Sure enough, so it did, looking as hard and cold and innocent as you please. There was not a hair of a badger near it. It was the novices that looked foolish.
“A likely story indeed,” says the priest. “I have heard of the pestle that took wings to itself and flew away, parting company with the mortar. That is easily to be understood by any man. But a kettle that turned into a badger no, no! To your books, my sons, and pray to be preserved from the perils of illusion.”
That very night the holy man filled the kettle with water from the spring and set it on the hibachi to boil for his cup of tea. When the water began to boil—
“Ai! Ai!” the kettle cried; “Ai! Ai! The heat of the Great Hell!” And it lost no time at all, but hopped off the fire as quick as you please.
“Sorcery!” cried the priest. “Black magic! A devil! A devil! A devil! Mercy on me! Help! Help! Help!” He was frightened out of his wits, the dear good man. All the novices came running to see what was the matter.
“The tea-kettle is bewitched,” he gasped; “it was a badger, assuredly it was a badger… it both speaks and leaps about the room.”
“Nay, master,” said a novice, “see where it rests upon its box, good quiet thing.”
And sure enough, so it did.
“Most reverend sir,” said the novice, “let us all pray to be preserved from the perils of illusion.”
The priest sold the tea-kettle to a tinker and got for it twenty copper coins.
“It’s a mighty fine bit of bronze,” says the priest. “Mind, I’m giving it away to you, I’m sure I cannot tell what for.” Ah, he was the one for a bargain! The tinker was a happy man and carried home the kettle. He turned it this way and that, and upside down, and looked into it.
“A pretty piece,” says the tinker; “a very good bargain.” And when he went to bed that night he put the kettle by him, to see it first thing in the morning.
He awoke at midnight and fell to looking at the kettle by the bright light of the moon.
Presently it moved, though there was no hand near it.
“Strange,” said the tinker; but he was a man who took things as they came.
A hairy head, with two bright eyes, looked out of the kettle’s spout. The lid jumped up and down. Four brown and hairy paws appeared, and a fine bushy tail. It came quite close to the tinker and laid a paw upon him.
“Well?” says the tinker.
“I am not wicked,” says the tea-kettle.
“No,” says the tinker.
“But I like to be well treated. I am a badger tea-kettle.”
“So it seems,” says the tinker.
“At the temple they called me names, and beat me and set me on the fire. I couldn’t stand it, you know.”
“I like your spirit,” says the tinker.
“I think I shall settle down with you.”
“Shall I keep you in a lacquer box?” says the tinker.
“Not a bit of it, keep me with you; let us have a talk now and again. I am very fond of a pipe. I like rice to eat, and beans and sweet things.”
“A cup of sake sometimes?” says the tinker.
“Well, yes, now you mention it.”
“I’m willing,” says the tinker.
“Thank you kindly,” says the tea-kettle; “and, as a beginning, would you object to my sharing your bed? The night has turned a little chilly.”
“Not the least in the world,” says the tinker.
From Green Willow and Other Japanese Fairy Tales by Grace James.London: Macmillan and Co., 1910.