X. Dick Whittington and his Cat (1)
When Edward the Third was King of England,l there
was a little boy called Dickz Whittington, whose fatherand mother
died when he was very young. After their death he was just a ragged
a little fellow, running about a country village. As poor Dick
was not old enough to work, he was very badly of1:4 He got 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 often did not have enough for their own children.
Now Dick was a bright boy, although he was so poor. He was always
listening to what everybody talked about. When the farmers sat
drinking outside the village inn,6 he would creep up to them, and
listen. When the door of the barber's s shop was open, he would
look in, so as to hear what was said by the barber and the men
whose hair he was cutting or whose beard lie was shaving.6 They
sometimes drove him away,7 but he always came back again.
In this way Dick heard a great many s strange things about the
great city9 called London; for many of the country people at that
time thought that everybody in London was a grand gentleman or
a fine lady ; and that there was singing and music 10 there all
day long ; and that the streets were all paved lr with gold.
One day Dick saw a large wagon drive through the village. He thought
that this wagon must be going to the wonderful town of London;
so he asked the wagoner 12 to let him walk with him by the side
of the wagon. As soon as the wagoner heard that poor Dick had no
father or mother, and saw by his ragged clothes 13 that he could
not be worse off than he was, he told him he might go if he would
14 So they set off 15 together.
He walked beside 16 the wagon for a long time, for there was a
great distance 17 from the little village to London. Sometimes
kind people gave him a little bread or some apples, but he was
often hungry and tired. Still he went on, and at last he reached
When he saw this great city, he ran as fast as he could ; and he
went through many streets, hoping to find one that was
paved with gold. He knew that a piece of gold was worth a great
deal, and he thought : " I'll pick up 19 some pieces from
the street, and get much money for them, and then all will be well." 20
But he found no gold; and at last he sat down in a dark corner
and cried himself to sleep.21
Next morning he woke up very hungry, so he got up and walked about,
asking the people to give him a halfpenny. Most of the people,
however, seemed too busy to give any heed to him; 22 only two or
three gave him a halfpenny. He was soon quite weak for want of
At last, when several days had gone by,23 he laid himself down
at the door of Mr Fitzwarren, a rich merchant.24 Here he was soon
seen by the cook, who was an ill-tempered 25 creature, and happened
just then to be very busy getting ready the dinner for her master
and mistress. She' called out to poor Dick :
" What are you doing there, you lazy fellow I If you don't run
away at once, I'll throw some of this hot water over you!"
Just then 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 I You seem old enough to work ; I am afraid
you are inclined to be lazy." 26
" No, indeed, sir," said Dick to him, "that is not
the case, for I would work with all my heart 27 ; but I do not
anybody 28, and I think I am quite ill from want of food."
Poor fellow, get up, so that I may see what is wrong."29
Dick tried to rise, but was obliged to 30 lie down again, for he
was too weak to stand. He had not eaten 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,31 and a good dinner was given to him. He was told to stay
and help the cook as much as he could, doing the dirty work for
Dick was better off now; he had plenty 32 to eat and a bed to sleep
in. He might have been quite happy, but for the cook,33 whose temper
zb was very bad. She was always scolding 34 him, an.l sometimes
she beat him. At last somebody told Alice, Mr Fitzwarren's daughter,
how badly the cook was treating Dick 35 ; and Alice said that she
would have to leave the house if she did not treat the poor boy
But there was another trouble for Dick.36 His bed was in a little
garret 37 ; there were many holes in the floor and the
walls, and great numbers of mice and rats came out of them at
night, so that often he could hardly sleep. How could he get
rid of them? 38
The best way, thought Dick, would be to get a cat. Now and then
he received a penny for holding a gentleman's horse;
and with the few pence he had saved, he bought a cat. This cat
he took into his garret, and there she stayed. He always brought
her part of his dinner, and she also ate the mice and rats ; soon
not a single one was to be seen, and Dick could sleep quietly.
Not long after this, Mr Fitzwarren
had a ship ready to sail, taking wares39 to distant lands. He was
a kind master, and he was glad to give his servants40 a chance
of good fortune.
