Summary and Analysis
Chapter 21 - Capture
It was now a time of year when the gentlemen usually left town, leaving few occasions for Moll's type of adventures. She joined a gang and went to Stourbridge Fair and Bury Fair in Suffolk. Since there were slim pickings there, she soon tired of the whole business and went off alone.
During the course of Moll's subsequent crimes, she stole a heavy trunk from a drunken Dutch footman. She contrived to have the trunk taken on board a boat that was sailing to Ipswich, and she told her landlady she was going to London. She even managed to fool the custom-house officers in Ipswich by telling them — since she suspected that the trunk contained a man's clothes only — that her husband had the key. When they broke open the lock, they were therefore not surprised to find that it did indeed contain a man's clothes. Moll subsequently removed what she wanted from the trunk, left it with the landlady at an inn, and found a ride to Colchester. There she inquired after her old friends and discovered that her first "parents" and brother-in law were dead. From Colchester, Moll returned to London, where she recounted her adventures to her governess. Here Moll pauses in her story to warn honest people among her readers to keep their wits about them: otherwise, persons such as herself will take advantage of them.
On the evening of Christmas Day, Moll passed an open but empty silversmith's shop, with a good deal of plate in the window. Just as she was about to take it, a fellow who lived across the street and who had seen her enter the empty shop came running in. Just as he was about to seize her, Moll had the presence of mind to stamp on the floor and call out for the owner. Her story about trying to match a spoon (which, "by great luck," she had in her pocket) was convincing enough for her to be deemed innocent by an alderman who was among the crowd that had been attracted by the noise. However, Moll then had to buy the spoons she had said she was looking for. The narrow escape did not slow Moll down, however, and three days later she was caught by two women in a linen shop as she tried to leave with some stolen cloth. This time the constable refused to accept her story and took her straight to Newgate.
In this chapter Moll makes a point of saying that her story may be useful to honest people. She warns them to keep their wits about them in order to guard against strangers like herself. She says her history has a moral and she leaves it to the reader to "let the experience of one creature completely wicked, and completely miserable, be a storehouse of useful warning to those that read."
It is evident that the several times that Moll almost got captured did not make her more cautious. She was past caution now. Her degradation was complete, so her capture was imminent and inevitable.