Two new titles every week when you join Gateway to the Classics
SAINT RIGOBERT'S DINNER
AINT RIGOBERT was hungry. He
had eaten nothing that morning, neither had
little Pierre, his serving lad,
who trotted along before him on the road to
Rheims. They were going to visit Wibert,
the Deputy-Governor of Rheims, to pay him
some money which the Bishop owed,—all
the money which he had in the world. And
that is why they had nothing left to buy
there a breakfast, and why little Pierre gazed
into the bakers' shops so hungrily and licked
his lips as they passed. Good Saint Rigobert
did not see the windows of buns and tarts
and pasties as they went along, for his eyes
were bent upon the ground and he was singing
hymns over to himself under his breath.
Still, he too was very faint.
Saint Rigobert was poor. He was a good
old Bishop; but the King of France did not
love him, and had sent him away from the
court and the big, rich city to live among
the poor folk in the country. Saint Rigobert
did not mind this very much, for he loved
 the pretty little village of Gernicour where
he lived. He loved the people who dwelled
there, too; and especially he loved Pierre,
who had come to his home to be his little
page and helper.
The people of the village meant to be
kind and generous; but they were mostly
stupid folk who saw only what was in front
of their noses. And they did not guess how
very poor their dear Bishop was. They
were poor, too, and had to be careful of
their little bits of money. But they all had
vegetables and milk and eggs and butter,
and if every one had helped a little, as they
ought,—for he was always doing kind things
for them,—Saint Rigobert would not have
gone hungry so often.
It made the Bishop sorry to find them so
careless, but he never complained. He
would not tell them, nor beg them to help
him, and often even little Pierre did not
know how long he fasted. For he would
give the boy all the supper and keep none
himself. But he was always cheery and contented.
He always had a kind word for the
people as he passed them on the street. And
 when he went to the big town of Rheims
near by he never complained to the Governor
there about what a poor, miserable
parish he lived in, or how little the people
of Gernicour did for their Bishop. For he
liked to believe that they did the best they
And that is why, when the two came into
Wibert's hall, Saint Rigobert paid the money
to the Governor without a word of his
hunger or his faintness. And even when he
saw the great table laid for dinner and the
smoking dishes brought in by a procession
of serving men, he turned away resolutely
and tried not to show how tempting the
good things looked and smelled. He gathered
up the folds of his robe, and taking his
Bishop's staff in his hand, rose to go back to
Gernicour and his dinnerless house. But as
they were leaving the hall, Pierre trailing
out very reluctantly with many a backward
look, Wibert the governor called them back.
Perhaps he had seen the longing in the eyes
of little Pierre as the great haunch of venison
was set on the board. Perhaps he had noticed
how pale and hollow Saint Rigobert's
 cheeks were, and half guessed the cause. At
all events he said kindly:—
"I pray thee, stay and dine with us, thou
and the boy yonder. See, the meat is ready,
and there is room for many more at table."
But Saint Rigobert had a service to hold
in the church at Gernicour, and knew they
had barely time to reach home if they walked
briskly. Besides, he was too proud to accept
charity, and for the sake of his people he feared
to let the Governor see how very hungry he
"Nay," he answered gently," I thank thee
for thy courtesy, friend Wibert. But we
may not tarry. The time scants us for a
dinner before the service in the church at
Gernicour, and we must hasten or we be late.
Come, lad, we must be stirring anon."
Tears of disappointment were standing in
Pierre's eyes, he wanted so much to stay and
have some of that good dinner. But he
never thought of questioning his master's
commands. The Governor pressed them to
stay, but Rigobert was firm, and passed on
to the door, Pierre following sulkily behind.
But just as they reached the door there was
 a commotion outside, and the sound of
quacking and men's laughter. And there
came in a serving man bearing in his arms
a great white goose, which was flapping his
wings and cackling hoarsely in fright.
"Ho, what have we here?" said the Governor
crossly. "Why do you let such a
commotion into my hall, you fellow?"
"Please you, sir," answered the serving
man as well as he could with the goose
struggling in his arms, "this goose is a tribute
from the widow Réné, and she begs your
Honor to accept him as a poor present."
"A poor present indeed," said the Governor
testily. "What do I want of the
creature? We have more fowls now than
we know what to do with. I wish him not."
Then an idea came into his head, and he
turned to Saint Rigobert. "Why, reverend
sir," he said laughing, "since you will not
stay to dine with me, I prithee take this fat
fellow home with you, for dinner in Gernicour.
'T will be a good riddance for us, in
Saint Rigobert hesitated. But seeing the
look of eagerness in Pierre's face he
con-  cluded to accept the gift, which was a common
one enough in those days.
"Grammercy for your courtesy, Master
Wibert," he answered. "We take your
bounty of the fine goose, since it seemeth
that your tables have space for little more.
Now then, Pierre lad, take up thy prey.
And look he bite thee not," he added as the
boy made haste to seize the great struggling
The goose pecked and squawked and
flapped horribly while Pierre was getting his
arms about him. But finally they were ready
to start, Pierre going first with the goose
who was nearly as big as himself, and the
Bishop following grasping his staff, his eyes
bent upon the ground.
