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The Partnership of the Thief and the Liar
by [?]

There was once upon a time a thief, who, being out of a job, was wandering by himself up and down the seashore. As he walked he passed a man who was standing still, looking at the waves.

‘I wonder,’ said the thief, addressing the stranger, ‘if you have ever seen a stone swimming?’

‘Most certainly I have,’ replied the other man, ‘and, what is more, I saw the same stone jump out of the water and fly through the air.’

‘This is capital,’ replied the thief. ‘You and I must go into partnership. We shall certainly make our fortunes. Let us start together for the palace of the king of the neighbouring country. When we get there, I will go into his presence alone, and will tell him the most startling thing I can invent. Then you must follow and back up my lie.’

Having agreed to do this, they set out on their travels. After several days’ journeying, they reached the town where the king’s palace was, and here they parted for a few hours, while the thief sought an interview with the king, and begged his majesty to give him a glass of beer.

‘That is impossible,’ said the king, ‘as this year there has been a failure of all the crops, and of the hops and the vines; so we have neither wine nor beer in the whole kingdom.’

‘How extraordinary!’ answered the thief. ‘I have just come from a country where the crops were so fine that I saw twelve barrels of beer made out of one branch of hops.’

‘I bet you three hundred florins that is not true,’ answered the king.

‘And I bet you three hundred florins it is true,’ replied the thief.

Then each staked his three hundred florins, and the king said he would decide the question by sending a servant into that country to see if it was true.

So the servant set out on horseback, and on the way he met a man, and he asked him whence he came. And the man told him that he came from the self-same country to which the servant was at that moment bound.

‘If that is the case,’ said the servant, ‘you can tell me how high the hops grow in your country, and how many barrels of beer can be brewed from one branch?’

‘I can’t tell you that,’ answered the man, ‘but I happened to be present when the hops were being gathered in, and I saw that it took three men with axes three days to cut down one branch.’

Then the servant thought that he might save himself a long journey; so he gave the man ten florins, and told him he must repeat to the king what he had just told him. And when they got back to the palace, they came together into the king’s presence.

And the king asked him: ‘Well, is it true about the hops?’

‘Yes, sire, it is,’ answered the servant; ‘and here is a man I have brought with me from the country to confirm the tale.’

So the king paid the thief the three hundred florins; and the partners once more set out together in search of adventures. As they journeyed, the thief said to his comrade: ‘I will now go to another king, and will tell him something still more startling; and you must follow and back up my lie, and we shall get some money out of him; just see if we don’t.’

When they reached the next kingdom, the thief presented himself to the king, and requested him to give him a cauliflower. And the king answered: ‘Owing to a blight among the vegetables we have no cauliflower.’

‘That is strange,’ answered the thief. ‘I have just come from a country where it grows so well that one head of cauliflower filled twelve water-tubs.’

‘I don’t believe it,’ answered the king.