The Complete Works of



Charles Dickens > Oliver Twist > Chapter XLIII

Oliver Twist

Chapter XLIII


'And so it was you that was your own friend, was it?' asked Mr.
Claypole, otherwise Bolter, when, by virtue of the compact
entered into between them, he had removed next day to Fagin's
house. ''Cod, I thought as much last night!'

'Every man's his own friend, my dear,' replied Fagin, with his
most insinuating grin. 'He hasn't as good a one as himself

'Except sometimes,' replied Morris Bolter, assuming the air of a
man of the world. 'Some people are nobody's enemies but their
own, yer know.'

'Don't believe that,' said Fagin. 'When a man's his own enemy,
it's only because he's too much his own friend; not because he's
careful for everybody but himself. Pooh! pooh! There ain't such
a thing in nature.'

'There oughn't to be, if there is,' replied Mr. Bolter.

'That stands to reason. Some conjurers say that number three is
the magic number, and some say number seven. It's neither, my
friend, neither. It's number one.

'Ha! ha!' cried Mr. Bolter. 'Number one for ever.'

'In a little community like ours, my dear,' said Fagin, who felt
it necessary to qualify this position, 'we have a general number
one, without considering me too as the same, and all the other
young people.'

'Oh, the devil!' exclaimed Mr. Bolter.

'You see,' pursued Fagin, affecting to disregard this
interruption, 'we are so mixed up together, and identified in our
interests, that it must be so. For instance, it's your object to
take care of number one--meaning yourself.'

'Certainly,' replied Mr. Bolter. 'Yer about right there.'

'Well! You can't take care of yourself, number one, without
taking care of me, number one.'

'Number two, you mean,' said Mr. Bolter, who was largely endowed
with the quality of selfishness.

'No, I don't!' retorted Fagin. 'I'm of the same importance to
you, as you are to yourself.'

'I say,' interrupted Mr. Bolter, 'yer a very nice man, and I'm
very fond of yer; but we ain't quite so thick together, as all
that comes to.'

'Only think,' said Fagin, shrugging his shoulders, and stretching
out his hands; 'only consider. You've done what's a very pretty
thing, and what I love you for doing; but what at the same time
would put the cravat round your throat, that's so very easily
tied and so very difficult to unloose--in plain English, the

Mr. Bolter put his hand to his neckerchief, as if he felt it
inconveniently tight; and murmured an assent, qualified in tone
but not in substance.

'The gallows,' continued Fagin, 'the gallows, my dear, is an ugly
finger-post, which points out a very short and sharp turning that
has stopped many a bold fellow's career on the broad highway. To
keep in the easy road, and keep it at a distance, is object
number one with you.'

'Of course it is,' replied Mr. Bolter. 'What do yer talk about
such things for?'

'Only to show you my meaning clearly,' said the Jew, raising his
eyebrows. 'To be able to do that, you depend upon me. To keep my
little business all snug, I depend upon you. The first is your
number one, the second my number one. The more you value your
number one, the more careful you must be of mine; so we come at
last to what I told you at first--that a regard for number one
holds us all together, and must do so, unless we would all go to
pieces in company.'

'That's true,' rejoined Mr. Bolter, thoughtfully. 'Oh! yer a
cunning old codger!'

Mr. Fagin saw, with delight, that this tribute to his powers was
no mere compliment, but that he had really impressed his recruit
with a sense of his wily genius, which it was most important that
he should entertain in the outset of their acquaintance. To
strengthen an impression so desirable and useful, he followed up
the blow by acquainting him, in some detail, with the magnitude
and extent of his operations; blending truth and fiction
together, as best served his purpose; and bringing both to bear,
with so much art, that Mr. Bolter's respect visibly increased,
and became tempered, at the same time, with a degree of wholesome
fear, which it was highly desirable to awaken.

'It's this mutual trust we have in each other that consoles me
under heavy losses,' said Fagin. 'My best hand was taken from
me, yesterday morning.'

