فصل 06

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فصل 06

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CHAPTER SIX

At this point, you may find yourself recognizing all of the sad hallmarks of the Baudelaire orphans’ sad history. The word “hallmarks” refers to something’s distinguishing characteristics, such as the frothy foam and loud fizz that are the hallmarks of a root beer float, or the tearstained photographs and the loud fizz that are the hallmarks of a broken heart. Certainly the Baudelaires themselves, who as far as I know have not read their own sad history, but of course are its primary participants, had a queasy feeling in their stomachs as the islanders approached them, holding various items they had found while storm scavenging. It appeared that once again, after arriving in a strange new home, Count Olaf would fool everyone with his latest disguise, and the Baudelaires would once again be in grave danger. In fact, Count Olaf’s talaric disguise did not even cover the tattoo of an eye he wore on his ankle, as the islanders, living so far from the world, would not know about this notorious mark and so could be fooled even more easily. But as the colonists drew close to the cube of books where Kit Snicket lay unconscious, suddenly the Baudelaires’ history went contrary to expectations, a phrase which here means “The young girl they had first met on the coastal shelf recognized Count Olaf immediately.”

“That’s Olaf!” Friday cried, pointing an accusatory finger at the villain. “Why is he dressed as a pregnant woman?”

“I’m dressed as a pregnant woman because I am a pregnant woman,” Count Olaf replied, in his high-pitched, disguised voice. “My name is Kit Snicket, and I’ve been looking everywhere for these children.”

“You’re not Kit Snicket!” Mrs. Caliban cried.

“Kit Snicket is up on this pile of books,” Violet said indignantly, helping Sunny down from the top of the cube. “She’s a friend of ours, and she may be hurt, or ill. But this is Count Olaf, who is no friend of ours.”

“He’s no friend of ours, either,” Friday said, and there was a murmur of agreement from the islanders. “Just because you’ve put something inside your dress to look pregnant, and thrown a clump of seaweed on your hair to make a wig, doesn’t mean you won’t be recognized.” She turned to face the three children, who noticed for the first time that the islander had a suspicious bump under her robe, as if she, too, had hidden something under her clothing. “I hope he hasn’t been bothering you. I told him specifically to go away.”

Count Olaf glared at Friday, but then turned to try his treachery on the other islanders. “You primitive people won’t tell a pregnant woman to go away, will you?” he asked. “I’m in a very delicate condition.”

“You’re not in a very delicate condition,” said Larsen firmly. “You’re in a very transparent disguise. If Friday says you’re this Olaf person, then I’m sure you are, and you’re not welcome here, due to your unkindness.”

“I’ve never been unkind in my life,” Olaf said, running a bony hand through his seaweed. “I’m nothing but a fairly innocent maiden with my belly full of baby. It is the Baudelaires who have been unkind, along with this impostor sleeping on top of this damp library.”

“Library?” Fletcher said with a gasp. “We’ve never had a library on the island.”

“Ishmael said that a library was bound to lead to trouble,” said Brewster, “so we were lucky that a book has never ended up on our shores.”

“You see?” Olaf said, his orange and yellow dress rustling in the morning breeze. “That treacherous woman up there has dragged these books to your colony, just to be unkind to you poor primitive people. And the Baudelaires are friends with her! They’re the ones you should abandon here, and I should be welcomed to Olaf-Land and given gifts.”

“This island is not called Olaf-Land!” cried Friday. “And you’re the one we abandoned!”

“This is confusing!” cried Omeros. “We need a facilitator to sort this out!”

“Omeros is right,” said Calypso. “We shouldn’t decide anything until we’ve talked to Ishmael. Come on, let’s take all this detritus to Ishmael’s tent.”

The colonists nodded, and a few villagers walked together to the cube of books and began to push it along the shelf. It was difficult work, and the cube shuddered as it was dragged along the bumpy surface. The Baudelaires saw Kit’s foot bob violently up and down and feared that their friend would fall.

“Stop,” Klaus said. “It’s not safe to move someone who may be seriously injured, particularly if she’s pregnant.”

“Klaus is right,” said Dr. Kurtz. “I remember that from my days in veterinary school.”

“If Muhammad will not come to the mountain,” Rabbi Bligh said, using an expression that the islanders understood at once, “the mountain will come to Muhammad.”

“But how can Ishmael come here?” asked Erewhon. “He couldn’t walk all this way with his injured feet.”

“The sheep can drag him here,” said Sherman. “We can put his chair on the sleigh. Friday, you guard Olaf and the Baudelaires, while the rest of us will go fetch our facilitator.”

