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Is card reading just a harmless parlour game? Part 2 Easter Weekend

Updated on September 15, 2013

Easter Saturday

But time moved on and suddenly it became Saturday afternoon.

The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday in Perth was a very quiet time. Anybody who was anybody, and a lot of hangers on beside, if they were old enough to leave the confines of their family homes, or if they were old enough to be part of the set of young, trendy late teens and early twenties, would make for the country town of Bunbury

Bunbury was the place to be over the Easter Weekend. It was always considered to be the Last Official Day of Summer, and the youth of Perth, of both sexes, would find themselves in Bunbury. It was almost a sexual migration, a rite of passage, a mating ritual, but unlike the fabled mass suicidal journeys of the lemmings over equally fabled cliffs, the youth of Perth gravitated to the beaches of that CountryTown.

The house in Churchill Avenue was very quiet. There was just Jenny and me remaining. Help, however, was on its way to alleviate the boredom.

My mother had invited us for a meal at her flat in Adelaide Terrace. Jenny and my mother were very close, and my mother was always good company, and so we went.

Excellent food and company

It was a lovely evening, as it always was with my mother playing the hostess. I can remember she had decided to grill sirloin steak, and while we were having a sherry beforehand, she said that she fancied trying her hand at a sauce Béarnaise.

So she rang the Adelphi Hotel in Perth and asked to speak to the Chef de Cuisine. For some reason I never quite understood, my mother seemed to know everybody useful and had a wonderful rapport with so many people. The Chef, whose name slips my memory right now, was “charmed to help Madame”, and spent some time chatting to her over the telephone, giving her his recipe for sauce Béarnaise. and his little secret tricks.

Eventually, she said “Goodbye”, promising to come and dine at the Adelphi within as soon a time as possible, and announced that she had all the ingredients except tarragon, which she promptly sent me to buy from a local delicatessen.

When I returned, she prepared the steak, which melted in our mouths; new potatoes and of course the sauce béarnaise was a success.

Bunbury and Mrs Moss

While we were having liqueurs and coffee after the meal, my mother said,

“It’s very quiet tonight. In fact it has been all day. I went to Luigi’s this afternoon and the place was empty. Where is everybody?”

We reminded her that it was the Easter Weekend and that Perth was always quiet at that time.

“Everybody's gone to Bunbury,” said Jenny. “Have you ever been, Ann?”

“We went down for a week when we first came to Australia,” said my mother, “Can you remember, Ian? You were about eleven”.

And so we talked about the time my mother and I had gone in the school holidays, and how pleasant and relaxed it had been.

“Can you remember that Dreadful Woman in the Hotel?” she asked.

I remembered a very domineering woman who had talked and talked about everything and everyone.

“She wasn’t very nice, as I remember,”

“She certainly wasn’t” said my mother, “and I can still remember her name, I think. Mrs Moss… That’s right, Mrs Moss”.

And then I remembered. Mrs Moss had been rather large, very dominant and overbearing; interfering and gossiping about everybody. My mother had tried, successfully, to avoid her for most of the week that we were there.

However, on the last evening in Bunbury, there had been a little entertainment in the main dining room of the Hotel and we had been persuaded to stay and watch the show.

There had been a large elderly lady who had sung, ‘Bless this House’ and a couple of other songs, a Juggler, a Comedian and a Magician. I had really enjoyed it but it all seemed to be over too quickly.

There was a little seating arrangement on the first landing of the front staircase, with some cane furniture; a sofa and a couple of little tables. As we were on the way to our rooms to go to bed, we had passed this area and had almost managed to avoid her, when Mrs Moss had called out to my mother in a strident voice: “Come and have your cards read. Come along. Come along”.

My mother had stopped momentarily, and I thought that she would have politely made her excuses, but she had moved instead to one of the tables and had sat quietly before the woman.

A mousy little woman was having her cards read. Mrs Moss had done the usual, “Take the pack. Shuffle them. Pick a card. Make a wish,” and all the rest of it, and then proceeded, not to tell the woman’s fortune, but to reel off a lot of real or fabricated gossip about the poor little woman, who sat timidly before the domineering Mrs Moss, looking from side to side for escape, her face scarlet with embarrassment. When Mrs Moss had finished, the small woman, looking even smaller, had just sat there, her head bent over her little chest, with tears in her eyes,

Mrs Moss had then turned towards my mother, and with the most obsequious smile, had said, “Now you, dear”.

