At Mr. Pickwick’s behest, Mr. Wardle’s mother tells “The Story of The Goblins Who Stole a Sexton.”
The story revolves around Gabriel Grub, a surly, ill-humored sexton who is wont to drink gin from an old wicker bottle that he keeps in his waistcoat pocket. It is Christmas Eve when Gabriel is on his way to the churchyard to dig a grave. On his way, to his chagrin, Gabriel sees Christmas cheer and domestic bliss everywhere he turns. Indeed, on account of a lone boy rehearsing a Christmas song while on his way to a party, the cheer emanates even from Coffin Lane, a gloomy part of town, which is a particular favorite of Gabriel’s. Loathe begrudging the boy his portion of Christmas cheer, Gabriel beats the boy with his lantern, causing the boy to sing to a different tune thereafter.
By and by, Gabriel arrives at the churchyard and begins to dig a grave despite the difficulty posed by the soil which has hardened due to the cold. After an hour, satisfied with his work, Gabriel stops to drink from his old wicker bottle when he hears an alien voice. Gabriel dismisses it as an echo of his own voice when the alien voice registers again. It is then when Gabriel sees a goblin sitting atop a tombstone.
The goblin is not alone as there is a chorus of goblin voices interacting with the king goblin himself. By and by, the chorus of goblin voices materializes as goblins performing leap-frog. Suddenly, the king goblin leaps at Gabriel, grabs him, and pulls him down into a subterranean lair. There the goblins make Gabriel drink a cup of hot liquid fire, and then, following the lead of the king goblin, they take turn kicking Gabriel’s shoulder.
Presently, the king goblin directs Gabriel’s attention to tableaus of the world above that Gabriel had always held in scorn: the lives of everyday people, who despite their penury and sufferings, harbor and espouse nothing but good cheer and goodwill. Gabriel begins to understand the error of his ways.
Gabriel awakes the next day only to find himself lying in the churchyard. There are no signs of the goblins. For a moment, Gabriel thinks it was all a hallucination. But then the pain in his shoulder persuades him otherwise. He is a reformed man, but knowing that no one would believe him, Gabriel banishes himself from the town.
The townspeople are puzzled by Gabriel Grub’s disappearance. They explain it with the story that Gabriel had been abducted by goblins. To their disappointment, ten years after his disappearance, Gabriel returns to the town and tells his story. The townspeople grudgingly accept Gabriel’s version.