Roaring profanities, Mamma leapt out of the motor-car and scrambled up the side of the canal. She bound up the wooden staircase leading to the troll’s booth and began thumping on the door. “I’ll teach you—! Who do you think—I’ll show you a thing or two—! Come out, you coward! You pirate! You hideous idling ogre! Come out and face justice!” She rattled and shook the little booth.
“No,” said the troll, unshaken by the assault. “You apologize.”
Quaking with fury, Mamma put two hands on the crank next to the booth. “Then I’ll open the water gate myself, and you’ll get no payment at all, you miserable brute!” She grunted and heaved and gripped the enormous crank with all her mighty strength. Her face changed several more colors, but it refused to budge. It was sturdier than she’d thought.
Mamma collapsed, exhausted. The troll stuck his tongue out at her from the window. “Oh, you’ll get what’s coming to you,” she muttered. “I promise you that, you’ll get what’s coming!”
Verona climbed out of the motor-car and went to her mother on the footpath. “Mamma, listen now. We can all agree that it was an awful thing he did, a terrible thing. But if you just say you’re sorry, I’m sure he’ll open the gate. Then we can go home, get you cleaned up, and forget all about it.”
“Forget about it? Hah!” said Mamma. “I’m the one covered in filth, and you expect me to say I’m sorry? Absolutely out of the question!” She staggered to her feet like a wounded bull. “I’m going to pull that gate straight off its hinges.”
Verona sighed. She climbed the wooden stairs and knocked gently on the troll booth door. “I’ve got your six bits here, Mr. Troll,” she said. “My mother didn’t mean to offend you, honest. Please, will you let us through?”
“No,” said the troll. “Go away.”
Mamma yanked at the machinery of the gate, trying to wrench it apart. “We’ll have to find another bridge,” said Verona. “According to this map of the canals, there’s one on the other side of the harbor which we could—”
A loud steam whistle rang through the air. Mamma and Verona looked up to see a huge barge pulling in, dwarfing their little motor-car and trapping it against the gate.
“Oh, great,” said Verona. “Now we can’t turn back!”
“Ahoy!” called the captain of the barge, leaning out of his cockpit. “Ye folk’re blocking the way! What gives?”
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