بخش 05

مجموعه: مجموعه بدبیاری ها / کتاب: غار غم انگیز / فصل 5

بخش 05

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CHAPTER Ten

The way sadness works is one of the strange riddles of the world. If you are stricken with a great sadness, you may feel as if you have been set aflame, not only because of the enormous pain, but also because your sadness may spread over your life, like smoke from an enormous fire. You might find it difficult to see anything but your own sadness, the way smoke can cover a landscape so that all anyone can see is black. You may find that happy things are tainted with sadness, the way smoke leaves its ashen colors and scents on everything it touches. And you may find that if someone pours water all over you, you are damp and distracted, but not cured of your sadness, the way a fire department can douse a fire but never recover what has been burnt down. The Baudelaire orphans, of course, had had a great sadness in their life from the moment they first heard of their parents’ death, and sometimes it felt as if they had to wave smoke away from their eyes to see even the happiest of moments. As Violet and Klaus watched Fiona and the hook-handed man embrace one another, they felt as if the smoke of their own unhappiness had filled the brig. They could not bear to think that Fiona had found her long-lost brother when they themselves, in all likelihood, would never see their parents again, and might even lose their sister as the poisonous spores of the Medusoid Mycelium made her coughing sound worse and worse inside the helmet.

“Fiona!” the hook-handed man cried. “Is it really you?”

“Aye,” the mycologist said, taking off her triangular glasses to wipe away her tears. “I never thought I would see you again, Fernald. What happened to your hands?”

“Never mind that,” the hook-handed man said quickly. “Why are you here? Did you join Count Olaf, too?”

“Certainly not,” Fiona said firmly. “He captured the Queequeg, and threw us into the brig.”

“So you’ve joined the Baudelaire brats,” the hook-handed man said. “I should have known you were a goody-goody!”

“I haven’t joined the Baudelaires,” Fiona said, just as firmly. “They’ve joined me. Aye! I’m the captain of the Queequeg now.”

“You?” said Olaf’s henchman. “What happened to Widdershins?”

“He disappeared from the submarine,” Fiona replied. “We don’t know where he is.”

“I don’t care where he is,” the hook-handed man sneered. “I couldn’t care less about that mustached fool! He’s the reason I joined Count Olaf in the first place! The captain was always shouting ‘Aye! Aye! Aye!’ and ordering me around! So I ran away and joined Olaf’s acting troupe!”

“But Count Olaf is a terrible villain!” Fiona cried. “He has no regard for other people. He dreams up treacherous schemes, and lures others into becoming his cohorts!”

“Those are just the bad aspects of him,” the hook-handed man said. “There are many good parts, as well. For instance, he has a wonderful laugh.”

“A wonderful laugh is no excuse for villainous behavior!” Fiona said.

“Let’s just agree to disagree,” the hook-handed man replied, using a tiresome expression which here means “You’re probably right, but I’m too embarrassed to admit it.” He waved one hook carelessly at his sister. “Step aside, Fiona. It’s time for the orphans to tell me where the sugar bowl is.”

Olaf’s henchman scraped his hooks together to give them a quick sharpening, and took one threatening step toward the Baudelaires. Violet and Klaus looked at one another in fear, and then at the diving helmet, where they heard their sister give another shuddering cough, and knew that it was time to lay their cards on the table, a phrase which here means “reveal themselves honestly to Olaf’s wicked henchman.”

“We don’t know where the sugar bowl is,” Violet said.

“My sister is telling the truth,” Klaus said. “Do with us what you will, but we won’t be able to tell you anything.”

The hook-handed man glared at them, and scraped his hooks together once more. “You’re liars,” he said. “Both of you are rotten orphan liars.”

“It’s true, Fernald,” Fiona said. “Aye! Finding the sugar bowl was the Queequeg’s mission, but so far we’ve failed.”

“If you don’t know where the sugar bowl is,” the hook-handed man said angrily, “then putting you in the brig is completely pointless!” He turned around and kicked his small stool, toppling it over, and then kicked the wall of the brig for good measure. “What am I supposed to do now?” he sulked.

