|The Book of Fables and Folk Stories|
|by Horace Elisha Scudder|
|A choice collection of old folk tales and fables, attractively arranged and illustrated. Between each of the longer tales appear several short fables, offering a varied reading experience for the young reader for whom it is intended. Ages 6-9 |
DICK WHITTINGTON AND HIS CAT
DICK GOES TO LONDON
 IN the olden times there lived in the country, in England,
a boy by the name of Dick Whittington. He did not know
who his parents were, for he had been born and brought
up in the poorhouse. There he was cruelly treated.
When he was seven years of age, he ran away and lived
by what he could get from kind people.
He heard that the streets of London were paved with
gold. Being now a sturdy youth, he set out for the
city to make his fortune. He did not know the way, but
he fell in with a carter, who was bound for London, and
he followed the cart. When night came, he helped the
carter by rubbing down the horses, and for this he was
paid with a supper.
He trudged on day after day, until they came to the
famous city. The carter was afraid Dick would hang
about him and give him trouble. So he gave him a penny
and told him to begone and find some work.
Dick went from street to street, but he knew no one.
He was ragged and forlorn, and looked
 like a beggar. Nobody gave him anything to do. Once
in a while some one gave him something to eat, but at
last he had nothing.
For two days he went about hungry and almost starved,
but he would rather starve than steal. At the end of
the second day he came to a merchant's house in
Leadenhall Street, and stood before it, weary and
faint. The ill-natured cook saw him and came out and
"Go away from here, or I will kick you away!" He crept
off a little distance and lay down on the ground, for
he was too weak to stand. As he lay there, the
merchant who lived in the house came home, and stopped
to speak to him. He spoke sharply, and told him to get
up, that it was a shame for him to be lying there.
Poor Dick got up, and after falling once, through
faintness and want of food, made out to say that he was
a poor country boy, nearly starved. He would do any
work if he might have food.
Mr. Fitzwarren, the merchant, took pity on him. He
brought him into the house, and bade the servants look
after him. He gave him a place under the cook, and
this was the beginning of Dick's fortune. But Dick had
a hard time of
 it. The servants made sport of him. The ill-natured
"Do you know what you are to do? You are to come under
me. So look sharp. Clean the spits and the pans, make
the fires, wind up the roasting-jack, and do nimbly all
the dirty work I set you about, or else I will break
your head with my ladle, and kick you about like a
This was cold comfort, but it was better than starving.
What gave him more hope was the kind notice he had from
his master's daughter, Mistress Alice. She heard
Dick's story from her father, and called for the boy.
She asked him questions, and he was so honest in his
answers, that she went to her father, and said:—
"That poor boy whom you brought into the house is a
good, honest fellow. I am sure he will be very useful.
He can clean shoes, and run errands, and do many things
which our servants do not like to do."
SO Dick was kept and a cot bed was given him in the
garret. He was up early and worked late. He left
nothing undone that was given
 him to do. For all that, he could not please the cook,
who was very sour to him. Still, he bore her blows
rather than leave so good a home. Then the cook told
tales about him, and tried to get him sent away, but
Mistress Alice heard of it. She knew how ill-tempered
the cook was, and so she made her father keep Dick.
This was not the whole of Dick Whittington's trouble.
The garret where he lay at night had long been empty,
and a great number of mice had made their home in it.
They ran over Dick's face, and kept up such a racket
that he knew not which was worse, the cook by day or
the mice by night.
He could only hope that the cook might marry or get
tired of the place, and that he might in some way get
a cat. It chanced, soon after, that a merchant came
to dinner, and as it rained hard, he stayed all night.
In the morning Dick cleaned the merchant's shoes and
brought them to his door. For this service the merchant
gave him a penny.
As he went through the street on an errand that
morning, he saw a woman with a cat under her arm. He
asked her the price of the cat.
"It is a good mouser," said the woman: "you may have
it for a sixpence."
"But I have only a penny," said Dick. The
 woman found that she really could get nothing more, so
she sold the cat to Dick for a penny. He brought it
home, and kept it out of the way all day for fear the
cook would see it. At night he took the cat up to the
garret, and made her work for her living. Puss soon
rid him of one plague.
When Mr. Fitzwarren sent out a ship to trade with far
countries, he used to call his servants together, and
give each a chance to make some money, by sending out
goods in the ship. He thought that thus his ship had
Now he was again making a venture, and each of the
servants brought something to send; all but
Whittington. Mistress Alice saw that he did not come,
and she sent for him, meaning to give him some simple
goods, that he too might have a share in the venture.
When, after many excuses, he was obliged to appear, he
fell on his knees, and prayed them not to jeer at a
poor boy. He had nothing he could claim for his own
but a cat, which he had bought with a penny given him
for cleaning shoes.
Upon this Mistress Alice offered to lay something down
for him. But her father told her the custom was for
each to send something of his own. So he bade Dick
bring his cat, which he
 did with many tears, and gave her over to the master of
The cook, and indeed all the servants, after this
plagued Dick, and jeered at him so much for sending his
cat, that he could bear it no longer. He said to
himself that he would leave the house and try his
HE packed his bundle one night, and the next day, early,
set forth to seek his fortune. He left the house
behind, but his heart began to sink. However, he would
not turn back, but kept on. At last he sat down in the
field to think.
Just then the Bow Bells, that is, the bells of a church
in Bow Street, began to ring merrily. Dick heard them,
and as they rang, he fancied he heard them sing,—
"Turn again Whittington,
Lord Mayor of London."
