Summary and Analysis
Chapter 4 - The Young Widow
Although Moll "had not the least affection" for Robin, the two were married and lived together for five years, at the end of which time he died. During their marriage he was very good to her, and they lived together contentedly. Since Robin received little money from his family, he was able to leave but little money after his death. Nevertheless, with the £500 which Moll had received from the elder brother as a bribe for her to marry Robin, other money which he had previously given her and which she had saved, and the amount which her husband had left, Moll began her widowhood with about £1200. The two children which resulted from the marriage were taken off her hands by Robin's mother and father. At the age of about twenty-four, the beautiful Moll was left alone again, to make her way in the world.
Moll was not too much saddened by the loss of her husband because she did not really love him. The brother she did love was often around while they lived in the country. Her feelings for Robin's brother were so strong that, she said, "I never was in bed with my husband but I wished myself in the arms of his brother." When they were invited to attend the elder brother's wedding, she had pretended to be ill so that she would not have to go.
Moll's intention now was to marry well. She took a room in the home of a linen-draper, whose sister was an acquaintance of Moll's. The linen-draper began to court Moll, who continued to meet other admirers through her landlord's sister, a gay, wild woman who brought callers around to meet the pretty young widow. None of those she liked proposed marriage, and those who did propose were the dullest of the lot. Most of those who courted her were tradesmen, whom Moll did not mind as long as they could act the part of a nobleman.
Finally, she found a "gentleman-tradesman," a man of style, who was a draper. She had spurned her landlord, also a draper, because it appeared he preferred a mistress to a wife. She married the gentleman-tradesman only to discover that he was a "rake, gentleman, shopkeeper, and beggar" all rolled into one. For three months he enjoyed Moll, using her money for such things as a long vacation in the country. Although most of Moll's money soon was gone, her husband continued to make debts freely. Because of his extravagant tastes Moll's husband was completely broke at the end of somewhat more than two years of marriage.
Foreseeing this possibility, however, Moll had saved some of her money for herself.
Eventually her husband was arrested for debt and put in "a sponging-house" (a place of confinement for debtors). He sent for Moll and told her to go home and in the night to take away all of her valuables so that the creditors could not get them.
Next he told her to go to his shop and, if possible, take £100 or £200 in goods. Also, he told her of his plan to escape to France.
Moll did as her husband instructed her. Later, she learned that he had escaped and gone to France. From there, he sent information about where he had pawned goods worth about £120. Moll redeemed the goods and resold them for a profit of about £100.
Now Moll was troubled. As she said, "I had a husband and no husband." She felt she was unable to remarry although she knew her husband would not return. With only about £500, distressed and friendless, Moll changed her name and her rooms in order to avoid her husband's creditors. She went into a section of town called the Mint, took rooms in an out-of-the-way place, dressed herself as a widow, and changed her name to "Mrs. Flanders."
Moll's vanity again caused her distress. It led her, first, to marry a rogue because of his pretty words and ways; and second, to become a dodger from the law because she had followed her husband's instructions to take goods from his shop and hide them from his creditors.
The Mint is a slum area of London, housing the poor and the criminal element of the town.
The expression "to wear the mark of his trade upon him" means that in the evening a shopkeeper looked as though he still had his apron on or a tradesman still had the ring of his cap on his forehead which would emphasize that they were not real gentlemen but rather what they were: shopkeepers or tradesmen.