بخش 02

مجموعه: مجموعه بدبیاری ها / کتاب: غار غم انگیز / فصل 2

بخش 02

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CHAPTER Four

The expression “fits like a glove” is an odd one, because there are many different types of gloves and only a few of them are going to fit the situation you are in. If you need to keep your hands warm in a cold environment, then you’ll need a fitted pair of insulated gloves, and a glove made to fit in the bureau of a dollhouse will be of no help whatsoever. If you need to sneak into a restaurant in the middle of the night and steal a pair of chopsticks without being discovered, then you’ll need a sheer pair of gloves that leave no marks, and a glove decorated with loud bells simply will not do. And if you need to pass unnoticed in a shrubbery-covered landscape, then you’ll need a very, very large glove made of green and leafy fabric, and an elegant pair of silk gloves will be entirely useless.

Nevertheless, the expression “fits like a glove” simply means that something is very suitable, the way a custard is suitable for dessert, or a pair of chopsticks is a suitable tool to remove papers from an open briefcase, and when the Baudelaire orphans put on the uniforms of the Queequeg they found that they fitted the children like a glove, despite the fact that they did not actually fit that well. Violet was so pleased that the uniforms had several loops around the waist, just perfect for holding tools, that she didn’t care that her sleeves bagged at the elbows. Klaus was happy that there was a waterproof pocket for his commonplace book, and didn’t care that his boots were a bit too tight. And Sunny was reassured that the shiny material was sturdy enough to resist cooking spills as well as water, and didn’t mind rolling up the legs of the suit almost all the way so she could walk. But it was more than the individual features of the uniforms that felt fitting—it was the place and the people they represented. For a long time the Baudelaires had felt as if their lives were a damaged Frisbee, tossed from person to person and from place to place without ever really being appreciated or fitting in. But as they zipped up their uniforms and smoothed out the portraits of Herman Melville, the children felt as if the Frisbee of their lives just might be repaired. In wearing the uniform of the Queequeg, the siblings felt a part of something—not a family, exactly, but a gathering of people who had all volunteered for the same mission. To think that their skills in inventing, research, and cooking would be appreciated was something they had not thought in a long time, and as they stood in the supply room and regarded one another, this feeling fit them like a glove.

“Shall we go back to the Main Hall?” Violet asked. “I’m ready to take a look at the telegram device.”

“Let me just loosen the buckles on these boots,” Klaus said, “and I’ll be ready to tackle those tidal charts.”

“Cuisi—” Sunny said. By “Cuisi,” she meant something like, “I’m looking forward to examining the kitch—” but a loud scraping sound from overhead stopped the youngest Baudelaire from finishing her sentence. The entire submarine seemed to shake, and a few drops of water fell from the ceiling onto the Baudelaires’ heads.

“What was that?” Violet asked, picking up a diving helmet. “Do you think the Queequeg has sprung a leak?”

“I don’t know,” Klaus said, picking up one helmet for himself and another for Sunny. “Let’s go find out.”

The three Baudelaires hurried back down the corridor to the Main Hall as the horrid scraping sound continued. If you have ever heard the sound of fingernails against a chalkboard, then you know how unnerving a scraping sound can be, and to the children it sounded as if the largest fingernails in the world had mistaken the submarine for a piece of educational equipment.

“Captain Widdershins!” Violet cried over the scraping sound as the Baudelaires entered the hall. The captain was still at the top of the ladder, grasping the steering wheel in his gloved hand. “What’s going on?”

“This darned steering mechanism is a disgrace!” the captain cried in disgust. “Aye! The Queequeg just bumped against a rock formation on the side of the stream. If I hadn’t managed to get the sub back in control, the Submarine Q and Its Crew of Two would be sleeping with the fishes! Aye!”

“Perhaps I should examine the steering mechanism first,” Violet said, “and fix the telegram device later.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” the captain said. “If we can’t receive any Volunteer Factual Dispatches, we might as well be wandering around with our eyes closed! We must find the sugar bowl before Count Olaf! Aye! Our personal safety isn’t nearly as important! Now hurry up! Aye! Get a move on! Aye! Get cracking! Aye! Get a glass of water if you’re thirsty! Aye! He or she who hesitates is lost!”

Violet didn’t bother to point out that finding the sugar bowl would be impossible if the submarine was destroyed, and she knew better than to argue with the captain’s personal philosophy. “It’s worth a try,” she said, and walked over to the small wheeled platform. “Do you mind if I use this?” she asked Fiona. “It’ll help me get a good look at the device’s machinery.”

“Be my guest,” Fiona said. “Klaus, let’s get to work on the tidal charts. We can study them at the table, and keep an eye out for glimpses of the sugar bowl through the porthole. I don’t think we’ll see it, but it’s worth taking a look.”

“Fiona,” Violet said hesitantly, “could you also take a look for our friend, Quigley Quagmire? He was carried away by the stream’s other tributary, and we haven’t seen him since.”

“Quigley Quagmire?” Fiona asked. “The cartographer?”

