This section is from the book "Stories From The Thousand And One Nights", by Edward William Lane and Stanley Lanepoole. Also available from Amazon: Stories From Thousand And One Nights: The Arabian Nights' Entertainments.
THERE was, in ancient times, in the city of El-Basrah, a tailor who enjoyed an ample income, and was fond of sport and merriment. He was in the habit of going out occasionally with his wife, that they might amuse themselves with strange and diverting scenes; and one day they went forth in the afternoon, and, returning home in the evening, met a humpbacked man, whose aspect was such as to excite laughter in the angry, and to dispel anxiety and grief: so they approached him to enjoy the pleasure of gazing at him, and invited him to return with them to their house, and to join with them in a carousal that night He assented to their proposal; and after he had gone with them to the house, the tailor went out to the market; night having then approached. He bought some fried fish, and bread and limes and sweetmeat, and, returning with them, placed the fish before the humpback, and they sat down to eat; and the tailor's wife took a large piece of fish, and crammed the humpback with it, and, closing his mouth with her hand, said, By Allah, thou shalt not swallow it but by gulping it at once, and I will not give thee time to chew it. He therefore swallowed it; but it contained a large and sharp bone, which stuck across in his throat, his destiny having so determined, and he expired. The tailor exclaimed, There is no strength nor power but in God, the High, the Great! Alas, that this poor creature should not have died but in this manner by our hands!-Wherefore this idling? exclaimed the woman.-And what can I do? asked her husband.-Arise, she answered, and take him in thy bosom, and cover him with a silk napkin: I will go out first, and do thou follow me, this very night, and say, This is my son, and this is his mother; and we are going to convey him to the physician, that he may give him some medicine. No sooner had the tailor heard these words than he arose, and took the humpback in his bosom. His wife, accompanying him, exclaimed, O my child! may Allah preserve thee! Where is the part in which thou feelest pain; and where hath this small-pox attacked thee?-So every one who saw them said, They are conveying a child smitten with the small-pox. Thus they proceeded, inquiring, as they went, for the abode of the physician; and the people directed them to the house of a physician who was a Jew; and they knocked at the door, and there came down to them a black slave-girl, who opened the door, and beheld a man carrying (as she imagined) a child, and attended by its mother; and she said, What is your business?-We have a child here, answered the tailor's wife, and we want the physician to see him: take, then, this quarter of a piece of gold, and give it to thy master, and let him come down and see my son; for he is ill. The girl, therefore, went up, and the tailor's wife, entering the vestibule, said to her husband, Leave the humpback here, and let us take ourselves away. And the tailor, accordingly, set him up against the wall, and went out with his wife.
The slave-girl, meanwhile, went in to the Jew, and said to him, Below, in the house, is a sick person, with a woman and a man: and they have given me a quarter of a piece of gold for thee, that thou mayest prescribe for them what may suit his case. And when the Jew saw the quarter of a piece of gold, he rejoiced, and, rising in haste, went down in the dark: and in doing so, his foot struck against the lifeless humpback. O Ezra! he exclaimed-O Heavens and the Ten Commandments! O Aaron, and Joshua son of Nun! It seemeth that I have stumbled against this sick person, and he hath fallen down the stairs and died! And how shall I go forth with one killed from my house? O Ezra's ass!1.
1 *Ozeyr, or Ezra, " riding on an ass by the ruins of Jerusalem, after it had been destroyed by the Chaldeans, doubted in his mind by what means God could raise the city and its inhabitants again; whereupon (Sod caused him to die, and he remained in that condition a hundred years; at the end of which God restored him to life, and he found a basket of figs and a cruse of wine he had with him. not in the least spoiled or corrupted, but his ass was dead, the bones only remaining; and these, while the Prophet looked on, were raised and cloathed with flesh, becoming an ass again, which, being inspired with life, began immediately to bray."-Sale's Koran, cb. ii., note [p. 31, ed. 1734J.
He then raised him, and took him up from the court of the house to his wife, and acquainted her with the accident. -And why sittest thou here idle? said she; for if thou remain thus until daybreak our lives will be lost: let me and thee, then, take him up to the terrace, and throw him into the house of our neighbour the Muslim; for he is the steward of the Sultan's kitchen, and often do the cats come to his house, and eat of the food which they find there; as do the mice too; and if he remain there for a night, the dogs will come down to him from the terraces and eat him up entirely. So the Jew and his wife went up, carrying the humpback, and let him down by his hands and feet to the pavement; placing him against the wall; which having done, they descended.
Not long had the humpback been thus deposited when the steward returned to his house, and opened the door, and, going up with a lighted candle in his hand, found a son of Adam standing in the corner next the kitchen; upon which he exclaimed, What is this? By Allah, the thief that hath stolen our goods is none other than a son of Adam, who taketh what he findeth of flesh or grease, even though I keep it concealed from the cats and the dogs; and if I killed all the cats and dogs of the quarter it would be of no use; for he cometh down from the terraces!-And so saying, he took up a great mallet, and struck him with it, and then, drawing close to him, gave him a second blow with it upon the chest, when the humpback fell down, and he found that he was dead; whereupon he grieved, and said, There is no strength nor power but in God! And he feared for himself, and exclaimed, Curse upon the grease and the flesh, and upon this night, in which the destiny of this man hath been accomplished by my hand! Then, looking upon him, and perceiving that he was a humpback, he said, Is it not enough that thou art humpbacked, but must thou also be a robber, and steal the flesh and the grease? O Protector, cover me with thy gracious shelter!-And he lifted him upon his shoulders, and descended, and went forth from the house, towards the close of the nieht. and stoooed not until he had conveyed him to the commencement of the market* street, where he placed him upon his feet by the side of a shop at the entrance of a lane, and there left him and retired.