WHITTINGTON AND HIS CAT
N the reign of the famous King Edward III there was a
little boy called Dick Whittington whose father and mother
died when he was very young. As poor Dick was not old enough
to work, he was very badly off; he got but little for his
dinner, and sometimes nothing at all for his breakfast; for
the people who lived in the village were very poor indeed,
and could not spare him much more than the parings of
potatoes, and now and then a hard crust of bread.
Now Dick had heard many, many very strange things about the
great city called London; for the country people at that
time thought that folks in London were all fine gentlemen
and ladies; and that there was singing and music there all
day long; and that the streets were all paved with gold.
One day a large waggon and eight horses, all with bells at
their heads, drove through the village while Dick was
standing by the signpost. He thought that this
 waggon must
be going to the fine town of London; so he took courage, and
asked the waggoner to let him walk with him by the side of
the waggon. As soon as the waggoner heard that poor Dick had
no father or 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 off they set together.
So Dick got safe to London, and was in such a hurry to see
the fine street paved all over with gold that he did not
even stay to thank the kind waggoner; but ran off as fast as
his legs would carry him, through many of the streets,
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 deal of money it
brought in change; so he thought he had nothing to do but to
take up some little bits of the pavement, and should then
have as much money as he could wish for.
Poor Dick ran till he was tired, and had quite forgot his
friend the waggoner; but 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
Little Dick was all night in the streets; and 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; but nobody stayed to answer him, and only two or
three gave him a halfpenny; so that the poor boy was soon
quite weak and faint for the want of victuals.
distress he asked charity of several people, and
 one of them
said crossly: "Go to work for an idle rogue." "That I will,"
said Dick, "I will go to work for you, if you will let me."
But the man only cursed at him and went on.
At last a good-natured-looking gentleman saw how hungry he
looked. "Why don't you go to work, my lad?" said he to Dick.
"That I would, but I do not know how to get any," answered
Dick. "If you are willing, come along with me," said the
gentleman, and took him to a hay-field, where Dick worked
briskly, and lived merrily till the hay was 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 he was soon seen by
the cook-maid, who was an ill-tempered creature, and
happened just then to be very busy dressing dinner for her
master and mistress; so she called out to poor Dick: "What
business have you there, you lazy rogue? There is nothing
else but beggars. If you do not take yourself away, we will
see how you will like a sousing of some dish-water; I have
some here hot enough to make you jump."
Just at that time Mr. Fitzwarren himself came home to dinner;
and when he saw a dirty ragged boy lying at the door, he
said to him: "Why do you lie there, my boy? You seem old
enough to work; I am afraid you are inclined to be lazy."
"No, indeed, sir," said Dick to him, "that is not the case,
for I would work with all my heart, but I do not know
anybody, and I believe I am very sick for the want of food."
"Poor fellow, get up; let me 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 any food for
three days, and was no longer able to run about and beg a
halfpenny of people in the street. So the kind merchant
ordered him to be taken into the house, and have a good
dinner given him, and be kept to do what work he was able to
do for the cook.
Little Dick would have lived very happy in this good family
if it had not been for the ill-natured cook. She used to
"You are under me, so look sharp; clean the spit and the
dripping-pan, make the fires, wind up the jack, and do all
the scullery work nimbly, or—" and she would shake the
ladle at him. Besides, she was so fond of basting that when
she had no meat to baste she would baste poor Dick's head
and shoulders with a broom, or anything else that happened
to fall in her way. At last her ill-usage of him was told to
Alice, Mr. Fitzwarren's daughter, who told the cook she
should be turned away if she did not treat him kinder.
The behaviour of the cook was now a little better; 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 tormented with
rats and mice. A gentleman having given Dick a penny for
cleaning his shoes, he thought he would buy a cat with it.
The next day he saw a girl with a cat, and asked her, "Will
you let me have that cat for a penny?" The girl said: "Yes,
that I will, master, though she is an excellent mouser."
Dick hid his 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 with the rats and mice, but slept quite
sound every night.
Soon after this, his master had a ship ready to sail; and as
it was the custom that all his servants should have some
chance for good fortune as well as himself, he called them
all into the parlour and asked them what they would send
They all had something that they were willing to venture
except poor Dick, who had neither money nor goods, and
therefore could send nothing. For this reason he did not
come into the parlour with the rest; but Miss Alice guessed
what was the matter, and ordered him to be called in. She
then said: "I will lay down some money for him, from my own
purse;" but her father told her: "This will not do, for it
must be something of his own."
When poor Dick heard this, he said: "I have nothing but a
cat which I bought for a penny some time since of a little
"Fetch your cat then, my lad," said Mr. Fitzwarren, "and let
Dick went upstairs and brought down poor puss, with tears in
his eyes, and gave her to the captain; "for," he said, "I
shall now be kept awake all night by the rats and mice." All
the company laughed at Dick's odd venture; and Miss Alice,
who felt pity for him, gave him some money to buy another
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
game of him for sending his cat to sea.
 She asked him: "Do
you think your cat will sell for as much money as would buy
a stick to beat you?"
At last poor Dick could not bear this usage any longer, and
he thought he would run away from his place; so he packed up
his few things, and started very early in the morning, on
All-Hallows Day, the first of November. He walked as far as
Holloway; and there sat down on a stone, which to this day
is called "Whittington's Stone," and began to think to
himself which road he should take.
