The Beggar and the Five Muffins
In a certain village there lived a poor beggar and his wife. The man used to go out every morning with a clean vessel in his hand, return home with rice enough for the day’s meal, and thus they lived on in extreme poverty.
One day a poor Mádhava Brâhmiṇ invited the pair to a feast, and among Mádhavas muffins (tôśai) are always a part of the good things on festive occasions. So during the feast the beggar and his wife had their fill of muffins. They were so pleased with them, that the woman was extremely anxious to prepare some muffins in her own house, and began to save a little rice every day from what her husband brought her for the purpose. When enough had been thus collected she begged a poor neighbour’s wife to give her a little black pulse which the latter—praised be her charity—readily did. The faces of the beggar and his wife literally glowed with joy that day, for were they not to taste the long-desired muffins for a second time?
The woman soon turned the rice she had been saving, and the black pulse she had obtained from her neighbour into a paste, and mixing it well with a little salt, green chillies, coriander seed and curds, set it in a pan on the fire; and with her mouth watering all the while, prepared five muffins! By the time her husband had returned from his collection of alms, she was just turning out of the pan the fifth muffin! And when she placed the whole five muffins before him his mouth, too, began to water. He kept two for himself and two he placed before his wife, but what was to be done with the fifth? He did not understand the way out of this difficulty. That half and half made one, and that each could take two and a half muffins was a question too hard for him to solve. The beloved muffins must not be torn in pieces; so he said to his wife that either he or she must take the remaining one. But how were they to decide which should be the lucky one?
Proposed the husband:—“Let us both shut our eyes and stretch ourselves as if in sleep, each on a verandah on either side the kitchen.