Mercury And The Woodman

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Aesop's Fables

An honest, hard-working woodman was felling a tree on the bank of a deep river. In some way his hand slipped and his ax fell into the water and immediately sank to the bottom. Being a poor man who could I'll afford to lose the tool by which he earned his livelihood. He sat down and lamented his loss bitterly.

But Mercury, whose river it was, suddenly appeared on the scene. When he had learned of the woodman's misfortune, he offered to do what he could to help.

Diving into the deep, swift-flowing stream, he brought up an ax made of solid gold. "Could this be yours?" he asked. "Alas, I wish it were," replied the woodman sadly.

Again, Mercury dived into the icy cold water and this time brought up an ax made of solid silver. But again the woodman shook his head and denied that the tool belonged to him. Mercury dived a third time and produced the identical ax which the man had lost.

Naturally the owner was delighted to see his trusty ax once more, and so was Mercury.

"You are an honest and good man," said the messenger of the gods. "I want you to take the golden and the silver ax as a reward for telling the truth."

Thanking his benefactor, the woodman ran home to tell his wife of his good fortune. As the story spread, one of his neighbors rushed down to the same spot on the riverbank, threw his ax into the water, and began to moan and groan over his loss. Just as before, Mercury appeared, and learning what had just occurred, dived into the water and fetched up a golden ax. "Is this the ax you lost, my friend?" he asked.

"Yes, yes, that's it," lied the man, greedily reaching for the golden ax in Mercury's hand. But just as he was about to grasp the ax of gold, Mercury said: "Not so fast, sir. You are lying, and to punish you for not being truthful, I am not only denying you this, but I am leaving your own ax at the bottom of the river."

The moral of the story: be honest