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متن انگلیسی فصل
CHAPTER Eleven If you ever look at a picture of someone who has just had an idea, you might notice a drawing of a lightbulb over the person’s head. Of course, there is not usually a lightbulb hovering in the air when someone has an idea, but the image of a lightbulb over someone’s head has become a sort of symbol for thinking, just as the image of an eye, sadly, has become a symbol for crime and devious behavior rather than integrity, the prevention of fire, and being well-read. As Violet and Quigley climbed back down the slippery slope of the frozen waterfall, their fork-assisted climbing shoes poking into the ice with each step, they looked down and saw, by the last light of the setting sun, the figure of Klaus. He was holding a flashlight over his head to help the two climbers find their way down, but it looked as if he’d just had an idea.
“He must have found a flashlight in the wreckage,” Quigley said. “It looks like the one Jacques gave me.”
“I hope he found enough information to decode Verbal Fridge Dialogue,” Violet said, and tapped the candelabra below her feet. “Be careful here, Quigley. The ice feels thin. We’ll have to climb around it.”
“The ice has been less solid on our way down,” Quigley said.
“That’s not surprising,” Violet said. “We’ve poked a great deal of it with forks. By the time False Spring arrives, this whole slope will probably only be half frozen.”
“By the time False Spring arrives,” Quigley said, “I hope we’ll be on our way to the last safe place.”
“Me, too,” Violet said quietly, and the two climbers said no more until they reached the bottom of the waterfall and walked carefully across the frozen pool along the path Klaus shone with his flashlight.
“I’m so glad you returned in one piece,” Klaus said, shining his flashlight in the direction of the dining room remains. “It looked like a very slippery journey. It’s getting cold, but if we sit behind the library entrance, we’ll be away from much of the wind.”
But Violet was so eager to tell her brother who they had found at the top of the peak that she could not wait another moment. “It’s Sunny,” she said. “Sunny’s at the top. It was her who was signaling us.”
“Sunny?” Klaus said, his eyes as wide as his smile. “How did she get up there? Is she safe? Why didn’t you bring her back?”
“She’s safe,” Violet said. “She’s with Count Olaf, but she’s safe.”
“Has he harmed her?” Klaus asked.
Violet shook her head. “No,” she said. “He’s making her do all the cooking and cleaning.”
“But she’s a baby!” Klaus said.
“Not anymore,” Violet said. “We haven’t noticed, Klaus, but she’s grown up quite a bit. She’s really too young to be in charge of all the chores, of course, but sometime, during all the hardship we’ve been through, she stopped being a baby.”
“She’s old enough to eavesdrop,” Quigley said. “She’s already discovered who burned down the V.F.D. headquarters.”
“They’re two terrible people, a man and a woman, who have quite an aura of menace,” Violet said. “Even Count Olaf is a little afraid of them.”
“What are they all doing up there?” Klaus asked.
“They’re having some sort of villainous meeting,” Quigley said. “We heard them mention something about a recruitment plan, and a large net.”
“That doesn’t sound pleasant,” Klaus said.
“There’s more, Klaus,” Violet said. “Count Olaf has the Snicket file, and he found out about some secret location—the last safe place where the V.F.D. can gather. That’s why Sunny stayed up there. If she overhears where the place is, we’ll know where to go to meet up with the rest of the volunteers.”
“I hope she manages to find out,” Klaus said. “Without that piece of information, all that I’ve discovered is useless.”
“What have you discovered?” Quigley asked.
“I’ll show you,” Klaus said, and led the way to the ruins of the library, where Violet could see he’d been working. His dark blue notebook was open, and she could see that several pages were filled with notes. Nearby were several half-burnt scraps of paper, stacked underneath a burnt teacup Klaus was using for a paperweight, and all of the contents of the refrigerator were laid out in a careful half circle: the jar of mustard, the container of olives, three jars of jam, and the very fresh dill. The small glass jug, containing one pickle, and the bottle of lemon juice were off to one side. “This is some of the most difficult research I’ve ever done,” Klaus said, sitting down next to his notebook. “Justice Strauss’s legal library was confusing, and Aunt Josephine’s grammatical library was dull, but the ruined V.F.D. library is a much bigger challenge. Even if I know what book I’m looking for, it may be nothing but ashes.”
“Did you find anything about Verbal Fridge Dialogue?” Quigley asked, sitting beside him.
“Not at first,” Klaus said. “The scrap of paper that led us to the refrigerator was in a large pile of ashes, and it took awhile to sift through it. But I finally found one page that was probably from the same book.” He reached for his notebook and held up his flashlight so he could see the pages. “The page was so delicate,” he said, “that I immediately copied it into my commonplace book. It explains how the whole code works.”