Fiona put her hand on her brother’s hook. “Take us back to the Queequeg,” she said. “Sunny is in that helmet, along with a growth of Medusoid Mycelium.”

“Medusoid Mycelium?” Olaf’s henchman repeated in horror. “That’s a very dangerous fungus!”

“She’s in great danger,” Violet said. “If we don’t find a cure very, very soon, she’ll die.”

The hook-handed man frowned, but then looked at the helmet and gave the children a shrug. “Why should I care if she dies?” he asked. “She’s made my life miserable from the time I met her. Every time we fail to get the Baudelaire fortune, Count Olaf yells at everyone!”

“You’re the one who made the Baudelaires’ lives miserable,” Fiona said. “Count Olaf has performed countless treacherous schemes, and you helped him time and time again. Aye! You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

The hook-handed man sighed, and looked down at the floor of the brig. “Sometimes I am,” he admitted. “Life in Olaf’s troupe sounded like it was going to be glamorous and fun, but we’ve ended up doing more murder, arson, blackmail, and assorted violence than I would have preferred.”

“This is your chance to do something noble,” Fiona said. “You don’t have to remain on the wrong side of the schism.”

“Oh, Fiona,” the hook-handed man said, and put one hook awkwardly around her shoulder. “You don’t understand. There is no wrong side of the schism.”

“Of course there is,” Klaus said. “V.F.D. is a noble organization, and Count Olaf is a terrible villain.”

“A noble organization?” the hook-handed man said. “Is that so? Tell that to your baby sister, you four-eyed fool! If it weren’t for Volatile Fungus Deportation, you never would have encountered those deadly mushrooms!”

The children looked at one another, remembering what they had read in the Gorgonian Grotto. They had to admit that Olaf’s henchman was right. But Violet reached into her pocket and drew out the newspaper clipping Sunny had found in the cave. She held it out so everyone could see the Daily Punctilio article that the eldest Baudelaire had kept hidden for so long.

“‘VERIFYING FERNALD’S DEFECTION,’” she said, reading the headline out loud, and then continued by reading the byline, a word which here means “name of the person who wrote the article.” “‘By Jacques Snicket. It has now been confirmed that the fire that destroyed Anwhistle Aquatics, and took the life of famed ichnologist Gregor Anwhistle, was set by Fernald Widdershins, the son of the captain of the Queequeg submarine. The Widdershins family’s participation in a recent schism has raised several questions regarding…’” Violet looked up and met the glare of Olaf’s henchman. “The rest of the article is blurry,” she said, “but the truth is clear. You defected—you abandoned V.F.D. and joined up with Olaf!”

“The difference between the two sides of the schism,” Klaus said, “is that one side puts out fires, and the other starts them.”

The hook-handed man reached forward and speared the article on one of his hooks, and then turned the clipping around so he could read it again. “You should have seen the fire,” he said quietly. “From a distance, it looked like an enormous black plume of smoke, rising straight out of the water. It was like the entire sea was burning down.”

“You must have been proud of your handiwork,” Fiona said bitterly.

“Proud?” the hook-handed man said. “It was the worst day of my life. That plume of smoke was the saddest thing I ever saw.” He speared the newspaper with his other hook and ripped the article into shreds. “The Punctilio got everything wrong,” he said. “Captain Widdershins isn’t my father. Widdershins isn’t my last name. And there’s much more to the fire than that. You should know that the Daily Punctilio doesn’t tell the whole story, Baudelaires. Just as the poison of a deadly fungus can be the source of some wonderful medicines, someone like Jacques Snicket can do something villainous, and someone like Count Olaf can do something noble. Even your parents—”

“Our stepfather knew Jacques Snicket,” Fiona said. “He was a good man, but Count Olaf murdered him. Are you a murderer, too? Did you kill Gregor Anwhistle?”

