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 The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story 
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New post The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
Taken from the Best Stories By the Foremost Catholic Authors, Vol. 5, 1910
By Mary F. Nixon Roulet


John's mother says that he was always frivolous - but that since he was married she never in her life saw any one who could laugh so long and so loud at nothing, yes, nothing worth laughing at, as John. She thinks he grows frivolous. She is a very polite personage, and that is the nearest she has ever come to finding fault with me, but when you hear the story of what happened during her last visit with us I am sure you will think we laughed not without cause.

Now it was like this: John and I have been married ever so long, nearly three years, but I haven't learned yet how to keep track of his relatives. There's a terrible lot of them and they all "count kin" to the Nth power. I like my kinfolk as well as most people, and I don't object to my husband's people in broken doses, but when it comes to keeping tally with "Jabez' aunt's son's daughter by his first wife, who married Giles' son by this third wife, and their children were Hepzibah, Jabez Jr., and Faith Jemima"-really, it's too much for me. Mother Hartwell is a perfect dear, and she not only remembers all their names and dates of birth (awfully embarrassing at times), but gives them all Christmas presents. Think of it! I know there are seventy-two of them, and I'd sooner give to a whole orphan asylum. You could buy a gross or two of dolls and tops and candy enough for an appropriate Christmas stomache-ache and every orphan would be delighted. But the Hartwell relatives aren't so easily satisfied - not they! Their gifts have to bear all the earmarks of having been especially intended for them, to satisfy their Christmas spirit, and poor mother sits up nights for weeks before Christmas. When she came to visit us I tried to help her out, and finally three days before Christmas she breathed a sigh of relief, for the last name was checked off her list. We retired early to sleep, worn with the labors of the trying season of good will, when lo! at the breakfast table mother met me with a woebegone countenance.

"My dear," she cried, "the most awful thing has happened! I have forgotten your Cousin Emmeline!"
"Who's Cousin Emmeline?" I asked.
"She's an old frump who lives out at Evanston," said my husband.

To be continued...

_________________
On the last day, when the general examination takes place, there will be no question at all on the text of Aristotle, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or the paragraphs of Justinian. Charity will be the whole syllabus.

- St. Robert Bellarmine


Tue Jul 17, 2012 6:36 am
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
Bah!
It promises to be a very long, serialised, "short" story.

My concentration span is only about 12 seconds, you know.


Thu Jul 19, 2012 5:51 am
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
Hello Oldavid!

Good to hear you here... and pleased so far to find you have found most of my offerings agreeable. Give it time, right? ;-)

Regarding your 12 second concentration span - well, I did have you and your likes in mind when I decided to chop up a short story into well...12 second segments. :-)

Ready for the next mini-segment?

_________________
On the last day, when the general examination takes place, there will be no question at all on the text of Aristotle, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or the paragraphs of Justinian. Charity will be the whole syllabus.

- St. Robert Bellarmine


Thu Jul 19, 2012 11:24 am
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
What I meant was that in 12 seconds I will have forgotten what the previous segment was about.

That John in the story is clearly not John Lane, eh!


Fri Jul 20, 2012 3:35 am
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
Odd,

Oh I see, sorry I misunderstood. So, even if I do put the whole story in at once you will still be caught up in a perpetual cycle of reading and retaining, right? (There's a clue as to how many more segments are to come...) Sort of chained to the Tea Room against your better judgment and all over a peregrinating present over 100 years old! :-)

_________________
On the last day, when the general examination takes place, there will be no question at all on the text of Aristotle, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or the paragraphs of Justinian. Charity will be the whole syllabus.

- St. Robert Bellarmine


Fri Jul 20, 2012 11:24 am
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
Katie wrote:
Odd,

Oh I see, sorry I misunderstood. So, even if I do put the whole story in at once you will still be caught up in a perpetual cycle of reading and retaining, right? (There's a clue as to how many more segments are to come...) Sort of chained to the Tea Room against your better judgment and all over a peregrinating present over 100 years old! :-)

Yair, righto.
I'll look up peregrinating.


Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:25 pm
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
Whilst you are looking up peregrinating...

_________________
On the last day, when the general examination takes place, there will be no question at all on the text of Aristotle, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or the paragraphs of Justinian. Charity will be the whole syllabus.

- St. Robert Bellarmine


Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:56 pm
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
Part 2


His mother says John has no family feeling, and he has remarked to me at times that, barring his immediate family, he preferred the relatives’ marriage thrust upon him to those with which he was endowed by an unkind Providence. To his unflattering remark about Cousin Emmeline, John’s mother said, “Son!” with a shocked look, and added “She is an estimable woman.”

