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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lord Mayor

Of course, Dick quickly sought Mr. Fitzwarren's advise and the gentleman suggested that Dick first begin to educate himself in the traditional three "R"s--reading, writing and arithmetic-- and Dick willingly plunged into his studies.

Then Dick began to start his own businesses--perhaps he started with something he knew very well--things learned from his childhood in the kitchen. He might have started a small bakery or a opened a vegetable stall in a market. Then perhaps he hired some craftspeople to fabricate something which was a popular item in those days--boar's bristle brushes and ivory combs, perhaps, or small hand mirrors.

As he developed more skill in management he grew into a man of substance and the money from the sale of his pearls multiplied into a vast fortune--he was even asked for loans by the King of England.

Dick's mentor, Mr. Fitzwarren, became not only a friend and but his father-in-law when he married Alice.

And when he was a mature man he was elected by the first citizens of London to be their Lord Mayor--the highest office in the city--not just once, but as the Bow bells had predicted, three times.


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And, Dearest of All, may you experience the same good fortune.

 ~:~

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Good Trade

Dick returned to Mr. Fitzwarren's house with new hope, determination and a goal--hadn't the Bow bells told him he would be Lord Mayor of London?

The cook seemed to have changed too--he was not as mean to the boy as he had been--or was it that Dick's own attitude--his own anger and frustration--had changed?

Not so very long thereafter the long overdue ship--the ship which had been carrying Dick's cat--returned to its home dock with a fat cargo of trade goods from distant lands and we are told that the cargo contained a wonderful reward for Dick. 

The traditional story does not tell the details but I can imagine something like this conversation between Dick and the ship's Captain: "Dick, my lad, you are a very lucky chap! The trade goods you invested--your cat--was exactly the right goods for a very fortunate trade. 

"We touched at an out-of-the-way island seldom visited by trade vessels where the people had never seen a cat but had too many rats-- rats which had come as stowaways with the original native settlers in their great double canoes generations before. 

"The people  were surprised and delighted that your cat could catch and kill the rats. 

"Their chief wanted to keep the cat and I offered it to him--in exchange for two handfuls of beautiful big pearls--pearls which were not so valuable there but which are worth a king's ransom here

"So, Dick-- I will keep half of the pearls for Mr. Fitzwarren's and my commission and here is a pouch of pearls for you! 

"Be careful with them and get some good advice from Mr Fitzwarren about selling and investing with them because they could be the beginning of a great fortune for you!"


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Monday, November 7, 2011

Talking Bells


Well, Dearest of All, you know how difficult it is for a young person to wait for a whole year for anything--so you can imagine how young Dick Whittington felt when a year had passed without hearing a word about the ship or his cat--and when a second year had passed, Dick began to think that the ship was lost and that he had doomed his poor cat to a watery grave.

Dick began to think that his investment was a failure and that his future was very bleak if he stayed in the great city.

Worst of all, Dick had met Mr. Fitzwarren's daughter, Alice--a pretty little girl just about his age, and she had spoken kindly to him though they were in such very different social classes.

The failure of the ship to return with any good news for him made him give up all hope for improving his situation--he felt that he would probably live and die a scullery boy--and not only that, it seemed to him that the cook, his boss, was being mean to him.

And so one day, after more than two years had passed since he put his cat aboard the trading ship, Dick was so discouraged that he decided to leave London forever.

The poor boy probably had nothing at all to pack and carry as he began to sadly walk away from the only home he had ever known.

But he had not gone far when something incredible happened.

He was still close enough to the old Bow church to hear it's bells ringing in the distance and there was a voice in the bells. 

The voice clearly said: "Turn again, Dick Whittington, Lord Mayer of London."

You can be sure Dick stopped walking and listened more carefully than he had ever listened to anything in his life as the bells began to ring and talk  again.

This time the bells seemed to say: "Turn again Dick Whittington, Twice Lord Mayor of London."

Dick was sure the bells were talking to HIM!

He listened even more intently as the Bow bells spoke again: "Turn again Dick Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London."

Then the bells were silent. Around him he heard only the usual sounds of the city, but he felt sure the bells had somehow announcd his destiny. 

Of course, no one else had heard anything unusual--just the Bow Bells ringing the hours as always.

Dick hurried back to Mr. Fitzwarren's home--he was so unimportant that no one had even missed him--but now he was determined to stay in London--he had hope for his future. The bells had said it--he would be three times Lord Mayor of London though the boy certainly had no idea how this would happen.


