THE LEGEND OF DICK WHITTINGTON
This is a version of the legend passed down by the storytellers through the ages.
Written by Sarah Cantrill from Story Storks , Illustrated by Kev Payne of Andonart
Once upon a time...
...in a land far away (unless you live in England because this all happened in England) there lived a poor orphan boy called Dick Whittington. One day, he overheard some men talking outside the local tavern.
"I hear the streets of London are paved with gold" said one of the men.
"Oooooo thought Dick. If I were to go to London, I could rip some of the gold up from the street and make my fortune."
Dick put his few belongings in a bag and set off for London.
But when he got to London he discovered that the streets weren't paved with gold. In fact, they were covered in yucky brown stuff. He hadn't planned for this, and he didn't have any money to go home. He asked around for some work, but nobody wanted to take on a poor boy from the country.
At last, the day came to an end and the stars started to twinkle in the sky. He looked around for a place to sleep, but the only place he could find was the doorstep of a large house. No sooner had he settled down than the cook of the house came running out.
"Oooooo no no no no no no no. No raggamuffins on my doorstep. Be off with you." Then she started hitting him with the broom.
She'd just about chased him off when the master of the house, Alderman Fitzwarren, came home.
"Oh, sir" whimpered the cook, guiltily. "I was just getting rid of this raggamuffin off the doorstep. He's up to no good I'm sure."
Alderman Fitzwarren looked at the boy, all ragged and dirty with barely any meat on his bones. His happy heart suddenly felt cheerless to see a child not much different in age from his own in such a sorry state. "What is your name boy?"
"Dick. Dick Whittington sir."
"And are you a good worker?"
"Oh, yes sir."
The Alderman thought for a moment and then said "Cook, we need a new boy in the Kitchen. Take young Dick in and give him a wash and new clothes. Then in the morning, show him what needs to be done."
"Of course sir," said the Cook, with smiles and a curtsy. As soon as the Alderman was gone, she hit Dick with the broom again.
After spending the day working hard in the kitchen (and trying to avoid being hit with the broom) Dick had to climb to the top of the house to sleep on the floor of the dusty old attic.
Just as he got to sleep, mice and rats would creep out and crawl all over his bed. One even tried to set up home in his boot! He barely slept a wink.
The following morning, he went to work really really really really tired. He got hit with the broom a lot that day - he was too tired to duck!
At the end of the week, the staff got paid. Dick took his money and went straight to the market place.
He looked at all the fantastic things for sale. Fruit, Veg, Cloths, Horses, Leather, Cows, Sheep, Bowls, Paintings and even hats!
Eventually, he found the stall he was looking for. A pet stall.
"I need a cat," cried Dick, slightly hysterical from a lack of sleep. "A cat who can get rid of all the mice and rats that crawl over me in the night. Do you have one?"
"I do" replied the pet seller. She could tell from looking at him that Dick wouldn't have very much money, and cats are expensive, but she had a kind heart so she asked "what's your budget?"
"I have one shiny gold coin" Dick proclaimed.
"What a coincidence! That's how much this lovely ginger cat costs, and he's a really good mouser."
She gave him the cat in exchange for the coin, not letting on that the cat actually cost a lot more. Dick and the cat became instant best friends. That night, when Dick went up to bed he took his cat with him. The mice and rats didn't stand a chance against such a fabulous feline!
Dick slept like a log every night whilst the cat chased away all the rats and mice. And thanks to all the sleep he was getting he was able to duck and dodge the Cooks broom like a dream.
One day, Alderman Fitzwarren's daughter, Alice, came into the kitchen to look for an apple. He helped her to find one, and they soon got talking. They were around the same age. Sometimes, Dick was allowed to go out into the back yard and play games with Alice. But then she would come back in and go back to her pastimes whilst Dick had to work hard in the kitchen.
"One day, I'm going to make something of myself" Dick would say when he thought no-one was listening. "And when I'm old enough, I'm going to marry Alice." Lost in his daydream, he didn't hear the approaching footsteps.
CRACK went the broom on his head.
"That'll teach you to daydream" laughed the Cook. "Back to work you lazy good for nothing raggamuffin."
One day, Alderman Fitzwarren called all the staff to his study.
"As most of you know, I make a trip overseas every year to sell goods to the Kings in North Africa. They pay a pretty penny for things that we can get easily here in London, as they can't get them in their homeland. Do any of you have anything you wish me to sell?"
Each of the staff offered up their goods and wares. Finally, the Alderman turned to Dick.
"Do you not have anything to sell Dick? It could make your fortune."
"Alas, no sir. I don't have anything in the world except my cat."
"Well, you'd get a pretty penny for her I can tell you. The Kings of North Africa have a terrible problem with rats and mice. It could make you a terrific fortune."
Dick thought about what the Alderman had said. If he sold his cat, he would have enough money to become a tradesman, and maybe even marry Alice. But his cat was his best friend, and without her, he wouldn't be able to sleep at night. Whilst he ummd, and ahhd, the cat walked into the study and purred around the Aldermans legs. Dick took it as a sign and said "very well. Take the cat and sell her. But please make sure she goes to a nice family."
"I will of course," said the Alderman, and he smiled a Dick with a fatherly grin. "Cook, whilst I'm away will you look after Dick?"
"Of course I will" smiled the cook. But when the Alderman wasn't looking, she scowled at Dick and wafted her hand under her nose, as if to say he was smelly.
Life got harder for Dick. Without his cat, he barely slept a wink, and the cook took full advantage with her broom. His was covered in bumps and bruises, and he missed his feline friend.
Months went by, and the Alderman didn't return. Dick tried to buy another cat, but the seller had moved to a different market and he didn't know how to find her. Life was grim.
He decided that living in London was too hard, so he was going to go back home to Gloucestershire.
One morning, before the rest of the house were awake, he put his belongings in his knapsack and headed out of London. He got to Highgate Hill when the bells of London started to chime. They didn't seem to be ringing their usual tune. Dick stopped and listened, and he heard the bells saying...
Turn again Whittington
Lord Mayor of London
Turn again Whittington
Thrice Mayor of London
"The bells can talk!" shouted Dick. But nobody heard him, he was all alone. "And they're telling me to return to London to become Lord Mayor. Three times! Is that real? I don't know, but I think I want to. And if the bells said it, then it must be magic. Surely?"
Dick finally stopped having a conversation with himself and headed back into London. He braced himself, fully expecting a scolding from the Cook, before stepping into the kitchen. But there was no-one there.
The staff and the family were at the front of the house, greeting the Alderman who had returned from his journey. As Dick stepped out to meet him, the Alderman cried.
"Dick. Come and join me. I sold that cat of yours."
"To someone nice?" asked Dick
"To someone very nice. A King in fact. Your cat gets to eat the finest food and sleep on the plumpest cushions. The King paid a whole bag of gold for her. You're rich!"
"You're rich!" exclaimed the Alderman.
"I'm rich!" said Dick
"He's rich?" asked the cook.
"Yes!" cried the Alderman
"Well, I always said he'd do well. He's always been one of my favourites" lied the cook, but no-one was really listening to her anymore.
Dick got himself a trade, and when he was old enough he did indeed marry Alice Fitzwarren. As the bells had told him that fateful day, he did become the Lord Mayor of London three times, and they all lived....
....Happily Ever After.