But little Arthur remembered that if he let go he would certainly be killed, while it was by no means sure that the horse could reach him with his feet, because he had climbed up to the top part of the tail, where he hung on with one hand, while with the other he caught hold of the other end, so that he sat on the doubled-up tail as on a trapeze.
The horse landed out half a dozen kicks, which only hurt the clouds; he turned his head in order to see where to bite that customer who had got the better of him; but his wings hindered him, and the only other vengeance he could take was to snort. This he did, making such a noise that it could have been heard for miles around.
“What a storm!” exclaimed little Arthur.
“That is the wind I swallow in my flight,” said the horse.
“That is not wind, it must be a hurricane let loose.”
Then the horse began to descend towards the earth, passing through clouds and breaking up fogs, until, at dawn, he arrived at a lovely palace whose roof of gold and precious stones opened of its own accord to let that singular horse pass through. He alighted on the floor of an enormous room in the palace, and when on firm ground said:
“Will you please leave go of me.”
“That depends,” said little Arthur, “because I am just beginning to like this way of travelling.”
“Well, my son, I am sorry, but your goose is cooked for ever.”
So saying he began to butt round the room with the object of smashing poor little Arthur to pieces; but the latter, firm as firm could be, would not leave go even if he were killed. Then the horse sat down to see if he could crush the boy with his weight, but the latter, by a clever movement, dropped clear of the crupper and sat down on the floor.
“Here!” he exclaimed, “don’t do any more such silly things; if you want to throw me off, you will have to tear your tail off first.”
“Not if I know it,” shouted the magician, “rather let us make an agreement. What do you want in order to let me go?”
“First, you must tell me the story of the enchanted children in my garden.”
“I will not.”
“Well, now I shall pull out a hair of your tail by way of punishment,” and dragging out one of them he made the horse neigh with pain.
“So, I shall pull them out one by one until you are as hairless as a hired horse.”
“No, you have persuaded me. Listen to the story you ask me for. You must know that these youngsters are the children of the great King of Samarcanda, Ali-Tebelin, who is a great enemy of mine. I was then condemned to be ridden by any cavalier who wished to do so, thanks to the enchantment of a relative on my mother’s side, who knew how to do these things better than I. Not finding any better way of passing the three years as saddle-horse which had been imposed upon me, I entered the stables of Ali-Tebelin, who several times had me thrashed on the frivolous pretext that I bit whoever wanted to ride on me, kicked anybody who came near, and one day gave the king himself a terrible bite. Angry on account of this injustice I promised myself to have my revenge, and when the period of my enchantment was finished, I became, in my turn, an enchanter, and taking a bottle of water gathered by me from the clouds, I caused the king’s court to be transformed into a garden which I transported to your house. Every night I go to it, and as my wings are wet with the water from the clouds, which is the thing that has the property of changing them into their original shapes, I shake my wings, and after enjoying myself for a while I enchant them again with my word. Now you know all, will you leave me in peace?”
“Now less than ever,” said the boy: “because if I let you go, you will be revenged on me as on them, so that I shan’t leave you until you take me back to my home. At this very moment you will give me something to eat. Go somewhere slowly where there is something to put inside one; if you don’t I will skin you.”
The horse stamped on the floor, and at once several tables covered with eatables appeared. With one hand, while with the other he held on, Arthur ate of what seemed best to him, and when he was satisfied, said: “At this very instant you will take me home.” The horse, resigned, took to flight again, rose up in the air, and flew towards Arthur’s garden. Passing through the clouds, Arthur got all his clothing wet, being drenched with that precious liquid. When they arrived, and before the horse had time to turn round, little Arthur ran away and took refuge in his home. His precaution was very wise, because the magician followed him with the object of biting him, but when he was ready to do so the boy was already in the house. The horse had only stretched his wings and disappeared on the horizon when Arthur went into the garden again, and shaking his clothes, let the cloud-water with which he was soaked fall upon the plants. At once all the enchanted beings recovered their original shape, and saw with surprise that it was not the magician who disenchanted them. On seeing such surprise, little Arthur advanced towards the grand stand and said to the princes:
“Children of Ali-Tebelin, I have the pleasure of informing you that you are free; but vanish from here quickly, because at twelve o’clock to-night the magician will return.”
From Fairy Tales from Spain, by J. Muñoz Escamez.London: J. M. Dent and Sons limited. New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1913.