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Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Gamble



In the days of our story, voyages by ship were longsome, dangerous adventures--not two easy weeks in a safe engine-powered ocean liner--but two or more hard years powered only by the wind in your sails to far Cathay around the stormy Cape of Good Hope and back and good luck to you.  

And oftentimes a brave ship loaded with trade goods and hardy sailormen did not come back at all.


A trading voyage was a risky gamble--sometimes to win much and sometimes to lose everything.


So waiting for your ship to come in was never easy--especially for a boy like Dick who had bet his entire wealth--his cat--on the success of the voyage.


Now, Dearest of All, we are coming to the part of the story which is most mysterious.

Almost all of us hope someday to hear the voice of the Great Whatever It Is, but it is a privilege few receive.

In fact, some people think it is simply poppycock. They think, since they never hear the voice, that the Great Spirit of Life is mute--that it never talks--and it never does--to them.

But Dick Whittington, as a boy, was one of those rare lucky ones who hear the voice.


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Friday, November 4, 2011

Bon Voyage


Mr Fitzwarren's ship was provisioned for a long voyage and loaded with trade goods. 

At last the captain came aboard and all land visitors were sent ashore. 

Dick probably was one of the last visitors to leave. No doubt he said goodby to his cat and wished it a pleasant journey as he handed it to one of the friendly sailors. The lines holding the ship to the dock were loosed, the sails were unfurled and the big ship moved silently down the Thames river toward the sea.

No doubt there were enough mice and rats aboard the ship to keep the cat occupied--and no doubt he found a cozy place to sleep--maybe on a pile of sails or in a warm coil of hemp rope and no doubt all the sailors enjoyed the company of such a lively, furry little animal.

And the new sailor cat no doubt soon knew the ship stem to stern--from dank, cold bilges to the highest sunny crow's nest.  


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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Trade


A cat in the old days was not just a pampered pet as they often are today, but a hard working, practical  member of a household.

Cats and humans had made a partnership contract with each other ages before--in exchange for living quarters and an occasional meal, a cat would keep your house free of pesky vermin--notably rats and mice--which always were a nuisance.

Of course Dick Whittington's cat knew and understood this contract so beside being a fun companion to the little boy, the cat did his traditional job and kept the big house free of rats and mice. In fact Dick Whittington's cat became notable for his "mousing" ability.

Mr. Fitzwarren, Dick's kindly protector, was, as we have said, a rich and powerful merchant. 

This means he bought and sold many things--and his business was in the shipping trade. 

He probably owned several ships and would hire captains and crews to sail his ships to distant lands where they would trade the things made in London for other things the Londoners wanted to buy--maybe spices from the Spice Islands or cocoanuts from the South Pacific or beautiful porcelain and silk from China-- because London was a good market for all kinds of foreign things.

One day, Mr. Fitzwarren asked young Dick, who had grown into a likely lad, if he had anything he would like to send with one of his ships that was preparing to sail to a far-away land to trade for things to sell in London.

But Dick had nothing at all to trade.

"Well, my lad, why not  send your cat?" suggested Mr Fitzwarren. "Who knows but what some oriental potentate would not like to have such a pretty and practical animal around and might trade you something valuable for it."

And though Dick didn't like to lose his friendly cat--he also considered that this might be his only opportunity to start his own fortune--so he agreed.

The ship captain was also happy to have the good mouser aboard to keep his ship clear of pesky rodents on the long voyage out--and so the deal was done. 


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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Cat



So little Dick Whittington had a warm, dry place to sleep near the kitchen cooking fire--right next to the big bricked bin where the firewood was kept--and part of his job was to keep plenty of the right sort of firewood handy for the cook. 

He also peeled vegetables and washed the dishes, pots and pans and cooking tools. 

He was even allowed to polish the silverware when the adults were certain he was no thief.

In fact, he slowly became a handy young person to have around. He might have learned to read a little bit and to calculate numbers so he could count the silver spoons.

And one lucky day, he found a cat--or more likely, a cat found him.

One tradition says  that Dick polished a gentleman's shoes for a coin and bought the cat, but I rather think that some stray alley-cat wandering by the warm kitchen, smelled the good food and decided that he would befriend the boy.

However it happened, Dick "owned" a cat as the story goes--and the cat was Dick's only possession.

I would like to name this cat--Morganstern maybe or Felix or Cato, but in the old story, the cat is always and only called "Dick Whittington's Cat--so that is what we will have to call him.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

ATrue Story


You might ask, Dearest One of All, if this story is true.

Yes, this story is true.

Part of it is true like two apples plus two apples is four apples-- and part of it is true like the immense dragon that lives under the ground and sometimes moves his tremendous tail so that the earth quakes-- but it is all true. 

