There was once a very poor, very plain looking, simple minded young woman who lived with her three small children in a hovel high on a cliff overlooking a swirling river below. Because she was very plain looking, and knew it, she opened her heart and body to any man who came along and showed the slightest interest in her hoping to get herself a husband. But alas she got none and got three small children instead.
She worked very hard cleaning for rich families in town yet was barely able to make ends meet. She even begged for food so that she could provide at least one meal a day for her children. Many times she went to bed hungry so that her children would not.
Now this night, after a meal of a few beans, she sat with her children along the cliff above the river. Life was hard for her children. It would never get any better for them, she thought. She knew if another man came along and sweet talked her there would just be another mouth to feed. So she thought to herself that her children would be better off in heaven with God. God would feed and clothe them and they would be happy with Him there forever. She looked at the river below and knew what she had to do and she started to sob for she loved her children dearly but believed that this was the only way she could give them a better life.
Now the Devil happened to be in town on his way to a convention that day, for a convention was always an opportunity for him to corrupt many souls, and he could not pass it up. He saw the poor woman crying and said to himself, “Here is another soul for me to take.” So he disguised himself as a priest, for he knew that such a grieving woman would confide all to a priest, and approached the poor woman.
“What is the matter my child? He asked her. “Perhaps I can be of assistance and help you.”
“Oh Father,” she said, “I am such an evil mother. I cannot provide for my children and I have been thinking of drowning my children in the river so that they can go to heaven and be happy forever with God. Here on earth I can only give them a life of misery and poverty. But I can not do this because though they would be in heaven, I would go to Hell when I die for drowning them and I would never see my children again ever. What am I to do Father?”
The Devil put his arm around her shoulders and said, “Give me your children and I will see that they are adopted by a rich family here in town who can give them everything that they could ever want.”
“Oh Father that would be wonderful. Would you do that for me?”
“Yes my child and I can do even more. You only have to ask,” prodded the Devil hoping to take the soul of this poor simple sobbing woman.
“Well there is one other thing you could do for me,” she said.
“What is that my child?” answered the Devil. He knew he had her hooked now. All he had to do was reel her in.
“Could you make it so that I have no more children Father?” she asked. “For I do not wish to bring any more children into this world and into a life of grinding poverty.”
“Yes I can do that also do that for you. But you will have to give me something in return,” said the Devil.
“What is that?” asked the woman.
“A kiss to seal the deal,” said the Devil. “Give me a kiss.”
The poor woman thought that strange, the priest asking for a kiss, but she wanted so much for her children to have a better life and she wanted to end her cycle of childbearing. So she leaned over and gave the Devil a kiss on the check and when she did so she felt a tremor all over her body but she did not know why that was so. For unbeknownst to her, the Devil had stolen her soul from her when she kissed him. For some say that when you kiss the Devil, you kiss your soul goodbye.
Now the Devil took her three children with him and left the sobbing woman there still weeping. But this time she cried tears of joy instead of sadness for she was so happy for her children.
But the Devil did not place the children as promised with a rich family to raise. Instead he gave them to a den of cutthroats and thieves for them to raise in the evil ways of the world.
Next week the poor woman looked for her children at the homes of the rich people for whom she worked. But alas they were nowhere to be found. So she went to the church to find the priest and ask him where her children were.
But she could not find the priest with whom she had previously spoken and instead found another priest. So she asked that priest if he knew of the priest to whom she had spoken.
“Oh yes I know of that man,” he said. “But he is not a priest. The man you described, that man you spoke to was not a priest. He was the Devil in disguise. Many a poor soul from the convention have come to me in the past week to confess their sins and have told me how this man led them down the road to ruin.”
“Oh Father what am I to do. I have been so foolish,” she said and started to weep uncontrollably.
“Do not worry my child. The convention is over now and the Devil has moved on and I know where your children are. They are with the lowlifes of this city. Even these thieves and cutthroats come here to confess and ask for God’s forgiveness for their sins. Why just yesterday they confessed to the corruption of three small children. I will go to them and tell these sinners that God will only forgive them if they return your children to you.”
And he did. And they did. And she wept tears of joy again when her children were returned.
Now a year has passed now and during that year she did not become with child even though she had been with a man. She was so happy now because she had her children back and because she would have no more. She had gotten the better of that deal with the Devil after all she thought.
And as said it was a year later and the Devil was back in town to harvest more souls at the same yearly convention. But before doing so he thought that he would pay a visit to the sobbing woman and gloat. But when he came to her home, he found to his astonishment, that her children were back with her. And he became angry and enraged.
And when the poor woman saw the Devil she shuddered and grabbed her children and pressed them to her bosom.
“Why do you have my
children?” bellowed the Devil. “You gave then to me. They are mine. Give
them back to me.”
”You cannot have them,” she said defiantly.
“Oh but I will for I still have your soul, a soul doomed to Hell I might add.”
“Oh is that so?” asked the woman snidely.
“Yes I stole it from you when you gave me that kiss. Now give me the children and I will give you back your soul.” Steam came from the Devil’s ears as he said this. He was mad at this woman for defying him and was running out of patience with her.
“My soul is worthless anyway. You can keep it,” shouted back the woman. “I will keep my children.”
“Then you have broken our deal and therefore it is null and void. But remember part of that deal was that you would have no more children. Since you have reneged, I too renege and cancel the deal. Your womb will conceive again and you will have more children that you cannot feed and you will eventually come to me begging for me to take them all. It is only a matter of time for you are such a simple minded fool.” And with that the Devil let out his trademark eerie cackling laugh.
“Well since you have cancelled our contract,” she answered, “then you no longer have my soul do you? My soul is returned to me and I am no longer condemned to an eternity in Hell am I?”
The Devil said nothing for he knew that he had spoken in foolish haste and in revenge when he said he canceled the deal, that he had lost a soul he had previously possessed. This simple minded woman had inadvertently gotten the better of him.
But the woman knew that the Devil was right. She would have more children now. She knew that she could barely provide for herself or her children now. She knew that her life and the lives of her children and her children to be, were doomed to misery, grief, and grinding poverty here on earth. Perhaps she was right the first time when she wished for her children to be in heaven with God.
She hugged all three of her children and herded them over to the edge of the cliff. She looked down at the foaming river below, made the sign of the cross, asked for God’s forgiveness, then jumped, taking her children with her.
Some say that when a cold
north wind blows down and swirls about and churns up the waters of the river,
you can hear the haunting wailing sobs of the sobbing woman being released from
the depths below. Sobs that send a chill down your spine and give you
goosebumps all over your body.