THE POSTHUMOUS PAPERSOFTHE PICKWICK CLUBCHAPTER XXVIIIA GOOD-HUMOURED CHRISTMAS CHAPTER, CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF A WEDDING, AND SOME OTHER SPORTS BESIDE: WHICH ALTHOUGH IN THEIR WAY, EVEN AS GOOD CUSTOMS AS MARRIAGE ITSELF, ARE NOT QUITE SO RELIGIOUSLY KEPT UP, IN THESE DEGENERATE TIMESAs brisk as bees, if not altogether as light as fairies, did the fourPickwickians assemble on the morning of the twenty-second day ofDecember, in the year of grace in which these, their faithfully-recordedadventures, were undertaken and accomplished. Christmas was close athand, in all his bluff and hearty honesty; it was the season of hospitality, merriment, and open-heartedness; the old year waspreparing, like an ancient philosopher, to call his friends aroundhim, and amidst the sound of feasting and revelry to pass gently andcalmly away. Gay and merry was the time; and right gay and merrywere at least four of the numerous hearts that were gladdened byits coming.And numerous indeed are the hearts to which Christmasbrings a brief season of happiness and enjoyment. How manyfamilies, whose members have been dispersed and scattered farand wide, in the restless struggles of life, are then reunited, andmeet once again in that happy state of companionship and mutualgoodwill, which is a source of such pure and unalloyed delight;and one so incompatible with the cares and sorrows of the world,that the religious belief of the most civilised nations, and the rudetraditions of the roughest savages, alike number it among thefirst joys of a future condition of existence, provided for theblessed and happy! How many old recollections, and how manydormant sympathies, does Christmas time awaken!We write these words now, many miles distant from the spotat which, year after year, we met on that day, a merry and joyouscircle. Many of the hearts that throbbed so gaily then, haveceased to beat; many of the looks that shone so brightly then,have ceased to glow; the hands we grasped, have grown cold; theeyes we sought, have hid their lustre in the grave; and yet the oldhouse, the room, the merry voices and smiling faces, the jest,the laugh, the most minute and trivial circumstances connectedwith those happy meetings, crowd upon our mind at eachrecurrence of the season, as if the last assemblage had been butyesterday! Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to thedelusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man thepleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and thetraveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fireside andhis quiet home!But we are so taken up and occupied with the good qualities ofthis saint Christmas, that we are keeping Mr. Pickwick and hisfriends waiting in the cold on the outside of the Muggletoncoach, which they have just attained, well wrapped up in great-coats, shawls, and comforters. The portmanteaus and carpet-bags have been stowed away, and Mr. Weller and the guard areendeavouring to insinuate into the fore-boot a huge cod-fishseveral sizes too large for it--which is snugly packed up, in a longbrown basket, with a layer of straw over the top, and which hasbeen left to the last, in order that he may repose in safety on thehalf-dozen barrels of real native oysters, all the property ofMr. Pickwick, which have been arranged in regular order at thebottom of the receptacle. The interest displayed in Mr. Pickwick'scountenance is most intense, as Mr. Weller and the guard try tosqueeze the cod-fish into the boot, first head first, and then tailfirst, and then top upward, and then bottom upward, and thenside-ways, and then long-ways, all of which artifices the implacablecod-fish sturdily resists, until the guard accidentally hits himin the very middle of the basket, whereupon he suddenly disappearsinto the boot, and with him, the head and shoulders ofthe guard himself, who, not calculating upon so sudden acessation of the passive resistance of the cod-fish, experiences avery unexpected shock, to the unsmotherable delight of all theporters and bystanders. Upon this, Mr. Pickwick smiles withgreat good-humour, and drawing a shilling from his waistcoatpocket, begs the guard, as he picks himself out of the boot, todrink his health in a glass of hot brandy-and-water; at which theguard smiles too, and Messrs. Snodgrass, Winkle, and Tupman,all smile in company. The guard and Mr. Weller disappear forfive minutes, most probably to get the hot brandy-and-water, forthey smell very strongly of it, when they return, the coachmanmounts to the box, Mr. Weller jumps up behind, the Pickwickianspull their coats round their legs and their shawls over their noses,the helpers pull the horse-cloths off, the coachman shouts out acheery 'All right,' and away they go.They have rumbled through the streets, and jolted over thestones, and at length reach the wide and open country. Thewheels skim over the hard and frosty ground; and the horses,bursting into a canter at a smart crack of the whip, step along theroad as if the load behind them--coach, passengers, cod-fish,oyster-barrels, and all--were but a feather at their heels. Theyhave descended a gentle slope, and enter upon a level, as compactand dry as a solid block of marble, two miles long. Another crackof the whip, and on they speed, at a smart gallop, the horsestossing their heads and rattling the harness, as if in exhilarationat the rapidity of the motion; while the coachman, holding whipand reins in one hand, takes off his hat with the other, and restingit on his knees, pulls out his handkerchief, and wipes his forehead,partly because he has a habit of doing it, and partlybecause it's as well to show the passengers how cool he is, andwhat an easy thing it is to drive four-in-hand, when you have hadas much practice as he has. Having done this very leisurely(otherwise the effect would be materially impaired), he replaceshis handkerchief, pulls on his hat, adjusts his gloves, squares hiselbows, cracks the whip again, and on they speed, more merrilythan before.A few small houses, scattered on either side of the road,betoken the entrance to some town or village. The lively notesof the guard's key-bugle vibrate in the clear cold air, and wakeup the old gentleman inside, who, carefully letting down thewindow-sash half-way, and standing sentry over the air, takes ashort peep out, and then carefully pulling it up again, informs theother inside that they're going to change directly; on which theother inside wakes himself up, and determines to postpone hisnext nap until after the stoppage. Again the bugle sounds lustilyforth, and rouses the cottager's wife and children, who peep outat the house door, and watch the coach till it turns the corner,when they once more crouch round the blazing fire, and throw onanother log of wood against father comes home; while fatherhimself, a full mile off, has just exchanged a friendly nod with thecoachman, and turned round to take a good long stare at thevehicle as it whirls away.And now the bugle plays a lively air as the coach rattlesthrough the ill-paved streets of a country town; and the coachman,undoing the buckle which keeps his ribands together,prepares to throw them off the moment he stops. Mr. Pickwickemerges from his coat collar, and looks about him with greatcuriosity; perceiving which, the coachman informs Mr. Pickwickof the name of the town, and tells him it was market-day yesterday,both of which pieces of information Mr. Pickwick retails tohis fellow-passengers; whereupon they emerge from their coatcollars too, and look about them also. Mr. Winkle, who sits atthe extreme edge, with one leg dangling in the air, is nearlyprecipitated into the street, as the coach twists round the sharpcorner by the cheesemonger's shop, and turns into the market-place; and before Mr. Snodgrass, who sits next to him, hasrecovered from his alarm, they pull up at the inn yard where thefresh horses, with cloths on, are already waiting. The coachmanthrows down the reins and gets down himself, and the otheroutside passengers drop down also; except those who have nogreat confidence in their ability to get up again; and they remainwhere they are, and stamp their feet against the coach to warmthem--looking, with longing eyes and red noses, at the brightfire in the inn bar, and the sprigs of holly with red berries whichornament the window.But the guard has delivered at the corn-dealer's shop, thebrown paper packet he took out of the little pouch which hangsover his shoulder by a leathern strap; and has seen the horsescarefully put to; and has thrown on the pavement the saddlewhich was brought from London on the coach roof; and hasassisted in the conference between the coachman and the hostlerabout the gray mare that hurt her off fore-leg last Tuesday; andhe and Mr. Weller are all right behind, and the coachman is allright in front, and the old gentleman inside, who has kept thewindow down full two inches all this time, has pulled it up again,and the cloths are off, and they are all ready for starting, exceptthe 'two