فصل 02

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فصل 02

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CHAPTER Two

It is useless for me to describe to you how terrible Violet, Klaus, and even Sunny felt in the hours that followed. Most people who have survived a storm at sea are so shaken by the experience that they never want to speak of it again, and so if a writer wishes to describe a storm at sea, his only method of research is to stand on a large, wooden boat with a notebook and pen, ready to take notes should a storm suddenly strike. But I have already stood on a large, wooden boat with a notebook and pen, ready to take notes should a storm suddenly strike, and by the time the storm cleared I was so shaken by the experience that I never wanted to speak of it again. So it is useless for me to describe the force of the wind that tore through the sails as if they were paper, and sent the boat spinning like an ice-skater showing off. It is impossible for me to convey the volume of rain that fell, drenching the Baudelaires in freezing water so their concierge uniforms clung to them like an extra layer of soaked and icy skin. It is futile for me to portray the streaks of lightning that clattered down from the swirling clouds, striking the mast of the boat and sending it toppling into the churning sea. It is inadequate for me to report on the deafening thunder that rang in the Baudelaires’ ears, and it is superfluous for me to recount how the boat began to tilt back and forth, sending all of its contents tumbling into the ocean: first the jar of beans, hitting the surface of the water with a loud glop!, and then the spatulas, the lightning reflecting off their mirrored surfaces as they disappeared into the swirling tides, and lastly the sheets Violet had taken from the hotel laundry room and fashioned into a drag chute so the boat would survive its drop from the rooftop sunbathing salon, billowing in the stormy air like jellyfish before sinking into the sea. It is worthless for me to specify the increasing size of the waves rising out of water, first like shark fins, and then like tents, and then finally like glaciers, their icy peaks climbing higher and higher until they finally came crashing down on the soaked and crippled boat with an unearthly roar like the laughter of some terrible beast. It is bootless for me to render an account of the Baudelaire orphans clinging to one another in fear and desperation, certain that at any moment they would be dragged away and tossed to their watery graves, while Count Olaf clung to the harpoon gun and the wooden figurehead, as if a terrible weapon and a deadly fungus were the only things he loved in the world, and it is of no earthly use to provide a report on the front of the figurehead detaching from the boat with a deafening crackle, sending the Baudelaires spinning in one direction and Olaf spinning in the other, or the sudden jolt as the rest of the boat abruptly stopped spinning, and a horrible scraping sound came from beneath the shuddering wood floor of the craft, as if a gigantic hand were grabbing the remains of the Count Olaf from below, and holding the trembling siblings in its strong and steady grip. Certainly the Baudelaires did not find it necessary to wonder what had happened now, after all those terrible, whirling hours in the heart of the storm, but simply crawled together to a far corner of the boat, and huddled against one another, too stunned to cry, as they listened to the sea rage around them, and heard the frantic cries of Count Olaf, wondering if he were being torn limb from limb by the furious storm, or if he, too, had found some strange safety, and not knowing which fate they wished upon the man who had flung so much misfortune on the three of them. There is no need for me to describe this storm, as it would only be another layer of this unfortunate onion of a story, and in any case by the time the sun rose the next morning, the swirling black clouds were already scurrying away from the bedraggled Baudelaires, and the air was silent and still, as if the whole evening had only been a ghastly nightmare.

The children stood up unsteadily in their piece of the boat, their limbs aching from clinging to one another all night, and tried to figure out where in the world they were, and how in the world they had survived. But as they gazed around at their surroundings, they could not answer these questions, as they had never seen anything in the world like the sight that awaited them.