“He’s a friend of ours,” Klaus said. “Do you know him?”

“Only by reputation,” Fiona said, using a phrase which here means “I don’t know him personally but I’ve heard of the work he does.” “The volunteers lost track of him a long time ago, along with Hector and the other Quagmire triplets.”

“The Quagmires haven’t been as lucky as we have,” Violet said, tying her hair up in a ribbon to help her focus on repairing the telegram device. “I’m hoping you’ll spot him with the periscope.”

“It’s worth a try,” Fiona said, as Phil walked through the kitchen doors, wearing an apron over his uniform.

“Sunny?” he asked. “I heard you were going to help me in the kitchen. We’re a bit low on supplies, I’m afraid. Using the Queequeg nets I managed to catch a few cod, and we have half a sack of potatoes, but not much else. Do you have any ideas about what to make for dinner?”

“Chowda?” Sunny asked.

“It’s worth a try,” Phil said, and for the next few hours, all three Baudelaires tried to see if their tasks were worth a try. Violet wheeled herself underneath several pipes to get a good look at the telegram device, and frowned as she twisted wires and tightened a few screws with a screwdriver she found lying around. Klaus sat at the table and looked over the tidal charts, using a pencil to trace possible paths the sugar bowl might have taken as the water cycle sent it tumbling down the Stricken Stream. And Sunny worked with Phil, standing on a large soup pot so she could reach the counter of the small, grimy kitchen, boiling potatoes and picking tiny bones out of the cod. And as the afternoon turned to evening, and the waters of the Stricken Stream grew even darker in the porthole, the Main Hall of the Queequeg was quiet as all the volunteers worked on the tasks at hand. But even when Captain Widdershins climbed down from the ladder, retrieved a small bell from a pocket of his uniform, and filled the room with the echoes of its loud, metallic ring, the Baudelaires could not be certain if all their efforts had been worth a try at all.

“Attention!” the captain said. “Aye! I want the entire crew of the Queequeg to report on their progress! Gather ’round the table and tell me what’s going on!”

Violet wheeled herself out from under the telegram device, and joined her brother and Fiona at the table, while Sunny and Phil emerged from the kitchen.

“I’ll report first!” the captain said. “Aye! Because I’m the captain! Not because I’m showing off! Aye! I try not to show off very much! Aye! Because it’s rude! Aye! I’ve managed to steer us further down the Stricken Stream without bumping into anything else! Aye! Which is much harder than it sounds! Aye! We’ve reached the sea! Aye! Now it should be easier not to run into anything! Aye! Violet, what about you?”

“Well, I thoroughly examined the telegram device,” Violet said. “I made a few minor repairs, but I found nothing that would interfere with receiving a telegram.”

“You’re saying that the device isn’t broken, aye?” the captain demanded.

“Aye,” Violet said, growing more comfortable with the captain’s speech. “I think there must be a problem at the other end.”

“Procto?” Sunny asked, which meant “The other end?”

“A telegram requires two devices,” Violet said. “One to send the message and the other to receive it. I think you haven’t been receiving Volunteer Factual Dispatches because whoever sends the messages is having a problem with their machine.”

“But all sorts of volunteers send us messages,” Fiona said.

“Aye!” the captain said. “We’ve received dispatches from more than twenty-five agents!”

“Then many machines must be damaged,” Violet replied.

“Sabotage,” Klaus said.

“It does sound like the damage has been done on purpose,” Violet agreed. “Remember when we sent a telegram to Mr. Poe, from the Last Chance General Store?”

“Silencio,” Sunny said, which meant “We never heard a reply.”

“They’re closing in,” the captain said darkly. “Our enemies are preventing us from communicating.”

“I don’t see how Count Olaf would have time to destroy all those machines,” Klaus said.

“Many telegrams travel through telephone lines,” Fiona said. “It wouldn’t be difficult.”

“Besides, Olaf isn’t the only enemy,” Violet said, thinking of two other villains the Baudelaires had encountered on Mount Fraught.

“Aye!” the captain said. “That’s for certain. There is evil out there you cannot even imagine. Klaus, have you made any progress on the tidal charts?”

Klaus spread out a chart on the table so everyone could see. The chart was really more of a map, showing the Stricken Stream winding through the mountains before reaching the sea, with tiny arrows and notations describing the way the water was moving. The arrows and notes were in several different colors of ink, as if the chart had been passed from researcher to researcher, each adding notes as he or she discovered more information about the area. “It’s more complicated than I thought,” the middle Baudelaire said, “and much more dull. These charts note every single detail concerning the water cycle.”

“Dull?” the captain roared. “Aye? We’re in the middle of a desperate mission and all you can think of is your own entertainment? Aye? Do you want us to hesitate? Stop our activities and put on a puppet show just so you won’t find this submarine dull?”

“You misunderstood me,” Klaus said quickly. “All I meant was that it’s easier to research something that’s interesting.”

“You sound like Fiona,” the captain said. “When I want her to research the life of Herman Melville, she works slowly, but she’s quick as a whip when the subject is mushrooms.”

