The next instalment of HORRID HEROES AND CRAZY CROOKS by David Clement-Davies is the true tale of Dick Whittington. If you know the wonderful version by Roald Dahl, all David can say is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!
DIRTY DICK WHITTINGTON
I think perhaps we ought to skip
The early years of Dirty Dick
Who was (in truth) extremely sad
A crummy little orphaned lad,
The servants treated like a louse
In Hugh Fitzwarren’s London house.
Where, in the kitchens, for his supper
Dick worked and slaved as Washer-Upper
And in the evenings, on the floor,
Slept on a bed of filthy straw
His only friend among the tat
Tiddles, a scrawny Cheshire cat…
So there they’d sit, consuming rum
And toasting better days to come.
Until, one evening, having tea,
Sir Hugh turned to his family
And cried “My dears, it’s time, you know
I let the servants have a go.
I’ll get them to invest their tips
In one of my brand new Merchant ships.”
Fair Griselda (Fitz’s daughter)
Scowled and moaned “You never oughta
Oh blast, oh hell, it isn’t fair”
Then thrust her nostrils in the air.
“My duck,” soothed Hugh “don’t think pa’s sappy
We have to keep the workers happy.
Besides, it really isn’t funny,
But just right now I need the money!”
The household quickly took the hook
The cook whipped out her savings book,
The coachman cried “I’ll try the prank”
The butler smashed his piggy bank.
The only one left out that day
Was Dick, of course, who couldn’t pay.
But then the ruthless little snot
Came up with this disgusting plot.
“I’ll not be exiled from their fiddles
“I know,” he grinned “I’ll give ’em Tiddles.”
So seizing kitty by the scrag
Dick stuffed him in a leather bag
Then sent his only friend to sea
To earn for Dick a monstrous fee.
Which proves that, if you hadn’t guessed,
Dick was a crook, just like the rest.
So now our story changes tack
For no news of the ship came back
Dick waited there, a year and more
For all those riches, held in store,
But got no message from the log
And no news of his travelling mog.
At last the crook began to ditch
This plan to make him Super Rich
And then the dreadful little thief
Purloined Hugh’s spotted handkerchief
And glancing round him, sly and quick
Dick tied it to Hugh’s walking stick.
With all his worldly goods wrapped up:
His toothbrush in a paper cup,
And from the larder, for his tea,
Dick pinched a slab of mouldy Brie.
So Dick set off, at ten to two.
To make his loot, in pastures new.
In several hours, slowing down,
Dick reached the edge of London town
And here it was (as we all know)
That Dicky rested, outside Bow,
Where, after lunch, the lazy chap
Decided that he’d take a nap.
But just as Dick had settled in
The old Church bells began to ring:
“DING, DONG. DING, DONG. TURN AGAIN DICK.”
Now Richard, who was really thick
Was sure he couldn’t, BLOODY HELL,
Have just been talked to by a Bell!
“OR-AN-GES AND LE-MONS
SAY THE BELLS OF ST CLEM-MENS”
Well, this bit made the whole thing seem
Just like some awful, cheesy dream.
“WILL I GROW RICH?
SAY THE BELLS OF SHOREDITCH”
This clanging made Dick’s fingers itch.
Then gave the dozing snitch a stitch.
“WE WERE JO-KING. DING, DANG, DONG.
CAN’T YOU WAKE UP. WHITT-ING-TON?!”
At this Dick woke up, with a start,
A mighty thundering in his heart
But rubbed his fingers in his ears
“NO, NOT IN THERE, WE’RE OVER HERE”
The bells continued with a clang
“WE’VE NOT GOT ALL DAY LONG,” they sang,
“WE FEEL IT’S ONLY FAIR TO SAY
THAT, DICK, YOU’LL BE LORD MAYOR ONE DAY.
AND IF YOU LEARN THE LONDON PRICE
YOU’LL EVEN GET THE POSTING THRICE!”
As Dick heard what the bells just said
His eyes bulged from his greedy head
Forgetting all about his pack,
To London Town Dick hurried back
Where he discovered, with a grin,
His long lost ship had just come in.
