Once a poor woodman went to the wood which was on the bank of a deep river. He was working all day long and got tired.
Suddenly his axe slipped from his hand and fell into the water.
"Oh! I have lost my axe," he cried. "I have nothing to earn my living with! What shall I do? The river is very deep and I am afraid to dive into it. Who can help me?"
Mercury heard the poor man's cries and appeared before him.
"What is the matter, poor woodman?" he asked. "Why are you so sad and unhappy?"
The woodman told him his story and Mercury promised to help him. He dived into the river and brought up a golden axe. "Is it yours?" he asked.
"No, that is not mine," answered the woodman.
Mercury dived again and this time brought up a silver axe.
"Is it yours?" he asked, and the woodman again answered "No."
So Mercury dived a third time and this time brought up the axe that had slipped from the woodman's hand. "That is my axe," cried the man. "Now I can work again."
Mercury was so pleased with the woodman's honesty that he made him a present of the other two axes and disappeared before he could even say "Thank you."
Pleased with his good luck the woodman went home. He told his friends all about it and one of them decided to trv his luck. So he went to the same place, dropped his axe into the water and cried: "Oh! I have lost my axe. I have nothing to earn my living with! What shall I do? Who can help me?"
Mercury appeared as before, and having learnt the man's story he dived irrto the river. Again» he brought up a golden axe. "Is it yours?" he asked.
"Yes, it is," said the second woodman. "You are not telling me the truth," said Mercury, "that's why you'll neither have this axe nor the one that you so foolishly dropped into the water."