In grim silence, the hook-handed man held his hooks in front of the children. “The last time you saw me,” he said to Fiona, “I had two hands, instead of hooks. Our stepfather probably didn’t tell you what happened to me—he always said there were secrets in this world too terrible for young people to know. What a fool!”

“Our stepfather isn’t a fool,” Fiona said. “He’s a noble man. Aye!”

“People aren’t either wicked or noble,” the hook-handed man said. “They’re like chef’s salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.” He turned to the two elder Baudelaires and pointed at them with his hooks. “Look at yourselves, Baudelaires. Do you really think we’re so different? When those eagles carried me away from the mountains in that net, I saw the ruins of that fire in the hinterlands—a fire we started together. You’ve burned things down, and so have I. You joined the crew of the Queequeg, and I joined the crew of the Carmelita. Our captains are both volatile people, and we’re both trying to get to the Hotel Denouement before Thursday. The only difference between us is the portraits on our uniforms.”

“We’re wearing Herman Melville,” Klaus said. “He was a writer of enormous talent who dramatized the plight of overlooked people, such as poor sailors or exploited youngsters, through his strange, often experimental philosophical prose. I’m proud to display his portrait. But you’re wearing Edgar Guest. He was a writer of limited skill, who wrote awkward, tedious poetry on hopelessly sentimental topics. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

“Edgar Guest isn’t my favorite poet,” the hook-handed man admitted. “Before I joined up with Count Olaf, I was studying poetry with my stepfather. We used to read to one another in the Main Hall of the Queequeg. But it’s too late now. I can’t return to my old life.”

“Maybe not,” Klaus said. “But you can return us to the Queequeg, so we can save Sunny.”

“Please,” the children heard Sunny say, from inside the helmet, although her voice was quite hoarse, as if she would not be able to speak for much longer, and for a moment the only sound in the brig was Sunny’s desperate coughing as the minutes in her crucial hour ticked away, and the muttering of the hook-handed man as he paced back and forth, twiddling his hooks in thought. Violet and Klaus watched his hooks, and thought of all the times he had used them to threaten the siblings. It is one thing to believe that people have both good and bad inside them, mixed together like ingredients in a salad bowl. But it is quite another to look at a cohort of a despicable villain, who has tried again and again to cause so much harm, and try to see where the good parts are buried, when all you can remember is the pain and suffering he has caused. As the hook-handed man circled the brig, it was as if the Baudelaires were picking through a chef’s salad consisting mostly of dreadful—and perhaps even poisonous—ingredients, trying desperately to find the one noble crouton that might save their sister, just as I, between paragraphs, am picking through this salad in front of me, hoping that my waiter is more noble than wicked, and that my sister, Kit, might be saved by the small, herbed piece of toast I hope to retrieve from my bowl. After much hemming and hawing, however—a phrase which here means “muttering, and clearing of one’s throat, used to avoid making a quick decision”—Count Olaf’s henchman stopped in front of the children, put his hooks on his hips, and offered them a Hobson’s choice.

“I’ll return you to the Queequeg,” he said, “if you take me with you.”

CHAPTER Eleven

“Aye!” Fiona said. “Aye! Aye! Aye! We’ll take you with us, Fernald! Aye!”

Violet and Klaus looked at one another. They were grateful, of course, that the hook-handed man was letting them save Sunny from the Medusoid Mycelium, but they couldn’t help but wish Fiona had uttered fewer “Aye!” s. Inviting Count Olaf’s henchman to join them on the Queequeg, even if he was Fiona’s long-lost brother, seemed like a decision they might regret.

“I’m so glad,” the hook-handed man said, giving the two siblings a smile they found inscrutable, a word which here means “either pleasant or nasty, but it was hard to tell.” “I have lots of ideas about where we could go after we get off the Carmelita.”

“Well, I’d certainly like to hear them,” Fiona said. “Aye!”

“Perhaps we could discuss such things later,” Violet said. “I don’t think now is a good time to hesitate.”

“Aye!” Fiona said. “She who hesitates is lost!”

“Or he,” Klaus reminded her. “We’ve got to get to the Queequeg right away.”

