I returned an evasive answer. The truth was, that for some time past my appearance, owing to the state of my finances, had been rather shabby; and I did not wish to expose a fashionable young man like Francis Ardry, who lived in a fashionable neighbourhood, to the imputation of having a shabby acquaintance. I was aware that Francis Ardry was an excellent fellow; but, on that very account, I felt, under existing circumstances, a delicacy in visiting him.

It is very possible that he had an inkling of how matters stood, as he presently began to talk of my affairs and prospects. I told him of my late ill success with the booksellers, and inveighed against their blindness to their own interest in refusing to publish my translations. ‘The last that I addressed myself to,’ said I, ‘told me not to trouble him again unless I could bring him a decent novel or a tale.’

‘Well,’ said Frank, ‘and why did you not carry him a decent novel or a tale?’

‘Because I have neither,’ said I; ‘and to write them is, I believe, above my capacity. At present I feel divested of all energy - heartless, and almost hopeless.’

‘I see how it is,’ said Francis Ardry, ‘you have overworked yourself, and, worst of all, to no purpose. Take my advice; cast all care aside, and only think of diverting yourself for a month at least.’

‘Divert myself!’ said I; ‘and where am I to find the means?’

‘Be that care on my shoulders,’ said Francis Ardry. ‘Listen to me - my uncles have been so delighted with the favourable accounts which they have lately received from T- of my progress in oratory, that, in the warmth of their hearts, they made me a present yesterday of two hundred pounds. This is more money than I want, at least for the present; do me the favour to take half of it as a loan - hear me,’ said he, observing that I was about to interrupt him; ‘I have a plan in my head - one of the prettiest in the world. The sister of my charmer is just arrived from France; she cannot speak a word of English; and, as Annette and myself are much engaged in our own matters, we cannot pay her the attention which we should wish, and which she deserves, for she is a truly fascinating creature, although somewhat differing from my charmer, having blue eyes and flaxen hair; whilst, Annette, on the contrary - But I hope you will shortly see Annette. Now, my plan is this - Take the money, dress yourself fashionably, and conduct Annette’s sister to Bagnigge Wells.’

‘And what should we do at Bagnigge Wells?’

‘Do!’ said Francis Ardry. ‘Dance!’

‘But,’ said I, ‘I scarcely know anything of dancing.’

‘Then here’s an excellent opportunity of improving yourself. Like most Frenchwomen, she dances divinely; however, if you object to Bagnigge Wells and dancing, go to Brighton, and remain there a month or two, at the end of which time you can return with your mind refreshed and invigorated, and materials, perhaps, for a tale or novel.’

‘I never heard a more foolish, plan,’ said I, ‘or one less likely to terminate profitably or satisfactorily. I thank you, however, for your offer, which is, I daresay, well meant. If I am to escape from my cares and troubles, and find my mind refreshed and invigorated, I must adopt other means than conducting a French demoiselle to Brighton or Bagnigge Wells, defraying the expense by borrowing from a friend.’

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