For the next several days, Oliver plays the "wipes" game with Fagin, but is not allowed to accompany the Dodger and Bates on their work. Finally, Fagin allows Oliver to go out with them, since there has been very little money coming into the house for some time. Turning into a bookstall near a part of town called Clerkenwell, the Dodger and Bates spot an elderly gentleman examining his books, and believe he is "green," a "good plant," someone from whom they might be able to take a handkerchief. Oliver still does not understand, but walks up to the man with the two boys.
Like Oliver, this gentleman, later revealed to be Brownlow, is considered "green," or too naïve and wrapped up in his own life to think about the criminal activity going on around him. One of the novel's great coincidences here occurs: that Oliver should find himself near a man who, it is later shown, was a good friend of Oliver's long-lost father. These coincidences build up in the novel, especially as it nears its conclusion.
Oliver observes the Dodger steal the old man's handkerchief out of his pocket, and immediately the Dodger and Bates run away. Oliver is horrified and doesn't know what to do. He quickly realizes where all the jewels have come from in Fagin's apartment, and the reason for the "game" he plays with Fagin. Oliver decides to run away, and the old man at the book-stall, realizing his handkerchief is gone, sees Oliver running last and assumes him to be the thief.
Oliver's response is a normal one—to run from the scene of a crime—but it is also the response that a naïve person would have, thus implicating Oliver in a crime with which he had no part. Once Oliver is seen running away, he can only increase his perceived guilt, not dispel it.
Bates and the Dodger, to avoid suspicion, also raise the cry of "Stop, thief!" shouted by the old man as he runs after Oliver. Others in the street answer the call as well, and soon Oliver is hunted by many people, shopkeepers and bystanders alike, down a narrow road. He is hit on the back of the head by one of them, and brought down; the old man identifies Oliver as the boy he believes to have stolen his handkerchief.
This will be a common scene: that of shopkeepers and other people on the street rallying to capture Oliver, or to allow him to be captured. Later, when Oliver is taken by Nancy and Sikes, people on the street chastise Oliver for his apparent unwillingness to go along with his "sister" Nancy.
A police officer arrives, and though Oliver pleads that he stole nothing, that it was "the other two boys," the officer says this is a likely story, and drags Oliver to the police station nearby. The old man follows along. The Dodger and Bates slink merrily away, undetected, knowing they have framed Oliver for their crime.
Bates and the Dodger have a reaction opposite to Oliver's; they make no fuss and move slowly and surely away from the scene of the crime, thus avoiding being "pinched," or captured by the authorities. Oliver is not yet versed in these sorts of criminal methods.