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The very funniest thing happened when the calf had grown into a young and gamesome bull. Mitt and his parents were all in the pasture, trying to mend a place where the dike bank was giving. The bull stood watching them, rather interested. Life was a little dull in the pasture. Then Hadd's rent collector climbed over the fence and stalked irritably over to the dike.

"I've been all the way to the house," he said. "Why couldn't you--?"

The bull, with a look of pure mischief in his merry red eye, lowered his horns and charged. He would not have dreamed of harming any of the family, but the rent collector was another matter. And in a misty, bullish way, he may have noticed that the family was not altogether pleased to see the rent collector. Anyway, up went the rent collector in a graceful arc, moneybag and all, and down he went again, money bag and all, into the dike, where he gave out a truly tremendous splash. He came up. He swore horribly. He floundered to the bank and tired to get out. The bull was there to meet him and simply prodded him back in again. It was the funniest thing Mitt had ever seen. It never occurred to the rent collector to cross the dike and get out on the opposite bank where the bull could not reach him. He kept floundering up, clutching his moneybag. And prod, prod went the bull and the rent collector was sitting in the dike again...squawking "Can't one of your control this beast!" and Mitt's parents were leaning head to head, too helpless with laughter to do anything about it. It was Mitt, laughing as hard as anyone, who at last hooked his finger in the ring on the bull's nose and let the raging rent collector scramble out. And the rent collector was not pleased.

"I'll teach you to laugh, boy!" he snarled.

He did. Next time he came for the rent, he asked double. When Mitt's father protested, he said, "Nothing to do with me. Earl Hadd needs the money."

~*~

Theoretically they could have gone to the law and accused the rent collector of extortion. But the rent collector was the Earl's official, and judges always upheld the Earl's employees against ordinary people--unless, of course, you gave the judge a big enough bribe. Mitt's parents had no money for bribes. They needed more than they had to pay the rent collector. They had to sell the bull.

[Diana Wynne Jones, Drowned Ammet pages 234 and 235 in the combined Drowned Ammet and Cart and Cwidder text.]

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Mitt (or Al, or Ham) son of Al (or Mitt, or Ham)

December 2009

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