A Workman, felling wood by the side of a river, let his axe drop
by accident into a deep pool. Being thus deprived of the means
of his livelihood, he sat down on the bank and lamented his hard
fate. Mercury appeared and demanded the cause of his tears.
After he told him his misfortune, Mercury plunged into the stream,
and, bringing up a golden axe, inquired if that were the one he
had lost. On his saying that it was not his, Mercury disappeared
beneath the water a second time, returned with a silver axe in
his hand, and again asked the Workman if it were his. When the
Workman said it was not, he dived into the pool for the third time
and brought up the axe that had been lost. The Workman claimed
it and expressed his joy at its recovery. Mercury, pleased with his
honesty, gave him the golden and silver axes in addition to his own.
The Workman, on his return to his house, related to his companions
all that had happened. One of them at once resolved to try and
secure the same good fortune for himself. He ran to the river and
threw his axe on purpose into the pool at the same place, and sat
down on the bank to weep. Mercury appeared to him just as he
hoped he would; and having learned the cause of his grief, plunged
into the stream and brought up a golden axe, inquiring if he had lost it.
The Workman seized it greedily, and declared that truly it was the very
same axe that he had lost. Mercury, displeased at his knavery, not only
took away the golden axe, but refused to recover for him the axe he
had thrown into the pool.
(Translated by George Fyler Townsend, 1814-1900)