He asked each of them what they would send out, so that it might
be sold at a high price. They all knew what to send except Dick.
Mr Fitzwarren asked him whether 40 he alone did not wish to send
anything. Dick replied, that he possessed 41 nothing but a cat.
Fetch your cat, then, my good boy," said Mr Fitzwarren, "and
let her go."
Dick went upstairs 42 and brought down poor puss,43 with tears
in his eyes, and gave her to the captain.44 He had grown 45 very
fond of the cat, and did not like the idea of being troubled 46
by the rats and mice, as he had been before he bought the cat.
The others laughed at Dick; but Miss Alice felt sorry for him,
and gave him some money to buy another cat.
Ill other ways, too, she showed kindness to him. The cook felt
angry at this, and treated him worse and worse, until he felt he
could bear 47 it no longer, and thought of running away. So he
packed up his few things and started very early in the morning.
He walked as far as Highgate ; and there he sat down on a stone,
which to this day is called Whittington's Stone, and began to think
which road he should take as he went on, away from London.
While he was sitting there, the six bells of Bow Church began to
ring,48 and their sound seemed to say to him :
" Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London."
Lord Mayor of London !" said he to himself. " I am ready
to bear anything, even the bad temper of the old cook, if later,
when I am a man, I am to be Lord Mayor of London."
So he turned back, and was lucky enough 49 to get iiito 50
the house and start his work, before the old cook came downstairs.
1 Edward III. was king from 1327 to 1377. 2 Or: Richard; cp. Ned
for Edward, Tom for Thomas, Bill for William, Joe for Joseph, .Jack
for John. See Bess, 1. 35. 3 lie was badly dressed, there were
holes in his coat, he wore rags. See note 13. 4 He was poor, unfortunate
; opp. well off. 5 Wine and beer are sold at an inn, and those
who travel (travellers) can spend the night there. gWe go to the
or hairdresser when our hair is getting too long, or when we
want to be shaved. Those who wear a beard do not get
shaved ; others like to be clean-shaven. 7 Or : made him run
away. 8 Or: very many. 9 Or : town. 10 Music is made by means
of musical instruments, such as the violin. 11 Streets
are paved with stone or with blocks of wood. 12 The wagoner drives
the wagon. Cp. mill : miller ; prison : prisoner. 13 We wear clothes
to keep us warm. Dick's clothes were old and torn. They were ragged.
14 Or: wished to do so. 15 Or: started 16 Or: by the side of.
This chair is beside the table. 17 Or: a long way.18 Or : came
to, arrived in. ls Or: take (from the ground). 2° Or : then
I shall no longer be in want of food, clothes, etc. 21 Or : cried
until lie fell asleep. 22 They had too much to do to listen to
him. 23 Or: passed. 24 A merchant buys and sells. A corn merchant,
a wine merchant. 25 She had a bad temper. She was not gentle and
kind. 26 You like to do nothing, you are not fond of work. 27 Or
: that is not true, for I should be very glad to work. 28 Or :
any person. 29 Or : what is the matter with you; see 11. 7. 30
Or: had to. 31 Or : said to somebody :°° Take him into
the house." 32 Or : quite enough. 33 Or : if it had not been
for the cook ; if only the cook had not been so ill-tempered. 34
Or : telling him that he did his work badly. 35 Or: how unkind
she was to Dick. She did not treat him well. 36 There was something
else that made Dick unhappy, another cause of unhappiness. 37 A
little room, near the roof.38 Or : make them leave the garret,
drive them away.
39 Things to be sold. 40 In a big house there are many servants.
Some are in the kitchen, others keep the rooms clean. The ill-tempered
cook and Dick were servants 41 Or: had. I possess a house : the
house is my own. 42 To his garret. 43 We call a cat "puss." 44
Every ship has a captain. 45 Or:
become. 46 Or : it did not please him to think that he would be
troubled. 47 Or : stand. 48 On Sundays we hear the ringing of the
church bells. They rang for a long time; they have rung. 49 Or:
fortunate enough, he had the good luck (good fortune). 50 Or :