Austen Said:

Patterns of Diction in Jane Austen's Major Novels


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“And yet I have heard that there is a great deal of wine drunk in Oxford.”
“Oxford! There is no drinking at Oxford now, I assure you. Nobody drinks there. You would hardly meet with a man who goes beyond his four pints at the utmost. Now, for instance, it was reckoned a remarkable thing, at the last party in my rooms, that upon an average we cleared about five pints a head. It was looked upon as something out of the common way. Mine is famous good stuff, to be sure. You would not often meet with anything like it in Oxford — and that may account for it. But this will just give you a notion of the general rate of drinking there.”
“Yes, it does give a notion,”
said Catherine warmly,
“and that is, that you all drink a great deal more wine than I thought you did. However, I am sure James does not drink so much.”
This declaration brought on a loud and overpowering reply, of which no part was very distinct, except the frequent exclamations, amounting almost to oaths, which adorned it, and Catherine was left, when it ended, with rather a strengthened belief of there being a great deal of wine drunk in Oxford, and the same happy conviction of her brother’s comparative sobriety.
Thorpe’s ideas then all reverted to the merits of his own equipage, and
she was called on to admire
the spirit and freedom with which his horse moved along, and the ease which his paces, as well as the excellence of the springs, gave the motion of the carriage.
She followed him in all his admiration as well as she could. To go before or beyond him was impossible. His knowledge and her ignorance of the subject, his rapidity of expression, and her diffidence of herself put that out of her power; she could strike out nothing new in commendation, but she readily echoed whatever he chose to assert, and it was finally settled between them without any difficulty that his equipage was altogether the most complete of its kind in England, his carriage the neatest, his horse the best goer, and himself the best coachman.
“You do not really think, Mr. Thorpe,”
said Catherine, venturing after some time to consider the matter as entirely decided, and to offer some little variation on the subject,
“that James’s gig will break down?”
“Break down! Oh! Lord! Did you ever see such a little tittuppy thing in your life? There is not a sound piece of iron about it. The wheels have been fairly worn out these ten years at least — and as for the body! Upon my soul, you might shake it to pieces yourself with a touch. It is the most devilish little rickety business I ever beheld! Thank God! we have got a better. I would not be bound to go two miles in it for fifty thousand pounds.”
“Good heavens!”
cried Catherine, quite frightened.
“Then pray let us turn back; they will certainly meet with an accident if we go on. Do let us turn back, Mr. Thorpe; stop and speak to my brother, and tell him how very unsafe it is.”
“Unsafe! Oh, lord! What is there in that? They will only get a roll if it does break down; and there is plenty of dirt; it will be excellent falling. Oh, curse it! The carriage is safe enough, if a man knows how to drive it; a thing of that sort in good hands will last above twenty years after it is fairly worn out. Lord bless you! I would undertake for five pounds to drive it to York and back again, without losing a nail.”
Catherine listened with astonishment; she knew not how to reconcile two such very different accounts of the same thing; for she had not been brought up to understand the propensities of a rattle, nor to know to how many idle assertions and impudent falsehoods the excess of vanity will lead. Her own family were plain, matter-of-fact people who seldom aimed at wit of any kind; her father, at the utmost, being contented with a pun, and her mother with a proverb; they were not in the habit therefore of telling lies to increase their importance, or of asserting at one moment what they would contradict the next. She reflected on the affair for some time in much perplexity, and was more than once on the point of requesting from Mr. Thorpe a clearer insight into his real opinion on the subject; but she checked herself, because it appeared to her that he did not excel in giving those clearer insights, in making those things plain which he had before made ambiguous; and, joining to this, the consideration that he would not really suffer his sister and his friend to be exposed to a danger from which he might easily preserve them,
she concluded at last that
he must know the carriage to be in fact perfectly safe,
and therefore would alarm herself no longer. By him the whole matter seemed entirely forgotten; and all the rest of his conversation, or rather talk, began and ended with himself and his own concerns.
He told her of
horses which he had bought for a trifle and sold for incredible sums;
racing matches, in which his judgment had infallibly foretold the winner;
shooting parties, in which he had killed more birds (though without having one good shot) than all his companions together;
described to her
some famous day’s sport, with the fox-hounds, in which his foresight and skill in directing the dogs had repaired the mistakes of the most experienced huntsman, and in which the boldness of his riding,
though it had never endangered his own life for a moment,
had been constantly leading others into difficulties,
he calmly concluded
had broken the necks of many.
Little as Catherine was in the habit of judging for herself, and unfixed as were her general notions of what men ought to be, she could not entirely repress a doubt, while she bore with the effusions of his endless conceit, of his being altogether completely agreeable. It was a bold surmise, for he was Isabella’s brother; and she had been assured by James that his manners would recommend him to all her sex; but in spite of this, the extreme weariness of his company, which crept over her before they had been out an hour, and which continued unceasingly to increase till they stopped in Pulteney Street again, induced her, in some small degree, to resist such high authority, and to distrust his powers of giving universal pleasure.
When they arrived at Mrs. Allen’s door, the astonishment of Isabella was hardly to be expressed, on finding that it was too late in the day for them to attend her friend into the house:
“Past three o’clock!”
It was inconceivable, incredible, impossible!
And she would neither believe her own watch, nor her brother’s, nor the servant’s; she would believe no assurance of it founded on reason or reality, till Morland produced his watch, and ascertained the fact; to have doubted a moment longer then would have been equally inconceivable, incredible, and impossible; and
she could only protest, over and over again, that
no two hours and a half had ever gone off so swiftly before,
as Catherine was called on to confirm; Catherine could not tell a falsehood even to please Isabella; but the latter was spared the misery of her friend’s dissenting voice, by not waiting for her answer. Her own feelings entirely engrossed her; her wretchedness was most acute on finding herself obliged to go directly home.
It was ages since she had had a moment’s conversation with her dearest Catherine; and, though she had such thousands of things to say to her, it appeared as if they were never to be together again;
so, with sniffles of most exquisite misery, and the laughing eye of utter despondency, she bade her friend adieu and went on.
Catherine found Mrs. Allen just returned from all the busy idleness of the morning, and was immediately greeted with,
“Well, my dear, here you are,”
a truth which she had no greater inclination than power to dispute;
“and I hope you have had a pleasant airing?”