Little Arthur once went out in his garden, and on sitting down at the foot of an acacia he heard a clover leaf saying:
“I am Antonio.”
And one of the points of the leaf changed into the head of a small boy.
“I am Juanita!” exclaimed the second point of the leaf. And a tiny girl appeared.
“And I Perico.”
And another head showed itself beside the others.
“Good gracious!” exclaimed little Arthur, “this could be set to music like the rats’ dance.” He approached the clover but now saw nothing: nor was he quite sure which was the marvellous leaf where he had seen those three children as small as they were beautiful.
“Well, I shan’t rest until I have seen into this,” said the boy.
So the following day, at the same time, he re-seated himself in the same place, and presently a sigh: the clover leaf began to tremble and immediately the little heads appeared in succession, saying, as on the previous day:
“I am Antonio.”
“I am Juanita.”
“And I Perico.”
“And I Arthur!” exclaimed the boy, showing himself suddenly, and seising the mysterious leaf, “Either you tell me who you are or I will pull you up by the roots.”
The stem trembled, and from another near by came forth a very sad voice saying: “Don’t kill them for heaven’s sake, they are quite innocent of doing any wrong: come back to-night at twelve o’clock and you will be amazed at what you see.”
Contented, the boy obeyed, and went away resolved to come back again that night. And so about half-past eleven Arthur went out into the garden, and hiding himself amongst a group of magnolias, waited until the stated hour struck. Scarcely had the church clock chimed the last stroke of midnight than a noise was heard in the air, and there appeared on the ground a horse as white as snow and provided with wings which it shook at the moment of touching the earth. From the wings there came millions of drops of water which fell in a fine rain on the plants in the garden. The effect was magical; instantly all the plants took on the most unexpected forms. The clover leaf was changed into a grand stand covered with a splendid canopy of velvet and gold, and on three gilded arm-chairs sat three children of dazzling beauty wearing rich clothing, in which elegance and sumptuousness struggled for supremacy.
The acacias were transformed into towers of shining silver full of soldiers, who presented arms to the children in token of homage. The group of magnolias was a stone castle, with a steel drawbridge hanging by chains of red silk interwoven with gold. A crowd of pages in bright uniforms, soldiers on horseback provided with lances and with glittering helmets adorned with airy plumes, walked about the garden in all directions. Life animated all those beings passing before the astonished eyes of little Arthur, who, hidden behind a tower, could see what happened without being seen himself. Such was his amazement that, thinking he was dreaming, he hit himself in the most fleshy part of the body, and noticing that it hurt, convinced himself that he was not dreaming. Thereupon the horse neighed, and they all stopped still, full of terror.
“Carabi! Carabo! Two minutes are left you of becoming like me,” shouted the horse.
On hearing him they all wept, except the three princes who rose, exclaiming:
“Treacherous magician, God wills that you pay for your crimes.”
The horse rose on two legs and after a terrific neigh shouted: “Carabi! Carabo!” and immediately they all resumed their original forms. The horse gave a jump in order to rise in the air and commenced his flight, but this time he was not alone; for when waving his tail it caught up good little Arthur, winding itself round his body. The boy clung to it in order not to fall, and when he tried to find out where he was, he discovered himself in the air more than a thousand yards from the ground. Then he yelled with all the strength that fear gives, without paying any attention to the neighing of the horse which, turning its head, said to him: “Leave go, or I will dash your brains out with a kick.”
From Fairy Tales from Spain, by J. Muñoz Escamez.London: J. M. Dent and Sons limited. New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1913.