When she at last reached the entrance-hall, coming into it through a door she pushed open, using all her childish strength, she stood in the midst of it and gazed about her with a new curiosity and pleasure. It was a fine place, with antlers, and arms, and foxes’ brushes hung upon the walls, and with carved panels of black oak, and oaken floor and furnishings. All in it was disorderly and showed rough usage; but once it had been a notable feature of the house, and well worth better care than had been bestowed upon it. She discovered on the walls many trophies that attracted her, but these she could not reach, and could only gaze and wonder at; but on an old oaken settle she found some things she could lay hands on, and forthwith seized and sat down upon the floor to play with them. One of them was a hunting-crop, which she brandished grandly, until she was more taken with a powder-flask which it so happened her father, Sir Jeoffry, had lain down but a few minutes before, in passing through. He was going forth coursing, and had stepped into the dining-hall to toss off a bumper of brandy.
When he had helped himself from the buffet, and came back in haste, the first thing he clapped eyes on was his offspring pouring forth the powder from his flask upon the oaken floor. He had never seen her since that first occasion after the unfortunate incident of her birth, and beholding a child wasting his good powder at the moment he most wanted it and had no time to spare, and also not having had it recalled to his mind for years that he was a parent, except when he found himself forced reluctantly to pay for some small need, he beheld in the young offender only some impudent servant’s brat, who had strayed into his domain and applied itself at once to mischief.
He sprang upon her, and seizing her by the arm, whirled her to her feet with no little violence, snatching the powder-flask from her, and dealing her a sound box on the ear.
“Blood and damnation on thee, thou impudent little baggage!” he shouted. “I’ll break thy neck for thee, little scurvy beast;” and pulled the bell as he were like to break the wire.
But he had reckoned falsely on what he dealt with. Miss uttered a shriek of rage which rang through the roof like a clarion. She snatched the crop from the floor, rushed at him, and fell upon him like a thousand little devils, beating his big legs with all the strength of her passion, and pouring forth oaths such as would have done credit to Doll Lightfoot herself.
“Damn thee!—damn thee!”—she roared and screamed, flogging him. “I’ll tear thy eyes out! I’ll cut thy liver from thee! Damn thy soul to hell!”
And this choice volley was with such spirit and fury poured forth, that Sir Jeoffry let his hand drop from the bell, fell into a great burst of laughter, and stood thus roaring while she beat him and shrieked and stormed.
The servants, hearing the jangled bell, attracted by the tumult, and of a sudden missing Mistress Clorinda, ran in consternation to the hall, and there beheld this truly pretty sight—Miss beating her father’s legs, and tearing at him tooth and nail, while he stood shouting with laughter as if he would split his sides.