THE TURTLE

   Arslan enjoyed taking his kid out to browse. In the settlement of licorice root gatherers there were many young shepherds. The children loved their young goats, lambs and calves, and led them out to the greenest glades among the thickets.
   On this day they were grazing their flocks on the banks of the Amu Darya.
   Arslan's pet playfully butted Sapar's young kid and went racing off along the bank. The banks of the river were deceptive, for the Amu Darya continually washed away at them. As he ran to drive the kid away from the edge of the bank, Arslan tripped on a rock and fell.
   He looked at the rock and backed away in surprise: it had a head and legs.
   "Don't be afraid!" Sapar shouted. "It's only a turtle! It's harmless. Take it home and put it in your yard."
   "Look after my kid for a while, Sapar!" Arslan said. "I want to show the turtle to my grandfather."
   Rakhim-aga was sitting in the shade of a grape arbor drinking green tea.
   "I see you've brought a trophy!"
   "Grandfather, it's a turtle!"
   "I see that it's a turtle."
   "Is it old?"
   "No, my lad. Your turtle is a youngster. Turtles live to be a hundred. Some time I'll show you a turtle egg."
   "You mean a turtle is like a chicken?" Arslan asked in surprise.
   "Not at all, but they lay eggs too."
   "What are they like?"
   "There are several kinds. Some are like hen's eggs, only a bit smaller, so that they fit in your palm. Others are like silkworm cocoons."
   "Oh, Grandfather!" Arslan cried. "I want a baby turtle!"
   "I'm afraid I can't help you there, my lad," Rakhim-aga said. "As soon as they hatch, baby turtles bury themselves in the sand until the following spring. They hatch out in September and wait out the autumn and winter beneath the sand, until the warm spring days arrive.
   "I'm going to go and find a baby turtle," Arslan said angrily, stamping his foot.
   Grandfather shook his head.
   "Finding a turtle's egg is no easy matter, young lad. The female turtle buries them in the sand and encloses them in a magical fence. Neither man nor beast can penetrate through that fence. There is a way, however, but you need a special splinter like the one the turtle carries under its tongue."
   "But how will you find an egg?" Arslan asked. "Let me see your tongue! Do you have a splinter too?"
   Rakhim-aga burst into laughter: "No, my camel-colt, I don't have a magic splinter! But then I'm an elder. And people look up to us with reverence and trust."
   "But why?"
   "That's the way it's been for ages, grandson. I don't know."
   "I know!" Arslan exclaimed, clapping his hands together. "People honor and respect the elders because they're wise!"
   "You're some fellow, Arslan!" Rakhim-aga said proudly. "You've got quite a head on your shoulders!"