فصل 04

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فصل 04

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CHAPTER Four

By the time the Baudelaire orphans returned to Ishmael’s tent, the joint was hopping, a phrase which here means “full of islanders in white robes, all holding items they had scavenged from the coastal shelf.” The sheep were no longer napping but standing stiffly in two long lines, and the ropes tying them together led to a large wooden sleigh—an unusual form of transportation in such warm weather. Friday led the children through the colonists and sheep, who stepped aside and looked curiously at the three new castaways. Although this was the first time that the Baudelaires were castaways, they were accustomed to being strangers in a community, from their days at Prufrock Preparatory School to their time spent in the Village of Fowl Devotees, but they still did not enjoy being stared at. But it is one of the strange truths of life that practically nobody likes to be stared at and that practically nobody can stop themselves from staring, and as the three children made their way toward Ishmael, who was still sitting on his enormous clay chair, the Baudelaires could not help looking back at the islanders with the same curiosity, wondering how so many people could become castaways on the same island. It was as if the world was full of people with lives as unfortunate as that of the Baudelaires, all ending up in the very same place.

Friday led the Baudelaires to the base of Ishmael’s chair, and the facilitator smiled down at the children as they sat at his clay-covered feet. “Those white robes look very handsome on you Baudelaires,” he said. “Much better than those uniforms you were wearing earlier. You’re going to be wonderful colonists, I am sure of it.”

“Pyrrhonic?” Sunny said, which meant something along the lines of, “How can you be sure of such a thing based on our clothing?” But rather than translate, Violet remembered that the colony valued kindness and decided to say something kind.

“I can’t tell you how much we appreciate this,” Violet said, careful not to lean against the mounds of clay that hid Ishmael’s toes. “We didn’t know what would happen to us after the storm, and we’re grateful to you, Ishmael, for taking us in.”

“Everyone is taken in here,” Ishmael said, apparently forgetting that Count Olaf had been abandoned. “And please, call me Ish. Would you like some cordial?”

“No, thank you,” said Klaus, who could not bring himself to call the facilitator by his nickname. “We’d like to meet the other colonists, if that’s all right.”

“Of course,” Ishmael said, and clapped his hands for attention. “Islanders!” he cried. “As I’m sure you’ve noticed, we have three new castaways with us today—Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, the only survivors of that terrible storm. I’m not going to force you, but as you bring up your storm scavenging items for my suggestions, why don’t you introduce yourselves to our new colonists?”

“Good idea, Ishmael,” said someone from the back of the tent.

“Call me Ish,” said Ishmael, stroking his beard. “Now then, who’s first?”

“I suppose I am,” said a pleasant-looking man who was holding what looked like a large, metal flower. “It’s nice to meet you three. My name is Alonso, and I’ve found the propeller of an airplane. The poor pilot must have flown straight into the storm.”

“What a shame,” Ishmael said. “Well, there’s no airplane to be found on the island, so I don’t think a propeller will be of much use.”

“Excuse me,” Violet said hesitantly, “but I know something about mechanical devices. If we rigged the propeller up to a simple handpowered motor, we’d have a perfect fan for keeping cool on particularly hot days.”

There was a murmur of appreciation from the crowd, and Alonso smiled at Violet. “It does get mighty hot around here,” he said. “That’s a good idea.”

Ishmael took a sip of cordial from his seashell, and then frowned at the propeller. “It depends on how you look at it,” he said. “If we only made one fan, then we’d all be arguing over who got to stand in front of it.”

“We could take turns,” Alonso said.

“Whose turn will it be on the hottest day of the year?” Ishmael countered, a word which here means “said in a firm and sensible tone of voice, even though it was not necessarily a sensible thing to say.” “I’m not going to force you, Alonso, but I don’t think building a fan is worth all the fuss it might cause.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Alonso said, with a shrug, and put the propeller on the wooden sleigh. “The sheep can take it to the arboretum.”

“An excellent decision,” Ishmael said, as a girl perhaps one or two years older than Violet stepped forward.

“I’m Ariel,” she said, “and I found this in a particularly shallow part of the shelf. I think it’s a dagger.”

“A dagger?” Ishmael said. “You know we don’t welcome weapons on the island.”

Klaus was peering at the item Ariel was holding, which was made of carved wood rather than metal. “I don’t think that’s a dagger,” Klaus said. “I believe it’s an old tool used for cutting the pages of books. Nowadays most books are sold with their pages already separated, but some years ago each page was attached to the next, so you needed an implement to slice open the folds of paper and read the book.”

“That’s interesting,” Ariel remarked.

“It depends on how you look at it,” Ishmael said. “I fail to see how it could be of use here. We’ve never had a single book wash ashore—the storms simply tear the pages apart.”