'You don't mean to say he died?' cried Mr. Bolter.

'No, no,' replied Fagin, 'not so bad as that. Not quite so bad.'

'What, I suppose he was--'

'Wanted,' interposed Fagin. 'Yes, he was wanted.'

'Very particular?' inquired Mr. Bolter.

'No,' replied Fagin, 'not very. He was charged with attempting
to pick a pocket, and they found a silver snuff-box on him,--his
own, my dear, his own, for he took snuff himself, and was very
fond of it. They remanded him till to-day, for they thought they
knew the owner. Ah! he was worth fifty boxes, and I'd give the
price of as many to have him back. You should have known the
Dodger, my dear; you should have known the Dodger.'

'Well, but I shall know him, I hope; don't yer think so?' said
Mr. Bolter.

'I'm doubtful about it,' replied Fagin, with a sigh. 'If they
don't get any fresh evidence, it'll only be a summary conviction,
and we shall have him back again after six weeks or so; but, if
they do, it's a case of lagging. They know what a clever lad he
is; he'll be a lifer. They'll make the Artful nothing less than
a lifer.'

'What do you mean by lagging and a lifer?' demanded Mr. Bolter.
'What's the good of talking in that way to me; why don't yer
speak so as I can understand yer?'

Fagin was about to translate these mysterious expressions into
the vulgar tongue; and, being interpreted, Mr. Bolter would have
been informed that they represented that combination of words,
'transportation for life,' when the dialogue was cut short by the
entry of Master Bates, with his hands in his breeches-pockets,
and his face twisted into a look of semi-comical woe.

'It's all up, Fagin,' said Charley, when he and his new companion
had been made known to each other.

'What do you mean?'

'They've found the gentleman as owns the box; two or three more's
a coming to 'dentify him; and the Artful's booked for a passage
out,' replied Master Bates. 'I must have a full suit of
mourning, Fagin, and a hatband, to wisit him in, afore he sets
out upon his travels. To think of Jack Dawkins--lummy Jack--the
Dodger--the Artful Dodger--going abroad for a common
twopenny-halfpenny sneeze-box! I never thought he'd a done it
under a gold watch, chain, and seals, at the lowest. Oh, why
didn't he rob some rich old gentleman of all his walables, and go
out as a gentleman, and not like a common prig, without no honour
nor glory!'

With this expression of feeling for his unfortunate friend,
Master Bates sat himself on the nearest chair with an aspect of
chagrin and despondency.

'What do you talk about his having neither honour nor glory for!'
exclaimed Fagin, darting an angry look at his pupil. 'Wasn't he
always the top-sawyer among you all! Is there one of you that
could touch him or come near him on any scent! Eh?'

'Not one,' replied Master Bates, in a voice rendered husky by
regret; 'not one.'

'Then what do you talk of?' replied Fagin angrily; 'what are you
blubbering for?'

''Cause it isn't on the rec-ord, is it?' said Charley, chafed
into perfect defiance of his venerable friend by the current of
his regrets; ''cause it can't come out in the 'dictment; 'cause
nobody will never know half of what he was. How will he stand in
the Newgate Calendar? P'raps not be there at all. Oh, my eye,
my eye, wot a blow it is!'

'Ha! ha!' cried Fagin, extending his right hand, and turning to
Mr. Bolter in a fit of chuckling which shook him as though he had
the palsy; 'see what a pride they take in their profession, my
dear. Ain't it beautiful?'

Mr. Bolter nodded assent, and Fagin, after contemplating the
grief of Charley Bates for some seconds with evident
satisfaction, stepped up to that young gentleman and patted him
on the shoulder.

'Never mind, Charley,' said Fagin soothingly; 'it'll come out,
it'll be sure to come out. They'll all know what a clever fellow
he was; he'll show it himself, and not disgrace his old pals and
teachers. Think how young he is too! What a distinction,
Charley, to be lagged at his time of life!'