“And some more coconut cordial,” said Madame Nordoff. “I’m thirsty and my seashell is almost empty.”

There was a murmur of agreement from the islanders, and they began to make their way back toward the island, still carrying all of the items they had found while scavenging. In a few minutes, the colonists were nothing more than faint shapes on the misty horizon, and the Baudelaires were alone with Count Olaf and with Friday, who took a big sip from her seashell and then smiled at the children.

“Don’t worry, Baudelaires,” the girl said, holding one hand over the bulge in her robe. “We’ll sort this out. I promise you that this terrible man will be abandoned once and for all.”

“I’m not a man,” Olaf insisted in his disguised voice. “I’m a lady with a baby inside her.”

“Pellucid theatrics,” Sunny said.

“My sister’s right,” Violet said. “Your disguise isn’t working.”

“Oh, I don’t think you’d want me to stop pretending,” the villain said. He was still talking in his ridiculous high-pitched voice, but his eyes shone brightly from behind his seaweed bangs. He reached behind him and revealed the harpoon gun, with its bright red trigger and one last harpoon ready to be fired. “If I were to say that I was Count Olaf, instead of Kit Snicket, I might begin behaving like a villain, rather than a noble person.”

“You’ve never behaved like a noble person,” Klaus said, “no matter what name you’ve been using. And that weapon doesn’t scare us. You only have one harpoon, and this island is full of people who know how wicked and unkind you are.”

“Klaus is right,” Friday said. “You might as well put your weapon down. It’s useless in a place like this.”

Count Olaf looked first at Friday, and then at the three Baudelaires, and he opened his mouth as if to say another treacherous thing in his disguised voice. But then he shut his mouth again, and glared down at the puddles of the coastal shelf. “I’m tired of wandering around here,” he muttered. “There’s nothing to eat but seaweed and raw fish, and everything valuable has been taken by all those fools in robes.”

“If you didn’t behave so horridly,” Friday said, “you could live on the island.”

The Baudelaires looked at one another nervously. Although it seemed a bit cruel to abandon Olaf on the shelf, they did not like the idea that he might be welcomed into the colony. Friday, of course, did not know the whole story of Count Olaf, and had only experienced his unkindness once, on the day she first encountered him, but the Baudelaires could not tell Friday the whole story of Olaf without telling the whole story of themselves, and they did not know what Friday would think of their own unkindnesses and treachery.

Count Olaf looked at Friday as if thinking something over. Then, with a suspicious smile, he turned to the Baudelaires and held out the harpoon gun. “I suppose you’re right,” he said. “The harpoon gun is useless in a place like this.” He was still talking in his disguised voice, and his hand caressed his false pregnancy as if there were actually a baby growing inside him.

The Baudelaires looked at Olaf and then at the weapon. The last time the children had touched the harpoon gun, the penultimate harpoon had fired and a noble man by the name of Dewey had been killed. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny would never forget the sight of Dewey sinking into the waters of the pond as he died, and looking at the villain offering them the weapon only reminded them of how dangerous and terrible the weapon was.

“We don’t want that,” Violet said.

“Obviously this is some trick of yours,” Klaus said.

“It’s no trick,” Olaf said in his high-pitched voice. “I’m giving up my villainous ways, and I want to live with you on the island. I’m sorry to hear that you don’t believe me.”

His face was very serious, as if he were very sorry to hear that, but his eyes were shiny and bright, the way they are when someone is telling a joke. “Fibber,” Sunny said.

“You insult me, madam,” Olaf said. “I’m as honest as the day is long.”

The villain was using an expression that is used by many people despite the fact that it scarcely means anything at all. Some days are long, such as at the height of summer, when the sun shines for a very long time, or Halloween day, which always seems to last forever until it is finally time to put on one’s costume and demand candy from strangers, and some days are short, particularly during the wintertime or when one is doing something enjoyable, such as reading a good book or following random people on the street to see where they will go, and so if someone is as honest as the day is long, they may not be honest at all. The children were relieved to see that Friday was not fooled by Olaf’s use of a vague expression, and she frowned at the villain sternly.

“The Baudelaires told me you were not to be trusted,” the young girl said, “and I can see that they spoke the truth. You’ll stay right here, Olaf, until the others arrive and we decide what to do with you.”

“I’m not Count Olaf,” Count Olaf said, “but in the meantime, could I have a sip of this coconut cordial I heard mentioned?”

“No,” Friday said, and turned her back on the villain to gaze wistfully at the cube of books. “I’ve never seen a book before,” she confessed to the Baudelaires. “I hope Ishmael thinks it’s O.K. to keep them here.”

