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
THE POSTHUMOUS PAPERS
THE PICKWICK CLUB
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 TIMES
As brisk as bees, if not altogether as light as fairies, did the four
Pickwickians assemble on the morning of the twenty-second day of
December, in the year of grace in which these, their faithfully-recorded
adventures, were undertaken and accomplished. Christmas was close at
hand, in all his bluff and hearty honesty; it was the season of
hospitality, merriment, and open-heartedness; the old year was
preparing, like an ancient philosopher, to call his friends around
him, and amidst the sound of feasting and revelry to pass gently and
calmly away. Gay and merry was the time; and right gay and merry
were at least four of the numerous hearts that were gladdened by
And numerous indeed are the hearts to which Christmas
brings a brief season of happiness and enjoyment. How many
families, whose members have been dispersed and scattered far
and wide, in the restless struggles of life, are then reunited, and
meet once again in that happy state of companionship and mutual
goodwill, 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 rude
traditions of the roughest savages, alike number it among the
first joys of a future condition of existence, provided for the
blessed and happy! How many old recollections, and how many
dormant sympathies, does Christmas time awaken!
We write these words now, many miles distant from the spot
at which, year after year, we met on that day, a merry and joyous
circle. Many of the hearts that throbbed so gaily then, have
ceased to beat; many of the looks that shone so brightly then,
have ceased to glow; the hands we grasped, have grown cold; the
eyes we sought, have hid their lustre in the grave; and yet the old
house, the room, the merry voices and smiling faces, the jest,
the laugh, the most minute and trivial circumstances connected
with those happy meetings, crowd upon our mind at each
recurrence of the season, as if the last assemblage had been but
yesterday! Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the
delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the
pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the
traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fireside and
his quiet home!
But we are so taken up and occupied with the good qualities of
this saint Christmas, that we are keeping Mr. Pickwick and his
friends waiting in the cold on the outside of the Muggleton
coach, 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 are
endeavouring to insinuate into the fore-boot a huge cod-fish
several sizes too large for it--which is snugly packed up, in a long
brown basket, with a layer of straw over the top, and which has
been left to the last, in order that he may repose in safety on the
half-dozen barrels of real native oysters, all the property of
Mr. Pickwick, which have been arranged in regular order at the
bottom of the receptacle. The interest displayed in Mr. Pickwick's
countenance is most intense, as Mr. Weller and the guard try to
squeeze the cod-fish into the boot, first head first, and then tail
first, and then top upward, and then bottom upward, and then
side-ways, and then long-ways, all of which artifices the implacable
cod-fish sturdily resists, until the guard accidentally hits him
in the very middle of the basket, whereupon he suddenly disappears
into the boot, and with him, the head and shoulders of
the guard himself, who, not calculating upon so sudden a
cessation of the passive resistance of the cod-fish, experiences a
very unexpected shock, to the unsmotherable delight of all the
porters and bystanders. Upon this, Mr. Pickwick smiles with
great good-humour, and drawing a shilling from his waistcoat
pocket, begs the guard, as he picks himself out of the boot, to
drink his health in a glass of hot brandy-and-water; at which the
guard smiles too, and Messrs. Snodgrass, Winkle, and Tupman,
all smile in company. The guard and Mr. Weller disappear for
five minutes, most probably to get the hot brandy-and-water, for
they smell very strongly of it, when they return, the coachman
mounts to the box, Mr. Weller jumps up behind, the Pickwickians
pull their coats round their legs and their shawls over their noses,
the helpers pull the horse-cloths off, the coachman shouts out a
cheery 'All right,' and away they go.
They have rumbled through the streets, and jolted over the
stones, and at length reach the wide and open country. The
wheels skim over the hard and frosty ground; and the horses,
bursting into a canter at a smart crack of the whip, step along the
road as if the load behind them--coach, passengers, cod-fish,
oyster-barrels, and all--were but a feather at their heels. They
have descended a gentle slope, and enter upon a level, as compact
and dry as a solid block of marble, two miles long. Another crack
of the whip, and on they speed, at a smart gallop, the horses
tossing their heads and rattling the harness, as if in exhilaration
at the rapidity of the motion; while the coachman, holding whip
and reins in one hand, takes off his hat with the other, and resting
it on his knees, pulls out his handkerchief, and wipes his forehead,
partly because he has a habit of doing it, and partly
because it's as well to show the passengers how cool he is, and
what an easy thing it is to drive four-in-hand, when you have had
as much practice as he has. Having done this very leisurely
(otherwise the effect would be materially impaired), he replaces
his handkerchief, pulls on his hat, adjusts his gloves, squares his
elbows, cracks the whip again, and on they speed, more merrily
A few small houses, scattered on either side of the road,
betoken the entrance to some town or village. The lively notes
of the guard's key-bugle vibrate in the clear cold air, and wake
up the old gentleman inside, who, carefully letting down the
window-sash half-way, and standing sentry over the air, takes a
short peep out, and then carefully pulling it up again, informs the
other inside that they're going to change directly; on which the
other inside wakes himself up, and determines to postpone his
next nap until after the stoppage. Again the bugle sounds lustily
forth, and rouses the cottager's wife and children, who peep out
at the house door, and watch the coach till it turns the corner,
when they once more crouch round the blazing fire, and throw on
another log of wood against father comes home; while father
himself, a full mile off, has just exchanged a friendly nod with the
coachman, and turned round to take a good long stare at the
vehicle as it whirls away.
And now the bugle plays a lively air as the coach rattles
through 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. Pickwick
emerges from his coat collar, and looks about him with great
curiosity; perceiving which, the coachman informs Mr. Pickwick
of the name of the town, and tells him it was market-day yesterday,
both of which pieces of information Mr. Pickwick retails to
his fellow-passengers; whereupon they emerge from their coat
collars too, and look about them also. Mr. Winkle, who sits at
the extreme edge, with one leg dangling in the air, is nearly
precipitated into the street, as the coach twists round the sharp
corner by the cheesemonger's shop, and turns into the market-
place; and before Mr. Snodgrass, who sits next to him, has
recovered from his alarm, they pull up at the inn yard where the
fresh horses, with cloths on, are already waiting. The coachman
throws down the reins and gets down himself, and the other
outside passengers drop down also; except those who have no
great confidence in their ability to get up again; and they remain
where they are, and stamp their feet against the coach to warm
them--looking, with longing eyes and red noses, at the bright
fire in the inn bar, and the sprigs of holly with red berries which
ornament the window.
