Evening is falling. The last flashes of sun filter through the narrow cellar window. All is silent. The old man is counting the coins on the table. He has a long beard and sunken eyes.Time is passing. Now only a pale radiance trickles into the cellar. The old man puts the coins back into a rough, solid chest, locks the door, and slowly climbs the narrow stairway.The old man walks along one of the hallways of his house. He notice an open door, a door which should remain locked at all times. This makes him angry and on this account be shouts at a servant. The servant trembles and utters a few words by way of excuse. The old man with the long beard goes on his way, but suddenly stops again: he sees bread crumbs on a piece of furniture! He can´t believe his eyes. They will manage to ruin me, thinks the old man, they will mange to destroy my property. Someone eats my bread and drops crumbs over my furniture. This time his anger is fierce and he screams very loudly. His wife, his children, his servants, all of them, gather round him, perplexed and frightened.
The hour of supper has come. They all have to give him a report of the day´s activities. The farmhands arrive from various parts of his farm. The old man with the long beard wants to know everything his servants and farmhands did, minute by minute; he wants to know how they spend his money. And one and all feel profound dread before the old man. Tonight the shepherd has not arrived on time. Usually the shepherd returns from the pastures before the old man sits down to table. The shepherd grazes goats and sheep on the old man´s pastures and on returning at night he shuts his herd up in a little corral. Then he presents himself before the master to report on the day´s work. Rather impatiently, the old man sits down to table. The shepherd´s lateness intrigues him. The thing is really extraordinary. The old man shouts furiously at one of the servants who delays-a one- minute delay!-in bringing him the soup. Flustered, the servant drops a plate. This increases the fright of his wife and his children. No doubt in the presence of his catastrophe- the dropping of a place-the old man´s screams will bring the house down. And, as a matter of fact, his terrifying rage lasts for half an hour.
Finally, the shepherd appears on the threshold. “What has happened to you? The old man asks him. The shepherd is slow to reply. With his hat in this hand, perplexed, he stares at the old man. “Happening … as for happening …”says the shepherd at length, “nothing happened” . “From the way you talk, something must have happened,” the old man exclaims. “Happening …as for happening …” repeats the shepherd. “You idiot, you fool! Can´t you speak? Haven´t you got a tongue? Speak up, speak up” shouts the old man increasingly angry. And the shepherd, trembling, speaks. Nothing happened. Nothing at all happened all day long. The sheep and goats grazed, as always, on the pastures. The sheep and goats continue perfectly well, they grazed as usual. The old man loses his patience: “will you speak out, you idiot?
The shepherd continues repeating that nothing had happened. Nothing at all, but in the stable on the outskirts of town-stable and threshing ground belong to the old man-the shepherd saw something unusual: he saw that there were people in the stable.
On hearing theses words, the old man leaps to his feet. He can´t control himself; he walks up to the shepherd and shouts at him.
“¿People in my stable? In the stable beside my threshing ground? But… but then is there no respect left for private property? Are all of you trying to ruin me? The stable consists of four tumbledown walls; the worm-eaten door can easily be opened. A little window, cut in the back wall, faces the threshing ground. Several persons have entered the stable and will spend the night there. Perhaps trey have been living there for days. On his land, on his sacred property! And without even asking his leave,! Now his wrath is fiercer than ever. Yes, yes everyone wants to ruin him. This is something terrible: never had anyone seen such a thing …For his reason he decides to go in person to verity the outrage. The old man hurries to throw those tramps out of his stable.
“What kind of people are they”? he asks the shepherd. “Well, they are …well, they are …” the shepherd replies, “well, they are a man and a woman”.
“¿A man and a woman? Well, I´ll show them!” and the old man with the long beard takes up his hat and his walking stick and heads for the stable.
The night is clear and serene. The stars shine in the sky. The silence is deep. The old man goes alone. Nervously he thumps the ground with his cane. He approaches the stable now. The door es shut. The old man stops a moment and then slowly comes close to the little window. Within he can see a bright radiance.
The old man peers inside and utters a cry. Surprise paralyses his movements. He goes from surprise to wonderment, from wonderment to stupefaction. He nails himself to the wall; his breath comes panting. Never had he seen what he is seeing now. Never had human eyes beheld what his eyes are now beholding. He can´t take his eyes away from inside of the stable.
Minutes, hours pass unnoticed. The spectacle is marvelous, amazing. How much time has elapsed already? How can one measure time beside this wonderful sight? The old man feels that many hours, days and years have elapsed …Time means nothing in the presence of his wonder, unique in the world.
Slowly the old man goes back to his home. They are slow in opening the door, but he says nothing. In the house a maidservant drops a candle as she is lighting the old man´s way, but he utters never a word of reproach. With bowed head, he walks through the corridors like a ghost. His wife, who was in the living room, stumbles and knocks over a piece of furniture which breaks several statuettes. He says nothing. His wife is taken aback with surprise. The old man´s meekness surprises everyone, Quietly he sits down in a chair and lets his head fall on his breast. He meditates for a long while. Later they call him and, docile like a child, he lest himself be carried to bed.
The next morning the old man is still silent, absorbed. To the beggars who come to the door he gives a handful of silver coins. Not a single word or anger passes his lips. Everyone is extremely astounded. The old man with the long beard is not a monster any longer but a child. His wife, his children, can´t conceive such a change; something, serious must have happened to him during his visit to the stable. Puzzled, everyone watches the old man. However, they can´t bring themselves to ask him anything. He remains silent. His wife sweetly interrogates him, but he does not reveal his secret. After much questioning and cajoling, one day the old man discloses it to this wife´s ear. Her face shows her astonishment. “Three kings and a child!” she repeats, unable to control herself.
The old man lays a finger to his lips. Yes, yes, his wife will keep silence but even then she believes that her husband is mad. Three kings in the stable, with a child! Evidently on his evening stroll something had happened to the old man. Little by little the news spread through the house that the woman knows the old man´s secret. The children ask their mother. At first she refuses, but in the end setting her lips to her daughter´s ear, she reveals the father´s secret.
“Poor father, he´s mad!” the daugther´s exclaims. The servants learn that the children already know the master´s secret. But they do not dare to ask. Finally a very old woman servant, who has been in the house thirty years, asks the daughter. And the young woman, setting her lips to the old woman´s ear reveals her father´s secret.
“Poor, poor master, he´s mad” the woman servant exclaims. Little by little all the folks in the house learn the secret and all of them decide that the old man with the long beard is mad. They shake their heads, with sadness and compassion. Three kings and a child in the stable! Poor master, how mad he is! And the old man with the long beard sees the days go by, without impatience, without irritation, without anger. He gives money to the poor and has kindly words for all. In the house everyone watches him sadly. The master has gone crazy, it can´t be otherwise. Three kings in the stable!
His wife, worried, sends for a famous doctor, a very learned man who knows the properties of stones, of plant, of animals. When he comes to the house they usher him into the presence of the old man, The famous doctor examines him, questions him about his life, about his habits, about his food. The old man smiles gently, and when he discloses, his secret, after a lengthy interrogation, the learned man nods his head. “Yes, yes”, says the doctor, “yes, yes, it´s possible, three kings and a child in the stable-yes, yes, of course”, and the learned man nods his head again. The famous doctor takes leave in the living room from the old man´s wife, who questions him anxiously. “Your husband is mad, but it is a mild form of insanity. No danger at all. Nothing to worry about. Crazy, of course, but gentle. No special treatment. We´ll wait an see …”