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´╗┐Title: Collector's Item
Author: Young, Robert F., 1915-1986
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Collector's Item" ***

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    _We've often wondered what would happen if Robert Young should cease
    to be a lyrically intense writer for a story or two, forsaking the
    bright, poetic worlds of MISS KATY THREE and THE FIRST SWEET SLEEP
    OF NIGHT to become dispassionately analytical on a cosmic scale. Now
    we know! He'd chill us to the bone by setting two squixes to
    brooding over a never-to-be born Earth, exactly as he has done here.
    And thrill us, too--with the liveliest kind of entertainment._


 collector's
        item

 _by ... Robert F. Young_


 Very trivial things can go into the weaving
 of a nest. The human race, for instance--


The condensation of the histories of ten thousand races into a text
concise enough to fit into a single volume had been a task of
unprecedented proportions. There had been times when the Galactic
Historian had doubted whether even his renowned abilities were up to the
assignment that the Galactic Board of Education had so lightly tossed
his way, times when he had thrown up his hands--all five of them--in
despair. But at last the completed manuscript lay before him on his desk
with nothing but the final reading remaining between it and publication.

The Galactic Historian repeatedly wiped his brows as he turned the
pages. It was a warm night, even for Mixxx Seven. Now and then, a tired
breeze struggled down from the hills and limped across the lowlands to
the Galactic University buildings. It crept into the Galactic
Historian's study via the open door and out again via the open windows,
fingering the manuscript each time it passed but doing nothing
whatsoever about the temperature.

The manuscript was something more than a hammered-down history of
galactic achievement. It was the ultimate document. The two and seventy
thousand jarring texts that it summarized had been systematically
destroyed, one by one, after the Galactic Historian had stripped them of
their objective information. If an historical event was not included in
the manuscript, it failed as an event. It ceased to have reality.

The responsibility was the Galactic Historian's alone and he did not
take it lightly. But he had a lot on his minds and, of late, he hadn't
been sleeping well. He was overworked and over-tired and over-anxious.
He hadn't seen his wives for two Mixxx months and he was worried about
them--all fifty of them.

He never should have let them take the Hub cruise in the first place.
But they'd been so enthusiastic and so eager that he simply hadn't had
the hearts to let them down. Now, despite his better judgments, he was
beginning to wonder if they might not be on the make for another
coordinator.

Wives trouble, on top of all his chronological trouble, was too much.
The Galactic Historian could hardly be blamed for wanting to see the
last of the manuscript, for wanting to transmit it to his publishers,
potential hiatuses and all, and take the next warp for the Hub.

But he was an historian--_the_ historian, in fact--and he persisted
heroically in his task, rereading stale paragraphs and checking dreary
dates, going over battles and conquests and invasions and interregnums.
Despite his mood and despite the heat, the manuscript probably would
have arrived at his publishers chronologically complete. So complete, in
fact, that schoolteachers all over the galaxy would have gotten the
textbook they had always wanted--a concise chronicle of everything that
had ever happened since the explosion of the primeval atom, a history
textbook that no other history textbook could contradict for the simple
reason that there were no other history textbooks.

As it was, they got the textbook, but it did not contain everything that
had ever happened. Not quite.

Two factors were responsible for the omission. The first was an
oversight on the part of the Galactic Historian. With so much on his
minds, he had forgotten to number the pages of the manuscript.

The second factor was the breeze.

The breeze was the ultimate archfiend and there can be no question as to
its motivation. Nothing short of sheer malice could have caused it
suddenly to remember its function after neglecting that function all
evening.

All evening it had been tiptoeing down the hillsides and across the
lowlands as though it was afraid of disturbing a single blade of grass
or a single drooping leaf. And then, at the crucial moment, it huffed
and puffed itself up into a little hurricane, charged down upon the
Galactic University buildings and whooshed through the Galactic
Historian's study like a band of interstellar dervishes.

Unfortunately, the Galactic Historian had begun to wipe his brows at the
very moment of the breeze's entry. While the act was not a complicated
one, it did consume time and monopolize attention. It is not surprising,
therefore, that he failed to witness the theft. Neither is it surprising
that he failed to notice afterwards that the page he had been checking
was gone.

He was, as previously stated, overworked, over-tired, and over-anxious
and, in such a state, even a Galactic Historian can skip a whole series
of words and dates and never know the difference. A hiatus of twenty
thousand years is hardly noticeable anyway. Galactically speaking,
twenty thousand years is a mere wink in time.

The breeze didn't carry the page very far. It simply whisked it through
a convenient window, deposited it beneath a xixxix tree and then
returned to the hills to rest. But the choice of a xixxix tree is highly
significant and substantiates the malicious nature of the breeze's act.
If it had chosen a muu or a buxx tree instead, the Galactic Historian
might have found the page in the morning when he took his constitutional
through the university grounds.

However, since a xixxix tree was selected, no doubt whatever can remain
as to the breeze's basic motivation. Articles of a valuable nature just
aren't left beneath xixxix trees. Everybody knows that squixes live in
xixxix trees and everybody knows that squixes are collectors. They
collect all sorts of things, buttons and pins and twigs and
pebbles--anything at all, in fact, that isn't too big for them to pick
up and carry into their xixxix tree houses.

They have been called less kind things than collectors. Thieves, for
example, and scavengers. But collectors are what they really are.
Collecting fulfills a basic need in their mammalian makeup; the
possession of articles gives them a feeling of security. They love to
surround their little furry bodies with all sorts of odds and ends, and
their little arboreal houses are stuffed with everything you can think
of.

And they simply adore paper. They adore it because it has a practical as
well as a cultural value.

Specifically, they adore it because it is wonderful to make hammocks out
of.

When the two squixes in the xixxix tree saw the page drift to the
ground, they could hardly believe their eyes. They chittered excitedly
as they skittered down the trunk. The page had hardly stopped fluttering
before it was whisked aloft again, clenched in tiny squix fingers.

The squixes wasted no time. It had been a long while since the most
cherished of all collector's items had come their way and they needed a
new hammock badly. First, they tore the page into strips, then they
began to weave the strips together.

_--1456, Gut. Bi. pr.; 1492, Am. dis.; 1945, at. b. ex. Almgdo.; 1971,
mn. rchd._, they wove.

_--2004, Sir. rchd.; 2005-6, Sir.--E. wr.; 2042, Btlgs. rchd.; 2043-4,
Btlgs.--E. wr._

They wove and wove and wove.

_15,000, E. Emp. clpsd.; 15,038, E. dstryd.; Hist. E., end of._

It was a fine hammock, the best the two squixes had ever wove. But they
didn't sleep well that night. They twisted and turned and tossed, and
they dreamed the most fantastic dreams--

Which isn't particularly surprising, considering what they were sleeping
on. Sleeping on the history of Earth would be enough to give anybody
nightmares.

Even squixes.



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Fantastic Universe_ September 1956.
    Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
    copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
    typographical errors have been corrected without note.





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