At first, it appeared that the Baudelaire orphans were still in the middle of the ocean, as all the children could see was a flat and wet landscape stretching out in all directions, fading into the gray morning mist. But as they peered over the side of their ruined boat, the children saw that the water was not much deeper than a puddle, and this enormous puddle was littered with detritus, a word which here means “all sorts of strange items.” There were large pieces of wood sticking out of the water like jagged teeth, and long lengths of rope tangled into damp and complicated knots. There were great heaps of seaweed, and thousands of fish wriggling and gaping at the sun as seabirds swooped down from the misty sky and helped themselves to a seafood breakfast. There were what looked like pieces of other boats—anchors and portholes, railings and masts, scattered every which way like broken toys—and other objects that might have been from the boats’ cargo, including shattered lanterns, smashed barrels, soaked documents, and the ripped remains of all sorts of clothing, from top hats to roller skates. There was an old-fashioned typewriter leaning against a large, ornate bird cage, with a family of guppies wriggling through its keys. There was a large, brass cannon, with a large crab clawing its way out of the barrel, and there was a hopelessly torn net caught in the blades of a propeller. It was as if the storm had swept away the entire sea, leaving all of its contents scattered on the ocean floor.

“What is this place?” Violet said, in a hushed whisper. “What happened?”

Klaus took his glasses out of his pocket, where he had put them for safekeeping, and was relieved to see they were unharmed. “I think we’re on a coastal shelf,” he said. “There are places in the sea where the water is suddenly very shallow, usually near land. The storm must have thrown our boat onto the shelf, along with all this other wreckage.”

“Land?” Sunny asked, holding her tiny hand over her eyes so she might see farther. “Don’t see.”

Klaus stepped carefully over the side of the boat. The dark water only came up to his knees, and he began to walk around the boat in careful strides. “Coastal shelves are usually much smaller than this,” he said, “but there must be an island somewhere close by. Let’s look for it.”

Violet followed her brother out of the boat, carrying her sister, who was still quite short. “Which direction do you think we should go?” she asked. “We don’t want to get lost.”

Sunny gave her siblings a small smile. “Already lost,” she pointed out.

“Sunny’s right,” Klaus said. “Even if we had a compass, we don’t know where we are or where we are going. We might as well head in any direction at all.”

“Then I vote we head west,” Violet said, pointing in the opposite direction of the rising sun. “If we’re going to be walking for a while, we don’t want the sun in our eyes.”

“Unless we find our concierge sunglasses,” Klaus said. “The storm blew them away, but they might have landed on the same shelf.”

“We could find anything here,” Violet said, and the Baudelaires had walked only a few steps before they saw this was so, for floating in the water was one piece of detritus they wished had blown away from them forever. Floating in a particularly filthy part of the water, stretched out flat on his back with his harpoon gun leaning across one shoulder, was Count Olaf. The villain’s eyes were closed underneath his one eyebrow, and he did not move. In all their miserable times with the count, the Baudelaires had never seen Olaf look so calm.

“I guess we didn’t need to throw him overboard,” Violet said. “The storm did it for us.”

Klaus leaned down to peer closer to Olaf, but the villain still did not stir. “It must have been terrible,” he said, “to try and ride out the storm with no kind of shelter whatsoever.”

“Kikbucit?” Sunny asked, but at that moment Count Olaf’s eyes opened and the youngest Baudelaire’s question was answered. Frowning, the villain moved his eyes in one direction and then the other.

“Where am I?” he muttered, spitting a piece of seaweed out of his mouth. “Where’s my figurehead?”

“Coastal shelf,” Sunny replied.

At the sound of Sunny’s voice, Count Olaf blinked and sat up, glaring at the children and shaking water out of his ears. “Get me some coffee, orphans!” he ordered. “I had a very unpleasant evening, and I’d like a nice, hearty breakfast before deciding what to do with you.”

“There’s no coffee here,” Violet said, although there was in fact an espresso machine about twenty feet away. “We’re walking west, in the hopes of finding an island.”

“You’ll walk where I tell you to walk,” Olaf growled. “Are you forgetting that I’m the captain of this boat?”

“The boat is stuck in the sand,” Klaus said. “It’s quite damaged.”

“Well, you’re still my henchpeople,” the villain said, “and my orders are that we walk west, in the hopes of finding an island. I’ve heard about islands in the distant parts of the sea. The primitive inhabitants have never seen civilized people, so they will probably revere me as a god.”