But the guard has delivered at the corn-dealer's shop, the
brown paper packet he took out of the little pouch which hangs
over his shoulder by a leathern strap; and has seen the horses
carefully put to; and has thrown on the pavement the saddle
which was brought from London on the coach roof; and has
assisted in the conference between the coachman and the hostler
about the gray mare that hurt her off fore-leg last Tuesday; and
he and Mr. Weller are all right behind, and the coachman is all
right in front, and the old gentleman inside, who has kept the
window down full two inches all this time, has pulled it up again,
and the cloths are off, and they are all ready for starting, except
the 'two stout gentlemen,' whom the coachman inquires after
with some impatience. Hereupon the coachman, and the guard,
and Sam Weller, and Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass, and all
the hostlers, and every one of the idlers, who are more in number
than all the others put together, shout for the missing gentlemen
as loud as they can bawl. A distant response is heard from the
yard, and Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman come running down it,
quite out of breath, for they have been having a glass of ale
a-piece, and Mr. Pickwick's fingers are so cold that he has been
full five minutes before he could find the sixpence to pay for it.
The coachman shouts an admonitory 'Now then, gen'l'm'n,' the
guard re-echoes it; the old gentleman inside thinks it a very
extraordinary thing that people WILL get down when they know
there isn't time for it; Mr. Pickwick struggles up on one side,
Mr. Tupman on the other; Mr. Winkle cries 'All right'; and off
they start. Shawls are pulled up, coat collars are readjusted, the
pavement ceases, the houses disappear; and they are once again
dashing along the open road, with the fresh clear air blowing in
their faces, and gladdening their very hearts within them.
Such was the progress of Mr. Pickwick and his friends by the
Muggleton Telegraph, on their way to Dingley Dell; and at
three o'clock that afternoon they all stood high and dry, safe
and sound, hale and hearty, upon the steps of the Blue Lion,
having taken on the road quite enough of ale and brandy, to
enable them to bid defiance to the frost that was binding up the
earth in its iron fetters, and weaving its beautiful network upon
the trees and hedges. Mr. Pickwick was busily engaged in counting
the barrels of oysters and superintending the disinterment of
the cod-fish, when he felt himself gently pulled by the skirts of the
coat. Looking round, he discovered that the individual who
resorted to this mode of catching his attention was no other than
Mr. Wardle's favourite page, better known to the readers of this
unvarnished history, by the distinguishing appellation of the
'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 the
fat 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 with
the 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 how
they had travelled over nearly the same ground on a previous
occasion. '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 across
the fields, and walked briskly away, leaving Mr. Weller and the
fat boy confronted together for the first time. Sam looked at
the fat boy with great astonishment, but without saying a word;
and began to stow the luggage rapidly away in the cart, while the
fat boy stood quietly by, and seemed to think it a very interesting
sort 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 of
a 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 was
a-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'pose
you 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 swallowed
a glass of liquor without so much as winking--a feat which
considerably advanced him in Mr. Weller's good opinion. Mr.
Weller having transacted a similar piece of business on his own
account, 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't
With these words, the fat boy laid himself affectionately down
by the side of the cod-fish, and, placing an oyster-barrel under
his head for a pillow, fell asleep instantaneously.
'Well,' said Sam, 'of all the cool boys ever I set my eyes on, this
here 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, and
starting the old horse with a jerk of the rein, jogged steadily on,
towards the Manor Farm.
Meanwhile, Mr. Pickwick and his friends having walked their
blood into active circulation, proceeded cheerfully on. The paths
were 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 them
look forward with pleasant anticipation to the comforts which
awaited them at their hospitable entertainer's. It was the sort of
afternoon that might induce a couple of elderly gentlemen, in a
lonely field, to take off their greatcoats and play at leap-frog in
pure lightness of heart and gaiety; and we firmly believe that had
Mr. Tupman at that moment proffered 'a back,' Mr. Pickwick
would have accepted his offer with the utmost avidity.
However, Mr. Tupman did not volunteer any such accommodation,
and the friends walked on, conversing merrily. As
they turned into a lane they had to cross, the sound of many
voices burst upon their ears; and before they had even had
time to form a guess to whom they belonged, they walked
into the very centre of the party who were expecting their
arrival--a fact which was first notified to the Pickwickians, by
the loud 'Hurrah,' which burst from old Wardle's lips, when
they appeared in sight.
First, there was Wardle himself, looking, if that were possible,
more jolly than ever; then there were Bella and her faithful
Trundle; and, lastly, there were Emily and some eight or ten
young ladies, who had all come down to the wedding, which was
to take place next day, and who were in as happy and important
a state as young ladies usually are, on such momentous occasions;
and they were, one and all, startling the fields and lanes, far and
wide, with their frolic and laughter.
The ceremony of introduction, under such circumstances, was
very soon performed, or we should rather say that the introduction
was soon over, without any ceremony at all. In two minutes
thereafter, Mr. Pickwick was joking with the young ladies who
wouldn't come over the stile while he looked--or who, having
pretty feet and unexceptionable ankles, preferred standing on the
top rail for five minutes or so, declaring that they were too
frightened to move--with as much ease and absence of reserve or
constraint, as if he had known them for life. It is worthy of
remark, too, that Mr. Snodgrass offered Emily far more assistance
than the absolute terrors of the stile (although it was full three
feet high, and had only a couple of stepping-stones) would
seem to require; while one black-eyed young lady in a very
nice little pair of boots with fur round the top, was observed
to scream very loudly, when Mr. Winkle offered to help her over.
All this was very snug and pleasant. And when the difficulties
of the stile were at last surmounted, and they once more entered
on the open field, old Wardle informed Mr. Pickwick how they
had all been down in a body to inspect the furniture and fittings-
up of the house, which the young couple were to tenant, after the
Christmas holidays; at which communication Bella and Trundle
both coloured up, as red as the fat boy after the taproom fire;
and the young lady with the black eyes and the fur round the
boots, whispered something in Emily's ear, and then glanced
archly at Mr. Snodgrass; to which Emily responded that she was
a 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 devoutly
wished, in the inmost recesses of his own heart, that the young
lady aforesaid, with her black eyes, and her archness, and her
boots with the fur round the top, were all comfortably deposited
in the adjacent county.
