Dick and Pussy

by N Fourbois

Chapter 3

Tears were streaming down Dick's face as he and Tom moved out, he knew not whither. He found a doorstep and open porch sheltered from the cooling breeze that had sprung up. They huddled together for warmth and Fairy Rosebud wove a spell over them that would render them invisible until sunrise so that they would not be disturbed by the watchman and be moved on, or worse still be run in.

The sun rose in a clear sky. The wind was chill. Dick pulled himself together and stood up. He headed in a direction with the sun on his back with some vague idea of returning to Pauntley and resuming the country life. He was so filled with despondency and self-pity that at Charing Cross he didn't see a finger post indicating on one 'A I the North' and on another 'A IV the West', despite the fact that Tom was pawing at his legs and meowing at the top of his feline voice. He just plodded on his way.

By mid-morning only the temperature had improved. Dick was weary. He had spent two nights without proper sleep. He sat down on a milestone that said 'London V miles'. Tom jumped up onto his lap and starting pawing his lap before settling down. "Hey, stop it, Tom. You'll ladder my hose." Under the feeling of a warm pussy Dick chubbed up, but he had no desire, let alone opportunity, to do anything about it.


Meanwhile, back in the city the Fitzwarren household was in crisis, partly out of shame, partly out of fatigue from the past few days' events, as well as from the theft itself. Alderman Fitzwarren had decided that he and his son should retire to bed, sleep as long as nature allowed and deal with the affair of the collar after a hearty breakfast. There was no longer any urgency. Only the Alderman and Master Leofric were privy to the latest developments. Harry the stable boy would be going about his normal duties of mucking out, grooming and feeding the horses. For him it was a morning of mixed feelings. He was relieved to have spared his family a prolonged and certain death from the plague, followed by his own; his conscience tortured him for his having treated a friend so treacherously, but then he would never see him again. There would be a new scullion who might be up for some fun. And then there would be his reward of two pennies, the justly earnt wages owing to Dick.

Alderman Fitzwarren took his breakfast with Master Leofric in the drawing room. It was served by Mrs Miggins herself. "I 'ad to see you, sir, meself, wivout Mr Buttons' say so."

"It's all right, Mrs Miggins. We shall be engaging another scullion at the earliest opportunity."

"No, sir, it's something more important than that, begging your pardon." Now that she was in full spate, the Alderman couldn't stop her. "It's that terrible incident yesterday, the business with Master Fitzwarren's diamond collar. It couldn't 'ave been Dick. 'e was working wiv me the 'ole day, from dawn till we were summoned above stairs. We only stopped to eat. 'e never went nowhere. It couldn't 'ave been 'im what done it."

"Thank you, Mrs Miggins, for speaking up. Ask Mr Buttons to see me in my study as soon as the breakfast things have been cleared away."

"Certainly, sir."

The Alderman and Master Leofric moved across to the study. The Alderman sat behind his huge desk, Leofric in a chair in the nearest corner. There was a knock at the inner door. "Come in." The butler appeared. "Ah, Buttons, good morning. Thank you for coming so promptly. Would you close the outer and the inner doors and take a seat."

"Dashed awkward affair last night, sir. I would have trusted that boy with my life."

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about, Buttons." The butler could not see the fairy sparkles floating from behind him and throughout the study, but the Fitzwarrens could, and Fairy Rosebud sitting demurely in the far corner pouting.

"What I am about to tell you, Buttons, is to remain confidential and not communicated to the staff until I do so personally. Understood?"

"Yes, sir."

"Last night a grave injustice was committed in this house, for which I must take responsibility." Alderman Fitzwarren gave a full explanation of what had happened over the previous twenty-four hours.

"I see, sir. Would you like me to dismiss the stable lad?"

"Not for the moment, Buttons. I want to talk to him, hear what he has to say for himself and see whether he passes the attitude test. After that he is to be confined to the stables, he is not to talk to anyone, particularly the staff, until further notice and they are not to talk to him under penalty of instant dismissal. Would you accompany him here yourself and make sure he cleans up first. If I'd wanted my study to stink of horses, I would have had it built in the stable block."

"Yes, sir."

The butler set about his duties. He was about to close the inner door when the Alderman recalled him. "Buttons."