The rigmarole of shuffling and choosing over, she had proceeded to say the most silly or blatantly obvious things, maintaining that she was reading my mother’s past, present and future. But not having been able to spend any time with her or to find out any personal details to embroider on, she had found my mother a bit of a blank wall.

Turning to the assembled women, she had smirked, saying, “Anyone else?”

Most of the assembled ladies drew away; fearing her vindictive tongue. Whereupon, my mother had reached out her hand for the pack of cards, and said:

“Now I’ll read yours”.

Mrs Moss had given them over a little grudgingly, but still with the smug, overbearing look on her face.

A harmless parlour game?

While we relayed this story to Jenny, she sat quietly, but enthralled.

“I didn’t know you could read cards, Ann. What did you see in the Dreadful Moss’s future?”

I could remember it so clearly, although it had been about fifteen years earlier.

My mother had taken the cards from Mrs Moss’s hands with a “No need to shuffle them. You’ve held then long enough,” and then she had told some things to the awful Mrs Moss, in no uncertain terms. Things about her past, and her present, that were decidedly unpleasant. But whereas Mrs Moss had based her “card reading” on gossip, innuendo and an unpleasant mind, my mother’s had come from somewhere which neither my mother, nor anyone else in that area could have known or understood or explained.

To finish the “reading” my mother stood up gently, and leaning forward, spoke in the well modulated voice that she always used:

“Would you like to know what the cards say about your future?” Everyone there, including the Dreadful Mrs Moss, knew that my mother wasn’t talking about some silly card reading game.

There was an absolute silence, as my mother leant forward and whispered something into the ear of the, by now, horrified Mrs Moss. No one apart from Mrs Moss and my mother heard or comprehended what was said, but the reaction was instant and disquieting. The large woman drew herself to her feet, and turning, first chalky white, and then a most unattractive shade of puce, she took a deep breath and opened her mouth as if to shout or scream, but then exhaled, and walked away from the group of people with as much dignity as she could muster, but very much deflated.

“Bed time,” said my mother, giving me her hand, and we continued up to our rooms. Obviously my mother had said something or intimated at something that had upset the woman, or perhaps it was something much deeper. Yet, although I asked, she never told me what it had been.

A tall, dark stranger... very rich.

Jenny had been fascinated by the story of Mrs Moss, and now asked my mother if she would do another reading.

“See if you can see something exciting in my future. Perhaps a change of job. I’m tired of working in a solicitors’ firm,”

My mother seemed a little reticent.

“I’m not sure. I don’t really like to meddle… It’s not something I really understand. I’ve only played around like this a couple of times before and…”

But Jenny begged, and eventually my mother took out a double pack of Canasta cards and started to shuffle one of them quietly, looking into Jenny’s eyes.

“Now you shuffle them,” she said, “and hope for something nice”.

I poured some more Benedictine into the liqueur glasses and then reached for the coffee pot. However, my mother waved my hand away as I attempted to fill her glass, and the reading started.

Jenny asked her if there would be any change in her circumstances, and my mother jokingly told her that she would soon meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger, and that he would be inordinately rich. We all laughed, and it soon became quite clear, that if there were any supernatural phenomena that evening, they weren’t manifesting themselves in my mother’s flat. This reading was just a harmless parlour game. After some time, we decided to play Canasta, as the cards were out, and the evening drew towards a pleasant conclusion.

As we were tidying up, and Jenny and I were about to go home, she turned to my mother and said:

“Just one more try. See if you can find the name for my tall, dark handsome stranger. I hope he really is rich”.

She handed my mother the packs of cards. My mother, sitting in the armchair, accepted them and taking one of the packs, fanned the cards out and placed them face down on the coffee table before her. She gazed at the backs of the cards and then, turning one up so that only she could see its face, settled back. She turned it face downwards again.

Suddenly the room was completely silent. Something had changed.

She bent forward, hesitated over the downward facing cards and was about to pick up one when she changed her mind. Then returning to that card, she turned it. As before, she gazed at it intently, then replaced it in the fanned out cards.

“Is everything all right?” it was Jenny’s voice, and she sounded concerned.

“One minute,” said my mother, and I couldn’t see her face, as it was bent over the fanned out cards. She moved her fingers ever so slowly over the card backs and then jabbed at one with her index finger. Turning it over, she placed it face upwards. To this day, I cannot remember what suit it represented, apart from the fact that it was one of the black cards. It wasn’t a court card, but a Spade or a Club. I can’t remember, but what I can remember, was the look on my mother’s lovely face.