But if they were social and happy outside the house, what was
the warmth and cordiality of their reception when they reached
the farm! The very servants grinned with pleasure at sight of
Mr. 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 the
passage, unfold his arms, and clasp her within them.
The old lady was seated with customary state in the front
parlour, but she was rather cross, and, by consequence, most
particularly deaf. She never went out herself, and like a great
many other old ladies of the same stamp, she was apt to consider
it an act of domestic treason, if anybody else took the liberty of
doing what she couldn't. So, bless her old soul, she sat as upright
as 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't
trouble Mr. Pickwick about an old creetur like me. Nobody cares
about me now, and it's very nat'ral they shouldn't.' Here the old
lady tossed her head, and smoothed down her lavender-coloured
silk dress with trembling hands.
'Come, come, ma'am,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'I can't let you cut
an old friend in this way. I have come down expressly to have a
long talk, and another rubber with you; and we'll show these
boys 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 do
it all at once; so she only said, 'Ah! I can't hear him!'
'Nonsense, mother,' said Wardle. 'Come, come, don't be
cross, there's a good soul. Recollect Bella; come, you must keep
her spirits up, poor girl.'
The good old lady heard this, for her lip quivered as her son
said it. But age has its little infirmities of temper, and she was
not quite brought round yet. So, she smoothed down the
lavender-coloured dress again, and turning to Mr. Pickwick
said, 'Ah, Mr. Pickwick, young people was very different, when
I was a girl.'
'No doubt of that, ma'am,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'and that's the
reason why I would make much of the few that have any traces
of the old stock'--and saying this, Mr. Pickwick gently pulled
Bella 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 raised
towards the old lady's face, called up a thought of old times, or
whether the old lady was touched by Mr. Pickwick's affectionate
good-nature, or whatever was the cause, she was fairly melted;
so she threw herself on her granddaughter's neck, and all the
little ill-humour evaporated in a gush of silent tears.
A happy party they were, that night. Sedate and solemn were
the score of rubbers in which Mr. Pickwick and the old lady
played together; uproarious was the mirth of the round table.
Long after the ladies had retired, did the hot elder wine, well
qualified with brandy and spice, go round, and round, and round
again; and sound was the sleep and pleasant were the dreams
that followed. It is a remarkable fact that those of Mr. Snodgrass
bore constant reference to Emily Wardle; and that the principal
figure in Mr. Winkle's visions was a young lady with black eyes,
and arch smile, and a pair of remarkably nice boots with fur
round the tops.
Mr. Pickwick was awakened early in the morning, by a hum of
voices and a pattering of feet, sufficient to rouse even the fat boy
from his heavy slumbers. He sat up in bed and listened. The
female servants and female visitors were running constantly to
and fro; and there were such multitudinous demands for hot
water, such repeated outcries for needles and thread, and so
many half-suppressed entreaties of 'Oh, do come and tie me,
there's a dear!' that Mr. Pickwick in his innocence began to
imagine that something dreadful must have occurred--when he
grew more awake, and remembered the wedding. The occasion
being 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 of
pink muslin gowns with white bows in their caps, running about
the house in a state of excitement and agitation which it would
be impossible to describe. The old lady was dressed out in a
brocaded gown, which had not seen the light for twenty years,
saving and excepting such truant rays as had stolen through the
chinks in the box in which it had been laid by, during the whole
time. Mr. Trundle was in high feather and spirits, but a little
nervous withal. The hearty old landlord was trying to look very
cheerful and unconcerned, but failing signally in the attempt.
All the girls were in tears and white muslin, except a select two
or three, who were being honoured with a private view of the
bride and bridesmaids, upstairs. All the Pickwickians were in
most blooming array; and there was a terrific roaring on the
grass in front of the house, occasioned by all the men, boys, and
hobbledehoys attached to the farm, each of whom had got a
white bow in his button-hole, and all of whom were cheering
with might and main; being incited thereto, and stimulated
therein by the precept and example of Mr. Samuel Weller, who
had managed to become mighty popular already, and was as
much at home as if he had been born on the land.
A wedding is a licensed subject to joke upon, but there really
is no great joke in the matter after all;--we speak merely of the
ceremony, and beg it to be distinctly understood that we indulge
in no hidden sarcasm upon a married life. Mixed up with the
pleasure and joy of the occasion, are the many regrets at quitting
home, the tears of parting between parent and child, the
consciousness of leaving the dearest and kindest friends of the
happiest portion of human life, to encounter its cares and troubles
with others still untried and little known--natural feelings which
we would not render this chapter mournful by describing, and
which we should be still more unwilling to be supposed to ridicule.
Let us briefly say, then, that the ceremony was performed by
the old clergyman, in the parish church of Dingley Dell, and
that Mr. Pickwick's name is attached to the register, still preserved
in the vestry thereof; that the young lady with the black
eyes signed her name in a very unsteady and tremulous manner;
that Emily's signature, as the other bridesmaid, is nearly
illegible; that it all went off in very admirable style; that the
young ladies generally thought it far less shocking than they had
expected; and that although the owner of the black eyes and the
arch smile informed Mr. Wardle that she was sure she could
never submit to anything so dreadful, we have the very best
reasons for thinking she was mistaken. To all this, we may add,
that Mr. Pickwick was the first who saluted the bride, and that
in 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 all
returned 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 articles
of 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, to
cure him o' squintin'.'
As Mr. Weller made the comparison, he fell back a step or
two, to give full effect to it, and surveyed the preparations with
the utmost satisfaction.
'Wardle,' said Mr. Pickwick, almost as soon as they were all
seated, 'a glass of wine in honour of this happy occasion!'
'I shall be delighted, my boy,' said Wardle. 'Joe--damn that
boy, he's gone to sleep.'
'No, I ain't, sir,' replied the fat boy, starting up from a remote
corner, where, like the patron saint of fat boys--the immortal
Horner--he had been devouring a Christmas pie, though not
with the coolness and deliberation which characterised that
young gentleman's proceedings.
'Fill Mr. Pickwick's glass.'
