Dick Whittington And His Cat

: Favorite Fairy Tales.

In the reign of King Edward the Third there was a poor orphan boy, named

Dick Whittington, living in a country village a long way from London. He

was a sharp little lad, and the stories that he heard of London being

paved with gold made him long to visit that city.

One day, a large wagon and eight horses, with bells at their heads,

drove through the village. Dick thought it must be going to London, so

sked the driver to let him walk by the side of the wagon. As soon as

the driver heard that poor Dick had neither father nor mother, and saw

by his ragged clothes that he could not be worse off than he was, he

told him he might go if he would; so they set off together.

Dick got safely to London, and was in such a hurry to see the fine

streets paved with gold, that he ran through many of them, thinking

every moment to come to those that were paved with gold; for Dick had

seen a guinea three times in his own little village, and remembered what

a lot of money it brought in change; so he thought he had nothing to do

but to take up some little bits of pavement, and he would then have as

much money as he could wish for. Poor Dick ran till he was tired, and

had quite forgotten his friend the driver. At last, finding it grow

dark, and that every way he turned he saw nothing but dirt instead of

gold, he sat down in a dark corner, and cried himself to sleep. Next

morning, being very hungry, he got up and walked about, and asked

everybody he met to give him a halfpenny to keep him from starving.

At last, a good-natured-looking gentleman saw how hungry he looked.

"Why don't you go to work, my lad?" said he.

"I would," answered Dick, "but I do not know how to get any."

"If you are willing," said the gentleman, "come with me;" and so

saying, he took him to a hayfield, where Dick worked briskly, and lived

merrily till the hay was all made. After this, he found himself as badly

off as before; and being almost starved again, he laid himself down at

the door of Mr. Fitzwarren, a rich merchant. Here the cook, an

ill-tempered woman, called out to poor Dick:

"What business have you there, you lazy rogue? If you do not take

yourself away, we will see how you like a sousing of some dish-water I

have here, that is hot enough to make you jump."

At this time Mr. Fitzwarren himself came home to dinner; and when he saw

a dirty ragged boy lying at the door, he said, in a kind and gentle


"Why do you lie there, my lad? you seem old enough to work; I am afraid

you are lazy."

"No, sir," said Dick to him. "I would work with all my heart; but I do

not know anybody, and I am sick for want of food."

"Poor fellow!" answered Mr. Fitzwarren; "get up, and let me see what

ails you."

Dick tried to rise, but was too weak to stand, for he had not eaten

anything for three days. So the kind merchant ordered him to be taken

into the house, and have a good dinner given to him; and to be kept to

do what dirty work he could for the cook.

Dick would have lived happily in this good family, if it had not been

for the ill-natured cook, who was finding fault and scolding him from

morning till night; and, besides, she was so fond of basting, that,

when she had no roast meat to baste, she would be basting poor Dick.

But though the cook was so ill-tempered, the footman was quite

different. He had lived in the family many years, and was an elderly

man, and very kind-hearted. He had once a little son of his own, who

died when about the age of Dick; so he could not help feeling pity for

the poor boy, and sometimes gave him a halfpenny to buy gingerbread or

a top. The footman was fond of reading, and used often in the evening to

entertain the other servants with some amusing book. Little Dick took

pleasure in hearing this good man, which made him wish very much to

learn to read too; so the next time the footman gave him a halfpenny,

he bought a little book with it; and with the footman's help, Dick soon

learnt his letters, and afterwards to read.

About this time, Miss Alice, Mr. Fitzwarren's daughter, was going out

one morning for a walk, and Dick was told to put on a suit of good

clothes that Mr. Fitzwarren gave him, and walk behind her. As they went,

Miss Alice saw a poor woman with one child in her arms and another on

her back. She pulled out her purse and gave the woman some money; but as

she was putting it into her pocket again, she dropped it on the ground

and walked on. It was lucky that Dick was behind, and saw what she had

done, for he picked up the purse and gave it to her again. Another time,

when Miss Alice was sitting with the window open and amusing herself

with a favorite parrot, it suddenly flew away to the branch of a high

tree, where all the servants were afraid to venture after it. As soon as

Dick heard of this, he pulled off his coat, and climbed up the tree as

nimbly as a squirrel; and, after a great deal of trouble, caught her and

brought her down safely to his mistress. Miss Alice thanked him, and

liked him ever after for this.

