DICK WHITTINGTON AND HIS CAT
N the reign of the famous King Edward the Third of
England lived a little boy called Dick Whittington.
His father and mother dying when he was very young, he
was left a ragged little fellow running about a country
As poor Dick was not old enough to work, he was very
badly off, getting but little for his dinner and
sometimes nothing at all for his breakfast; for the
people who lived in the village were very poor
themselves, and could not spare him much more than the
parings of potatoes, and now and then a hard crust.
Dick Whittington was a very poor boy, but he was also a
very sharp bot, and he was always listening to whatever
was talked about. On Sunday he was sure the get near
the farmers, talking in the churchyard before the
clergyman had come; and once a week you might see him
leaning against the sign-post of the village, where
people stopped as they came from the next market town;
and when the barber's shop door was open, there he was,
all attention to what the gossipy customers were
telling. In this manner Dick heard many strange things
about the great city of London; for the simple country
people of that day thought that the London folkwere all
fine gentlemen and ladies, and that the streets were
paved with gold.
One day a large wagon, drawn by eight horses with bells
at their heads, passed through the village while Dick
 by the sign-post. He thought that the wagon must be
going to the fine town of London; so he took courage,
and asked the wagoner to let him walk with him by the
side of the wagon. As soon as the wagoner heard that
Dick had neither father nor mother, and saw by his
ragged clothes that he could not well be worse off than
he was, he told him that he might go. So they set off
Nobody knows how little Dick contrived to get meat and
drink on the road, nor how he could walk so far,—for it
was a long way,—nor what he did at night for a place to
lie down and sleep in. Perhaps some good-natured
people in the towns that he passed through, when they
saw that he was a poor ragged boy, gave him something
to eat; and perhaps the wagoner allowed him to get into
the wagon at night and take a nap. However, Dick got
safely to London, where he was in such a hurry to see
the fine streets paved all over with gold that he did
not even stay to thank the kind wagoner, but ran off as
fast as his legs could carry him through many of the
streets, thinking every moment to come to those that
were paved with gold. Dick, who had sen a guinea three
times in his own little village, remembered what a
great deal of money it brought in change; and he
thought he had nothing to do but to take up some little
bits of the pavement, when he would have as much money
as he could wish for.
Poor Dick ran till he was tired, and had quite
forgotten his friend, the wagoner; but at least finding
it grow dark, and that here was everywhere nothing but
dirt instead of gold, he sat down in a dark corner and
cried himself to sleep. Dick was all night in the
streets. The next morning, being very hungry, he got
up and wandered about, asking everybody he met to give
him a halfpenny to keep him from starving. Only two or
three persons gave him a halfpenny; so the poor boy was
soon quite weak and faint for want of food.
At last a good-natured-looking gentleman saw how hungry
 he looked. "Why don't you go to work, my lad?" said he
"That I would," answered Dick, "but I don't know how to
get any work."
"If you are willing," said the gentleman, "come along
with me"; and so saying he took him to a hay-field. In
this field Dick worked briskly and lived merrily till
the hay was all made. Soon, however, he found himself
as badly off as before; and again being almost starved,
he laid himself down at the door of Mr. Fitzwarren, a
rich merchant. Here he was soon seen by the cook, an
ill-tempered creature, who called out to him:—
"What business have you there, you lazy rogue? There
is nothing else these days but beggars. If you don't
take yourself away, we will see how you will like a
sousing of some dish-water I have here that is just hot
enough to make you jump."
Just at this time Mr. Fitzwarren himself came home to
dinner, and when he saw a ragged, dirty boy lying at
the door, he said to him, "Why do you lie there, my
lad? You seem old enough to work; I am afraid you are
"No, indeed, sir," said Dick to him, "that is not the
case, for I would work with all my heart; but I don't
know anybody, and I believe I am very sick for want of
"Poor fellow," answered Mr. Fitzwarren, "get up, and
let us see what ails you."
Dick now tried to rise, but was obliged to lie down
again, being too weak to stand; for he had not eaten
anything for three days, and was no longer able to run
about and beg halfpence of people in the street. So
the kind merchant ordered him to be taken into the
house, and a good dinner given to him, and that he
should do what dirty work he was able for the cook.
Little Dick would have lived very happily in this good
family life 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 not roast meat to
baste she would be basting poor Dick.
At last her ill usage of him was told to Miss Alice,
Mr. Fitzwarren's daughter, who asked the ill-tempered
creature if is was not a shame to use a little forlorn
boy so cruelly, and said she should certainly be turned
away if she did not treat him kindly. 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, for tops were cheaper at that
time than they are now.
The footman was very fond of reading, and used often in
the evening to entertain the other servants, when they
had done their work, with some amusing book. Little
Dick took great 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 learned his letters, and afterward
learned to read.
About this time Miss Alice was going out one morning
for a walk, and the footman happened to be out of the
way, so as little Dick had a suit of good clothes that
Mr. Fitzwarren gave him to go to church on Sundays he
was told to put them on and walk behind her.
As they went along, 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 back 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; he
picked up the purse and gave it to her again.
Another time when Miss Alice was sitting with the
 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 herd of this he pulled off his coat and
climbed up the tree as nimbly as a squirrel, and after
a great deal of trouble, for Poll hopped about from
branch to branch, he caught her and brought her down
safe to his mistress. Miss Alice thanked him, and
liked him ever after this.
