|THE FORTUNES AND MISFORTUNES OF MOLL FLANDERS||91|
well, and took my meaning so quickly, that she gave her negative before I could explain myself.
To bring this part into as narrow a compass as possible, I quitted my lodging at St Jones's, and went to my new governess, for so they called her in the house, and there I was indeed treated with so much courtesy, so carefully looked to, and everything so well, that I was surprised at it, and could not at first see what advantage my governess made of it; but I found afterwards that she professed to make no profit of the lodgers' diet, nor indeed could she get much by it, but that her profit lay in the other articles of her management, and she made enough that way, I assure you; for 'tis scarce credible what practice she had, as well abroad as at home, and yet all upon the private account, or, in plain English, the whoring account.
While I was in her house, which was near four months, she had no less than twelve ladies of pleasure brought to bed within doors, and I think she had two-and-thirty, or thereabouts, under her conduct without doors; whereof one, as nice as she was with me, was lodged with my old landlady at St Jones's.
This was a strange testimony of the growing vice of the age, and as bad as I had been myself, it shocked my very sense; I began to nauseate the place I was in, and, above all, the practice; and yet I must say that I never saw, or do I believe there was to be seen, the least indecency in the house the whole time I was there.
Not a man was ever seen to come upstairs, except to visit the lying-in ladies within their month, nor then without the old lady with them, who made it a piece of the honour of her management that no man should touch a woman, no, not his own wife, within the month; nor would she permit any man to lie in the house upon any pretence whatever, no, not though it was with his own wife; and her saying for it was, that she cared not how many children were born in her house, but she would have none got there if she could help it.
It might perhaps be carried farther than was needful, but it was an error of the right hand, if it was an error, for by this she kept up the reputation, such as it was, of her business, and obtained this character, that though she did take care of the women when they were debauched, yet she was not instrumental to their being debauched at all; and yet it was a wicked trade she drove too.
While I was here, and, before I was brought to bed, I received a letter from my trustee at the bank, full of kind, obliging things, and earnestly pressing me to return to London; it was near a fortnight old when it came to me, because it had first been sent into Lancashire, and then returned to me. He concluded with telling me that he had obtained a decree against his wife, and that he would be ready to make good his engagement to me, if I would accept of him, adding a great many pro testations of kindness and affection, such as he would have been far from offering if he had known the circumstances I had been in, and which, as it was, I had been very far from deserving.
I returned an answer to this letter, and dated it at Liverpool, but sent it by a messenger, alleging that it came in cover to a friend in town. I gave him joy of his deliverance, but raised some scruples at the lawfulness of his marrying again, and told him I supposed he would consider very seriously upon that point before he resolved on it, the consequence being