stout gentlemen,' whom the coachman inquires afterwith some impatience. Hereupon the coachman, and the guard,and Sam Weller, and Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass, and allthe hostlers, and every one of the idlers, who are more in numberthan all the others put together, shout for the missing gentlemenas loud as they can bawl. A distant response is heard from theyard, and Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman come running down it,quite out of breath, for they have been having a glass of alea-piece, and Mr. Pickwick's fingers are so cold that he has beenfull five minutes before he could find the sixpence to pay for it.The coachman shouts an admonitory 'Now then, gen'l'm'n,' theguard re-echoes it; the old gentleman inside thinks it a veryextraordinary thing that people WILL get down when they knowthere isn't time for it; Mr. Pickwick struggles up on one side,Mr. Tupman on the other; Mr. Winkle cries 'All right'; and offthey start. Shawls are pulled up, coat collars are readjusted, thepavement ceases, the houses disappear; and they are once againdashing along the open road, with the fresh clear air blowing intheir faces, and gladdening their very hearts within them.Such was the progress of Mr. Pickwick and his friends by theMuggleton Telegraph, on their way to Dingley Dell; and atthree o'clock that afternoon they all stood high and dry, safeand sound, hale and hearty, upon the steps of the Blue Lion,having taken on the road quite enough of ale and brandy, toenable them to bid defiance to the frost that was binding up theearth in its iron fetters, and weaving its beautiful network uponthe trees and hedges. Mr. Pickwick was busily engaged in countingthe barrels of oysters and superintending the disinterment ofthe cod-fish, when he felt himself gently pulled by the skirts of thecoat. Looking round, he discovered that the individual whoresorted to this mode of catching his attention was no other thanMr. Wardle's favourite page, better known to the readers of thisunvarnished history, by the distinguishing appellation of thefat boy.'Aha!' said Mr. Pickwick.'Aha!' said the fat boy.As he said it, he glanced from the cod-fish to the oyster-barrels, and chuckled joyously. He was fatter than ever.'Well, you look rosy enough, my young friend,' said Mr. Pickwick.'I've been asleep, right in front of the taproom fire,' replied thefat boy, who had heated himself to the colour of a new chimney-pot, in the course of an hour's nap. 'Master sent me over withthe shay-cart, to carry your luggage up to the house. He'd ha'sent some saddle-horses, but he thought you'd rather walk,being a cold day.''Yes, yes,' said Mr. Pickwick hastily, for he remembered howthey had travelled over nearly the same ground on a previousoccasion. 'Yes, we would rather walk. Here, Sam!''Sir,' said Mr. Weller.'Help Mr. Wardle's servant to put the packages into the cart,and then ride on with him. We will walk forward at once.'Having given this direction, and settled with the coachman,Mr. Pickwick and his three friends struck into the footpath acrossthe fields, and walked briskly away, leaving Mr. Weller and thefat boy confronted together for the first time. Sam looked atthe fat boy with great astonishment, but without saying a word;and began to stow the luggage rapidly away in the cart, while thefat boy stood quietly by, and seemed to think it a very interestingsort of thing to see Mr. Weller working by himself.'There,' said Sam, throwing in the last carpet-bag, 'there they are!''Yes,' said the fat boy, in a very satisfied tone, 'there they are.''Vell, young twenty stun,' said Sam, 'you're a nice specimen ofa prize boy, you are!''Thank'ee,' said the fat boy.'You ain't got nothin' on your mind as makes you fret yourself,have you?' inquired Sam.'Not as I knows on,' replied the fat boy.'I should rayther ha' thought, to look at you, that you wasa-labourin' under an unrequited attachment to some young'ooman,' said Sam.The fat boy shook his head.'Vell,' said Sam, 'I am glad to hear it. Do you ever drink anythin'?''I likes eating better,' replied the boy.'Ah,' said Sam, 'I should ha' s'posed that; but what I mean is,should you like a drop of anythin' as'd warm you? but I s'poseyou never was cold, with all them elastic fixtures, was you?''Sometimes,' replied the boy; 'and I likes a drop of something,when it's good.''Oh, you do, do you?' said Sam, 'come this way, then!'The Blue Lion tap was soon gained, and the fat boy swalloweda glass of liquor without so much as winking--a feat whichconsiderably advanced him in Mr. Weller's good opinion. Mr.Weller having transacted a similar piece of business on his ownaccount, they got into the cart.'Can you drive?' said the fat boy.'I should rayther think so,' replied Sam.'There, then,' said the fat boy, putting the reins in his hand,and pointing up a lane, 'it's as straight as you can go; you can'tmiss it.'With these words, the fat boy laid himself affectionately downby the side of the cod-fish, and, placing an oyster-barrel underhis head for a pillow, fell asleep instantaneously.'Well,' said Sam, 'of all the cool boys ever I set my eyes on, thishere young gen'l'm'n is the coolest. Come, wake up, young dropsy!'But as young dropsy evinced no symptoms of returning animation,Sam Weller sat himself down in front of the cart, andstarting the old horse with a jerk of the rein, jogged steadily on,towards the Manor Farm.Meanwhile, Mr. Pickwick and his friends having walked theirblood into active circulation, proceeded cheerfully on. The pathswere hard; the grass was crisp and frosty; the air had a fine, dry,bracing coldness; and the rapid approach of the gray twilight(slate-coloured is a better term in frosty weather) made themlook forward with pleasant anticipation to the comforts whichawaited them at their hospitable entertainer's. It was the sort ofafternoon that might induce a couple of elderly gentlemen, in alonely field, to take off their greatcoats and play at leap-frog inpure lightness of heart and gaiety; and we firmly believe that hadMr. Tupman at that moment proffered 'a back,' Mr. Pickwickwould have accepted his offer with the utmost avidity.However, Mr. Tupman did not volunteer any such accommodation,and the friends walked on, conversing merrily. Asthey turned into a lane they had to cross, the sound of manyvoices burst upon their ears; and before they had even hadtime to form a guess to whom they belonged, they walkedinto the very centre of the party who were expecting theirarrival--a fact which was first notified to the Pickwickians, bythe loud 'Hurrah,' which burst from old Wardle's lips, whenthey appeared in sight.First, there was Wardle himself, looking, if that were possible,more jolly than ever; then there were Bella and her faithfulTrundle; and, lastly, there were Emily and some eight or tenyoung ladies, who had all come down to the wedding, which wasto take place next day, and who were in as happy and importanta state as young ladies usually are, on such momentous occasions;and they were, one and all, startling the fields and lanes, far andwide, with their frolic and laughter.The ceremony of introduction, under such circumstances, wasvery soon performed, or we should rather say that the introductionwas soon over, without any ceremony at all. In two minutesthereafter, Mr. Pickwick was joking with the young ladies whowouldn't come over the stile while he looked--or who, havingpretty feet and unexceptionable ankles, preferred standing on thetop rail for five minutes or so, declaring that they were toofrightened to move--with as much ease and absence of reserve orconstraint, as if he had known them for life. It is worthy ofremark, too, that Mr. Snodgrass offered Emily far more assistancethan the absolute terrors of the stile (although it was full threefeet high, and had only a couple of stepping-stones) wouldseem to require; while one black-eyed young lady in a verynice little pair of boots with fur round the top, was observedto scream very loudly, when Mr. Winkle offered to help her over.All this was very snug and pleasant. And when the difficultiesof the stile were at last surmounted, and they once more enteredon the open field, old Wardle informed Mr. Pickwick how theyhad all been down in a body to inspect the furniture and fittings-up of the house, which the young couple were to tenant, after theChristmas holidays; at which communication Bella and Trundleboth coloured up, as red as the fat boy after the taproom fire;and the young lady with the black eyes and the fur round theboots, whispered something in Emily's ear, and then glancedarchly at Mr. Snodgrass; to which Emily responded that she wasa foolish girl, but turned very red, notwithstanding; and Mr.Snodgrass, who was as modest as all great geniuses usually are,felt the crimson rising to the crown of his head, and devoutlywished, in the inmost recesses of his own heart, that the younglady aforesaid, with her black eyes, and her archness, and herboots with the fur round the top, were all comfortably depositedin the adjacent county.But if they were social and happy outside the house, what wasthe warmth and cordiality of their reception when they reachedthe farm! The very servants grinned with pleasure at sight ofMr. Pickwick; and Emma bestowed a half-demure, half-impudent,and all-pretty look of recognition, on Mr. Tupman,which was enough to make the statue of Bonaparte in thepassage, unfold his arms, and clasp her within them.The old lady was seated with customary state in the frontparlour, but she was rather cross, and, by consequence, mostparticularly deaf. She never went out herself, and like a greatmany other old ladies of the same stamp, she was apt to considerit an act of domestic treason, if anybody else took the liberty ofdoing what she couldn't. So, bless her old soul, she sat as uprightas she could, in her great chair, and looked as fierce as might be--and that was benevolent after all.'Mother,' said Wardle, 'Mr. Pickwick. You recollect him?''Never mind,' replied the old lady, with great dignity. 