Klaus reached into his pocket and touched his hidden commonplace book. “You never know when a book might turn up,” he pointed out. “In my opinion, that tool might be useful to keep around.”

Ishmael sighed, looking first at Klaus and then at the girl who had found the item. “Well, I’m not going to force you, Ariel,” he said, “but if I were you I would toss that silly thing onto the sleigh.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” Ariel said, shrugging at Klaus, and she put the page cutter next to the propeller as a plump man with a sunburned face stepped forward.

“Sherman’s the name,” said Sherman, with a little bow to all three siblings. “And I found a cheese grater. I nearly lost a finger prying it away from a nest of crabs!”

“You shouldn’t have gone to all that trouble,” Ishmael said. “We’re not going to have much use for a cheese grater without any cheese.”

“Grate coconut,” Sunny said. “Delicious cake.”

“Cake?” Sherman said. “Egad, that would be delicious. We haven’t had dessert since I’ve arrived here.”

“Coconut cordial is sweeter than dessert,” Ishmael said, raising his seashell to his lips. “I certainly wouldn’t force you, Sherman, but I do think it would be best if that grater were thrown away.”

Sherman took a sip from his own seashell, and then nodded, looking down at the sand. “Very well,” he said, and the rest of the morning proceeded in a similar manner. Islander after islander introduced themselves and presented the items they had found, and nearly every time the colony’s facilitator discouraged them from keeping anything. A bearded man named Robinson found a pair of overalls, but Ishmael reminded him that the colony only wore the customary white robes, even though Violet could imagine herself wearing them while inventing some sort of mechanical device, so as not to get her robe dirty. An old woman named Erewhon held up a pair of skis that Ishmael dismissed as impractical, although Klaus had read of people who had used skis to cross mud and sand, and a red-haired woman named Weyden offered a salad spinner, but Ishmael reminded her that the island’s only salads were to be made from the seaweed that was rinsed in the pool and dried out in the sun, rather than spun, even though Sunny could almost taste a dried coconut snack that such an appliance could have made. Ferdinand offered a brass cannon, which Ishmael was afraid would hurt someone, and Larsen held up a lawn mower only to have Ishmael remind her that the beach did not need to be trimmed regularly. A boy about Klaus’s age introduced himself as Omeros, and held up a deck of playing cards he had found, but Ishmael convinced him that a deck of cards was likely to lead to gambling, and he dumped his item into the sleigh, as did a young girl named Finn, who’d found a typewriter that Ishmael had pronounced useless without paper. Brewster had found a window that had survived the storm without breaking, but Ishmael pointed out that you didn’t need a window to admire the island’s views, and Calypso had found a door that the facilitator had hinted could not be attached to any of the island’s tents. Byam, whose mustache was unusually curly, discarded some batteries he had found, and Willa, whose head was unusually large, decided against a garden hose that was encrusted with barnacles. Mr. Pitcairn took the top of a chest of drawers to the arboretum, followed by Ms. Marlow, who had the bottom of a barrel. Dr. Kurtz threw out a silver tray, and Professor Fletcher ejected a chandelier, while Madame Nordoff denied the island a checkerboard and Rabbi Bligh agreed that the services of a large, ornate bird cage were not necessary on the island. The only items that the islanders ended up keeping were a few nets, which they would add to their supply of nets used to catch fish, and a few blankets, which Ishmael thought would eventually fade to white in the island sun. Finally, two siblings named Jonah and Sadie Bellamy displayed the boat on which the Baudelaires had arrived, with its figurehead still missing and its nameplate reading COUNT OLAF still taped to the back, but the colony was almost finished with its customary outrigger for Decision Day, and so the Bellamys lifted the boat onto the sleigh without much discussion. The sheep wearily dragged the sleigh out of the tent, up over the brae, and toward the far side of the island to dump the items in the arboretum, and the islanders excused themselves, at Ishmael’s suggestion, to wash their hands for lunch. Within moments the only occupants of the tent were Ishmael, the Baudelaire orphans, and the girl who had first brought them to the tent, as if the siblings were merely another piece of wreckage to be picked over for approval.

“Quite a storm, wasn’t it?” asked Ishmael, after a short silence. “We scavenged even more junk than usual.”

“Were any other castaways found?” Violet asked.

“Do you mean Count Olaf?” Ishmael asked. “After Friday abandoned him, he’d never dare approach the island. He’s either wandering around the coastal shelf, or he’s trying to swim his way back to wherever he came from.”

