STORY OF THE LACKPENNY AND THE COOK.
One of the good-for-noughts found himself one day without aught and the world was straitened upon him and his patience failed; so he lay down to sleep and gave not over sleeping till the sun burnt him and the foam came out upon his mouth, whereupon he arose, and he was penniless and had not so much as one dirhem. Presently, he came to the shop of a cook, who had set up therein his pans[FN#9] [over the fire] and wiped his scales and washed his saucers and swept his shop and sprinkled it; and indeed his oils[FN#10] were clear[FN#11] and his spices fragrant and he himself stood behind his cooking-pots [waiting for custom]. So the lackpenny went up to him and saluting him, said to him, ’Weigh me half a dirhem’s worth of meat and a quarter of a dirhem’s worth of kouskoussou[FN#12] and the like of bread.’ So the cook weighed out to him [that which he sought] and the lackpenny entered the shop, whereupon the cook set the food before him and he ate till he had gobbled up the whole and licked the saucers and abode perplexed, knowing not how he should do with the cook concerning the price of that which he had eaten and turning his eyes about upon everything in the shop.
Presently, he caught sight of an earthen pan turned over upon its mouth; so he raised it from the ground and found under it a horse’s tail, freshly cut off, and the blood oozing from it; whereby he knew that the cook adulterated his meat with horses’ flesh. When he discovered this default, he rejoiced therein and washing his hands, bowed his head and went out; and when the cook saw that he went and gave him nought, he cried out, saying, ‘Stay, O sneak, O slink-thief!’ So the lackpenny stopped and said to him, ’Dost thou cry out upon me and becall [me] with these words, O cuckold?’ Whereat the cook was angry and coming down from the shop, said, ’What meanest thou by thy speech, O thou that devourest meat and kouskoussou and bread and seasoning and goest forth with “Peace[FN#13][be on thee!],” as it were the thing had not been, and payest down nought for it?’ Quoth the lackpenny, ‘Thou liest, O son of a cuckold!’ Wherewith the cook cried out and laying hold of the lackpenny’s collar, said, ’O Muslims, this fellow is my first customer[FN#14] this day and he hath eaten my food and given me nought.’
So the folk gathered together to them and blamed the lackpenny and said to him, ’Give him the price of that which thou hast eaten.’ Quoth he, ’I gave him a dirhem before I entered the shop;’ and the cook said, ’Be everything I sell this day forbidden[FN#15] to me, if he gave me so much as the name of a piece of money! By Allah, he gave me nought, but ate my food and went out and [would have] made off, without aught [said I]’ ‘Nay,’ answered the lackpenny, ‘I gave thee a dirhem,’ and he reviled the cook, who returned his abuse; whereupon he dealt him a cuff and they gripped and grappled