'Well, it is a honour that is!' said Charley, a little consoled.

'He shall have all he wants,' continued the Jew. 'He shall be
kept in the Stone Jug, Charley, like a gentleman. Like a
gentleman! With his beer every day, and money in his pocket to
pitch and toss with, if he can't spend it.'

'No, shall he though?' cried Charley Bates.

'Ay, that he shall,' replied Fagin, 'and we'll have a big-wig,
Charley: one that's got the greatest gift of the gab: to carry
on his defence; and he shall make a speech for himself too, if he
likes; and we'll read it all in the papers--"Artful
Dodger--shrieks of laughter--here the court was convulsed"--eh,
Charley, eh?'

'Ha! ha! laughed Master Bates, 'what a lark that would be,
wouldn't it, Fagin? I say, how the Artful would bother 'em
wouldn't he?'

'Would!' cried Fagin. 'He shall--he will!'

'Ah, to be sure, so he will,' repeated Charley, rubbing his

'I think I see him now,' cried the Jew, bending his eyes upon his

'So do I,' cried Charley Bates. 'Ha! ha! ha! so do I. I see it
all afore me, upon my soul I do, Fagin. What a game! What a
regular game! All the big-wigs trying to look solemn, and Jack
Dawkins addressing of 'em as intimate and comfortable as if he
was the judge's own son making a speech arter dinner--ha! ha!

In fact, Mr. Fagin had so well humoured his young friend's
eccentric disposition, that Master Bates, who had at first been
disposed to consider the imprisoned Dodger rather in the light of
a victim, now looked upon him as the chief actor in a scene of
most uncommon and exquisite humour, and felt quite impatient for
the arrival of the time when his old companion should have so
favourable an opportunity of displaying his abilities.

'We must know how he gets on to-day, by some handy means or
other,' said Fagin. 'Let me think.'

'Shall I go?' asked Charley.

'Not for the world,' replied Fagin. 'Are you mad, my dear, stark
mad, that you'd walk into the very place where--No, Charley, no.
One is enough to lose at a time.'

'You don't mean to go yourself, I suppose?' said Charley with a
humorous leer.

'That wouldn't quite fit,' replied Fagin shaking his head.

'Then why don't you send this new cove?' asked Master Bates,
laying his hand on Noah's arm. 'Nobody knows him.'

'Why, if he didn't mind--' observed Fagin.

'Mind!' interposed Charley. 'What should he have to mind?'

'Really nothing, my dear,' said Fagin, turning to Mr. Bolter,
'really nothing.'

'Oh, I dare say about that, yer know,' observed Noah, backing
towards the door, and shaking his head with a kind of sober
alarm. 'No, no--none of that. It's not in my department, that

'Wot department has he got, Fagin?' inquired Master Bates,
surveying Noah's lank form with much disgust. 'The cutting away
when there's anything wrong, and the eating all the wittles when
there's everything right; is that his branch?'

'Never mind,' retorted Mr. Bolter; 'and don't yer take liberties
with yer superiors, little boy, or yer'll find yerself in the
wrong shop.'

Master Bates laughed so vehemently at this magnificent threat,
that it was some time before Fagin could interpose, and represent
to Mr. Bolter that he incurred no possible danger in visiting the
police-office; that, inasmuch as no account of the little affair
in which he had engaged, nor any description of his person, had
yet been forwarded to the metropolis, it was very probable that
he was not even suspected of having resorted to it for shelter;
and that, if he were properly disguised, it would be as safe a
spot for him to visit as any in London, inasmuch as it would be,
of all places, the very last, to which he could be supposed
likely to resort of his own free will.

