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A Story for children age 4 to 6.
Whittington and his cat age rating all ages.
From English Fairy Tales, by Joseph Jacobs (coll. & ed.)
Start of Story
In 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 a great 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 sign-
post. 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
streets 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 sleep.
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.
In this distress he asked charity of several people, and one of them
said crossly: "Go to work, for an idle rogue." "That I will," says
Dick, "I will to go 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
Little Dick would have lived very happy in this good family if it had
not been for the ill-natured cook. She used to say: "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 out.
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 girl."
"Fetch your cat then, my lad," said Mr. Fitzwarren, "and let her go."
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 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 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 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, and so
that he is obliged to be watched while he is sleeping, for fear of
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
despatch 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 this 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
"Run, run!" said the queen; "I am impatient to see the dear creature."
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 Mrs. 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
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
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 his servants:
"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, 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 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 rich feast.
History tells us that Mr. Whittington and his lady liven 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 of Newgate, which he built for criminals.