The fat boy filled Mr. Pickwick's glass, and then retired
behind his master's chair, from whence he watched the play of
the knives and forks, and the progress of the choice morsels
from the dishes to the mouths of the company, with a kind of
dark 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 each
'Mrs. Wardle,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'we old folks must have a
glass of wine together, in honour of this joyful event.'
The old lady was in a state of great grandeur just then, for she
was sitting at the top of the table in the brocaded gown, with
her newly-married granddaughter on one side, and Mr. Pickwick
on the other, to do the carving. Mr. Pickwick had not spoken in
a very loud tone, but she understood him at once, and drank off
a full glass of wine to his long life and happiness; after which the
worthy old soul launched forth into a minute and particular
account of her own wedding, with a dissertation on the fashion
of wearing high-heeled shoes, and some particulars concerning
the life and adventures of the beautiful Lady Tollimglower,
deceased; at all of which the old lady herself laughed very
heartily indeed, and so did the young ladies too, for they were
wondering among themselves what on earth grandma was
talking about. When they laughed, the old lady laughed ten
times more heartily, and said that these always had been considered
capital stories, which caused them all to laugh again, and put
the old lady into the very best of humours. Then the
cake was cut, and passed through the ring; the young ladies
saved pieces to put under their pillows to dream of their future
husbands on; and a great deal of blushing and merriment was
'Mr. Miller,' said Mr. Pickwick to his old acquaintance, the
hard-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 the
bottom of the table, who had eaten and drunk very heartily, and
laughed at everything.
Mr. Pickwick expressed his heartfelt delight at every additional
suggestion; 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 the
excitement of his feelings.
'Call in all the servants,' cried old Wardle, interposing to
prevent the public rebuke which Mr. Weller would otherwise
most indubitably have received from his master. 'Give them a
glass of wine each to drink the toast in. Now, Pickwick.'
Amidst the silence of the company, the whispering of the
women-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 allow
me to take so great a liberty--'
Here Mr. Pickwick was interrupted by immense applause from
the ladies, echoed by the gentlemen, during which the owner of
the eyes was distinctly heard to state that she could kiss that dear
Mr. Pickwick. Whereupon Mr. Winkle gallantly inquired if it
couldn't be done by deputy: to which the young lady with the
black eyes replied 'Go away,' and accompanied the request with
a look which said as plainly as a look could do, 'if you can.'
'My dear friends,' resumed Mr. Pickwick, 'I am going to
propose the health of the bride and bridegroom--God bless 'em
(cheers and tears). My young friend, Trundle, I believe to be a
very excellent and manly fellow; and his wife I know to be a very
amiable and lovely girl, well qualified to transfer to another
sphere of action the happiness which for twenty years she has
diffused around her, in her father's house. (Here, the fat boy
burst forth into stentorian blubberings, and was led forth by the
coat collar, by Mr. Weller.) I wish,' added Mr. Pickwick--'I
wish 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 when
I say, that I admire, esteem, and love them both (cheers and
sobs). The bride's father, our good friend there, is a noble
person, and I am proud to know him (great uproar). He is a kind,
excellent, independent-spirited, fine-hearted, hospitable, liberal
man (enthusiastic shouts from the poor relations, at all the
adjectives; and especially at the two last). That his daughter
may enjoy all the happiness, even he can desire; and that he may
derive from the contemplation of her felicity all the gratification
of heart and peace of mind which he so well deserves, is, I am
persuaded, our united wish. So, let us drink their healths, and
wish them prolonged life, and every blessing!'
Mr. Pickwick concluded amidst a whirlwind of applause; and
once 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 the
old lady. Mr. Snodgrass proposed Mr. Wardle; Mr. Wardle
proposed Mr. Snodgrass. One of the poor relations proposed
Mr. Tupman, and the other poor relation proposed Mr. Winkle;
all was happiness and festivity, until the mysterious disappearance
of both the poor relations beneath the table, warned the party
that 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 rid
of the effects of the wine at breakfast. The poor relations had
kept in bed all day, with the view of attaining the same happy
consummation, but, as they had been unsuccessful, they stopped
there. Mr. Weller kept the domestics in a state of perpetual
hilarity; and the fat boy divided his time into small alternate
allotments of eating and sleeping.
The dinner was as hearty an affair as the breakfast, and was
quite as noisy, without the tears. Then came the dessert and some
more 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 capacious
chimney, up which you could have driven one of the new patent
cabs, wheels and all. At the upper end of the room, seated in a
shady bower of holly and evergreens were the two best fiddlers,
and the only harp, in all Muggleton. In all sorts of recesses, and
on all kinds of brackets, stood massive old silver candlesticks
with four branches each. The carpet was up, the candles burned
bright, the fire blazed and crackled on the hearth, and merry
voices and light-hearted laughter rang through the room. If any
of the old English yeomen had turned into fairies when they
died, it was just the place in which they would have held their revels.
If anything could have added to the interest of this agreeable
scene, it would have been the remarkable fact of Mr. Pickwick's
appearing without his gaiters, for the first time within the
memory of his oldest friends.
'You mean to dance?' said Wardle.
'Of course I do,' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'Don't you see I am
dressed for the purpose?' Mr. Pickwick called attention to his
speckled silk stockings, and smartly tied pumps.
'YOU in silk stockings!' exclaimed Mr. Tupman jocosely.
'And why not, sir--why not?' said Mr. Pickwick, turning
warmly upon him.
'Oh, of course there is no reason why you shouldn't wear
them,' responded Mr. Tupman.
'I imagine not, sir--I imagine not,' said Mr. Pickwick, in a
very peremptory tone.
Mr. Tupman had contemplated a laugh, but he found it was
a serious matter; so he looked grave, and said they were a
'I hope they are,' said Mr. Pickwick, fixing his eyes upon his
friend. 'You see nothing extraordinary in the stockings, AS
stockings, I trust, Sir?'
'Certainly not. Oh, certainly not,' replied Mr. Tupman. He
walked away; and Mr. Pickwick's countenance resumed its
customary benign expression.
'We are all ready, I believe,' said Mr. Pickwick, who was
stationed with the old lady at the top of the dance, and had
already 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 went
Mr. Pickwick into hands across, when there was a general
clapping of hands, and a cry of 'Stop, stop!'
