Dick and Pussy

by N Fourbois

Chapter 2

Dick and Tom steadfastly followed the road eastwards, ever unknown to them under the invisible protection of Fairy Rosebud. When Tom grew tired, he would simply hitch a ride on Dick's shoulders. The weather was not so fair as when Dick set out, but under Fairy Rosebud's spell the wind passed over them and the rain did not touch them. They travelled through towns and villages and as night fell, they could easily find free board and lodging either thanks to the cat's professional services or the turquoise kerchief holding Dick's smaller possessions.

Finally the growing weariness so took hold of Dick one afternoon that he had to sit down on a wayside stone. As he was about to fall asleep, Tom padded his leg with a forepaw and pointed between Dick's legs. "Oh, no, puss," exclaimed Dick, "not another hole in my hose!" Tom padded his leg even harder and pointed between his legs again. Dick stood up and looked around. It was then that he noticed that the stone was indeed a milestone. 'London IV miles.'

This piece of information invigorated Dick and he said "Tom, we can do that in just over an hour." Dick got up and started walking with Tom at his side. Instinctively he knew his master was tired and made no attempt to hitch a ride. They were in this together.

They found that they were leaving the country road and entering streets with houses at first and later shops and businesses lining them. The streets were filled with people getting on with their business. Whereas in the country you would greet a stranger, whoever he was, here there were too many people to do that and everyone seemed to ignore others, engrossed in their own affairs. Finally Dick and Tom arrived in what seemed the centre. That last four mile effort had exhausted Dick. The adrenalin had run out and he slumped down on the stone steps leading up to a grand house. He looked up and saw a street sign. 'Cheapside.' Then he fell into a deep slumber.


Dick awoke to see a giant rat standing in front of him. He gave Tom a poke, but the cat was so tired he continued sleeping. "So, you rampallian, ditch delivered of a drab, you dare to defy me, King Rat, and you bring that feline abortion into my kingdom. Be gone before sunrise or suffer my wrath. This is your final warning." At that the misbegotten creature lowered itself onto four paws and scuttled into the crowd causing screams from the womenfolk.

Dick felt his shoulder being shaken and he realised he was having a nightmare. Tom was still sleeping. The hand that was shaking Dick's shoulder belonged to a fair young gentle. "My father, Alderman Fitzwarren, has been watching you from his study window and sent me to make enquiries of you. First, who are you, for you are obviously no tramp or street urchin?"

"I am Richard Whittington from the parish of Pauntley in His Majesty's shire of Gloucester."

"And what brings you to our city?"

"I have come to London to seek my fortune." Meanwhile a window had opened behind them and an authoritative voice called out.

"I like the cut of that young man's jib. Bring him into the kitchen, Leofric, that we might find out more."

Dick stood up and so as not to be left behind Tom leapt onto his shoulder. "Don't forget your stick and hanky, Richard."

"Dick."

"I said 'stick'" repeated Leofric.

"No, I'm a Dick," said Dick.

"I beg your pardon?"

"My official name is Richard, but people always think of me as a Dick."

"Ah, I see," said Leofric. Tom rolled his eyes. "I'm just a simple city lad and … er…" While saying this, he was checking out his tunic and hose and blushed when his eyes reached his hose. "… and… um… not used to these country ways. Nice Dick… I mean nice name." A simple slip of the tongue betraying true thoughts, to which some five centuries later Dr Sigmund Freud was going to lend his name.

In a minute the three of them were seated round a square table. Tom had work to do. A bowl of hot turnip gruel, which had been simmering on the range, was placed in front of Dick along with a large hunk of bread. "I am Alderman Fitzwarren, Lord Mayor of London, and treasurer of the Worshipful Company of Mercers." Dick really had no idea what an Alderman was or whether it might indeed be Mr Fitzwarren's Christian name. He was bright enough to assume that Alderman Fitzwarren must be an important man. At that moment Tom jumped up onto the form next to Dick and presented him with a mouse. He then jumped down, off in search of another. The Alderman continued, trying to ignore Tom's activities. "So, young man, tell us something about yourself." Dick related how he had decided to leave his village and seek his fortune in the city of London. "Are you willing to work?"

"Ay, sir."

"Mrs Miggins tells me she's in need of a scullion."

"What's a scullion, sir?"

"He helps in the kitchen with all the menial tasks like cleaning up and scouring the pots and pans." By this time Tom had appeared with his fifth dead mouse. "And it looks as if we have a vacancy for a rat catcher too." Dick looked at Tom. Tom nodded his consent and purred.

"And the wages, sir?"

"Two pennies a week, board and lodging for you and cat. 'Mmm, that's two blowjobs, but then I'm sure I can earn a bit on the side,' Dick thought to himself.

"Okay, sir," said Dick. "Tom is in agreement. When do we begin?"

"At dawn tomorrow, providing Mrs Miggins finds you acceptable. Leofric, take Dick and Tom to meet Mrs Miggins and if she is agreeable, find them some quarters." When she saw Tom's skill as a mouser, she had no hesitation in accepting boy and cat.


