There were two thieves who were extremely good friends. One night it happened that they came to the same house at the same hour to steal. Just as one thief was about to carry his ladder through the front gate, the other thief arrived with his bag of tools. They could not make any noise, because they did not want to wake the residents of the house, so in whispers they had a wonderful fight. The one with the ladder said, “I came a few seconds before you, so I have the prior claim. It is my right to steal from this house!”
The other thief whispered back to him, “You can go in if you want, but I am telling you that I will wait until you are inside the house, and then I will create a noise to wake up the residents so you will be caught. Make up your mind! Do you want to be caught, or do you want us to steal together? We are both expert thieves. We can be partners!”
So the two of them agreed to combine their talents. They quietly opened the gate and went into the front garden of the house. By nature, these two thieves were of different types. The one carrying the ladder was fast and nimble. The one with the bag of tools was slow and methodical.
The one with the ladder placed it carefully against the side of the house and said, “I will climb up and look through the window on the second floor to see if the owners are asleep. If they are asleep, I will drop a coin. As soon as you hear the sound of the coin, you will know that it is safe for you to climb up. Then we will go in through the window. If we both enter together, we shall be able to work very quickly. Then we will leave the same way. I do not want to go in alone because it will take me too long to collect all the valuables.”
After they had agreed on this plan, the first thief climbed up the ladder and looked through the window. He saw that the occupants of the room were fast asleep, so he took a coin out of his pocket and dropped it onto the pathway below. He heard it make a slight sound and then he waited for the second thief to climb up the ladder. He waited and waited. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes passed by, and still there was no sign of his partner. Then he began to get annoyed. They had to complete the job under cover of darkness, and dawn was fast approaching. He was in a difficult position. He could not call down from the top of the ladder for fear of rousing the people inside and being caught.
Finally, after waiting a long time, the first thief decided to come down and see what was happening. At the foot of the ladder he saw the other thief kneeling on the ground. With utmost disgust he said, “What are you waiting for? Why did you not climb up the ladder when I gave the signal? Are you deaf as well as stupid?”
The second thief answered, “I heard the signal, but I have been looking for the coin. I heard it strike the ground, so I have been searching and searching for it.”
The first thief said, “You fool! Before I dropped the coin, I tied a long piece of string to it. After the coin touched the ground, I pulled it up again. Did you not see the string?”
How greedy these two thieves were, all for the sake of a little coin! The one on the ladder did not want to part with his coin, so he tied a string around it. And the one on the ground ruined their chances of robbing the house because he wanted to find the coin. This small amount of money was so precious to these two that they did not hesitate to try to take it away from each other. Such was the friendship of the two thieves!