فصل 05

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فصل 05

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In the days that followed, the Baudelaire orphans had pits in their stomachs. In Sunny’s case it was understandable, because when Klaus had divided up the peach, she had gotten the part with the pit. Normally, of course, one does not eat the pit part of the peach, but Sunny was very hungry, and liked to eat hard things, so the pit ended up in her stomach along with the parts of the fruit that you or I might find more suitable. But the pit in the Baudelaire stomachs was not so much from the snack that Charles had given them but from an overall feeling of doom. They were certain that Count Olaf was lurking nearby, like some predator waiting to pounce on the children while they weren’t looking.

So each morning, when Foreman Flacutono clanged his pots together to wake everyone up, the Baudelaires took a good look at him to see if Count Olaf had taken his place. It would have been just like Count Olaf to put a white wig on his head and a surgical mask over his face, and snatch the Baudelaires right out of their bunk. But Foreman Flacutono always had the same dark and beady eyes, which didn’t look a thing like Count Olaf’s shiny ones, and he always spoke in his rough, muffled voice, which was the opposite of the smooth, snarly voice of Count Olaf. When the children walked across the dirt-floored courtyard to the lumbermill, they took a good look at their fellow employees. It would have been just like Count Olaf to get himself hired as an employee, and snatch the orphans away while Foreman Flacutono wasn’t looking. But although all the workers looked tired, and sad, and hungry, none of them looked evil, or greedy, or had such awful manners.

And as the orphans performed the backbreaking labor of the lumbermill—the word “backbreaking” here means “so difficult and tiring that it felt like the orphans’ backs were breaking, even though they actually weren’t”—they wondered if Count Olaf would use one of the enormous machines to somehow get his hands on their fortune. But that didn’t seem to be the case, either. After a few days of tearing the bark off the trees, the debarkers were put back in their corner, and the giant pincher machine was turned off. Next, the workers had to pick up the barkless trees themselves, one by one, and hold them against the buzzing circular saw until it had sliced each tree into flat boards. The youngsters’ arms were soon achy and covered in splinters from lifting all of the logs, but Count Olaf did not take advantage of their weakened arms to kidnap them. After a few days of sawing, Foreman Flacutono ordered Phil to start up the machine with the enormous ball of string inside. The machine wrapped the string around small bundles of boards, and the employees had to gather around and tie the string into very complicated knots, to hold the bundles together. The siblings’ fingers were soon so sore that they could scarcely hold the coupons they were given each day, but Count Olaf did not try to force them to surrender their fortune. Day after dreary day went by, and although the children were convinced that he must be somewhere nearby, Count Olaf simply did not show up. It was very puzzling.

“It is very puzzling,” Violet said one day, during their gum break. “Count Olaf is simply nowhere to be found.”

“I know,” Klaus said, rubbing his right thumb, which was the sorest. “That building looks like his tattoo, and so does that book cover. But Count Olaf himself hasn’t shown his face.”

“Elund!” Sunny said thoughtfully. She probably meant something like “It is certainly perplexing.”

Violet snapped her fingers, frowning because it hurt. “I’ve thought of something,” she said. “Klaus, you just said he hasn’t shown his face. Maybe he’s Sir, in disguise. We can’t tell what Sir really looks like because of that cloud of smoke. Count Olaf could have dressed in a green suit and taken up smoking just to fool us.”

“I thought of that, too,” Klaus said. “But he’s much shorter than Count Olaf, and I don’t know how you can disguise yourself as a much shorter person.”

“Chorn!” Sunny pointed out, which meant something like “And his voice sounds nothing like Count Olaf’s.”

“That’s true,” Violet said, and gave Sunny a small piece of wood that was sitting on the floor. Because babies should not have gum, Sunny’s older siblings gave her these small tree scraps during the lunch break. Sunny did not eat the wood, of course, but she chewed on it and pretended it was a carrot, or an apple, or a beef and cheese enchilada, all of which she loved.

“It might just be that Count Olaf hasn’t found us,” Klaus said. “After all, Paltryville is in the middle of nowhere. It could take him years to track us down.”

“Pelli!” Sunny exclaimed, which meant something like “But that doesn’t explain the eye-shaped building, or the cover of the book!”

“Those things could just be coincidence,” Violet admitted. “We’re so scared of Count Olaf that maybe we’re just thinking we’re seeing him everywhere. Maybe he won’t show up. Maybe we really are safe here.”

“That’s the spirit,” said Phil, who had been sitting near them all this time. “Look on the bright side. Lucky Smells Lumbermill might not be your favorite place, but at least there’s no sign of this Olaf guy you keep talking about. This might turn out to be the most fortunate part of your lives.”

“I admire your optimism,” Klaus said, smiling at Phil.

“Me too,” Violet said.

“Tenpa,” Sunny agreed.

“That’s the spirit,” Phil said again, and stood up to stretch his legs. The Baudelaire orphans nodded, but looked at one another out of the corners of their eyes. It was true that Count Olaf hadn’t shown up, or at least he hadn’t shown up yet. But their situation was far from fortunate. They had to wake up to the clanging of pots, and be ordered around by Foreman Flacutono. They only had gum—or, in Sunny’s case, imaginary enchiladas—for lunch. And worst of all, working in the lumbermill was so exhausting that they didn’t have the energy to do anything else. Even though she was near complicated machines every day, Violet hadn’t even thought about inventing something for a very long time. Even though Klaus was free to visit Charles’s library whenever he wanted to, he hadn’t even glanced at any of the three books. And even though there were plenty of hard things around to bite, Sunny hadn’t closed her mouth around more than a few of them. The children missed studying reptiles with Uncle Monty. They missed living over Lake Lachrymose with Aunt Josephine. And most of all, of course, they missed living with their parents, which was where, after all, they truly belonged.