Persuaded, in part, by these representations, but overborne in a
much greater degree by his fear of Fagin, Mr. Bolter at length
consented, with a very bad grace, to undertake the expedition.
By Fagin's directions, he immediately substituted for his own
attire, a waggoner's frock, velveteen breeches, and leather
leggings: all of which articles the Jew had at hand. He was
likewise furnished with a felt hat well garnished with turnpike
tickets; and a carter's whip. Thus equipped, he was to saunter
into the office, as some country fellow from Covent Garden market
might be supposed to do for the gratification of his curiousity;
and as he was as awkward, ungainly, and raw-boned a fellow as
need be, Mr. Fagin had no fear but that he would look the part to

These arrangements completed, he was informed of the necessary
signs and tokens by which to recognise the Artful Dodger, and was
conveyed by Master Bates through dark and winding ways to within
a very short distance of Bow Street. Having described the precise
situation of the office, and accompanied it with copious
directions how he was to walk straight up the passage, and when
he got into the side, and pull off his hat as he went into the
room, Charley Bates bade him hurry on alone, and promised to bide
his return on the spot of their parting.

Noah Claypole, or Morris Bolter as the reader pleases, punctually
followed the directions he had received, which--Master Bates
being pretty well acquainted with the locality--were so exact
that he was enabled to gain the magisterial presence without
asking any question, or meeting with any interruption by the way.

He found himself jostled among a crowd of people, chiefly women,
who were huddled together in a dirty frowsy room, at the upper
end of which was a raised platform railed off from the rest, with
a dock for the prisoners on the left hand against the wall, a box
for the witnesses in the middle, and a desk for the magistrates
on the right; the awful locality last named, being screened off
by a partition which concealed the bench from the common gaze,
and left the vulgar to imagine (if they could) the full majesty
of justice.

There were only a couple of women in the dock, who were nodding
to their admiring friends, while the clerk read some depositions
to a couple of policemen and a man in plain clothes who leant
over the table. A jailer stood reclining against the dock-rail,
tapping his nose listlessly with a large key, except when he
repressed an undue tendency to conversation among the idlers, by
proclaiming silence; or looked sternly up to bid some woman 'Take
that baby out,' when the gravity of justice was disturbed by
feeble cries, half-smothered in the mother's shawl, from some
meagre infant. The room smelt close and unwholesome; the walls
were dirt-discoloured; and the ceiling blackened. There was an
old smoky bust over the mantel-shelf, and a dusty clock above the
dock--the only thing present, that seemed to go on as it ought;
for depravity, or poverty, or an habitual acquaintance with both,
had left a taint on all the animate matter, hardly less
unpleasant than the thick greasy scum on every inaminate object
that frowned upon it.

Noah looked eagerly about him for the Dodger; but although there
were several women who would have done very well for that
distinguished character's mother or sister, and more than one man
who might be supposed to bear a strong resemblance to his father,
nobody at all answering the description given him of Mr. Dawkins
was to be seen. He waited in a state of much suspense and
uncertainty until the women, being committed for trial, went
flaunting out; and then was quickly relieved by the appearance of
another prisoner who he felt at once could be no other than the
object of his visit.

It was indeed Mr. Dawkins, who, shuffling into the office with
the big coat sleeves tucked up as usual, his left hand in his
pocket, and his hat in his right hand, preceded the jailer, with
a rolling gait altogether indescribable, and, taking his place in
the dock, requested in an audible voice to know what he was
placed in that 'ere disgraceful sitivation for.

'Hold your tongue, will you?' said the jailer.

'I'm an Englishman, ain't I?' rejoined the Dodger. 'Where are my

'You'll get your privileges soon enough,' retorted the jailer,
'and pepper with 'em.'

'We'll see wot the Secretary of State for the Home Affairs has
got to say to the beaks, if I don't,' replied Mr. Dawkins. 'Now
then! Wot is this here business? I shall thank the madg'strates
to dispose of this here little affair, and not to keep me while
they read the paper, for I've got an appointment with a genelman
in the City, and as I am a man of my word and wery punctual in
business matters, he'll go away if I ain't there to my time, and
then pr'aps ther won't be an action for damage against them as
kep me away. Oh no, certainly not!'