She had a pale complexion, mid-brown softly waved hair, and stunningly beautiful blue eyes. But at that point in the evening, her face was ashen.

“This is silly!” she said. “Goodness, it’s late.”

She gathered the cards together, tapped them on the ends to even them up and returned them to their packet. There was a finality with which she did this.

And a lovely evening came to a close, but it wasn’t a particularly happy closure.

Please read the whole story. It comes in three parts. This is part 2.


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    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Thank you Tillsontitan for those great remarks. yes, she was a wonderful woman, my mother, and we all think that of our own, but I love you comment that your mother was similar in personality.

      Yes, people have been kind with their comments, and I hope I deserve them.

      You have no idea how I am looking forward to your comment when you have read chapter three

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      I think it took me longer to read the comments than your hub! (I couldn't wait till tomorrow, had to read tonight and glad I did.) I like your mother...she was a great lady judging by what you've written. After reading this I almost feel as if I know her and though she doesn't resemble my mother in looks I think she does in personality.

      This is so much fun to read. I'm going to have to go and read part three!

      Voted up awesome and interesting.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Twin, that is one of the most encouraging comments anyone could have ever made.

      I HAVE to try harder and produce my best after that.

      Thanks, that is so nice of you.


    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 6 years ago from Minnesota

      For those of you now going on to the last chapter; Just you wait! It's awesome. I loved it Twilight Lawns and I can't wait for more short stories from you...

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Still with us, Twin? I hope it all makes sense and you like... or appreciate the ending.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 6 years ago from Minnesota

      EEWW, the plot thickens and you have me on the edge of my seat. Yikes-what was said to Mrs Moss and Jenny. I cant wait to find out...

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Thank you acaetnna I hope you like the rest of the story, after having been so kind with your comments for parts one and two.

      And when I say "like" I don't mean "like" but that you appreciate the style... there's little to "like" about it.

    • acaetnna profile image

      acaetnna 6 years ago from Guildford

      How awesome is this? You have me totally gripped!!

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Now I have experienced a frisson.

      To read something like that makes it "all worth while".

      I hope I did create a feeling of movement and anticipation, but, as you must know, our average hubber finds difficulty in reading hubs that go on for more than a thousand words, and I feel I lost some at the end of part one.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 6 years ago from UK

      Now I am loving the transition to the beginnings of an intrigue. The card reading, the exchanges between characters and the sense of anticipation building to a crescendo towards the end... Brilliant!You write beautifully. ( continued in part 3)

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Linda, I am laughing still at "The smell I return to again and again for comfort is Vicks vaporub!". You have a way with words, that catches me (or that catch me - I'm not sure) unawares, and make me guffaw.

      I just did!

      I am sure that if she had been alive today, my mother would have been an avid reader of HubPages and there are some hubs which she would particularly have loved, Nellieanna, snakeslane and yours, definitely.

      She had a very low estimation of her talents, however, and would have taken some persuading to publish herself.

      Mid you, I think Mike, Sunnie, Rosemay and Augustine would have captivated her, and Becky's raccoons would have had her enthralled.

      Every good thing about me (and these are limited) are surely up to0 her encouragement and example... the crap, I worked on myself.

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image

      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      On to the writing in a minute; but my, these comments are delicious. I'm afraid I'm not at all sophisticated when it comes to perfume. I do have a good nose, and certain smells do send me right back to lovely times. I can remember the smell of my mum's 7" singles all packed up tightly together in an old cardboard apple crate. And then I'm lead on to the perfume she used to use very sparingly, 4711 (which I actually found in a new bottle quite recently - it did not smell at all the same, and I was very disappointed). But since no one ever buys me perfume I don't get to sample much in the way of delicate fragrances - my mother-in-law buys me some Avon from time to time, but it's really not what I'm looking for!

      The smell I return to again and again for comfort is Vicks vaporub!

      As for the writing, in this here hub: well, I'm in suspense. The fact that your beautiful mother turned ashen has made me wary of reading on. I'm not very good with chilling stories, and if this is chilling I may not be able to finish it. However, I'm going to be brave, because it's you, and because I love your writing.

      It always feels like a privilege to read your memories of your mother - I'm so glad that we are able to know her a little bit. Thank you.