“Read it to us,” Violet said, and Klaus complied, a word which here means “followed Violet’s suggestion and read a very complicated paragraph out loud, explaining it as he went along.”
“‘Verbal Fridge Dialogue,’” he read, “‘is an emergency communication system that avails itself of the more esoteric products in a refrigerator. Volunteers will know such a code is being used by the presence of very fr—’” He looked up from his notebook. “The sentence ends there,” he said, “but I assume that ‘very fr’ is the beginning of ‘very fresh dill.’ If very fresh dill is in the refrigerator, that means there’s a message there, too.”
“I understand that part,” Violet said, “but what does ‘esoteric’ mean?”
“In this case,” Klaus said, “I think it refers to things that aren’t used very much—the things that stay in the refrigerator for a long time.”
“Like mustard and jam and things like that,” Violet said. “I understand.”
“‘The receiver of the message should find his or her initials, as noted by one of our poet volunteers, as follows,’” Klaus continued. “And then there’s a short poem:
“The darkest of the jams of three
contains within the addressee.”
“That’s a couplet,” Quigley said, “like my sister writes.”
“I don’t think your sister wrote that particular poem,” Violet said. “This code was probably invented before your sister was born.”
“That’s what I thought,” Klaus said, “but it made me wonder who taught Isadora about couplets. They might have been a volunteer.”
“She had a poetry teacher when we were young,” Quigley said, “but I never met him. I always had cartography class.”
“And your mapmaking skills,” Violet said, “led us to the headquarters.”
“And your inventing skills,” Klaus said, “allowed you to climb up to Mount Fraught.”
“And your researching skills are helping us now,” Violet said. “It’s as if we were being trained for all this, and we didn’t even know it.”
“I never thought of learning about maps as training,” Quigley said. “I just liked it.”
“Well, I haven’t had much training in poetry,” Klaus said, “but the couplet seems to say that inside the darkest jar of jam is the name of the person who’s supposed to get the message.”
Violet looked down at the three jars of jam. “There’s apricot, strawberry, and boysenberry,” she said. “Boysenberry’s the darkest.”
Klaus nodded, and unscrewed the cap from the jar of boysenberry jam. “Look inside,” he said, and shined the flashlight so Violet and Quigley could see. Someone had taken a knife and written two letters in the surface of the jam: J and S.
“J.S.,” Quigley said. “Jacques Snicket.”
“The message can’t be for Jacques Snicket,” Violet said. “He’s dead.”
“Maybe whoever wrote this message doesn’t know that,” Klaus said, and continued to read from the commonplace book. “‘If necessary, the dialogue uses a cured, fruit-based calendar for days of the week in order to announce a gathering. Sunday is represented by a lone—’ Here it’s cut off again, but I think that means that these olives are an encoded way of communicating which day of the week a gathering will take place, with Sunday being one olive, Monday being two, and so on.”
“How many olives are in that container?” Quigley asked.
“Five,” Klaus said, wrinkling his nose. “I didn’t like counting them. Ever since the Squalors fixed us aqueous martinis, the taste of olives hasn’t really appealed to me.”
“Five olives means Thursday,” Violet said.
“Today’s Friday,” Quigley said. “The gathering of the volunteers is less than a week away.”
The two Baudelaires nodded in agreement, and Klaus opened his notebook again. “‘Any spice-based condiment,’” he read, “‘should have a coded label referring volunteers to encoded poems.’”
“I don’t think I understand,” Quigley said.
Klaus sighed, and reached for the jar of mustard. “This is where it really gets complicated. Mustard is a spice-based condiment, and according to the code, it should refer us to a poem of some sort.”
“How can mustard refer us to a poem?” Violet asked.
Klaus smiled. “I was puzzled for a long time,” he said, “but I finally thought to look at the list of ingredients. Listen to this: ‘Vinegar, mustard seed, salt, tumeric, the final quatrain of the eleventh stanza of “The Garden of Proserpine,” by Algernon Charles Swinburne, and calcium disodium, an allegedly natural preservative.’ A quatrain is four lines of a poem, and a stanza is another word for a verse. They hid a reference to a poem in the list of ingredients.”
“It’s the perfect place to hide something,” Violet said. “No one ever reads those lists very carefully. But did you find the poem?”
Klaus frowned, and lifted the teacup. “Under a burnt wooden sign marked ‘Poetry,’ I found a pile of papers that were burned practically beyond recognition,” he said, “but here’s the one surviving scrap, and it’s the last quatrain of the eleventh stanza of ‘The Garden of Proserpine,’ by Algernon Charles Swinburne.”
