A thief 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 to the man, "if you have ever seen a stone swimming?"
"Yes," the other answered, "and once I saw the same stone jump out of the water and fly through the air."
"This is great," replied the thief. "We two may go into partnership and make our fortunes. Let us go together for the palace of the king of the neighbouring country. Before we get there, I will tell you an astonishing story, and then go and visit the king alone. Then I will tell him the same story. Then you must follow up on it as you find best. That's all!"
Having agreed to do this, they set out on their travels. After several days' journeying, when they were close by the town where the king's palace was, found an inn and got news about how things were in that kingdom. The thief told his partner what he would say to the king, asked him to wait by the road, and then they parted for a while. During this time the thief sought an interview with the king and begged his majesty for a glass of beer.
"Impossible," said the king. "This year all the crops have failed, also the hops and the vines, so we have neither wine nor beer in the whole kingdom."
"How unusual!" 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 gold ducats that it is not true," answered the king.
"And I bet you three hundred gold ducats that it is true," replied the thief.
Then each staked his three hundred gold ducats, and the king said he would decide the question by sending a servant to see if it was true. The servant set out on horseback. Close by the town he met a man and asked him where he came from. The man told he came from the same country that the servant was bound for.
"If so," said the servant, "can you tell me how high the hops grow in your country, and how many barrels of beer can be brewed from one branch?"
"No," answered the man, but when the hops were gathered in, I saw that it took three men with axes three days to cut down one branch."
Then the servant thought he could save himself a long journey by bringing the man to the king. He gave the man ten florins and told him to repeat to the king what he had just told him.
When they got back to the palace, they came together into the king's presence. The king asked the servant he had sent: "Well, is it true about the hops?"
"Well, sire," answered the servant; "on my way I came across this man. He told me something that I thought you should hear from him yourself."
The king listened to what the other man told, and soon enough paid the thief the three hundred gold ducats.
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 tell him something still more startling. You must follow and back up my lie, and so we shall get some money out of him; just see."
When they reached the next kingdom, they first had news from that country, and in response the thief made up a story and told it to his lying partner, who was to wait outside the town and and back it up. Then the thief presented himself to the king and asked him for a cauliflower. The king answered: "Because of a blight among the vegetables we have no cauliflowers."
"That is strange," answered the thief. "I have just come from a country where they grow so well that one head of cauliflower filled twelve water-tubs."
"I do not believe it," answered the king.
"I bet you six hundred gold ducats it is true," replied the thief.
"And I bet you six hundred gold ducats it is not true," answered the king, and sent for a servant. He ordered the servant to start at once for the country that the thief had come from, to find out if his story of the cauliflower was true.
On his journey the servant met with a man by the road. He stopped his horse and asked him where the man came from, and the man answered that he came from the country the servant was headed for.
"Then you can tell me how large cauliflowers you get in that country," said the servant. "Do they get so big that one head fills twelve water-tubs?"
The man answered: "I don't know. I have only seen twelve wagons drawn by twelve horses carrying one head of cauliflower to the market."
The servant: "Here are ten gold ducats for you, my man, for what you tell seems to have saved me a long journey. Come with me now and tell the king what you have just told me."
"All right," said the man, and they went together to the palace. When the king asked the servant if he had found out about those cauliflowers, the servant replied: "Sire, on my way I came across this man, He told me he comes from that country. Here he is to tell you what he told me"
Soon enough the king paid the thief the six hundred gold ducats.
The two partners thought it was safest to stop swindling kings. With all the gold money they had, they could settle and live decent lives after they had divided the money between them. They got two almost equal shares, but without being noticed, the thief kept back three of the gold ducats that belonged to the liar's half of the booty.
Shortly afterwards they each married and settled down in homes of their own with their wives. One day the liar discovered that he had been done out of three gold ducats by his partner, so he went to his house and demanded them from him.
"Come next Saturday, and I will give them to you," answered the thief. But he did not have in mind to give the liar the money. When Saturday morning came he stretched himself out stiff and stark on the bed and told his wife she was to say he was dead. So the wife rubbed her eyes with an onion, and when the liar appeared at the door, she met him in tears and told him that her husband was dead, so he could not pay the three gold ducats.
But the liar, who knew his partner's tricks, at once suspected the truth, and said: "I see no reason why you cannot do it. However, I can pay him out with three good lashes of my riding whip."
At these words the thief sprang to his feet and appeared at the door, He promised his partner that if he would return the following Saturday he would pay him.
The liar went away satisfied with this promise. But when Saturday morning came, the thief got up early and hid himself under some bundles of hay in the hayloft.
When the liar appeared to demand his three gold ducats, the wife again met him with tears in her eyes, onion-smelling, and told him that her husband was dead.
"Is that so! Where have you buried him?" asked the liar.
"In the hay-loft," answered the wife.
"Then I will go there and take away some hay to clear his debt," said the liar. He went to the hay-loft and began to toss about the hay with a pitchfork, prodding it into the trusses of hay. The thief soon feared for his life, crept out and promised his partner to pay him the three gold ducats on the following Saturday.
When the day came he got up at sunrise and went down into the crypt of a neighbouring chapel. There he stretched himself out quite still and stiff in an old stone coffin. But the liar soon came to think the thief might well be hiding in the crypt. He set out for the chapel, confident that he would shortly discover the hiding-place of his friend.
When he entered the crypt, he heard whispers from outside one of the windows. The whispers came from a band of robbers who had brought their treasure to the crypt, meaning to hide it there while they set out on fresh adventures. All the time they were speaking they were removing the metal bars from the window, and in another minute they would all enter the crypt and discover him.
Quickly he wound his mantle round him and placed himself, standing stiff and erect, in a niche in the wall. In the dim light he hoped he looked like an old stone statue.
As soon as the robbers entered the crypt, they set about the work of dividing their treasure. There were twelve robbers, but by mistake the chief of the band divided the gold into thirteen heaps. When he saw his mistake he said they had no time to count it all over again, but that the thirteenth heap should belong to whoever among them could strike off the head of the old stone statue in the niche with one stroke. With these words he took up an axe, and approached the niche where the liar was standing. But, just as he waved the axe over his head ready to strike, a resounding voice came from the stone coffin, saying:
"Clear out of this, or the dead will arise from their coffins, and the statues will descend from the walls, and you will be driven out more dead than alive." And with a bound the thief jumped out of his coffin and the liar from his niche.
The robbers were so terrified that they ran helter-skelter out of the crypt, leaving all their gold behind them. One of them would ever put foot inside the haunted place again, they swore.
The thief and the liar divided all the gold between them. The thief had to pay his partner the gold ducats he had stolen from him also. Then each of them carried their newly gotten gold home. When their dear wives found out of it, they wanted them to donate it to less fortunate fellows, and kept on insisting until their husbands agreed.
The two husbands later said to each other, "We had plenty of wealth already."