"Sir?"

"A little remiss, when I ask you to summon all the staff, to leave the two most important members in this case below stairs." The normally imperturbable Buttons blushed.

"I'm sorry, sir. I'll see that it doesn't happen again."

After he had closed the outer door behind him, Fairy Rosebud took the butler's seat.

"Tell me, Fairy Rosebud. What are we to do about Dick Whittington?"

"I am holding him at the moment. He is at present sitting on a milestone at the bottom of Highgate Hill, feeling very sorry for himself. He was aiming to return to the country, but I diverted him. He is too weary to go far."

"But to go back to my question, Rosebud, what are we going to do about him?"

"Let me work on that. I have some magic left and I have a plan. All I will say at the moment is that today is Saturday. You might think it is Sunday." Both Fitzwarrens looked bemused, but dared not question magic.

While they were waiting for Harry the stable lad, Master Leofric made small talk. "Tell me something, Fairy Rosebud. I thought all fairies were ladies."

"Oooh no," replied Fairy Rosebud in the campest of camp tones. "How do you think new fairies are made? By magic? Not that I am much use in that department, if you know what I mean, and he took up a ballet pose and pouted.

"We know what you mean," harrumphed the Alderman.

At that moment the outer door opened and there was a knock on the inner one.

"Come," shouted the Alderman. It opened and the butler and the stable boy appeared. Fairy Rosebud retired to his corner seat.

"Do you require me to stay, sir?" enquired the butler.

"No, Buttons. Perhaps you will be good enough remain outside and see that the outer door remains closed and that we are not disturbed." The butler looked vexed, but obeyed his master's instructions.


The lad was made to remain standing. "Now, Harry, do you know why I have called for you?"

"To receive my reward for finding Master Fitzwarren's diamond collar." Fairy Rosebud rolled his eyes, shook his head in despair and dropped it into the palms of his hands as if he wished he weren't there.

"No, Harry. For something far more serious and I think you know what it is."

"No, sir?"

"Let me explain it more simply and then you can have your say. You were found in possession of a stolen collar."

"Yeah, but I didn't 'arf inch the tom foolery. I found it… in Dick's room."

"Tom foolery?"

"Tom foolery – jewellery."

"We'll come back to how you knew it was there. Now you did know that Dick was working in the downstairs kitchen all day?"

"Yeah, but he could have slipped out for five minutes."

"Indeed, but he didn't. Mrs Miggins said he didn't leave her or the downstairs kitchen all day." Harry knew he was trapped, but held out a little longer. "And so you were not only by your own admission in possession of stolen goods, but you are perverting the course of justice. Do you know what would happen to you if you appeared in my court?"

"No, sir."

"You would be locked up in Newgate prison for perverting the course of justice, but not for long because for stealing the jewellery you would hanged as a common thief." At this point Harry broke down and dissolved into sobs and floods of tears.

"I couldn't help it, sir. It was King Rat." Fairy Rosebud nodded in the background. "He said he would send his flea infested rats to give my family the plague and I would have to watch them slowly die, if I didn't. He wanted to get Dick and his cat out of London." Invisible and inaudible to Harry, Fairy Rosebud confirmed all that he had said about King Rat and his realm of rodents.

"Sit there while I think," said the Alderman. "Okay. In the first instance you will go back to the stables and not leave them until I give you express permission. You will carry out your duties. You will not enter the house or eat with the staff. You will not even talk to the staff and they have been instructed not to speak to you. You will not receive the reward and you lose a week's wages. Understood?"

"Yes, sir. Sorry, sir."

"Leofric, would you asked Buttons to come in, please?"

The butler was brought up to date with what had happened and directed to take Harry to the stables and return. When they had gone, Fairy Rosebud said he had work to do and with sparkles and a tinkle of bells disappeared to call in a couple of favours he was owed.

The staff were duly summoned, told what had really happened and that they were not to contact Harry. Mrs Miggins was thanked for her quick actions in clearing up the case. Dick was completely exonerated and the staff were told that if he and Tom were seen abroad, they were to be brought immediately to Alderman Fitzwarren, and failing that, to Master Leofric. "I knew 'e never done it," exclaimed one of the chambermaids. "'e's a good lad, not like some."

