A short while later, the barge captain returned, carrying a bucket. He lowered a ramp from his boat to the side of the canal, walked across, and approached the troll’s booth. Mamma eyed him with suspicion.
“Ahoy, sir troll, my lad,” said the captain, rapping on the booth door. “Meself and the other boatmen and sailors and the like, we innocent here waiting, have plundered our pockets and pitched a fair wage for ye.” He shook the bucket. It clinked, full of coins. “I’d wager me beard we’ve gathered more bits than ye can find throttling a sea serpent! If ye wish to make a fair exchange, so to say, if ye’ll open this here postern and grant our tubs clean passage through, why then this miniature fortune here ought by rights be yers. What say ye?”
The booth’s window opened, and the troll leaned out. “Fine,” he said, “as long as she doesn’t get through.” He pointed to Mamma, still sitting with a frown in the motor-car.
“Fair lady!” said the barge captain, removing his cap and turning to Mamma. “Can’t ye find it in pity or kindliness to turn back? I’ll make way with me barge and see to it ye’ll have room to pass among the others. Ye can make easy for one of the other harbor gates in a zip. Between mine and the others here, we ought have plenty to replenish yer spoiling stash, if that’ll be what ye seeks in return.”
Mamma narrowed her eyes. “You can buy that greedy creature, I’m sure, but you can’t buy me,” she said.
The captain returned his cap to his head and growled. “Ye know ye leave me no fair course, sea-wife, but to make me way by force!”
“You just try it,” said Mamma, folding her arms.
Grumbling and swearing, the captain boarded his barge, pulled in the ramp, and started the engine with a mighty rumble. Steam blasted from the barge’s stacks, and it began to churn forward through the canal like a fearsome flood of metal and wood, straight toward Mamma.
But Mamma planted her feet on the back of the motor-car and squared off against the approaching barge. She held out her palms, and when the barge arrived, she pushed back on its nose with all her strength. The motor-car’s ropes snapped taut, the water frothed, but Mamma held her ground. She heaved and puffed and clenched her teeth. The barge could not advance.
The captain leaned out and shook his fist. “Ye’ve got some devil in ye, woman!” he cried. “Why in the name of the Seventh Sea will ye not yield?”
Mamma grunted and pushed the barge as hard as she could, sending it backward. “Why don’t you use one of the other harbor gates, eh?” she shouted back. “Yield, yourself!”
The barge collided with the boat behind it, splintering wood and bending metal.
“Impossible thugs, the both of ye!” screamed the barge captain.
“Hey look, Mamma’s sinking ships!” called a voice from above.
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