Dick and Tom settled into work. With his first week's wages Dick had to replace his tunic and hose and buy some working clothes. He was amazed to find that he just had to leave the house and find a shop along the street and select, rather than as in Pauntley await a fair when the travelling salesmen came along, and he would buy what they had to sell. After that life settled into routine. It was hard, as was the work, but he put his heart and soul into it and since he had little free time, he had little opportunity to spend his wages. He had to make sure that Tom had enough to eat for once he had culled half of the rats and mice in the Alderman's house, the other half packed up their belongings and moved elsewhere. And thus Dick was able to build up a bank account. From a distance Leofric Fitzwarren continued to keep a friendly eye on him, smitten as he was at their first meeting. The family had to come to terms with the fact that the Alderman's only child was gay. Dick found this out from household gossip for it would have been sociably unacceptable for the master's son to consort with a scullion, let alone become his swain.

Dick became friendly with Harry the stable boy. Harry's quarters were in the loft of the stables and at night he had the freedom of them and Dick would spend his little free time with him there with just the snorting and the impatient stamping of the horses' hooves to disturb them. Whether Harry was gay before he met Dick, we know not, but afterwards there was no doubt. They became a great comfort to one another in the long dark nights of winter.

The winter passed and the longer days of spring arrived. They were harder for Dick as his work would begin at dawn, whatever its time. Over the seasons Tom had cleared the rats and mice not only from the Fitzwarren house, but also from the surrounding area. Dick had had many offers to buy Tom, but there was never any question of that. A spin-off was the reduction in fleas from the area. Dick was happy and convinced that he had made the right decision in life.

However, evil's fight to dominate over good never ceases and through the dark months King Rat's defeat on home territory in the city of London had wounded his pride and he was scheming to strike back in revenge.

As Lord Mayor of London Alderman Fitzwarren was hosting a large banquet which King Edward III himself was pleased to attend and which would go on into the small hours of the morning. The whole household was on duty, Dick in the kitchens and scullery keeping up with the dirty dishes, Harry in the stables looking after the guests' horses. Only Tom was sleeping by the pantry for he knew his mere presence was sufficient to keep any benighted rodent away.

While Harry was dozing in the hayloft, there came a foul stench which rendered the smell of the horses to that of roses of Attar in comparison. He opened his eyes to see a huge rat standing before him. "Shoo, shoo, foul creature before I fetch the cat to deal with you."

"Ha, ha, ha." King Rat gave out a hollow laugh. "That mangy feline holds no power over me. I am King Rat and have dominion over all the rats and mice in the kingdom. And that is why I'm here. I want that witch's creature out of London back to the forsaken part of the realm whence it came. And I have chosen you to help."

"You won't get me to help you. Dick is my best friend and I will not harm him or his cat."

"There is of course an alternative."

"Oh?"

"I send my flea-ridden subjects to give your family the plague and you will watch them suffer and eventually die."

Harry was torn apart. He had little option. "Okay," he said hesitantly. "What do I have to do?"

"You will steal a valuable piece of jewellery from the master of the house, perhaps that diamond studied leather collar such as those so popular among young well to do gents of a certain nature in the City. What you do with it is up to you. You could make yourself a small fortune by selling it, or hide it in that wretched boy's quarters. You wait until the theft is discovered and then go to your master and say you saw the Pauntley boy steal it. Quite simple and naturally you will perform this deed under King Rat's regal protection. You have one week. The boy or your family and do it, for you will not see me again." The outsized rat dropped onto all fours and disappeared into the hay.

The poor stable boy was in mental disarray. He was not a bad lad, but he had been placed in an impossible situation. Family came first. The morrow was out of the question, or was it? The family would rise late, very late after the banquet. King Rat's spell began to work. Harry no longer had any pangs of conscience. The nefarious deed would be committed the following day.

The morrow dawned. Harry had to prepare the horses for Alderman Fitzwarren and his son Leofric to ride out in the afternoon. While they were away, that would be his opportunity. As father and son mounted, Harry checked that he was not wearing the said diamond studied collar. He knew Dick was busy in the kitchens below stairs. He went into the house. Heart beating, he made his way upstairs to the Fitzwarrens' private quarters. He knew he could give no reasonable explanation for his presence there, should he be caught. He was lucky. The Fitzwarrens had given their personal staff time off to make up for extra hours demanded of them by the banquet, but there was one factor he had not included in his calculations. He reached the door of the master's bedroom which he found ajar. He knocked. As expected, no reply. He went in. The jewellery box was on the dressing table and it wasn't locked. He lifted the lid and there was the diamond collar. He pocketed it, omitting to close the lid, almost dropping it when he heard a loud hiss and there was Tom on the bed watching every move. He arched his back, his tail in the air and ears back, his hackles rose and he spat at the intruder. Harry fled, closing the door and shutting Tom in.