“Mushrooms?” Klaus asked. “Are you a mycologist?”

Fiona smiled, and her eyes grew wide behind her triangular glasses. “I never thought I’d meet someone who knew that word,” she said. “Besides me. Yes, I’m a mycologist. I’ve been interested in fungi all my life. If we have time, I’ll show you my mycological library.”

“Time?” Captain Widdershins repeated. “We don’t have time for fungus books! Aye! We don’t have time for you two to do all that flirting, either!”

“We’re not flirting!” Fiona said. “We’re having a conversation.”

“It looked like flirting to me,” the captain said. “Aye!”

“Why don’t you tell us about your research,” Violet said to Klaus, knowing that her brother would rather talk about the tidal charts than his personal life. Klaus gave her a grateful smile and pointed to a point on the chart.

“If my calculations are correct,” he said, “the sugar bowl would have been carried down the same tributary we went down in the toboggan. The prevailing currents of the stream lead all the way down here, where the sea begins.”

“So it was carried out to sea,” Violet said.

“I think so,” Klaus said. “And we can see here that the tides would move it away from Sontag Shore in a northeasterly direction.”

“Sink?” Sunny asked, which meant something like, “Wouldn’t the sugar bowl just drift to the ocean floor?”

“It’s too small,” Klaus said. “Oceans are in constant motion, and an object that falls into the sea could end up miles away. It appears that the tides and currents in this part of the ocean would take the sugar bowl past the Gulag Archipelago here, and then head down toward the Mediocre Barrier Reef before turning at this point here, which is marked ‘A.A.’ Do you know what that is, Captain? It looks like some sort of floating structure.”

The captain sighed, and raised one finger to fiddle with the curl of his mustache. “Aye,” he said sadly. “Anwhistle Aquatics. It’s a marine research center and a rhetorical advice service—or it was. It burned down.”

“Anwhistle?” Violet asked. “That was Aunt Josephine’s last name.”

“Aye,” the captain said. “Anwhistle Aquatics was founded by Gregor Anwhistle, the famous ichnologist and Josephine’s brother-in-law. But all that’s ancient history. Where did the sugar bowl go next?”

The Baudelaires would have preferred to learn more, but knew better than to argue with the captain, and Klaus pointed to a small oval on the chart to continue his report. “This is the part that confuses me,” he said. “You see this oval, right next to Anwhistle Aquatics? It’s marked ‘G.G.,’ but there’s no other explanation.”

“G.G.?” Captain Widdershins said, and stroked his mustache thoughtfully. “I’ve never seen an oval like that on a chart like this.”

“There’s something else confusing about it,” Klaus said, peering at the oval. There are two different arrows inside it, and each one points in a different direction.”

“It looks like the tide is going two ways at once,” Fiona said.

Violet frowned. “That doesn’t make any sense,” she said.

“I’m confused, too,” Klaus said. “According to my calculations, the sugar bowl was probably carried right to this place on the map. But where it went from there I can’t imagine.”

“I guess we should set a course for G.G., whatever it might be,” Violet said, “and see what we can find when we get there.”

“I’m the captain!” the captain cried. “I’ll give the orders around here! Aye! And I order that we set a course for that oval, and see what we can find when we get there! But first I’m hungry! And thirsty! Aye! And my arm itches! I can scratch my own arm, but Cookie and Sunny, you are responsible for food and drink! Aye!”

“Sunny helped me make a chowder that should be ready in a few minutes,” Phil said. “Her teeth were very handy in dicing the boiled potatoes.”

“Flosh,” Sunny said, which meant “Don’t worry—I cleaned my teeth before using them as kitchen implements.”

“Chowder? Aye! Chowder sounds delicious!” the captain cried. “And what about dessert? Aye? Dessert is the most important meal of the day! Aye! In my opinion! Even though it’s not really a meal! Aye!”

“Tonight, the only dessert we have is gum,” Phil said. “I still have some left from my days at the lumbermill.”

“I think I’ll pass on dessert,” Klaus said, who’d had such a terrible time at Lucky Smells Lumbermill that he no longer had a taste for gum.

“Yomhuledet,” Sunny said. She meant “Don’t worry—Phil and I have arranged a surprise dessert for tomorrow night,” but of course only her siblings could understand the youngest Baudelaire’s unusual way of talking. Nevertheless, as soon as Sunny spoke, Captain Widdershins stood up from the table and began crying out in astonishment.

“Aye!” he cried. “Dear God! Holy Buddha! Charles Darwin! Duke Ellington! Aye! Fiona— turn off the engines! Aye! Cookie—turn off the stove! Aye! Violet—make sure the telegram device is off! Aye! Klaus! Gather your materials together so nothing rolls around! Aye! Calm down! Work quickly! Don’t panic! Help! Aye!”

“What’s going on?” Phil asked.

“What is it, stepfather?” Fiona asked.

For once, the captain was silent, and merely pointed at a screen on the submarine wall. The screen looked like a piece of graph paper, lit up in green light, with a glowing letter Q in the center.

