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Whittington and his cat.
From English Fairy Tales, by Joseph Jacobs (coll. & ed.)
Start of Story
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.