Once upon a time, a man lost his favorite axe in the river. After much searching, he sat down on the bank in grief and began to weep.
The Water-sprite heard the man crying and took pity on him. He brought a gold axe out of the river, and said: “Is this your axe?”
The man said: “No, it is not mine.”
The Water-sprite brought another, a silver axe.
Again the man said: “It is not my axe.”
Then the Water-sprite brought out the real axe.
The man said: “Now this is my axe.”
The Water-sprite made the man a present of all three axes, for having told the truth.
At home the man showed his axes to his friends and told them what had happened to him.
One of the neighbors made up his mind to do the same: he went to the river, purposely threw his axe into the water, sat down on the bank, and began to weep.
The Water-sprite brought out a gold axe, and asked: “Is this your axe?”
The neighbor was glad, and called out: “It is mine, mine!”
But the Water-sprite did not give him the gold axe, and did not bring him back his own either, because he had told an untruth.
Moral: Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
Citation: Tolstoy, Leo. Fables for Children, Stories for Children, Natural Science Stories, Popular Education, Decembrists, Moral Tales. Boston, MA: Dana Estes & Company, 1904. Edited by S.E. Schlosser. This story is in the public domain and is part of the cited work.