Reginald in Russia and Other Stories
The Saint And The Goblin
The little stone Saint occupied a retired niche in a side aisle of the old cathedral. No one
quite remembered who he had been, but that in a way was a guarantee of respectability.
At least so the Goblin said. The Goblin was a very fine specimen of quaint stone carving,
and lived up in the corbel on the wall opposite the niche of the little Saint. He was
connected with some of the best cathedral folk, such as the queer carvings in the choir
stalls and chancel screen, and even the gargoyles high up on the roof. All the fantastic
beasts and manikins that sprawled and twisted in wood or stone or lead overhead in the
arches or away down in the crypt were in some way akin to him; consequently he was a
person of recognised importance in the cathedral world.
The little stone Saint and the Goblin got on very well together, though they looked at
most things from different points of view. The Saint was a philanthropist in an old
fashioned way; he thought the world, as he saw it, was good, but might be improved. In
particular he pitied the church mice, who were miserably poor. The Goblin, on the other
hand, was of opinion that the world, as he knew it, was bad, but had better be let alone. It
was the function of the church mice to be poor.
"All the same," said the Saint, "I feel very sorry for them."
"Of course you do," said the Goblin; "it's YOUR function to feel sorry for them. If they
were to leave off being poor you couldn't fulfil your functions. You'd be a sinecure."
He rather hoped that the Saint would ask him what a sinecure meant, but the latter took
refuge in a stony silence. The Goblin might be right, but still, he thought, he would like to
do something for the church mice before winter came on; they were so very poor.
Whilst he was thinking the matter over he was startled by something falling between his
feet with a hard metallic clatter. It was a bright new thaler; one of the cathedral jackdaws,
who collected such things, had flown in with it to a stone cornice just above his niche,
and the banging of the sacristy door had startled him into dropping it. Since the invention
of gunpowder the family nerves were not what they had been.
"What have you got there?" asked the Goblin.
"A silver thaler," said the Saint. "Really," he continued, "it is most fortunate; now I can
do something for the church mice."
"How will you manage it?" asked the Goblin.
The Saint considered.
"I will appear in a vision to the vergeress who sweeps the floors. I will tell her that she
will find a silver thaler between my feet, and that she must take it and buy a measure of