“That looks like a sonar detector,” Violet said.

“It is a sonar detector,” Fiona said. “We can tell if any other undersea craft are approaching us by detecting the sounds they make. The Q represents the Queequeg and—”

The mycologist gasped, and the Baudelaires looked at where she was pointing. At the very top of the panel was another glowing symbol, which was moving down the screen at a fast clip, a phrase which here means “straight toward the Queequeg.” Fiona did not say what this green symbol stood for, and the children could not bear to ask. It was an eye, staring at the frightened volunteers and wiggling its long, skinny eyelashes, which protruded from every side.

“Olaf!” Sunny said in a whisper.

“There’s no way of knowing for sure,” Fiona said, “but we’d better follow my stepfather’s orders. If it’s another submarine, then it has a sonar detector too. If the Queequeg is absolutely silent, they’ll have no idea we’re here.”

“Aye!” the captain said. “Hurry! He who hesitates is lost!”

Nobody bothered to add “Or she” to the captain’s personal philosophy, but instead hurried to silence the submarine. Fiona climbed up the rope ladder and turned off the whirring engine. Violet wheeled back into the machinery of the telegram device and turned it off. Phil and Sunny ran into the kitchen to turn off the stove, so even the bubbling of their homemade chowder would not give the Queequeg away. And Klaus and the captain gathered up the materials on the table so that nothing would make even the slightest rattle. Within moments the submarine was silent as the grave, and all the volunteers stood mutely at the table, looking out the porthole into the gloomy water of the sea. As the eye on the sonar screen drew closer to the Q, they could see something emerge from the darkened waters—a strange shape that became clearer as it got closer and closer to the Queequeg. It was, indeed, another submarine, the likes of which the Baudelaires had never seen before, even in the strangest of books. It was much, much bigger than the Queequeg, and as it approached, the children had to cover their mouths so their gasps could not be heard.

The second submarine was in the shape of a giant octopus, with an enormous metal dome for a head and two wide portholes for eyes. A real octopus, of course, has eight legs, but this submarine had many more. What had appeared to be eyelashes on the sonar screen were really small metal tubes, protruding from the body of the octopus and circling in the water, making thousands of bubbles that hurried toward the surface as if they were frightened of the underwater craft. The octopus drew closer, and all six passengers on the Queequeg stood as still as statues, hoping the submarine had not discovered them. The strange craft was so close the Baudelaires could see a shadowy figure inside one of the octopus’s eyes—a tall, lean figure, and although the children could not see any further details, they were positive the figure had one eyebrow instead of two, filthy fingernails instead of good grooming habits, and a tattoo of an eye on its left ankle.

“Count Olaf,” Sunny whispered, before she could stop herself. The figure in the porthole twitched, as if Sunny’s tiny noise had caused the Queequeg to be detected. Spouting more bubbles, the octopus drew closer still, and any moment it seemed that one of the legs of the octopus would be heard scraping against the outside of the Queequeg. The three children looked down at their helmets, which they had left on the floor, and wondered if they should put them on, so they might survive if the submarine collapsed. Fiona grabbed her stepfather’s arm, but Captain Widdershins shook his head silently, and pointed at the sonar screen again. The eye and the Q were almost on top of one another on the screen, but that was not what the captain was pointing at.

There was a third shape of glowing green light, this one the biggest of all, a huge curved tube with a small circle at the end of it, slithering toward the center of the screen like a snake. But this third underwater craft didn’t look like a snake. As it approached the eye and the Q, the small circle leading the enormous curved tube toward the Queequeg and its frightened volunteer crew, the shape looked more like a question mark. The Baudelaires stared at this new, third shape approaching them in eerie silence, and felt as if they were about to be consumed by the very questions they were trying to answer.

Captain Widdershins pointed at the porthole again, and the children watched the octopus stop, as if it too had detected this strange third shape. Then the legs of the octopus began whirring even more furiously, and the strange submarine began to recede from view, a phrase which here means “disappear from the porthole as it hurried away from the Queequeg.” The Baudelaires looked at the sonar screen, and watched the question mark follow the glowing green eye in silence until both shapes disappeared from the sonar detector and the Queequeg was alone. The six passengers waited a moment and then sighed with relief.

“It’s gone,” Violet said. “Count Olaf didn’t find us.”

“I knew we’d be safe,” Phil said, optimistic as usual. “Olaf is probably in a good mood anyway.”

The Baudelaires did not bother to say that their enemy was only in a good mood when one of his treacherous plans was succeeding, or when the enormous fortune, left behind by the Baudelaire parents, appeared to be falling into his grubby hands.

“What was that, Stepfather?” Fiona said. “Why did he leave?”

“What was that third shape?” Violet asked.

The captain shook his head again. “Something very bad,” he said. “Even worse than Olaf, probably. I told you Baudelaires that there is evil you cannot even imagine.”

“We don’t have to imagine it,” Klaus said. “We saw it there on the screen.”