'Don'ttrouble Mr. Pickwick about an old creetur like me. Nobody caresabout me now, and it's very nat'ral they shouldn't.' Here the oldlady tossed her head, and smoothed down her lavender-colouredsilk dress with trembling hands.'Come, come, ma'am,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'I can't let you cutan old friend in this way. I have come down expressly to have along talk, and another rubber with you; and we'll show theseboys and girls how to dance a minuet, before they're eight-and-forty hours older.'The old lady was rapidly giving way, but she did not like to doit all at once; so she only said, 'Ah! I can't hear him!''Nonsense, mother,' said Wardle. 'Come, come, don't becross, there's a good soul. Recollect Bella; come, you must keepher spirits up, poor girl.'The good old lady heard this, for her lip quivered as her sonsaid it. But age has its little infirmities of temper, and she wasnot quite brought round yet. So, she smoothed down thelavender-coloured dress again, and turning to Mr. Pickwicksaid, 'Ah, Mr. Pickwick, young people was very different, whenI was a girl.''No doubt of that, ma'am,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'and that's thereason why I would make much of the few that have any tracesof the old stock'--and saying this, Mr. Pickwick gently pulledBella towards him, and bestowing a kiss upon her forehead,bade her sit down on the little stool at her grandmother's feet.Whether the expression of her countenance, as it was raisedtowards the old lady's face, called up a thought of old times, orwhether the old lady was touched by Mr. Pickwick's affectionategood-nature, or whatever was the cause, she was fairly melted;so she threw herself on her granddaughter's neck, and all thelittle ill-humour evaporated in a gush of silent tears.A happy party they were, that night. Sedate and solemn werethe score of rubbers in which Mr. Pickwick and the old ladyplayed together; uproarious was the mirth of the round table.Long after the ladies had retired, did the hot elder wine, wellqualified with brandy and spice, go round, and round, and roundagain; and sound was the sleep and pleasant were the dreamsthat followed. It is a remarkable fact that those of Mr. Snodgrassbore constant reference to Emily Wardle; and that the principalfigure in Mr. Winkle's visions was a young lady with black eyes,and arch smile, and a pair of remarkably nice boots with furround the tops.Mr. Pickwick was awakened early in the morning, by a hum ofvoices and a pattering of feet, sufficient to rouse even the fat boyfrom his heavy slumbers. He sat up in bed and listened. Thefemale servants and female visitors were running constantly toand fro; and there were such multitudinous demands for hotwater, such repeated outcries for needles and thread, and somany half-suppressed entreaties of 'Oh, do come and tie me,there's a dear!' that Mr. Pickwick in his innocence began toimagine that something dreadful must have occurred--when hegrew more awake, and remembered the wedding. The occasionbeing an important one, he dressed himself with peculiar care,and descended to the breakfast-room.There were all the female servants in a bran new uniform ofpink muslin gowns with white bows in their caps, running aboutthe house in a state of excitement and agitation which it wouldbe impossible to describe. The old lady was dressed out in abrocaded gown, which had not seen the light for twenty years,saving and excepting such truant rays as had stolen through thechinks in the box in which it had been laid by, during the wholetime. Mr. Trundle was in high feather and spirits, but a littlenervous withal. The hearty old landlord was trying to look verycheerful and unconcerned, but failing signally in the attempt.All the girls were in tears and white muslin, except a select twoor three, who were being honoured with a private view of thebride and bridesmaids, upstairs. All the Pickwickians were inmost blooming array; and there was a terrific roaring on thegrass in front of the house, occasioned by all the men, boys, andhobbledehoys attached to the farm, each of whom had got awhite bow in his button-hole, and all of whom were cheeringwith might and main; being incited thereto, and stimulatedtherein by the precept and example of Mr. Samuel Weller, whohad managed to become mighty popular already, and was asmuch at home as if he had been born on the land.A wedding is a licensed subject to joke upon, but there reallyis no great joke in the matter after all;--we speak merely of theceremony, and beg it to be distinctly understood that we indulgein no hidden sarcasm upon a married life. Mixed up with thepleasure and joy of the occasion, are the many regrets at quittinghome, the tears of parting between parent and child, theconsciousness of leaving the dearest and kindest friends of thehappiest portion of human life, to encounter its cares and troubleswith others still untried and little known--natural feelings whichwe would not render this chapter mournful by describing, andwhich we should be still more unwilling to be supposed to ridicule.Let us briefly say, then, that the ceremony was performed bythe old clergyman, in the parish church of Dingley Dell, andthat Mr. Pickwick's name is attached to the register, still preservedin the vestry thereof; that the young lady with the blackeyes signed her name in a very unsteady and tremulous manner;that Emily's signature, as the other bridesmaid, is nearlyillegible; that it all went off in very admirable style; that theyoung ladies generally thought it far less shocking than they hadexpected; and that although the owner of the black eyes and thearch smile informed Mr. Wardle that she was sure she couldnever submit to anything so dreadful, we have the very bestreasons for thinking she was mistaken. To all this, we may add,that Mr. Pickwick was the first who saluted the bride, and thatin so doing he threw over her neck a rich gold watch and chain,which no mortal eyes but the jeweller's had ever beheld before.Then, the old church bell rang as gaily as it could, and they allreturned to breakfast.'Vere does the mince-pies go, young opium-eater?' said Mr.Weller to the fat boy, as he assisted in laying out such articlesof consumption as had not been duly arranged on the previous night.The fat boy pointed to the destination of the pies.'Wery good,' said Sam, 'stick a bit o' Christmas in 'em.T'other dish opposite. There; now we look compact and comfortable,as the father said ven he cut his little boy's head off, tocure him o' squintin'.'As Mr. Weller made the comparison, he fell back a step ortwo, to give full effect to it, and surveyed the preparations withthe utmost satisfaction.'Wardle,' said Mr. Pickwick, almost as soon as they were allseated, 'a glass of wine in honour of this happy occasion!''I shall be delighted, my boy,' said Wardle. 