"I did," replied Mr. Pickwick; "and I certainly thought--"
"I asked for no opinion," said the dismal man, interrupting him, "and I want none. You are travelling for amusement and instruction. Suppose I forwarded you a curious manuscript--observe, not curious because wild or improbable, but curious as a leaf from the romance of real life. Would you communicate it to the club, of which you have spoken so frequently?"
"Certainly," replied Mr. Pickwick, "if you wished it; and it would be entered on their transactions."
"You shall have it," replied the dismal man. "Your address;" and, Mr. Pickwick having communicated their probable route, the dismal man carefully noted it down in a greasy pocket-book, and, resisting Mr. Pickwick's pressing invitation to breakfast, left that gentleman at his inn, and walked slowly away.
Mr. Pickwick found that his three companions had risen, and were waiting his arrival to commence breakfast, which was ready laid in tempting display. They sat down to the meal; and broiled ham, eggs, tea, coffee, and sundries, began to disappear with a rapidity which at once bore testimony to the excellence of the fare, and the appetites of its consumers.
"Now, about Manor Farm," said Mr. Pickwick. "How shall we go?"
"We had better consult the waiter, perhaps," said Mr. Tupman, and the waiter was summoned accordingly.
"Dingley Dell, gentlemen--fifteen miles, gentlemen--cross road--post-chaise, sir?"
"Post-chaise won't hold more than two," said Mr. Pickwick.
"True, sir--beg your pardon, sir.--Very nice four-wheeled chaise, sir--seat for two behind--one in front for the gentleman that drives--oh! beg your pardon, sir--that'll only hold three."
"What's to be done?" said Mr. Snodgrass.
"Perhaps one of the gentlemen would like to ride, sir?" suggested the waiter, looking towards Mr. Winkle; "very good saddle horses, sir--any of Mr. Wardle's men coming to Rochester bring 'em back, sir."
"The very thing," said Mr. Pickwick. "Winkle, will you go on horseback?"
Mr. Winkle did entertain considerable misgivings in the very lowest recesses of his own heart, relative to his equestrian skill; but, as he would not have them even suspected on any account, he at once replied with great hardihood, "Certainly. I should enjoy it, of all things."
Mr. Winkle had rushed upon his fate; there was no resource. "Let them be at the door by eleven," said Mr. Pickwick.
"Very well, sir," replied the waiter.
The waiter retired; the breakfast concluded; and the travellers ascended to their respective bed-rooms, to prepare a change of clothing, to take with them on their approaching expedition.
Mr. Pickwick had made his preliminary arrangements, and was looking over the coffee-room blinds at the passengers in the street, when the waiter entered, and announced that the chaise was ready--an announcement which the vehicle itself confirmed, by forthwith appearing before the coffee-room blinds aforesaid.
It was a curious little green box on four wheels, with a low place like a wine-bin for two behind, and an elevated perch for one in front, drawn by an immense brown horse, displaying great symmetry of bone.
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