"Oliver Becomes Better Acquainted with the Characters of his New Associates, and Purchases Experience at a High Price. Being a Short but Very Important Chapter in this History"
Oliver spends the next eight or ten days shut up in Fagin’s room – picking the marks out of the handkerchiefs that the other boys bring back, and sometimes joining the "game" of practicing picking pockets (wow, try saying that ten times fast).
Oliver is getting cabin fever – he wants to go outside with the others. Of course, he doesn’t know what they’re up to. All he knows is that Fagin seems to value hard work: whenever one of the boys comes back empty-handed, Fagin totally loses it, and Oliver still doesn’t realize that the boys aren’t making the stuff they bring back, they’re stealing it. His innocence would be kind of funny if it weren’t so sad – after all, he’s only eight or nine years old at this point (depending on the edition you’re reading – Dickens changed his age slightly when he edited later versions. It’s not that we forgot how old Oliver is).
Finally Fagin allows Oliver to go out with the Dodger and "Master Bates." (Yes, Dickens still thinks it’s funny and, honestly? So do we.)
Oliver still thinks they’re going to be teaching him how to make things: he wonders "what branch of manufacture he would be instructed in first" (10.4).
Oliver notices that the Dodger has a bad habit of pulling little kids’ hats over their eyes and pushing them over, and that Charley (we’re going to have to call him that from now on, so that we can all stop giggling) keeps stealing apples from fruit vendors. He’s about to say something about their bad behavior when they stop and point at an "old cove" by a book-seller.
The "old cove" is a "respectable-looking" "old gentleman" who is totally absorbed in the book he’s reading at the bookseller’s stand. He’s totally oblivious to anything going on around him.
Oliver stares at Charley and the Dodger in shocked silence, basically with his mouth hanging open, while the Dodger and Charley sidle up to him and slip his handkerchief out of his pocket, and then slip around the corner. This is another one of the totally awesome illustrations by Cruikshank. Check it out if you haven’t already.
Everything strikes Oliver at once, and suddenly he realizes where all the handkerchiefs (and everything else, including Fagin’s watches) have been coming from. His automatic response is to run away, and he hightails it down the street.
But Oliver runs away more noisily than the other boys, and it snaps the old guy out of his book. He immediately notices that his handkerchief is gone (don’t ask how he noticed so fast; apparently a pocket handkerchief was like an extra appendage for any respectable person in the nineteenth century).
The old guy immediately and instinctively assumes that it was Oliver who stole it, since it’s Oliver who’s noisily running away, and he yells, "Stop, thief!"
And the whole street scene suddenly shifts its collective attention to the little boy running away down the street, and everyone joins in (including the Dodger and Charley!), chasing Oliver and yelling "stop, thief!"
Someone finally tackles Oliver to the ground, and the old gentleman gets dragged to the front of the crowd to identify Oliver as the suspected culprit. But he clearly feels sorry for Oliver, and calls him a "poor fellow," and is disgusted by the "great lubberly fellow" who proudly tells him that he’s the one who knocked Oliver to the ground by punching him in the mouth.
A police officer arrives, and drags Oliver to his feet.
Oliver tries to tell him that he was innocent, and that two other boys had done it, but the police officer doesn’t believe him, since the Dodger and Charley had, well, "dodged."
The old gentleman follows along as the police officer drags Oliver along, and seems curious about Oliver for some reason.