'Joe--damn thatboy, he's gone to sleep.''No, I ain't, sir,' replied the fat boy, starting up from a remotecorner, where, like the patron saint of fat boys--the immortalHorner--he had been devouring a Christmas pie, though notwith the coolness and deliberation which characterised thatyoung gentleman's proceedings.'Fill Mr. Pickwick's glass.''Yes, sir.'The fat boy filled Mr. Pickwick's glass, and then retiredbehind his master's chair, from whence he watched the play ofthe knives and forks, and the progress of the choice morselsfrom the dishes to the mouths of the company, with a kind ofdark and gloomy joy that was most impressive.'God bless you, old fellow!' said Mr. Pickwick.'Same to you, my boy,' replied Wardle; and they pledged eachother, heartily.'Mrs. Wardle,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'we old folks must have aglass of wine together, in honour of this joyful event.'The old lady was in a state of great grandeur just then, for shewas sitting at the top of the table in the brocaded gown, withher newly-married granddaughter on one side, and Mr. Pickwickon the other, to do the carving. Mr. Pickwick had not spoken ina very loud tone, but she understood him at once, and drank offa full glass of wine to his long life and happiness; after which theworthy old soul launched forth into a minute and particularaccount of her own wedding, with a dissertation on the fashionof wearing high-heeled shoes, and some particulars concerningthe life and adventures of the beautiful Lady Tollimglower,deceased; at all of which the old lady herself laughed veryheartily indeed, and so did the young ladies too, for they werewondering among themselves what on earth grandma wastalking about. When they laughed, the old lady laughed tentimes more heartily, and said that these always had been consideredcapital stories, which caused them all to laugh again, and putthe old lady into the very best of humours. Then thecake was cut, and passed through the ring; the young ladiessaved pieces to put under their pillows to dream of their futurehusbands on; and a great deal of blushing and merriment wasthereby occasioned.'Mr. Miller,' said Mr. Pickwick to his old acquaintance, thehard-headed gentleman, 'a glass of wine?''With great satisfaction, Mr. Pickwick,' replied the hard-headed gentleman solemnly.'You'll take me in?' said the benevolent old clergyman.'And me,' interposed his wife.'And me, and me,' said a couple of poor relations at thebottom of the table, who had eaten and drunk very heartily, andlaughed at everything.Mr. Pickwick expressed his heartfelt delight at every additionalsuggestion; and his eyes beamed with hilarity and cheerfulness.'Ladies and gentlemen,' said Mr. Pickwick, suddenly rising.'Hear, hear! Hear, hear! Hear, hear!' cried Mr. Weller, in theexcitement of his feelings.'Call in all the servants,' cried old Wardle, interposing toprevent the public rebuke which Mr. Weller would otherwisemost indubitably have received from his master. 'Give them aglass of wine each to drink the toast in. Now, Pickwick.'Amidst the silence of the company, the whispering of thewomen-servants, and the awkward embarrassment of the men,Mr. Pickwick proceeded--'Ladies and gentlemen--no, I won't say ladies and gentlemen,I'll call you my friends, my dear friends, if the ladies will allowme to take so great a liberty--'Here Mr. Pickwick was interrupted by immense applause fromthe ladies, echoed by the gentlemen, during which the owner ofthe eyes was distinctly heard to state that she could kiss that dearMr. Pickwick. Whereupon Mr. Winkle gallantly inquired if itcouldn't be done by deputy: to which the young lady with theblack eyes replied 'Go away,' and accompanied the request witha look which said as plainly as a look could do, 'if you can.''My dear friends,' resumed Mr. Pickwick, 'I am going topropose the health of the bride and bridegroom--God bless 'em(cheers and tears). My young friend, Trundle, I believe to be avery excellent and manly fellow; and his wife I know to be a veryamiable and lovely girl, well qualified to transfer to anothersphere of action the happiness which for twenty years she hasdiffused around her, in her father's house. (Here, the fat boyburst forth into stentorian blubberings, and was led forth by thecoat collar, by Mr. Weller.) I wish,' added Mr. Pickwick--'Iwish I was young enough to be her sister's husband (cheers),but, failing that, I am happy to be old enough to be her father;for, being so, I shall not be suspected of any latent designs whenI say, that I admire, esteem, and love them both (cheers andsobs). The bride's father, our good friend there, is a nobleperson, and I am proud to know him (great uproar). He is a kind,excellent, independent-spirited, fine-hearted, hospitable, liberalman (enthusiastic shouts from the poor relations, at all theadjectives; and especially at the two last). That his daughtermay enjoy all the happiness, even he can desire; and that he mayderive from the contemplation of her felicity all the gratificationof heart and peace of mind which he so well deserves, is, I ampersuaded, our united wish. So, let us drink their healths, andwish them prolonged life, and every blessing!'Mr. Pickwick concluded amidst a whirlwind of applause; andonce more were the lungs of the supernumeraries, under Mr.Weller's command, brought into active and efficient operation.Mr. Wardle proposed Mr. Pickwick; Mr. Pickwick proposed theold lady. Mr. Snodgrass proposed Mr. Wardle; Mr. Wardleproposed Mr. Snodgrass. One of the poor relations proposedMr. Tupman, and the other poor relation proposed Mr. Winkle;all was happiness and festivity, until the mysterious disappearanceof both the poor relations beneath the table, warned the partythat it was time to adjourn.At dinner they met again, after a five-and-twenty mile walk,undertaken by the males at Wardle's recommendation, to get ridof the effects of the wine at breakfast. The poor relations hadkept in bed all day, with the view of attaining the same happyconsummation, but, as they had been unsuccessful, they stoppedthere. Mr. Weller kept the domestics in a state of perpetualhilarity; and the fat boy divided his time into small alternateallotments of eating and sleeping.The dinner was as hearty an affair as the breakfast, and wasquite as noisy, without the tears. Then came the dessert and somemore toasts. Then came the tea and coffee; and then, the ball.The best sitting-room at Manor Farm was a good, long, dark-panelled room with a high chimney-piece, and a capaciouschimney, up which you could have driven one of the new patentcabs, wheels and all. At the upper end of the room, seated in ashady bower of holly and evergreens were the two best fiddlers,and the only harp, in all Muggleton. In all sorts of recesses, andon all kinds of brackets, stood massive old silver candlestickswith four branches each. The carpet was up, the candles burnedbright, the fire blazed and crackled on the hearth, and merryvoices and light-hearted laughter rang through the room. If anyof the old English yeomen had turned into fairies when theydied, it was just the place in which they would have held their revels.If anything could have added to the interest of this agreeablescene, it would have been the remarkable fact of Mr. Pickwick'sappearing without his gaiters, for the first time within thememory of his oldest friends.'You mean to dance?' said Wardle.'Of course I do,' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'Don't you see I amdressed for the purpose?' Mr. Pickwick called attention to hisspeckled silk stockings, and smartly tied pumps.'YOU in silk stockings!' exclaimed Mr. Tupman jocosely.'And why not, sir--why not?' said Mr. Pickwick, turningwarmly upon him.'Oh, of course there is no reason why you shouldn't wearthem,' responded Mr. Tupman.'I imagine not, sir--I imagine not,' said Mr. Pickwick, in avery peremptory tone.Mr. Tupman had contemplated a laugh, but he found it wasa serious matter; so he looked grave, and said they were apretty pattern.'I hope they are,' said Mr. Pickwick, fixing his eyes upon hisfriend. 'You see nothing extraordinary in the stockings, ASstockings, I trust, Sir?''Certainly not. Oh, certainly not,' replied Mr. Tupman. Hewalked away; and Mr. Pickwick's countenance resumed itscustomary benign expression.'We are all ready, I believe,' said Mr. Pickwick, who wasstationed with the old lady at the top of the dance, and hadalready made four false starts, in his excessive anxiety to commence.'Then begin at once,' said Wardle. 'Now!'Up struck the two fiddles and the one harp, and off wentMr. Pickwick into hands across, when there was a generalclapping of hands, and a cry of 'Stop, stop!''What's the matter?' said Mr. Pickwick, who was only broughtto, by the fiddles and harp desisting, and could have been stoppedby no other earthly power, if the house had been on fire.'Where's Arabella Allen?' cried a dozen voices.'And Winkle?'added Mr. Tupman.'Here we are!' exclaimed that gentleman, emerging with hispretty companion from the corner; as he did so, it would havebeen hard to tell which was the redder in the face, he or theyoung lady with the black eyes.'What an extraordinary thing it is, Winkle,' said Mr. Pickwick,rather pettishly, 'that you couldn't have taken your place before.''Not at all extraordinary,' said Mr. Winkle.'Well,' said Mr. Pickwick, with a very expressive smile, as hiseyes rested on Arabella, 'well, I don't know that it WASextraordinary, either, after all.'However, there was no time to think more about the matter,for the fiddles and harp began in real earnest. Away went Mr.Pickwick--hands across--down the middle to the very end of theroom, and half-way up the chimney, back again to the door--poussette everywhere--loud stamp on the ground--ready for thenext couple--off again--all the figure over once more--anotherstamp to beat out the time--next couple, and the next, and thenext again--never was such going; at last, after they had reachedthe bottom of the dance, and full fourteen couple after the oldlady had retired in an exhausted state, and the clergyman's wifehad been substituted in her stead, did that gentleman, when therewas no demand whatever on his exertions, keep perpetuallydancing in his place, to keep time to the