“That screen is nothing,” the captain said. “It’s just a piece of equipment, aye? There was a philosopher who said that all of life is just shadows. He said that people were just sitting in a cave, watching shadows on the cave wall. Aye—shadows of something much bigger and grander than themselves. Well, that sonar detector is like our cave wall, showing us the shape of things much more powerful and terrifying.”

“I don’t understand,” Fiona said.

“I don’t want you to understand,” the captain said, putting his arm around her. “That’s why I haven’t told you why the sugar bowl is so very crucial. There are secrets in this world too terrible for young people to know, even as those secrets get closer and closer. Aye! In any case, I’m hungry. Aye! Shall we eat?”

The captain rang his bell again, and the Baudelaires felt as if they had awoken from a deep sleep. “I’ll serve the chowder,” Phil said. “Come on, Sunny, why don’t you help me?”

“I’ll turn the engines back on,” Fiona said, and began climbing the rope ladder. “Violet, there’s a drawer in the table full of silverware. Perhaps you and your brother could set the table.”

“Of course,” Violet said, but then frowned as she turned to her brother. The middle Baudelaire was staring at the tidal chart with a look of utter concentration. His eyes were so bright behind his glasses that they looked a bit like the glowing symbols on the sonar detector. “Klaus?” she said.

Klaus didn’t answer his sister, but turned his gaze from the chart to Captain Widdershins. “I may not know why the sugar bowl’s important,” he said, “but I’ve just figured out where it is.”

CHAPTER Five

When you are invited to dine, particularly with people you do not know very well, it always helps to have a conversational opener, a phrase which here means “an interesting sentence to say out loud in order to get people talking.” Although lately it has become more and more difficult to attend dinner parties without the evening ending in gunfire or tapioca, I keep a list of good and bad conversational openers in my commonplace book in order to avoid awkward pauses at the dinner table. “Who would like to see an assortment of photographs taken while I was on vacation?” for instance, is a very poor conversational opener, because it is likely to make your fellow diners shudder instead of talk, whereas good conversational openers are sentences such as “What would drive a man to commit arson?,” “Why do so many stories of true love end in tragedy and despair?,” and “Madame diLustro, I believe I’ve discovered your true identity!,” all of which are likely to provoke discussions, arguments, and accusations, thus making the dinner party much more entertaining. When Klaus Baudelaire announced that he’d discovered the location of the sugar bowl, it was one of the best conversational openers in the history of dinner gatherings, because everyone aboard the Queequeg began talking at once, and dinner had not even been served.

“Aye?” Captain Widdershins shouted. “You’ve figured out where the tide took it? Aye? But you just said you didn’t know! Aye! You said you were confused by the tidal charts, and that oval marked ‘G.G.’! Aye! And yet you’ve figured it out! Aye! You’re a genius! Aye! You’re a smarty-pants! Aye! You’re a bookworm! Aye! You’re brilliant! Aye! You’re sensational! Aye! If you find me the sugar bowl, I’ll allow you to marry Fiona!”

“Stepfather!” Fiona cried, blushing behind her triangular glasses.

“Don’t worry,” the captain replied, “we’ll find a husband for Violet, too! Aye! Perhaps we’ll find your long-lost brother, Fiona! He’s much older, of course, and he’s been missing for years, but if Klaus can locate the sugar bowl he could probably find him! Aye! He’s a charming man, so you’d probably fall in love with him, Violet, and then we could have a double wedding! Aye! Right here in the Main Hall of the Queequeg! Aye! I would be happy to officiate! Aye! I have a bow tie I’ve been saving for a special occasion!”

“Captain Widdershins,” Violet said, “let’s try to stick to the subject of the sugar bowl.” She did not add that she was not interested in getting married for quite some time, particularly after Count Olaf had tried to marry her in one of his early schemes.

“Aye!” the captain cried. “Of course! Naturally! Aye! Tell us everything, Klaus! We’ll eat while you talk! Aye! Sunny! Cookie! Serve the chowder!”

“Chowder is served!” announced Phil, as he hurried from the kitchen carrying two steaming bowls of thick soup. The youngest Baudelaire trailed behind him. Sunny was still a bit too young to carry hot food by herself, but she had found a pepper grinder, and circled the table offering fresh ground pepper to anyone who wanted some.

“Double pepper for me, Sunny!” Captain Widdershins cried, snatching the first bowl of chowder, although it is more polite to let one’s guests be served first. “A nice hot bowl of chowder! A double helping of pepper! The location of the sugar bowl! Aye! That’ll blow the barnacles off me! Aye! I’m so glad I scooped you Baudelaires out of the stream!”

“I’m glad, too,” Fiona said, smiling shyly at Klaus.

“I couldn’t be happier about it,” Phil said, serving two more bowls of chowder. “I thought I’d never see you Baudelaires again, and here you are! All three of you have grown up so nicely, even though you’ve been constantly pursued by an evil villain and falsely accused of numerous crimes!”

“You certainly have had a harrowing journey,” Fiona said, using a word which here means “frantic and extremely distressing.”

