Tom Whittington sat at home, gazing around at the room, contemplating his existence. His faithful cat, Mary Le Bone washed herself in the corner, content with the world, and oblivious to Tom’s plotting. A poor orphan boy, believed to be Harri’s son, he was sure there was more to life than this. He had heard tales of untold riches to be found in that there London, where the pitches were paved with gold, and where a bright boy could make his fortune. He was determined that if the chance came along, he would go to London, where he could dig up the pitches and take enough gold to be forever wealthy.
One day, a county trundler passed by. Tom called out to him, asking where he was going. “To London”, came the answer. “I’ve been doing this for years, following the same line and length each time”. Tom hopped aboard, with Mary Le Bone following him and as they passed the fields and greens of England, Tom was sure he could make a difference, looking with disdain at all around him and thinking about real estate opportunities. When they reached London, Tom was amazed – he could see wealth and affluence, but even as he went through St John’s Wood, nowhere could he see pitches lined with gold, although he could see concession stalls with astonishingly high prices. “Whatever am I to do?” he cried, seeing no way he could make his fortune, for he could not even see how he could make enough money to eat – especially at those prices.
After a few days, exhausted and hungry, he collapsed on the doorstep of a rich merchant’s house, at number 100 on the street. Despite his condition, the germ of an idea came into his head, unbidden, not obvious even to him, but a possibility, a chance…
“Be off with you, you ragamuffin” cried The Cook upon spying him, with a failed attempt at a sweep to move him off the step. At that moment the merchant, Liveon Skye, returned. Taking pity on poor Tom he ordered his buttler to carry him into his house, Mary sneaking in behind him. Given a job in the kitchens, he realised Skye was incredibly wealthy, even though hardly anyone saw what he did. The house was plagued by rats and mice, but Tom, in his small room had Mary for company. Mary Le Bone was a very special cat, she kept his room free of rodents, she was loved by all who saw her, and she protected Tom, nurtured him and provided him with a safe place to sleep. But instead of appreciating her, Tom felt she was in the way, and that all those who loved her weren’t important, and nor were their views. He thought only in terms of what the cat might be able to do for him in future: the cat was a barrier to riches, not a gift to be cherished.
Not long after, the merchant announced he would be embarking on a long voyage, and asked all the staff if they had anything that they would like to send on board for him to sell. “Please sir, will you take my cat?”. Everyone was horrified, for the cat had been nothing but a servant to Tom, but the merchant smiled, sure he could somehow make something out of Mary, even if no one else could see it, even if it meant sacrificing all they held dear.
With Mary Le Bone gone, Tom’s life was plagued by the rats and mice, plus endless football in the street, but he didn’t feel sad, he blamed the cat for abandoning him for failing to live up to what was needed in the modern world. Tom wasn’t a thoughtful or grateful man. Clearly Mary had done nothing for him, and he had no use for her in future. Tom decided to run away, for even the Cook had turned against him, and was now demanding to be called “sir”.
As he left the house, he heard the church bells ring, and they seemed to be speaking to him. “Turn again, Tom Whittington, turn again and again with more ideas, no matter how daft they sound. Lords Mayor of London is your destiny and not even a leg before can stop you”.
“Goodness me”, Tom thought – if I am to be Lord’s Mayor then surely I can put up with a few rats, even if Mary has abandoned me”. Back he went inside, determined to show the Cook that there was more to be done than just the traditional way of things.
Across the other side of the world, in India where the pitches truly were paved with gold, the merchant had arrived. He sent gifts of food to King Kohli, but as soon as the food was presented, a plague of rats descended and gobbled it all up. Seeing an opportunity, Skye told the king that he had a very special cat, a very traditional cat, who could help. Sure enough, Mary cleansed the pavilion of rats, as she always had. The king cried out with gratitude, asking the merchant what would he desire for such a gift. The merchant thought about it, deciding that a Hundred balls of gold would be the price, certain he could make use of that back home.
Upon his return, greeted by thousands of mums and kids who had appeared from nowhere, Tom was overjoyed to see the sale of his cat had produced such riches. He bought a fine new house, never once thinking of the cat who had helped him or what became of her, but instead buying a golden goose with some of the proceeds. Killed it, naturally. And Tom lived happily ever after, even if everyone else lamented the loss of Mary. But as Tom said to himself, really, who cares about the cat?
The End. Because it probably is.
Merry Christmas from Chris, Peter, Sean and Danny at Being Outside Cricket, and my thanks to the World Stories website for providing unwitting help with the story. You can read their real version here
Because I’m not Ed Smith.