John growled something. He doesn’t like being reproved before me. I fancy he thinks it makes him appear small in my eyes! When he growls, I always talk very fast until his growl is over, so I chattered till the postman whistled, and the maid brought in the letters and a parcel.

“How exciting! Parcels already!” I said. “It’s for you, mother.”

“It is addressed in your Cousin Hannah Byers’ writing and it looks like a book,” she said, slowly studying the outside with that calmness so irritating to people who want to know the inside of a thing.

“It’s likely one of those infernal authors’ copies of things she’s always unloading on her unsuspecting relatives,” said John, whose growl wasn’t quite over. He ate lobster the night before, and when he does that one doesn’t want to call him Jack, but just plain John, or perhaps “Dear.”

His mother was too occupied with untying the string, picking out the knots and rolling it up into a little ball to notice him, so he went on:

“She’s always meeting authors or would-be ones, and buying their books, reading them herself, and then sending them around for Christmas presents. As if anybody wants such things littering up a self-respecting library!”

“Yes, this is from Hannah. ‘Sure you would enjoy it, since it is dear Dr. Ten Eyke’s last book,’ she says. Oh! It’s poetry, illustrated. Lovely of Hannah to remember me, but she knows I have no place to put books. I have no house and am always traveling around. I don’t like to look a gift horse in the mouth, but if she had selected something just a little less cumbersome!” Mother stopped. “But, Mary, what shall I do about Cousin Emmeline? We—can we go downtown again?”

I had spent three days in the department stores with mother, and the night before John had rubbed me for three hours, one for each day, and had declared that this shopping was all—ahem !— nonsense, and that I shouldn’t go downtown again before Christmas to buy a present for the Akound of Swat! I looked out of the window and it was snowing. I glanced at John; he was scowling in anything but a Christmas spirit.

“I should love to go, mother” I said hesitatingly, but John said brusquely “You’re neither of you fit to go out in this vile weather. If you must send Cousin Emmeline anything, send her that fool book Cousin Hannah sent you. I believe in putting things where they will do the greatest good to the greatest number. You don’t want the thing—maybe Cousin Emmeline does. You’d be really selfish to keep it from her.” John was warming up to his work. He loved to argue and the gleam of relief he saw in my eye encouraged him.

“That’s a handsome book and Cousin Emmeline likes handsome things. Send it on to her. Pass it on. True Christmas spirit I call it. Give unto others the things others give unto you. I’m sure that’s the golden rule, isn’t it?” He looked innocent.

Dear little mother-in-law looked puzzled, but the leaven worked.

“I hardly like to give away a gift,” she said slowly. “But........”

“I think it would be just the thing,” I chimed in “Write a note and say you thought she would enjoy a book, as she is so literary, and she’ll be flattered to death. We really can’t go out into this awful storm and face that braying herd of bargain-hunters and become like unto them. Do send it to her, mother,” and mother weakly consented.

“It doesn’t seem quite honest,” she protested, but we assured her that it was, and I gave the clinching argument by saying:

“You see, it’s not the value of the gift, but the thought at which one should look, and you are thinking enough about Cousin Emmeline’s present, I’m sure, as much as if you had paid ten dollars for it.”

So “The Prayer of the Blighted Being,” bound in vellum, wrapped in tissue paper and tied in blue ribbons, hastened, via Uncle Sam’s gray- coated Mercury, Cousin Emmelineward, and peace brooded o’er us, the peace of Christmas presents bought.

_________________
On the last day, when the general examination takes place, there will be no question at all on the text of Aristotle, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or the paragraphs of Justinian. Charity will be the whole syllabus.

- St. Robert Bellarmine


Fri Jul 20, 2012 1:01 pm
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
C'mon, Katie, if you don't get on with this story I'll have to start posting my own.


Fri Jul 27, 2012 5:53 am
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
Okay, okay, Odd...

Just give me time to rummage around and see if I can find where the book has got to...

Meanwhile feel free to post your version. It may be better than the real thing.

_________________
On the last day, when the general examination takes place, there will be no question at all on the text of Aristotle, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or the paragraphs of Justinian. Charity will be the whole syllabus.

- St. Robert Bellarmine


Fri Jul 27, 2012 8:27 am
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
FOUND IT!

Part 3

... They lived happily ever after. :D

_________________
On the last day, when the general examination takes place, there will be no question at all on the text of Aristotle, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or the paragraphs of Justinian. Charity will be the whole syllabus.