    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Oops! I meant, "‘Brut’ is the most awful, sickly scent for MEN advertised in this country years ago by a famous boxer… I rest my case!!!"

      I must go to typographical errors correction school... before it is too ltae and I wirte somethign that reallly incriminates em.

      Ha ha!

      I should submit EVERYTHING I write to Nellieanna before I publish it. She is my backup group par exellence!

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      How very true. Nellieanna. I think Snakeslane's use of language is wonderful as well. There are few I read after whom I must rush to my "lexicon of new and interesting words", apart from her and you.

      I like Guerlain also, and as there are very few scents that suit me, when I find one that does, I cling to it like "someone clinging to a scent that suits him".

      How's that for a good analogy?


      Years ago, a person of indeterminate sexual leaning (Gosh!) gave me a little bottle of 'Habit Rouge' by Guerlain. It has deep, dark and decadent tones, and an amazing "over scent" of rahat loukhoum which I adore.

      Unfortunately, the bottle, and its giving, had a vague invitation to something a little beyond my sphere of expertise, so I politely said, “No!” But the bottle remained in my possession and I have bought a couple since. It is wonderful.

      I think the most decadent scent that I have experienced.

      I also use Chanel ‘Pour Monsieur’ which on me starts to smell a lot like ‘Chanel No5’ within half an hour.

      Alfred Dunhill ‘Edition’ which smells great and Cacharelle ‘Pour Homme’.

      And they are the only ones in my short and pleasant life that have not begun to smell; like ‘Brut’ on me after a short time

      ‘Brut’ is the most awful, sickly scent for me advertised in the country years ago by a famous boxer… I rest my case!!!

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Snakeslane, what a charming and encouraging comment. I am sure that my dear friend Nellieanna is a pleased as I. I am also sure that a ladylike blush is passing over her sweet face as she reads what you have written. I certainly smiled, and yet, although I do not have a ladylike bone in my body, I almost cried out "Fiddle dee dee" in a pure ante-bellum Georgia accent, but chose, instead to grin and say, "Thanks, my articulate friend".

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 6 years ago from TEXAS

      Ah, yes, Ian! Perfect. 'Briskness' is so for vetiver, and definitely not flowery. umm. Yes, I was surprised to learn that it was native to India. It obviously has been adapted to southern Louisiana, where I first met it and just hadn't thought much further about its origins, unless perhaps via Haiti or Jamaica.

      I notice Guerlaiin makes a vetiver scent. I smiled because one of my old favorites is theirs, an Oriental one, Mitsouko, though I've not had any for years. I sniff it at the perfume counter and it's not the same as it was, or else my sniffer isn't. And I feel so sorry for older ladies who smell like older ladies (not their sniffers, but their stale aromas!)

      Thank you for a lovely compliment but - oh, dear. I suppose it is easy to wax trite when describing scents. I confess it's always been a subject in which I love to indulge but never give it special concern, so perhaps I must be careful!

      I'm tickled with your compliment, too, snakeslane. Being mentioned near Ian's level is quite an honor. Pedestals are the pits, I suspect, and I notice your vocabulary is extensive and erudite, probably more than mine. We're a bunch of language lovers, though.

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 6 years ago from Canada

      I love the Twilight Lawns/Nellieanna 'letters'. The Gods and Goddesses of poetry and prose. I say this in the plural so not to put you on a pedestal though one (two) is most deserving. I've learned to keep my thesaurus handy when visiting with the two of you!

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Your comment is so poetic, Nellieanna. It takes a good writer, a very good writer to describe scents and smells and get away e=with it without appearing trite.

      Scents have emotions and, usually, esoteric memories attached, so to be able to describe them and still instil (no pun intended) a feeling about and of those scents and smells, takes a really great writer, and I take my hat off to you for just that.

      Vetiver and India? Wow!

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Snakeslane, vetiver is really lovely. it is masculine, but also women adore it because it isn't very flowery. There is a cleanness about it that is wonderful, but an underlying briskness, I love it.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 6 years ago from TEXAS

      This becomes more and more spooky, Ian; first, because you happen to like vetiver, too, and because there were whiffs of magnolia and gardenia in the imaginary smell I experienced, but it was more subtle or delicate than either, so I identified camellia as being its most characteristic.

      Ah, those waxy petaled white flowers! It was before I saw your illustrations of frangipani in Part 3! Seeing those, it was, "Aha! Of course!"

      You have me thinking.

