AN EXPENSIVE JOKE
Nasreddin Hodja had made it a habit every day after the morning prayer to entreat Allah to grant him a thousand pieces of gold. He would add that a thousand pieces were exactly what he needed and that anything less, even 999 pieces, would be of no use to him and couldn't be accepted. This request, repeated day after day in loud and entreating tones, was overheard by his next-door neighbor, a very rich Jew who was well known aas a miser and a perpetrator of practical jokes.
One day the Jew decided to play one on the Hodja. He felt sure it would be most entertaining, and the liked the idea exceedingly well. He put 999 pieces of gold in a leather bag and dropped it through his neighbor's chimney one day toward the end of the Hodja's habitual supplication. Then he listened attentively, trying not to miss anything.
First he heard the thud of the bag on the floor. The Hodja at once stopped praying, and began counting the gold pieces. The Jew was shaking with silent laughter, expecting the Hodja, when he found that there were only 999 pieces in the bag, to lament the insufficiency of the divine gift and refuse the bounty as he had always said he would. As a matter of fact, when he heard the Hodja's voice again, the latter was saying:
"Infinite thanks to Thee, O Lord, for granting the prayer of this miserable sinner. It is true that You bestowed upon me only 999 pieces of gold instead of a thousand, but I am certain You will, at your convenience, make up the difference.
Well, this wasn't exactly what the Jew had expected! He must hurry or he would never see his gold again! He rushed down from the roof to the Hodja's door, and as soon as it was opened he shouted:
"Come on, Hodja Effendi, give me back my gold!"
"Have you gone made?" replied the Hodja, "I don't remember borrowing any money from you!"
"My dear Hodja, let's talk sense! I heard you pray God every morning for one thousand pieces of gold, and saying that you wouldn't accept anything less. Just to see what you would do, I dropped 999 pieces down your chimney!"
The Hodja thought he would have to be very careful, or he had no doubt that the gold pieces granted to him by his Creator would end up in his neighbor's coffers.
"That's a very likely story you are telling me," he said. "Who ever heard of anyone throwing money down chimneys?"
The Jew now realized that unless he took the case to the court there was no way of recovering his money. When he suggested it, the Hodja said:
"I don't mind going to court, but I'm sure I do not intend to walk all the way there just to please you!"
The Jew ran to his stable and fetched his horse for the Hodja to ride on. But the Hodja was not yet satisfied.
"You don't imagine I shall go to court in this dilapidated coat, do you? I have my reputation to think of!"
Again the impatient Jew ran home and fetched his new coat for the Hodja to wear. Thus the Hodja, all dressed up and riding a fine horse, arrived at the court... His neighbor had been half walking, half running all the way to keep up with horse and rider.
After the plaintiff had stated his case, it was the Hodja's turn, as defendant, to speak:
"All I have to say, your Honor, is that I have not taken any money from this man," he began. "He must have overheard me when counting the gold pieces with which the good Lord has seen fit to reward me, and he made up the unlikely story he tells us. Furthermore, I am coming to the conclusion that he is out of his mind. He may next tell us that the horse I arrived on also belongs to him!"
Upon hearing this, the Jew jumped up. "Of course it is mine!" he cried. "I lent it to him because otherwise he wouldn't come to court."
"You see how it is, your Honor. Next he'll say that this coat I'm wearing is also his property!"
"Of course it is! I lent it to him because..."
But he realized that he had lost the case. The judge was looking at him in such a way that he had not the least doubt that he was being regarded as a madman.
Well, the judge was right, he was crazy to have played such an expensive joke.