Summary and Analysis
Chapter 18 - Moll Finds a Suitor
After Moll's return to London, her governess said that she would never again recommend a partner to Moll, for she found Moll had better luck when she worked alone. Moll also felt she was safer relying on her own good sense rather than on others, who were often dull, rash, and impatient.
Moll thought about why she continued her crimes; the "temptation of necessity" was gone, since she now had almost £500. She realized that she was so hardened in crime that no fear affected her nor did the examples of the arrest, conviction, and hanging of her accomplices.
Moll recalled an earlier occasion when she had seen another accomplice arrested with the stolen goods on her: Moll had handed them to her as they left the shop and went their separate ways. Her cautious use of the pseudonym Moll Flanders and the concealment of her residence succeeded in obscuring her real identity, while her accomplice was caught and transported.
This event was what had led Moll to the use of men's clothes as a disguise. The disguise was soon discarded, though, because Moll found the clothes difficult to get about in and had been nearly caught in the disguise.
All of the witnesses against Moll were either hanged or transported; therefore, if Moll were arrested, she surmised she could assume a different name and thus reduce her sentence to that of a first offender. In view of this, she again became involved in crime.
During another fire near the governess's home, Moll became injured when a featherbed thrown from the burning house fell on her. Her injury and fear kept her home for a while.
When she recovered, Moll went to the Bartholomew Fair; there she met a gentleman in a raffle shop who liked her company.
Being somewhat drunk, he took Moll for a ride in a coach to the Spring Garden, where they walked in the gardens and he continued to drink. After their return to town, this gentleman took Moll to a house and made love to her. While they were returning in the coach, the gentleman fell asleep. Moll stole his gold watch, a silk purse of gold, his periwig and silver-fringed gloves, his sword, and his snuffbox; then she left the coach when it stopped to let another coach pass.
Moll, as usual, excused her deeds, putting the blame on the gentleman and saying that he probably had a virtuous wife and innocent children at home and would feel ashamed of his conduct when he became sober. She goes on at length to mock and abuse such gentlemen as the one she had just robbed.
Moll's governess was very much pleased with Moll's account of her adventures and schemed how to make the gentleman pay for the return of his stolen goods. After hearing Moll's very complete description of the man, the governess said she thought she knew who he was. She snooped around and discovered that the man she suspected, a baronet of a very good family, had indeed been robbed and then beaten, presumably by his coachman. The governess arranged a meeting with the gentleman and assured him that the lady he had been with knew nothing of his identity and that she was "a gentlewoman, and no woman of the town." At first reluctant to admit that he had been with Moll, the gentleman finally asked to see her again, but the governess refused. She offered instead to return any of his possessions that he wanted. In time, she returned them to him and received much more than she would have been able to get by pawning them. Because the gentleman persisted in his inquiry after Moll, the governess finally persuaded Moll to see him. The affair continued for about a year, during which Moll refrained from stealing since she was being somewhat supported by the gentleman.
Here again Moll explains why she preferred to work alone. Nevertheless, she often worked with accomplices. Recall that all of the witnesses against Moll were either hanged or transported. In England the crime of stealing was punishable by death or indentured servitude. An indentured servant is a person bound by a written contract or agreement to service in a colony.
Poverty and greed were factors which Moll said made her continue stealing. Nevertheless, she curtailed her criminal activities when she formed an attachment with a gentleman.