The Devil’s Auction by William Rathvon

The Devil’s Auction  by William Rathvon

It was once announced that the devil was going out of business and would offer his tools for sale to whoever would pay his price.

On the night of the sale they were all attractively displayed, and a bad looking lot they were. Malice, envy, hatred, jealousy, sensuality, deceit, and all the other implements of evil were spread out, each marked with its price. Apart from the rest lay a harmless looking wedge-shaped tool, much worn and priced higher than any of the others.

Someone asked the devil what it was. “That’s discouragement,” was the reply.

“Well, why do you have it priced so high?”

“Because,” replied the devil, “it is more useful to me than any of the
others. I can pry open and get inside a man’s consciousness with that when I couldn’t get near him with any of the others, and when once inside I can use him in whatever way suits me best. It is so much worn because I use
it with nearly everybody, as very few people yet know that it belongs to me.”

“You say you use this wedge of discouragement with nearly everybody— with whom can’t you use it?”

The devil hesitated a long time and finally said in a low voice, “I can’t use it in getting into the consciousness of a grateful man.”

It hardly need be added that the devil’s price for discouragement was so high that it was never sold. He still owns it and he is still using it.


William Rathvon wrote “The Devil’s Auction” in 1911. In 1908, William Rathvon was called to serve in Mary Baker Eddy’s household at Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. He served as one of Mrs. Eddy’s corresponding secretaries until her passing in 1910. He was a member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship from 1911 until his appointment as Treasurer of The Mother Church, an office he held from June to October 1918. He was a member of The Christian Science Board of Directors from 1918 to 1939.