I'm afraid it was all a hoax.

A few days ago, I published an item about a boy named Little Buddy. Supposedly, he was dying of leukemia in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland. Supposedly, he had about five months to live. Supposedly, he was trying in the limited time he had left to get himself into the Guinness Book of World Records by amassing more postcards than any human being on earth.

But it's all strictly "supposedly." There is no Little Buddy, so there's no boy dying of leukemia, and no boy hurrying to collect postcards. If you sent a card to Scotland because of what I wrote, my apologies. If you were planning to send one but haven't gotten around to it, you just saved yourself 28 cents.

I was taken in, like radio and TV announcers and newspaper columnists the world over, by reports spread this spring by well-meaning Scottish CB radio operators.

I first heard the Little Buddy tale early this month from an American diplomat just back from England, who phoned to say he had heard it one evening while tinkering with his ham radio in a London hotel room. The diplomat said the item had also been published in a Baltimore newspaper. I checked, and sure enough, the News-American had carried a couple of paragraphs the week before.

Just to be safe, or so I thought, I checked with Guinness Superlatives, Ltd., the Middlesex, England, company that publishes the record book. A publicity spokesman there said he had "heard about the Little Buddy business, yes."

That was good enough for me -- or so I thought. But a few days after my item appeared, Ian Davidson of Rockville, who works at the British Embassy, called to say that the Glasgow Sunday Post had been carrying stories to the effect that Little Buddy didn't exist. One story carried the headline, "Biggest Hoax in the World," according to Davidson.

Could he get me copies? Ian said he could -- and he did. According to the Glasgow paper, cards continue to pour into the Paisley post office, despite worldwide appeals from Cameron Black, a Paisley CB'er, for people to stop sending them.

By April 10, according to the Glasgow Post, more than 75 sacks of mail had descended on Paisley. Black has asked British radio, television and newspapers, as well as the British armed forces and British Airways personnel, to help spread the word that there's no Little Buddy. They have done so, but the flood hasn't abated, much less subsided.

There's one glimmer of a silver lining to the story. According to Black, a local multiple sclerosis society will use the stamps on Little Buddy's cards to raise funds. The cards themselves are being used to help a mentally retarded local girl learn how to communicate.

Still, it's not much consolation to a bunch of Scottish radio buffs who thought they were helping out a sick kid -- or to a red-faced columnist who thought he was doing the same.