For when (a year before) the liner
Had anchored off the coast of China
Tiddles, that hungriest of cats,
Had gobbled up a plague of rats
And charmed the Nation’s Emperor
(Who’d never seen a cat before)
Then, since his palace was infested
The chinaman had swift invested
So on the spot, right there and then,
Bought Tiddles for a million Yen.
Which was a quite ginormous fee,
In such a dodgy currency!
Yet Dirty Dick could not have cared
A jot how little Tiddles fared.
Instead he hoovered up the dough
And bought a suit from Saville Row
Then, as the richest in the land,
Dick asked Griselda for her hand
Who, though she was absurdly snooty,
Was still delighted by his booty.
So in a carriage, off they go,
To marry in that church in Bow
And now the pair await with glee
The bells enchanting prophecy.
Which proves that if you want to win
Like Richard you must not give in
And also shows, I’m sad to say,
That ruthlessness will often pay.
PART TWO – VERY DIRTY DICK
The last time that we heard of Dick
That horrid boy had turned a trick
And with Griselda, sweet and fair,
Was waiting to become Lord Mayor.
But if, this far, you’ve got the gist
Of Dicky’s story…here’s the twist.
Oh they got married, just near Bow,
Griselda wasn’t happy though
For everyone could plainly see
That Dirty Dick was dastardly.
Since, filthy boy, he held that path
That meant he’d never had a bath
Despised good soap to wash his face,
Yet lorded it around the place,
As poor Grizelda found their lair
Were soon as filthy as her hair.
Almost a tale too foul to tell,
Since no one could abide Dick’s smell,
But also shows why we all bitch –
‘There’s nothing worse than filthy rich!’
Yet as they stewed in noble rot
Now Dick refined his master plot
And bribed the townsmen, one and all,
To make him Mayor of City Hall,
Just as those talking bells had fated,
But as Dick dressed, to be instated
And Grizzy sobbed there, on the floor
There came a knocking at their door.
A furry banging – RAT, TAT, TAT,
And straight in walked a GIANT CAT.
Scrawny Tiddles who, since landing,
On all those rats, had been expanding
And, leaving China, made his fill
In business – working RENT-A-KILL.
The mog was sporting sparkling gnoshers,
Eight inch claws and huge goloshes.
And with a Pot-pourri of Rose,
A giant clothes peg on his nose.
“Meeeeooow” purred Puss, “So Dick, you swine,
You’d sell your Tiddles down the line?”
“Oh no,” cried Dick, “by boiled Salami,
I think I must be going balmy,
It’s bad enough a chatty bell,
But not a talking cat as well!”
Tiddles twitched and licked his paws,
Then opened out those murderous claws
And, with strange glintings in his eye,
He let his vicious razors fly
Across the sofa, round the beds,
Where Dick was swiftly torn to shreds
And smart Grizelda (not a slouch)
Stuffed Dicky’s entrails in the couch,
Then, kissing Tiddles on the nose,
She swooned “Oh Pussy, I propose
That now that Dirty Dicky’s ditched,
You steal his job and we get hitched.”
Which happened, as was only fair,
When Tiddles did become Lord Mayor
And with Grizelda in cahoots
Became that famous PUSS-IN-BOOTS!
And so it was that Griz, the louse,
Installed that couch in Mansion House
Where, on Dick’s stuffing, there they sat
That Lady Mayor and Cheshire Cat,
With lucious tongue to priss and preen,
Since cats are quite superbly clean!
But now I bet you’re wondering why
Those rotten bells had told a lie.
It’s not as strange as you suppose
Since this is how the story goes:
They hadn’t meant LORD MAYOR, as read,
But tried to say HORSE HAIR instead,
(You know, the kind of stuff you get
To fill a couch, or coverlet.)
And since, as all smart children know,
Those chatty bells were made in Bow,
It meant they only ever sang,
Or talked, in COCKNEY – RHYMING SLANG!
Horrid Heroes and Crazy Crooks is under copyright to Phoenix Ark Press, 2014, All Rights Strictly Reserved. The picture is a woodcut from The Famous and Remarkable History of Sir Richard Whittington, Three Times Lord-Mayor of London (1770). If you would like to read about Al Capone, Sweeney Todd and Sherlock Holmes, look at the blogs below.