He looks down at me from the carriage.”Good evening, madam” he says with a strongly accented English. The deep blue door gleams like a mirror, his hand steadying me on the steep steps. I straighten my skirt hems and pull off my gloves. I’ve arrived at the summit! The corridor has the ambiance of a hotel foyer, shining reflections in the mahogany, deep pile soft beneath my soles. A whistle sounds and there’s the slow beat of a distant locomotive, the tangy smell of a station drifting in the air. I notice that the steward’s waving a white-gloved hand to me from further down. The brass handrails bright against the line of dark windows running along the side.
He opens the door to my coupe as I arrive, ushers me in and takes my coat as I slip it from my shoulders. There’s a bed that’s already made up, the turned down sheet shining white against the covers. At the other side of the compartment are two chairs and a table. The lamp’s yellow glow reflected in the glass of the picture that hangs above it.
“Where would you like your suitcase, madam” I turn to him “Oh, anywhere” I say, not yet familiar with my new home. I’m tired, this is the night express after all and it’s gone midnight.
He opens a small wardrobe and puts it inside carefully and closes the door quietly. I feel for my handbag, rummage, find my purse. He slowly shakes his head. “It is a kind gesture, madam. It is not necessary on the Wagons-Lits”
I say a prim “Thankyou” and he smiles in return. He leaves and there’s the click of the latch as the door closes. It’s my compartment now, and it’s peaceful.
Outside, other doors bang harder, there’s footsteps and shouting. Then a shrill whistle. Moments later, the floor moves slightly, then again. Outside the station moves slowly backwards and the sign for the Gare de Lyon glides by. I draw the curtains and flump on the bed, realize just how late it is!