- St. Robert Bellarmine


Fri Jul 27, 2012 8:29 am
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
Part 3

So far, so good. Mother left us the day after Christmas to go to visit John’s sister, and scarce was the dear lady out of the house before the postman brought a parcel addressed to John. I don’t know why, but there was something familiar in the aspect of that parcel. I never open John’s letters—better not, don’t you think so?—but I fairly ached to undo that package. I had to curb my curiosity until he came home at night, and after dinner I brought it to him.

“What’s that—a belated present? Kind of nice to get something the day after, isn’t it? Takes away that after-the-ballish feeling, doesn’t it? Hope it’s a nice story, Pollykins; [Moderator comment: Pollykins??? :roll: ] I’d like to read aloud to you to-night. [Sorry...Moderator comment again: :roll: :roll: :roll: ] Haven’t had you all to myself for so long, that youngster upstairs takes up so much of your time. No, I don’t wish we didn’t have him. He’s all right as kids go, but it strikes me he’s getting to be rather a prominent feature in the landscape. This is certainly a book”—John was untying it—”I feel it in my bones that it’s a dandy, and that we’re going to have a first-class time with it. It’s”—John stopped, looked at the book, then at me. Then, “Well, I’ll be—” I put my hand over his mouth, then gave a hysterical giggle.

“Sure as you live it’s 'The Blighted Being',” I gasped. “Where did it come from?" and as I spoke a card dropped out:

“Merry Christmas to John, with Cousin Emmeline’s love.”

"Of all things to send a man!" John's tone was tragic. "Chuck it out! Blighted Being indeed!"

"But, dear," I protested, with a thoroughly wifely desire to bring his words back upon himself, "Cousin Emmeline was only following out your axiom of giving unto others the things they give unto you! She 'passed it on'; true Christmas spirit, wasn't it? Greatest good to the greatest number! She'd have been selfish to keep it, you know! Oh!" and I broke down in perfect convulsions of laughter. John glared at me, then laughed, too.

"Of all the forsaken little wretches!" He set me on his knee. "Laughing at your lord and master, are you? How dare you? Don't you know you are no bigger than Hop o' my Thumb, and I could grind you to powder? Nice kind of wife you are! Where's your proper respect?"

"Proper fiddlesticks," I said. "Oh, if your mother were only here! To think you should have argued so warmly to send it on, and you should be the one to get it! It's too killing! You and your relatives will be the death of me yet, with your peregrinating presents." I buried my face on his shoulder and laughed until I cried.

"Don't ever tell your mother," I said. "She'd never get over it." And we put away Cousin Emmeline's present and thought no more about it. I say we. I should say John thought of it no more save as a passe joke.

Once or twice, when there arose unexpected drains upon our slender resources for wedding-gifts to friends who had remembered us, he said laughingly, "Why not send 'em Cousin Emmeline's 'Blighted Being'?" and I laughed in reply, but the idea implanted remained, and finally when Easter came, and I received from an acquaintance, a very bookish woman, a handsome box of Easter lilies, my thoughts reverted to the poems. I had no money to buy flowers - I must send her something since she had remembered me - that book - I hated to do it, but it was so handsome, and I fell. Again, like Japhet in search of a father, sped forth "The Blighted Being," but of this I told not John, salving my reticence over to my conscience with the feeling that if he asked, of course I would tell him, but that it wasn't worth while to bother him with trifles. A man's mind is fitted for great things; why trouble him with the insignificant things of a woman's existence?

So Banquo's ghost was laid, and "The Blighted Being's" accustomed haunts knew it no more. Only once or twice was it mentioned, and then I guiltily changed the subject, for it was borne in upon me that I would never hear the last of it if John found out that I had sent the book away.

_________________
On the last day, when the general examination takes place, there will be no question at all on the text of Aristotle, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or the paragraphs of Justinian. Charity will be the whole syllabus.

- St. Robert Bellarmine


Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:23 am
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
Katie wrote:
FOUND IT!

Part 3

... They lived happily ever after. :D

:wink: You're regretting this Tea Room, aren't you? Don't worry! When you tire of the uncouth you can duck into John's forum for a reviving dose of couth. :wink:


Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:31 am
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
Oldavid wrote:
Katie wrote:
FOUND IT!

Part 3

... They lived happily ever after. :D

:wink: You're regretting this Tea Room, aren't you? Don't worry! When you tire of the uncouth you can duck into John's forum for a reviving dose of couth. :wink:


I was worried there for a minute - my credibility as a super-organised Tea Lady was at stake. I'm just relieved that I found the book. It had peregrinated back to the bookcase...

