoever would
believe that a man would trust such matters
to his women?' Mr. Stryker did not lightly
yield.

32



WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

"But I would tell them that Netje and I alone
knew!" laughed Fern.

" Ah ! " gasped Netje, ' ' and what then ? ' '

"And then would come in my wit!" Fein
tossed her head. ' ' My girl wit, which is often as
good as boy strength. Leave it to us, Father.
See, Mother already trusts us!' ;

Mrs. Stryker was dreamily looking at the
hearth.

"Femmetia is very sagacious," 1 'she mur-
mured, ' ' and Anet je has a golden silence. 'Tis
as well the servants have not the secret; and
after all, the trouble may pass." And so the
subject ended for the time.

Later in the day, taking advantage of the
April warmth, Mr. and Mrs. Stryker drove
seven miles away to Uncle Jacobus. Not long
after they had gone, however, the spring day
turned sullen, and by evening the air was so
chilly that Femmetia thought her father and
mother might remain away over night, and she
and Netje laid plans for their own comfortable
evening.

"I do not suppose Mother and Father could

3 33



WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

protect us," Fern rattled on after the evening
meal. "But just suppose, Netje, the British
should drop in upon us to-night !' :

"If you say another word on that subject,"
shivered Netje, "I'll go and sit in the kitchen.
I wish Cato would bring more wood. ' :

"I told him to, but likely as not he has for-
gotten. This new talk of the British landing
has set his wits wool-gathering."

"British! British! Can you think of noth-
ing else?" Anetje broke in. "Do talk of some-
thing else. I wonder what Cato would do if
the British reallv did come?"



"To change the subject," slyly smiled Fern,
"I do not know.' :

"Run, probably," mused Netje.

"I bet he would go with his betters, then,"
added Fern, l i and I warrant he would not be in
front! Cato has nerve. ' ;

"He has nerves. Just think how he believes
his ghostly legends. Ah ! Fern, let us keep Cato
in here and make him tell us stories! He'll
have to sit up awhile for Father anyway. Just
hear the wind ! It sounds like midwinter. ' '

34



WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

"Ca-to!" wailed Fern suddenly.

Netje jumped. "Do not be so disagreeable,"
she moaned. "Because you are as strong as
as a boy, you need not presume ! ' ;

"Comin', missy!" The words startled both
girls, for they had not heard Cato enter the
room. The boy dropped his load upon the
hearthstone, and then stood straight, his teeth
gleaming in the firelight.

"Dis sure am a night fur ghosts ter walk,"
he grinned. "Lor', I done hope massa an'
missis won't come roun' by Jones' lane ! Daddy
is snorin' in de kitchen. It mak my blood run
chill an' mammy she don' prayin' to Gawd to
discombobolate de British to dat extent dat dar
ain't no comfit anywhere. An' I'se got ter sit
up till ten, massa don' tole me."

"Stay with us," coaxed Anetje, "and tell us
some of your stories." Then, primly, "It is
very silly to believe in ghosts, Cato; only the
ignorant believe in such nonsense."

"Only dem sees tings!" Cato replied with
comical logic. "But tain't only de ignorant.
I don 't b 'leve even Miss Fern would go down

35



WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

Jones' lane after dark when de liglitnin' war
a-flashin' an' de thunder war a-crashin', now
would you, Miss Fern?"

The unconscious tribute to her bravery
touched Femmetia.

"I do not like thunder and lightning, Cato, "
she said, "but if I had to be out of doors
I would as soon be in Jones' lane as anywhere
else."

"Den I reckon you ain't heard 'bout my
Grandad Tonius. He's don' been actin' up
again ! ' '

"Oh! tell us,' ; pleaded Femmetia. ''Jones'
lane is a good way off, and there isn't any
thunder. ' :

She nestled nearer the fire, for the sight of
Cato's face stirred imagination.

"You all don' hear how my Grandad Tonius
played de fiddle like a spirit!' 1

Anetje nodded.

"My grandad in de kitchen don' keep de ole
fiddle fur me. He say I take after de odder
grandad. Well, one night my Grandad Tonius
took de fiddle an' went down to Jones' lane

36



WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

so not to be 'sturbed. He had tinked out a
debbletune, an ' he want ter try it. ' '

' l What an old sinner ! ' ' laughed Fern.

" Yes'm. But he warn't all sinner. Lor', no.
He tinked tunes, an' out dey come same as
birds open dey moufs an' songs come. ' :

''But their songs are always beautiful," said
Anetje.

"Debbie tunes are fine, too,' 1 ' broke in Cato.
''De debble knows a good t'ing same as odder
folks. It's de usin' ob it dat queers de debble.
Well, my grandad found a comf 'able stun, an'
begun ter play. He looked 'round an' dere war
nothin' in sight but a big black cloud in de west.
Den Grandad begun de debble tune. It war like
a long, soft call at de fust, an' sure as ye lib, jes'
as de song got goin' wid a mighty crash, right
out ob dat black cloud sprang Satan, large as
life an' all togged out with claws an' tail an'
horns !

11 'Now you play, Tonius, an' I'll dance,' said
de gemman.

"An' de dance begun. Flash, bang, fiddle
an' dance! So it went de hole night long. De

37



WHEN THE BRITISH CAME

big tree behind my grandad shivered from top
ter bottom. Dat tree stans dere to-dav. You
can see it fur your self, but yer better go when
de sun shines. When de thunder cracks, the
fiddle don' play to dis day an' de debble dances.
If you see de debble it am a sign, an' ole Uncle
Silas he tole Grandad Caesar dis mornin' he saw
de debble an' hear de fiddle las' night !' ;

"But, Cato, ' : laughed Fein, "there was no
thunder last night. ' ;

"Well," said Cato, undaunted, "dat goes ter
show smnpin' more horrible dan usual don' gone
ter happen in dese yer parts ! ' ;

Both girls broke out into laughter.

"You are delicious, Cato, " cried Anetje.
"If any spook can die in your hands, he would
have to be a pretty weak spook. What hap-
pened to your disreputable old Grandad
Tonius?"

"He don' fiddle 'till sunup, den he come home,
hung up de fiddle, lay down an' war a dead
nigger 'fore .sundown ! ' :

"When you get the fiddle," smiled Fern, "I'll
come to Jones' lane and hear you play.' :


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Online LibraryHarriet T. (Harriet Theresa) ComstockWhen the British came → online text (page 1 of 6)