‚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 hands.
‚I think I see him now,‘ cried the Jew, bending his eyes upon his pupil.
‚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! 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.