Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 1, Ch. 14

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Letter XIV.

EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. Queen Ann Street, April 13.

HOW much will you be surprised, my dearest Sir, at receiving another letter, from London, of your Evelina's writing! But, believe me, it was not my fault, neither is it my happiness, that I am still here: our journey has been postponed by an accident equally unexpected and disagreeable.

We went last night to see the Fantoccini, where we had infinite entertainment from the performance of a little comedy in French and Italian, by puppets, so admirably managed, that they both astonished and diverted us all, except the Captain, who has a fixed and most prejudiced hatred of whatever is not English.

When it was over, while we waited for the coach, a tall elderly woman brushed quickly past us, calling out, "My God, what shall I do?"

"Why, what would you do?" cried the Captain.

"Ma foi, Monsieur," answered she, "I have lost my company, and in this place I don't know nobody."

There was something foreign in her accent, though it was difficult to discover whether she was an English or a French womand. She was very well dressed; and seemed so entirely at a loss what to do, that Mrs. Mirvan proposed to the Captain to assist her.

"Assist her!" cried he, "ay, with all my heart;-let a link-boyw call her a coach."

There was not one to be had, and it rained very fast.

"Mon Dieu!" exclaimed the stranger, "what shall become of me? Je suis au desespoir!"

"Dear Sir," cried Miss Mirvan, "pray let us take the poor lady into our coach. She is quite alone, and a foreigner-"

"She's never the better for that," answered he: "she may be a woman of the townw, for anything you know."

"She does not appear such," said Mrs. Mirvan; "and indeed she seems so much distressed, that we shall but follow the golden rule, if we carry her to her lodgings."

"You are mighty fond of new acquaintance," returned he; "but first let us know if she be going our way."

Upon inquiry, we found that she lived in Oxford Road; and, after some disputing, the Captain surlily, and, with a very bad grace, consented to admit her into his coach; though he soon convinced us, that he was determined she should not be too much obliged to him, for he seemed absolutely bent upon quarrelling with her: for which strange inhospitality I can assign no other reason, than that she appeared to be a foreigner.

The conversation began, by her telling us, that she had been in England only two days; that the gentlemen belonging to her were Parisians, and had left her to see for a hackney-coach, as her own carriage was abroad; and that she had waited for them till she was quite frightened, and concluded that they had lost themselves.

"And pray," said the Captain, "why did you go to a public place without an Englishman?"

"Ma foi, Sir," answered she, "because none of my acquaintance is in town."

"Why then," said he, "I'll tell you what, your best way is to go out of it yourself."

"Pardi, Monsieur," returned she, "and so I shall; for, I promise you, I think the English a parcel of brutes; and I'll go back to France as fast as I can, for I would not live among none of you."

X [d] difficult to discover whether she was an Engl…

Class

The woman's entrance underscores the ambiguity that surrounds her identity: who she is, how she represents herself, how others perceive her?  Evelina's description recalls the interrogative vein that she had earlier used for Captain Mirvan. The woman is well dressed and taken for a lady by Mrs. Mirvan.  On the other hand,…

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X [w] link-boy

Transportation

"A boy employed to carry a link [torch] to light passengers along the streets."OED

X [w] a woman of the town

People

A prostitute.