      The Indiana state tree is the Tulip Tree with the most amazing flowers. I was walking in the woods & ran across one of these trees in bloom and it stopped me in my tracks. I wondered if someone had added artificial flowers to the tree. On closer look, of course they were too waxy and real, but my immediate impression was much like the large paper flowers they make in Mexico. Look it up on Google and click "images" to see views of them. The state flower is peony & some of those are shown, too.

      Another amazing state flower is that of Colorado - the columbine. I grew one for a school project when I was a kid. Incredibly lovely.

      I shall go to bed thinking of lovely flowers I've met.

      Snakeslane - vetiver is not a flowering plant, but a grass. The essential oil comes from its root. Its aroma is so unique, it would be difficult to compare it to anything else. To me, it is mysterious, haunting but also very clean. I bought a little bottle of a fragrance called "Habanera" made with it locally in a New Orleans perfumery, - just so I could smell it whenever I needed a vetiver "fix". haha. It pleases me and always sort of reminds me of a pervasive voodoo sense underlying N'walins. I believe it is native to India, though, Ian. Another remarkable thing.

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 6 years ago from Canada

      Hello Ian, I am really enjoying the comments on your story, especially to do with scents. I have a good nose too. Certain scents can send me reeling back through the years. Primrose, rose, lavendar, mint, carnation, them all. When gardening I usually just follow my nose. Personally I love the scent of patchouli oil which has had a bad rap, but I find very soothing. I don't know what Vetiver is.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      This is very strange, Nellieanna, because the scent is nto unlike mixture of camellia and magnolia, but very invasive.

      Smell it on a warm night and it will take your breath away.

      And getting back to your other comments, I know vetiver. I bought some 'Vetiver Pour L'Homme' when I was in Spain.

      A great smell... I have trouble with finding something that suits me, and that is one of the few.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Rosemay, I think you are going to be surprised. Nicely or otherwise, depends on your slant of life. But you, my friend, will be...

      Looking forward to meet you there.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Sunnie, I love your idea of what my mother would have predicted for the Awful Mrs Moss.

      I never found out, so who will ever know?

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Sunnie, if you had met Mrs Moss. You would have realised that she got everything that she deserved... whatever that was.

      Perhaps my mother found out... but how?

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 6 years ago from TEXAS

      OH my. You won't believe this. I barely can. But I'm getting whiffs of an imaginary flower fragrance with which I'm unfamiliar. It's lingering. It's a tiny bit like camellia but not much. I don't know what to say, but that it is exquisite and a bit scary to get it.

      I hesitate to move away from where I'm sitting - lest I lose it, though there is no actual floral source here!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 6 years ago from TEXAS

      Oh, my - this segment was a total surprise - and a delightful one! Now it's become clear where the title arose!

      Somehow your mother's aura reminds me of your description of frangipani.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 6 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      I so admire how you paint your mother in the lightest of pastels. Whether in the heat of an India train station or a parlor in Australia, the delicate touch she bestowed upon you is clear. As always, your story is finely woven.

      My apologize to Mrs. Hilda Plantagenet-Featheringstonehaugh, the second pigeon will not be returning.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 6 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      I would love to know what your Mother told Mrs Moss, but of course her integrity would not allow it. I have a bad feeling about what she saw for Jenny so I am heading for part 3 with some trepidation.

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 6 years ago

      Oh Ian this story is so capativating. I wonder what your mother saw in the cards for Jenny and being the sweet person she was.. did not want to disclose to Jenny. I am fearing the worst..On to part three.I bet your mother told Ms. Moss something like if she did not quit gossiping she would lose all her being the lady she appears to be would not tell you as she would not want to give you the wrong impression..all speculation of course..:)Thank you Ian

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Just a little thank you to the wonderful Nellieanna. She is my support and encouragement, and wheedles out the tiniest errors that Spell Check was not set up to pin point.

      Thank you, Nellieanna, my lovely friend, you have saved the day again... and again... and agian (Woops!) again.



    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Read on, Becky, my dear friend. This is my usual long winded scribbling, and I have been trying to write it for months... years if the truth be told.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 6 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      This is really good. I wonder what she told Mrs. Moss? I wonder what she saw in Jenny's cards?

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      I'm right behind you, Snakeslane. I hope you aren't disappointed at the ending.

      Thanks so much for reading my scribbling.

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 6 years ago from Canada

      Oh this is so great! On to Part 3. s lane


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