“You’ve never seen a book?” Violet said in amazement. “Do you know how to read?”

Friday took a quick look around the coastal shelf, and then nodded her head quickly. “Yes,” she said. “Ishmael didn’t think it was a good idea to teach us, but Professor Fletcher disagreed, and held secret classes on the coastal shelf for those of us who were born on the island. From time to time, I keep in practice by sketching the alphabet in the sand with a stick, but without a library there’s not much I can do. I hope Ishmael won’t suggest that we let the sheep drag all these books to the arboretum.”

“Even if he does, you won’t have to throw them away,” Klaus reminded her. “He won’t force you.”

“I know,” Friday said with a sigh. “But when Ishmael suggests something, everybody agrees, and it’s hard not to succumb to that kind of peer pressure.”

“Whisk,” Sunny reminded her, and took the kitchen implement out of her pocket.

Friday smiled at the youngest Baudelaire, but quickly put the item back in Sunny’s pocket. “I gave you that whisk because you said you were interested in cooking,” she said. “It seemed a shame to deny your interests just because Ishmael might not think a kitchen implement was appropriate. You’ll keep my secret, won’t you?”

“Of course,” Violet said, “but it’s also a shame to deny your interest in reading.”

“Maybe Ishmael won’t object,” Friday said.

“Maybe,” Klaus said, “or maybe we could try a little peer pressure of our own.”

“I don’t want to rock the boat,” Friday said with a frown. “Ever since my father’s death, my mother has wanted me to be safe, which is why we left the world far behind and decided to stay here on the island. But the older I get, it seems the more secrets I have. Professor Fletcher taught me secretly to read. Omeros taught me secretly to skip rocks, even though Ishmael says it’s dangerous. I secretly gave Sunny a whisk.” She reached into her robe, and smiled. “And now I have another secret, just for me. Look what I found curled up in a broken wooden crate.”

Count Olaf had been glaring silently at the children, but as Friday revealed her secret he let out a shriek even more high-pitched than his fake voice. But the Baudelaire orphans did not shriek, even though Friday was holding a frightening-looking thing, as dark as a coal mine and as thick as a sewer pipe, that uncurled itself and quickly darted toward the three children. Even as the creature opened its mouth, the morning sun glinting on its sharp teeth, the Baudelaires did not shriek, but marveled that once again their history was going contrary to expectations.

“Incredi!” Sunny cried, and it was true, for the enormous snake that was wrapping itself around the Baudelaires was, incredibly, a creature they had not seen for quite some time and never thought they would see again in their lives.

“It’s the Incredibly Deadly Viper!” Klaus said in amazement. “How in the world did it end up here?”

“Ishmael said that everything eventually washes up on the shores of this island,” Violet said, “but I never thought I’d see this reptile again.”

“Deadly?” Friday asked nervously. “Is it poisonous? It seemed friendly to me.”

“It is friendly,” Klaus reassured her. “It’s one of the least deadly and most friendly creatures in the animal kingdom. Its name is a misnomer.”

“How can you be sure?” Friday asked.

“We knew the man who discovered it,” Violet said. “His name was Dr. Montgomery Montgomery, and he was a brilliant herpetologist.”

“He was a wonderful man,” Klaus said. “We miss him very much.”

The Baudelaires hugged the snake, particularly Sunny, who’d had a special attachment to the playful reptile, and thought for a moment of kind Uncle Monty and the days the children had spent with him. Then, slowly, they remembered how those days had ended, and they turned to look at Count Olaf, who had slaughtered Monty as part of a treacherous plot. Count Olaf frowned, and looked back at them. It was strange to see the villain just sitting there, shuddering at a snake, after his murderous scheme to get the orphans in his clutches. Now, so far from the world, it was as if Olaf no longer had clutches, and his murderous schemes were as useless as the harpoon gun that lay in his hands.

“I’ve always wanted to meet a herpetologist,” said Friday, who of course did not know the whole story of Monty and his murder. “The island doesn’t have an expert on snakes. There’s so much of the world I’m missing by living here.”

“The world is a wicked place,” Count Olaf said quietly, and now it was the Baudelaires who shuddered. Even with the hot sun beating down on them, and the weight of the Incredibly Deadly Viper in their laps, the children felt a chill at the villain’s words, and everyone was silent, watching the islanders approach along with the sheep, who had Ishmael in tow, a phrase which here means “dragged along on the sleigh behind them, sitting on his white chair as if he were a king, with his feet still covered in hunks of clay and his woolly beard billowing in the wind.” As the colonists and sheep walked closer and closer, the children could see that the sheep had something else in tow, too, which sat on the sleigh behind the facilitator’s chair. It was the large, ornate bird cage that had been found after the previous storm, shining in the sunlight like a small fire.