This story of Dick Whittington and His Cat was read to me long ago when I myself was a little boy-- before I could write or read-- and I liked it so well that now I am telling it to you in the same way it was told to me, but I will add a few details which I think will make it more interesting to someone like yourself in this new age of electronic communication. 

So, as our story goes,  poor little Dick Whittington found himself somehow in the great old City of London--without parents, friends or family  to care for him or love him, probably cold, hungry and wet--sitting on the pavement in front of one of the great old houses and probably crying.

Now it happened that in this same great house there lived a rich and powerful merchant-- a man whose name has also come down to us, a certain Mr Fitzwarren.

This Mr. Fitzwarren noticed the child on the curb and saw something in this sad little outcast so he sent one of his servants to invite the boy in for some warm food.

Observing the waif eat, Mr. Fitzwarren felt pity and also a certain strange admiration for him and so told his servant to offer the child food and a warm place to sleep in exchange for work in the kitchen.

This the servant did and so Dick experienced kindness and his first stroke of good luck in the great city.



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Monday, October 31, 2011

London, Dick Whittington, and Cat



This story, Dearest One of All, is about a boy, a cat and a great city.

The city is London--the London of long ago. 

London long before computers were invented, before cars and buses--even before trains. 

At the time of this long-ago story, London taxis were carriages pulled by horses and the narrow streets of the city were crowded with huge wagons  drawn by huge draft horses, big carts pulled by big mules, little donkey wagons, and lots and lots of all kinds of people.

One of the people at the time of our story was a little orphan boy so small he could hardly be called a people. He had no mother or father or sister or brother--in fact he had nothing at all except a name and his name was a rather grand one: Dick Whittington. 

No one now knows how he got to own his  splendid name but it is a fact that from the very  beginning of this old story the boy was known as Richard, or Dick, Whittington.

The other character in our story is a cat.

This cat is quite famous-- in fact if you ever go to Highgate in the great City of London today, near the very old Bow church, you can see a statue of this remarkable cat.

We don't know the personal name of this cat. It is only known as "The Cat"-- so that is what we will call him--but you will know that THIS cat is the very famous cat in the good old story-- the story of Dick Whittington and His Cat. 


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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Crooked Intermission


Crooked


Once a crooked man
Walked a crooked mile, 
And found a crooked six-pence
Upon a crooked stile.

He bought a crooked cat
Which caught a crooked mouse.
And they all lived together 
In his little crooked house.


I seem to remember this crooked rhyme from my early crooked childhood. TW



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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Away


"WOLF!" Shouted a half dozen voices

"WOLF!!" Screamed a dozen more.

"Yipe!!!" Dog and Wolf barked at the same time--as yelling people scrambled and fled through doors and windows as fast as ever they could. 

Mothers grabbed their children, young lovers grabbed each other and for the rest-- it was every man for himself!

In less time than it takes to tell, the house was empty and Dog and Wolf were alone.

"Now you've done it." Dog said.

"I couldn't help myself." Wolf whimpered.

"Well, we're finished here." Dog said. "The men will be back soon with every kind of weapon.  We would certainly be fools to wait for them. Let's head for the hills NOW! ARE you coming, Wolf?"

"Are YOU coming, Dog?" Wolf asked.


"Yes! I have had it with these humans!" Dog said. "You have showed me what a good life is possible out in the woods and I am ready to join you! Lets get out of here while we can!"


And both animals scampered safely away as fast as they could run.


When the men returned with their weapons there was no trace of Wolf OR  Dog and the two fugitives never were seen by human eyes again.


Wolf and Dog? They lived free together in the endless forest for the rest of their long and happy lives.

And we wish the same freedom and happiness to you too, Dearest of All.




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Friday, October 28, 2011

The Party


That night Dog and Wolf met at the party houses' back door and Wolf was smuggled in and under the main food table without being detected.
 
Soon guests began to arrive bringing choice food and drink. 

Then a guitar and a violin tuned up and the music started. The people started talking merrily, laughing, eating and drinking, singing and dancing.

It was a great party and Dog was feted in every way--patted and congratulated for his daring and noble deed--and given all kinds of good things to eat! And, of course, he was able to sneak lots of the best food to Wolf hiding under the table!

There were delicious baked things, roasted things, stewed  things and fried things--ahh, it was truly pig heaven for an always famished animal like Wolf!

So Dog was happy and Wolf was absolutely blissed out. 


"This is the best party ever!" said Wolf to Dog under the table, "and I am feeling so good, I am going to sing!"


