There was a merchant and he was a right bugger, saving your presence my lady. Any crooked scheme to make money, he was in on it, by which I mean he was very different to all those here present. Anyway, he heard that a monastery not too far from him had a very precious holy relic, no less than the thumb bone of no less than St Jerome himself, whose thumb was especially holy because it had licked so many bible pages. Anyway, it was also well known that this monastery, unlike many, was ruled by an innocent abbot, not used to the wiles of the world. Seizing his chance this wicked merchant made his ill-intentioned pilgrimage to this monastery wearing his worst clothes but having secreted one gold coin I will not say where.
When he gets there he pretends to be a poor pilgrim who has made a vow to kiss the thumb of St Jerome in penance for bad mouthing all learned men when drunk. Of course the abbot allows him to do so and, seeing a poor man, does not ask for the usual fee that abbots would normally ask and, it being late, the man is given a bed in the hospital.
The following morning the merchant rushes to disturb the poor abbot at his breakfast crying, “A miracle! A miracle! Sir Abbot, last night I was so overcome by being in the presence of the saint’s thumb that I prayed to him and the Blessed Virgin for the wherewithal to buy the precious object for I knew that, if I could only possess such a thing I would never return to my old ways and thus be certain of salvation. When I woke up what did I find clutched in mine own sinful hand but this.” With which he produced his gold coin.
The abbot was amazed and did not know what to do. He knew enough to know that the relic was worth much more than the coin but this was also a chance to save a sinner; being a saintly man that weighed more heavily with him. Despite all his senior monks speaking against it the deal was done.
The merchant left the monastery gates rejoicing, thinking only of what he would get for the relic. But, as we know your honours, the Devil is always looking out for when we are in the deepest mire and it was at that moment that the Devil clutched hold of the man’s heart and dragged him and it down to hell.
The body was quickly found. There was only one interpretation, that God, in his infinite mercy, had called the poor man to Him at the very height of his purity. The corpse was interred right in front of the high altar and the abbot praised God’s mercy, in that he was now in possession of both the gold coin and the thumb of St Jerome. The story of God’s blessing on this poor man soon spread and it was not long before further miracles were being performed at his tomb. While a few lepers lost their spots it was found especially helpful in turning cussed spouses of both sexes into desirable mates. This being so popular that the abbot found that this brought the abbey more treasure than even the saintly thumb.