The ill-humored cook was now a little kinder; but, besides this, Dick

had another hardship to get over. His bed stood in a garret, where there

were so many holes in the floor and the walls, that every night he was

waked in his sleep by the rats and mice, which ran over his face, and

made such a noise that he sometimes thought the walls were tumbling down

about him. One day, a gentleman who came to see Mr. Fitzwarren wanted

his shoes polished; Dick took great pains to make them shine, and the

gentleman gave him a penny. With this he thought he would buy a cat; so

the next day, seeing a little girl with a cat under her arm, he went up

to her, and asked if she would let him have it for a penny. The girl

said she would, and that it was a very good mouser. Dick hid the cat in

the garret, and always took care to carry a part of his dinner to her;

and in a short time he had no more trouble from the rats and mice.

Soon after, his master had a ship ready to sail; and as he thought it

right all his servants should have some chance for good fortune as well

as himself, he called them into the parlor, and asked them if they

wanted to take a share in the trading trip. They all had some money that

they were willing to venture, except poor Dick, who had neither money

nor goods. For this reason he did not come into the parlor with the

rest; but Miss Alice guessed what was the matter, and ordered him to be

called in. She then said she would put in money for him from her own

purse; but her father told her this would not do, for Dick must send

something of his own. When poor Dick heard this, he said he had nothing

but a cat.

"Fetch your cat then, my good boy," said Mr. Fitzwarren, "and let her


Dick went upstairs and brought down poor puss, and gave her to the

captain with tears in his eyes. All the company laughed at Dick's odd

venture; and Miss Alice, who felt pity for the poor boy, gave him some

halfpence to buy another cat.

This, and other marks of kindness shown him by Miss Alice, made the

ill-tempered cook jealous of poor Dick; and she began to use him more

cruelly than ever, and always made fun of him for sending his cat to

sea. She asked him if he thought his cat would sell for as much money as

would buy a stick to beat him. At last, poor Dick could not bear this

any longer, and thought he would run away from his place; so he packed

up his few things, and set out very early in the morning on the first

of November. He walked as far as Highgate, and there sat down on a

stone, which to this day is called Whittington's stone, and began to

think which road he should take farther. While he was thinking what he

should do, the bells of Bow Church began to ring, and he fancied their

sounds seemed to say:

"Turn again, Whittington,

Lord Mayor of London."

"Lord Mayor of London!" said he to himself. "Why, to be sure I would put

up with almost anything, now, to be Lord Mayor of London, and ride in a

fine coach, when I grow to be a man! I will go back and think nothing of

the cuffing and scolding of the old cook, if I am to be Lord Mayor of

London at last."

Dick went back, and was lucky enough to get into the house and set about

his work before the cook came down.

The ship, with the cat on board, was a long time at sea; and was at last

driven by the winds on a part of the coast of Barbary. The people came

in great numbers to see the sailors, and treated them very civilly; and,

when they became better acquainted, were eager to buy the fine things

with which the ship was laden. When the captain saw this, he sent

patterns of the best things he had to the King of the country; who was

so much pleased with them, that he sent for the captain and the chief

mate to the palace. Here they were placed, as is the custom of the

country, on rich carpets, marked with gold and silver flowers. The King

and Queen were seated at the upper end of the room; and a number of

dishes, of the greatest rarities, were brought in for dinner; but,

before they had been on the table a minute, a vast number of rats and

mice rushed in, and helped themselves from every dish. The captain

wondered at this, and asked if these vermin were not very unpleasant.

"Oh, yes!" they said, "and the King would give half of his riches to get

rid of them; for they not only waste his dinner, as you see, but disturb

him in his bedroom, so that he is obliged to be watched while he is


The captain was ready to jump for joy when he heard of this. He thought

of poor Dick's cat, and told the King he had a creature on board his

ship that would kill all the rats and mice. The King was still more

glad than the captain.

"Bring this creature to me," said he, "and if it can do what you say, I

will give you your ship full of gold for her."

The captain, to make quite sure of his good luck, answered, that she was

such a clever cat for catching rats and mice, that he could hardly bear

to part with her; but that to oblige His Majesty he would fetch her.

"Run, run!" said the Queen, "for I long to see the creature that will

do such service." Away went the captain to the ship while another dinner

was got ready. He came back to the palace soon enough to see the table

full of rats and mice again, and the second dinner likely to be lost in

the same way as the first. The cat did not wait for bidding, but jumped

out of the captain's arm, and in a few moments laid almost all the rats

and mice dead at her feet. The rest, in a fright, scampered away to

their holes.

The King and Queen were delighted to get rid of such a plague so easily.

