MERCURY AND THE WOODMAN
A POOR Woodman was cutting
down a tree near the edge of a
deep pool in the forest. It was
late in the day and the Woodman
was tired. He had been working
since sunrise and his strokes were
not so sure as they had been early
that morning. Thus it happened
that the axe slipped and flew out
of his hands into the pool.
The Woodman was in despair.
The axe was all he possessed with
which to make a living, and he
had not money enough to buy a
new one. As he stood wringing
his hands and weeping, the god
Mercury suddenly appeared and
asked what the trouble was. The
Woodman told what had happened, and straightway the kind
Mercury dived into the pool.
When he came up again he held
a wonderful golden axe.
"Is this your axe?" Mercury
asked the Woodman.
"No," answered the honest
Woodman, "that is not my axe."
 Mercury laid the golden axe
on the bank and sprang back into
the pool. This time he brought
up an axe of silver, but the Woodman declared again that his axe
was just an ordinary one with a
Mercury dived down for the
third time, and when he came up
again he had the very axe that
had been lost.
The poor Woodman was very
glad that his axe had been found
and could not thank the kind god
enough. Mercury was greatly
pleased with the Woodman's
"I admire your honesty," he
said, "and as a reward you may
have all three axes, the gold and
the silver as well as your own."
The happy Woodman returned
to his home with his treasures,
and soon the story of his good
fortune was known to everybody
in the village. Now there were
several Woodmen in the village
who believed that they could
easily win the same good fortune. They
hurried out into the
woods, one here, one there,
and hiding their axes in the
bushes, pretended they had
lost them. Then they wept and
wailed and called on Mercury to
And indeed, Mercury did appear, first to this one, then to
that. To each one he showed an
axe of gold, and each one eagerly
claimed it to be the one he had
lost. But Mercury did not give
them the golden axe. Oh no! Instead he gave them each a hard
whack over the head with it and
sent them home. And when they
returned next day to look for their
own axes, they were nowhere to
Honesty is the best policy.