She had been for a month or two less given to passionate outbreaks, having indeed decided that it was to her interest as a young lady and a future great one to curb herself. Her tirewoman, Rebecca, had begun to dare to breathe more freely when she was engaged about her person, and had, in truth, spoken of her pleasanter fortune among her fellows in the servants’ hall.
But a night or two after the visitor took his departure, she gave way to such an outburst as even Rebecca had scarce ever beheld, being roused to it by a small thing in one sense, though in yet another perhaps great enough, since it touched upon the despoiling of one of her beauties.
She was at her toilet-table being prepared for the night, and her long hair brushed and dressed before retiring. Mistress Wimpole had come in to the chamber to do something at her bidding, and chancing to stand gazing at her great and heavy fall of locks as she was waiting, she observed a thing which caused her, foolish woman that she was, to give a start and utter an unwise exclamation.
“Madam!” she gasped—“madam!”
“What then!” quoth Mistress Clorinda angrily. “You bring my heart to my throat!”
“Your hair!” stammered Wimpole, losing all her small wit—“your beauteous hair! A lock is gone, madam!”
Clorinda started to her feet, and flung the great black mass over her white shoulder, that she might see it in the glass.
“Gone!” she cried. “Where? How? What mean you? Ah-h!”
Her voice rose to a sound that was well-nigh a scream. She saw the rifled spot—a place where a great lock had been severed jaggedly—and it must have been five feet long.
She turned and sprang upon her woman, her beautiful face distorted with fury, and her eyes like flames of fire. She seized her by each shoulder and boxed her ears until her head spun round and bells rang within it.
“’Twas you!” she shrieked. “’Twas you—she-devil-beast—slut that you are! ’Twas when you used your scissors to the new head you made for me. You set it on my hair that you might set a loop—and in your sluttish way you snipped a lock by accident and hid it from me.”
She beat her till her own black hair flew about her like the mane of a fury; and having used her hands till they were tired, she took her brush from the table and beat her with that till the room echoed with the blows on the stout shoulders.
“Mistress, ’twas not so!” cried the poor thing, sobbing and struggling. “’Twas not so, madam!”
“Madam, you will kill the woman,” wept Mistress Wimpole. “I beseech you—! ’Tis not seemly, I beseech—”
Mistress Clorinda flung her woman from her and threw the brush at Mistress Wimpole, crying at her with the lordly rage she had been wont to shriek with when she wore breeches.
“Damnation to thy seemliness!” she cried, “and to thee too! Get thee gone—from me, both—get thee gone from my sight!”