“I’m afraid we may have another harrowing journey ahead of us,” Klaus said. “When Captain Widdershins was talking about the philosopher who said that all of life is just shadows in a cave, I realized at once what that oval must be.”

“A philosopher?” the captain asked. “That’s impossible! Aye!”

“Absurdio,” Sunny said, which meant “Philosophers live at the tops of mountains or in ivory towers, not underneath the sea.”

“I think Klaus means a cave,” Violet said quickly, rather than translating. “The oval must mark the entrance to a cave.”

“It begins right near Anwhistle Aquatics,” Klaus said, pointing to the chart. “The currents of the ocean would have brought the sugar bowl right to the entrance, and then the currents of the cave would have carried it far inside.”

“But the chart only shows the entrance to the cave,” Violet said. “We don’t know what it’s like inside. I wish Quigley was here. With his knowledge of maps, he might know the path of the cave.”

“But Quigley isn’t here,” Klaus said gently. “I guess we’ll be traveling in uncharted waters.”

“That’ll be fun,” Phil said.

The Baudelaires looked at one another. The phrase “uncharted waters” does not only refer to underground locations that do not appear on charts. It is a phrase that can describe any place that is unknown, such as a forest in which every explorer has been lost, or one’s own future, which cannot be known until it arrives. You don’t have to be an optimist, like Phil, to find uncharted waters fun. I myself have spent many an enjoyable afternoon exploring the uncharted waters of a book I have not read, or a hiding place I discovered in a sideboard, a word which here means “a piece of furniture in the dining room, with shelves and drawers to hold various useful items.” But the Baudelaires had already spent a great deal of time exploring uncharted waters, from the uncharted waters of Lake Lachrymose and its terrifying creatures, to the uncharted waters of secrets found in the Library of Records at Heimlich Hospital, to the uncharted waters of Count Olaf’s wickedness, which were deeper and darker than any waters of the sea. After all of their uncharted traveling, the Baudelaire orphans were not in the mood to explore any uncharted waters, and could not share Phil’s optimistic enthusiasm.

“It won’t be the first time the Queequeg’s been in uncharted waters,” Captain Widdershins said. “Aye—most of this sea was first explored by V.F.D. submarines.”

“We thought V.F.D. stood for Volunteer Fire Department,” Violet said. “Why would a fire department spend so much time underwater?”

“V.F.D. isn’t just a fire department,” the captain said, but his voice was very quiet, as if he were talking more to himself than to his crew. “Aye—it started that way. But the volunteers were interested in every such thing! I was one of the first to sign up for Voluntary Fish Domestication. That was one of the missions of Anwhistle Aquatics. Aye! I spent four long years training salmon to swim upstream and search for forest fires. That was when you were very young,Fiona, but your brother worked right alongside me. You should have seen him sneaking extra worms to his favorites! Aye! The program was a modest success! Aye! But then Café Salmonella came along, and took our entire fleet away. The Snicket siblings fought as best they could. Aye! Historians call it the Snicket Snickersnee! Aye! But as the poet wrote, ‘Too many waiters turn out to be traitors.’”

“The Snicket siblings?” Klaus was quick to ask.

“Aye,” the captain said. “Three of them, each as noble as the next. Aye! Kit Snicket helped build this submarine! Aye! Jacques Snicket proved that the Royal Gardens Fire was arson! Aye! And the third sibling, with the marmosets—”

“You Baudelaires knew Jacques Snicket, didn’t you?” asked Fiona, who wasn’t shy about interrupting her stepfather.

“Very briefly,” Violet said, “and we recently found a message addressed to him. That’s how we found about Thursday’s gathering, at the last safe place.”

“Nobody would write a message to Jacques,” Captain Widdershins said. “Aye! Jacques is dead!”

“Etartsigam!” Sunny said, and her siblings quickly explained that she meant “The initials were J.S.”

“It must be some other J.S.,” Fiona said.

“Speaking of mysterious initials,” Klaus said, “I wonder what G.G. stands for. If we knew what the cave was called, we might have a better idea of our journey.”

“Aye!” Captain Widdershins said. “Let’s guess! Great Glen! Aye! Green Glade! Aye! Glamorous Glacier! Aye! Gleeful Gameroom! Aye! Glass Goulash! Aye! Gothic Government! Aye! Grandma’s Gingivitis! Aye! Girl Getting-up-from-table! Aye!”

Indeed, the captain’s stepdaughter had stood up, wiped her mouth with a napkin embroidered with a portrait of Herman Melville, and walked over to a sideboard tucked into a far corner. Fiona opened a cabinet and revealed a few shelves stuffed with books. “Yesterday I started reading a new addition to my mycological library,” she said, standing on tiptoes to reach the shelf. “I just remembered reading something that might come in handy.”

The captain fingered his mustache in astonishment. “You and your mushrooms and molds!” the captain said. “I thought I’d never live to see your mycological studies be put to good use,” and I’m sorry to say he was right.