The Baudelaires looked at one another, knowing full well that Count Olaf was likely hatching some scheme, particularly as none of the islanders had found the boat’s figurehead, where the deadly spores of the Medusoid Mycelium were hidden. “We weren’t just thinking of Olaf,” Klaus said. “We had some friends who may have been caught in the same storm—a pregnant woman named Kit Snicket who was in a submarine with some associates, and a group of people who were traveling by air.”

Ishmael frowned, and drank some cordial from his seashell. “Those people haven’t turned up,” he said, “but don’t despair, Baudelaires. It seems that everything eventually washes up on our shores. Perhaps their crafts were unharmed by the storm.”

“Perhaps,” Sunny agreed, trying not to think that they might not have been as lucky as that.

“They might turn up in the next day or so,” Ishmael continued. “Another storm is heading this way.”

“How do you know?” Violet asked. “Is there a barometer on the island?”

“There’s no barometer,” Ishmael said, referring to a device that measures the pressure in the atmosphere, which is one way of predicting the weather. “I just know there’s one coming.”

“How would you know such a thing?” Klaus asked, stopping himself from retrieving his commonplace book so he could take notes. “I’ve always heard that the weather is difficult to predict without advanced instruments.”

“We don’t need any advanced instruments on this colony,” Ishmael said. “I predict the weather by using magic.”

“Meledrub,” Sunny said, which meant something along the lines of, “I find that very difficult to believe,” and her siblings silently agreed. The Baudelaires, as a rule, did not believe in magic, although their mother had had a nifty card trick she could occasionally be persuaded to perform. Like all people who have seen something of the world, the children had come across plenty of things they had been unable to explain, from the diabolical hypnotism techniques of Dr. Orwell to the way a girl named Fiona had broken Klaus’s heart, but they had never been tempted to solve these mysteries with a supernatural explanation like magic. Late at night, of course, when one is sitting upright in bed, having been woken up by a sudden loud noise, one believes in all sorts of supernatural things, but it was early afternoon, and the Baudelaires simply could not imagine that Ishmael was some sort of magical weatherman. Their doubt must have shown on their faces, for the facilitator immediately did what many people do when they are not believed, and hurriedly changed the subject.

“What about you, Friday?” Ishmael asked. “Did you find anything else besides the castaways and those awful sunglasses?”

Friday looked quickly at Sunny, but then shook her head firmly. “No,” she said.

“Then please go help your mother with lunch,” he said, “while I talk to our new colonists.”

“Do I have to?” Friday asked. “I’d rather stay here, with the Baudelaires.”

“I’m not going to force you,” Ishmael said gently, “but I’m sure your mother could use some help.”

Without another word, Friday turned and left the tent, walking up the sloping beach toward the other tents of the colony, and the Baudelaires were alone with their facilitator, who leaned down to speak quietly to the orphans.

“Baudelaires,” he said, “as your facilitator, allow me to give you a piece of advice, as you begin your stay on this island.”

“What might that be?” Violet asked.

Ishmael looked around the tent, as if spies were lurking behind the white, fluttering fabric. He took another sip from his seashell, and cracked his knuckles. “Don’t rock the boat,” he said, using an expression which here means “Don’t upset people by doing something that is not customary.” His tone was very cordial, but the children could hear something less cordial almost hidden in his voice, the way a coastal shelf is almost hidden by water. “We’ve been living by our customs for quite some time. Most of us can scarcely remember our lives before we became castaways, and there is a whole generation of islanders who have never lived anywhere else. My advice to you is not to ask so many questions or meddle around too much with our customs. We have taken you in, Baudelaires, which is a kindness, and we expect kindness in return. If you keep prying into the affairs of the island, people are going to think you’re unkind—just like Friday thought Olaf was unkind. So don’t rock the boat. After all, rocking the boat is what got you here in the first place.”

Ishmael smiled at his little joke, and although they found nothing funny about poking fun at a shipwreck that had nearly killed them, the children gave Ishmael a nervous smile in return, and said no more. The tent was silent for a few minutes, until a pleasant-looking woman with a freckly face walked into the tent carrying an enormous clay jar.

“You must be the Baudelaires,” she said, as Friday followed her into the tent carrying a stack of bowls fashioned from coconut shells, “and you must be starving, too. I’m Mrs. Caliban, Friday’s mother, and I do most of the cooking around here. Why don’t you have some lunch?”

“That would be wonderful,” Klaus said. “We’re quite hungry.”

“Whatya fixin?” asked Sunny.

Mrs. Caliban smiled, and opened the jar so the children could peek inside. “Ceviche,” she said. “It’s a South American dish of chopped raw seafood.”