"Oh, no!" said Dog! "Don't do it! Your voice is so distinctive  the people might panic if they thought a wolf was at the party!"


"I can't help it--I HAVE to SING!" Wolf said--and he lifted his nose, opened his mouth and gave a long, wolf howl!


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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Invitation


"Wolf! Wolf!" Dog called as he ran through the trees in the part of the forest where he knew Wolf was usually hunting in the early morning.

"Dog!" responded Wolf from nearby and they were soon together.

"What's up, Buddy?" Wolf asked.


"There is going to be a huge celebration party tonight at the house where the baby that I rescued lives." Dog said excitedly.

"They think I am some kind of wonder-worker for saving the baby and they have invited everyone to share their happiness and I want YOU to come!"

"ME? Well, it would be a good joke--but is it possible?"

"Yes! I will meet you just after dark at the back door of the same house where you snatched the baby.  That's where the party is. I will sneak you into the house and under the table where the food will be. There will be a big tablecloth covering the table and hanging down to the floor so you can hide right there and enjoy everything and I will secretly slip you lots of food since everybody will be petting me and giving me their best tidbits as a reward for my miraculous rescue."

"Ho, ho! I like it Dog! An inspired scam! We are fabulous rascals, truly!"


"Then you will be there, Wolf?"
 
"I wouldn't miss it for the world, Dog!"


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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Fight


The next sunny Monday morning found the two conspirators concealed behind some bushes reconnoitering the village from a nearby hilltop .

"There she goes with the basket. Now it is time for me to leave." said Wolf. "I will meet you with the baby outside the village at the style where the northward path crosses the pasture as we have planned."

"Good luck." whispered Dog and the two animals separated.

Dog was waiting at the style when Wolf galloped up with the baby bundle in his mouth.

"Nothing to it!" Wolf laughed as he gently placed the wiggling bundle on the ground. "Now the fracas!" and he began to howl. whine and beat on the woven willow fence to make a great racket.

Dog merrily joined him, barking, growling and shaking some dry-leaved branches noisily.

"I think that's enough of a fight." Wolf soon breathlessly smiled. "Now take the kid back home for your reward and a long, happy life to you."

"The same to you, Wolf. I will never forget what you have done for me!" Dog exclaimed.

Then Dog picked up the bundled baby in his teeth and carried it triumphantly back to the village.


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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Final Plan


 After a bit of thought Dog said: "Wolf, I believe you have it! It is so very generous of you to take such a risk after the way I hounded you all these years."

"Think nothing of it dear relative." Wolf replied graciously. "When and where shall we make our attack?"

"The mother of the, uh, tastiest baby usually carries it with her when she hangs out the family laundry to dry every sunny Monday morning. She lays it in a basket while she does her work. I believe you could race by, snatch and carry off the baby without being caught--I will give you most precise directions through the village."

 "In broad daylight? I like it, Dog! And then we can meet just outside the village and pretend to have a great battle with snarls, growls, barks and howls-- then  I will scamper off into the forest and YOU will return to the mother with her prize!"

"But now," said Wolf, "I think you should come with me into the forest to stay for a while. Your humans should live for a few days without your protection.  They will miss you and reward you more handsomely when you miraculously appear to make your daring rescue. I will show you how easily one can live off the land--in fact you might prefer it to living with your ungrateful humans, ha, ha!




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Monday, October 24, 2011

The Great Idea



"And what is your idea which will save me, Wolf?"

"It is simple and obvious. I will steal one of their babies."

"That is a terrible idea, Wolf! I could never allow you to do that!

"And THAT attitude leads to my my brilliant idea! YOU will rescue the baby from me and return it to your humans! Your humans will be so grateful they will keep you in fine fettle for the rest of your life--guaranteed!

"But, dear Wolf--won't it be rather dangerous for you to steal the baby?"

"Bold is Lucky, Dog. I am accustomed to taking risks and am willing to run a risk for a relative like you. You will minimize my risk by giving me intelligence--all the details of the village layout--where the cottage with the, uh, tastiest baby is--what time of day or night night might be the best for me to snatch--everything of that nature."

"But you won't hurt the child..."

"Rest easy about that, Dog. I will carry the baby away by taking his blanket in my mouth so he will be protected from my nice white, sharp teeth--really, Dog, I am doing this for you. I will carry the kid away and deliver him to you like a delicate parcel marked "FRAGILE"!

And Wolf smiled at his own wit.


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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Idea



"Come now, Dog," said Wolf, "lets have no more talk of dying.  You say you are no longer useful to your humans--well and good--but how were you so useful to them in the past?"