The ill-humored cook was now a little kinder; but
besides her ugliness 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 up in his sleep by the rats and mice,
which often 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, required his shoes to be cleaned; 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 and asked if she would let him have
it for a penny. The girl said she would, with all her
heart, for her mother had more cats than she could
keep. She told him, besides, that this one was a very
Dick hid his cat in the garret, and always took care to
carry a part of his dinner to her. In a short time he
had no more trouble from the rats and mice, and slept
as soundly as he could wish.
Soon after this his master had a ship ready to sail,
and as he thought it right that all his servants should
have some chance for good fortune as well as himself,
he called them into the parlor
and asked them what they
would send out to be sold to the natives. They all had
something that they were willing to venture except
Dick, who had neither money nor good, and so could send
nothing at all. For this reason he did not come into
 with the rest, but Miss Alice guessed what was the
matter, and ordered him to be called in. She then said
she would lay down some money from her own purse, but
her father said 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, which he bought for a penny which was given him.
"Fetch your cat then, my good boy," said Mr.
Fitzwarren, "and let her go."
Dick went upstairs and brought down his Puss, and with
tears in his eyes gave her to the captain, for he said
he should not be kept awake all night again by the rats
and mice. All the company laughed at Dick's odd
venture, and Mill Alice, who felt pity for the poor
boy, gave him some halfpence to buy another cat.
This, and many 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 see for as
much money as would buy a stick to beat him.
At last poor little Dick could not bear this usage any
longer, and he thought he would run away from this
place; so he packed up his few things and set out very
early in the morning on All-hallow's Day, which is the
first of November.
He walked as far as Halloway 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. While he
was thinking what he could do, the bells of Bow Church,
which at that time were only six, began to ring, and he
fancied their sounds seemed to say to him:
"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! Well, I will go back and think
nothing of all the cuffing and scolding of the 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 old cook came
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, where the only people are Moors, whom
the English had never known before. The people of this
country came in great numbers to see the sailors, who
were all of a different color than themselves, and
treated them very civilly; and when they became better
acquainted, were very 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 his chief mate to be
brought 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 beore they had been
set on the table a minute a vast number of rats and
mice rushed in and helped themselves from every dish,
throwing the gravy and pieces of meat all about the
room. The captain wondered very much at this, and asked
the king's servants if these vermin were not very
"Oh! yes," they said, "and the king would give half his
riches to get rid of them; for they not only waste his
dinner, as you see, but disturb him even in his
bedroom, so that for fear of them he is obliged to be
watched while he is asleep.
The captain was ready to jump for joy when he heard
 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
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 dear
creature that will do us such a service."
Away ran the captain to the ship while another dinner
was got ready. He took Puss under his arm, and came
back to the palace soon enough to see the table covered
with rats and mice again, and the second dinner likely
to be lost in the same way as the first. When the cat
saw them, she did not wait for bidding, but jumped out
of the captain's arms, and in a few moments laid almost
all the rats and mice dead at her feet. The rest of
them, in a fright, scampered away to their holes.
The king and queen were quite charmed to get rid so
easily of such plagues; for ever since they could
remember they had not had a comfortable meal by day or
any quiet sleep by night. They desired that the
creature who had done them so great service might be
brought for them to look at.
On this the captain called out, "Puss, Puss," and the
cat ran up to him and jumped up on his knee. He then
held her out to the queen, who started back, and was
afraid to touch a creature that was able to kill so
many rats and mice; but when she saw how gentle the cat
seemed, and how glad she was of 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
 When the king had seen the actions of Mistress Puss, 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
of the king and queen and the great persons of their
court, and with all his ship's crew set sail with a
fair wind for England, and after a happy voyage arrived
safe at London.
One morning when Mr. Fitzwarren had just come into his
counting-house, and had seated himself at the desk,
somebody came tap, tap, tap at the door.
"Who is there?" said Mr. Fitzwarren.
"A friend," answered someone, opening the door, when
who should it be but the captain and mate of the ship
just arrived from the coast of Barbary. They were
followed by several men carrying the vast number of
pieces 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 the king had
sent to Dick for her, upon which the merchant 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 to be a really good
man; for when some of his clerks said so great a
treasure was too much for such a boy as Dick, he
answered: "God forbid that I should keep the value of a
single penny from him! It is all his own, and he
shall have every farthing's worth of it to himself."
He then sent for Dick, who at that time happened to be
scouring the cook's kettles, and was quite dirty; so
that he wanted to excuse himself from going to his
master by saying that the great nails in his shoes
would spoil the fine polished floor.
Mr. Fitzwarren, however, made him come in, and ordered
a chair to be set for him; so that poor Dick thought
 making fun of him, as the servants often did in the
kitchen, and began to beg his master not to play tricks
with a poor simple boy, but to let him go down again to
"Indeed, Mr. Whittington," said the merchant, "we are
all quite in earnest with you, and I most 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 in the whole world; 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 he said: "Mr.
Whittington has now nothing to do but 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, even the ill-natured old
cook. After this Mr. Fitzwarren advised him to send
for proper tradesmen, and 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 and genteel as any 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 m ore 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 very
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 1360,
and several times afterward 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 people; 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
is 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. The
following epitaph was written on the tomb of Sir
Richard and Lady Whittington, and continued perfect
till destroyed by the fire in London:
"Here lies Sir Richard Whittington, thrice mayor,
And his dear wife, a virtuous, loving pair;
His fortune raised to be beloved and great
By the adventure only of a cat.
Let non that read it of God's love despair,
Who trust in Him, He will of them take care;
But growing rich, choose humbleness, not pride,
Let these dead virtuous persons be your guide."