That was a fine song to hear, and Dick began to pluck
up heart again. Still the bells rang. It was very
early; no one was yet astir at the merchant's house,
and Dick, with new courage,
 took up his bundle, obeyed the bells, and walked
quickly back to the house. He had left the door open,
so he crept in and took up his daily task.
About this time, the ship which carried Dick's
 cat was driven by the winds, and came to a place on the
Barbary coast, where the English seldom went. The
people received the master of the ship well, and he
traded with them. As his wares were new, they were
very welcome. At last the king of that country, being
greatly pleased, sent for the captain to come and dine
at the palace.
The dinner was not set on a table, but the cloth was
laid on the floor, as this was the custom of the
country. The guests sat cross-legged before the feast.
But when the dishes were set down, the smell of the
dinner brought a great company of rats, and these rats
helped themselves without fear.
The master of the ship was amazed, and asked the nobles
if it was not very unpleasant to have this swarm of
"Oh," said they, "very much so. The king would give
half his wealth to be rid of them. They not only come
to the table, but they make free with his chamber and
even his bed."
"Well," said the captain, thinking at once of Dick's
cat, "I have an English beast on board my ship which
will quickly clear the palace of all the rats."
"Say you so?" said the king, when he heard
 of this. "For such a thing I will load your ship with
gold, diamonds, and pearls." At that the shrewd
captain made much of the cat.
"She is the most famous thing in the world," said he.
"I cannot spare her, for she keeps my ship clear of
rats, or else they would spoil all my goods." But the
king would not take no for an answer.
"No price shall part us," he said. So the cat was sent
for, and the table was again spread. The rats came as
before, but the captain let the cat loose, and she made
short work of them. Then she came purring and curling
up her tail before the king, as if she would have her
The king was so pleased with the cat, that he gave ten
times more for her than for all the goods in the ship.
Then the ship sailed away with a fair wind, and arrived
safe at London. She was the richest ship that ever
LORD MAYOR WHITTINGTON
THE master took the box of pearls and jewels with him on
shore, and went straight to the merchant's house. He
gave his account to Mr. Fitzwarren, who was greatly
pleased at the fortunate
 voyage, and called his servants together, to receive
their profit. Then the master showed the box of pearls
and jewels, and told the story of Whittington's cat,
and how Puss had earned this wealth.
"Call Mr. Whittington," said Mr. Fitzwarren. "I will
not take one farthing from him."
Now Dick was in the kitchen cleaning pots and pans.
When he was told that the merchant had sent for "Mr.
Whittington," he thought every one was making fun of
him, and he would not go.
At last, he went as far as the door. The merchant bade
him come in, and placed a chair for him. At that poor
Dick was sure they were making fun of him, and the
tears came into his eyes.
"I am only a simple fellow," he said. "I do not mean
harm to any one. Do not mock me."
"Indeed, Mr. Whittington, we are serious with you,"
said the merchant. "You are a much richer man than I
am," and he gave him the box of pearls and jewels worth
quite three hundred thousand pounds.
At first Dick could not believe his good fortune. When
at last he was persuaded, he fell upon his knees and
thanked God who had been so good to him. Then he
turned to his master
 and wished to give him of his
wealth, but Mr. Fitzwarren said:—
"No, Mr. Whittington. I will not take a penny from
you. It is all yours."
At that Dick turned to Mistress Alice, who also
refused. He bowed low, and said:—
"Madam, whenever you please to make choice of a
husband, I will make you the greatest fortune in the
Then he gave freely to his fellow servants. Even to
his enemy, the cook, he gave a hundred pounds.
Richard Whittington was now a rich man. He laid aside
his poor clothes, and was dressed well and handsomely.
He had grown strong and tall in service, and was indeed
a fine man to look upon.
He was well behaved and of a good mind and heart. Mr.
Fitzwarren made him known to the other merchants, and
let him see how business was carried on. Then, seeing
that he was as honest and good as he was rich, he told
Whittington that he might have his daughter in marriage.
At first, Dick felt himself unworthy of Mistress Alice.
But he saw that she looked kindly on him, and he
remembered how good she had
 been to him from the beginning. So he made bold to ask
Mistress Alice to be his wife, and they had a grand
After the wedding was over, Mr. Fitzwarren asked him
what he meant to do, and Mr. Whittington said he would
like to be a merchant. So the two became partners, and
grew to be very rich.
Rich as he was, this merchant never forgot that he was
once poor Dick Whittington. The promise of Bow Bells
came true, and three times he was chosen Lord Mayor of
London. He fed the hungry, and cared for the poor.
When he was Lord Mayor of London the third time, it was
his duty to receive King Henry V and his queen at
Guildhall, which was the Mayor's palace. It was just
after a famous war with France, which England had won.
The king, at the feast, made the lord mayor a knight,
so that now he was Sir Richard Whittington. There was
a very pleasant fire on the hearth at the time. It was
made of choice wood. Mace and other spices were mixed
with the wood. The king praised the fire, and Sir
Richard said,—"I will make it still more pleasant."
At that he threw upon the flames one piece of paper
after another. They were the written
 promises of the
king, to pay back money lent to him by London
Merchants, when he was carrying on the war. Sir
Richard had bought them for sixty thousand pounds.
That was the way he paid the king's debt, for now there
was nothing to show that the king owed anything.
This is the story of Dick Whittington and his cat. How
much is true, and how much was made up, I do not know,
for what happened took place five hundred years ago.
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