They desired that the creature might be brought for them to look at. On

this, the captain called out: "Puss, puss!" and the cat ran and jumped

upon his knee. He then held her out to the Queen, who was afraid to

touch an animal that was able to kill so many rats and mice; but when

she saw how gentle the cat seemed, and how glad she was at being stroked

by the captain, she ventured to touch her too, saying all the time:

"Poot, poot," for she could not speak English. At last the Queen took

puss on her lap, and by degrees became quite free with her, till puss

purred herself to sleep. When the King had seen the actions of mistress

puss, and was told that she would soon have young ones, which might in

time kill all the rats and mice in his country, he bought the captain's

whole ship's cargo; and afterwards gave him a great deal of gold

besides, which was worth still more, for the cat. The captain then took

leave, and set sail with a fair wind, and arrived safe at London.

One morning, when Mr. Fitzwarren had come into the counting house, and

seated himself at the desk, somebody came tap, tap, tap, at the door.

"Who is there?" asked Mr. Fitzwarren.

"A friend," answered someone; and who should it be but the captain,

followed by several men carrying vast lumps of gold, that had been paid

him by the King of Barbary for the ship's cargo. They then told the

story of the cat, and showed the rich present that the King had sent to

Dick for her; upon which the merchantman called out to his servants:

"Go fetch him, we will tell him of the same;

Pray call him Mr. Whittington by name."

Mr. Fitzwarren now showed himself a really good man, for while some of

his clerks said so great a treasure was too much for such a boy as

Dick, he answered:

"I will not keep the value of a single penny from him! It is all his

own, and he shall have every farthing's worth of it."

He sent for Dick, who happened to be scouring the cook's kettles, and

was quite dirty; so that he wanted to excuse himself from going to his

master. Mr. Fitzwarren, however, made him come in, and ordered a chair

to be set for him, so that poor Dick thought they were making fun of

him, and began to beg his master not to play tricks with a poor boy,

but to let him go again to his work.

"Indeed, Mr. Whittington," said the merchant, "we are all in earnest

with you; and I heartily rejoice in the news these gentlemen have

brought you; for the captain has sold your cat to the King of Barbary,

and brought you, in return for her, more riches than I possess; and I

wish you may long enjoy them!"

Mr. Fitzwarren then told the men to open the great treasure they had

brought with them, and said, "Mr. Whittington has now nothing to do

but to put it in some place of safety."

Poor Dick hardly knew how to behave himself for joy. He begged his

master to take what part of it he pleased, since he owed it all to

his kindness.

"No, no," answered Mr. Fitzwarren, "this is all your own; and I have no

doubt you will use it well."

Dick next asked his mistress, and then Miss Alice, to accept a part of

his good fortune; but they would not, and at the same time told him that

his success afforded them great pleasure. But the poor fellow was too

kind-hearted to keep it all to himself; so he made a handsome present to

the captain, the mate, and every one of the sailors, and afterwards to

his good friend the footman, and the rest of Mr. Fitzwarren's servants;

and even to the ill-natured cook. After this, Mr. Fitzwarren advised

him to get himself dressed like a gentleman; and told him he was welcome

to live in his house till he could provide himself with a better.

When Whittington's face was washed, his hair curled, his hat cocked,

and he was dressed in a nice suit of clothes, he was as handsome as any

young man who visited at Mr. Fitzwarren's; so that Miss Alice, who had

been so kind to him, and thought of him with pity, now looked upon him

as fit to be her sweetheart; and the more so, no doubt, because

Whittington was now always thinking what he could do to oblige her,

and making her the prettiest presents that could be. Mr. Fitzwarren

soon saw their love for each other, and proposed to join them in

marriage; and to this they both readily agreed. A day for the wedding

was soon fixed; and they were attended to church by the Lord Mayor,

the Court of Aldermen, the Sheriffs, and a great number of the richest

merchants in London, whom they afterwards treated with a fine feast.

History tells us that Mr. Whittington and his lady lived in great

splendor, and were very happy. They had several children. He was Sheriff

of London in the year 1360, and several times afterwards Lord Mayor;

the last time, he entertained King Henry the Fifth, on his Majesty's

return from the famous Battle of Agincourt. In this company, the King,

on account of Whittington's gallantry, said:

"Never had prince such a subject;" and when Whittington was told this at

the table, he answered:

"Never had subject such a king."

Going with an address from the city, on one of the King's victories, he

received the honor of knighthood. Sir Richard Whittington supported many

poor; he built a church, and also a college, with a yearly allowance to

poor scholars, and near it raised a hospital. The figure of Sir Richard

Whittington, with his cat in his arms, carved in stone, was to be seen

till the year 1780, over the archway of the old prison of Newgate, that

stood across Newgate Street.