James Baldwin

Whittington and His Cat

Part 2 of 2


IV. THE CAT

Mr. Fitzwarren's ship made a long voyage, and at last reached a strange land on the other side of the sea. The people had never seen any white men [148] before, and they came in great crowds to buy the fine things with which the ship was loaded. The captain wanted very much to trade with the king of the country; and it was not long before the king sent word for him to come to the palace and see him.

The captain did so. He was shown into a beautiful room, and given a seat on a rich carpet all flowered with silver and gold. The king and queen were seated not far away; and soon a number of dishes were brought in for dinner.

They had hardly begun to eat when an army of rats and mice rushed in, and devoured all the meat before any one could hinder them. The captain wondered at this, and asked if it was not very unpleasant to have so many rats and mice about.

"Oh, yes!" was the answer. "It is indeed unpleasant; and the king would give half his treasure if he could get rid of them."

The captain jumped for joy. He remembered the cat which little Whittington had sent out; and he told the king that he had a little creature on board his ship which would make short work of the pests.

Then it was the king's turn to jump for joy; and he jumped so high, that his yellow cap, or turban, dropped off his head.

[149] "Bring the creature to me," he said. "If she will do what you say, I will load your ship with gold."

The captain made believe that he would be very sorry to part with the cat; but at last he went down to the ship to get her, while the king and queen made haste to have another dinner made ready.

The captain, with puss under his arm, reached the palace just in time to see the table crowded with rats. The cat leaped out upon them, and oh! what havoc she did make among the troublesome creatures! Most of them were soon stretched dead upon the floor, while the rest scampered away to their holes, and did not dare to come out again.

The king had never been so glad in his life; and the queen asked that the creature which had done such wonders should be brought to her. The captain called, "Pussy, pussy, pussy!" and the cat came up and rubbed against his legs. He picked her up, and offered her to the queen; but at first the queen was afraid to touch her.

However, the captain stroked the cat, and called, "Pussy, pussy, pussy!" and then the queen ventured to touch her. She could only say, "Putty, putty, putty!" for she had not learned to talk English. The captain then put the cat down on the queen's lap, where she purred and purred until she went to sleep.

[150] The king would not have missed getting the cat now for the world. He at once made a bargain with the captain for all the goods on board the ship; and then he gave him ten times as much for the cat as all the rest came to.

The captain was very glad. He bade the king and queen good-by, and the very next day set sail for England.

V. THE FORTUNE

One morning Mr. Fitzwarren was sitting at his desk in his office. He heard some one tap softly at his door, and he said,—

"Who's there?"

"A friend," was the answer. "I have come to bring you news of your ship 'Unicorn.' "

Mr. Fitzwarren jumped up quickly, and opened the door. Whom should he see waiting there but the captain, with a bill of lading in one hand and a box of jewels in the other? He was so full of joy that he lifted up his eyes, and thanked Heaven for sending him such good fortune.

The captain soon told the story of the cat; and then he showed the rich present which the king and queen had sent to poor Dick in payment for her. As soon as the good gentleman heard this, he called out to his servants,—

[151]

"Go send him in, and tell him of his fame;

Pray call him Mr. Whittington by name."

Some of the men who stood by said that so great a present ought not to be given to a mere boy; but Mr. Fitzwarren frowned upon them.

"It is his own," he said, "and I will not hold back one penny from him."

Dick was scouring the pots when word was brought to him that he should go to the office.

"Oh, I am so dirty!" he said, "and my shoes are full of hob-nails." But he was told to make haste.

Mr. Fitzwarren ordered a chair to be set for him, and then the lad began to think that they were making fun of him.

"I beg that you won't play tricks with a poor boy like me," he said. "Please let me go back to my work."

"Mr. Whittington," said Mr. Fitzwarren, "this is no joke at all. The captain has sold your cat, and has brought you, in return for her, more riches than I have in the whole world."

Then he opened the box of jewels, and showed Dick his treasures.

The poor boy did not know what to do. He begged his master to take a part of it; but Mr. Fitzwarren said, "No, it is all your own; and I feel sure that you will make good use of it."

[152] Dick then offered some of his jewels to his mistress and little Alice. They thanked him, and told him that they felt great joy at his good luck, but wished him to keep his riches for himself.


[Illustration]

But he was too kind-hearted to keep everything for himself. He gave nice presents to the captain and the sailors, and to the servants in Mr. Fitzwarren's house. He even remembered the cross old cook.

[153] After that, Whittington's face was washed, and his hair curled, and he was dressed in a nice suit of clothes; and then he was as handsome a young man as ever walked the streets of London.

Some time after that, there was a fine wedding at the finest church in London; and Miss Alice became the wife of Mr. Richard Whittington. And the lord mayor was there, and the great judges, and the sheriffs, and many rich merchants; and everybody was very happy.

And Richard Whittington became a great merchant, and was one of the foremost men in London. He was sheriff of the city, and thrice lord mayor; and King Henry V. made him a knight.

He built the famous prison of Newgate in London. On the archway in front of the prison was a figure, cut in stone, of Sir Richard Whittington and his cat; and for three hundred years this figure was shown to all who visited London.