In The Year Ten Thousand
from In The Year Ten Thousand…
He led the boy to a cabinet containing a few time-worn books bound in solid gold.
“You have never seen a book,” he said, taking out a large volume and carefully placing it on a silk cushion on a table. “There are only a few in the leading museums of the world. Time was when there were as many books on earth as inhabitants.”
“I cannot understand,” said the boy with a look of perplexity on his intellectual face. “I cannot see what people could have wanted with them; they are not attractive; they seem to be useless.”
The old man smiled. “When I was your age, the subject was too deep for me; but as I grew older and made a close study of the history of the past, the use of books gradually became plain to me. We know that in the year 2000 they were read by the best minds. To make you understand this, I shall first have to explain that eight thousand years ago human beings communicated their thoughts to one another by making sounds with their tongues, and not by mind-reading, as you and I do. To understand me, you have simply to read my thoughts as well as your education will permit; but primitive man knew nothing about thought-intercourse, so he invented speech. Humanity then was divided up in various races, and each race had a separate language. As certain sounds conveyed definite ideas, so did signs and letters; and later, to facilitate the exchange of thought, writing and printing were invented. This book was printed.”
The boy leaned forward and examined the pages closely; his young brow clouded. “I cannot understand,” he said, “it seems so useless.”
The old man put his…