The hook-handed man opened the door of the brig and looked up and down the corridor. “This will be tricky,” he said, beckoning to the children with one of his hooks. “The only way back to the Queequeg is through the rowing room, but that room is filled with children we’ve kidnapped. Esmé took my tagliatelle grande and is whipping them so they’ll row faster.”

The elder Baudelaires did not bother to point out that the hook-handed man had threatened the Baudelaires with the very same noodle, when the children had worked at Caligari Carnival, along with a few other individuals who had ended up joining Olaf’s troupe. “Is there any way to sneak past them?” Violet asked.

“We’ll see,” Olaf’s henchman said. “Follow me.”

The hook-handed man strode quickly down the empty corridor, with Fiona behind him and the two Baudelaires behind her, carrying the diving helmet in which Sunny still coughed. Violet and Klaus purposefully lagged behind so they might have a word with the mycologist.

“Fiona, are you sure you want to take him with us?” Klaus asked, leaning in close to murmur in her ear. “He’s a very dangerous and volatile man.”

“He’s my brother,” Fiona replied in a fierce whisper, “and I’m your captain. Aye! I’m in charge of the Queequeg, so I get to choose its crew.”

“We know that,” Violet said, “but we just thought you might want to reconsider.”

“Never,” Fiona said firmly. “With my stepfather gone, Fernald may be the only person I have left in my family. Would you ask me to abandon my own sibling?”

As if replying, Sunny coughed desperately from inside her helmet, and the elder Baudelaires knew that Fiona was right. “Of course we wouldn’t,” Klaus said.

“Stop muttering back there,” the hook-handed man ordered, as he led the children around another twist in the corridor. “We’re approaching the rowing room, and we don’t want anyone to hear us.”

The children stopped talking, but as the henchman stopped at the door to the rowing room, and held his hook over an eye on the wall which would open the door, Violet and Klaus could hear that there was no reason to be quiet. Even through the thick metal of the rowing room entrance, they could hear the loud, piercing voice of Carmelita Spats.

“For my third dance,” she was saying, “I will twirl around and around while all of you clap as hard as you can. It is a dance of celebration, in honor of the most adorable tap-dancing ballerina fairy princess veterinarian in the world!”

“Please, Carmelita,” begged the voice of a child. “We’ve been rowing for hours. Our hands are too sore to clap.”

There was a faint, damp sound, like someone dropping a washcloth, and the elder Baudelaires realized that Esmé was whipping the children with her enormous noodle. “You will participate in Carmelita’s recital,” the treacherous girlfriend announced, “or you will suffer the sting of my tagliatelle grande! Ha ha hoity-toity!”

“It’s not really a sting,” said one brave child. “It’s more of a mild, wet slap.”

“Shut up, cakesniffer!” Carmelita ordered, and the children heard the rustle of her pink tutu as she began to twirl. “Start clapping!” she shrieked, and then the children heard a sound they had never heard before.

There is nothing wicked about having a dreadful singing voice, any more than there is something wicked about having dreadful posture, dreadful cousins, or a dreadful pair of pants. Many noble and pleasant people have any number of these things, and there are even one or two kind individuals who have them all. But if you have something dreadful, and you force it upon someone else, then you have done something quite wicked indeed. If you force your wicked posture on someone, for instance, by leaning so far back that they are forced to carry you down the street, then you have wickedly ruined their afternoon walk, and if you force your dreadful cousins on someone, by dropping them off to play at their house so you can escape from their dreadful presences and spend some time alone, then you have wickedly ruined their entire day, and only a very wicked person indeed would force a dreadful pair of pants on the legs and lower torso of somebody else. But to force your dreadful singing voice on somebody, or even a crowd of people, is one of the world’s most wicked crimes, and at that moment Carmelita Spats opened her mouth and afflicted the crew of the Carmelita with her wickedness. Carmelita’s singing voice was loud, like a siren, and high-pitched, like a squeaky door, and extremely off-pitch, as if all of the notes in the musical scale were pushing up against one another, all trying to sound at the same time. Her singing voice was mushy, as if someone had filled her mouth with mashed potatoes before she sang, and filled with vibrato, which is the Italian term for a voice that wavers as it sings, as if someone were shaking Carmelita very vigorously as she began her song. Even the most dreadful of voices can be tolerated if it is performing a good song, but I’m sad to say that Carmelita Spats had written the song herself and that it was just as dreadful as her singing voice. Violet and Klaus were reminded of Prufrock Preparatory School, where they had first met Carmelita. The vice principal of the school, a tedious man named Nero, forced his students to listen to him play the violin for hours, and they realized this administrator must have had a powerful influence on Carmelita’s creativity.

