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Oliver was but too glad to make himself useful; too happy to have
some faces, however bad, to look upon; too desirous to conciliate
those about him when he could honestly do so; to throw any
objection in the way of this proposal. So he at once expressed
his readiness; and, kneeling on the floor, while the Dodger sat
upon the table so that he could take his foot in his laps, he
applied himself to a process which Mr. Dawkins designated as
'japanning his trotter-cases.' The phrase, rendered into plain
English, signifieth, cleaning his boots.
Whether it was the sense of freedom and independence which a
rational animal may be supposed to feel when he sits on a table
in an easy attitude smoking a pipe, swinging one leg carelessly
to and fro, and having his boots cleaned all the time, without
even the past trouble of having taken them off, or the
prospective misery of putting them on, to disturb his
reflections; or whether it was the goodness of the tobacco that
soothed the feelings of the Dodger, or the mildness of the beer
that mollified his thoughts; he was evidently tinctured, for the
nonce, with a spice of romance and enthusiasm, foreign to his
general nature. He looked down on Oliver, with a thoughtful
countenance, for a brief space; and then, raising his head, and
heaving a gentle sign, said, half in abstraction, and half to
'What a pity it is he isn't a prig!'
'Ah!' said Master Charles Bates; 'he don't know what's good for
The Dodger sighed again, and resumed his pipe: as did Charley
Bates. They both smoked, for some seconds, in silence.
'I suppose you don't even know what a prig is?' said the Dodger
'I think I know that,' replied Oliver, looking up. 'It's a
the--; you're one, are you not?' inquired Oliver, checking
'I am,' replied the Doger. 'I'd scorn to be anything else.' Mr.
Dawkins gave his hat a ferocious cock, after delivering this
sentiment, and looked at Master Bates, as if to denote that he
would feel obliged by his saying anything to the contrary.
'I am,' repeated the Dodger. 'So's Charley. So's Fagin. So's
Sikes. So's Nancy. So's Bet. So we all are, down to the dog.
And he's the downiest one of the lot!'
'And the least given to peaching,' added Charley Bates.
'He wouldn't so much as bark in a witness-box, for fear of
committing himself; no, not if you tied him up in one, and left
him there without wittles for a fortnight,' said the Dodger.
'Not a bit of it,' observed Charley.
'He's a rum dog. Don't he look fierce at any strange cove that
laughs or sings when he's in company!' pursued the Dodger.
'Won't he growl at all, when he hears a fiddle playing! And
don't he hate other dogs as ain't of his breed! Oh, no!'
'He's an out-and-out Christian,' said Charley.
This was merely intended as a tribute to the animal's abilities,
but it was an appropriate remark in another sense, if Master
Bates had only known it; for there are a good many ladies and
gentlemen, claiming to be out-and-out Christians, between whom,
and Mr. Sikes' dog, there exist strong and singular points of
'Well, well,' said the Dodger, recurring to the point from which
they had strayed: with that mindfulness of his profession which
influenced all his proceedings. 'This hasn't go anything to do
with young Green here.'
'No more it has,' said Charley. 'Why don't you put yourself
under Fagin, Oliver?'
'And make your fortun' out of hand?' added the Dodger, with a
'And so be able to retire on your property, and do the gen-teel:
as I mean to, in the very next leap-year but four that ever
comes, and the forty-second Tuesday in Trinity-week,' said
'I don't like it,' rejoined Oliver, timidly; 'I wish they would
let me go. I--I--would rather go.'
'And Fagin would RATHER not!' rejoined Charley.
Oliver knew this too well; but thinking it might be dangerous to
express his feelings more openly, he only sighed, and went on
with his boot-cleaning.
'Go!' exclaimed the Dodger. 'Why, where's your spirit?' Don't
you take any pride out of yourself? Would you go and be
dependent on your friends?'
'Oh, blow that!' said Master Bates: drawing two or three silk
handkerchiefs from his pocket, and tossing them into a cupboard,
'that's too mean; that is.'
