The chapter opens in Sikes' flophouse, where he is still staying with Nancy. They are both in terrible condition, having very little money, and appear weak and starved. They get into a fight, for which neither is strong enough, and Nancy faints just as Fagin, Bates, and the Dodger enter—they help Nancy and get her water, while Sikes inquires as to what has brought Fagin to him, all of a sudden.
Sikes and Nancy appear to have been abandoned, or at the very least held at arm's length, following the botched robbery. There are many possible explanations for this, but it is most likely that Fagin is avoiding police scrutiny by not associating with Sikes for a period of time.
As Fagin begins his explanation, Bates and the Dodger empty food for Sikes and Nancy out of their sacks. Sikes is angry that Fagin has not visited him, nor brought him any food and nourishment for several weeks, and demands to know why. Fagin and the boys reply that they were "out of London," and that they have brought food for them now. Sikes tells Fagin he is sending Nancy back to Fagin's apartment, with the boys, for some money, which she will then deliver to Sikes—Sikes complains he is dying for want of money.
The nature of the dependence between Fagin and Sikes is here more or less reversed. In earlier chapter, Sikes could simply take money (for example, the money Oliver was holding on his way to the book-stall) and tell Fagin that the money is Sikes', not Fagin's. But here, Sikes is reduced to begging for whatever small amount Fagin can provide him.
Nancy goes, with Fagin and the boys, back to Fagin's apartment. There, after clearing out Toby and Chitling and the boys from the common area, Fagin gets Nancy the money and seems about to speak to her about something important, when Monks enters the apartment, brusquely. Monks and Fagin go off to the second floor to have a private conversation, but Nancy secretly follows them up there, and hears all that they say (although the narrator does not report this dialogue to the reader). Before the two descend, Nancy returns and pretends as though she has not been eavesdropping.
Fagin and Monks do not seem to worry that Nancy will eavesdrop on them. Either Fagin believes Nancy is too weak, and too much of a drunk at this point, to care very much what Fagin has to say, or Fagin and Monks are beginning to get sloppy in their planning. It is this kind of sloppiness that will, eventually, get both Monks and Fagin arrested—the former by Brownlow, the latter by the authorities.
Nancy looks pale, and, after quickly taking the money from Fagin that he has promised for Sikes, she returns to Sikes, and gives him the money. The next morning, Nancy still appears pale and agitated, and Sikes notices this throughout he day. That evening, Nancy slips laudanum, a sleeping drug, into Sikes' beer, and he falls into a deep slumber. At this, Nancy leaves the apartment on some kind of mission.
Nancy has, quite clearly, heard something that truly upsets her. In fact, she is so agitated she is willing to dose Sikes with a drug. Nancy, we are led to believe, has not taken such desperate measures previously; but now, things are different, and she feels compelled to act.
Nancy walks with great speed through the streets, and ends up at a nice hotel in a genteel neighborhood. Acting on information she has gleaned from the conversation between Fagin and Monks the previous night, she asks after Miss Maylie, to a footman in the hotel, hoping to have a conversation with Rose. Rose, hearing that someone is there to see her, allows Nancy to come upstairs for a discussion.
Another one of the novel's necessary coincidences. Dickens never elaborates why the Maylies are in London, but they happen to be there, with Oliver, exactly when Nancy overhears Monks' involvement in the life of Oliver Twist.