music, smiling on hispartner all the while with a blandness of demeanour whichbaffles all description.Long before Mr. Pickwick was weary of dancing, the newly-married couple had retired from the scene. There was a glorioussupper downstairs, notwithstanding, and a good long sittingafter it; and when Mr. Pickwick awoke, late the next morning,he had a confused recollection of having, severally andconfidentially, invited somewhere about five-and-forty people to dinewith him at the George and Vulture, the very first time they cameto London; which Mr. Pickwick rightly considered a prettycertain indication of his having taken something besides exercise,on the previous night.'And so your family has games in the kitchen to-night, mydear, has they?' inquired Sam of Emma.'Yes, Mr. Weller,' replied Emma; 'we always have on ChristmasEve. Master wouldn't neglect to keep it up on any account.''Your master's a wery pretty notion of keeping anythin' up,my dear,' said Mr. Weller; 'I never see such a sensible sort ofman as he is, or such a reg'lar gen'l'm'n.''Oh, that he is!' said the fat boy, joining in the conversation;'don't he breed nice pork!' The fat youth gave a semi-cannibalicleer at Mr. Weller, as he thought of the roast legs and gravy.'Oh, you've woke up, at last, have you?' said Sam.The fat boy nodded.'I'll tell you what it is, young boa-constructer,' said Mr. Wellerimpressively; 'if you don't sleep a little less, and exercise a littlemore, wen you comes to be a man you'll lay yourself open to thesame sort of personal inconwenience as was inflicted on the oldgen'l'm'n as wore the pigtail.''What did they do to him?' inquired the fat boy, in a faltering voice.'I'm a-going to tell you,' replied Mr. Weller; 'he was one o' thelargest patterns as was ever turned out--reg'lar fat man, ashadn't caught a glimpse of his own shoes for five-and-forty year.''Lor!' exclaimed Emma.'No, that he hadn't, my dear,' said Mr. Weller; 'and if you'dput an exact model of his own legs on the dinin'-table afore him,he wouldn't ha' known 'em. Well, he always walks to his officewith a wery handsome gold watch-chain hanging out, about afoot and a quarter, and a gold watch in his fob pocket as wasworth--I'm afraid to say how much, but as much as a watch canbe--a large, heavy, round manufacter, as stout for a watch, ashe was for a man, and with a big face in proportion. "You'dbetter not carry that 'ere watch," says the old gen'l'm'n's friends,"you'll be robbed on it," says they. "Shall I?" says he. "Yes, youwill," says they. "Well," says he, "I should like to see the thiefas could get this here watch out, for I'm blessed if I ever can, it'ssuch a tight fit," says he, "and wenever I vants to know what'so'clock, I'm obliged to stare into the bakers' shops," he says.Well, then he laughs as hearty as if he was a-goin' to pieces, andout he walks agin with his powdered head and pigtail, androlls down the Strand with the chain hangin' out furder thanever, and the great round watch almost bustin' through his graykersey smalls. There warn't a pickpocket in all London as didn'ttake a pull at that chain, but the chain 'ud never break, and thewatch 'ud never come out, so they soon got tired of draggingsuch a heavy old gen'l'm'n along the pavement, and he'd gohome and laugh till the pigtail wibrated like the penderlum of aDutch clock. At last, one day the old gen'l'm'n was a-rollin'along, and he sees a pickpocket as he know'd by sight, a-comingup, arm in arm with a little boy with a wery large head. "Here'sa game," says the old gen'l'm'n to himself, "they're a-goin' tohave another try, but it won't do!" So he begins a-chucklin'wery hearty, wen, all of a sudden, the little boy leaves hold of thepickpocket's arm, and rushes head foremost straight into the oldgen'l'm'n's stomach, and for a moment doubles him right upwith the pain. "Murder!" says the old gen'l'm'n. "All right, Sir,"says the pickpocket, a-wisperin' in his ear. And wen he comestraight agin, the watch and chain was gone, and what's worsethan that, the old gen'l'm'n's digestion was all wrong ever afterwards,to the wery last day of his life; so just you look about you,young feller, and take care you don't get too fat.'As Mr. Weller concluded this moral tale, with which the fatboy appeared much affected, they all three repaired to the largekitchen, in which the family were by this time assembled,according to annual custom on Christmas Eve, observed by oldWardle's forefathers from time immemorial.From the centre of the ceiling of this kitchen, old Wardle hadjust suspended, with his own hands, a huge branch of mistletoe,and this same branch of mistletoe instantaneously gave rise to ascene of general and most delightful struggling and confusion; inthe midst of which, Mr. Pickwick, with a gallantry that wouldhave done honour to a descendant of Lady Tollimglower herself,took the old lady by the hand, led her beneath the mysticbranch, and saluted her in all courtesy and decorum. The old ladysubmitted to this piece of practical politeness with all the dignitywhich befitted so important and serious a solemnity, but theyounger ladies, not being so thoroughly imbued with a superstitiousveneration for the custom, or imagining that the value ofa salute is very much enhanced if it cost a little trouble to obtainit, screamed and struggled, and ran into corners, and threatenedand remonstrated, and did everything but leave the room, untilsome of the less adventurous gentlemen were on the point ofdesisting, when they all at once found it useless to resist anylonger, and submitted to be kissed with a good grace. Mr. Winklekissed the young lady with the black eyes, and Mr. Snodgrasskissed Emily; and Mr. Weller, not being particular about theform of being under the mistletoe, kissed Emma and the otherfemale servants, just as he caught them. As to the poor relations,they kissed everybody, not even excepting the plainer portions ofthe young lady visitors, who, in their excessive confusion, ranright under the mistletoe, as soon as it was hung up, withoutknowing it! Wardle stood with his back to the fire, surveying thewhole scene, with the utmost satisfaction; and the fat boy tookthe opportunity of appropriating to his own use, and summarilydevouring, a particularly fine mince-pie, that had been carefullyput by, for somebody else.Now, the screaming had subsided, and faces were in a glow,and curls in a tangle, and Mr. Pickwick, after kissing the old ladyas before mentioned, was standing under the mistletoe, lookingwith a very pleased countenance on all that was passing aroundhim, when the young lady with the black eyes, after a littlewhispering with the other young ladies, made a sudden dartforward, and, putting her arm round Mr. Pickwick's neck,saluted him affectionately on the left cheek; and before Mr.Pickwick distinctly knew what was the matter, he was surroundedby the whole body, and kissed by every one of them.It was a pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick in the centre of thegroup, now pulled this way, and then that, and first kissed onthe chin, and then on the nose, and then on the spectacles, and tohear the peals of laughter which were raised on every side; butit was a still more pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick, blindedshortly afterwards with a silk handkerchief, falling up against thewall, and scrambling into corners, and going through all themysteries of blind-man's buff, with the utmost relish for thegame, until at last he caught one of the poor relations, and thenhad to evade the blind-man himself, which he did with a nimblenessand agility that elicited the admiration and applause of allbeholders. The poor relations caught the people who theythought would like it, and, when the game flagged, got caughtthemselves. When they all tired of blind-man's buff, there was agreat game at snap-dragon, and when fingers enough wereburned with that, and all the raisins were gone, they sat down bythe huge fire of blazing logs to a substantial supper, and a mightybowl of wassail, something smaller than an ordinary wash-house copper, in which the hot apples were hissing and bubblingwith a rich look, and a jolly sound, that were perfectly irresistible.'This,' said Mr. Pickwick, looking round him, 'this is,indeed, comfort.''Our invariable custom,' replied Mr. Wardle. 'Everybody sitsdown with us on Christmas Eve, as you see them now--servantsand all; and here we wait, until the clock strikes twelve, to usherChristmas in, and beguile the time with forfeits and old stories.Trundle, my boy, rake up the fire.'Up flew the bright sparks in myriads as the logs were stirred.The deep red blaze sent forth a rich glow, that penetrated intothe farthest corner of the room, and cast its cheerful tint onevery face.'Come,' said Wardle, 'a song--a Christmas song! I'll give youone, in default of a better.''Bravo!' said Mr. Pickwick.'Fill up,' cried Wardle. 