“Oh,” Violet said, with as much enthusiasm as she could muster. Ceviche is an acquired taste, a phrase which here means “something you don’t like the first few times you eat it,” and although the Baudelaires had eaten ceviche before—their mother used to make it in the Baudelaire kitchen, to celebrate the beginning of crab season—it was none of the children’s favorite food, and not precisely what they had in mind as a first meal after being shipwrecked. When I was shipwrecked recently, for instance, I had the fortune to wash aboard a barge where I enjoyed a late supper of roast leg of lamb with creamed polenta and a fricassee of baby artichokes, followed by some aged Gouda served with roasted figs, and finished up with some fresh strawberries dipped in milk chocolate and crushed honeycomb, and I found this to be a wonderful antidote to being tossed like a rag doll in the turbulent waters of a particularly stormy creek. But the Baudelaires accepted their bowls of ceviche, as well as the strange utensils Friday handed them, which were made of wood and looked like a combination of a fork and a spoon.

“They’re runcible spoons,” Friday explained. “We don’t have forks or knives in the colony, as they can be used as weapons.”

“I suppose that’s sensible,” Klaus said, although he couldn’t help but think that nearly anything could be used as a weapon, if one were in a weaponry mood.

“I hope you like it,” Mrs. Caliban said. “There’s not much else you can cook with raw seafood.”

“Negihama,” Sunny said.

“My sister is something of a chef,” Violet explained, “and was suggesting that she could prepare some Japanese dishes for the colony, if there were any wasabi to be had.”

The younger Baudelaires gave their sister a brief nod, realizing that Violet was asking about wasabi not only because it might allow Sunny to make something palatable—a word which here means “that wasn’t ceviche”—but because wasabi, which is a sort of horseradish often used in Japanese food, was one of the few defenses against the Medusoid Mycelium, and with Count Olaf lurking about, she wanted to think about possible strategies should the deadly fungus be let loose from the helmet.

“We don’t have any wasabi,” Mrs. Caliban said. “We don’t have any spices at all, in fact. No spices have washed up on the coastal shelf.”

“Even if they did,” Ishmael added quickly, “I think we’d just throw them in the arboretum. The stomachs of the colonists are used to spiceless ceviche, and we wouldn’t want to rock the boat.”

Klaus took a bite of ceviche from his runcible spoon, and grimaced at the taste. Traditionally a ceviche is marinated in spices, which gives it an unusual but often delicious flavor, but without such seasoning, Mrs. Caliban’s ceviche tasted like whatever you might find in a fish’s mouth while it was eating. “Do you eat ceviche for every meal?” he asked.

“Certainly not,” Mrs. Caliban said with a little laugh. “That would get tiresome, wouldn’t it? No, we only have ceviche for lunch. Every morning we have seaweed salad for breakfast, and for dinner we have a mild onion soup served with a handful of wild grass. You might get tired of such bland food, but it tastes better if you wash it down with coconut cordial.” Friday’s mother reached into a deep pocket in her white robe, and brought out three large seashells that had been fashioned into canteens, and handed one to each Baudelaire.

“Let’s drink a toast,” Friday suggested, holding up her own seashell. Mrs. Caliban raised hers, and Ishmael wiggled in his clay chair and opened the stopper of his seashell once more.

“An excellent idea,” the facilitator said, with a wide, wide smile. “Let’s drink a toast to the Baudelaire orphans!”

“To the Baudelaires!” agreed Mrs. Caliban, raising her seashell. “Welcome to the island!”

“I hope you stay here forever and ever!” Friday cried.

The Baudelaires looked at the three islanders grinning at them, and tried their best to grin back, although they had so much on their minds that their grins were not very enthusiastic. The Baudelaires wondered if they really had to eat spiceless ceviche, not only for this particular lunch, but for future lunches on the island. The Baudelaires wondered if they had to drink more of the coconut cordial, and if refusing to do so would be considered rocking the boat. They wondered why the figurehead of the boat had not been found, and they wondered where Count Olaf was, and what he was up to, and they wondered about their friends and associates who were somewhere at sea, and about all of the people they had left behind in the Hotel Denouement. But at this moment, the Baudelaires wondered one thing most of all, and that was why Ishmael had called them orphans, when they hadn’t told him their whole story. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny looked first at their bowls of ceviche, and then at Friday and her mother, and then at their seashells, and finally up at Ishmael, who was smiling down at them from his enormous chair, and the castaways wondered if they really had reached a place that was far from the world’s treachery or if the world’s treachery was just hidden someplace, the way Count Olaf was hidden somewhere very nearby at that very moment. They looked up at their facilitator, uncertain if they were safe after all, and wondering what they could do about it if they weren’t.

“I won’t force you,” Ishmael said quietly to the children, and the Baudelaire orphans wondered if that were true after all.

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