|156||THE FORTUNES AND MISFORTUNES OF MOLL FLANDERS|
talk it among themselves very often, and see them shake their heads, and say they were sorry for it, and the like, as is usual in the place. But still nobody came to tell me their thoughts, till at last one of the keepers came to me privately, and said, with a sigh, 'Well, Mrs Flanders, you will be tried a Friday' (this was but a Wednesday); 'what do you intend to do?' I turned as white as a clout, and said, 'God knows what I shall do; for my part, I know not what to do.' 'Why', says he, 'I won't flatter you; I would have you prepare for death, for I doubt you will be cast; and as you are an old offender, I doubt you will find but little mercy, They say', added he, 'your case is very plain, and that the witnesses swear so home against you, there will be no standing it.'
This was a stab into the very vitals of one under such a burthen, and I could not speak a word, good or bad, for a great while. At last I burst out into tears, and said to him, 'Oh, sir, what must I do?; 'Do!' says he; 'send for a minister, and talk with him; for, indeed, Mrs Flanders, unless you have very good friends, you are no woman for this world.'
This was plain dealing indeed, but it was very harsh to me; at least I thought it so. He left me in the greatest confusion imaginable, and all that night I lay awake. And now I began to say my prayers, which I had scarce done before since my last husband's death, or from a little while after. And truly I may well call it saying my prayers, for I was in such a confusion, and had such horror upon my mind, that though I cried, and repeated several times the ordinary expression of 'Lord, have mercy upon me!' I never brought myself to any sense of being a miserable sinner, as indeed I was, and of confessing my sins to God, and begging pardon for the sake of Jesus Christ. I was overwhelmed with the sense of my condition, being tried for my life, and being sure to be executed, and on this account I cried out all night, 'Lord! what will become of me? Lord what shall I do? Lord, have mercy upon me! 'and the like.
My poor afflicted governess was now as much concerned as I, and a great deal more truly penitent, though she had no prospect of being brought to a sentence. Not but that she deserved it as much as I, and so she said herself; but she had not done anything for many years, other than receiving what I and others had stolen, and encouraging us to steal it. But she cried and took on, like a distracted body, wringing her hands, and crying out that she was undone, that she believed there was a curse from heaven upon her, that she should be damned, that she had been the destruction of all her friends, that she brought such a one, and such a one to the gallows; and there she reckoned up ten or eleven people, some of which I have given an account of, that came to untimely ends; and that now she was the occasion of my ruin, for she had persuaded me to go on, when I would have left off. I interrupted her there. 'No, mother, no', said I; 'don't speak of that, for you would have had me left off when I got the mercer's money again, and when I came home from Harwich, and I would not hearken to you; therefore you have not been to blame; it is I only have ruined myself, I have brought myself to this misery'; and thus we spent many hours together.
Well, there was no remedy; the prosecution went on, and on the Thursday I was carried down to the sessions-house, where I was arraigned, as they called it, and the next day I was appointed to be tried. At the arraignment I pleaded 'Not guilty', and well I might, for I was indicted for felony and burglary; that is, for feloniously stealing two pieces of