The History of Whittington and his Cat

Dick Whittington was a poor orphan. His parents died when he was of so early an age that he had no trace in his memory of what he was, or what he might have been, from being totally ignorant of what his parents were.

A worthy old widow in the village used to give him a little food, and an occasional shelter under her humble roof. Hearing London often mentioned by those whom he frequently associated with, he insensibly became so enamoured of it that he would do them any act of kindness in his power, if they would but talk to him about the wonderful city whose streets were “paved with gold.”

Illustration for The History of Whittington and his Cat

The good old widow perceiving that the poor boy had got something in his head that she thought would do him no good, earnestly took him to task, when he artlessly told her that it was the secret desire of his heart to go to London. She resolved to prevent him if possible, and pointed out to him the dangers that would beset so young and helpless a creature in undertaking so long a journey.

Whittington listened to what she said with surprise and anxiety: he loved her too much to do or say any thing that would grieve her; he therefore told her that he would abide entirely by her advice, and from that time till the widow died, (a period of little more than six months) he abode in the same house with her.

Whittington severely felt the loss of the old widow. He found himself once more thrown destitute upon the world. He therefore spoke to a waggoner, to let him walk by the side of his waggon to London, as the greatest of all favours; and the waggoner happening to be a good-natured fellow, consented, and also promised that he should sleep all night in his waggon. Poor 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 could carry him; he walked about the streets till it grew dark, and finding nothing but dirt instead of gold, he sat down in a 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 every body he met to give him a halfpenny to keep him from starving; but nobody staid to answer him, and only two or three gave him a half-penny, so that the poor boy was quite weak and faint for want of food.

At last a good-natured looking gentleman said to him “Why don’t you go to work, my lad?” “That I would,” answered Dick, “but do not know how to get any.” “If you are willing,” said the gentleman, “come along with me;” and so saying, he took him to a hay-field, where Dick worked briskly, and lived merrily till the hay was all 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 seen by the cook-maid, an ill-tempered creature, who ordered him about his business. At this very moment Mr Fitzwarren came home to dinner, and seeing a dirty ragged boy lying at the door, he asked him why he did not go to work? Dick told him that he would work with all his heart, but he did not know any body, and he was very sick for want of food. Upon hearing this the kind merchant ordered him to be taken into the house, and have a good dinner given to him, and to be kept to do what dirty work he was able for the cook.

Illustration for The History of Whittington and his Cat

Little Dick would have lived very happily in this good family, if it had not been for the ill-natured cook, who was finding fault and scolding him from morning till night; and besides, she was so fond of basting, that when she had no roast meat to baste, she would be basting poor Dick. At last her ill-usage of him was told to Miss Alice, Mr Fitzwarren’s daughter, who told the ill-tempered creature that she ought to be ashamed of herself to use a poor little forlorn boy so cruelly, and said she certainly should be turned away if she did not treat him more kindly.

From The History of Whittington and his Cat.
London: Ryle and Co., 1846.

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