I digress. I caught the train slightly later than usual, which made it challenging to find a seat as the London-Cambridge route is always rammed during rush hour. I finally found a seat near a family, who kindly squeezed over so I could have the outer seat. When I'd put my luggage and coat away, I turned to thank the matron next to me, who turned her carefully painted face and fur-swathed torso towards me to scrutinize me while she decided to accept my gratitude. Her son across from me said something I didn't quite catch.
"Pardon?" I asked, slightly breathlessly.
He repeated what he'd said. I shook my head, unable to understand.
"Are you English?" His English was heavily accented.
"No, American," I replied.
He looked mildly disappointed. "I thought you were French," he said.
He got flustered. "Your dress*, and your accent is not English."
"Oh, I see," I said. I pulled out the novel I'm currently reading, which happens to be Emile Zola's Germinal.
"Zola!" the family exclaimed.
"But I have to read it in English because I don't speak French."
"Ahhh, in English," they said mournfully. Father shook his head. Mother turned herself again to give me one of her majestic looks. I could read it clearly. Poor little one, she should have been French. It is a pity. A terrible pity.
* I was wearing a white v-neck blouse, a flared knee-length grey wool skirt, silky black stockings and my black Irregular Choice heels. Also, my lovely black rose heart necklace from The Parlor.