The Baudelaires looked at one another and sighed. “Revere” is a word which here means “praise highly, and have a great deal of respect for,” and there was no person the children revered less than the dreadful man who was standing before them, picking his teeth with a bit of seashell and referring to people who lived in a certain region of the world as “primitive.” Yet it seemed that no matter where the Baudelaires traveled, there were people either so greedy that they respected and praised Olaf for his evil ways, or so foolish that they didn’t notice how dreadful he really was. It was enough to make the children want to abandon Olaf there on the coastal shelf, but it is difficult to abandon someone in a place where everything is already abandoned, and so the three orphans and the one villain trudged together westward across the cluttered coastal shelf in silence, wondering what was in store for them. Count Olaf led the way, balancing the harpoon gun on one shoulder, and interrupting the silence every so often to demand coffee, fresh juice, and other equally unobtainable breakfast items. Violet walked behind him, using a broken banister she found as a walking stick and poking at interesting mechanical scraps she found in the muck, and Klaus walked alongside his sister, jotting the occasional note in his commonplace book. Sunny climbed on top of Violet’s shoulders to serve as a sort of lookout, and it was the youngest Baudelaire who broke the silence with a triumphant cry.

“Land ho!” she cried, pointing into the mist, and the three Baudelaires could see the faint shape of an island rising out of the shelf. The island looked narrow and long, like a freight train, and if they squinted they could see clusters of trees and what looked like enormous sheets of white cloth billowing in the wind.

“I’ve discovered an island!” Count Olaf cackled. “I’m going to name it Olaf-Land!”

“You didn’t discover the island,” Violet pointed out. “It appears that people already live on it.”

“And I am their king!” Count Olaf proclaimed. “Hurry up, orphans! My royal subjects are going to cook me a big breakfast, and if I’m in a good mood I might let you lick the plates!”

The Baudelaires had no intention of licking the plates of Olaf or anyone else, but nevertheless they continued walking toward the island, maneuvering around the wreckage that still littered the surface of the shelf. They had just walked around a grand piano, which was sticking straight out of the water as if it had fallen from the sky, when something caught the Baudelaire eyes—a tiny white figure, scurrying toward them.

“What?” Sunny asked. “Who?”

“It might be another survivor of the storm,” Klaus said. “Our boat couldn’t have been the only one in this area of the ocean.”

“Do you think the storm reached Kit Snicket?” Violet asked.

“Or the triplets?” Sunny said.

Count Olaf scowled, and put one muddy finger on the trigger of the harpoon gun. “If that’s Kit Snicket or some bratty orphan,” he said, “I’ll harpoon her right where she stands. No ridiculous volunteer is going to take my island away from me!”

“You don’t want to waste your last harpoon,” Violet said, thinking quickly. “Who knows where you’ll find another one?”

“That’s true,” Olaf admitted. “You’re becoming an excellent henchwoman.”

“Poppycock,” growled Sunny, baring her teeth at the count.

“My sister’s right,” Klaus said. “It’s ridiculous to argue about volunteers and henchpeople when we’re standing on a coastal shelf in the middle of the ocean.”

“Don’t be so sure, orphan,” Olaf replied. “No matter where we are, there’s always room for someone like me.” He leaned down close to give Klaus a sneaky smile, as if he were telling a joke. “Haven’t you learned that by now?”

It was an unpleasant question, but the Baudelaires did not have time to answer it, as the figure drew closer and closer until the children could see it was a young girl, perhaps six or seven years old. She was barefoot, and dressed in a simple, white robe that was so clean she could not have been in the storm. Hanging from the girl’s belt was a large white seashell, and she was wearing a pair of sunglasses that looked very much like the ones the Baudelaires had worn as concierges. She was grinning from ear to ear, but when she reached the Baudelaires, panting from her long run, she suddenly looked shy, and although the Baudelaires were quite curious as to who she was, they also found themselves keeping silent. Even Olaf did not speak, and merely admired his reflection in the water.

When you find yourself tongue-tied in front of someone you do not know, you might want to remember something the Baudelaires’ mother told them long ago, and something she told me even longer ago. I can see her now, sitting on a small couch she used to keep in the corner of her bedroom, adjusting the straps of her sandals with one hand and munching on an apple with the other, telling me not to worry about the party that was beginning downstairs. “People love to talk about themselves, Mr. Snicket,” she said to me, between bites of apple. “If you find yourself wondering what to say to any of the guests, ask them which secret code they prefer, or find out whom they’ve been spying on lately.” Violet, too, could almost hear her mother’s voice as she gazed down at this young girl, and decided to ask her something about herself.

