A poor woodman was working in the forest on the bank of a river and quite by chance dropped his axe into the river. The man was very sorry to lose his axe and he sat on the bank and lamented his loss.
Mercury*, the god, heard his voice and appeared before him.
“Why do you lament, my good man?” asked the god/
“I am a poor man”, said the woodman, “and now I cannot work, as I have lost my axe”.
Mercury dived into the water and then appeared with a golden axe in his hand.
“Is it your axe?” he asked.
“No, it is not”, said the man.
Mercury dived a second time and appeared again with a silver axe.
“Take this axe,” said the god.
“It is not my axe,” said the poor man again.
The Mercury dived a third time and appeared with the axe which belonged to the woodman.
The poor man was very glad to get his axe back and thanked Mercury heartily.
Mercury was so pleased with the man’s honesty that he gave him the golden axe as a reward for it.
The woodman went to the village and told his neighbours about Mercury and the axes.
One of them was a very greedy and selfish man and he went to the bank of the river and dropped his axe into the water. Then he sat down upon the bank and lamented his loss.
Mercury heard his voice and appeared before him.
“Why do you lament, my good man?” asked the god.
“I dropped my axe into the river”, answered the man.
The god dived into the river and appeared with a golden axe.
“Is it your axe, my good man?” asked he.
The greedy man looked at the golden axe and cried: “Yes, yes, this is my axe!”
But Mercury was very angry with this liar. He did not give him the golden axe and he refused to dive into the river again. So, the man was punished for his dishonesty as he lost his own axe.
*Mercury was a major god of trade, profit and commerce in Roman mythology. More on Mercury >>.