The Saint and the
Goblin by Saki
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
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
“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
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
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
“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 corn and put it on my shrine. When she finds the
money she will know that it was a true dream, and she will take
care to follow my directions. Then the mice will have food
all the winter.”
“Of course you can do that,” observed the
Goblin. “Now, I can only appear to people
after they have had a heavy supper of indigestible things.
My opportunities with the vergeress
would be limited. There is some advantage in being a saint
All this while the coin was lying at the Saint’s
feet. It was clean and glittering and had the
Elector’s arms beautifully stamped upon it. The Saint
began to reflect that such an opportunity was too rare to be
hastily disposed of. Perhaps indiscriminate charity might
be harmful to the church mice. After all, it was their
function to be poor; the Goblin had said so, and the Goblin was
“I’ve been thinking,” he said to that
personage, “that perhaps it would be really better if I
ordered a thaler’s worth of candles to be placed on my
shrine instead of the corn.”
He often wished, for the look of the thing, that people would
sometimes burn candles at his shrine; but as they had forgotten
who he was it was not considered a profitable speculation to pay
him that attention.
“Candles would be more orthodox,” said the
“More orthodox, certainly,” agreed the Saint,
“and the mice could have the ends to eat; candle-ends are
The Goblin was too well bred to wink; besides,
being a stone goblin, it was out of the question.
* * * * *
“Well, if it ain’t there, sure enough!” said
the vergeress next morning. She took the shining coin down
from the dusty niche and turned it over and over in her grimy
hands. Then she put it to her mouth and bit it.
“She can’t be going to eat it,” thought the
Saint, and fixed her with his stoniest stare.
“Well,” said the woman, in a somewhat shriller
key, “who’d have thought it! A saint,
Then she did an unaccountable thing. She hunted an old
piece of tape out of her pocket, and tied to crosswise, with a
big loop, round the thaler, and hung it round the neck of the
Then she went away.
“The only possible explanation,” said the Goblin,
“is that it’s a bad one.”
* * * * *
“What is that decoration your neighbour is
wearing?” asked a wyvern that was wrought into the capital
of an adjacent pillar.
The Saint was ready to cry with mortification, only,
being of stone, he couldn’t.
“It’s a coin of—ahem!—fabulous
value,” replied the Goblin tactfully.
And the news went round the Cathedral that the shrine of the
little stone Saint had been enriched by a priceless offering.
“After all, it’s something to have the conscience
of a goblin,” said the Saint to himself.
The church mice were as poor as ever. But that was their