'_I_ couldn't do it,' said the Dodger, with an air of haughty
'You can leave your friends, though,' said Oliver with a half
smile; 'and let them be punished for what you did.'
'That,' rejoined the Dodger, with a wave of his pipe, 'That was
all out of consideration for Fagin, 'cause the traps know that we
work together, and he might have got into trouble if we hadn't
made our lucky; that was the move, wasn't it, Charley?'
Master Bates nodded assent, and would have spoken, but the
recollection of Oliver's flight came so suddenly upon him, that
the smoke he was inhaling got entagled with a laugh, and went up
into his head, and down into his throat: and brought on a fit of
coughing and stamping, about five minutes long.
'Look here!' said the Dodger, drawing forth a handful of
shillings and halfpence. 'Here's a jolly life! What's the odds
where it comes from? Here, catch hold; there's plenty more where
they were took from. You won't, won't you? Oh, you precious
'It's naughty, ain't it, Oliver?' inquired Charley Bates. 'He'll
come to be scragged, won't he?'
'I don't know what that means,' replied Oliver.
'Something in this way, old feller,' said Charly. As he said it,
Master Bates caught up an end of his neckerchief; and, holding it
erect in the air, dropped his head on his shoulder, and jerked a
curious sound through his teeth; thereby indicating, by a lively
pantomimic representation, that scragging and hanging were one
and the same thing.
'That's what it means,' said Charley. 'Look how he stares, Jack!
I never did see such prime company as that 'ere boy; he'll be the
death of me, I know he will.' Master Charley Bates, having
laughed heartily again, resumed his pipe with tears in his eyes.
'You've been brought up bad,' said the Dodger, surveying his
boots with much satisfaction when Oliver had polished them.
'Fagin will make something of you, though, or you'll be the first
he ever had that turned out unprofitable. You'd better begin at
once; for you'll come to the trade long before you think of it;
and you're only losing time, Oliver.'
Master Bates backed this advice with sundry moral admonitions of
his own: which, being exhausted, he and his friend Mr. Dawkins
launched into a glowing description of the numerous pleasures
incidental to the life they led, interspersed with a variety of
hints to Oliver that the best thing he could do, would be to
secure Fagin's favour without more delay, by the means which they
themselves had employed to gain it.
'And always put this in your pipe, Nolly,' said the Dodger, as
the Jew was heard unlocking the door above, 'if you don't take
fogels and tickers--'
'What's the good of talking in that way?' interposed Master
Bates; 'he don't know what you mean.'
'If you don't take pocket-handkechers and watches,' said the
Dodger, reducing his conversation to the level of Oliver's
capacity, 'some other cove will; so that the coves that lose 'em
will be all the worse, and you'll be all the worse, too, and
nobody half a ha'p'orth the better, except the chaps wot gets
them--and you've just as good a right to them as they have.'
'To be sure, to be sure!' said the Jew, who had entered unseen by
Oliver. 'It all lies in a nutshell my dear; in a nutshell, take
the Dodger's word for it. Ha! ha! ha! He understands the
catechism of his trade.'
The old man rubbed his hands gleefully together, as he
corroborated the Dodger's reasoning in these terms; and chuckled
with delight at his pupil's proficiency.
The conversation proceeded no farther at this time, for the Jew
had returned home accompanied by Miss Betsy, and a gentleman whom
Oliver had never seen before, but who was accosted by the Dodger
as Tom Chitling; and who, having lingered on the stairs to
exchange a few gallantries with the lady, now made his
Mr. Chitling was older in years than the Dodger: having perhaps
numbered eighteen winters; but there was a degree of deference in
his deportment towards that young gentleman which seemed to
indicate that he felt himself conscious of a slight inferiority
in point of genius and professional aquirements. He had small
twinkling eyes, and a pock-marked face; wore a fur cap, a dark
corduroy jacket, greasy fustian trousers, and an apron. His
wardrobe was, in truth, rather out of repair; but he excused
himself to the company by stating that his 'time' was only out an