“Count Olaf,” Ishmael said in a booming voice, as soon as his chair arrived. He stared down at the villain scornfully but also carefully, as if memorizing his face.

“Ishmael,” Count Olaf said, in his disguised tone.

“Call me Ish,” Ishmael said.

“Call me Kit Snicket,” Olaf said.

“I’m not going to call you anything,” Ishmael growled. “Your reign of treachery is over, Olaf.” In one swift motion, the facilitator leaned down and snatched the seaweed wig off Olaf’s head. “I’ve been told of your schemes and disguises, and we won’t stand for it. You’ll be locked up immediately.”

Jonah and Sadie lifted the bird cage from the sleigh, set it on the ground, and pushed open its door, glaring meaningfully at Count Olaf. With a nod from Ishmael, Weyden and Ms. Marlow stepped toward the villain, wrestled the harpoon gun from his hands, and dragged him toward the bird cage, as the Baudelaire orphans looked at one another, unsure exactly how they felt. On one hand, it seemed as if the children had been waiting their entire lives for someone to utter precisely the words Ishmael had uttered, and they were eager for Olaf to finally be punished for his dreadful acts, from his recent kidnapping of Justice Strauss to the time, long ago, when he had thrown Sunny into a bird cage and dangled her from his tower window. But they weren’t convinced that Count Olaf should be locked in a cage himself, even a cage as large as the one that had washed ashore. It wasn’t clear to the children if what was happening now, on the coastal shelf, was the arrival of justice at last, or just another unfortunate event. Throughout their history the Baudelaires had always hoped that Count Olaf would end up in the hands of the authorities, and would be punished by the High Court after a trial. But members of the High Court had turned out to be as corrupt and sinister as Olaf himself, and the authorities were far, far away from the island, and looking for the Baudelaires in order to charge them with arson and murder. It was difficult to say, so far from the world, how the three children felt about Count Olaf being dragged into a bird cage, but as was so often the case, it did not matter how the three children felt about it, because it happened anyway. Weyden and Ms. Marlow dragged the struggling villain to the door of the bird cage and forced him to duck inside. He snarled, and wrapped his arms around his false pregnancy, and rested his head against his knees, and hunched his back, and the Bellamy siblings shut the door of the cage and latched it securely. The villain fit in the cage, but just barely, and you had to look closely to see that the mess of limbs and hair and orange and yellow cloth was a person at all.

“This isn’t fair,” Olaf said. His voice was muffled from inside the cage, although the children noticed that he was still using a high-pitched tone, as if he could not help pretending to be Kit Snicket. “I’m an innocent pregnant woman, and these children are the real villains. You haven’t heard the whole story.”

“It depends on how you look at it,” Ishmael said firmly. “Friday told me you were unkind, and that’s all we need to hear. And this seaweed wig is all we need to see!”

“Ishmael’s right,” Mrs. Caliban said firmly. “You’ve been nothing but treacherous, Olaf, and the Baudelaires have been nothing but good!”

“‘Nothing but good,’” Olaf repeated. “Ha! Why don’t you look in the baby’s pockets if you think she’s so good. She’s hiding a kitchen implement that one of your precious islanders gave her!”

Ishmael peered down at the youngest Baudelaire from his vantage point, a phrase which here means “chair perched on a sleigh dragged by sheep.” “Is that true, Sunny?” he asked. “Are you keeping a secret from us?”

Sunny looked up at the facilitator, and then at the bird cage, remembering how uncomfortable it was to be locked up. “Yes,” she admitted, and took the whisk out of her pocket as the islanders gasped.

“Who gave this to you?” Ishmael demanded.

“Nobody gave it to her,” Klaus said quickly, not daring to look at Friday. “It’s just something that survived the storm along with us.” He reached into his pocket and brought out his commonplace book. “Each of us has something, Ishmael. I have this notebook, and my sister has a ribbon she likes to use to tie up her hair.”

There was another gasp from the assembled colonists, and Violet took the ribbon out of her pocket. “We didn’t mean any harm,” she said.

“You were told of the island’s customs,” the facilitator said sternly, “and you chose to ignore them. We were very kind to you, giving you food and clothing and shelter, and even letting you keep your glasses. And in turn, you were unkind to us.”