'It will be two hours, good, before yousee the bottom of the bowl through the deep rich colour of thewassail; fill up all round, and now for the song.'Thus saying, the merry old gentleman, in a good, round,sturdy voice, commenced without more ado--A CHRISTMAS CAROL'I care not for Spring; on his fickle wingLet the blossoms and buds be borne;He woos them amain with his treacherous rain,And he scatters them ere the morn.An inconstant elf, he knows not himself,Nor his own changing mind an hour,He'll smile in your face, and, with wry grimace,He'll wither your youngest flower.'Let the Summer sun to his bright home run,He shall never be sought by me;When he's dimmed by a cloud I can laugh aloudAnd care not how sulky he be!For his darling child is the madness wildThat sports in fierce fever's train;And when love is too strong, it don't last long,As many have found to their pain.'A mild harvest night, by the tranquil lightOf the modest and gentle moon,Has a far sweeter sheen for me, I ween,Than the broad and unblushing noon.But every leaf awakens my grief,As it lieth beneath the tree;So let Autumn air be never so fair,It by no means agrees with me.'But my song I troll out, for CHRISTMAS Stout,The hearty, the true, and the bold;A bumper I drain, and with might and mainGive three cheers for this Christmas old!We'll usher him in with a merry dinThat shall gladden his joyous heart,And we'll keep him up, while there's bite or sup,And in fellowship good, we'll part.'In his fine honest pride, he scorns to hideOne jot of his hard-weather scars;They're no disgrace, for there's much the same traceOn the cheeks of our bravest tars.Then again I sing till the roof doth ringAnd it echoes from wall to wall--To the stout old wight, fair welcome to-night,As the King of the Seasons all!'This song was tumultuously applauded--for friends anddependents make a capital audience--and the poor relations,especially, were in perfect ecstasies of rapture. Again was the firereplenished, and again went the wassail round.'How it snows!' said one of the men, in a low tone.'Snows, does it?' said Wardle.'Rough, cold night, Sir,' replied the man; 'and there's a windgot up, that drifts it across the fields, in a thick white cloud.''What does Jem say?' inquired the old lady. 'There ain'tanything the matter, is there?''No, no, mother,' replied Wardle; 'he says there's a snowdrift,and a wind that's piercing cold. I should know that, by the wayit rumbles in the chimney.''Ah!' said the old lady, 'there was just such a wind, and justsuch a fall of snow, a good many years back, I recollect--just fiveyears before your poor father died. It was a Christmas Eve,too; and I remember that on that very night he told us the storyabout the goblins that carried away old Gabriel Grub.''The story about what?' said Mr. Pickwick.'Oh, nothing, nothing,' replied Wardle. 'About an old sexton,that the good people down here suppose to have been carriedaway by goblins.''Suppose!' ejaculated the old lady. 'Is there anybody hardyenough to disbelieve it? Suppose! Haven't you heard ever sinceyou were a child, that he WAS carried away by the goblins, anddon't you know he was?''Very well, mother, he was, if you like,' said Wardle laughing.'He WAS carried away by goblins, Pickwick; and there's an endof the matter.''No, no,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'not an end of it, I assure you; forI must hear how, and why, and all about it.'Wardle smiled, as every head was bent forward to hear, andfilling out the wassail with no stinted hand, nodded a health toMr. Pickwick, and began as follows--But bless our editorial heart, what a long chapter we have beenbetrayed into! We had quite forgotten all such petty restrictionsas chapters, we solemnly declare. So here goes, to give the goblina fair start in a new one. A clear stage and no favour for thegoblins, ladies and gentlemen, if you please.CHAPTER XXIXTHE STORY OF THE GOBLINS WHO STOLE A SEXTONIn an old abbey town, down in this part of the country, a long, longwhile ago--so long, that the story must be a true one, because ourgreat-grandfathers implicitly believed it--there officiated as sextonand grave-digger in the churchyard, one Gabriel Grub. It by nomeans follows that because a man is a sexton, and constantlysurrounded by the emblems of mortality, therefore he should be amorose and melancholy man; your undertakers are the merriest fellowsin the world; and I once had the honour of being on intimate termswith a mute, who in private life, and off duty, was as comical andjocose a little fellow as ever chirped out a devil-may-care song,without a hitch in his memory, or drained off a good stiff glasswithout stopping for breath. But notwithstanding these precedentsto the contrary, Gabriel Grub was an ill-conditioned, cross-grained,surly fellow--a morose and lonely man, who consorted with nobodybut himself, and an old wicker bottle which fitted into his large deepwaistcoat pocket--and who eyed each merry face, as it passedhim by, with such a deep scowl of malice and ill-humour,as it was difficult to meet without feeling something the worse for.'A little before twilight, one Christmas Eve, Gabriel shoulderedhis spade, lighted his lantern, and betook himself towards the oldchurchyard; for he had got a grave to finish by next morning,and, feeling very low, he thought it might raise his spirits,perhaps, if he went on with his work at once. As he went his way,up the ancient street, he saw the cheerful light of the blazingfires gleam through the old casements, and heard the loud laughand the cheerful shouts of those who were assembled aroundthem; he marked the bustling preparations for next day's cheer,and smelled the numerous savoury odours consequent thereupon,as they steamed up from the kitchen windows in clouds. All thiswas gall and wormwood to the heart of Gabriel Grub; andwhen groups of children bounded out of the houses, trippedacross the road, and were met, before they could knock at theopposite door, by half a dozen curly-headed little rascals whocrowded round them as they flocked upstairs to spend theevening in their Christmas games, Gabriel smiled grimly, andclutched the handle of his spade with a firmer grasp, as hethought of measles, scarlet fever, thrush, whooping-cough, anda good many other sources of consolation besides.'In this happy frame of mind, Gabriel strode along, returninga short, sullen growl to the good-humoured greetings of such ofhis neighbours as now and then passed him, until he turned intothe dark lane which led to the churchyard. Now, Gabriel hadbeen looking forward to reaching the dark lane, because it was,generally speaking, a nice, gloomy, mournful place, into whichthe townspeople did not much care to go, except in broaddaylight, and when the sun was shining; consequently, he wasnot a little indignant to hear a young urchin roaring outsome jolly song about a merry Christmas, in this very sanctuarywhich had been called Coffin Lane ever since the days of the oldabbey, and the time of the shaven-headed monks. As Gabrielwalked on, and the voice drew nearer, he found it proceededfrom a small boy, who was hurrying along, to join one of thelittle parties in the old street, and who, partly to keep himselfcompany, and partly to prepare himself for the occasion, wasshouting out the song at the highest pitch of his lungs. So Gabrielwaited until the boy came up, and then dodged him into a corner,and rapped him over the head with his lantern five or six times,just to teach him to modulate his voice. And as the boy hurriedaway with his hand to his head, singing quite a different sort oftune, Gabriel Grub chuckled very heartily to himself, andentered the churchyard, locking the gate behind him.'He took off his coat, set down his lantern, and getting into theunfinished grave, worked at it for an hour or so with right good-will. But the earth was hardened with the frost, and it was novery easy matter to break it up, and shovel it out; and althoughthere was a moon, it was a very young one, and shed little lightupon the grave, which was in the shadow of the church. At anyother time, these obstacles would have made Gabriel Grub verymoody and miserable, but he was so well pleased with havingstopped the small boy's singing, that he took little heed of thescanty progress he had made, and looked down into the grave,when he had finished work for the night, with grim satisfaction,murmuring as he gathered up his things-- Brave lodgings for one, brave lodgings for one, A few feet of cold earth, when life is done; A stone at the head, a stone at the feet, A rich, juicy meal for the worms to eat; Rank grass overhead, and damp clay around, Brave lodgings for one, these, in holy ground!'"Ho! ho!" laughed Gabriel Grub, as he sat himself down ona flat tombstone which was a favourite resting-place of his, anddrew forth his wicker bottle. "A coffin at Christmas! A Christmasbox! Ho! ho! ho!"'"Ho! ho! ho!" repeated a voice which sounded close behind him.'Gabriel paused, in some alarm, in the act of raising the wickerbottle to his lips, and looked round. The bottom of the oldestgrave about him was not more still and quiet than the churchyardin the pale moonlight. The cold hoar frost