The actors, however, were determined to correct this mood. A half dozen of them blew into big black serpents--musical wind instruments covered in black leather and looking like slithering snakes. They blew and tooted and the remaining actors, at least twenty, skipped and marched. Freddie watched them while finishing her soup and straining awfully hard to remain polite to the young noblewomen to her left and right: Princess Hermine Reuss of Greiz and Princess Théodolinde de Beauharnais. Both were seated by Princess Johanna to "provide fitting company" but in reality to torture Freddie. Hermine wouldn't stop whining about her "scratchy bodice" and "the smell of serf" on the soles of her feet, while "Théodo the Terrible" as Freddie nicknamed her, blathered on and on about Prince Whoever of Whatever and how rumors said he often donned a golden codpiece etched with a Zeus hurling lightning bolts.
"Perhaps, dear Théodo, this cod-piece Zeus of might hurl a bolt at Hermine's feet and burn the smell of serf from them?" Freddie said. Both princesses stared at her as if she were impossibly difficult, for they wished only heaping doses of astonishment and sympathy for their petty ills and ambitions. Nothing else would do.