Mercury and the Woodman

04. MERCURY AND THE WOODMAN. A woodman was felling a tree on the bank of a river; and by chance let his axe slip from his hand, which dropped into the water and immediately sank to the bottom. Being therefore in great distress, he sat down by the side of the stream and bewailed his loss. Upon this, Mercury, whose river it was, had compassion on him, and appearing before him asked the cause of his sorrow. On hearing it, he dived to the bottom of the river, and coming up again, showed the man a golden hatchet, and asked if that were his. He said that it was not. Then Mercury dived a second time, and brought up a silver one. The woodman refused it, saying again that this was not his. So he dived a third time, and brought up the very axe that had been lost. "That is mine!" said the woodman, delighted to have his own again. Mercury was so pleased with his honesty that he made him a present of the other two, as a reward for his just dealing.
The man goes to his companions, and giving them an account of what had happened to him, one of them determined to try whether he might not have the like good fortune. So he went presently to the river's side and let his axe fall on purpose into the stream. Then he sat down on the bank and made a great show of weeping. Mercury appeared as before, and diving, brought up a golden axe. When he asked if that were the one that was lost, "Aye, surely!" said the man, and snatched at it greedily. But Mercury, to punish his impudence and lying, not only refused to give him that, but would not so much as let him have his own axe again. [more info]

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