glistened on thetombstones, and sparkled like rows of gems, among the stonecarvings of the old church. The snow lay hard and crisp uponthe ground; and spread over the thickly-strewn mounds of earth,so white and smooth a cover that it seemed as if corpses laythere, hidden only by their winding sheets. Not the faintest rustlebroke the profound tranquillity of the solemn scene. Sound itselfappeared to be frozen up, all was so cold and still.'"It was the echoes," said Gabriel Grub, raising the bottle tohis lips again.'"It was NOT," said a deep voice.'Gabriel started up, and stood rooted to the spot withastonishment and terror; for his eyes rested on a form that madehis blood run cold.'Seated on an upright tombstone, close to him, was a strange,unearthly figure, whom Gabriel felt at once, was no being of thisworld. His long, fantastic legs which might have reached theground, were cocked up, and crossed after a quaint, fantasticfashion; his sinewy arms were bare; and his hands rested on hisknees. On his short, round body, he wore a close covering,ornamented with small slashes; a short cloak dangled at hisback; the collar was cut into curious peaks, which served thegoblin in lieu of ruff or neckerchief; and his shoes curled up athis toes into long points. On his head, he wore a broad-brimmedsugar-loaf hat, garnished with a single feather. The hat wascovered with the white frost; and the goblin looked as if he hadsat on the same tombstone very comfortably, for two or threehundred years. He was sitting perfectly still; his tongue was putout, as if in derision; and he was grinning at Gabriel Grub withsuch a grin as only a goblin could call up.'"It was NOT the echoes," said the goblin.'Gabriel Grub was paralysed, and could make no reply.'"What do you do here on Christmas Eve?" said the goblin sternly.'"I came to dig a grave, Sir," stammered Gabriel Grub.'"What man wanders among graves and churchyards on sucha night as this?" cried the goblin.'"Gabriel Grub! Gabriel Grub!" screamed a wild chorus ofvoices that seemed to fill the churchyard. Gabriel looked fearfullyround--nothing was to be seen.'"What have you got in that bottle?" said the goblin.'"Hollands, sir," replied the sexton, trembling more than ever;for he had bought it of the smugglers, and he thought thatperhaps his questioner might be in the excise department of the goblins.'"Who drinks Hollands alone, and in a churchyard, on such anight as this?" said the goblin.'"Gabriel Grub! Gabriel Grub!" exclaimed the wild voices again.'The goblin leered maliciously at the terrified sexton, and thenraising his voice, exclaimed--'"And who, then, is our fair and lawful prize?"'To this inquiry the invisible chorus replied, in a strain thatsounded like the voices of many choristers singing to the mightyswell of the old church organ--a strain that seemed borne to thesexton's ears upon a wild wind, and to die away as it passedonward; but the burden of the reply was still the same, "GabrielGrub! Gabriel Grub!"'The goblin grinned a broader grin than before, as he said,"Well, Gabriel, what do you say to this?"'The sexton gasped for breath.'"What do you think of this, Gabriel?" said the goblin,kicking up his feet in the air on either side of the tombstone, andlooking at the turned-up points with as much complacency as ifhe had been contemplating the most fashionable pair ofWellingtons in all Bond Street.'"It's--it's--very curious, Sir," replied the sexton, half deadwith fright; "very curious, and very pretty, but I think I'll goback and finish my work, Sir, if you please."'"Work!" said the goblin, "what work?"'"The grave, Sir; making the grave," stammered the sexton.'"Oh, the grave, eh?" said the goblin; "who makes graves ata time when all other men are merry, and takes a pleasure in it?"'Again the mysterious voices replied, "Gabriel Grub! Gabriel Grub!"'"I am afraid my friends want you, Gabriel," said the goblin,thrusting his tongue farther into his cheek than ever--and a mostastonishing tongue it was--"I'm afraid my friends want you,Gabriel," said the goblin.'"Under favour, Sir," replied the horror-stricken sexton, "Idon't think they can, Sir; they don't know me, Sir; I don't thinkthe gentlemen have ever seen me, Sir."'"Oh, yes, they have," replied the goblin; "we know the manwith the sulky face and grim scowl, that came down the streetto-night, throwing his evil looks at the children, and graspinghis burying-spade the tighter. We know the man who struck theboy in the envious malice of his heart, because the boy could bemerry, and he could not. We know him, we know him."'Here, the goblin gave a loud, shrill laugh, which the echoesreturned twentyfold; and throwing his legs up in the air, stoodupon his head, or rather upon the very point of his sugar-loafhat, on the narrow edge of the tombstone, whence he threw aSomerset with extraordinary agility, right to the sexton's feet, atwhich he planted himself in the attitude in which tailors generallysit upon the shop-board.'"I--I--am afraid I must leave you, Sir," said the sexton,making an effort to move.'"Leave us!" said the goblin, "Gabriel Grub going to leave us.Ho! ho! ho!"'As the goblin laughed, the sexton observed, for one instant, abrilliant illumination within the windows of the church, as if thewhole building were lighted up; it disappeared, the organ pealedforth a lively air, and whole troops of goblins, the very counterpartof the first one, poured into the churchyard, and beganplaying at leap-frog with the tombstones, never stopping for aninstant to take breath, but "overing" the highest among them,one after the other, with the most marvellous dexterity. The firstgoblin was a most astonishing leaper, and none of the otherscould come near him; even in the extremity of his terror thesexton could not help observing, that while his friends werecontent to leap over the common-sized gravestones, the first onetook the family vaults, iron railings and all, with as much ease asif they had been so many street-posts.'At last the game reached to a most exciting pitch; the organplayed quicker and quicker, and the goblins leaped faster andfaster, coiling themselves up, rolling head over heels upon theground, and bounding over the tombstones like footballs. Thesexton's brain whirled round with the rapidity of the motion hebeheld, and his legs reeled beneath him, as the spirits flew beforehis eyes; when the goblin king, suddenly darting towards him,laid his hand upon his collar, and sank with him through the earth.'When Gabriel Grub had had time to fetch his breath, whichthe rapidity of his descent had for the moment taken away, hefound himself in what appeared to be a large cavern, surroundedon all sides by crowds of goblins, ugly and grim; in the centre ofthe room, on an elevated seat, was stationed his friend of thechurchyard; and close behind him stood Gabriel Grub himself,without power of motion.'"Cold to-night," said the king of the goblins, "very cold. Aglass of something warm here!"'At this command, half a dozen officious goblins, with aperpetual smile upon their faces, whom Gabriel Grub imaginedto be courtiers, on that account, hastily disappeared, and presentlyreturned with a goblet of liquid fire, which they presented to the king.'"Ah!" cried the goblin, whose cheeks and throat were transparent,as he tossed down the flame, "this warms one, indeed!Bring a bumper of the same, for Mr. Grub."'It was in vain for the unfortunate sexton to protest that hewas not in the habit of taking anything warm at night; one ofthe goblins held him while another poured the blazing liquiddown his throat; the whole assembly screeched with laughter,as he coughed and choked, and wiped away the tears whichgushed plentifully from his eyes, after swallowing the burning draught.'"And now," said the king, fantastically poking the tapercorner of his sugar-loaf hat into the sexton's eye, and therebyoccasioning him the most exquisite pain; "and now, show theman of misery and gloom, a few of the pictures from our owngreat storehouse!"'As the goblin said this, a thick cloud which obscured theremoter end of the cavern rolled gradually away, and disclosed,apparently at a great distance, a small and scantily furnished, butneat and clean apartment. A crowd of little children weregathered round a bright fire, clinging to their mother's gown, andgambolling around her chair. The mother occasionally rose, anddrew aside the window-curtain, as if to look for some expectedobject; a frugal meal was ready spread upon the table; and anelbow chair was placed near the fire. A knock was heard at thedoor; the mother opened it, and the children crowded round her,and clapped their hands for joy, as their father entered. He waswet and weary, and shook the snow from his garments, as thechildren crowded round him, and seizing his cloak, hat, stick,and gloves, with busy zeal, ran with them from the room. Then,as he sat down to his meal before the fire, the children climbedabout his knee, and the mother sat by his side, and all seemedhappiness and comfort.'But a change came upon the