At this point, the Dodger, with a show of being very particular
with a view to proceedings to be had thereafter, desired the
jailer to communicate 'the names of them two files as was on the
bench.' Which so tickled the spectators, that they laughed
almost as heartily as Master Bates could have done if he had
heard the request.

'Silence there!' cried the jailer.

'What is this?' inquired one of the magistrates.

'A pick-pocketing case, your worship.'

'Has the boy ever been here before?'

'He ought to have been, a many times,' replied the jailer. 'He
has been pretty well everywhere else. _I_ know him well, your

'Oh! you know me, do you?' cried the Artful, making a note of the
statement. 'Wery good. That's a case of deformation of
character, any way.'

Here there was another laugh, and another cry of silence.

'Now then, where are the witnesses?' said the clerk.

'Ah! that's right,' added the Dodger. 'Where are they? I should
like to see 'em.'

This wish was immediately gratified, for a policeman stepped
forward who had seen the prisoner attempt the pocket of an
unknown gentleman in a crowd, and indeed take a handkerchief
therefrom, which, being a very old one, he deliberately put back
again, after trying in on his own countenance. For this reason,
he took the Dodger into custody as soon as he could get near him,
and the said Dodger, being searched, had upon his person a silver
snuff-box, with the owner's name engraved upon the lid. This
gentleman had been discovered on reference to the Court Guide,
and being then and there present, swore that the snuff-box was
his, and that he had missed it on the previous day, the moment he
had disengaged himself from the crowd before referred to. He had
also remarked a young gentleman in the throng, particularly
active in making his way about, and that young gentleman was the
prisoner before him.

'Have you anything to ask this witness, boy?' said the

'I wouldn't abase myself by descending to hold no conversation
with him' replied the Dodger.

'Have you anything to say at all?'

'Do you hear his worship ask if you've anything to say?' inquired
the jailer, nudging the silent Dodger with his elbow.

'I beg your pardon,' said the Dodger, looking up with an air of
abstraction. 'Did you redress yourself to me, my man?'

'I never see such an out-and-out young wagabond, your worship,'
observed the officer with a grin. 'Do you mean to say anything,
you young shaver?'

'No,' replied the Dodger, 'not here, for this ain't the shop for
justice: besides which, my attorney is a-breakfasting this
morning with the Wice President of the House of Commons; but I
shall have something to say elsewhere, and so will he, and so
will a wery numerous and 'spectable circle of acquaintance as'll
make them beaks wish they'd never been born, or that they'd got
their footmen to hang 'em up to their own hat-pegs, afore they
let 'em come out this morning to try it on upon me. I'll--'

'There! He's fully committed!' interposed the clerk. 'Take him

'Come on,' said the jailer.

'Oh ah! I'll come on,' replied the Dodger, brushing his hat with
the palm of his hand. 'Ah! (to the Bench) it's no use your
looking frightened; I won't show you no mercy, not a ha'porth of
it. YOU'LL pay for this, my fine fellers. I wouldn't be you for
something! I wouldn't go free, now, if you was to fall down on
your knees and ask me. Here, carry me off to prison! Take me

With these last words, the Dodger suffered himself to be led off
by the collar; threatening, till he got into the yard, to make a
parliamentary business of it; and then grinning in the officer's
face, with great glee and self-approval.

Having seen him locked up by himself in a little cell, Noah made
the best of his way back to where he had left Master Bates.
After waiting here some time, he was joined by that young
gentleman, who had prudently abstained from showing himself until
he had looked carefully abroad from a snug retreat, and
ascertained that his new friend had not been followed by any
impertinent person.

The two hastened back together, to bear to Mr. Fagin the
animating news that the Dodger was doing full justice to his
bringing-up, and establishing for himself a glorious reputation.

< Back
Forward >

Index Index

Other Authors Other Authors

Charles Dickens. Copyright © 2022,
Contact the webmaster
Disclaimer here. Privacy Policy here.