“Let’s see,” Fiona said, paging through a thick book entitled Mushroom Minutiae, a word which here means “obscure facts.” “It was in the table of contents—that’s all I’ve read so far. It was about halfway through.” She brought the book over to the table, and ran a finger down the table of contents while the Baudelaires leaned over to see. “Chapter Thirty-Six, The Yeast of Beasts. Chapter Thirty-Seven, Morel Behavior in a Free Society. Chapter Thirty-Eight, Fungible Mold, Moldable Fungi. Chapter Thirty-Nine, Visitable Fungal Ditches. Chapter Forty, The Gorgonian Grotto—there!”

“Grotto?” Sunny asked.

“‘Grotto’ is another word for ‘cave,’” Klaus explained, as Fiona flipped ahead to Chapter Forty.

“‘The Gorgonian Grotto,’” she read, “‘located in propinquity to Anwhistle Aquatics, has appropriately wraithlike nomenclature, with roots in Grecian mythology, as this conical cavern is fecund with what is perhaps the bugaboo of the entire mycological pantheon.’”

“Aye! I told you that book was too difficult!” Captain Widdershins said. “A young child can’t unlock that sort of vocabulary.”

“It’s a very complicated prose style,” Klaus admitted, “but I think I know what it says. The Gorgonian Grotto was named after something in Greek mythology.”

“A Gorgon,” Violet said. “Like that woman with snakes instead of hair.”

“She could turn people into stone,” Fiona said.

“She was probably nice, when you got to know her,” Phil said.

“Aye! I think I went to school with such a woman!” the captain said.

“I don’t think she was a real person,” Klaus said. “I think she was legendary. The book says it’s appropriate that the grotto is named after a legendary monster, because there’s a sort of monster living in a cave—a bugaboo.”

“Bugaboo?” Sunny asked.

“A bugaboo can be any kind of monster,” Klaus said. “We could call Count Olaf a bugaboo, if we felt so inclined.”

“I’d rather not speak of him at all,” Violet said.

“This bugaboo is a fungus of some sort,” Fiona said, and continued reading from Mushroom Minutiae. “‘The Medusoid Mycelium has a unique conducive strategy of waxing and waning: first a brief dormant cycle, in which the mycelium is nearly invisible, and then a precipitated flowering into speckled stalks and caps of such intense venom that it is fortunate the grotto serves as quarantine.’”

“I didn’t understand all of that scientific terminology,” Klaus said.

“I did,” Fiona said. “There are three main parts to a mushroom. One is the cap, which is shaped like an umbrella, and the second is the stalk, which holds the umbrella up. Those are the parts you can see.”

“There’s part of a mushroom you can’t see?” Violet asked.

“It’s called the mycelium,” Fiona replied. “It’s like a bunch of thread, branching out underneath the ground. Some mushrooms have mycelia that go on for miles.”

“How do you spell ‘mycelium’?” Klaus asked, reaching into his waterproof pocket. “I want to write this down in my commonplace book.”

Fiona pointed the word out on the page. “The Medusoid Mycelium waxes and wanes,” she said, “which means that the caps and stalks spring up from the mycelium, and then wither away, and then spring up again. It sounds like you wouldn’t know the mushrooms are there until they poke up out of the ground.”

The Baudelaires pictured a group of mushrooms suddenly springing up under their feet, and felt a bit queasy, as if they already knew of the dreadful encounter they would soon have with this terrible fungus. “That sounds unnerving,” Violet said.

“It gets worse,” Fiona said. “The mushrooms are exceedingly poisonous. Listen to this: ‘As the poet says, “A single spore has such grim power/That you may die within the hour.”’ A spore is like a seed—if it has a place to grow, it will become another mycelium. But if someone eats it, or even breathes it in, it can cause death.”

“Within the hour?” Klaus said. “That’s a fast-acting poison.”

“Most fungal poisons have cures,” Fiona said. “The poison of a deadly fungus can be the source of some wonderful medicines. I’ve been working on a few myself. But this book says it’s lucky the grotto acts as quarantine.”

“Quarwa?” Sunny asked.

“Quarantine is when something dangerous is isolated, so the danger cannot spread,” Klaus explained. “Because the Medusoid Mycelium is in uncharted waters, very few people have been poisoned. If someone brought even one spore to dry land, who knows what would happen?”

“We won’t find out!” Captain Widdershins said. “We’re not going to take any spores! Aye! We’re just going to grab the sugar bowl and be on our way! Aye! I’ll set a course right now!”

The captain bounded up from the table and began climbing the rope ladder to the Queequeg’s controls. “Are you sure we should continue our mission?” Fiona asked her stepfather, shutting the book. “It sounds very dangerous.”

“Dangerous? Aye! Dangerous and scary! Aye! Scary and difficult! Aye! Difficult and mysterious! Aye! Mysterious and uncomfortable! Aye! Uncomfortable and risky! Aye! Risky and noble! Aye!”

“I suppose the fungus can’t hurt us if we’re inside the submarine,” Phil said, struggling to remain optimistic.