_________________
On the last day, when the general examination takes place, there will be no question at all on the text of Aristotle, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or the paragraphs of Justinian. Charity will be the whole syllabus.

- St. Robert Bellarmine


Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:45 am
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
The Penultimate segment.

Part 4

When the next Christmas came John got a baulky fit.

“Do you think I’m going to stand having you hound me to death for duds to send to my own relatives? What earthly difference does it make? Send anything you want to your own people, but quit bothering me!”

“Oh, John!” I exclaimed, “you must give your people things, you really must. It won’t do at all not to. They always do it. Why, people would say dreadful things about me! They’d say I was grasping and stingy and wouldn’t let you spend a cent, that I spent all your money on my own relatives; that I tried to separate you from your own folk, that – Oh, I can’t tell you how they’d talk! They don’t know that you never gave a present for years before you were married, but that mother bought things and sent them around with ‘love from John.’ You’ve been a regular whited sepulchre for lo! these many Christmases and now you can just think of your own things for your own people. People have to pay some penalty for their relatives, and any man who has eleven pairs of aunts and uncles and thirty-two first cousins, and counts kin to second cousins once removed has got to have some ideas in his head at Christmas time!”

“Well,” said John as I closed my tirade, “I’ll get mother a lace handkerchief and my sister an umbrella, and I’ll send whatever you say to the aunts, but as for Cousin Emmeline, I’m going to send her ‘The Blighted Being.’”

My blood froze in my veins. John’s mouth wore the expression I well knew, a sort of sulky determination which I had combated in vain.

“Oh, don’t!” I exclaimed impulsively.

“I shall!" he said. “She has forgotten long ago that she sent it here. Besides, if she sent it to me because she didn’t want it, she deserves to get it back. If she sent it and did want it, she’ll be glad to have it again. If you make me send her anything it shall be ‘The Blighted Being.’”

I opened my mouth to tell him I had sent it away, but callers came in at that moment, and my chance was gone. I never felt so mean in my life as I did at the idea of having a secret from John, but the thought of his raillery preyed upon me. I knew he’d simply tease me to death, and I held my peace. His mother came for Christmas and we had our customary days of fevered shopping, and on Christmas Eve we all lay upon our beds worn to the bone, but satisfied that the last knot was tied and the last parcel off, and that there was nothing to do the next day but enjoy our gifts, our mind free from the harrowing responsibility of the week before Christmas.

“I’m so glad it’s all over,” I murmured drowsily, and John growled that it was all some kind of nuisance and then asked, “What did you do about Cousin Emmeline’s present?” I didn’t answer, but my gentle and regular breathing must have told him I was asleep, [Moderator comment: Anyone ever done this? Of course not.] for he said, “Poor little tad – fast asleep already! Just worn to frazzles with this infernal present business.”

I felt terribly guilty, and in a few minutes had made up my mind to tell him right there, so I said, “John!” He was just dropping off to sleep and said, “Huh?” and sat up in bed very suddenly, asking, “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” I said. “Only I want to tell you something.”

“Now, look here Polly,” he said, “I’m delighted to converse with you at any time of the day or night, but you’re about done up, and if it’s Christmas presents you want to talk about, you’d better wait til tomorrow.”

“It’s an Easter present,” I stammered.

“Oh, gee whiz, Mary, let the dead past bury its head and the future, too, but for heaven’s sake don’t go raking up Easter presents to worry over before we have Christmas off our hands. You promised to obey me, and I forbid you to mention any kind of present to me tonight!”

I said, “Yes, sir” very meekly, and subsided, but the Spartan fox was gnawing at my vitals and I knew my sin would find me out. I felt it in my bones that the morrow would bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and I slept timorously.

_________________
On the last day, when the general examination takes place, there will be no question at all on the text of Aristotle, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or the paragraphs of Justinian. Charity will be the whole syllabus.

- St. Robert Bellarmine


Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:31 am
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
Still with us, Odd?

_________________
On the last day, when the general examination takes place, there will be no question at all on the text of Aristotle, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or the paragraphs of Justinian. Charity will be the whole syllabus.

- St. Robert Bellarmine


Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:00 am
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
The final segment.