Pierre's heart was full of joy. He chuckled
and laughed and could hardly wait till they
should reach home, for thinking of the fine
dinner at the end of the road. But Saint Rigobert
had already forgotten the goose, he had
so many other things to think about. That
is the way he had taught himself to forget
how hungry he was—he just thought about
something else. But all on a sudden
Rigo-  bert was startled by a great cackle and a
scream in front of him down the road. He
looked up just in time to see a big white
thing sailing away into the sky, and Pierre
hopping up and down in the road screaming
The Bishop overtook the little fellow
quickly. "Lad, lad, hast thou lost thy
goose?" he asked gently.
"Oh Father," sobbed the boy, "our nice
dinner! Your dinner, master! The wicked
goose has flown away. Oh, what a careless
boy I am to let him 'scape me so!" And
he sat down on a stone and cried as if his
heart would break.
"Nay, nay," the good Bishop said, patting
him on the head soothingly, "perhaps the
poor goose did not want to be roasted, Pierre.
Can you blame him for seeking his liberty
instead? I find no fault with him; but I
am sorry for thy dinner, lad. We must try
to get something else. Cheer up, Pierre, let
the white goose go. All will yet be well,
He made Pierre get up, still crying
bitterly, and on they trudged again along the
 dusty road. But this time there was no dinner
for them to look forward to, and the way
seemed very long. Pierre dragged his feet
heavily, and it seemed as if he could not go
another step with that emptiness in his stomach
and the ache in his head. But again Saint
Rigobert began to hum his hymns softly
under his breath, keeping time to the beat of
his aged feet on the dusty road. The loss
of his dinner seemed to trouble him little.
Perhaps he was secretly glad that the poor
goose had escaped; for he was very tender-hearted
and loved not to have creatures
killed, even for food.
They had gone quite a little distance, and
Rigobert began to sing louder and louder
as they neared his church. When suddenly
there came a strange sound in the air over
his head. And then with a great fluttering
a big white goose came circling down right
before Saint Rigobert's feet. The good Saint
stopped short in surprise, and Pierre, turning
about, could hardly believe his eyes. But
sure enough, there was the very same goose,
looking up into Saint Rigobert's face and
cackling as if trying to tell him something.
 "I did n't mean to run away," he seemed
to say. "I did n't know you were hungry,
holy man, and that I was taking away your
dinner. Sing on and I will follow you
Pierre turned and ran back to the goose
and would have seized him by the neck so
he could not get away again. But Saint
Rigobert held up his finger warningly, and
the boy stood still.
"Do not touch him, Pierre," said the
Bishop earnestly. "I do not think he will run
away. Let us see."
And sure enough, when they started on
once more, Saint Rigobert still singing softly,
Pierre, who kept glancing back, saw the
goose waddling slowly at his master's heels.
So the queer little procession came into
Gernicour; and every one stopped along the
streets with open mouths, wondering to see
them pass. At last they reached the Bishop's house.
And there Rigobert ceased his
singing, and turning to the goose stroked his
feathers gently and said:—
"Good friend, thou hast been faithful.
Thou shalt be rewarded. Aye, ruffle up thy
 feathers, good goose, for they shall never be
plucked from thee, nor shalt thou be cooked
for food. Thou art my friend from today.
No pen shall hold thee, but thou shalt follow
me as thou wilt."
And the Saint kept his promise. For
after that the goose lived with him in happiness
and peace. They would take long
walks together in the fields about Gernicour.
They made visits to the sick and the sorrowful.
Indeed, wherever Saint Rigobert went the
goose followed close at his heels like a dog.
Even when Rigobert went again to see the
Governor of Rheims, the goose waddled all
the way there and back along the crooked
road over part of which he had gone that
first time in little Pierre's arms. And how
the Governor did laugh as he stood in his
door and watched the strange pair disappear
down the road.
"He could not have been very hungry
after all," the Governor thought, "or I should
never have seen that goose again." Which
shows how little even a Governor knows
about some things.
More than this, whenever Rigobert went to
 hold service in his little church the goose
escorted him there also. But he knew better
than to go inside. He would wait by the
porch, preening his feathers in the sunshine
and snapping bugs in the grass of the churchyard
until his dear master came out. And
then he would escort him back home again.
He was a very well-mannered goose.
But dear me! All this time I have left
poor little Pierre standing with a quivering
chin outside the Bishop's door, hopeless of a
dinner. But it all came right, just as the
Bishop had said it would. I must tell you
about that. For when Rigobert returned
from church that same day feeling very faint
and hungry indeed, after the long walk and
the excitement of the goose-hap, Pierre came
running out to meet him with a smiling face.
"Oh Father, Father!" he cried. "We are
to have a dinner, after all. Come quick, I
am so hungry I cannot wait! The village
folk have heard about the pious goose who
came back to be your dinner, and how you
would not eat him. And so they have sent
us a basket of good things instead. And
they promise that never again so long as
 they have anything to eat themselves shall
we be hungry any more. Oh Father! I am
so glad we did not eat the goose."
And good Saint Rigobert laid his hand on
Pierre's head and said, "Dear lad, you will
never be sorry for showing kindness to a
friendly bird or beast." Then the goose
came quacking up to them and they all
three went into the house together to eat their
good, good dinner.