It was a clear, bright day, and the smell of the sea was in the air. Verona waited impatiently in the family’s motor-car, parked not on a street, but inside a narrow canal. Poort Van Winkle had no proper streets. In place of automobiles and carriages, the residents of the market city piloted boats and barges. This busy traffic rowed and puttered through the green-grey waters of the canals which crisscrossed through the city much like avenues or boulevards. Fortunately, the family Wicklow’s motor-car was amphibious, and could travel as easily in water as on land.
When she saw Mamma approaching, Verona hopped out of the car and took the large cloth wrapping from her hands. She opened one corner and stuck her nose inside. “Mmm, fresh breadclogs!”
“Yes, as souvenirs for the boys,” said Mamma. “There’s a pair for you as well. And I got them for half price.”
“Half price?” Verona frowned. “You weren’t bullying again, were you?”
“Nonsense. I don’t bully,” said Mamma. She jumped into the motor-car. It was piled high with boxes, bags, bottles, and kegs, which she shuffled about to make space. Verona fitted her breadclogs on her feet and handed her mother the others.
“They’re awfully comfortable, thank you,” she said. “But sometimes I wonder if every merchant in Poort Van Winkle doesn’t hate your guts.”
Mamma shrugged. “I drive a hard bargain,” she said. “If you think you can get half price with a lot of hot air and frilly compliments, then you’re welcome to try. But you’ll have to wait until next time, because Fleming’s was the last stop. Now let’s get back home before the cheese turns.” She settled into a comfortable position on top of several sacks of flour.
“Finally!” said Verona. She started up the engine, unraveled the rope from the mooring post, and pushed away from the canal wall. She slid into the driver’s seat, turned the wheel, and off they went.
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