فصل 14

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فصل 14

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CHAPTER Fourteen

The last entry in the Baudelaire parents’ handwriting in A Series of Unfortunate Events reads as follows:

As we suspected, we are to be castaways once more. The others believe that the island should stay far from the treachery of the world, and so this safe place is too dangerous for us. We will leave by a boat B has built and named after me. I am heartbroken, but I have been heartbroken before, and this might be the best for which I can hope. We cannot truly shelter our children, here or anywhere else, and so it might be best for us and for the baby to immerse ourselves in the world. By the way, if it is a girl we will name her Violet, and if it is a boy we will name him Lemony.

The Baudelaire orphans read this entry one evening after a supper of seaweed salad, crab cakes, and roast lamb, and when Violet finished reading all three children laughed. Even Kit’s baby, sitting on Sunny’s knee, uttered a happy shriek.

“Lemony?” Violet repeated. “They would have named me Lemony? Where did they get that idea?”

“From someone who died, presumably,” Klaus said. “Remember the family custom?”

“Lemony Baudelaire,” Sunny tried, and the baby laughed again. She was nearly a year old, and looked very much like her mother.

“They never told us about a Lemony,” Violet said, and ran her hair through her hands. She had been repairing the water filtration system all day and was quite tired.

Klaus poured his sisters more coconut milk, which the children preferred to drink fresh. “They didn’t tell us a lot of things,” he said. “What do you think it means, ‘I’ve been heartbroken before’?”

“You know what ‘heartbroken’ means,” Sunny said, and then nodded as the baby murmured “Abelard.” The youngest Baudelaire was best at deciphering the infant’s somewhat unusual way of speaking.

“I think it means we should leave,” Violet said.

“Leave the island?” Klaus said. “And go where?”

“Anywhere,” Violet said. “We can’t stay here forever. There’s everything we might need, but it’s not right to be so far from the world.”

“And its treachery?” Sunny asked.

“You’d think we would have had enough treachery for a lifetime,” Klaus said, “but there’s more to life than safety.”

“Our parents left,” Violet said. “Maybe we should honor their wishes.”

“Chekrio?” the baby said, and the Baudelaires considered her for a moment. Kit’s daughter was growing up very quickly, and she eagerly explored the island at every opportunity. All three siblings had to keep a close eye on her, particularly in the arboretum, which was still heaping with detritus even after a year of cataloging. Many of the items in the enormous library were dangerous for babies, of course, but the infant had never had a serious injury. The baby had heard about danger, too, mostly from the register of crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind from which the Baudelaires read out loud each evening, although they had not told the infant the whole story. She did not know all of the Baudelaires’ secrets, and indeed there were some she would never know.

“We can’t shelter her forever,” Klaus said. “In any case, treachery will wash up on these shores.”

“I’m surprised it hasn’t already,” Violet said. “Plenty of things have been shipwrecked here, but we haven’t seen a single castaway.”

“If we leave,” Sunny asked, “what will we find?”

The Baudelaires fell silent. Because no castaways had arrived in the year, they had little news of the world, aside from a few scraps of newspaper that had survived a terrible storm. Judging from the articles, there were still villains loose in the world, although a few volunteers also appeared to have survived all of the troubles that had brought the children to the island. The articles, however, were from The Daily Punctilio, and so the children could not be sure they were accurate. For all they knew, the islanders had spread the Medusoid Mycelium, and the entire world might be poisoned. This, however, seemed unlikely, as the world, no matter how monstrously it may be threatened, has never been known to succumb entirely. The Baudelaires also thought of all the people they hoped to see again, although, sadly, this also seemed unlikely, though not impossible.

“We won’t know until we get there,” Violet said.

“Well, if we’re leaving, we’d better hurry,” Klaus said. He stood up and walked to the bench, where the middle Baudelaire had fashioned a calendar he believed to be fairly accurate. “The coastal shelf will flood soon.”

“We won’t need much,” Sunny said. “We have quite a bit of nonperishable food.”

“I’ve cataloged quite a bit of naval equipment,” Violet said.

“I have some good maps,” Klaus said, “but we should also make room for some of our favorite detritus. I have some novels by P. G. Wodehouse I’ve been meaning to get to.”

“Blueprints,” Violet said thoughtfully.

“My whisk,” Sunny said, looking at the item that Friday had smuggled her long ago, which had turned out to be a very handy utensil even after the baby had outgrown whisked foods.