"That's quite enough, Beth," warned the butler sternly. Ironically, Beth was the chambermaid who was first and loudest in condemning Dick, when the theft was first made public. The staff were dismissed.


Highgate Hill had been a step too far for a weary youth. Dick was sitting on the milestone, his only comfort being a warm pussy, but he was too tired even to talk to Tom. Tom was not asleep. He was on guard. Then as the sun warmed them, Dick drifted into a slumber. He was safe in the daylight. The interest he attracted from passers by was nothing more than curiosity. Country folk would have been more concerned, stopped, enquired if anything was wrong, whether they could be of help. But this was not the country; this was the big city. Eventually Dick fell from a light slumber into a deep sleep with the sole consolation that King Rat no longer held any interest in him. He was mustering his rodent troops to invade the city and re-occupy it. There were rich pickings for the vermin from the scraps left over from the rich people's tables to the merchant ships moored in the Port of London with their diverse cargoes. King Rat could now give his subjects what they wanted and in return they would willingly assist him in his evil intentions.

Dick woke from his sleep. His entrepreneurial strength and stamina were beginning to return. He sat absorbing the sun's healing rays. He tickled Tom behind the ears and under the chin. They were both feeling peckish. Tom disappeared and within five minutes returned with two mice in his mouth. One he laid at Dick's feet. The other he began to pull apart and devour. Dick had lost his appetite.

He sat there intently watching Tom expertly dissect his prey. He put his hand inside his tunic. Yes, he had two emergency silver pennies in his pocket and some coppers. At least he could eat and then he must shoulder his stick with its turquoise kerchief and look for trade. He wondered how he was going to retrieve his savings from the city bank. They were as good as lost for he dared not show his face there now that he had been branded a criminal. As he sat and thought, he could hear something in the distance. "Hark, Tom. What's that sound?" He didn't honestly expect his cat to answer the question. He was after all Dick Whittington, not Dick Head. As he was listening, the sound grew clearer, then louder. It was the ringing of church bells carried on the southeast breeze. He was amazed. He couldn't have slept a day and a night. But he must have done for the bells rang on Sundays, not on a Saturday. He looked in the direction the sound was coming from and could see across the valley of the River Thames to the city of London. But then it wasn't just the ringing, but the singing of church bells. There were words. He still couldn't make them out. Tom could hear them clearly, but that was of little help. He strained and as they were repeated again and again, he finally made them out. It was the bells of St Mary le Bow, interspersed with a chorus from St Clement Danes. You just could not live in London and not know your church bells' chimes. The street urchins even put rhymes to them.

Oranges and lemons,

Say the bells of St Clement's.

You owe me five farthings

Say the bells of St Martin's.

When will you pay me?

Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,

Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?

Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,

Says the great bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,

And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

Dick shuddered as he recalled the last line, realising how close he had been to having his neck stretched. That shudder had, however, somehow cleared his ears as if a great lump of wax had fallen out, and he couldn't believe what he was hearing. He listened to it once, he listened to it a second time, and when he heard it a third time, he believed it might be real.

Turn again, Whittington,

Once Lord Mayor of London!

Turn again, Whittington,

Twice Lord Mayor of London!

Turn again, Whittington,

Thrice Lord Mayor of London!

It wasn't the 'Lord Mayor of London' bit. That was just padding out the rhyme, but 'Turn again, Whittington', and three times at that. How many Whittingtons were there in the city of London for that to refer to? "What do you think, Tom?" The cat pawed enthusiastically at Tom's leg as if to say 'yes, go back.' "Oh, Tom! Now you have laddered my hose."

There was almost a spring in Dick's step as he and Tom descended from Highgate Hill on their way back to the city. The bells were still pealing their message. "Tom, I've no idea what we shall do when we get there. I'll probably be run in for daring to come back. We could do with some help. There's never a fairy around when you need one." At that moment the bells of St Clement's ceased their chime and all that broke the silence was the tolling of the great bell of Bow. "That's it, Tom. That's our answer. We head for St Mary le Bow."

