Summary and Analysis
Six months after the affair with the elder brother had begun, Moll received a proposal of marriage from Robin, the younger brother. Believing that the elder brother truly intended to marry her, she resisted Robin's proposal by presenting such arguments against it as her lowly status and the family's probable disapproval of the match. Because Robin was honest and innocent, he often talked about Mrs. Betty to his sisters. Soon they began to suspect that he loved her and became cool toward Moll. She was distressed by the family's changed behavior toward her, but she was more distressed by the realization that she had been the elder brother's mistress when she could have been the younger brother's wife.
Soon Moll decided to tell the elder brother that Robin loved her. In telling the story Moll led the elder brother to believe that the family thought she and he were having an affair. Laughingly, the elder brother told Moll that the family suspected Robin, not him, of having an affair with her.
Seeing she was getting nowhere with the elder brother, Moll told him of Robin's proposal of marriage. The elder brother was surprised by this and sought time to consider it. Meanwhile, he cautioned her neither to consent nor to give Robin a flat denial. This, of course, startled Moll, who reminded the elder brother that she had no consent to give Robin since she was engaged to him. The elder brother pacified Moll as best he could.
As soon as possible he confronted Robin with the family's suspicions. Robin admitted he loved Moll deeply and intended to marry her. Sometime later the elder brother repeated the entire conversation to Moll and sought to persuade her to marry Robin, saying that the family would become suspicious of her turning down such a good catch without another in sight. This shocked Moll greatly, for she still believed the elder brother loved her and would be faithful to his promise to marry her. The elder brother denied having broken any of his promises to her, saying that he had promised to marry her when he came into his estate but that his father was a hale and healthy man who might live thirty years longer. He promised never to reveal the secret of their affair and to treat Moll with great respect when she and Robin were married.
Because she "loved to distraction" the older brother, Moll was very much upset by this decision and was quite ill for several weeks. The family fell into arguments over Moll, the sisters complaining about her vanity, the mother worried about Moll's involvement with Robin. Meanwhile, the elder brother contrived to bring about a marriage between Moll and Robin in order to relieve himself of his involvement in the affair.
Robin by his sincerity finally persuaded his mother to accept the match. The family was also impressed by Moll's obvious reluctance to marry Robin; they reasoned that her reluctance proved she was not a fortune-hunter. The elder brother convinced Moll she should marry Robin or face the prospect of being left alone in the world to shift for herself.
In eighteenth-century England people were very much conscious of social position. Marriages between the wealthy and the poor were infrequent. For this reason "marriages of convenience" were often arranged. In a marriage of convenience each person sought to improve his position in some way. For example, a young man with a title and no money might marry a young lady with money and no title. Therefore, the elder brother's attitude toward marriage was typical for the times, while Robin's attitude was rather unusual since Moll had neither money nor social position.
The elder son was attracted to Moll's beauty, but he did not love her. He wanted her as a mistress but not as a wife. On the other hand, Robin actually loved Moll.
The elder son would have disgraced his family if he had married a girl without money or social position. Since he did not want to ruin his chances of collecting his inheritance after his father's death, he was determined not to have any scandal attached to his name. Therefore, to rid himself of his involvement with Moll, he thrust her into a marriage with his brother.