“What’s your name?” Violet asked.

The girl fiddled with her seashell, and then looked up at the eldest Baudelaire. “Friday,” she said.

“Do you live on the island, Friday?” Violet asked.

“Yes,” the girl said. “I got up early this morning to go storm scavenging.”

“Storm scavawha?” Sunny asked, from Violet’s shoulders.

“Every time there’s a storm, everyone in the colony gathers everything that’s collected on the coastal shelf,” Friday said. “One never knows when one of these items will come in handy. Are you castaways?”

“I guess we are,” Violet said. “We were traveling by boat when we got caught in the storm. I’m Violet Baudelaire, and this is my brother, Klaus, and my sister, Sunny.” She turned reluctantly to Olaf, who was glaring at Friday suspiciously. “And this is—”

“I am your king!” Olaf announced in a grand voice. “Bow before me, Friday!”

“No, thank you,” Friday said politely. “Our colony is not a monarchy. You must be exhausted from the storm, Baudelaires. It looked so enormous from shore that we didn’t think there’d be any castaways this time. Why don’t you come with me, and you can have something to eat?”

“We’d be most grateful,” Klaus said. “Do castaways arrive on this island very often?”

“From time to time,” Friday said, with a small shrug. “It seems that everything eventually washes up on our shores.”

“The shores of Olaf-Land, you mean,” Count Olaf growled. “I discovered the island, so I get to name it.”

Friday peered at Olaf curiously from behind her sunglasses. “You must be confused, sir, after your journey through the storm,” she said. “People have lived on the island for many, many years.”

“Primitive people,” sneered the villain. “I don’t even see any houses on the island.”

“We live in tents,” Friday said, pointing at the billowing white cloths on the island. “We grew tired of building houses that would only get blown away during the stormy season, and the rest of the time the weather is so hot that we appreciate the ventilation that a tent provides.”

“I still say you’re primitive,” Olaf insisted, “and I don’t listen to primitive people.”

“I won’t force you,” Friday said. “Come along with me and you can decide for yourself.”

“I’m not going to come along with you,” Count Olaf said, “and neither are my henchpeople! I’m Count Olaf, and I’m in charge around here, not some little idiot in a robe!”

“There’s no reason to be insulting,” Friday said. “The island is the only place you can go, Count Olaf, so it really doesn’t matter who’s in charge.”

Count Olaf gave Friday a terrible scowl, and he pointed his harpoon gun straight at the young girl. “If you don’t bow before me, Friday, I’ll fire this harpoon gun at you!”

The Baudelaires gasped, but Friday merely frowned at the villain. “In a few minutes,” she said, “all the inhabitants of the island will be out storm scavenging. They’ll see any act of violence you commit, and you won’t be allowed on the island. Please point that weapon away from me.”

Count Olaf opened his mouth as if to say something, but after a moment he shut it again, and lowered the harpoon gun sheepishly, a word which here means “looking quite embarrassed to be following the orders of a young girl.”

“Baudelaires, please come with me,” Friday said, and began to lead the way toward the distant island.

“What about me?” Count Olaf asked. His voice was a little squeaky, and it reminded the Baudelaires of other voices they had heard, from people who were frightened of Olaf himself. They had heard this voice from guardians of theirs, and from Mr. Poe when the villain would confront him. It was a tone of voice they had heard from various volunteers when discussing Olaf’s activities, and even from his henchmen when they complained about their wicked boss. It was a tone of voice the Baudelaires had heard from themselves, during the countless times the dreadful man had threatened them, and promised to get his hands on their fortune, but the children never thought they would hear it from Count Olaf himself. “What about me?” he asked again, but the siblings had already followed Friday a short way from where he was standing, and when the Baudelaire orphans turned to him, Olaf looked like just another piece of detritus that the storm had blown onto the coastal shelf.

“Go away,” Friday said firmly, and the castaways wondered if finally they had found a place where there was no room for Count Olaf.

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