In reading the first quarter of Pride and Prejudice this week, I came across a myriad of rich words. Some are old friends long forgotten, others are new friends not to be discarded. I have attempted to properly incorporate a majority of the following words into a mini story, which can found towards the bottom of this post. How many of these words do you know off the top of your head?
caprice- a sudden, unpredictable change, as of one’s mind or the weather
ostentation- pretentious or conspicuous show, as of wealth or importance; display intended to impress others
candor- the state or quality of being frank, open, and sincere in speech or expression
supercilious- haughtily disdainful or contemptuous, as a person or a facial expression
piqued- to affect with sharp irritation and resentment, especially some wound to pride
insipidity- without distinctive, interesting, or stimulating qualities; vapid
effusion- the act or effusing or pouring forth
tete-a-tete- a private conversation or interview, usually between two people
indolent- having or showing a disposition to avoid exertion; slothful
witticism- a witty remark or sentence
piquet- a card game played by two persons with a pack of 32 cards, the cards from deuces to sixes being excluded.
panegyric- a lofty oration or writing in praise of a person or thing; eulogy
celerity- swiftness; speed
expostulation- remonstrance; earnest and kind protest
alacrity- cheerful readiness, promptness, or willingness
approbation- approval; commendation
propitious- presenting favorable conditions; favorable
laconic- using few words; expressing much in few words; concise
filial- of, pertaining to, or befitting a son or daughter
obsequiousness- characterized by or showing servile complaisance or deference; fawning
Blame it on the Cats
Mrs. Harmon was just dusting off an old grandfather clock in the hall which read one o’clock when she heard a rap on the front door. Mrs. Calder, a life-long friend of Mrs. Harmon’s, had arrived on the doorstep of number 8, Ashwood Park, dressed in a multicolored, light cotton dresses. Though prone to occasional effusions of thought, Mrs. Calder was generally an amiable woman whose general insipidity allowed her to fade into the humdrum background of life. At least that was what most people who knew her thought. Not Mrs. Harmon. Mrs. Harmon knew that Mrs. Calder secretly led a very interesting life.
Mrs. Harmon invited Mrs. Calder inside and led her to the backyard where a table with a yellow, striped umbrella was set for four. Would she like some lemonade? Of course she would- lemonade was a favorite. Why must she even think of asking? How was her health? Same as ever- healthy and uneventful. The tete-a-tete continued until Mrs. Harmon nearly choked on her glass of lemonade.
“You can’t be serious.”
“Oh! but I am,” replied Mrs. Calder knowingly, taking a slow sip from her glass, “and it’s all my fault.”
“Mr. Bronston! In the hospital of all places! By your actions! I always considered him with general approbation. He seemed such a fine, healthy salesman. What can have happened?”
“That is precisely what I hoped you would ask.” Mrs. Calder’s chair creaked as she leaned back and began her story.
“As you know well, I have had the propitious privilege of taking care of my mother’s seven cats this past week. She has a filial bond with them, and the cats respond with alacrity to any whim of my mother’s. However, I have observed that they have no such love of me. They are full of caprice. They stalk my home indolently; I have never observed a more supercilious display of ostentation in my life. They lounge wherever they choose- on the sofa, on the table, in the closet- and glare at me as I walk by.”
“After breakfast today, I decided to try to make amends with the little scoundrels. I procured seven leashes, left by my mother for the sole purpose of walking the cats, a notion I found utterly ridiculous. I told my mother so when she gave them to me, but she started in on one of her panegyric lectures, extolling the health benefits of ‘cat-walking’.”
Here, Mrs. Harmon interjected. “That is ridiculous! I’ve heard of walking a dog, but walking a cat! The thought! Let alone seven of them!”
“Yes, I couldn’t agree more.” Mrs. Calder adjusted herself in the chair. “The leashes immediately piqued the cats’ interests. Before long, all seven of them were gathered around my legs, purring and rubbing against my ankles with obsequiousness. I harnessed each one, and as soon as I opened the front door, the cats bounded outside with such celerity that I nearly lost my grip. We zipped out onto Sheffield Street and rounded the corner onto Carrol Road.”
Mrs. Calder paused, squinting in the afternoon sun. “Would you be a darling and adjust the umbrella for me? Thank you, Helen.”
As Mrs. Harmon stood to adjust the umbrella Mrs. Calder continued. “The cats seemed to know exactly where they wanted to go. They made a bee-line for several ragged heaps of old blue carpet on the curb. The cats scratched and clawed and stretched and meowed all over the heap. I chided them with gentle expostulation, but the cats were obliviously blissful by that point. Since the carpets were clearly trash, I didn’t mind much.”
“Once the cats were done basking in the glory of those ratty carpets—a good fifteen minutes mind you- the cats seemed completely satisfied to follow me home, and they have been most kind to me ever since. As I locked the front door of my house I heard the distant siren of an ambulance, but thought nothing of it at the time.”
“And…” prompted Mrs. Harmon.
“And it was all my fault!” Mrs. Calder looked sheepish. “It turns out that Mr. Bronston is a very successful carpet salesman who happens to be deathly allergic to cats.”
Mrs. Harmon shook her head. “Poor Mr. Bronston. Will he be well soon?
“Of course he will. I called the hospital and they assured me that he is going to be fine and probably home, safe and sound, in an hour or two.”
“Are you going to tell him what happened?”
Mrs. Calder shrugged and answered with a final witicism. “I do not intend to, but if he does ask, well … I’ll blame it on the cats.”