The Legend of Dick Whittington and his cat goes something like this:

Dick was a poor farm boy who had been raised by a family of farmers with no blood ties to him for as long as he could remember. He knew nothing about his father and mother, and no one else seemed to either. All he knew was farming. But as he grew to be a young man, he got tired of such an unfulfilling life, and vowed to set off for London, where he had heard the streets were paved with gold.

He walked for days and days, spending nearly all of his meagre funds on food for the trip. When he finally got to the city, he was extremely disappointed to find just cobblestones on the street, like any other city. Cold, tired, and depressed, he curled up to sleep in an alley.

The next morning he went looking for work or food. Finally, just as he was about to give up, late in the afternoon, he found a merchant, a wealthy one, who would take him in and feed him in exchange for help in his business. The merchant's cook was put in charge of the boy's food and lodging. But she was cruel and harsh with him. She fed him, as ordered, but made him sleep in the loft. So with the last of his money, he bought a cat to kill the mice, both for companionship and to rid the dusty place of mice.

The cook was so harsh and unkind to him that after a few weeks he curled his cat under his arm and set off for home, away from the cruel woman. But as he neared the edge of town, he thought he heard the bells calling to him, saying

"Turn again, Whittington,
Thrice lord mayor of London."

With this charge and this hope he retraced his steps back to a harsh scolding from the cook.

One day some months later, the merchant called all of his servants together and said he was sending a ship away with many beautiful items to sell, and each of them could send something along to see how they fared. Dick owned nothing in the world but his cat, but at his master's request sadly sent her along.

The ship set off for the orient, and the captain, upon his arrival, was welcomed to the palace and seated to a feast with the emperor and his emperess. But no sooner was the food laid on the table than hoards of rats and mice swarmed out, devouring everyting in sight and biting all in reach. The emperess shrieked and stamped and the emperor hung his head. "Every meal it is like this. It seems there is nothing to be done about these creatures. I would offer treasures beyond belief to anyone who could rid us of them." The captain smiled and excused himself, promising to return very soon.

He collected Dick's cat from the ship and hurried back to the palace. He asked the emperor to have his cooks fix another meal, and lay it out. As soon as it was put out, again the rodents swarmed over the food, and it was then he released the cat. She had not hunted mice in many weeks, and was very eager to have at the little beasts. She caught and killed easily a score of them and sent the rest shrieking back to their dens. Her bloodlust satiated, she curld up in the empress' lap and fell asleep, purring. Both the emperor and his wife were amazed by the creature, he by her fierceness and the lady by her beauty, grace, and softness. He highly praised the little animal and sent chests of gold and jewels to the captain's ship.

The captain returned to London somewhat later, and when he told the story the merchant called Dick into his office, saying "all these chests of riches are yours, my boy". Dick was astonished and asked how this was possible. Upon becoming rich, he joined the merchant as a partner.

Over the years he fell in love with and married the merchant's daughter, and the two of them took over the business when her father died. Dick was very shrewd and had a good head for business, but he was always fair. He became so loved by the people that after a time he was made Lord Mayor, and he was so loved in this office he was given the title twice more.

And as for the cat, she was pampered and doted on, systematically killing every rat and mouse in the palace. She lived a good long life, all of it as the cherished favorite of her mistress. When she died, word was sent back to Dick, and he mourned her loss a second time, knowing he owed all of his fortune to her.