'What's the matter?' said Mr. Pickwick, who was only brought
to, by the fiddles and harp desisting, and could have been stopped
by 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 his
pretty companion from the corner; as he did so, it would have
been hard to tell which was the redder in the face, he or the
young 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 his
eyes rested on Arabella, 'well, I don't know that it WAS
extraordinary, 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 the
room, and half-way up the chimney, back again to the door--
poussette everywhere--loud stamp on the ground--ready for the
next couple--off again--all the figure over once more--another
stamp to beat out the time--next couple, and the next, and the
next again--never was such going; at last, after they had reached
the bottom of the dance, and full fourteen couple after the old
lady had retired in an exhausted state, and the clergyman's wife
had been substituted in her stead, did that gentleman, when there
was no demand whatever on his exertions, keep perpetually
dancing in his place, to keep time to the music, smiling on his
partner all the while with a blandness of demeanour which
baffles all description.
Long before Mr. Pickwick was weary of dancing, the newly-
married couple had retired from the scene. There was a glorious
supper downstairs, notwithstanding, and a good long sitting
after it; and when Mr. Pickwick awoke, late the next morning,
he had a confused recollection of having, severally and
confidentially, invited somewhere about five-and-forty people to dine
with him at the George and Vulture, the very first time they came
to London; which Mr. Pickwick rightly considered a pretty
certain indication of his having taken something besides exercise,
on the previous night.
'And so your family has games in the kitchen to-night, my
dear, has they?' inquired Sam of Emma.
'Yes, Mr. Weller,' replied Emma; 'we always have on Christmas
Eve. 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 of
man 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-cannibalic
leer 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. Weller
impressively; 'if you don't sleep a little less, and exercise a little
more, wen you comes to be a man you'll lay yourself open to the
same sort of personal inconwenience as was inflicted on the old
gen'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' the
largest patterns as was ever turned out--reg'lar fat man, as
hadn'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'd
put 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 office
with a wery handsome gold watch-chain hanging out, about a
foot and a quarter, and a gold watch in his fob pocket as was
worth--I'm afraid to say how much, but as much as a watch can
be--a large, heavy, round manufacter, as stout for a watch, as
he was for a man, and with a big face in proportion. "You'd
better 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, you
will," says they. "Well," says he, "I should like to see the thief
as could get this here watch out, for I'm blessed if I ever can, it's
such a tight fit," says he, "and wenever I vants to know what's
o'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, and
out he walks agin with his powdered head and pigtail, and
rolls down the Strand with the chain hangin' out furder than
ever, and the great round watch almost bustin' through his gray
kersey smalls. There warn't a pickpocket in all London as didn't
take a pull at that chain, but the chain 'ud never break, and the
watch 'ud never come out, so they soon got tired of dragging
such a heavy old gen'l'm'n along the pavement, and he'd go
home and laugh till the pigtail wibrated like the penderlum of a
Dutch 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-coming
up, arm in arm with a little boy with a wery large head. "Here's
a game," says the old gen'l'm'n to himself, "they're a-goin' to
have 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 the
pickpocket's arm, and rushes head foremost straight into the old
gen'l'm'n's stomach, and for a moment doubles him right up
with the pain. "Murder!" says the old gen'l'm'n. "All right, Sir,"
says the pickpocket, a-wisperin' in his ear. And wen he come
straight agin, the watch and chain was gone, and what's worse
than 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 fat
boy appeared much affected, they all three repaired to the large
kitchen, in which the family were by this time assembled,
according to annual custom on Christmas Eve, observed by old
Wardle's forefathers from time immemorial.
From the centre of the ceiling of this kitchen, old Wardle had
just suspended, with his own hands, a huge branch of mistletoe,
and this same branch of mistletoe instantaneously gave rise to a
scene of general and most delightful struggling and confusion; in
the midst of which, Mr. Pickwick, with a gallantry that would
have done honour to a descendant of Lady Tollimglower herself,
took the old lady by the hand, led her beneath the mystic
branch, and saluted her in all courtesy and decorum. The old lady
submitted to this piece of practical politeness with all the dignity
which befitted so important and serious a solemnity, but the
younger ladies, not being so thoroughly imbued with a superstitious
veneration for the custom, or imagining that the value of
a salute is very much enhanced if it cost a little trouble to obtain
it, screamed and struggled, and ran into corners, and threatened
and remonstrated, and did everything but leave the room, until
some of the less adventurous gentlemen were on the point of
desisting, when they all at once found it useless to resist any
longer, and submitted to be kissed with a good grace. Mr. Winkle
kissed the young lady with the black eyes, and Mr. Snodgrass
kissed Emily; and Mr. Weller, not being particular about the
form of being under the mistletoe, kissed Emma and the other
female servants, just as he caught them. As to the poor relations,
they kissed everybody, not even excepting the plainer portions of
the young lady visitors, who, in their excessive confusion, ran
right under the mistletoe, as soon as it was hung up, without
knowing it! Wardle stood with his back to the fire, surveying the
whole scene, with the utmost satisfaction; and the fat boy took
the opportunity of appropriating to his own use, and summarily
devouring, a particularly fine mince-pie, that had been carefully
put 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 lady
as before mentioned, was standing under the mistletoe, looking
with a very pleased countenance on all that was passing around
him, when the young lady with the black eyes, after a little
whispering with the other young ladies, made a sudden dart
forward, 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 surrounded
by the whole body, and kissed by every one of them.
It was a pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick in the centre of the
group, now pulled this way, and then that, and first kissed on
the chin, and then on the nose, and then on the spectacles, and to
hear the peals of laughter which were raised on every side; but
it was a still more pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick, blinded
shortly afterwards with a silk handkerchief, falling up against the
wall, and scrambling into corners, and going through all the
mysteries of blind-man's buff, with the utmost relish for the
game, until at last he caught one of the poor relations, and then
had to evade the blind-man himself, which he did with a nimbleness
and agility that elicited the admiration and applause of all
beholders. The poor relations caught the people who they
thought would like it, and, when the game flagged, got caught
themselves. When they all tired of blind-man's buff, there was a
great game at snap-dragon, and when fingers enough were
burned with that, and all the raisins were gone, they sat down by
the huge fire of blazing logs to a substantial supper, and a mighty
bowl of wassail, something smaller than an ordinary wash-
house copper, in which the hot apples were hissing and bubbling
with a rich look, and a jolly sound, that were perfectly irresistible.
