A Lickly Story

This was posted to alt.callahans back in March (’97) by Glinda. Versions abound. You have to know a really snooty stamp collecter, by the way….

Back in the days of Sun Yat Sen, there was an old Chinese stamp-collector, who’d been among the very first to take up this hobby of kings. Accordingly, his collection had many items of great rarity, even when he was young: Cape triangulars, and other Crown Colony oddities, including many examples of printing errors, from the few occasions when an employee of Messers Waterlow and Sons, or of Thomas de la Rue had used the wrong color printing ink, and as the stamps had otherwise been printed (and, if produced more recently, perforated) perfectly, the mistake just happened to pass unnoticed by the printers’ generally excellent quality control-minded supervisors.

This old relic of the chinese empire was heartily detested, as he was of advancing age, and used the respect accorded to him on this account to get away with behaviour that would have been completely unacceptable in any younger man, no matter what his family, his present — or former — station. And he would tease younger and less rich collectors with tales of how little he had paid for such gems; tales all true, but the more hurtful for that, not less, when he related them as he refused their offers of their finest prized duplicates, for rarities he displayed that had by the half-dozen to spare, had he been so inclined.

But, at length there came one young collector who was not put off by his ways; a strange, ghost-faced collector from out of one of the legations, a younger son, but of a family old enough — and wealthy enough — to have built up a very fine collection, indeed, if not quite matching the old mandarin’s. and no matter how he insulted him, or accepted his aid (for, though fit, the collector was at last grown infirm with age) with no word of thanks, but instead with whined complaints about the failings and ill-mannered ways of modern youth, and made him the butt of his cruel jibes in company; no matter how badly he treated the young man, he could not shake off his earnestly attentive presence, and deeply respectful words, without himself withdrawing from society.

Which, eventually, he did, with typical ill grace: but even then, he had to suffer the gwailo’s daily visits to ask of his health, and to tell him of the doings within the world of the collectors, and his constant references to the gaping hole left by his continued absence, both for the learned and insightful talks (that he, from time to time had deigned to inflict upon the society), as much for the fineness of his display albums (in which he had arrayed items purely to impress upon his youngers and social inferiors, how pitiably pointless were their essays at collection-building: for these were his _duplicates_).

Finally, one day, the aging ogre could stand the fawning no more. Interrupting the overly fulsome words of praise of himself, his family, and his collection, he demanded of the young attache, in the accent of one who has learned a foreign language well, but too late in life to have mastered the tongue to perfection, just exactly what his game was: what he expected to get out of him, by such unmanly toadying. and, to rub salt into the hurt caused, he rounded things off by telling him that he might as well abandon all hopes of persuading him to part with a single rarity, now or in his will. For, when he died, which might not be so far off now, his entire collection would be burned upon his pyre. “Indeed,” he said “when the time comes, you might as well put your own collection, poor shadow that it is, with it because:

“Philately will get you nowhere.”

Previous Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *