The Little Hunchbacked
The Little Hunchbacked :
Once upon a time in ancient Kashgar, on the borders of great territory, a tailor lived with his wife. The couple were deep in love with each other.
One morning the tailor was working busily in his shop. A little hunchbacked came and sat by the shop's door. He held a tambour that he played and sang many sweet songs. The tailor was very impressed by the talents of the little hunchbacked.
He thought, "I'll take him home. When I am at the shop my wife is lonely at home. He will entertain my wife well."
So the tailor took the little hunchbacked house in the evening. His wife had already arranged hot dinner on the table. On seeing a guest, she brought a plate and soon they were introduced. Three of them had a good dinner and joked with each other. The little hunchbacked ate a fish. But, as ill-luck would have it, he swallowed a fish-bone. Soon enough, the little hunchbacked started choking. The tailor patted his back hard while his wife gave water to him to drink but the little hunchbacked did not recover. He choked on the fish-bone and soon lay dead by the dinner table.
The tailor and his wife felt very sorry at their guest's demise. Then they grew worried. They feared that the guards of the king would come to accuse them of murder. They were scared to go to prison. So the couple thought that they would make a plan so that it would be appeared that someone other had caused his death.
After thinking for a long time, they decided to leave the hunchbacked at a Jewish doctor's clinic-cum-residence. After a while, the tailor and his wife carried the dead body of hunchbacked to the doctor's house. They knocked at the door which led to a steep stairway to the doctor's house. As it was dark a maid came down the stairway with halting steps. On enquiry, the tailor said, "We have brought a man who is very ill. Here take this advance money for the Jewish doctor. Tell him to rush down here." The maid went upstairs to call her master. Meanwhile, the tailor and his wife put the dead body of the hunchbacked on the stairs in a sitting position at the top stair. Then they ran away from the spot.
Now the young Jewish doctor came out running to see the ill patient whose advance payment he had received. As he ran out, he tripped over the body of the hunchbacked which he could not see in the dark. The collision caused the body of the hunchbacked to on down the stairs. As the Jewish doctor reached the hunchbacked, he thought that he had killed him when he rolled down the stairs. Now it was the turn of the Jewish doctor to fear. He quickly carried the dead body straight to his wife's chamber. There he told his wife what had happened. His wife started crying bitterly. The Jewish doctor thought that he would now have to surrender and confess to the murder of the little hunchbacked. But his clever wife stopped him. She said, "You'll be foolish to confess and go to prison. Do as I tell you. Both of us will carry this corpse to our roof. From there we'll step on to our neighbour's roof. I know that our Muslim neighbour is not at home now. We'll throw the body into his house by lowering it in through the chimney." The doctor agreed and soon he and his wife carried out their plan successfully.
The Jewish doctor's neighbour, the Muslim, worked at the Sultan's palace. He provided oil and butter for the royal kitchen. He had a store-room in his house where he kept his goods and many rats and mice roamed in freely. When the doctor and his wife lowered the dead body of the hunchbacked through the chimney, it went straight into the store-room.
That night when the Muslim-neighbour entered the storeroom with his lantern, he saw a thief standing by the wall, the roof above where the chimney was. He thought that the thief had entered through the chimney. He picked a stout stick and started beating the thief. He yelled, "You thief, you've been stealing my butter for months and I thought that the mice were doing it."
After a while when the thief did not respond and lay sideways on the floor, the neighbour went nearer. He was horrified to see that the thief was dead. His brutal beatings had killed the thief. Now the devout Muslim asked God for forgiveness and felt very guilty and afraid indeed. Then he thought of getting rid of the body in such a way that no one would suspect him at all. He thought for a while. Then, he picked the dead body of the hunchbacked and carried it in the market. As it was night time, no one saw him as he leant the body against one of the shop's wall and crept back home.
Just before dawn, a rich Christian merchant was returning from a feast where he had drunk a lot. He was going to the bath to fresh up. He walked hastily because if he was seen drunk by any other then he would be punished, according to the law of the land. As he walked fast, he jostled against a man who stood by a shop's wall. So by doing that, the hunchbacked fell on the ground. In his drunk state, the Christian thought that a thief was trying to attack him so he gave a full fisted blow to the man's face. The man fell on the ground. Then the Christian started calling loudly for help. Just then a guard patrolling the area came to him. He stopped the Christian and then called the fallen man to get up but he never moved.
Now the guard declared, "You are a Christian so you killed a Muslim devout. You will be punished for showing disrespect to another religion."
The guard called his assistants to carry the dead body of the hunchbacked. Then the Christian was put into prison.
After investigations, it was revealed that the little hunchbacked had been one of the royal jesters. As the Sultan liked him very much, the guards decided to present the case in the royal court. The Sult1an was enraged that his subjects were killing each other in the name of religion. So he sentenced the Christian to death to teach others a lesson, so that all can live in peace.
Soon the town crier announced that the merchant would be hanged publicly. The crowd gathered at the gallows to witness his death. Just as the hangman was about to tighten the rope around the Christian merchant's neck a man came rushing through the crowd. He cried, "Stop, please in God's name! It is me a Muslim who killed this Muslim brother. How can one kill a dead man? I can't let my hands be stained by the blood of an innocent Christian. Please let him go."
The crowd and guards then heard the Muslim's story. Thus the Christian stepped down and the guards got ready to hang the Muslim. As the Muslim went up to the gallows, someone screamed, "Guards, do stop right away. I confess to this crime."
There was a roar of confusion in the crowd. Then a man emerged.
He was the Jewish doctor. He said, "Please spare my Muslim friend's life for it is I who caused the jester's death."
On enquiry, the Jewish doctor narrated his story and confessed to the death of the hunchbacked caused by him on a dark staircase. The guards and the crowd were surprised at the turn of event. Then they again fell silent as the hangman tightened the noose around the Jewish doctor's neck.
Just then the tailor rushed to the gallows and held the .hangman's hand. He said, "Sir, this noose is for my neck and not for the innocent Jewish doctor. Please listen to what I have to say and you will learn that I am the real culprit."
As the tailor told his story, the hangman and the guards grew confused. The people murmured in surprise and confusion. Then the hangman freed the Jewish doctor as the tailor got ready to meet his death.
Meanwhile in the court, a guard told the Sultan about the drama that had unfolded at the gallows. The Sultan summoned all the accused to be present in the court.
Once, everyone reached the court. The Sultan heard everyone's story. The Sultan understood that the hunchbacked had died due to choking on the fish-bone and all the accused stood innocent. So he set all of them free. Then he ordered his historian to write this story for the generations to come for he had never known such an event to occur before.
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