70 THE THIEF AND THE LIAR
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.
'1 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 twrelve 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 long journey.'
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.