“C is for ‘cute,’” Carmelita sang,

“A is for ‘adorable’!

R is for ‘ravishing’!

M is for ‘gorgeous’!

E is for ‘excellent’!

L is for ‘lovable’!

I is for ‘I’m the best’!

T is for ‘talented’!

and A is for ‘a tap-dancing ballerina fairy princess veterinarian’!

Now let’s begin my whole wonderful song all over again!”

The song was so irritating, and sung so poorly, that Violet and Klaus almost felt as if they were being tortured after all, particularly as Carmelita kept on singing it, over and over and over.

“I can’t stand her voice,” Violet said. “It reminds me of the cawing of the V.F.D. crows.”

“I can’t stand the lyrics,” Klaus said. “Someone needs to tell her that ‘gorgeous’ does not begin with the letter M.”

“I can’t stand the brat,” the hook-handed man said bitterly. “She’s one of the reasons I’d like to leave. But this sounds like as good a time as any to try to sneak through this room. There are plenty of pillars to hide behind, and if we walk around the very edge, where each oar sticks through the wall into the tentacles of the octopus, we should be able to get to the other door—assuming everybody is watching Carmelita’s tap-dancing ballerina fairy princess veterinarian dance recital.”

“That seems like a very risky plan,” Violet said.

“This is no time to be a coward,” the hook-handed man growled.

“My sister is not a coward,” Klaus said. “She’s just being cautious.”

“There’s no time to be cautious!” Fiona said. “Aye! She who hesitates is lost! Aye! Or he! Let’s go!”

Without another word, the hook-handed man poked the eye on the wall, and the door slid open to reveal the enormous room. As Olaf’s comrade had predicted, the rowing children were all facing Carmelita, who was prancing and singing on one side of the room while Esmé watched with a proud smile on her face and a large noodle in one of her tentacles. With the hook-handed man and Fiona in the lead, the three Baudelaires—Sunny still in the diving helmet, of course—made their careful way around the outside of the room as Carmelita twirled around singing her absurd song. When Carmelita announced what C was for, the children ducked behind one of the pillars. When she told her listeners the meaning of A and R, the children crept past the moving oars, taking care not to trip. When she insisted that “gorgeous” began with M, Count Olaf’s henchman pointed one of his hooks at a far door, and when Carmelita reached E and L, the children ducked behind another pillar, hoping the dim light of the lanterns would not give them away. When Carmelita announced that she was the best, and bragged about being talented, Esmé Squalor frowned and turned around, blinking underneath the fake eyes of her octopus outfit, and the children had to flatten themselves on the floor so the villainous girlfriend would not spot them, and when the tap-dancing ballerina fairy princess veterinarian found it necessary to remind her audience that she was, in fact, a tap-dancing ballerina fairy princess veterinarian, the two elder Baudelaires found themselves ahead of Fiona and the hook-handed man, hiding behind a pillar that was just a few feet from their destination. They were just about to inch their way toward the door when Carmelita began belting out the last line of her song—“belting out” is a phrase which here means “singing in a particularly loud and particularly irritating voice”—only to stop herself just as she was about to begin her whole wonderful song all over again.

“C is for—cakesniffers!” she shouted. “What are you doing here?”

Violet and Klaus froze, and then saw with relief that the terrible little girl was pointing scornfully at Fiona and the hook-handed man, who were standing awkwardly between two oars.

