Remorseful that she has a child to show her infidelities, Moll agrees to a fee for a nurse for the child and returns, via West-chester, to London. She marries the banker, despite a moment of guilt, has two children with him, but is left a widow after five years. She is not left destitute, but believes herself in danger of poverty and this fear leads to the beginning of her career as a thief. The first few thefts are opportunistic and it is only when Moll returns to her 'governess' (the woman who had looked after her while pregnant), now turned pawnbroker, that she is introduced to the world of organised crime. One theft in particular, from a family in panic as their house was in flames, shocks Moll, but as always, she, "began quickly to forget the Circumstances that attended the taking them".

Becoming known to various criminals, who are not so successful as she and end up in Newgate, Moll meets with the problems of being notorious and wanted and goes into the disguise of a man, calling herself Gabriel Spencer (also the name of the actor killed in a brawl by Ben Jonson). The use of disguise enables her to escape capture when her partner is crime is caught, but even so she goes back to the lodgings she shared with her Lancashire husband (Jemmy) and tells the landlord she is waiting for her husband; actually she is waiting for the news that her partner has been hanged. A brief interlude, in which Moll reminisces about a similar case in which a lady caught for thieving blames the infamous Mrs Flanders, leads to Moll returning to London and, at Bartholemew Fair, meeting a gentleman, "extreamly well Dress'd, and very Rich..." and going with him in his coach. Drinking leads to him becoming lecherous and Moll admits that she, "by little and little yielded to everything, so that in a Word, he did what he pleas'd with me". His reward is to be robbed as he drunkenly sleeps. Upon questioning Moll, her Governess recognises the gentleman and, through blackmail, manages to sell him back his stolen property. Still, he is keen to meet with Moll again and she eventually, without being given much choice by the Governess, agrees. Moll sleeps with him and is rewarded with money. This becomes a regular arrangement, which allows Moll time away from thieving. When they break off, her life as a thief is resumed.

Moll tells us of various escapades, including her wrongful arrest for a burglary while she is dressed as a widow. This capture proves profitable, as the true thief is captured and Moll can demand reparation for the humiliation to her good name. Other guises, as a beggar, for example, are less successful, leading to her meeting with a group who want her to commit murder; a crime she will not seriously consider. Moll also refuses house burglary, but will steal from shops. Moll is finally caught attempting to steal from a drapers and is sent to Newgate. Whilst there, Moll refuses to confess to the Newgate ordinary, who urges her towards repentance, not even knowing what her crimes have been. It is a minister sent to her by the Governess that gives Moll reason to confess and prays with her. From this penitence, Moll's original sentence of death is lessened to transportation. By chance, Jemmy too is in Newgate, and Moll finds herself in a position to help him. The two of them are transported and, still having the gains of their crimes, do not travel like criminals, but rather a couple starting on a new life. When in Virginia the pair arrange to be bought then buy their own freedom and return to the land of Moll's brother (once husband). He is dead by now, as is her mother, who has left instructions with Moll's son to provide for Moll should she ever return. This is the happy ending of a so-called penitent. The flaw is, of course, that it is not an ending, merely where Moll chooses to close the story.

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