The Tragic Story of the House on the Hill…

Today, we continue our story about the two things Warren Buffett values over all others — time and love.

But before returning to the scene in an Irish bar on Sunday night, we turn briefly to the scene in the White House.

This past weekend, President Trump revved up the crowd, threatening to put a 25% tariff on $200 billion of Chinese imports — on Friday.

The United States has been losing, for many years, 600 to 800 Billion Dollars a year on Trade. With China we lose 500 Billion Dollars,’ Trump tweeted on Monday. ‘Sorry, we’re not going to be doing that anymore!

Let’s see, how does that work? We give a Chinese company our fake money. It gives us a real TV set. How did we ‘lose’ money? And why is it any of Donald Trump’s business?

We don’t know. But was this just a negotiating tactic? A bluff? Or, is he really going Full Retard with his China trade war?

We don’t know. But if it was a bluff, the Chinese called it. ‘We will not take any step back,’ they replied. ‘Do not even think about it.’

What now? Again, we don’t know. But we will keep our heads down until we find out.

Time passes

Meanwhile, in an Irish bar, having dinner alone, an old man struck up a conversation with us.

‘The Normans invaded in the 12th century and came right up the river,’ he said. ‘You can see the ruins of the castle and the abbey; you can see them from your place. Down the hill. Beautiful.

‘It was all abandoned…a ruin now it is…for longer than anyone can remember. Time passes. You can’t stop it. Not even the history books remember what it was like. I mean the castle. Who built it? There’s no record of it that I know of. So, it must have been abandoned hundreds of years ago.

‘And around the bend from it, on the same side of the river, the English built a great house. The English were always the rich people around here. And the people who owned that great house were the richest of them. But that just shows that what everyone says is true. All their money didn’t bring them much happiness.

‘It’s still there, of course, the great house. You can probably see that, too, from your new house. It’s down on the river bank. But the family members that owned it for hundreds of years are all gone.

‘It was that family that built the church near the abandoned castle…and then, they built the little house up the hill. That’s the house that you bought. They built it for the rector of the church.

‘Of course, the rector is long gone. He was gone before I was born. And the church — like so many Protestant churches in Ireland — it closed its doors in the 1970s. And now, it’s abandoned, too…just like the castle. And the abbey.’

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Clever family

‘But that left the little house up the hill empty. In those days, there were a lot of houses in Ireland that were empty. A clever family moved in. They were poor. And they were Catholic. Katie was one of the children. So, naturally, Katie, after she left school, went to work in the big house next door.

‘Well, Katie was working in the big house. She was pretty. And smart. And talented; she played the piano. And she danced. She was a great dancer. I remember watching her dance a jig. But that was a long time ago.

‘And wouldn’t you know it, she and the owner of the great house fell in love.

‘And then, they announced that they were getting married. And that was shocking. In those days, the big estate owners did not marry locals. And he was Protestant. She was Catholic. You just didn’t do that.

‘But the wedding was all set. And then, he went to visit his brother in London. I don’t know what was said, but he made out a will, leaving Katie the little house, and he shot himself.’

‘Why did he shoot himself?’ we asked. It seemed like overdoing it, like treating an ingrown fingernail by cutting off your hand.

The old man leaned towards us. ‘They’re all dead, so I can tell you. But it’s so sad…and so delicate, let us say, we just don’t talk about it.

‘Nobody knows for sure, of course. But there were insinuations in the press at the time. He shot himself in the heart — to make a point, I guess.

‘One of the rumours going around at the time…mind you, this was 50 years ago…I’m one of the few people left who remembers these things…was that his brother might have told him something about his father.

‘You see, the father had the reputation of being a bit of a rake. He had his way with the servant girls, it was said. And Katie’s mother worked there, too, as a servant girl.

‘Katie, as pretty as she was, never took another man. She lived alone until she died.’

Rack and ruin

After a pause, he continued, still whispering…

‘I don’t see any reason not to tell you these things. They bring no shame on anyone, as far as I can see.

‘But that’s not the end of the story. The big house fell to rack and ruin, as they say. Finally, in the 1980s, it was sold to a couple from Europe. They spent millions of euros rebuilding the place.

‘Apparently, she was from a rich family and had been kidnapped as a child. She didn’t want that to happen again. So, they spent a lot of money putting in security cameras and security gates. But that money didn’t save them, either.

‘They’d come here to the bar, that was back when you could still smoke in bars, and they’d each smoke a couple packs of cigarettes. Well, wouldn’t you know it, she got lung cancer.

‘By this time, all they had was their money…and each other. So, they decided that they would end their lives together by jumping, hand in hand, from one of those mountain viewing spots in Switzerland. You know, where you park your car so you can enjoy looking at the Alps. Pretty romantic, isn’t it?

‘Well, they got to the spot and they were all set to jump off when along came a school bus. They didn’t want to set a bad example for the children, so they got back in their car and drove away.

‘Then, they decided to move to Spain. I guess it was warmer there. They’d only been there a few months, I think, when she died. And then, he shot himself.

‘He couldn’t live without her.’

The old man paused again.

‘There, now I’ve told you more than you wanted to know.’


Bill Bonner

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America’s most respected authorities. Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance.

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