Friday, June 22, 2012

Susan Gets an Inkling About the Inklings

The Inklings had already ceased their regular meetings last year. But the anniversary of Professor Digory Kirke's death in the railway accident was approaching. Tollers, Jack and Roy - mostly known as J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis - whom we have already met - and Roy Campbell, famed for The Hobbit, for Screwtape letters and for poems like Flaming Terrapin and Flowering Rifle. At present it is not impossible that Campbell was still the most famous - or to the Reds infamous - of the three. He was also workig on the BBC. Lord of the Rings and Seven Chronicles of Narnia -except just recently the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe - were not yet published and had not yet tipped the balance to the favour of Tollers and Jack. Anyway, they were gathered the three of them in the Eagle and Child. The Rabbit Room, still very private. Today that privacy was going to be disturbed. And they were remembering Professor Digory Kirke appropriately.

"Funny man. You remember how I complained that it was easier to find language instruction in Chinese and Zulu than in Old English or in Welsh?"

"Of course. But as for Zulu, you can hardly complain it is available."

"I spoke with old Digs on that matter on an occasion."

"And he said what?" asked Jack with some eagerness, raising his pint, partly from thirst and partly out of pious affection for Professor Kirke.

" 'Anglo-Saxon?' he exclaimed! 'Anglo-Saxon? If you know English and German and once you get around the typical words used in neither, like searo and such - would you not agree my uncle Andrew was a pretty sarrow man? - you can read pages and pages without getting across a new word you cannot guess. Even Welsh has its aids like those 1000 words of Classic Latin gone Welsh, like Dreic from Dracü' - yes, he pronounced Draco as Dracü, just as would have been the case in Roman Britain - 'plus whatever English has from Welsh and some of what it has from Irish and Scottish Gaelic, but when you get to a language like Abinomn, nothing from any known language helps you around, and when you are on the field, you have little time for guessing wrong, and you can hardly carry a dictionary around, and ... well that is what I call a challenge!' - And then he recited the nine or ten personal pronouns of Abinomn."

"Which are?"

"Mit, mor, awp is first person singular, dual and plural. Second person takes you to ni, por, pi. As for third person I am not sure if in, nn mean he and she or are just phonetic variants, but dual and plural are not marked for gender: nar, kn."

"Sounds lovely!" said Roy. "What a luck the language has no clicks like Hottentot!"

"Ah, Hottentot click sounds ... how would you even note them in writing?" Tollers was nostalgic for South Africa.

"I am sure your tengwar" - this was Jack - "might add an extra row for clicks. But he had another side too. He is the one philosopher to beat me in exposing a page of Plato!"

"Does Plato really say ideas live in another world? I mean, the idea of man common to all men, the idea of justice common to al just acts and all just men, and so on?" - Roy was the only one to be naive about that. Or fake naïve. He had been a Mithraist before his Christian conversion.

"He does," affirmed the other two in unison.

Here their conversation was interrupted. In came Susan, panting from the effort. "Gentlemen," she said, "I don't know you ... oh I do know you Mr Lewis! I am being chased, they want to lock me up. Can you please help me?"

"You knew Professor Kirke, right?"

"Yes, of course!"

"Then it is our duty to help you. Roy has a car parked outside, we will get to Merton College immediately."

They wen't out and they met the persecutors in the door.

"Stop her, she is a dangerous lunatic!"

"Doesn't seem like that to us," said Tollers. Roy opened the door for Susan, who was white with fear, but Friedman and the hospital guard wanted to take her anyway. So Roy punched the guard on the nose, the guard punched back on the mouth, Friedman - caught between Jack an Tollers - exclaimed: "Wait, don't fight, I'll clear this up. Later."

They withdrew, the car went off to Merton College, Susan looked behind to see what Friedman and the guard were doing. They were simply trying to get a cab. They got one soon.

"Don't worry," said Roy. "I will get off a little faster, and we'll be at Merton College in no time."

"And get a speed ticket so they can catch up with us?" said Susan. "The police might even help them while having us there."

"Oh bother," said Jack. "Drive normal. Then we make a diversion before the college."

During the drive Susan explained she was indeed the one surviving Pevensie of the ones Professor Kirke's notes talked of.

"Were you crowned Queen of Narnia?" asked Tollers.

"I am not sure if it happened or not, but if it did, I was."

"Well, then you are a Queen of Elfland, and we should be doing homage, but right now we have some pressing matters. Let us just cheer for the Queen of Narnia, and may she never be known as queen of an asylum or anything like that!"

"Hooorah, hoorah, hoorah!"

She blushed and thanked God she met them in the pub. She could not have gone on with the car chase. Soon they were at college, she went out and went with Tolkien, Roy and Jack stayed back. Two against two. Unless the cab driver was to help the persecutors.

Friedman had a good sense of tactics insofar as he was more into taking on patients one at a time with a few extra hands on his side. He made an attempt at peaceful parleying, it did not help. Jack told the gate keeper of the college not to let them in, they were ruffians and troublemakers. They withdrew inside, where Roy's car was standing in the yard.

It took Friedman a few phone calls to get permission to enter. These were men of university, of science. They would understand his point of view. Well ...