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The Woodman and Mercury

    Once upon a time, a woodman was cutting down a tree by the side of a lake. By accident he let his ax fall into the water. As he lost the tool with which he had gained his livelihood1, he sat down upon the bank and felt very sad about his hard fate.
    To his surprise, Mercury appeared, and asked him what was the matter. When he heard the story of the man's misfortune, he dived to the bottom of the lake, and, bringing up a golden ax, asked if that were the one he had lost. Hearing that it was not his, Mercury dived a second time, and, returning with a silver ax in his hand, again asked the Woodman if it were his. The woodman denied this too, saying that it was not his. Mercury dived a third time, and brought up the very ax that the man had lost. This the poor man took with joy and thankfulness. So pleased was Mercury at the honesty of the man, that he gave him the other two axes besides his own.
    When he returned home, the woodman told his companions all that had happened. One of them decided2 to see if he could secure the same good fortune for himself. He ran to the lake, and threw his ax in on purpose, then sat down upon the bank and lamented3(哀悼) his sad fate.
    Mercury appeared as before, and wanted to know the cause of his grief. After hearing the man's story, he dived, and brought up a golden ax, and asked him if that were his. Delighted at the sight of the golden ax, the fellow answered that it was, and eagerly attempted to get hold of it.
    The God saw that he was dishonest, and refused to hand it to him. The man went home disappointed.
    "Honesty is the best policy."

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