MERCURY AND THE WOODMAN
A Woodman was felling a tree on the bank of a river, when his axe,
glancing off the trunk, flew out of his hands and fell into the water.
As he stood by the water's edge lamenting his loss, Mercury appeared
and asked him the reason for his grief; and on learning what had
happened, out of pity for his distress he dived into the river and,
bringing up a golden axe, asked him if that was the one he had lost.
The Woodman replied that it was not, and Mercury then dived a second
time, and, bringing up a silver axe, asked if that was his. "No, that
is not mine either," said the Woodman. Once more Mercury dived into
the river, and brought up the missing axe. The Woodman was overjoyed
at recovering his property, and thanked his benefactor warmly; and the
latter was so pleased with his honesty that he made him a present of
the other two axes. When the Woodman told the story to his companions,
one of these was filled with envy of his good fortune and determined
to try his luck for himself. So he went and began to fell a tree at
the edge of the river, and presently contrived to let his axe drop
into the water. Mercury appeared as before, and, on learning that his
axe had fallen in, he dived and brought up a golden axe, as he had
done on the previous occasion. Without waiting to be asked whether
it was his or not the fellow cried, "That's mine, that's mine," and
stretched out his hand eagerly for the prize: but Mercury was so
disgusted at his dishonesty that he not only declined to give him the
golden axe, but also refused to recover for him the one he had let
fall into the stream.
Honesty is the best policy.