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J. H. Stickney

Mercury and the Woodman

A WOODMAN, felling a tree by the side of the river, let his ax drop by accident into the stream.

Being thus suddenly deprived of the tool by means of which he gained his livelihood, he sat down upon the bank and lamented his hard fate.

To his surprise Mercury appeared and asked him what was the matter. Having heard the story of the man's misfortune, he dived to the bottom of the river, and bringing up a golden ax, inquired if that was the one he had lost.

On saying that it was not his, Mercury dived a second time, and returning with a silver ax in his hand, again demanded of the Woodman if it was his.

This also the Woodman refused, saying that it was none of his. Mercury disappeared a third time and brought up the ax that the man had lost. This the poor man took with joy and thankfulness.

So pleased was Mercury with the honesty of the man, that he gave him the other two axes in addition to his own.

The Woodman, on his return home, related to his companions all that had happened. One of them resolved to see if he could secure the same good fortune to himself.

He ran to the river and threw his ax in, then sat down upon the bank to lament his sad fate.

Mercury appeared as before and demanded to know the cause of his grief. After hearing the man's account, he dived and brought up a golden ax and asked the man if that was his.

Transported at the sight of the precious metal, the fellow eagerly attempted to snatch it. The god, detecting his falsehood and greed, not only declined to give him the golden ax but refused to recover for him his own.