A MAN OF HIS WORD


   As soon as Shyrdak had gone, Durdyli went rushing out of the house. Just think-he had become friends with a magical little man! It was a true miracle! But if he told the other boys about  Shyrdak they'd never believe him. Durdyli climbed on his bicycle and pedalled over to the stables where his father worked. Durdyli and his father were very close friends.
   "Papa!" Durdyli cried as he approached the stables. "Papa, I found myself a new friend! He's going to live with us."
   "And who is this new friend of yours?" his father asked, acting not the least bit surprised.
   "Papa, you won't believe it! He's a tiny little man! How can I explain? Remember the book we have at home with the missing ending? Well, the boy in the book had a friend named Karlson who lived up on the roof and would fly down on a propeller to visit him."
   "You mean you have a Karlson friend of your own?" his father asked.
   "Not Karlson, but Shyrdak. He's so tiny that he fits on your palm. Come on, I'll show him to you. He made me promise not to breathe a word to anyone about our friendship, but I haven't told anyone except you... Let's go! Hurry!"
   "All right," his father agreed. "We'll go."
   His father placed Durdyli's bicycle in the side-car of the mo- torcycle and off they headed for home.
   "Shyrdak!" Durdyli cried, running into his room. "Where are you?"
   But the little man was not in the room.
   "Maybe he hasn't come back yet! He went to find a book."
   "Durdyli, you have a great imagination," his father said with a frown, "only why must you distract other people from their work? I believed you today, but the next time I don't care if it's an elephant you've brought home-I won't come and look."
   "But Papa, he was here!" Durdyli exclaimed. Suddenly he spied a book on the table: "Papa, look!"
   It was a book about the boy and Karlson-brand new, with an ending.
   "He came back!" Durdyli cried, clapping his hands together.
"He kept his word!"
   His father picked up the book and turned it over in his hands.
   "A miracle-no less! What's your friend's name?"
   "Shyrdak!"
   Suddenly Durdyli's head sank, and great tears began coursing down his cheeks.
   "What's happened?" his father asked in surprise.
   "Shyrdak kept his word, but I didn't keep mine. I let out our secret. Now he won't ever be back again."
   "What's done is done," Father said, hugging Durdyli. "Once you give your word, you must keep it! A man's word must be strong as iron."
   Durdyli hugged the book to his chest and nodded silently, for he knew that the tears would come flooding out the instant he opened his mouth.