When the breakfast was cleared away, the merry old gentleman and the two boys played at a very curious and uncommon game, which was performed in this way. The merry old gentleman, placing a snuffbox in one pocket of his trousers, a notecase in the other, and a watch in his waistcoat pocket, with a guard chain round his neck, and sticking a mock-diamond pin in his shirt, buttoned his coat tight round him; and putting his spectacle case and handkerchief in his pockets, trotted up and down the room with a stick, in imitation of the manner in which old gentlemen walk about the streets any hour in the day. Sometimes he stopped at the fireplace and sometimes at the door, making believe that he was staring with all his might into shop windows. At such times, he would look constantly round him for fear of thieves, and keep slapping all his pockets in turn to see that he hadn’t lost anything in such a very funny and natural manner that Oliver laughed till the tears ran down his face. All this time, the two boys followed him closely about, getting out of his sight so nimbly every time he turned round that it was impossibleto follow their motions. At last, the Artful Dodger trod upon his toes or ran upon his boot accidentally, while Charley Bates stumbled up against him behind; and in that one moment they took from him, with the most extraordinary rapidity, snuffbox, notecase, watch guard, chain, shirt pin, pocket handkerchief, even the spectacle case. If the old gentleman felt a hand in any one of his pockets, he cried out where it was; and then the game began all over again.
At length, Charley Bates expressed his opinion that it was time to pad the hoof. This, it occurred to Oliver, must be French for going out; for directly afterward, the Dodger and Charley went away together, having been kindly furnished by the amiable old Jew with money to spend.
“There, my dear,” said Fagin. “That’s a pleasant life, isn’t it? They have gone out for the day.”
“Have they done work, sir?” inquired Oliver.
“Yes,” said the Jew, “that is, unless they should unexpectedly come across any when they are out; and they won’t neglect it if they do, my dear, depend upon it. Make ’em your models, my dear. Make ’em your models,” said the Jew, tapping the fire shovel on the hearth to add force to his words, “do everything they bid you, and take their advice in all matters—especially the Dodger’s, my dear. He’ll be a great man himself, and will make you one too, if you take pattern by him. Is my handkerchief hanging out of my pocket, my dear?” said the Jew, stopping short.
“Yes, sir,” said Oliver.
“See if you can take it out without my feeling it, as you saw them do when we were at play this morning.”
Oliver held up the bottom of the pocket with one hand, as he had seen the Dodger hold it, and drew the handkerchief lightly out of it with the other.
“Is it gone?” cried the Jew.
“Here it is, sir,” said Oliver, showing it in his hand.
“You’re a clever boy, my dear,” said the playful old gentleman, patting Oliver on the head approvingly. “I never saw a sharper lad. Here’s a shilling for you. If you go on in this way, you’ll be the greatest man of the time. And now come here, and I’ll show you how to take the marks out of the handkerchiefs.”
Oliver wondered what picking the old gentleman’s pocket in play had to do with his chances of being a great man. But, thinking that the Jew, being so much his senior, must know best, he followed him quietly to the table, and was soon deeply involved in his new study.
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