It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young woman in possession of a goodly length of hair must be in want of means by which to contain it.
However little known the feelings of such a young woman may be on her first entering a gathering, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding acquaintances, that her locks are considered as the rightful detainees of some one or other of their cords, ribbons, elastic bands, or hairpins.
This is particularly true near an open flame.
For a young woman endowed with tresses of substantial length (24 inches at last recorded measurement), the years spent in cultivating these tresses (four) might very well become directly proportionate to the number of inches incinerated and therefore—tragically!—lost from the hank of hair nearest an unannounced flame… all before the young woman in question has the merest moment to divine the reason of her company’s sudden outcry.
“Someone’s on fire!” The cry was repeated some two or three times as partygoers stood and looked about for the source and object of the warning.
“It’s not me, is it?” The young woman turned this way and that, her head swiveling with the rest of the party, searching out the poor afflicted soul.
One might suppose there was a early warning… the sweet plasticine scent had surely gained in strength with the passing of seconds and the brightening of flames.
Happiest in these ashen times, the supposed entitlement of sundry spectators—one might say their “vested concern”—to the care and keeping of an unmanaged mane will surely excite some one or other of those nearest the kindling to action. Gawkers will be rudely shoved aside. Shoulders will be grasped to detain the further spread of singe and stench. Flames will be beaten down, by hand, or by some handy rag, though the first of these is surely more courageous in the telling. And finally, another kind hand will offer assistance in removing handfuls of charred evidence and smoothing brittle and broken locks.
What follows such exercise must depend on the strength and character of the victim—no less on the sum total damage immediately apparent to her person. Social and spatial environs must also be taken into account when measuring out the visible reactionary grief for the dearly departed tresses of late… a room of hardly-made acquaintances, after all, leaves something desired for full and practised mourning.
Chagrin, therefore, and a glancing humor must be the order of the day, the both of which must give way for copious thanks to the hero of the hour. A young woman of substance and sense issues forth apologies to all for the lasting, acrid, olfactory remembrance that will parrot the incident days after her departure.
These niceties expressed, she may then shudder delicately, excuse the several womanish tears that refuse to stopper in her eyes, and cap them all with smiles and truly, passionately felt joy that only such a small amount of easily disguised vanity was so carelessly surrendered.
Emilie’s hard won lesson of the weekend: Keep a watchful eye for innocently, subtly placed and atmospherically intended candles.