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Richard Whittington, The Scullery Boy Who Became Lord Mayor
by [?]

A poor boy, meanly clad, and carrying in his hand a small bundle, trudged sadly along the road which led over the moor of Finsbury to Highgate. The first streak of dawn was scarcely visible in the eastern sky, and as he walked, the boy shivered in the chill morning air. More than once he dashed from his eyes the rising tears, and clutched his little wallet and quickened his pace, as if determined to hold to some desperate resolve, despite of all drawings to the contrary. As the road rose gradually towards Highgate, the sun broke out from behind the clouds on his right, and lit up fields and trees and hills with a brightness and richness which contrasted strangely with the gloom on the boy’s face, and the poverty of his appearance. The birds in the hedges began to sing, and the cattle to low and tinkle their bells; the whistle of the herdsmen came up from the valley, and all nature seemed to wake with a cry of gladness to greet the new day.

Even poor Dick Whittington could not wholly resist the cheering influence of that bright summer morning. It was impossible to believe that everything was miserable in the midst of so much gladness, and Dick’s face brightened and his step became brisker almost without his knowing it, as he trudged higher and higher up that steep road. His thoughts, too, took a less desponding turn.

“After all,” said he to himself, “perhaps I am foolish to be running away from my master’s house. I had better be the scullery boy of good Master Fitzwarren, although his cook does ill-treat me and lead me a dog’s life, than the vagabond idle boy which I am now. And yet I cannot endure the thought of returning to that cruel woman. Would that I knew what to do!”

Thus he thought and questioned with himself, when he came to a stone set by the wayside; and here he sat to rest, and ruminate further upon his evil fortune.

“If some voice would but say `Return,’ I would return,” said he, “even though she scold and beat me, for I know not what to do, without a friend in the world. Was ever such a wretched boy as I?”

And he buried his face in his hands and gave himself over to his misery. Suddenly in the quiet morning air there came to his ears a wonderful sound, up from the valley, where, in the sun, shone the towers and steeples of London town.

It was the sound of distant bells, and as the boy listened, it came clearer and clearer, and seemed to fill the air with the very voice for which he had but a minute since been longing. But what a strange voice and what a strange story the bells told!–

Turn again, Whittington, Thrice Lord Mayor of London!

Over and over again they said the same words. Over and over again Dick persuaded himself he was dreaming, yet felt sure he was awake. “Turn again!” that was plain enough, and he could believe it, even though Bow Bells said it. But–“Thrice Lord Mayor of London!” what could that mean? That was never meant for the poor ill-used scullery boy of Master Fitzwarren, the mercer in the Minories! And yet what could be more distinct than the voice of those bells?

He sprang from his seat, turned his face in the direction of that wonderful sound, and ran. And that morning, when the family of Master Fitzwarren assembled for their early meal, and the scolding cook took possession of the kitchen, Dick Whittington was in his place, scouring the pots and pans in the scullery, singing to himself a tune no one had ever heard before.