“Well,” Violet said, after a pause, “we’ll only have to work here for a few years. Then I will be of age, and we can use some of the Baudelaire fortune. I’d like to build an inventing studio for myself, perhaps over Lake Lachrymose, where Aunt Josephine’s house used to be, so we can always remember her.”

“And I’d like to build a library,” Klaus said, “that would be open to the public. And I’ve always hoped that we could buy back Uncle Monty’s reptile collection, and take care of all the reptiles.”

“Dolc!” Sunny shrieked, which meant “And I could be a dentist!”

“What in the world does ‘Dolc’ mean?”

The orphans looked up and saw that Charles had come into the lumbermill. He was smiling at them and taking something out of his pocket.

“Hello, Charles,” Violet said. “It’s nice to see you. What have you been up to?”

“Ironing Sir’s shirts,” Charles answered. “He has a lot of shirts, and he’s too busy to iron them himself. I’ve been meaning to come by, but the ironing took a long time. I brought you some beef jerky. I was afraid to take more than a little bit, because Sir would know that it was missing, but here you go.”

“Thank you very much,” Klaus said politely. “We’ll share this with the other employees.”

“Well, O.K.,” Charles said, “but last week they got a coupon for thirty percent off beef jerky, so they probably bought plenty of it.”

“Maybe they did,” Violet said, knowing full well that there was no way any of the workers could afford beef jerky. “Charles, we’ve been meaning to ask you about one of the books in your library. You know the one with the eye on the cover? Where did you—”

Violet’s question was interrupted by the sound of Foreman Flacutono’s pots being banged together. “Back to work!” he shouted. “Back to work! We have to finish tying the bundles today, so there’s no time for chitchat!”

“I would just like to talk to these children for a few more minutes, Foreman Flacutono,” Charles said. “Surely we can extend the lunch break just a little bit.”

“Absolutely not!” Foreman Flacutono said, striding over to the orphans. “I have my orders from Sir, and I intend to carry them out. Unless you’d like to tell Sir that—”

“Oh, no,” Charles said quickly, backing away from Foreman Flacutono. “I don’t think that’s necessary.”

“Good,” the foreman said shortly. “Now get up, midgets! Lunch is over!”

The children sighed and stood up. They had long ago given up trying to convince Foreman Flacutono that they weren’t midgets. They waved good-bye to Charles, and walked slowly to the waiting bundle of boards, with Foreman Flacutono walking behind them, and at that moment one of the children had a trick played on him which I hope has never been played on you. This trick involves sticking your foot out in front of a person who is walking, so the person trips and falls on the ground. A policeman did it to me once, when I was carrying a crystal ball belonging to a Gypsy fortune-teller who never forgave me for tumbling to the ground and shattering her ball into hundreds of pieces. It is a mean trick, and it is easy to do, and I’m sorry to say that Foreman Flacutono did it to Klaus right at this moment. Klaus fell right to the ground of the lumbermill, his glasses falling off his face and skittering over to the bundle of boards.

“Hey!” Klaus said. “You tripped me!”

One of the most annoying aspects of this sort of trick is that the person who does it usually pretends not to know what you’re talking about. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Foreman Flacutono said.

Klaus was too annoyed to argue. He stood up, and Violet walked over to fetch his glasses. But when she leaned over to pick them up, she saw at once that something was very, very wrong.

“Rotup!” Sunny shrieked, and she spoke the truth. When Klaus’s glasses had skittered across the room, they had scraped against the floor and hit the boards rather hard. Violet picked the glasses up, and they looked like a piece of modern sculpture a friend of mine made long ago. The sculpture was called Twisted, Cracked, and Hopelessly Broken.

“My brother’s glasses!” Violet cried. “They’re twisted, and cracked! They’re hopelessly broken, and he can scarcely see anything without them!”

“Too bad for you,” Foreman Flacutono said, shrugging at Klaus.

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous,” Charles said. “He needs a replacement pair, Foreman Flacutono. A child could see that.”

“Not me,” Klaus said. “I can scarcely see anything.”

“Well, take my arm,” Charles said. “There’s no way you can work in a lumbermill without being able to see what you’re doing. I’ll take you to the eye doctor right away.”

“Oh, thank you,” Violet said, relieved.

“Is there an eye doctor nearby?” Klaus asked.

“Oh yes,” Charles replied. “The closest one is Dr. Orwell, who wrote that book you were talking about. Dr. Orwell’s office is just outside the doors of the mill. I’m sure you noticed it on your way here—it’s made to look like a giant eye. Come on, Klaus.”

“Oh, no, Charles!” Violet said. “Don’t take him there!”

Charles cupped a hand to his ear. “What did you say?” he shouted. Phil had flipped a switch on the string machine, and the ball of string had begun to spin inside its cage, making a loud whirring sound as the employees got back to work.

“That building has the mark of Count Olaf!” Klaus shouted, but Foreman Flacutono had begun to clang his pots together, and Charles shook his head to indicate he couldn’t hear.

“Yoryar!” Sunny shrieked, but Charles just shrugged and led Klaus out of the mill.

The two Baudelaire sisters looked at one another. The whirring sound continued, and Foreman Flacutono kept on clanging his pots, but that wasn’t the loudest sound that the two girls heard. Louder than the machine, louder than the pots, was the sound of their own furiously beating hearts as Charles took their brother away.

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