view, almost imperceptibly. Thescene was altered to a small bedroom, where the fairest andyoungest child lay dying; the roses had fled from his cheek, andthe light from his eye; and even as the sexton looked upon himwith an interest he had never felt or known before, he died. Hisyoung brothers and sisters crowded round his little bed, andseized his tiny hand, so cold and heavy; but they shrank backfrom its touch, and looked with awe on his infant face; for calmand tranquil as it was, and sleeping in rest and peace as thebeautiful child seemed to be, they saw that he was dead, and theyknew that he was an angel looking down upon, and blessingthem, from a bright and happy Heaven.'Again the light cloud passed across the picture, and again thesubject changed. The father and mother were old and helplessnow, and the number of those about them was diminished morethan half; but content and cheerfulness sat on every face, andbeamed in every eye, as they crowded round the fireside, and toldand listened to old stories of earlier and bygone days. Slowlyand peacefully, the father sank into the grave, and, soon after,the sharer of all his cares and troubles followed him to a place ofrest. The few who yet survived them, kneeled by their tomb, andwatered the green turf which covered it with their tears; then rose,and turned away, sadly and mournfully, but not with bittercries, or despairing lamentations, for they knew that they shouldone day meet again; and once more they mixed with the busyworld, and their content and cheerfulness were restored. Thecloud settled upon the picture, and concealed it from the sexton's view.'"What do you think of THAT?" said the goblin, turning hislarge face towards Gabriel Grub.'Gabriel murmured out something about its being very pretty,and looked somewhat ashamed, as the goblin bent his fiery eyesupon him.'" You miserable man!" said the goblin, in a tone of excessivecontempt. "You!" He appeared disposed to add more, butindignation choked his utterance, so he lifted up one of his verypliable legs, and, flourishing it above his head a little, to insurehis aim, administered a good sound kick to Gabriel Grub;immediately after which, all the goblins in waiting crowdedround the wretched sexton, and kicked him without mercy,according to the established and invariable custom of courtiersupon earth, who kick whom royalty kicks, and hug whomroyalty hugs.'"Show him some more!" said the king of the goblins.'At these words, the cloud was dispelled, and a rich andbeautiful landscape was disclosed to view--there is just suchanother, to this day, within half a mile of the old abbey town.The sun shone from out the clear blue sky, the water sparkledbeneath his rays, and the trees looked greener, and the flowersmore gay, beneath its cheering influence. The water rippled onwith a pleasant sound, the trees rustled in the light wind thatmurmured among their leaves, the birds sang upon the boughs,and the lark carolled on high her welcome to the morning. Yes,it was morning; the bright, balmy morning of summer; theminutest leaf, the smallest blade of grass, was instinct with life.The ant crept forth to her daily toil, the butterfly fluttered andbasked in the warm rays of the sun; myriads of insects spreadtheir transparent wings, and revelled in their brief but happyexistence. Man walked forth, elated with the scene; and all wasbrightness and splendour.'"YOU a miserable man!" said the king of the goblins, in amore contemptuous tone than before. And again the king of thegoblins gave his leg a flourish; again it descended on the shouldersof the sexton; and again the attendant goblins imitated theexample of their chief.'Many a time the cloud went and came, and many a lesson ittaught to Gabriel Grub, who, although his shoulders smartedwith pain from the frequent applications of the goblins' feetthereunto, looked on with an interest that nothing could diminish.He saw that men who worked hard, and earned their scantybread with lives of labour, were cheerful and happy; and that tothe most ignorant, the sweet face of Nature was a never-failingsource of cheerfulness and joy. He saw those who had beendelicately nurtured, and tenderly brought up, cheerful underprivations, and superior to suffering, that would have crushedmany of a rougher grain, because they bore within their ownbosoms the materials of happiness, contentment, and peace. Hesaw that women, the tenderest and most fragile of all God'screatures, were the oftenest superior to sorrow, adversity, anddistress; and he saw that it was because they bore, in their ownhearts, an inexhaustible well-spring of affection and devotion.Above all, he saw that men like himself, who snarled at the mirthand cheerfulness of others, were the foulest weeds on the fairsurface of the earth; and setting all the good of the world againstthe evil, he came to the conclusion that it was a very decent andrespectable sort of world after all. No sooner had he formed it,than the cloud which had closed over the last picture, seemed tosettle on his senses, and lull him to repose. One by one, thegoblins faded from his sight; and, as the last one disappeared, hesank to sleep.'The day had broken when Gabriel Grub awoke, and foundhimself lying at full length on the flat gravestone in the churchyard,with the wicker bottle lying empty by his side, and his coat,spade, and lantern, all well whitened by the last night's frost,scattered on the ground. The stone on which he had first seenthe goblin seated, stood bolt upright before him, and the graveat which he had worked, the night before, was not far off. Atfirst, he began to doubt the reality of his adventures, but theacute pain in his shoulders when he attempted to rise, assuredhim that the kicking of the goblins was certainly not ideal. Hewas staggered again, by observing no traces of footsteps in thesnow on which the goblins had played at leap-frog with thegravestones, but he speedily accounted for this circumstancewhen he remembered that, being spirits, they would leave novisible impression behind them. So, Gabriel Grub got on his feetas well as he could, for the pain in his back; and, brushingthe frost off his coat, put it on, and turned his face towards the town.'But he was an altered man, and he could not bear the thoughtof returning to a place where his repentance would be scoffed at,and his reformation disbelieved. He hesitated for a few moments;and then turned away to wander where he might, and seek hisbread elsewhere.'The lantern, the spade, and the wicker bottle were found, thatday, in the churchyard. There were a great many speculationsabout the sexton's fate, at first, but it was speedily determinedthat he had been carried away by the goblins; and there were notwanting some very credible witnesses who had distinctly seenhim whisked through the air on the back of a chestnut horseblind of one eye, with the hind-quarters of a lion, and the tail of abear. At length all this was devoutly believed; and the new sextonused to exhibit to the curious, for a trifling emolument, a good-sized piece of the church weathercock which had been accidentallykicked off by the aforesaid horse in his aerial flight, and pickedup by himself in the churchyard, a year or two afterwards.'Unfortunately, these stories were somewhat disturbed by theunlooked-for reappearance of Gabriel Grub himself, some tenyears afterwards, a ragged, contented, rheumatic old man. Hetold his story to the clergyman, and also to the mayor; and incourse of time it began to be received as a matter of history, inwhich form it has continued down to this very day. Thebelievers in the weathercock tale, having misplaced their confidenceonce, were not easily prevailed upon to part with itagain, so they looked as wise as they could, shrugged theirshoulders, touched their foreheads, and murmured somethingabout Gabriel Grub having drunk all the Hollands, and thenfallen asleep on the flat tombstone; and they affected to explainwhat he supposed he had witnessed in the goblin's cavern, bysaying that he had seen the world, and grown wiser. But thisopinion, which was by no means a popular one at any time,gradually died off; and be the matter how it may, as GabrielGrub was afflicted with rheumatism to the end of his days, thisstory has at least one moral, if it teach no better one--and that is,that if a man turn sulky and drink by himself at Christmas time,he may make up his mind to be not a bit the better for it: let thespirits be never so good, or let them be even as many degreesbeyond proof, as those which Gabriel Grub saw in the goblin's cavern.'
THE PICKWICK PAPERSCharles Dickens (1812-1870)An ExcerptChapter 28. A good-humoured Christmas Chapter, containing an Account of a Wedding, and some other Sports beside: which although in their Way even as good Customs as Marriage itself, are not quite so religiously kept up, in these degenerate TimesChapter 29. The Story of the Goblins who stole a Sexton
The Full Story: The Pickwick Papers
Project Gutenberg EBook #580
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