They passed the statue of the Griffin symbolically guarding the western approach of the city. By now all the chimes had ceased. Just the tolling from St Mary's continued as if it were a beacon guiding our doughty pair to their pre-ordained destination. Entering Cheapside, Dick quickened his pace and ruefully glanced up at the Fitzwarren residence before averting his gaze and hurrying on. Consequently he did not see Master Leofric Fitzwarren standing at a window boywatching, but he had seen him. Leofric too was amazed at the chimes from the church bells on a Saturday, despite Rosebud's warning. Had he also heard their message? Perhaps he wouldn't have noticed Dick in the crowd, but how often do you see a lush young man and a cat, or even a young man and a cat, walking together through the City of London?

With Dick's determination they soon reached the great church of St Mary le Bow and when Dick lifted the latch of the main door, the tolling, as if by magic, ceased. The priest approached them as their eyes were accustoming themselves to the gloom. "Salvete, man and beast. You must be Dick Whittington with his famous cat Tom."

"You were expecting us, Father?"

"Don't you know, my son? You are the talk of the city. The Lord Mayor himself wants to see you and I am to give you shelter here."

"Until I am arrested."

"Not at all. No one wants to arrest you, and if they did, here you are in sanctuary. Even King Edward himself would not dare to break sanctuary and arrest you."

"They said that about St Thomas à Becket and look what happened to him."

"Come, come, my son. Rest assured that you are safe for you are under the protection of the Lord, of the Church and of Fairy Rosebud. Now, you must be in need of sustenance. Thank Rosebud that I have something for you in the vestry. Simple fare, but wholesome. Then I must hie to apprise Alderman Fitzwarren."


Dick did not know how long it was until he heard the latch on the church door. He remained in the vestry still not quite certain about the fate that awaited him. With the priest was Mr Buttons, the butler. Dick looked scared. "Don't look so frightened, Dick," he said. "We all know what you must have gone through and all of us at Fitzwarren House are upset about it, from Alderman Fitzwarren and Master Leofric down." Dick's face started to show some relief. "I'm here to take you to the Alderman himself." The priest nodded his approval and finally Dick and Tom were ready to depart.

"Before we go," said Dick "why were all the bells ringing?"

"You can thank your guardian fairy, Fairy Rosebud. He called on a few friends and wove some of his magic. It's not for nothing that he's known in the City for putting the camp in campanology."

"Campanology, Father?" Dick looked enquiringly at the priest.

"Bell ringing."

"Ooh, he's got an ology," cooed Dick, impressed.

"Valete, Dick and Tom. Fare ye well. We shall no doubt meet again," and he gave them his blessing.

"Thank you, Father." Outside the church Dick said "You know, Mr Buttons, a priest's blessing is different from a bishop's blessing." Mr Buttons didn't know. He had no idea what the boy was talking about.


On arriving at the Fitzwarrens' house, Mr Buttons took Dick and Tom straight to the Alderman's study. Master Fitzwarren was already there, chatting with his father. They heard Buttons' knock on the inner door. Before saying 'come in', the Alderman said in stage whisper "For goodness' sake, Leofric, do try and stop fiddling with yourself while he's in here. I simply cannot understand what makes you do that, boy."

"But then I wouldn't expect you to, Daddy," replied Leofric with a cheeky grin.

Buttons brought the apprehensive Dick in. Tom made his own entrance. "Thank you, Buttons," said Alderman Fitzwarren. "And close the outer door behind you, please."

"I was rather expecting to remain in here as this is a domestic staff matter…" protested the butler, "… sir." The impertinently added 'sir' irritated the Alderman because this eventual expression of deference was not an expression of deference.

"This is not a domestic staff matter, Buttons. The boy was dismissed from the staff. Remember?" Buttons withdrew, his face as black as thunder. The outer door was closed. Leofric walked across the room and closed the inner door.

"Richard… er… Dick," hesitated the Alderman, "take a seat." Dick sat on the seat that had been set out for him. Tom climbed up onto his lap which helped the situation when he noticed what Master Fitzwarren was doing outside his father's peripheral view. The Alderman was still speechless. Finally he said "Dick, I want to apologise for the great injustice you have suffered. You can thank your friends, particularly Fairy Rosebud and Mrs Miggins, who spoke up for you." The Alderman gave a full explanation, explaining Harry the stable boy's part in the theft, blackmailed by King Rat. "Have you come across King Rat?"