"Since I was a watchdog," said Dog,  "I was always on the alert for any kind of trouble or mischief. I would bark if anyone not part of the family came close to our house, and , most especially, I would chase you away if I caught your scent and knew you were in the neighborhood."

"Chase ME away! Come now old friend, what harm could I possibly do to your humans with their hay forks, clubs and bow and arrows?"

"Their greatest fear was that you would somehow get into their house and steal one of their babies!"

"Me? Steal one of their babies? When the woods are so full of plump young rabbits, silly quail and tasty squirrels? What foolishness!"

"And yet, Wolf, I assure you that this is one of their greatest fears--I have heard them talk about it often. And it is partly because of this rather irrational fear that they kept and fed me all these years."

"And I suppose that is why you use to chase me--but never catch me--in the old days?

"I admit there was something like that behind my crude behavior, Wolf, and I regret it now."

"So they think they need YOU to keep ME from stealing one of their babies! Ahh, Dog, I begin to have an idea which will restore you to their good graces and insure you a comfortable retirement.


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Friday, October 21, 2011

Cousins


"Dog," said Wolf, "I am sorry to hear you talk that way. Life is not so bad and, as you know,  suicide is forbidden. It is our duty to complete our life span as well as we can as the animals we are. 

Now, you are a dog and I am a wolf --but we are distant cousins. Is this not true?  And so as a relative, I will help you if I can. Now, what IS your problem?"

"Oh, Wolf," said Dog, "ages ago when our families were young, your family decided to be wild and MY family decided to join the humans and become tame. Now you can live as you like and be as free as a bird but I must live with humans and serve them for my living. And my humans do not need me any longer so I must die."

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Favor Asked


One cold, dark winter's night Dog waited patiently for a friendly word and for something to be placed into his food bowl but his humans retired to their warm beds forgetting all about him.

"It is clear. " thought Dog to himself, "that I have outlived my usefulness. There is nothing left for me to do now but to end my miserable life. I must go out into the night alone and freeze to death or perhaps fall into a ravine and break my old neck or perhaps I will finally meet that old Wolf who will hopefully kill me." 

And so Dog limped out into the darkness.

Now it happened that wolf was in the neighborhood that same night. 

Wolf had eaten a splendid dinner of tender young rabbit and was feeling good about life and about himself when he noticed Dog's tracks in the snow.

"My old enemy Dog is out and about tonight. I think I will follow him and see what he is up to." he thought and Wolf began to follow Dog.

"Dog is certainly not himself tonight." thought Wolf when he caught sight of his old nemesis. "He looks like a weak, starving old cur--I believe I will just talk to him a bit for old time's sake." and Wolf cautiously approached Dog.

"Dog, Old Fellow!" Wolf called when he became closer, "How is it that you are out and about this cold, dark night all by yourself?

"Wolf," said Dog, "I was hoping to finally meet you to apologize for my past bad behavior and to ask you for one last favor."

"Well, Dog, neither of us will ever be young and foolish again. I accept your apology with good heart and ask what favor can I possibly do for you?"

"Will you please kill me now and quickly? I am resolved to die tonight since I am no longer useful and my humans do not wish to have me around any longer and freezing to death or falling into a ravine do not appeal to an old watchdog like myself." said Dog.


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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Once Upon a Time

Wolf and Dog is my retelling of a Ukrainian Folk Tale
gleaned from a film by Eduard Nazarov



And so, Dearest One of All, Once upon a Time in the endless dark forest of Old Mother Russia there lived a Wolf.

This Wolf lived all by himself and his life was good enough, but he was annoyed sometimes by a Dog who lived in a nearby village. 

This Dog would come snooping around, barking and raising a fuss and the Wolf would have to leave his cozy nest in the trees, run a bit through the snowy forest--make a big circle and after a while-- when the Dog got tired of the chase and went home, Wolf would return to his cozy nest. 

So life went on for many years and all was well with Wolf and Dog.

But, Dearest One of All, as it must be with all living things, as the years passed, these two animals became old.

For Wolf it was not too bad for there were always plenty of unwary young rabbits to eat, running water to drink and a nice snug wolfish nest under sheltering fir trees to sleep in.  For Wolf it was not too bad--but for Dog...


Dog had to depend on the kindness of his humans for his living and as his youthful energy waned and his eyesight dimmed and his bark became less viral--unfortunately his humans began to forget the many services he had willingly performed for them and began to treat him badly--sometimes forgetting to put any food scraps at all into his old wooden bowl and, worst of all, since like all dogs he lived for human praise-- never petting him or calling him "Good Dog".




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