In a particular country, there was a rich man. He had only one son. When the son came of age, the father said, “My boy, of all things on earth, friends are of the utmost value. So I advise you to acquire friends.”
The boy began to acquire friends. Soon he had a band of youths around him. They treated the boy with the utmost regard and appeared ready to lay down their lives for him.
After a time, the rich man called his son and asked, “Son, could you make any friends?”
“Yes, father,” the boy replied. “I have plenty of them.”
“Are they all truly your friends?” the father asked in surprise.
“Well,” said the son after thinking, “I can swear that about ten of them are truly my friends.”
“I have lived so long,” said the father, “and I could not acquire more than one and a half friends. I cannot believe that you have found ten good friends in such a short time!”
But the son tried to assure the father that his ten friends would lay down their lives for his sake.
“We can very easily verify that,” said the father. “I want you to do exactly as I tell you. Kill a pig, put it in a sack, take the sack and go to each one of your friends secretly. Tell them that you killed a man in a rage, that you are likely to be hanged if the fact comes to be known, and that those who try to help you are likely to be hanged too. Then ask them to come to your help. We shall see what they will do.”
The son put a dead pig in a sack and went to each one of his friends and asked for their help. Not one volunteered to help him.
“Under the circumstances,” said one of them, “I cannot see how anyone can help you. I request you not to reveal to anyone that you have been seeing me with the corpse. You will gain nothing thereby but unnecessarily implicate me!”
“I am, of course, ready to die for you,” said another. But how are you going to be benefited from my death?”
“I am filled with sorrow that this should happen to you, my dearest friend!” said a third. “I promise to remember you till my last day.”
“You can depend upon me,” said yet another, to carry your body in a procession after they hang you and give you the grandest burial!”
Thoroughly disillusioned and sad, the boy returned to his father and told him what each of his friends had said.
“I am not surprised,” said the father, nodding his head. “I’ve already told you I have one and a half friends, do you remember? Let us see how they will come to your help.”
The boy went with his sack in the dead of night to his father’s half-friend and told him what he had said to all his friends.
The man heard the boy’s statement and replied, “I do not know you, but your father is one of my dearest friends. For his sake, I shall help you.”
He took the boy to his backyard, where he dug a pit, put the sack in it, and covered it up. “Now your crime is buried for good,” he said to the boy. “You can go about without any fear.”
When the son reported what had happened, the father sent a message to the Chief of Police through one of his servants. “Your Excellency,” the servant said to the Chief, “my master’s son killed a man, put him in a sack, and went with it to so-and-so. This gentleman protected the murderer by burying the sack in his backyard.”
At once, the Chief of Police sent his men to dig the place, and the sack was discovered.
“Sir,” said the half-friend to the Chief, “I know nothing about this sack. It is true that the young man came to me one night and said he was the son of a particular friend of mine. I have not set eyes upon him either before or since. May he. He buried the sack in my backyard, but I know nothing about it!”
In the meantime, the son went to the other friend of his father and said, “Sir, I am the son of such-and-such person. Unfortunately, I quarrelled with a person and killed him. Another friend of my father tried to protect me by burying the dead man in his backyard, but the truth leaked out, and I faced the gallows. Can you do anything to save me?”
At once, the gentleman got up and went to the Chief of Police and said to him. “Sir, I have learned that a certain young man was charged with murder. But I know that boy is innocent, for the real murderer is my son! It is not proper that one should be punished for another’s crime. So I am constrained to reveal the truth, however much I hate to do it. Kindly let that boy go and hang my son!”
When the rich man knows of this, he says to his son. “There is a true friend for you, son! Don’t think all friends can be so noble.”
He then went to the Chief of Police and told him what had happened. What the sack contains is only a pig,” he said. “You can open it and see for yourself!”
The Chief of Police did so and was amazed to find only a dead pig in the sack.