While the adrenalin was flowing, Harry climbed the stairs to the servants' quarters, gained Dick's room in the garret and hid the collar under his pillow. While he was descending the stairs, one of the maids came out of her room and cried "'Ere, wo' are you doin' 'ere, 'Arry Stable Boy?"

"Just looking for Dick."

"You know 'e's workin' dan below. Get out of 'ere before I report ya to Mr Buttons." Harry ran down the stairs and out to the stables as fast as his legs would carry him.

He lay on the hay in stable loft, breathing heavily and waiting for his heart to calm down.


It was early evening soon after the Fitzwarrens' return that the alarm was raised. Both Alderman and Master Fitzwarren were extremely upset, not at the loss of the collar, a mere bauble, but that such a thing could happen in their trusted household. From the start things didn't look good for Dick because Leofric had found Tom shut in and asleep on the bed when he went to his room.

Alderman Fitzwarren summoned his butler, Buttons, who in turn summoned all the staff. Unfortunately no one thought of going to the below stairs kitchen where Mrs Miggins and Dick were still slaving away after the banquet and she could have testified that he had not left her side all day. The butler demanded if any of the household had seen or heard anything. Hesitantly Harry spoke up and said that he had seen Dick go into Master Fitzwarren's room and come out again and go up to his own room. In an irritated voice the butler exclaimed "Why is the boy not here? I distinctly said all the staff."

"'E's gorn," said a chambermaid called Beth.

"Harry, go and see if he's in his room. Jane, go and see if he's in the kitchen. I notice Mrs Miggins is not here, either." Minutes later Harry reappeared with the stolen collar hanging from his hand.

"This was under his pillow, Mr Buttons." King Rat could not have made it easier for Harry. Mrs Miggins and Dick came back with Jane. The butler dismissed all the staff except for the hapless Dick who had no idea what was going on. The butler took Dick to Alderman Fitzwarren's study.

The Alderman was not angry, but rather saddened and sorry. "Sit down, Dick. I would have thought better of you. I had every faith in you."

"I'm sorry, sir, but I don't know what you're talking about."

"Don't play the innocent. It doesn't help your case. Harry the stable lad saw you coming out of my son's room and he later found his diamond collar under your pillow. What have you got to say for yourself?"

"I didn't do anything with a collar. I have been working all the time with Mrs Miggins. She'll tell you. And why should Harry say such a thing? He's my b… boy… er… best friend."

"You realise that if I handed you over to the constables, you would be hanged at Newgate as a common thief?" Dick shuddered at the thought. Meanwhile Tom had slipped into the study. "Mr Buttons will take you straight to your room. You'll pack your belongings and he will escort you off the premises. Your unpaid wages will be given to the stable lad as a reward. Never darken my doorstep again."

"I'm sorry, sir, but I didn't do it."

"Go, boy, before I change my mind."

As Dick went down the steps with Tom at his side, from a hidden corner came a sniggering from a large rat hidden in the shadows. It was only heard by Fairy Rosebud who was hovering invisibly over the dejected pair.


Dick and Tom went out into the dark, moonless night, knowing not where they were heading or where they might seek shelter till sunrise.

Meanwhile in the Fitzwarren household all hell was in the next twenty-four hours about to break loose. Alderman Fitzwarren wanted to retire to bed and forget all about what had happened. He summoned his butler to bring him two glasses, a bottle of brandy and a jug of small beer. Leofric was sitting opposite him in his study. Leofric declined the brandy, but took a glass of beer. The Alderman was about to take his first sip of the brandy when the room lit up, sparkles fell from the ceiling and there appeared Fairy Rosebud from nowhere. "Alderman Fitzwarren?"

"I am. And you, sir?" Fairy Rosebud said his name.

"Alderman Fitzwarren, a Justice in his Majesty's Commission of the Peace?"

"I am." The Alderman felt almost ashamed to confirm it.

"You know you have this evening treated an innocent, faithful and loyal member of your household in a more arbitrary and unjust manner than you would a common criminal in your court?" The Alderman did know it.

"Fairy Rosebud, tell me what brings you here?" enquired Master Leofric.

"To right a wrong, to fight for good over evil. I am here to look out for Dick Whittington. My magic is not strong enough to overcome the evil of King Rat alone. I could not have prevented his spell."

"Tell us more, good Fairy," said Leofric.

Fairy Rosebud recounted what had happened and how Dick and his cat Tom were destined to rid the world of a plague of mice and rats and could only be thwarted by King Rat and his evil army of rodents. By this time the Alderman and Leofric were both horrified, not only at what was going on in the underworld beneath their very feet, but also at the Alderman's own rash injustice.

"What do we do now?" enquired Leofric, who could hold a more objective view of events.

"Nothing until daylight. I don't even know where my protégés are. Go to bed, both of you. You will need all your strength over the coming days until this affair is settled satisfactorily. I will return." They looked up and Fairy Rosebud was gone.

"Put this wretched collar in the safe for now, Daddy. Sell it. Give it to the poor. Whatever. I never want to see it again."

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