|THE FORTUNES AND MISFORTUNES OF MOLL FLANDERS||45|
and showed me a very fine white arm and hand, but branded in the inside of the hand, as in such cases it must be.
This story was very moving to me, but my mother, smiling, said, 'You need not think such a thing strange, daughter, for some of the best men in the country are burnt in the hand, and they are not ashamed to own it. There's Major ——', says she, 'he was an eminent pickpocket; there's Justice Ba——r, was a shoplifter, and both of them were burnt in the hand; and I could name you several such as they are.'
We had frequent discourses of this kind, and abundance of instances she gave me of the like. After some time, as she was telling some stories of one that was transported but a few weeks ago, I began in an intimate kind of way to ask her to tell me something of her own story, which she did with the utmost plainness and sincerity; how she had fallen into very ill company in London in her young days, occasioned by her mother sending her frequently to carry victuals to a kinswoman of hers who was a prisoner in Newgate, in a miserable starving condition, who was afterwards condemned to die, but having got respite by pleading her belly, perished afterwards in the prison.
Here my mother-in-law ran out in a long account of the wicked practices in that dreadful place. 'And, child', says my mother, 'perhaps you may know little of it, or, it may be, have heard nothing about it; but depend upon it', says she, 'we all know here that there are more thieves and rogues made by that one prison of Newgate than by all the clubs and societies of villains in the nation; 'tis that cursed place', says my mother, 'that half peoples this colony.'
Here she went on with her own story so long, and in so particular a manner, that I began to be very uneasy; but coming to one particular that required telling her name, I thought I should have sunk down in the place. She perceived I was out of order, and asked me if I was not well, and what ailed me. I told her I was so affected with the melancholy story she had told that it had overcome me, and I begged of her to talk no more of it. 'Why, my dear', says she, very kindly, 'what need these things trouble you? These passages were long before your time, and they give me no trouble at all now; nay, I look back on them with a particular satisfaction, as they have been a means to bring me to this place.' Then she went on to tell me how she fell into a good family, where behaving herself well, and her mistress dying, her master married her, by whom she had my husband and his sister, and that by her diligence and good management after her husband's death, she had improved the plantations to such a degree as they then were, so that most of the estate was of her getting, not of her husband's, for she had been a widow upwards of sixteen years.
I heard this part of the story with very little attention, because I wanted much to retire and give vent to my passions; and let any one judge what must be the anguish of my mind when I came to reflect that this was certainly no more or less than my own mother, and that I had now had two children, and was big with another by my own brother, and lay with him still every night.
I was now the most unhappy of all women in the world. Oh! had the story never been told me, all had been well; it had been no crime to have lain with my husband, if I had known nothing of it.
I had now such a load on my mind that it kept me perpetually waking;