“How dare you, Hooky?” Esmé said, fingering her large noodle as if she wanted to strike him with it. “You’re interrupting a very in recital by an unspeakably darling little girl!”

“I’m very sorry, your Esméness,” the hook-handed man said, stepping forward to elaborately bow in front of the wicked girlfriend. “I would sooner lose both hands all over again than interrupt Carmelita when she’s dancing.”

“But you did interrupt me, you handicapped cakesniffer!” Carmelita pouted. “Now I have to start the entire recital all over again!”

“No!” cried one of the rowing children. “Anything but that! It’s torture!”

“Speaking of torture,” the hook-handed man said quickly, “I stopped by to see if I could borrow your tagliatelle grande. It’ll help me get the Baudelaires to reveal the location of the sugar bowl.”

Esmé frowned, and fingered the noodle with one tentacle. “I don’t really like to lend things,” she said. “It usually leads to people messing up my stuff.”

“Please, ma’am,” Fiona said. “We’re so close to learning the location of the sugar bowl. Aye! We just need to borrow your noodle, so we can return to the brig.”

“Why are you helping Hooky?” Esmé said. “I thought you were another goody-goody orphan.”

“Certainly not,” the hook-handed man said. “This is my sister, Fiona, and she’s joining the crew of the Carmelita.”

“Fiona isn’t a very in name,” Esmé said. “I think I’ll call her Triangle Eyes. Are you really willing to join us, Triangle Eyes?”

“Aye!” Fiona said. “Those Baudelaires are nothing but trouble.”

“Why are you still talking?” demanded Carmelita. “This is supposed to be my special tap-dancing ballerina fairy princess veterinarian dance recital time!”

“Sorry, darling,” Esmé said. “Hooky and Triangle Eyes, take this noodle and scram!”

The hook-handed man and his sister walked to the center of the room and stood directly in front of Esmé and Carmelita, offering a perfect opportunity for the elder Baudelaires to scram, a rude word which here means “slip out of the room unnoticed and walk down the shadowy hallway Olaf had led them down just a little while earlier.”

“Do you think Fiona will join us?” Violet asked.

“I don’t think so,” Klaus said. “They told Esmé they’d return to the brig, so they’ll have to go back the way we came.”

“You don’t think she’s really joining Olaf’s troupe, do you?” Violet said.

“Of course not,” Klaus said. “That was just to give us an opportunity to get out of the room. Fiona may be volatile, but she’s not that volatile.”

“Of course not,” Violet said, though she didn’t sound very sure.

“Of course not,” Klaus repeated, as another ragged cough came from inside the diving helmet. “Hang on, Sunny,” he called to his sister. “You’ll be cured in no time!” Although he tried to sound as confident as he could, the middle Baudelaire had no way of knowing if his words were true—although, I’m happy to say, they were.

“How are you going to cure Sunny,” Violet said, “without Fiona?”

“We’ll have to research it ourselves,” Klaus said firmly.

“We’ll never read her entire mycological library in time to make an antidote,” Violet said.

“We don’t have to read the entire library,” Klaus said, as they reached the door to the Queequeg’s brig. “I know just where to look.”

Sunny coughed again, and then began to wheeze, a word which here means “make a hoarse, whistling sound indicating that her throat was almost completely closed up.” The elder Baudelaires could hardly stop themselves from opening the helmet to comfort their sister, but they didn’t want to risk getting poisoned themselves. “I hope you’re right,” Violet said, pressing a metal eye on the wall. The door slid open and children hurried toward the broken porthole of the submarine. “Sunny’s hour must almost be up.”

Klaus nodded grimly, and jumped through the porthole onto the large wooden table. Although it had only been a short while since the children had left the Queequeg, the Main Hall felt as if it had been abandoned for years. The three balloons tied to the table legs were beginning to sag, the tidal charts Klaus had studied had fallen to the floor, and the glass circle Count Olaf had cut in the porthole still lay on the floor. But the middle Baudelaire ignored all of these objects, and picked up Mushroom Minutiae from the floor.