'This,' said Mr. Pickwick, looking round him, 'this is,
'Our invariable custom,' replied Mr. Wardle. 'Everybody sits
down with us on Christmas Eve, as you see them now--servants
and all; and here we wait, until the clock strikes twelve, to usher
Christmas 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 into
the farthest corner of the room, and cast its cheerful tint on
'Come,' said Wardle, 'a song--a Christmas song! I'll give you
one, in default of a better.'
'Bravo!' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Fill up,' cried Wardle. 'It will be two hours, good, before you
see the bottom of the bowl through the deep rich colour of the
wassail; 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 wing
Let 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 aloud
And care not how sulky he be!
For his darling child is the madness wild
That 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 light
Of 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 main
Give three cheers for this Christmas old!
We'll usher him in with a merry din
That 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 hide
One jot of his hard-weather scars;
They're no disgrace, for there's much the same trace
On the cheeks of our bravest tars.
Then again I sing till the roof doth ring
And 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 and
dependents make a capital audience--and the poor relations,
especially, were in perfect ecstasies of rapture. Again was the fire
replenished, 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 wind
got up, that drifts it across the fields, in a thick white cloud.'
'What does Jem say?' inquired the old lady. 'There ain't
anything 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 way
it rumbles in the chimney.'
'Ah!' said the old lady, 'there was just such a wind, and just
such a fall of snow, a good many years back, I recollect--just five
years before your poor father died. It was a Christmas Eve,
too; and I remember that on that very night he told us the story
about 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 carried
away by goblins.'
'Suppose!' ejaculated the old lady. 'Is there anybody hardy
enough to disbelieve it? Suppose! Haven't you heard ever since
you were a child, that he WAS carried away by the goblins, and
don'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 end
of the matter.'
'No, no,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'not an end of it, I assure you; for
I must hear how, and why, and all about it.'
Wardle smiled, as every head was bent forward to hear, and
filling out the wassail with no stinted hand, nodded a health to
Mr. Pickwick, and began as follows--
But bless our editorial heart, what a long chapter we have been
betrayed into! We had quite forgotten all such petty restrictions
as chapters, we solemnly declare. So here goes, to give the goblin
a fair start in a new one. A clear stage and no favour for the
goblins, ladies and gentlemen, if you please.
THE STORY OF THE GOBLINS WHO STOLE A SEXTON
In an old abbey town, down in this part of the country, a long, long
while ago--so long, that the story must be a true one, because our
great-grandfathers implicitly believed it--there officiated as sexton
and grave-digger in the churchyard, one Gabriel Grub. It by no
means follows that because a man is a sexton, and constantly
surrounded by the emblems of mortality, therefore he should be a
morose and melancholy man; your undertakers are the merriest fellows
in the world; and I once had the honour of being on intimate terms
with a mute, who in private life, and off duty, was as comical and
jocose a little fellow as ever chirped out a devil-may-care song,
without a hitch in his memory, or drained off a good stiff glass
without stopping for breath. But notwithstanding these precedents
to the contrary, Gabriel Grub was an ill-conditioned, cross-grained,
surly fellow--a morose and lonely man, who consorted with nobody
but himself, and an old wicker bottle which fitted into his large deep
waistcoat pocket--and who eyed each merry face, as it passed
him 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 shouldered
his spade, lighted his lantern, and betook himself towards the old
churchyard; 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 blazing
fires gleam through the old casements, and heard the loud laugh
and the cheerful shouts of those who were assembled around
them; 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 this
was gall and wormwood to the heart of Gabriel Grub; and
when groups of children bounded out of the houses, tripped
across the road, and were met, before they could knock at the
opposite door, by half a dozen curly-headed little rascals who
crowded round them as they flocked upstairs to spend the
evening in their Christmas games, Gabriel smiled grimly, and
clutched the handle of his spade with a firmer grasp, as he
thought of measles, scarlet fever, thrush, whooping-cough, and
a good many other sources of consolation besides.
'In this happy frame of mind, Gabriel strode along, returning
a short, sullen growl to the good-humoured greetings of such of
his neighbours as now and then passed him, until he turned into
the dark lane which led to the churchyard. Now, Gabriel had
been looking forward to reaching the dark lane, because it was,
generally speaking, a nice, gloomy, mournful place, into which
the townspeople did not much care to go, except in broad
daylight, and when the sun was shining; consequently, he was
not a little indignant to hear a young urchin roaring out
some jolly song about a merry Christmas, in this very sanctuary
which had been called Coffin Lane ever since the days of the old
abbey, and the time of the shaven-headed monks. As Gabriel
walked on, and the voice drew nearer, he found it proceeded
from a small boy, who was hurrying along, to join one of the
little parties in the old street, and who, partly to keep himself
company, and partly to prepare himself for the occasion, was
shouting out the song at the highest pitch of his lungs. So Gabriel
waited 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 hurried
away with his hand to his head, singing quite a different sort of
tune, Gabriel Grub chuckled very heartily to himself, and
entered the churchyard, locking the gate behind him.
'He took off his coat, set down his lantern, and getting into the
unfinished grave, worked at it for an hour or so with right good-
will. But the earth was hardened with the frost, and it was no
very easy matter to break it up, and shovel it out; and although
there was a moon, it was a very young one, and shed little light
upon the grave, which was in the shadow of the church. At any
other time, these obstacles would have made Gabriel Grub very
moody and miserable, but he was so well pleased with having
stopped the small boy's singing, that he took little heed of the
scanty 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 on
a flat tombstone which was a favourite resting-place of his, and
drew forth his wicker bottle. "A coffin at Christmas! A Christmas
box! 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 wicker
bottle to his lips, and looked round. The bottom of the oldest
grave about him was not more still and quiet than the churchyard
in the pale moonlight. The cold hoar frost glistened on the
tombstones, and sparkled like rows of gems, among the stone
carvings of the old church. The snow lay hard and crisp upon
the ground; and spread over the thickly-strewn mounds of earth,
so white and smooth a cover that it seemed as if corpses lay
there, hidden only by their winding sheets. Not the faintest rustle
broke the profound tranquillity of the solemn scene. Sound itself
appeared to be frozen up, all was so cold and still.