While he was thinking what he should do, the Bells of Bow
Church, which at that time were only six, began to ring, and
at their sound seemed to say to him:
"Turn again, Whittington,
Thrice 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 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 old cook came downstairs.
We must now follow Miss Puss to the coast of Africa. 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 were the Moors, unknown to
the English. The people came in great numbers to see the
sailors, because they were of different colour to
themselves, and treated them civilly; and, when
 they became
better acquainted, were very eager to buy the fine things
that the ship was loaded with.
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 to the
palace. Here they were placed, as it is the custom of the
country, on rich carpets flowered with gold and silver. The
king and queen were seated at the upper end of the room; and
a number of dishes were brought in for dinner. They had not
sat long, when a vast number of rats and mice rushed in, and
devoured all the meat in an instant. The captain wondered at
this, and asked if these vermin were not unpleasant.
"Oh, yes," said they, "very offensive; and the king would
give half his treasure to be freed of them, for they not
only destroy his dinner, as you see, but they assault him in
his chamber, and even in bed, so that he is obliged to be
watched while he is sleeping, for fear of them."
The captain jumped for joy; he remembered poor Whittington
and his cat, and told the king he had a creature on board
the ship that would dispatch all these vermin immediately.
The king jumped so high at the joy which the news gave him
that his turban dropped off his head. "Bring this creature
to me," says he; "vermin are dreadful in a court, and if she
will perform what you say, I will load your ship with gold
and jewels in exchange for her."
The captain, who knew his business, took his opportunity to
set forth the merits of Miss Puss. He told his majesty: "It
is not very convenient to part with her, as, when she is
gone, the rats and mice may destroy the
 goods in the ship—but to oblige your majesty, I will fetch her."
"Run, run!" said the queen; "I am impatient to see the dear
Away went the captain to the ship, while another dinner was
got ready. He put Puss under his arm, and arrived at the
place just in time to see the table full of rats. When the
cat saw them, she did not wait for bidding, but jumped out
of the captain's arms, and in a few minutes laid almost all
the rats and mice dead at her feet. The rest of them in
their fright scampered away to their holes.
The king was quite charmed to get rid so easily of such
plagues, and the queen desired that the creature who had
done them so great a kindness might be brought to her, that
she might look at her. Upon which the captain called:
"Pussy, pussy, pussy!" and she came to him. He then
presented her to the queen, who started back, and was afraid
to touch a creature who had made such a havoc among the rats
and mice. However, when the captain stroked the cat and
called: "Pussy, pussy", the queen also touched her and
cried: "Putty, putty", for she had not learned English. He
then put her down on the queen's lap, where she purred and
played with her majesty's hand, and then purred herself to
The king, having seen the exploits of Miss Puss, and being
informed that her kittens would stock the whole country, and
keep it free from rats, bargained with the captain for the
whole ship's cargo, and then gave him ten times as much for
the cat as all the rest amounted to.
The captain then took leave of the royal party, and
 set sail
with a fair wind for England, and after a happy voyage
arrived safe in London.
One morning, early, Mr. Fitzwarren had just come to his
counting-house and seated himself at the desk, to count over
the cash, and settle the business for the day, when somebody
came tap, tap, at the door. "Who's there?" said Mr
Fitzwarren. "A friend," answered the other; "I come to bring
you good news of your ship Unicorn." The merchant, bustling
up in such a hurry that he forgot his gout, opened the door,
and who should he see waiting but the captain and factor,
with a cabinet of jewels and a bill of lading; when he
looked at this the merchant lifted up his eyes and thanked
Heaven for sending him such a prosperous voyage.
They then told the story of the cat, and showed the rich
present that the king and queen had sent for her to poor
Dick. As soon as the merchant heard this, he called out to
"Go send him in, and tell him of his fame;
Pray call him Mr. Whittington by name."
Mr. Fitzwarren now showed himself to be a good man; for when
some of his servants said so great a treasure was too much
for him, he answered: "God forbid I should deprive him of
the value of a single penny; it is his own, and he shall
have it to a farthing."
 He then sent for Dick, who at that time was scouring pots
for the cook, and was quite dirty. He would have excused
himself from coming into the counting-house, saying, "The
room is swept, and my shoes are dirty and full of
hob-nails." But the merchant ordered him to come in.
Mr. Fitzwarren ordered a chair to be set for him, and so he
began to think they were making game of him, and at the same
time said to them: "Do not play tricks with a poor simple
boy, but let me go down again, if you please, to my work."
"Indeed, Mr. Whittington," said the merchant, "we are all
quite in earnest with you, and I most heartily rejoice in
the news that 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 said: "Mr. Whittington has
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 but
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 they felt great joy at his
 good success.
But this poor fellow was too kind-hearted to keep it all to
himself; so he made a present to the captain, the mate, and
the rest of Mr. Fitzwarren's servants; and even to the
ill-natured old cook.
After this Mr. Fitzwarren advised him to send for a proper
tailor, 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 young man who visited at Mr
Fitzwarren's; so that Miss Alice, who had once 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
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 rich feast.
History tells us that Mr. Whittington and his lady lived in
great splendour, and were very happy. They had several
children. He was Sheriff of London, thrice Lord Mayor, and
received the honour of knighthood by Henry V.
He entertained this king and his queen at dinner, after
 his conquest of France, so grandly, that the king said: "Never
had prince such a subject;" when Sir Richard heard this, he
said: "Never had subject such a prince."
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 at Newgate, which he
built for criminals.