“This book should have information on the antidote,” he said, and turned immediately to the table of contents as Violet carried Sunny through the porthole into the submarine. “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.”

“That’s it!” Violet said. “Chapter Forty.”

Klaus flipped pages as Sunny gave another desperate wheeze, although I wish the middle Baudelaire could have had the time to return to some of those pages he flipped past. “‘The Gorgonian Grotto,’” he read, “‘located in propinquity to Anwhistle Aquatics, has appropriately wraithlike nomenclature—’”

“We know all that,” Violet said hurriedly. “Skip to the part about the mycelium.”

Klaus’s eyes scanned the page easily, having had much practice in skipping the parts of books he found less than helpful. “‘The Medusoid Mycelium has a unique conducive strategy of waxing—’”

“‘And waning,’” interrupted Violet, as Sunny’s wheezing continued to wax. “Skip to the part about the poison.”

“‘As the poet says,’” Klaus read, “‘A single spore has such grim power/That you may die within the hour. Is dilution simple? But of course!/Just one small dose of root of horse.’”

“‘Root of horse’?” Violet repeated. “How can a horse have a root?”

“I don’t know,” Klaus said. “Usually antidotes are certain botanical extractions, like pollen from a flower, or the stem of a plant.”

“Does ‘dilution’ mean the same thing as ‘antidote’?” Violet asked, but before her brother could answer, Sunny wheezed again, and the diving helmet rocked back and forth as she struggled against the fungus. Klaus looked at the book he was holding, and then at his sister, and then reached into the waterproof pocket of his uniform.

“What are you doing?” Violet asked.

“Getting my commonplace book,” Klaus replied. “I wrote down all the information on the history of Anwhistle Aquatics that we found in the grotto.”

“We don’t have time to look at your research!” Violet said. “We need to find an antidote this very minute! Fiona’s right—He or she who hesitates is lost.”

Klaus shook his head. “Not necessarily,” he said, and flipped a page of his dark blue notebook. “If we take one moment to think, we might save our sister. Now, what did Kit Snicket write in that letter? Here it is: ‘The poisonous fungus you insist on cultivating in the grotto will bring grim consequences for all of us. Our factory at Lousy Lane can provide some dilution of the mycelium’s destructive respiratory capabilities….’ That’s it! V.F.D. was making something in a factory near Lousy Lane that could dilute the effects of the mycelium.”

“Lousy Lane?” Violet said. “That was the road to Uncle Monty’s house. It had a terrible smell, remember? It smelled like black pepper. No, not black pepper…”

Klaus looked at his commonplace book, and then at Mushroom Minutiae. “Horseradish,” he said quietly. “The road smelled like horseradish! ‘Root of horse’! Horseradish is the antidote!”

Violet was already striding to the kitchen. “Let’s hope Phil likes to cook with horseradish,” she said, and pushed open the door. Klaus picked up the wheezing helmet and followed her into the tiny kitchen. There was scarcely enough room for the children to stand in the small space between the stove, the refrigerator, and two wooden cabinets.

“The cabinets must serve as a pantry,” Klaus said, using a word which here means “place where antidotes are hopefully stored.” “Horseradish should be there—if he has it.”

The elder Baudelaires shuddered, not wanting to think about what would happen to Sunny if horseradish were not found on the shelves. Within moments, however, Violet and Klaus had to consider that very thing. Violet opened one cupboard, and Klaus opened another, but the children saw immediately that there was no horseradish. “Gum,” Violet said faintly. “Boxes and boxes of gum Phil brought from the lumbermill, and nothing else. Did you find anything, Klaus?”

Klaus pointed to a pair of small cans on one shelf of his cupboard, and held up a small paper bag. “Two cans of water chestnuts,” he said, “and a small bag of sesame seeds.” His fist closed tightly around the bag, and he blinked back tears behind his glasses. “What are we going to do?”