“Even if it could!” the captain cried, standing at the top of the rope ladder and gesturing dramatically as he delivered an impassioned oratory, a phrase which here means “emotional speech that the Baudelaires found utterly convincing, even if they did not quite agree with every word.” “The amount of treachery in this world is enormous!” he cried. “Aye! Think of the crafts we saw on the sonar screen! Think of Count Olaf’s enormous submarine, and the even more enormous one that chased it away! Aye! There’s always something more enormous and more terrifying on our tails! Aye! And so many of the noble submarines are gone! Aye! You think the Herman Melville suits are the only noble uniforms in the world? There used to be volunteers with P. G. Wodehouse on their uniforms, and Carl Van Vechten. There was Comyns and Cleary and Archy and Mehitabel. But now volunteers are scarce! So the best we can do is one small noble thing! Aye! Like retrieving the sugar bowl from the Gorgonian Grotto, no matter how grim it sounds! Aye! Remember my personal philosophy! He who hesitates is lost!”

“Or she!” Fiona said.

“Or she,” the captain agreed. “Aye?”

“Aye!” Violet cried.

“Aye!” Klaus shouted.

“Aye!” Sunny shrieked.

“Hooray!” Phil yelled.

Captain Widdershins peered down in annoyance at Phil, whom he would have preferred say “Aye!” along with everyone else. “Cookie!” he ordered. “Do the dishes! The rest of you get some shut-eye! Aye!”

“Shut-eye?” Violet asked.

“Aye! It means ‘sleep’!” the captain explained.

“We know what it means,” Klaus said. “We’re just surprised that we’re supposed to sleep through the mission.”

“It’ll take some time to get to the cave!” the captain said. “I want you four to be well-rested in case you’re needed! Now go to your barracks! Aye!”

It is one of life’s bitterest truths that bedtime so often arrives just when things are really getting interesting. The Baudelaires were not particularly in the mood to toss and turn in the Queequeg’s barracks—a word which here means “a type of bedroom that is usually uncomfortable”—as the submarine drew closer and closer to the mysterious grotto and its indispensible item, a phrase which here means “the sugar bowl, although the children did not know why it was so important.” But as they followed Fiona out of the Main Hall and back down the corridor, past the plaque advertising the captain’s personal philosophy, the door to the supply room, and an uncountable number of leaky metal pipes, the siblings felt quite tired, and by the time Fiona opened a door to reveal a small, green-lit room stacked with saggy bunk beds, the three children were already yawning. Perhaps it was because of their long, exhausting day, which had begun on the icy summit of Mount Fraught, but Violet didn’t ponder one single mechanical idea as she got into bed, as she usually did before she went to sleep. Klaus scarcely had time to put his glasses on a small bedside table before he nodded off, a phrase which here means “fell asleep without considering even one of the books he had recently read.” Sunny curled up on a pillow, and she didn’t waste one moment dreaming up new recipes—preferably entrées that were less mushy than chowder, as she still enjoyed biting things as much as she did when she was a baby—before she was dreaming herself. And even Fiona, whose bedtime habits are less familiar to me than that of the Baudelaires’, put her glasses next to Klaus’s and was asleep in moments. The whirring engine of the Queequeg sent them deeper and deeper into slumber for several hours, and they probably would have slept much longer if the children hadn’t been awakened by a terrible—and terribly familiar—noise. It was a loud, unnerving scraping, like fingernails against a chalkboard, and the Baudelaires were almost shaken out of bed as the entire submarine rattled.

“What was that?” Violet asked.

“We hit something,” Fiona said grimly, grabbing her glasses in one hand and her diving helmet in the other. “We’d better see what the situation is.”

The Baudelaires nodded in agreement, and hurried out of the barracks and back down the corridor. There was an unnerving splashing sound coming from a few of the tubes, and Klaus had to pick up Sunny to carry her over several large puddles.

“Is the submarine collapsing?” Klaus asked.

“We’ll know soon enough,” Fiona said, and she was correct. In moments she’d led the Baudelaires back into the Main Hall, where Phil and the captain were standing at the table, staring out the porthole into black nothingness. They each had grim expressions on their faces, although Phil was trying to smile at the same time.

“It’s good you got some rest,” the optimist said. “There’s a real adventure ahead of you.”

“I’m glad you brought your diving helmets,” Captain Widdershins said. “Aye!”

“Why?” Violet asked. “Is the Queequeg seriously damaged?”

“Aye!” the captain said. “I mean, no. The submarine is damaged, but she’ll hold—for now. We reached the Gorgonian Grotto about an hour ago, and I was able to steer us inside with no problem. But the cave got narrower and narrower as we maneuvered further and further inside.”

“The book said the grotto was conical,” Klaus said. “That means it’s shaped like a cone.”

“Aye!” the captain said. “The entrance was the wide end of the cone, but now it’s too narrow for the submarine to travel. If we want to retrieve the sugar bowl we’ll have to use something smaller.”

“Periscope?” Sunny asked.

“No,” Captain Widdershins replied. “A child.”

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