'"It was the echoes," said Gabriel Grub, raising the bottle to
his lips again.
'"It was NOT," said a deep voice.
'Gabriel started up, and stood rooted to the spot with
astonishment and terror; for his eyes rested on a form that made
his 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 this
world. His long, fantastic legs which might have reached the
ground, were cocked up, and crossed after a quaint, fantastic
fashion; his sinewy arms were bare; and his hands rested on his
knees. On his short, round body, he wore a close covering,
ornamented with small slashes; a short cloak dangled at his
back; the collar was cut into curious peaks, which served the
goblin in lieu of ruff or neckerchief; and his shoes curled up at
his toes into long points. On his head, he wore a broad-brimmed
sugar-loaf hat, garnished with a single feather. The hat was
covered with the white frost; and the goblin looked as if he had
sat on the same tombstone very comfortably, for two or three
hundred years. He was sitting perfectly still; his tongue was put
out, as if in derision; and he was grinning at Gabriel Grub with
such 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 such
a night as this?" cried the goblin.
'"Gabriel Grub! Gabriel Grub!" screamed a wild chorus of
voices that seemed to fill the churchyard. Gabriel looked fearfully
round--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 that
perhaps his questioner might be in the excise department of the goblins.
'"Who drinks Hollands alone, and in a churchyard, on such a
night as this?" said the goblin.
'"Gabriel Grub! Gabriel Grub!" exclaimed the wild voices again.
'The goblin leered maliciously at the terrified sexton, and then
raising his voice, exclaimed--
'"And who, then, is our fair and lawful prize?"
'To this inquiry the invisible chorus replied, in a strain that
sounded like the voices of many choristers singing to the mighty
swell of the old church organ--a strain that seemed borne to the
sexton's ears upon a wild wind, and to die away as it passed
onward; but the burden of the reply was still the same, "Gabriel
Grub! 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, and
looking at the turned-up points with as much complacency as if
he had been contemplating the most fashionable pair of
Wellingtons in all Bond Street.
'"It's--it's--very curious, Sir," replied the sexton, half dead
with fright; "very curious, and very pretty, but I think I'll go
back 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 at
a 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 most
astonishing tongue it was--"I'm afraid my friends want you,
Gabriel," said the goblin.
'"Under favour, Sir," replied the horror-stricken sexton, "I
don't think they can, Sir; they don't know me, Sir; I don't think
the gentlemen have ever seen me, Sir."
'"Oh, yes, they have," replied the goblin; "we know the man
with the sulky face and grim scowl, that came down the street
to-night, throwing his evil looks at the children, and grasping
his burying-spade the tighter. We know the man who struck the
boy in the envious malice of his heart, because the boy could be
merry, and he could not. We know him, we know him."
'Here, the goblin gave a loud, shrill laugh, which the echoes
returned twentyfold; and throwing his legs up in the air, stood
upon his head, or rather upon the very point of his sugar-loaf
hat, on the narrow edge of the tombstone, whence he threw a
Somerset with extraordinary agility, right to the sexton's feet, at
which he planted himself in the attitude in which tailors generally
sit 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, a
brilliant illumination within the windows of the church, as if the
whole building were lighted up; it disappeared, the organ pealed
forth a lively air, and whole troops of goblins, the very counterpart
of the first one, poured into the churchyard, and began
playing at leap-frog with the tombstones, never stopping for an
instant to take breath, but "overing" the highest among them,
one after the other, with the most marvellous dexterity. The first
goblin was a most astonishing leaper, and none of the others
could come near him; even in the extremity of his terror the
sexton could not help observing, that while his friends were
content to leap over the common-sized gravestones, the first one
took the family vaults, iron railings and all, with as much ease as
if they had been so many street-posts.
'At last the game reached to a most exciting pitch; the organ
played quicker and quicker, and the goblins leaped faster and
faster, coiling themselves up, rolling head over heels upon the
ground, and bounding over the tombstones like footballs. The
sexton's brain whirled round with the rapidity of the motion he
beheld, and his legs reeled beneath him, as the spirits flew before
his 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, which
the rapidity of his descent had for the moment taken away, he
found himself in what appeared to be a large cavern, surrounded
on all sides by crowds of goblins, ugly and grim; in the centre of
the room, on an elevated seat, was stationed his friend of the
churchyard; and close behind him stood Gabriel Grub himself,
without power of motion.
'"Cold to-night," said the king of the goblins, "very cold. A
glass of something warm here!"
'At this command, half a dozen officious goblins, with a
perpetual smile upon their faces, whom Gabriel Grub imagined
to be courtiers, on that account, hastily disappeared, and presently
returned 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 he
was not in the habit of taking anything warm at night; one of
the goblins held him while another poured the blazing liquid
down his throat; the whole assembly screeched with laughter,
as he coughed and choked, and wiped away the tears which
gushed plentifully from his eyes, after swallowing the burning draught.
'"And now," said the king, fantastically poking the taper
corner of his sugar-loaf hat into the sexton's eye, and thereby
occasioning him the most exquisite pain; "and now, show the
man of misery and gloom, a few of the pictures from our own
'As the goblin said this, a thick cloud which obscured the
remoter end of the cavern rolled gradually away, and disclosed,
apparently at a great distance, a small and scantily furnished, but
neat and clean apartment. A crowd of little children were
gathered round a bright fire, clinging to their mother's gown, and
gambolling around her chair. The mother occasionally rose, and
drew aside the window-curtain, as if to look for some expected
object; a frugal meal was ready spread upon the table; and an
elbow chair was placed near the fire. A knock was heard at the
door; the mother opened it, and the children crowded round her,
and clapped their hands for joy, as their father entered. He was
wet and weary, and shook the snow from his garments, as the
children 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 climbed
about his knee, and the mother sat by his side, and all seemed
happiness and comfort.
'But a change came upon the view, almost imperceptibly. The
scene was altered to a small bedroom, where the fairest and
youngest child lay dying; the roses had fled from his cheek, and
the light from his eye; and even as the sexton looked upon him
with an interest he had never felt or known before, he died. His
young brothers and sisters crowded round his little bed, and
seized his tiny hand, so cold and heavy; but they shrank back
from its touch, and looked with awe on his infant face; for calm
and tranquil as it was, and sleeping in rest and peace as the
beautiful child seemed to be, they saw that he was dead, and they
knew that he was an angel looking down upon, and blessing
them, from a bright and happy Heaven.