Sunny wheezed once more, a frantic whistle that reminded her siblings of a train’s lonely noise as it disappears into a tunnel. “Let’s check the refrigerator,” Violet said. “Maybe there’s horseradish in there.”

Klaus nodded, and opened the kitchen’s refrigerator, which was almost as bare as the pantry. On the top shelf were six small bottles of lemon-lime soda, which Phil had offered the children on their first night aboard the Queequeg. On the middle shelf was a small piece of white, soft cheese, wrapped up in a bit of wax paper. And on the bottom shelf was a large plate, on which was something that made the two siblings begin to cry.

“I forgot,” Violet said, tears running down her face.

“Me too,” Klaus said, taking the plate out of the refrigerator.

Phil had used the last of the kitchen’s provisions—a word which here means “cooking supplies”—to prepare a cake. It looked like a coconut cream cake, like Dr. Montgomery used to make, and the two siblings wondered if Sunny, even as a baby, had noticed enough about cooking to help Phil concoct such a dessert. The cake was heavily frosted, with bits of coconut mixed into the thick, creamy frosting, and spelled out in blue frosting on the top, in Phil’s perky, optimistic handwriting, were three words.

“Violet’s Fifteenth Date,” Klaus said numbly. “That’s what the balloons were for.”

“It was my fifteenth birthday,” Violet said. “I turned fifteen sometime when we were in the grotto, and I forgot all about it.”

“Sunny didn’t forget,” Klaus said. “She said she was planning a surprise, remember? We were going to return from our mission in the cave, and celebrate your birthday.”

Violet slunk to the floor, and lay her head against Sunny’s diving helmet. “What are we going to do?” she sobbed. “We can’t lose Sunny. We can’t lose her!”

“There must be something we can use,” Klaus said, “as a substitute for horseradish. What could it be?”

“I don’t know!” Violet cried. “I don’t know anything about cooking!”

“Neither do I!” Klaus said, crying as hard as his sister. “Sunny’s the one who knows!”

The two weeping Baudelaires looked at one another, and then steeled themselves, a phrase which here means “summoned up as much strength as they could.” Then, without another word, they opened the tiny door of Sunny’s helmet and quickly dragged their sister out, quickly shutting the door behind her so the fungus would not spread. At first, their sister looked completely unchanged, but when the wheezing young girl opened her mouth, they could see several gray stalks and caps of this horrible mushroom, splotched with black as if someone had poured ink into Sunny’s mouth. Wheezing horribly, Sunny reached out her tiny arms to each of her siblings and grabbed their hands. She did not have to utter a word. Violet and Klaus knew she was begging for help, but there was nothing they could do except ask her one desperate question.

“Sunny,” Violet said, “we’ve researched an antidote. Only horseradish can save you. But there’s no horseradish in the kitchen.”

“Sunny,” Klaus said, “is there a culinary equivalent of horseradish?”

Sunny opened her mouth as if trying to say something, but the elder Baudelaires only heard the hoarse, whistling sound of air trying to make its way past the mushrooms. Her tiny hands curled into fists, and her body twisted back and forth in pain and fear. Finally, she managed to utter one word—a word that many might not have understood. Some might have thought it was part of Sunny’s personal vocabulary—perhaps her way of saying “I love you,” or even “Farewell, siblings.” Some might have thought it was pure nonsense, just the noises one might make when a deadly fungus has defeated you. But there are many others who would have understood it immediately. A person from Japan would have known she was talking about a condiment often served with raw fish and pickled ginger. A chef would have known that Sunny was referring to a strong, green root, widely considered the culinary equivalent of horseradish. And Violet and Klaus knew that their sister was naming her salvation, a phrase which here means “something that would save her life,” or “something that would rescue her from the Medusoid Mycelium,” or, most importantly, “an item the eldest Baudelaire still had in the waterproof pocket of her uniform, sealed in a tin Sunny had found in an underwater cavern.”

“Wasabi,” Sunny said, in a hoarse, mushroom-choked whisper, and she did not have to say anything more.

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