Part 5


The morning dawned clear and cool and crisp, veritable Christmas weather. The ground was white, the sky was blue, the sun was bright, and all hearts were light with the abandon of a holiday. Care was forgot and after the fret of the past week’s strenuous life, I forgot all but the pleasure of the moment. We had all enjoyed our gifts when the postman’s ring aroused us to fresh interest and John brought in packages for each and every one. I plunged eagerly into my parcels, and left them to rescue John, Jr., from trying to swallow a string ball, when I heard an exclamation from John. I looked up, and there he stood with “The Blighted Being” in his hands. He looked from it to me, from me to it.

“Say,” he said in bewilderment, “Polly, what’s the matter with me? Is this blamed thing twins or am I seeing things? I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts it’s the same one! Here’s the place where the twine cut the cover. It’s a clear case of the cat came back—but where in the dickens has she been?“

I giggled hysterically.

“‘The curse has come upon me, said the Lady of Shalott,’” I quoted. “I confess my sins. I was going to tell you all about it last night and you wouldn’t let me. I got in a tight place last Easter and sent it to that rich old Mrs. Pennypacker who sent me those magnificent lilies. I hadn’t the price to buy a thing for her and I had to send her something.”

Now, aren’t men funny! I had hesitated to tell John because I thought he’d think it such a joke and laugh at me, and what do you think he did? He didn’t laugh a bit. He just sobered up and said, “Darn it all! I wish I was making enough money so you could give people whatever you pleased and not have to go falling back on some old nomadic Christmas present.”

“Oh, fiddlesticks, you foolish boy!” I cried. “I think it’s the best joke I ever heard of. You to start the ball rolling and now the villain still pursues you. You’re getting your own medicine with a vengeance. But where did it come from?“

“It’s addressed in my sister’s writing, but where did she get it?“ He looked puzzled.

“I can’t inform you,” I said, and just then mother came in.

“I’ve a letter from Ellen,” she said sweetly. “She sends her love and wishes she could remember you all liberally this year, but they’ve lost so much they really haven’t a cent to spare. She couldn’t let the day pass, however, without remembering her only brother, so she sends John a book. It is one which Mrs. Pennypacker sent to her, and while she appreciated the gift, she thought perhaps John could use it in his literary work, as it seemed to be full of quotable extracts. She knew you would appreciate the thought of you and not think of its value...”

That was the limit, and I burst into shrieks of laughter which almost ended in a fit of hysterics, scarce ameliorated by my catching sight of mother, with alarmed face, holding the vinegar cruet to my nose under the impression that I might faint and that she had the smelling-salts.

“Oh, John,” I gasped, “show it to her. It’s the same old friend, the dear departed. It actually is, mother. Here’s its pedigree warranted, registered. Cousin Hannah sent it to you, you sent it to Cousin Emmeline. She sent it to John, I sent it to Mrs. Pennypacker, Mrs. Pennypacker sent it to Ellen, Ellen sent it to John, and here we are again. Welcome home, long lost Prodigal! Never again shall you leave our hospitable roof. To-night shall the ghost be laid!”

“Well, I never!“ Mother was shocked. “I am surprised at Emmeline Hough! To think that she would give away a thing that I gave—” Mother stopped short, a guilty red suffused her cheeks. We all looked at each other, and I said, “This is a case where ‘people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,’” and John remarked, “Let not the pot criticise the kettle’s complexion,” but mother shook her head slowly from side to side, and said nothing.

THE END.

_________________
On the last day, when the general examination takes place, there will be no question at all on the text of Aristotle, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or the paragraphs of Justinian. Charity will be the whole syllabus.

- St. Robert Bellarmine


Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:21 am
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
Katie wrote:
Still with us, Odd?

Yair.
I should know that story by heart now... for every new episode I had to read all the previous so I would rember what it was about.

Heh! When that first came up I thought it was about a present as in here and now. I thought this should be a bit of a mind-bender. Fortunately for me it wasn't.


Sat Aug 04, 2012 9:54 pm
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
Quote:
Cousin Hannah sent it to you, you sent it to Cousin Emmeline. She sent it to John, I sent it to Mrs. Pennypacker, Mrs. Pennypacker sent it to Ellen, Ellen sent it to John, and here we are again.


If only I had read this story 15 or so years ago...I would have been the one to invent Ebay.


Sun Aug 05, 2012 12:19 pm
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New post Re: The Peregrinating Present - A Short Story
AMWills wrote:

If only I had read this story 15 or so years ago...I would have been the one to invent Ebay.


:)

_________________
On the last day, when the general examination takes place, there will be no question at all on the text of Aristotle, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or the paragraphs of Justinian. Charity will be the whole syllabus.

- St. Robert Bellarmine


Mon Aug 06, 2012 3:03 pm
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