“They made a mistake,” Friday said, swiftly gathering the forbidden items from the Baudelaires and giving Sunny a brief and grateful look. “We’ll let the sheep take these things away, and forget all about it.”

“That seems fair,” said Sherman.

“I agree,” Professor Fletcher said.

“Me too,” Omeros said, who had picked up the harpoon gun.

Ishmael frowned, but as more and more islanders expressed their agreement, he succumbed to peer pressure and gave the orphans a small smile. “I suppose they can stay,” he said, “if they don’t rock the boat any further.” He sighed, and then suddenly frowned down at a puddle. During the conversation, the Incredibly Deadly Viper had decided to take a brief swim, and was now staring up at the facilitator from a pool of seawater.

“What is that?” Mr. Pitcairn asked, with a frightened gasp.

“It’s a friendly snake we found,” Friday said.

“Who told you it was friendly?” demanded Ferdinand.

Friday shared a quick dismayed look with the Baudelaires. After all that had happened, they knew there was no hope of convincing Ishmael that keeping the snake was a good idea. “Nobody told me,” Friday said quietly. “It just seems friendly.”

“It looks incredibly deadly,” Erewhon said with a frown. “I say we dump it in the arboretum.”

“We don’t want a snake slithering around the arboretum,” Ishmael said, stroking his beard quickly. “It might hurt the sheep. I won’t force you, but I think we should abandon it here with Count Olaf. Come along now, it’s almost lunchtime. Baudelaires, please push that cube of books to the arboretum, and—”

“Our friend shouldn’t be moved,” Violet interrupted, with a gesture to Kit’s unconscious figure. “We need to help her.”

“I didn’t realize there was a castaway up there,” Mr. Pitcairn said, peering at the bare foot that was still hanging over the side of the cube. “Look, she has the same tattoo as the villain!”

“She’s my girlfriend,” said Olaf from the bird cage. “You should either punish us both or set us both free.”

“She’s not your girlfriend!” Klaus cried. “She’s our friend, and she’s in trouble!”

“It seems that from the moment you joined us, the island is threatened with secrecy and treachery,” Ishmael said, with a weary sigh. “We’ve never had to punish anyone here before you arrived, and now there’s another suspicious person lurking around the island.”

“Dreyfuss?” Sunny said, which meant “What precisely are you accusing us of?” but the facilitator kept talking as if she had not said a word.

“I won’t force you,” Ishmael said, “but if you want to be a part of the safe place we’ve constructed, I think you should abandon this Kit Snicket person, too, even though I’ve never heard of her.”

“We won’t abandon her,” Violet said. “She needs our help.”

“As I said, I won’t force you,” Ishmael said, with one last tug on his beard. “Good-bye, Baudelaires. You can stay here on the coastal shelf with your friend and your books, if those things are so important to you.”

“But what will happen to them?” asked Willa. “Decision Day is approaching, and the coastal shelf will flood with water.”

“That’s their problem,” Ishmael said, and gave the islanders an imperious—the word “imperious,” as you probably know, means “mighty and a bit snobbish”—shrug. As his shoulders raised, a small object rolled out of the sleeve of his robe and landed with a small plop! in a puddle, narrowly missing the bird cage where Olaf was prisoner. The Baudelaires could not identify the object, but whatever it was, it was enough to make Ishmael hurriedly clap his hands to distract anyone who might be wondering about it.

“Let’s go!” he cried, and the sheep began to drag him back toward his tent. A few islanders gave the Baudelaires apologetic looks, as if they disagreed with Ishmael’s suggestions but did not dare to resist the peer pressure of their fellow colonists. Professor Fletcher and Omeros, who had secrets of their own, looked particularly regretful, and Friday looked as if she might cry. She even started to say something to the Baudelaires, but Mrs. Caliban stepped forward and put her arm firmly around the girl’s shoulders, and she merely gave the siblings a sad wave and walked away with her mother. The Baudelaires were too stunned for a moment to say anything. Contrary to expectations, Count Olaf had not fooled the inhabitants of this place so far from the world, and had instead been captured and punished. But still the Baudelaires were not safe, and certainly not happy to find themselves abandoned on the coastal shelf like so much detritus.

“This isn’t fair,” Klaus said finally, but he said it so quietly that the departing islanders probably did not hear. Only his sisters heard him, and the snake the Baudelaires thought they would never see again, and of course Count Olaf, who was huddled in the large, ornate bird cage like an imprisoned beast, and who was the only person to answer him.

“Life isn’t fair,” he said, in his undisguised voice, and for once the Baudelaire orphans agreed with every word the man said.

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