Gateway to the Classics: The King of the Golden River by John Ruskin
The King of the Golden River by  John Ruskin

Dame Wiggins of Lee and Her Seven Wonderful Cats

Dame Wiggins of Lee

Was a worthy old soul,

As e'er threaded a nee-

dle, or wash'd in a bowl:

She held mice and rats

In such antipa-thy;

That seven fine cats

Kept Dame Wiggins of Lee.

The rats and mice scared

By this fierce whisker'd crew,

The poor seven cats

Soon had nothing to do;

So, as any one idle

She ne'er loved to see,

She sent them to school,

Did Dame Wiggins of Lee.

The Master soon wrote

That they all of them knew

How to read the word "milk"

And to spell the word "mew."

And they all washed their faces

Before they took tea:

"Were there ever such dears!"

Said Dame Wiggins of Lee.

He had also thought well

To comply with their wish

To spend all their play-time

In learning to fish

For Stitlings; they sent her

A present of three,

Which, fried, were a feast

For Dame Wiggins of Lee.

But soon she grew tired

Of living alone;

So she sent for her cats

From school to come home.

Each rowing a wherry,

Returning you see:

The frolic made merry

Dame Wiggins of Lee.

The Dame was quite pleas'd,

And ran out to market;

When she came back

They were mending the carpet.

The needle each handled

As brisk as a bee;

"Well done, my good cats,"

Said Dame Wiggins of Lee.

To give them a treat,

She ran out for some rice;

When she came back,

They were skating on ice.

"I shall soon see one down,

Aye, perhaps, two or three,

I'll bet half-a-crown,"

Said Dame Wiggins of Lee.

When spring-time came back

They had breakfast of curds;

And were greatly afraid

Of disturbing the birds.

"If you sit, like good cats,

All the seven in a tree,

They will teach you to sing!"

Said Dame Wiggins of Lee.

So they sat in a tree,

And said, "Beautiful! Hark!"

And they listened and looked

In the clouds for the lark.

They sang, by the fireside,


A song without words.

To Dame Wiggins of Lee.

They called the next day

On a tomtit and sparrow,

And wheeled a poor sick lamb

Home in a barrow.

"You shall all have some sprats

For your human-ity,

My seven good cats,"

Said Dame Wiggins of Lee.

While she ran to the field,

To look for its dam,

They were warming the bed

For the poor sick lamb:

They turn'd up the clothes

All as neat as could be;

"I shall ne'er want a nurse,"

Said Dame Wiggins of Lee.

She wished them good-night,

And went up to bed:

When, lo! in the morning,

The cats were all fled.

But soon—what a fuss!

"Where can they all be?

Here, pussy, puss, puss!"

Cried Dame Wiggins of Lee.

The Dame's heart was nigh broke,

So she sat down to weep,

When she saw them come back

Each riding a sheep:

She fondled and patted

Each purring Tom-my:

"Ah! welcome, my dears,"

Said Dame Wiggins of Lee.

The Dame was unable

Her pleasure to smother;

To see the sick lamb

Jump up to its mother.

In spite of the gout,

And a pain in her knee,

She went dancing about:

Did Dame Wiggins of Lee.

The farmer soon heard

Where his sheep went astray,

And arrived at Dame's door

With his faithful dog Tray.

He knocked with his crook,

And the stranger to see,

Out of window did look

Dame Wiggins of Lee.

For their kindness he had them

All drawn by his team;

And gave them some field-mice,

And raspberry-cream.

Said he, "All my stock

You shall presently see;

For I honor the cats

Of Dame Wiggins of Lee."

He sent his maid out

For some muffins and crumpets;

And when he turn'd round

They were blowing of trumpets.

Said he, "I suppose,

She's as deaf as can be,

Or this ne'er could be borne

By Dame Wiggins of Lee."

To show them his poultry,

He turn'd them all loose,

When each nimbly leap'd

On the back of a Goose,

Which frighten'd them so

That they ran to the sea,

And half-drowned the poor cats

Of Dame Wiggins of Lee.

For the care of his lamb,

And their comical pranks,

He gave them a ham

And abundance of thanks.

"I wish you good-day,

My fine fellows," said he;

"My compliments, pray,

To Dame Wiggins of Lee."

You see them arrived

At their Dame's welcome door;

They show her their presents,

And all their good store.

"Now come in to supper,

And sit down with me;

All welcome once more,"

Cried Dame Wiggins of Lee.

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