Giles knew Ethan's body, his skin, the hitch in his breath at the right touch. He knew nothing. Knowledge was lost in the abyss between twenty and fifty.
Ethan was a page in an unknown alphabet. Deciphered, he might be wisdom or banality, poem or prophecy or curse or household account. In decipherment, there's no telling in advance. The text must be loved before it can be read; the work must be undertaken on faith.
Giles thought of Linear B, which after all was only Greek. Perhaps with Ethan, too, would come that revelation, disclosing something Giles had understood all along.
(NOTE: For those who care, Linear B was the script used in ancient Minoan Crete. It remained undeciphered for many years, until a clever young linguist figured out that the language Linear B encoded was actually just archaic Greek. At that point, it became possible to match Linear B characters to Greek letters.)
I suppose that if a drabble has to be footnoted, the whole drabble-ness of it, the dense compression of meaning, is lost. But I loved the metaphor so, so much.