'"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
'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
'"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,
'"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
'"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
'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
'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 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
'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.'