“Cake!” shrieked the baby, and her guardians laughed.

“Do we take this?” Violet asked, holding up the book from which she had read out loud.

“I don’t think so,” Klaus said. “Perhaps another castaway will arrive, and continue the history.”

“In any case,” Sunny said, “they’ll have something to read.”

“So we’re really leaving,” Violet said, and they really were. After a good night’s sleep, the Baudelaires began to prepare for their voyage, and it was true they didn’t need much. Sunny was able to pack a great deal of food that would be perfect for the journey, and even managed to sneak in a few luxuries, such as some roe she had harvested from local fishes, and a somewhat bitter but still tasty apple pie. Klaus rolled several maps into a neat cylinder, and added a number of useful and entertaining items from the vast library. Violet added some blueprints and equipment to the pile, and then selected a boat from all the shipwrecks that lay in the arboretum. The eldest Baudelaire had been surprised to find that the boat that looked best for the task was the one on which they had arrived, although by the time she was done repairing and readying it for the voyage she was not surprised after all. She repaired the hull of the boat, and fastened new sails to the masts, and finally she looked at the nameplate reading COUNT OLAF, and with a small frown, she tore through the tape and removed it. As the children had noticed on their voyage to the island, there was another nameplate underneath, and when Violet read what it said, and called her siblings and adopted daughter over to see, yet another question about their lives was answered, and yet another mystery had begun.

Finally, the day for departure arrived, and as the coastal shelf began to flood the Baudelaires carried the boat—or, as Uncle Monty might have put it, “vaporetto”—down to the beach and began to load all of their supplies. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny gazed at the white sands of the beach, where new apple trees were beginning to grow. The children spent nearly all of their time in the arboretum, and so the side of the island where the colony had been now felt like the far side of the island, rather than where their parents had lived. “Are we ready to immerse ourselves in the world?” Violet asked.

“I just hope we don’t immerse ourselves in the sea,” Klaus said, with a small smile.

“Me too,” Sunny said, and smiled back at her brother.

“Where’s the baby?” Violet said. “I want to make sure these life jackets I’ve designed will fit properly.”

“She wanted to say good-bye to her mother,” Sunny said. “She’ll be along soon.”

Sure enough, the tiny figure of Kit’s daughter could be seen crawling over the brae, toward the children and their boat. The Baudelaires watched her approach, wondering what the next chapter in this infant’s life would be, and indeed that is difficult to say. There are some who say that the Baudelaires rejoined V.F.D. and are engaged in brave errands to this day, perhaps under different names to avoid being captured. There are others who say that they perished at sea, although rumors of one’s death crop up so often, and are so often revealed to be untrue. But in any case, as my investigation is over, we have indeed reached the last chapter of the Baudelaires’ story, even if the Baudelaires had not. The three children climbed into the boat, and waited for the baby to crawl to the water’s edge, where she could pull herself into a standing position by clinging to the back of the boat. Soon the coastal shelf would flood, and the Baudelaire orphans would be on their way, immersing themselves in the world and leaving this story forever. Even the baby clutching the boat, whose story had just begun, would soon vanish from this chronicle, after uttering just a few words.

“Vi!” she cried, which was her way of greeting Violet. “Kla! Sun!”

“We wouldn’t leave without you,” Violet said, smiling down at the baby.

“Come aboard,” Klaus said, talking to her as if she were an adult.

“You little thing,” Sunny said, using a term of endearment she had made up herself.

The baby paused, and looked at the back of the boat, where the nameplate had been affixed. She had no way of knowing this, of course, but the nameplate had been nailed to the back of the boat by a person standing on the very spot she was standing—at least, as far as my research has shown. The infant was standing on a spot in someone else’s story, during a moment of her own, but she was thinking neither of the story far in the past nor of her own, which stretched into the future like the open sea. She was gazing at the nameplate, and her forehead was wrinkled in concentration. Finally, she uttered a word. The Baudelaire orphans gasped when they heard it, but they could not say for sure whether she was reading the word out loud or merely stating her own name, and indeed they never learned this. Perhaps this last word was the baby’s first secret, joining the secrets the Baudelaires were keeping from the baby, and all the other secrets immersed in the world. Perhaps it is better not to know precisely what was meant by this word, as some things are better left in the great unknown. There are some words, of course, that are better left unsaid—but not, I believe, the word uttered by my niece, a word which here means that the story is over.

Beatrice.

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