A MAN WHO LOOKED LIKE A DUCK WITH A DROOPING BEAK faced Freddie in the main castle doorway off the courtyard as she escorted Babette back into the castle. Though she could hardly call him a man. More of a boy. His face very pale and slack, long soft nose, small dark eyes--an ugly face with a look of stupidity about it. He wore a purple velvet waistcoat, a white shirt beneath, and a big gold chain hung about his neck. He carried a riding crop in one hand, and his breath reeked of alcohol. He stared at Freddie's clothing with his drink-glazed eyes, saw her white riding pants and high leather boots, and he sneered. Apparently, women dressed in such a fashion greatly offended him. He next turned his gaze to Babette and sneered again. Apparently, the site of a servant offended him also.
    He raised his riding crop to rest in his other hand, and said to Freddie with a voice that sounded like a Russian woman with nasal blockage, "What means these pants of yours? Are you a servant here, or an elected king of peasants?"
    "I am who I am, sir, and my pants are not your concern," she answered in a forceful way, attempting to put the little ass in his place. Freddie was determined to get around him without haste and escort Babette to her bedchamber. Whoever he was, he must be the son of a Russian noble, though she'd never seen him before. The droopy duck face lifted his riding crop and smacked it into the palm of his hand, staring at Freddie with theatrical anger. She laughed to herself, but watched him with a cold face.
    Does the ass pickle desire to strike me?    
    "What are you about with that crop, sir?" Freddie asked.
    "I have been lashing my hounds!" he exclaimed, his stinking alcohol breath punishing her while his eyes brightened with the announcement, as if the memory of lashing hounds excited him. "I court marshaled one and hung another from the walls for disobedience."
    "Why would anyone favor the harming of animals?" she asked him, her tone a mixture of disgust and curiosity. She noticed the head of a toy soldier sticking out of his waistcoat pocket.  
    Is the ass pickle playing with toy soldiers also?

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