Mercury and the Woodman

2.17. MERCURY AND THE WOODMAN. A Man was felling a tree on the bank of a river; and by chance let his hatchet slip out of his hand, which dropt into the water, and immediately sunk to the bottom. Being therefore in great distress for the loss of his tool, he sat down and bemoaned himself most lamentably. Upon this, Mercury appeared to him, and, being informed of the cause of his complaint, dived to the bottom of the river, and coming up again, showed the man a golden hatchet, demanding if that were his. He denied that it was. Upon which Mercury dived a second time, and brought up a silver one. The man refused it, alleging likewise that this was not his. He dived a third time, and fetched up the individual hatchet the man had lost; upon sight of which the poor wretch was overjoyed, and took it with all humility and thankfulness. Mercury was so pleased with the fellow's honesty, that he gave him the other two into the bargain, as a reward for his just dealing.
The man goes to his companions, and giving them an account of what had happened, one of them went presently to the river's side, and let his hatchet fall designedly into the stream. Then sitting down upon the bank, he fell a weeping and lamenting, as if he had been really and sorely afflicted. Mercury appeared as before, and diving, brought him up a golden hatchet, asking if that was the hatchet he lost. Transported at the precious metal, he answered, Yes; and went to snatch it greedily. But the god detesting his abominable impudence, not only refused to give him that, but would not so much as let him have his own hatchet again.
MORAL. Honesty is the best policy; religion absolutely requires it of its votaries: and the honest man, provided his other talents are not deficient, always carries the preference in our esteem before any other, in whatever business he employs himself. [more info]

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