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-wheel 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 ?'
Now 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 bedrooms, 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. An hostler stood near, holding by the bridle another immense horse--apparently a near relative of the animal in the chaise--ready saddled for Mr. Winkle.
'Bless my soul!' said Mr. Pickwick, as they stood upon the pavement while the coats were being put in. 'Bless my soul! who's to drive? I never thought of that.'
'Oh! you, of course,' said Mr. Tupman.
'Of course,' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'I!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.
'Not the slightest fear, Sir,' interposed the hostler. 'Warrant him quiet, Sir; a hinfant in arms might drive him.'
'He don't shy, does he?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Shy, sir?-he wouldn't shy if he was to meet a vagin-load of monkeys with their tails burned off.'
The last recommendation was indisputable. Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass got into the bin; Mr. Pickwick ascended to his perch, and deposited his feet on a floor-clothed shelf, erected beneath it for that purpose.
'Now, shiny Villiam,' said the hostler to the deputy hostler, 'give the gen'lm'n the ribbons.' 'Shiny Villiam'--so called, probably, from his sleek hair and oily countenance--placed the reins in Mr. Pickwick's left hand; and the upper hostler thrust a whip into his right.
'Wo-o!' cried Mr. Pickwick, as the tall quadruped evinced a decided inclination to back into the coffee-room window. 'Wo-o!' echoed Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass, from the bin. 'Only his playfulness, gen'lm'n,' said the head hostler encouragingly; 'jist kitch hold on him, Villiam.' The deputy restrained the animal's impetuosity, and the principal ran to assist Mr. Winkle in mounting.
'T'other side, sir, if you please.'
'Blowed if the gen'lm'n worn't a-gettin' up on the wrong side,' whispered a grinning post-boy to the inexpressibly gratified waiter.