The History of Whittington and his Cat

Away went the captain to the ship, while another dinner was got ready. He took puss under his arm, and came back to the palace soon enough to see the table full of rats and mice again devouring the second dinner. When the cat saw them, she did not wait for bidding, but jumped out of the captain’s arm, and in a few moments laid almost all the rats and mice dead at her feet, and the rest scampered off to their holes.

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The king and queen were quite charmed with the actions of Mrs Puss, and being told that she would soon have young ones, which might in time destroy all the vermin in the country, the king bought the captain’s whole ship’s cargo; and afterwards gave him a great deal of gold besides, which was worth still more, for the cat. The captain then took leave of the king and queen, and after a happy voyage, arrived safe at London.

One morning, when Mr Fitzwarren had just come into the counting house, and seated himself at the desk, somebody came tap, tap, tap at the door. “Who is there?” said Mr Fitzwarren. “A friend,” answered some one, opening the door; when in stept the captain and mate of the ship, followed by several men, carrying many lumps of gold, that had been paid him by the King of Barbary for the ship’s cargo. They then told the story of the cat, and showed the rich present that the king had sent to Dick for her; upon which the merchant called out to his servants:

Go fetch him, we will tell him of the same;
Pray call him Mr Whittington by name.

Mr Fitzwarren now showed himself to be really a good man, for when some of his clerks said so much treasure was too much for such a boy as Dick, he answered, “God forbid that I should keep a single penny from him!” He then sent for Dick who was busy scouring some kettles, and would fain have excused himself, thinking they were making game of him, but Mr Fitzwarren made him come in, and ordering a chair for him, told him of his good fortune, “and I wish,” said the worthy man, “you may long enjoy it.” Poor Dick, (now Mr Whittington) made a handsome present to the captain, the mate, and every one of the sailors, to his good friend the footman, and the rest of his fellow-servants, not forgetting even the ill-natured old cook. When Dick was dressed out in a nice suit of clothes, he was as handsome and gentle as any young man who visited Mr Fitzwarren’s; so that Miss Alice now looked upon him as fit to be her sweetheart. Mr Fitzwarren soon perceived their love for each other. The wedding-day was soon fixed; and they were attended to church by the lord mayor, the court of aldermen, the sheriffs, and all the rich merchants in the city, whom they afterwards treated with a magnificent feast.

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History tells us that Whittington lived in great splendour. He was sheriff of London in 1360, and was several times lord mayor; the last time he entertained K. Henry V. on his majesty’s return from the famous battle of Agincourt. In this company the king, on account of Whittington’s gallantry, said, “Never had prince such a subject!” upon which Whittington answered, “Never had subject such a king!” and received the honour of knighthood. He built a church, an hospital, and also a college, with a yearly allowance to poor scholars.

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

Folk tales


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