Below is the second part of the honest woodcutter's story:
Suddenly the river started to make noise. The woodcutter looked up and saw the water rising. Then the water grew arms and a head, and it started to talk to him! "I am the water sprite, a fairy of this river. Why are you so sad?"
After the woodcutter told him what had happened, the water sprite said, "Don't worry. I can help you. I'll go down to the bottom of the river to find your ax."
In an instant the sprite was gone, and the river began to swirl and foam. After a few moments, the water sprite appeared again. This time the sprite smiled and held something in his watery hands. "Is this your ax?" he asked the woodcutter. "I found it in the rocks."
The woodcutter looked closely at the ax. Whoever owned it was rich indeed. The ax was so shiny and beautiful. It was made of pure silver! The woodcutter thought about taking it. He could sell the ax and buy many fine things for his family.
There was just one problem, though. The ax did not belong to him, and it would be wrong to say it was his. Finally the woodcutter said, "I cannot take this ax. It is not mine."
The water sprite was surprised. He tossed the silver ax on the ground and said, "Very well, I'll look for your ax again."
Once again the sprite left to look for the woodcutter's ax at the bottom of the river. And once again the river began to swirl and foam. When the water sprite returned after a few moments, he held an ax that was more magnificent than the first one. It was made of solid gold!
"This must be yours," said the sprite.
The woodcutter held the amazing gold ax for a moment. This ax could make him very rich. He could buy a big house in town, fine china dishes for his wife, and all the toys that his children could dream of!
But the woodcutter gave the ax back to the sprite. "This is a fine ax, and you are kind to offer it to me," he explained. "But this ax is not mine. I am sure someone is looking for it and misses it."
The water sprite smiled and said, "Well, I see that you will take only your own ax. Let me look for it once more."
For a third time the magic water sprite left to look for the woodcutter's ax. When the sprite returned, he held another ax. This one was much different than the first two that he had brought to the woodcutter.
This ax wasn't shiny at all, and the handle was worn from use. The woodcutter smiled and said, "Ah yes! This is my ax."
The water sprite shook his head. "Are you sure you want this ax? The other two are so much finer!"
"Yes, but they are not mine," said the woodcutter. He held his steel ax and said, "This ax has cut more trees than I can count. It was good enough for me before, so it must be good enough for me now."
The water sprite smiled and said, "Your ax is not worth much, but your honesty is. The silver and gold axes belong to me. I want you to take them as a gift for telling the truth."
The woodcutter was very excited to have all three axes.
Continue to the next page to learn the ending of the honest woodcutter's story.
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