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to begin again his rambles about the country. By the time he reached Moorefields he was beginning to regret his resolution, and when he had reached Halloway he sat down by the roadside to consider the situation. While he waited there, lonely and dejected, the bells of Bow Church began to ring a merry peal. The music caught his fancy, and as he listened he thought he could hear them say:
"Turn again, Whittington,
He could not resist such an appeal and the good fortune promised him, and so turned back without delay. In fact, so rapidly did he run that he reached the house before the family were stirring, crept softly in at the door he had left ajar, and set to work at his usual drudgery, no one the wiser for his little desertion.
All this time Dick's cat was sharing the fate of the Unicorn, which, driven by contrary winds, was forced to make land on the coast of Barbary, where the Moors, unaccustomed to seeing white people, treated them civilly and were eager to buy the wonderful things that the strangers had for sale. The captain, noticing this, sent samples of his goods to the king of the country, who was much pleased with them and invited him to bring his wares to the palace.
Here, according to the custom of the country, the captain was entertained lavishly, all sitting crosslegged upon carpets of interwoven gold and silver. Tables were brought in, laden with good things to eat; but the feast was sadly marred by the great troops of rats and mice which ran over the carpet and even snatched bits of food from the table and out of the fingers of the guests.
The surprised captain turned to one of the nobles and said, "How do you endure this plague? Are not the mice offensive to you?"
"Indeed they are," replied the noble, "very much so. His majesty would give half his revenue to be free from them. They are not only offensive at his table, but he can scarcely sleep at night for the hordes that invade his chamber and bed. In fact, guards are always stationed near him for fear of mischief."
This reminded the captain of Whittington's cat, and rejoicing at the opportunity of helping the king, he said, "Why, I have in my ship an English beast that will rid the court of rats and mice in a hurry."
When the king heard the good news he was overjoyed and said, "Bring me this surprising creature. If she can do what you say I will give you a good price for her. I will load your ship with gold, diamonds and rich pearls."
Such extravagant offers made the captain try to put still a greater value on the cat's merits.
"She is the most wonderful animal I ever saw," he said, "and I cannot spare her. She keeps my ship clear of rats and mice, which otherwise would destroy all my goods."
But his majesty the king would listen to no excuses, and ordered the cat brought before him. Perhaps, too, the captain was influenced by the queen's enthusiasm, for she added her good word to the king's.
"Run, run," she said; "bring the dear creature. I am perishing to see her. We will give you anything you ask for her."
The cat was sent for, and the tables were again spread for another feast, to which the rats and mice came as before. As soon, however, as the cat was freed she fell to her work, and in a trice killed all the vermin, not leaving a single mouse to tell the story of the destruction. Then, curling up her tail and purring loudly, the cat walked up to the king and queen and rubbed herself against them as if begging for a reward for what she had done. For their part, they were delighted, and pronounced it the finest sport they had ever seen.
The Moorish royal couple were pleased to have a chance to do a good turn for the captain, so they not only bought his whole cargo, but gave him for the cat more than his whole shipload was worth. Then, with a fair wind behind him, he sailed away, arriving safely in England with the richest ship that ever entered port.
Among the gifts of the king was a rich cabinet of jewels, a special present for Dick, the owner of the cat. These the captain took with him, as too rich a prize to be left on board the ship. When he made his report to Mr. Fitzwarren the latter was much pleased, and gave thanks to God for such a prosperous voyage.
As soon as he reached home he called his servants all .about him and gave to each his just share of the profits.
When he came to Dick he remarked, "This casket of jewels was given especially for Dick Whittington's cat, and God forbid I should deprive him of a single farthing."
Then it was discovered that Dick, poor boy, was still in the kitchen cleaning pots and pans.
"Run, one of you," said Mr. Fitzwarren, "and call Mr. Whittington to me."
When the messenger found Dick and called him Mr. Whittington, and said the master wished to see him, the poor boy made several excuses, but after a while followed his fellow-servant to the door, where he stood bowing and scraping before his master. Not until the merchant had spoken to him personally did he dare to enter, and when his master offered him a chair beside himself, Dick felt they must be making sport of him and fell on his knees, exclaiming with tears in his eyes, "Why do you make such sport of me? I am only a poor, simple scullion who means no harm to any of you."
"Indeed, Mr. Whittington," said Mr. Fitzwarren, raising him up, "we are very serious with you, for at this instant you are a richer man than myself."
When he had spoken these words he handed Dick the casket, which indeed contained vast riches; for when they were valued they were found to be worth three hundred thousand pounds, about one and a half million of dollars, which was considered an immense sum in those days.
When Dick at last believed them, and before he knew the extent of his riches, he again fell upon his knees and thanked God for remembering so poor a creature in his misery. Then, turning to his master, he laid the casket before him and said, "Take what you will. It is more yours than mine."
"Whittington, I shall not take so much as a shilling from you. This is all yours, and I am sure you will use it well."
Dick then turned to Miss Alice and offered the treasure to her, but she likewise refused the proffer, urging Dick to use the money himself. Still the generous fellow was not content, and distributed
great sums among his fellow-servants and to the captain, the officers and the crew of the ship, for he felt that he owed much of his good luck to his friends. Moreover, he did not forget his mortal enemy, the cook, who received one hundred pounds for her share.