Once there was a rich man who had great treasure. Because he knew Saint Nicholas was a great protector, the man had an image of the saint made and put it in his house. He ordered the saint to take care of the house, and all his possessions, especially when the man was away. He told the image, "Nicholas, here is everything I have. I make you responsible for keeping everything safe. If you don't do it and anything happens to my things, I will beat and torment you."
One day, while the man was gone, thieves broke in and stole everything, leaving only the image of Saint Nicholas.
When the man returned and saw what had happened, he said, "Sir Nicholas, I put you in my house to keep everything safe! Why didn't you do it? You will suffer for this—I will put the pain of my loss onto you. You will suffer pain and sorrow for this; I shall take out all my anger and loss on you."
The man took the image and beat and beat upon it, damaging the image severely.
However, the saint, dressed just like the image, appeared to the thieves, asking, "Why have I been beaten and tormented because of you? See how I am bruised, bloody, and broken. Go quickly, give back everything you have taken. If you do not, Almighty God will make you lose your minds, everyone will know of your crime, and you shall all be hanged."
The thieves, frightened out of their wits, asked, "Who are you to say such things to us?" The image replied, "I am Nicholas, servant of Jesus Christ, made to suffer because of your crime."
The terrified thieves went back to the man's house. They saw what had happened to the image and told the man about their vision of the saint. Then they returned everything they had taken.
Thereafter the thieves left their evil ways and the man himself became a follower of Jesus Christ.
Adapted from The Golden Legend or Lives Of The Saints, Vol. II, compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, 1275, Englished by William Caxton, First Edition 1483.