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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.


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!"


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.


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.


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.  


Thursday, November 3, 2011


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. 


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.


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.