THE PUNISHED THIEF

    Arslan sat dangling his feet in an irrigation ditch and moulding figures Out of clay. A huge mulberry tree provided shade from the sun. Bubenchik was browsing nearby. Propping his forelegs against the tree trunk, he nibbled on the leaves of the lower branches.
   Suddenly the sparrows perched in the tree set up a furious chirping, and the chickens scuttling about among the licorice bushes began to cluck and squawk.
   Arslan spun his head around in amazement and saw a men- acing-looking, medium-sized bird perch on a fat tree branch. Its beak was shaped like a hook.
    Then there was total silence. The sparrows froze and the chickens huddled together beneath the licorice bushes.
    "Scram!" Arslan shouted, throwing one of the clay figures at the uninvited guest.
   The bird gave a flap of its wings and flew away.
   Everything instantly came to life, as the sparrows resumed their chittering and the chickens began to scurry about.
   Arslan ran to tell his grandfather about what had happened.
   "You'll never guess what I saw! Such a frightening bird! And its beak! The chickens all hid and the sparroWs didn't let out a peep."
   "It sounds as though you were visited by a hawk," Rakhim-aga decided. "The smaller birds saved their lives by freezing. They say that an eagle can spy a crawling ant from up in the sky, but that it can't make out a motionless camel. A hawk probably can't make out a still object either, but if one of those chickens had tried to run away, it would have pounced on it instantly."
   Rakhim-aga picked up the binoculars which he always kept handy and looked up at the sky.
   "Just as I thought! Come here!" Grandfather called to Arslan, handing him the binoculars. "Look over at the white willow and then just a little above. Is that the bird?"
   "I think so."
   "I don't know what its scientific name is, but the old folk around here call it the 'horse of the prophet'."
   "Grandfather, look now!" Arslan cried, returning the binoculars to his grandfather. "The 'horse of the prophet' is being attacked!"
   "Those are blue crows. It probably stole one of their fledglings. Now they'll show that thief a thing or two!" Arslan turned the focusing ring on the binoculars, adjusting them to his eyes.
   "They're beating him with their wings. Grandpa, he dropped something."
   "He let the fledgling go. He had no choice - a crow's wings are very powerful. Once as a young lad I climbed up to get at a crow's nest, and they gave me a proper thrashing. That's why they're known among the common folk as 'the prophet's whip'."
   "That's interesting!" Arslan said. "Grandpa, when are we going to go and observe the animals through the binoculars? You keep telling me we'll go when I get a little bigger. And I'm adready grown up!"
   Rakhim-aga looked at Arslan and nodded in agreement:
   "You're right. You've really grown. You help your grandmother by bringing firewood for the oven. We'll go tomorrow if you like."
   "To the melon field?" Arslan asked, his eyes shining.
    "Yes. It's time to take a look at the flock. I'll make preparations for the outing, and you go tell Grandmother to bake us some fresh chureks.
   "Can I take Bubenchik along?"
   "Of course!" Rakhim-aga replied.