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The Two Humpbacks

THERE were once two companions who were humpbacks, but one more so than the other. They were both so poor that they had not a penny to their names. One of them said: "I will go out into the world, for here there is nothing to eat; we are dying of hunger. I want to see whether I can make my fortune."
"Go," said the other. "If you make your fortune, return, and I will go and see if I can make mine." So the humpback set off on his journey. Now these two humpbacks were from Parma. When the humpback had gone a long way, he came to a square where there was a fair, at which everything was sold.

There was a person selling cheese, who cried out: "Eat the little Parmesan!" The poor humpback thought he meant him, so he ran away and hid himself in a courtyard. When it was one o'clock, he heard a clanking of chains and the words "Saturday and Sunday" repeated several times.

Then he answered: "And Monday."

"Oh, heavens!" said they who were singing. "Who is this who has harmonized with our choir?"

They searched and found the poor humpback hidden. "O gentlemen!" he said, "I have not come here to do any harm, you know!"

"Well! we have come to reward you; you have harmonized our choir; come with us!" They put him on a table and removed his hump, healed him, and gave him two bags of money.

"Now," they said, "you can go." He thanked them and went away without his hump. He liked it better, you can believe! He returned to his place at Parma, and when the other humpback saw him he exclaimed: "Does not that look just like my friend? But he had a hump! It is not he! Listen! You are not my friend so and so, are you?"

"Yes, I am," he replied.

"Listen! Were you not a humpback?"

"Yes. They have removed my hump and given me two bags of money. I will tell you why. I reached," he continued, "such and such a place, and I heard them beginning to say, 'Eat the little Parmesan! Eat the little Parmesan!' I was so frightened that I hid myself." (He mentioned the place -- in a courtyard.) "At a certain hour, I heard a noise of chains and a chorus singing: 'Saturday and Sunday.' After two or three times, I said: 'And Monday.' They came and found me, saying that I had harmonized their chorus, and they wanted to reward me. They took me, removed my hump, and gave me two bags of money."

"Oh, heavens!" said the other humpback. "I want to go there, too!"

"Go, poor fellow, go! Farewell!"

The humpback reached the place, and hid himself precisely where his companion had. After a while he heard a noise of chains, and the chorus: "Saturday and Sunday!" Then another chorus: "And Monday!" After the humpback had heard them repeat: "Saturday and Sunday, and Monday!" several times, he added: "And Tuesday!"

"Where," they exclaimed, "is he who has spoiled our chorus? If we find him, we will tear him in pieces." Just think! they struck and beat this poor humpback until they were tired; then they put him on the same table on which they had placed his companion, and said: "Take that hump and put it on him in front."

So they took the other's hump and fastened it to his breast, and then drove him away with blows. He went home and found his friend, who cried: "Mercy! Is not that my friend? But it cannot be, for this one is humpbacked in front. Listen," he said, "are you not my friend?"

"The same," he answered, weeping. "I did not want to bear my own hump, and now I have to carry mine and yours! and so beaten and reduced, you see!"

"Come," said his friend, "come home with me, and we will eat a mouthful together; and don't be disheartened."

And so, every day, he dined with his friend, and afterward they died, I imagine.

Crane, Thomas Frederick. Italian Popular Tales. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1885.
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