Sterling Times

"The Story of Little Kettlehead;
An Awful Warning to Bad Babas", or
"The Story of Little Degchie-head"
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The Story of Little Kettle-head (1904) - by Helen Bannerman

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Once upon a time there was a little girl in India, and her name was Mary.

And she was very fond of poking fires.

Her Mother used often to scold her and pull her away, but it was no use. She always poked fires when she got the chance. But for a long time she had not managed to poke any fire, till at last one day she noticed that her Mother was very busy taking the cook's account. So off she set to the cook-house as fast as she could run.
And began poking the fire joyfully. But the cooking-places were very very high up, and she could not reach them properly, so she pulled forward the big kettle. in which the cook boiled the hot water. And got on to it. Then she found she could poke the fire splendidly, and she was very much pleased. But the kettle was round at the bottom, and not very steady, and suddenly it tipped over, and she fell into the fire, and her head was burned right off.
There she lay, with no head, and oh! how frightened Domingo was when he found a Missy Baba with no head lying in his kitchen. He picked her, and set her on her feet. And seizing the kettle, popped it on for a head. And tied on her sun bonet to keep it firm.
Then he drew the best eyes, nose and mouth he could with the burnt stick she had been poking the fire with. And sent her back to her Mother. But when her Mother spoke to her, Kettle-head was so frightened to show her face that she kept turning her back to her.

And when they sat down to breakfast she would not take off her sun-bonnet, and

she bent her head down, so that her Father and Mother should not see her face, and she could say nothing but "Clip - clap - clapper - apper apper," as the lid rattled against the kettle.

And her Father and Mother said, "What a rude child!"

And she kept in a corner all day, pretending to play with her doll, and crying all the time. And the noise she made was just "Clip - clap - clapper - apper apper." And when her Father and Mother went out for a walk, she would not go with them, but sat in her corner, and tried to hide her face, and cried "Clip - clap - clapper - apper apper." At last night came, and she went to bed, but still she would not take off her sun-bonnet, for fear of losing the only head she had, and she lay down very sorrowfully and fell asleep. Now it just happened to be Christmas Eve, and Old Father Christmas came in, with his bag on his back, when everybody was asleep, and he was very much puzzled when he saw such a strange looking child.
"What can I give her?" said he; "she has no proper eyes to read a book with, and no proper nose to smell a scent bottle - no ears to hear a drum, and no mouth for sweets. And she couldn't kiss a doll with that face!" Anbd he turned out his bag to the very bottom to try to find something. And at the very bottom he found a poor doll that had been all cut to pieces by some wild toy soldiers with their sharp swords. Her body was all chopped into little bits, and if Father Christmas had not taken them out and given them to some wild boys, they would have chopped her head too! "The very thing!" said Father Christmas, and he put a little table by the bedside, and laid the doll's head on it. It was a beautiful doll's head, with long golden hair, and real eyelashes.
When Kettle-head woke, she was delighted to find Father Christmas had brought her a new head. She got up at once, holding it carefully in both hands. And carried it over to the looking-glass to see how it looked. Then, with great care, for fear of dropping it, she went to the drawing room, and fetched the gum bottle off her Mother's writing table.
  Then she gummed her neck carefully before the glass, and stuck the beautiful new head on. And sat very still and quiet till the gum was quite hard. Then she got up, and bent her head gently over to see if it was quite secure, and finding it was, she shook it, and wagged it, and at last
she jumped six times for joy, and ran off to show her wonderful new head to her Father and Mother, who said, "Why Mary what have you done to yourself? Your hair has grown a yard long in one night, and we never saw you look so smiling before." And they were very much pleased. And after that Mary would not go near a fire. Even when she held her Mother's hand she had to be dragged past, she was so frightened.

And that is how her head has never been burned off again.


See also Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman