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
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
'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
'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
'That is strange,' answered the thief. 'I have just come from a
country where it grows so well that one head of cauliflower filled
'I don't believe it,' answered the king.
'I bet you six hundred florins it is true,' replied the thief.
'And I bet you six hundred florins it is not true,' answered the
king. And he sent for a servant, and ordered him to start at once for
the country whence the thief had come, to find out if his story of the
cauliflower was true. On his journey the servant met with a man.
Stopping his horse he asked him where he came from, and the man replied
that he came from the country to which the other was travelling.
'If that is the case,' said the servant, 'you can tell me to what
size cauliflower grows in your country? Is it so large that one head
fills twelve water-tubs?'
'I have not seen that,' answered the man. 'But I saw twelve waggons,
drawn by twelve horses, carrying one head of cauliflower to the
And the servant answered: 'Here are ten florins for you, my man, for
you 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; and
when the king asked the servant if he had found out the truth about the
cauliflower, the servant replied: 'Sire, all that you heard was
perfectly true; here is a man from the country who will tell you so.'
So the king had to pay the thief the six hundred florins. And the
two partners set out once more on their travels, with their nine
hundred florins. When they reached the country of the neighbouring
king, the thief entered the royal presence, and began conversation by
asking if his majesty knew that in an adjacent kingdom there was a town
with a church steeple on which a bird had alighted, and that the
steeple was so high, and the bird's beak so long, that it had pecked
the stars till some of them fell out of the sky.
'I don't believe it,' said the king.
'Nevertheless I am prepared to bet twelve hundred florins that it is
true,' answered the thief.
'And I bet twelve hundred florins that it is a lie,' replied the
king. And he straightway sent a servant into the neighbouring country
to find out the truth.
As he rode, the servant met a man coming in the opposite direction.
So he hailed him and asked him where he came from. And the man replied
that he came out of the very town to which the man was bound. Then the
servant asked him if the story they had heard about the bird with the
long beak was true.
'I don't know about that,' answered the man, 'as I have never seen
the bird; but I once saw twelve men shoving all their might and main
with brooms to push a monster egg into a cellar.'
'That is capital,' answered the servant, presenting the man with ten
florins. 'Come and tell your tale to the king, and you will save me a
So, when the story was repeated to the king, there was nothing for
him to do but to pay the thief the twelve hundred florins.
Then the two partners set out again with their ill-gotten gains,
which they proceeded to divide into two equal shares; but the thief
kept back three of the florins 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 florins 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 as he had no intention of giving the liar the money, when
Saturday morning came he stretched himself out stiff and stark upon 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 as her husband was dead he could not be
paid the three florins.
But the liar, who knew his partner's tricks, instantly suspected the
truth, and said: 'As he has not paid me, I will pay him out with three
good lashes of my riding whip.'
At these words the thief sprang to his feet, and, appearing at the
door, promised his partner that if he would return the following
Saturday he would pay him. So the liar went away satisfied with this
But when Saturday morning came the thief got up early and hid
himself under a truss of hay in the hay-loft.
When the liar appeared to demand his three florins, the wife met him
with tears in her eyes, and told him that her husband was dead.
'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 in payment of his
debt,' said the liar. And proceeding to the hay-loft, he began to toss
about the hay with a pitchfork, prodding it into the trusses of hay,
till, in terror of his life, the thief crept out and promised his
partner to pay him the three florins on the following Saturday.
When the day came he got up at sunrise, and going down into the
crypt of a neighbouring chapel, stretched himself out quite still and
stiff in an old stone coffin. But the liar, who was quite as clever as
his partner, very soon bethought him of the crypt, and set out for the
chapel, confident that he would shortly discover the hiding-place of
his friend. He had just entered the crypt, and his eyes were not yet
accustomed to the darkness, when he heard the sound of whispering at
the grated windows. Listening intently, he overheard the plotting of 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 bars from the window, and in
another minute they would all have entered the crypt, and discovered
the liar. Quick as thought he wound his mantle round him and placed
himself, standing stiff and erect, in a niche in the wall, so that in
the dim light he looked just like an old stone statue. As soon as the
robbers entered the crypt, they set about the work of dividing their
treasure. Now, 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 not 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 had waved the axe over his head ready to
strike, a voice was heard from the stone coffin saying, in sepulchral
tones: '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, and the robbers were so terrified
that they ran helter-skelter out of the crypt, leaving all their gold
behind them, and vowing that they would never put foot inside the
haunted place again. So the partners divided the gold between them, and
carried it to their homes; and history tells us no more about them.
Fortunatus and His Purse
Once upon a time there lived in the city of Famagosta, in the island
of Cyprus, a rich man called Theodorus. He ought to have been the
happiest person in the whole world, as he had all he could wish for,
and a wife and little son whom he loved dearly; but unluckily, after a
short time he always grew tired of everything, and had to seek new
pleasures. When people are made like this the end is generally the
same, and before Fortunatus (for that was the boy's name) was ten years
old, his father had spent all his money and had not a farthing left.
But though Theodorus had been so foolish he was not quite without
sense, and set about getting work at once. His wife, too, instead of
reproaching him sent away the servants and sold their fine horses, and
did all the work of the house herself, even washing the clothes of her
husband and child.
Thus time passed till Fortunatus was sixteen. One day when they were
sitting at supper, the boy said to Theodorus, 'Father, why do you look
so sad. Tell me what is wrong, and perhaps I can help you.'
'Ah, my son, I have reason enough to be sad; but for me you would
now have been enjoying every kind of pleasure, instead of being buried
in this tiny house.'
'Oh, do not let that trouble you,' replied Fortunatus, 'it is time I
made some money for myself. To be sure I have never been taught any
trade. Still there must be something I can do. I will go and walk on
the seashore and think about it.'
Very soon—sooner than he expected—a chance came, and Fortunatus,
like a wise boy, seized on it at once. The post offered him was that of
page to the Earl of Flanders, and as the Earl's daughter was just going
to be married, splendid festivities were held in her honour, and at
some of the tilting matches Fortunatus was lucky enough to win the
prize. These prizes, together with presents from the lords and ladies
of the court, who liked him for his pleasant ways, made Fortunatus feel
quite a rich man.
But though his head was not turned by the notice taken of him, it
excited the envy of some of the other pages about the Court, and one of
them, called Robert, invented a plot to move Fortunatus out of his way.
So he told the young man that the Earl had taken a dislike to him and
meant to kill him; Fortunatus believed the story, and packing up his
fine clothes and money, slipped away before dawn.
He went to a great many big towns and lived well, and as he was
generous and not wiser than most youths of his age, he very soon found
himself penniless. Like his father, he then began to think of work, and
tramped half over Brittany in search of it. Nobody seemed to want him,
and he wandered about from one place to another, till he found himself
in a dense wood, without any paths, and not much light. Here he spent
two whole days, with nothing to eat and very little water to drink,
going first in one direction and then in another, but never being able
to find his way out. During the first night he slept soundly, and was
too tired to fear either man or beast, but when darkness came on for
the second time, and growls were heard in the distance, he grew
frightened and looked about for a high tree out of reach of his
enemies. Hardly had he settled himself comfortably in one of the forked
branches, when a lion walked up to a spring that burst from a rock
close to the tree, and crouching down drank greedily. This was bad
enough, but after all, lions do not climb trees, and as long as
Fortunatus stayed up on his perch, he was quite safe. But no sooner was
the lion out of sight, than his place was taken by a bear, and bears,
as Fortunatus knew very well, are tree-climbers. His heart beat fast,
and not without reason, for as the bear turned away he looked up and
Now in those days every young man carried a sword slung to his belt,
and it was a fashion that came in very handily for Fortunatus. He drew
his sword, and when the bear got within a yard of him he made a fierce
lunge forward. The bear, wild with pain, tried to spring, but the bough
he was standing on broke with his weight, and he fell heavily to the
ground. Then Fortunatus descended from his tree (first taking good care
to see no other wild animals were in sight) and killed him with a
single blow. He was just thinking he would light a fire and make a
hearty dinner off bear's flesh, which is not at all bad eating, when he
beheld a beautiful lady standing by his side leaning on a wheel, and
her eyes hidden by a bandage.
'I am Dame Fortune,' she said, 'and I have a gift for you. Shall it
be wisdom, strength, long life, riches, health, or beauty? Think well,
and tell me what you will have.'
But Fortunatus, who had proved the truth of the proverb that 'It's
ill thinking on an empty stomach,' answered quickly, 'Good lady, let me
have riches in such plenty that I may never again be as hungry as I am
And the lady held out a purse and told him he had only to put his
hand into it, and he and his children would always find ten pieces of
gold. But when they were dead it would be a magic purse no longer.
At this news Fortunatus was beside himself with joy, and could
hardly find words to thank the lady. But she told him that the best
thing he could do was to find his way out of the wood, and before
bidding him farewell pointed out which path he should take. He walked
along it as fast as his weakness would let him, until a welcome light
at a little distance showed him that a house was near. It turned out to
be an inn, but before entering Fortunatus thought he had better make
sure of the truth of what the lady had told him, and took out the purse
and looked inside. Sure enough there were the ten pieces of gold,
shining brightly. Then Fortunatus walked boldly up to the inn, and
ordered them to get ready a good supper at once, as he was very hungry,
and to bring him the best wine in the house. And he seemed to care so
little what he spent that everybody thought he was a great lord, and
vied with each other who should run quickest when he called.
After a night passed in a soft bed, Fortunatus felt so much better
that he asked the landlord if he could find him some men-servants, and
tell him where any good horses were to be got. The next thing was to
provide himself with smart clothes, and then to take a big house where
he could give great feasts to the nobles and beautiful ladies who lived
in palaces round about.
In this manner a whole year soon slipped away, and Fortunatus was so
busy amusing himself that he never once remembered his parents whom he
had left behind in Cyprus. But though he was thoughtless, he was not
bad-hearted. As soon as their existence crossed his mind, he set about
making preparations to visit them, and as he was not fond of being
alone he looked round for some one older and wiser than himself to
travel with him. It was not long before he had the good luck to come
across an old man who had left his wife and children in a far country
many years before, when he went out into the world to seek the fortune
which he never found. He agreed to accompany Fortunatus back to Cyprus,
but only on condition he should first be allowed to return for a few
weeks to his own home before venturing to set sail for an island so
strange and distant. Fortunatus agreed to his proposal, and as he was
always fond of anything new, said that he would go with him.
The journey was long, and they had to cross many large rivers, and
climb over high mountains, and find their way through thick woods,
before they reached at length the old man's castle. His wife and
children had almost given up hopes of seeing him again, and crowded
eagerly round him. Indeed, it did not take Fortunatus five minutes to
fall in love with the youngest daughter, the most beautiful creature in
the whole world, whose name was Cassandra.
'Give her to me for my wife,' he said to the old man, 'and let us
all go together to Famagosta.'
So a ship was bought big enough to hold Fortunatus, the old man and
his wife, and their ten children—five of them sons and five daughters.
And the day before they sailed the wedding was celebrated with
magnificent rejoicings, and everybody thought that Fortunatus must
certainly be a prince in disguise. But when they reached Cyprus, he
learned to his sorrow that both his father and mother were dead, and
for some time he shut himself up in his house and would see nobody,
full of shame at having forgotten them all these years. Then he begged
that the old man and his wife would remain with him, and take the place
of his parents.
For twelve years Fortunatus and Cassandra and their two little boys
lived happily in Famagosta. They had a beautiful house and everything
they could possibly want, and when Cassandra's sisters married the
purse provided them each with a fortune. But at last Fortunatus grew
tired of staying at home, and thought he should like to go out and see
the world again. Cassandra shed many tears at first when he told her of
his wishes, and he had a great deal of trouble to persuade her to give
her consent. But on his promising to return at the end of two years she
agreed to let him go. Before he went away he showed her three chests of
gold, which stood in a room with an iron door, and walls twelve feet
thick. 'If anything should happen to me,' he said, 'and I should never
come back, keep one of the chests for yourself, and give the others to
our two sons.' Then he embraced them all and took ship for Alexandria.
The wind was fair and in a few days they entered the harbour, where
Fortunatus was informed by a man whom he met on landing, that if he
wished to be well received in the town, he must begin by making a
handsome present to the Sultan. 'That is easily done,' said Fortunatus,
and went into a goldsmith's shop, where he bought a large gold cup,
which cost five thousand pounds. This gift so pleased the Sultan that
he ordered a hundred casks of spices to be given to Fortunatus;
Fortunatus put them on board his ship, and commanded the captain to
return to Cyprus and deliver them to his wife, Cassandra. He next
obtained an audience of the Sultan, and begged permission to travel
through the country, which the Sultan readily gave him, adding some
letters to the rulers of other lands which Fortunatus might wish to
Filled with delight at feeling himself free to roam through the
world once more, Fortunatus set out on his journey without losing a
day. From court to court he went, astonishing everyone by the
magnificence of his dress and the splendour of his presents. At length
he grew as tired of wandering as he had been of staying at home, and
returned to Alexandria, where he found the same ship that had brought
him from Cyprus lying in the harbour. Of course the first thing he did
was to pay his respects to the Sultan, who was eager to hear about his
When Fortunatus had told them all, the Sultan observed: 'Well, you
have seen many wonderful things, but I have something to show you more
wonderful still;' and he led him into a room where precious stones lay
heaped against the walls. Fortunatus' eyes were quite dazzled, but the
Sultan went on without pausing and opened a door at the farther end. As
far as Fortunatus could see, the cupboard was quite bare, except for a
little red cap, such as soldiers wear in Turkey.
'Look at this,' said the Sultan.
'But there is nothing very valuable about it,' answered Fortunatus.
'I've seen a dozen better caps than that, this very day.'
'Ah,' said the Sultan, 'you do not know what you are talking about.
Whoever puts this cap on his head and wishes himself in any place, will
find himself there in a moment.'
'But who made it?' asked Fortunatus.
'That I cannot tell you,' replied the Sultan.
'Is it very heavy to wear?' asked Fortunatus.
'No, quite light,' replied the Sultan, 'just feel it.'
Fortunatus took the cap and put it on his head, and then, without
thinking, wished himself back in the ship that was starting for
Famagosta. In a second he was standing at the prow, while the anchor
was being weighed, and while the Sultan was repenting of his folly in
allowing Fortunatus to try on the cap, the vessel was making fast for
When it arrived, Fortunatus found his wife and children well, but
the two old people were dead and buried. His sons had grown tall and
strong, but unlike their father had no wish to see the world, and found
their chief pleasure in hunting and tilting. In the main, Fortunatus
was content to stay quietly at home, and if a restless fit did seize
upon him, he was able to go away for a few hours without being missed,
thanks to the cap, which he never sent back to the Sultan.
By-and-by he grew old, and feeling that he had not many days to
live, he sent for his two sons, and showing them the purse and cap, he
said to them: 'Never part with these precious possessions. They are
worth more than all the gold and lands I leave behind me. But never
tell their secret, even to your wife or dearest friend. That purse has
served me well for forty years, and no one knows whence I got my
riches.' Then he died and was buried by his wife Cassandra, and he was
mourned in Famagosta for many years.