IN THE far north country there lived a father, mother, and son. So poor and desolate were they that their only possession was an old ax. Each morning, as the eye of day opened on the earth, they went to the woods and there remained until the evening, cutting the wood, which, when sold, furnished their only source of a living.
Upon a day, when the cutting was done, they placed the ax near the wood and went deeper into the jungle for vines to bind the wood. It happened the chow of the province came that way with twelve of his men; one of whom bore an ax of gold, another bore an ax of silver and both belonged to the chow. Yet, when the chow saw the old, wooden-handled ax lying near the wood, he commanded that it be taken home with them.
The family returning found their ax gone. Deeply distressed, they sat down and wept, and thus in trouble, did the chow and his men find them as they came that way again.
"Why are your hearts thus troubled?" inquired the chow.
They answered: "O chow, we had but one ax and it is gone and no other means of earning food have we!"
The chow replied: "I found your ax. Here it is." And he commanded they be given the ax of silver, whose handle even was silver.
"That is not ours," they cried, "not ours."
The chow commanded the ax of gold be given them. Yet they wept but the more, saying, "The golden ax is not ours. Ours was old, 'twas but of steel and the handle of wood, but 'twas all we had."
Their honesty gladdened the heart of the chow and he commanded that not only their own ax be returned, but the ax of gold, the ax of silver, and even a pun  of gold be given them. Thus was merit rewarded.