MENGLI AND THE CHICKEN


   A stray dog had snatched up a chicken. Squawking frantically, the brood hen had gone rushing at the dog, and Mengli had run out of the house to help the hen. The stray dog dropped the chicken and took to its heels.
   The chicken, one wing drooping, floundered helplessly in the dust.
   Mengli burst into bitter tears: how would she save the poor chicken?
   "Tears won't help it," a thin voice said. "It needs medicine and good care."
   The girl looked around, but there was no one in sight.
   "It's me talking to you. Be careful you don't step on me!"
   Mengli looked down at her feet and saw a tiny little man in an odd cap.
   "Are you Shyrdak?"
   "That I am.
   "Have you come to help me?
   "Let's get to work, Mengli! Go find an old hat or a scrap of material from an old blanket and make a nest for the chicken!"
   "Will the hat on the scarecrow over there do?"
   "That's just the thing, but first you've got to give the chicken something to drink. And you must feed it some bran and finely chopped egg."
   Mengli gave the chicken some water and set about preparing it a nest and something to eat. Meanwhile, Shyrdak had brought all the necessary medicine: reeds, mumiyo, and cod-liver oil. The chicken's broken leg they bound to a reed, and the mumiyo-the miraculous healina resin from the mountains-they mixed with some water and administered it to the patient. Then they rubbed the cod-liver oil on its wounded wing.
   Shyrdak appeared in Mengli's yard each morning for three days, and on the fourth he said:
   "Now you know yourself what to do in such an emergency. The chicken will soon be completely healed. Goodbye, Mengli."
   "Thank you, Shyrdak! Please accept this as a memento from me."
   And she gave the little man a tiny sash that she had woven herself of silk threads.
   Shyrdak belted the sash around his waist and looked at his reflection in the glass of water. He was very pleased with what he saw. Then the turtledove alighted in the yard and Shyrdak hopped on its back and flew off.
   For a long time afterwards Mengli stared intently at every turtledove that flew by, hoping to catch a glimpse of the tiny man.
   And the chicken did indeed get well. It grew into a hen with feathers of many colors.
   Mengli also grew and began to attend school. Each morning the hen would escort her from the porch to the front gate, and each afternoon it would greet her at the gate and accompany her to the house.