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NOTE: Not recommended for very young children
"A hundred thousand."
"How many jewels?"
"The money's worth of gold."
"How much property in castles, forests, and lands?"
"Double the rest."
"Very well, Patrick; sell all that is not gold; and bring me the account. I only wish to keep this mansion and the land that surrounds it."
Two days afterwards the orders of the pious Kathleen were carried out and the treasure was distributed to the poor in proportion to their wants. This, says the tradition, did not suit the purposes of the evil merchants , who found no more souls to purchase. Aided by a vile servant, they broke into the mansion of the noble lady and stole from her the rest of her treasure. In vain she struggled with all her strength to save the contents of her coffers; but the diabolical thieves were the stronger. If Kathleen had been able to make the sign of the Cross, adds the legend, she would have put them to flight, but her hands were tied. The theft was successfully completed.
Now, when the famished poor called on the plundered Kathleen to help them; alas, to no good: she was unable to relieve their misery and she had to abandon them to the temptation offered by the evil traders.
Meanwhile, but eight days had to pass before grain for the bread and hay for the cows and pigs would arrive in abundance from the western lands. Eight days was a long, long time, when there was such a terrible shortage of food in the city. Eight days required an immense sum to buy what little food there was; the poor should either perish in the agonies of hunger, or, denying their faith, sell for mere money, their immortal souls, the richest gift from the bounteous hand of Almighty God. And Kathleen had nothing left to give. She passed many hours in tears and mourning, but then she stood up, determined to carry out an idea that had come into her head. She went to the merchants who traded in souls. "What do you want?" they said.
"Today I am come to offer you a bargain," replied she.
"I have a soul to sell, but it is costly."
"What makes it so precious? The soul, like the diamond, is appraised by its transparency."
"It is mine."
The two emissaries of the devil were startled. Their fingers clutched like claws under their gloves of leather; their black eyes sparkled; the soul, pure, spotless, angelic soul l of the Countess Kathleen O'Shea - it was a priceless acquisition!
"Beauteous lady, how much do you ask?"
"A hundred and fifty thousand pieces of gold."
"Sign this paper and it's yours" replied the traders, and they gave Kathleen a parchment sealed with black, which she signed with a shudder.
The sum was counted out to her.
As soon as she got home she said to the butler, "Here, distribute this; with this money that I give you the poor can tide over the eight days that remain, and not one of their souls will be sold."
Afterwards she shut herself up in her room, and gave orders that none should disturb her.
Three days passed; she called nobody, she did not come out.
When the door was opened, they found her cold and stiff; she was dead of grief.
But the sale of this soul, so noble in its charity, was declared null and void by the Lord; for she had saved her fellow-citizens from hunger on earth and the eternal fires of hell.
After the eight days had passed, numerous vessels brought into famished Ireland immense provisions. Hunger was no longer possible. As to the two traders, they disappeared from the inn without a trace and no-one knew what became of them. But the fishermen of the Blackwater pretend that they are chained together in a prison under the sea by order of the devil, until they shall be able to render up the soul of Countess Kathleen O'Shea, which escaped from them.
* NOTE: This story first appeared in an Irish newspaper many, many years ago. No-one seems to know who wrote it or when.
This statue of Annie Moore - the first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island - stands on the dock in Cobh. Co. Cork. She looks back towards the home she is leaving while her brothers look out to sea and, beyond the horizon, the New World, three thousand miles away.
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March 4, 2011