"I have indeed, sir. Within the first hour of setting out from home he tried to prevent me, or rather my puss Tom, from coming to London."

"We want to make this up to you and I am going to ask you something. Are you willing to come back and work for us?" While Dick thought about the question, Master Leofric gave him the most engaging smile. Dick's brain was considering taking up residence between his legs, but he controlled it.

"Would I be working with Harry, sir?"

"Not at all." answered the Alderman. "That would be inappropriate and anyway, his future is under discussion at present."

"Would I be working with Mrs Miggins?"

"That would be up to you, but we were thinking of different terms of employment." Dick raised his eyebrows. Tom pricked up his ears. "You can thank young Leofric here for this idea." Leofric beamed. "I understand you can form and read your letters and you know your numbers. So Fairy Rosebud reliably informs me."

"I can that, sir. The village priest taught me."

"We need some help in our business."

"What is your business?"

"In the latest business parlance it is called export-import. We deal in cloth. We send good English wool abroad, fleeces and woven cloth, and in return we bring back woven silk or ready made apparel in silk or cotton."

"And what would I do, sir?"

"First learn the trade and if you prove to be good, when Leofric takes over from me, you take over his responsibilities and become a partner." The idea of being in partnership with Master Leofric appealed to Dick. "And eventually be accepted into a livery company, the Mercers' Guild, and by then you really will have left the country and found your fortune in the City of London."

When Dick heard that he could achieve his ambition, he made up his mind. "You will earn a good wage," said the Alderman. "More than a scullion, and we must find you lodging more suitable to your station with us in the house." All agreed, Dick shook hands with the Alderman. "Pactum meum verba," he said. "My word is my bond, as we say in the City." When Dick shook hands with Leofric, he felt that Leofric's hand was tender and lingered. It was a gentle hand, a welcoming hand, a hand that sent pleasant shivers up Dick's spine. Another bond was being forged. Tom rubbed his head against Leofric's legs to register his approval. The mice that had recently returned to Fitzwarren House were already packing their belongings and preparing to leave.

"Leofric, open the two doors and we'll put Buttons out of his misery." Leofric stole quietly across the room and silently opened the inner door. When he tried to open the outer door, it bumped against something hard. Buttons leapt smartly out of the way and so Leofric never did discover what the obstruction was.

"Come in, Buttons."

"Buttons," said Alderman Fitzwarren, "I have come to the decision to take Dick back into my employment." Buttons gave an accommodating smile. "However, he will no longer be a member of the domestic staff, nor responsible to you." Buttons raised one eyebrow, indicating his disapproval without actually showing his disapproval. "I want you to arrange lodging for him in our part of the house and please inform the domestic staff that he will be known as Master Whittington." This really was too much for the butler. His face turned to stone as through pursed lips he replied

"Certainly, sir."

"With the exception, may I add, of Mrs Miggins." This last remark really was a test of Buttons' butler's skills. "I have yet to come to a decision concerning the stable lad. That will be all, Buttons."


"We may as well deal with that matter now," said Alderman Fitzwarren when the three were alone. "It only has to be dealt with once. What are your views, Dick, as the aggrieved party?"

"From what you have told me, sir, and from my own experiences of King Rat…" Tom hissed when he heard the name. "… you should keep him on. I'll make my peace with him and that will be the end of the matter."

"A very charitable view, Master Dick. I'll inform Buttons in due course, when he has dealt with other matters, and he can tell the boy. Apart from meals I don't want him in the house."

Dick and Tom settled into his new lodgings. On Sunday the household was expected to attend church as a body. On the way back Master Dick followed Harry into the stables. Tom refused to follow. "Harry, I've heard about what happened, and I just wanted to say I forgive you. I understand the pressures."

"Does that mean we can be friends again? You know, like we were, up in the hayloft?" Dick was silent for a few seconds, then sniffed.

"No." More silence. "I don't want us to be enemies and I'll shake your hand in forgiveness and forgiveness only." They looked at one another.

"Okay," whispered Harry. They shook hands. Dick put his left hand up between Harry's legs and squeezed his balls very hard till he screamed out. Dick turned round and without a word walked out of the stable block. He stopped and breathed in the fresh London air. All the church bells were ringing. He could tell which churches they were coming from, but this time there was no message.

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