The gentleman came in dark and with his hair cropped what I should consider too close, and he says very polite "Madame Lirrwiper!" I says, "Yes sir. Take a chair." "I come," says he "frrwom the Frrwench Consul's." So I saw at once that it wasn't the Bank of England. "We have rrweceived," says the gentleman turning his r's very curious and skilful, "frrwom the Mairrwie at Sens, a communication which I will have the honour to rrwead. Madame Lirrwiper understands Frrwench?" "O dear no sir!" says I. "Madame Lirriper don't understand anything of the sort." "It matters not," says the gentleman, "I will trrwanslate."
With that my dear the gentleman after reading something about a Department and a Marie (which Lord forgive me I supposed till the Major came home was Mary, and never was I more puzzled than to think how that young woman came to have so much to do with it) translated a lot with the most obliging pains, and it came to this:--That in the town of Sons in France an unknown Englishman lay a dying. That he was speechless and without motion. That in his lodging there was a gold watch and a purse containing such and such money and a trunk containing such and such clothes, but no passport and no papers, except that on his table was a pack of cards and that he had written in pencil on the back of the ace of hearts: "To the authorities. When I am dead, pray send what is left, as a last Legacy, to Mrs. Lirriper Eighty-one Norfolk Street Strand London." When the gentleman had explained all this, which seemed to be drawn up much more methodical than I should have given the French credit for, not at that time knowing the nation, he put the document into my hand. And much the wiser I was for that you may be sure, except that it had the look of being made out upon grocery paper and was stamped all over with eagles.
"Does Madame Lirrwiper" says the gentleman "believe she rrwecognises her unfortunate compatrrwiot?"
You may imagine the flurry it put me into my dear to be talked to about my compatriots.
I says "Excuse me. Would you have the kindness sir to make your language as simple as you can?"
"This Englishman unhappy, at the point of death. This compatrrwiot afflicted," says the gentleman.
"Thank you sir" I says "I understand you now. No sir I have not the least idea who this can be."
"Has Madame Lirrwiper no son, no nephew, no godson, no frrwiend, no acquaintance of any kind in Frrwance?"
"To my certain knowledge" says I "no relation or friend, and to the best of my belief no acquaintance."
"Pardon me. You take Locataires?" says the gentleman.
My dear fully believing he was offering me something with his obliging foreign manners,--snuff for anything I knew,--I gave a little bend of my head and I says if you'll credit it, "No I thank you. I have not contracted the habit."
The gentleman looks perplexed and says "Lodgers!"
"Oh!" says I laughing. "Bless the man! Why yes to be sure!"
"May it not be a former lodger?" says the gentleman. "Some lodger that you pardoned some rrwent? You have pardoned lodgers some rrwent?"
"Hem! It has happened sir" says I, "but I assure you I can call to mind no gentleman of that description that this is at all likely to be."
In short my dear, we could make nothing of it, and the gentleman noted down what I said and went away.