19. The Strange Language

Mr. Donnelly spent several days trying to work out what the language in the notebook was. It had to belong to some small language group…  It was not related to Latin that was certain. Also the names Elijah and Merit didn’t really give anything away about their possible origins.

Then finally Mr. Donnelly’s attention turned to a small sketch that stood out from all the drawings of the Egyptian monuments that surrounded it. The tall tower with the clock faces on it looked European and possibly medieval, if it were not for the modern appearance of the roof of the tower.

“A cathedral, perhaps?” mused Mr. Donnelly.

In the library, book after book on church architecture revealed nothing quite like it.  Mr. Donnelly knew with the certainty of the dedicated researcher that it was simply a matter of time as he methodically turned the pages of each volume in turn. The next book was a thick and quite heavy one.


There it was, finally! The image on the cover nearly matched the one in the drawing.

“The Cathedral of Turku in Finland…so the language is probably Finnish! No wonder I couldn’t read the text in the notebook – it’s not related to any other language in Europe. Except Estonian – and possibly Hungarian? I seem to remember there’s a connection.”

Mr. Donnelly sat back, his thoughts running on ahead. He needed to learn Finnish – but how? He couldn’t show the notebook to anyone. The intensity of his sense of protection towards it surprised him. It was so fragile. He didn’t want anyone else touching it, damaging it perhaps.

“Of course!”

He remembered a restaurant in the city the Scandinavians frequented, and that evening he dressed in presentable clothes. In the library he usually wore slippers and an oriental-looking dressing gown for its comfort. But now he put on a proper suit and his better shoes, and headed out to dinner.

Just as he had suspected, he found a few Finns in the restaurant in question, mingling with a bunch of Swedes – they did not seem to have any trouble in speaking Swedish, which sounded hilarious to Mr. Donnelly’s ears.

“Mr. Donnelly, how nice to see you here.” One of the Finns was a researcher he had often seen in the library, but they always spoke English with each other, and Mr. Donnelly had never actually asked whereabouts in the human world the other man had come from.

Once he had made the initial contact, Mr. Donnelly started to eat there regularly to chat with the Finnish scholar informally. They also met in the library. It was easy for Mr. Donnelly to raise the matter of learning the difficult language and the other man seemed happy enough to teach him. One day he even produced a little book “Finnish for Foreigners” and gave it to Mr. Donnelly.

“But this book is quite new!” Mr. Donnelly exclaimed upon seeing the price tag.

“Yes, I stole it for you,” the Finn said, looking slightly baffled at his surprise. “There are new books in the world, you know.”

“Yes, yes, thank you…” Mr. Donnelly mumbled, embarrassed, “I suppose I have been spending too much time inside the old library…”

The other man laughed.

“Yes, well, maybe you should go visit the world sometimes.”

Mr. Donnelly managed a frozen smile, and hurried off mumbling about an urgent matter. How could he have expected the other man to know he wasn’t allowed to leave the city?

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