'Again the light cloud passed across the picture, and again the
subject changed. The father and mother were old and helpless
now, and the number of those about them was diminished more
than half; but content and cheerfulness sat on every face, and
beamed in every eye, as they crowded round the fireside, and told
and listened to old stories of earlier and bygone days. Slowly
and peacefully, the father sank into the grave, and, soon after,
the sharer of all his cares and troubles followed him to a place of
rest. The few who yet survived them, kneeled by their tomb, and
watered the green turf which covered it with their tears; then rose,
and turned away, sadly and mournfully, but not with bitter
cries, or despairing lamentations, for they knew that they should
one day meet again; and once more they mixed with the busy
world, and their content and cheerfulness were restored. The
cloud settled upon the picture, and concealed it from the sexton's view.
'"What do you think of THAT?" said the goblin, turning his
large face towards Gabriel Grub.
'Gabriel murmured out something about its being very pretty,
and looked somewhat ashamed, as the goblin bent his fiery eyes
'" You miserable man!" said the goblin, in a tone of excessive
contempt. "You!" He appeared disposed to add more, but
indignation choked his utterance, so he lifted up one of his very
pliable legs, and, flourishing it above his head a little, to insure
his aim, administered a good sound kick to Gabriel Grub;
immediately after which, all the goblins in waiting crowded
round the wretched sexton, and kicked him without mercy,
according to the established and invariable custom of courtiers
upon earth, who kick whom royalty kicks, and hug whom
'"Show him some more!" said the king of the goblins.
'At these words, the cloud was dispelled, and a rich and
beautiful landscape was disclosed to view--there is just such
another, to this day, within half a mile of the old abbey town.
The sun shone from out the clear blue sky, the water sparkled
beneath his rays, and the trees looked greener, and the flowers
more gay, beneath its cheering influence. The water rippled on
with a pleasant sound, the trees rustled in the light wind that
murmured 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; the
minutest leaf, the smallest blade of grass, was instinct with life.
The ant crept forth to her daily toil, the butterfly fluttered and
basked in the warm rays of the sun; myriads of insects spread
their transparent wings, and revelled in their brief but happy
existence. Man walked forth, elated with the scene; and all was
brightness and splendour.
'"YOU a miserable man!" said the king of the goblins, in a
more contemptuous tone than before. And again the king of the
goblins gave his leg a flourish; again it descended on the shoulders
of the sexton; and again the attendant goblins imitated the
example of their chief.
'Many a time the cloud went and came, and many a lesson it
taught to Gabriel Grub, who, although his shoulders smarted
with pain from the frequent applications of the goblins' feet
thereunto, looked on with an interest that nothing could diminish.
He saw that men who worked hard, and earned their scanty
bread with lives of labour, were cheerful and happy; and that to
the most ignorant, the sweet face of Nature was a never-failing
source of cheerfulness and joy. He saw those who had been
delicately nurtured, and tenderly brought up, cheerful under
privations, and superior to suffering, that would have crushed
many of a rougher grain, because they bore within their own
bosoms the materials of happiness, contentment, and peace. He
saw that women, the tenderest and most fragile of all God's
creatures, were the oftenest superior to sorrow, adversity, and
distress; and he saw that it was because they bore, in their own
hearts, an inexhaustible well-spring of affection and devotion.
Above all, he saw that men like himself, who snarled at the mirth
and cheerfulness of others, were the foulest weeds on the fair
surface of the earth; and setting all the good of the world against
the evil, he came to the conclusion that it was a very decent and
respectable sort of world after all. No sooner had he formed it,
than the cloud which had closed over the last picture, seemed to
settle on his senses, and lull him to repose. One by one, the
goblins faded from his sight; and, as the last one disappeared, he
sank to sleep.
'The day had broken when Gabriel Grub awoke, and found
himself 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 seen
the goblin seated, stood bolt upright before him, and the grave
at which he had worked, the night before, was not far off. At
first, he began to doubt the reality of his adventures, but the
acute pain in his shoulders when he attempted to rise, assured
him that the kicking of the goblins was certainly not ideal. He
was staggered again, by observing no traces of footsteps in the
snow on which the goblins had played at leap-frog with the
gravestones, but he speedily accounted for this circumstance
when he remembered that, being spirits, they would leave no
visible impression behind them. So, Gabriel Grub got on his feet
as well as he could, for the pain in his back; and, brushing
the 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 thought
of 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 his
'The lantern, the spade, and the wicker bottle were found, that
day, in the churchyard. There were a great many speculations
about the sexton's fate, at first, but it was speedily determined
that he had been carried away by the goblins; and there were not
wanting some very credible witnesses who had distinctly seen
him whisked through the air on the back of a chestnut horse
blind of one eye, with the hind-quarters of a lion, and the tail of a
bear. At length all this was devoutly believed; and the new sexton
used to exhibit to the curious, for a trifling emolument, a good-
sized piece of the church weathercock which had been accidentally
kicked off by the aforesaid horse in his aerial flight, and picked
up by himself in the churchyard, a year or two afterwards.
'Unfortunately, these stories were somewhat disturbed by the
unlooked-for reappearance of Gabriel Grub himself, some ten
years afterwards, a ragged, contented, rheumatic old man. He
told his story to the clergyman, and also to the mayor; and in
course of time it began to be received as a matter of history, in
which form it has continued down to this very day. The
believers in the weathercock tale, having misplaced their confidence
once, were not easily prevailed upon to part with it
again, so they looked as wise as they could, shrugged their
shoulders, touched their foreheads, and murmured something
about Gabriel Grub having drunk all the Hollands, and then
fallen asleep on the flat tombstone; and they affected to explain
what he supposed he had witnessed in the goblin's cavern, by
saying that he had seen the world, and grown wiser. But this
opinion, which was by no means a popular one at any time,
gradually died off; and be the matter how it may, as Gabriel
Grub was afflicted with rheumatism to the end of his days, this
story 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 the
spirits be never so good, or let them be even as many degrees
beyond proof, as those which Gabriel Grub saw in the goblin's cavern.'