“And who’s he?” asked Kent, gesturing at the old man.
“He’s English,” said Marvel.
“No, I mean; who is he? What’s his place in all this?”
“You misunderstand,” said Marvel. Her eyes dropped. “He is English. Not a person of English nationality. He is English. The language. The concept. The words in the mouths of those who speak it.”
Kent gave her a fishy look, not wanting to bite too hard. “What?”
“He is English. The tongue. Which is why he looks like that.”
Kent laughed mockingly. “What, he goes and complains at people for spelling ‘their’ wrong? Or misusing the word ‘literally’?”
“No. It’s not about wrongness. It’s about dying by inches. Every time you took your children to crèche rather than playgroup; every time you spoke of someone wearing a button rather than a badge; every time a thing was done per annum rather than each year, he felt it, and he shrank a little. Now it’s hard to even get him to talk to you.”
Kent stood up, looking intrigued. “Can I talk to him?”
Marvel looked up from the floor and met his eyes, which was unusual. “I wouldn’t,” she said. “He’s pretty depressing.”