“That’s convenient,” Quigley said.
“A little too convenient,” Klaus said. “The entire library was destroyed, and the one poem that survived is the one we need. It can’t be a coincidence.” He held out the scrap of paper so Violet and Quigley could see it. “It’s as if someone knew we’d be looking for this.”
“What does the quatrain say?” Violet asked.
“It’s not very cheerful,” Klaus said, and tilted the flashlight so he could read it:
“That no life lives forever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.”
The children shivered, and moved so they were sitting even closer together on the ground. It had grown darker, and Klaus’s flashlight was pratically the only thing they could see. If you have ever found yourself sitting in darkness with a flashlight, you may have experienced the feeling that something is lurking just beyond the circle of light that a flashlight makes, and reading a poem about dead men is not a good way to make yourself feel better.
“I wish Isadora were here,” Quigley said. “She could tell us what that poem means.”
“Even the weariest river winds somewhere safe to sea,” Violet repeated. “Do you think that refers to the last safe place?”
“I don’t know,” Klaus said. “I couldn’t find anything else that would help us.”
“What about the lemon juice?” Violet asked. “And the pickle?”
Klaus shook his head, although his sister could scarcely see him in the dark. “There might be more to the message,” he said, “but it’s all gone up in smoke. I couldn’t find anything more in the library that seemed helpful.”
Violet took the scrap of paper from her brother and looked at the quatrain. “There’s something very faint here,” she said. “Something written in pencil, but it’s too faint to read.”
Quigley reached into his backpack. “I forgot we have two flashlights,” he said, and shone a second light onto the paper. Sure enough, there was one word, written very faintly in pencil beside the last four lines of the poem’s eleventh stanza. Violet, Klaus, and Quigley leaned in as far as they could to see what it was. The night winds rustled the fragile paper, and made the children shiver, shaking the flashlights, but at last the light shone on the quatrain and they could see what words were there.
“Sugar bowl,” they said in unison, and looked at one another.
“What could that mean?” Klaus asked.
Violet sighed. “When we were hiding underneath the car,” she said to Quigley, “one of those villains said something about searching for a sugar bowl, remember?”
Quigley nodded, and took out his purple notebook. “Jacques Snicket mentioned a sugar bowl once,” he said, “when we were in Dr. Montgomery’s library. He said it was very important to find it. I wrote it down on the top of a page in my commonplace book, so I could add any information I learned about its whereabouts.” He held up the page so the two Baudelaires could see that it was blank. “I never learned anything more,” he said.
Klaus sighed. “It seems that the more we learn, the more mysteries we find. We reached V.F.D. headquarters and decoded a message, and all we know is that there’s one last safe place, and volunteers are gathering there on Thursday.”
“That might be enough,” Violet said, “if Sunny finds out where the safe place is.”
“But how are we going to get Sunny away from Count Olaf?” Klaus asked.
“With your fork-assisted climbing shoes,” Quigley said. “We can climb up there again, and sneak away with Sunny.”
Violet shook her head. “The moment they noticed Sunny was gone,” she said, “they would find us. From Mount Fraught, they can see everything and everyone for miles and miles, and we’re hopelessly outnumbered.”
“That’s true,” Quigley admitted. “There are ten villains up there, and only four of us. Then how are we going to rescue her?”
“Olaf has someone we love,” Klaus said thoughtfully. “If we had something he loves, we could trade it for Sunny’s return. What does Count Olaf love?”
“Money,” Violet said.
“Fire,” Quigley said.
“We don’t have any money,” Klaus said, “and Olaf won’t trade Sunny for a fire. There must be something he really loves—something that makes him happy, and would make him very unhappy if it were taken away.”
Violet and Quigley looked at one another and smiled. “Count Olaf loves Esmé Squalor,” Violet said. “If we were holding Esmé prisoner, we could arrange a trade.”
“That’s true,” Klaus said, “but we’re not holding Esmé prisoner.”
“We could take her prisoner,” Quigley said, and everyone was quiet. Taking someone prisoner, of course, is a villainous thing to do, and when you think of doing a villainous thing—even if you have a very good reason for thinking of doing it—it can make you feel like a villain, too. Lately, the Baudelaires had been doing things like wearing disguises and helping burn down a carnival, and were beginning to feel more and more like villains themselves. But Violet and Klaus had never done anything as villainous as taking somebody prisoner, and as they looked at Quigley they could tell that he felt just as uncomfortable, sitting in the dark and thinking up a villainous plan.
“How would we do it?” Klaus asked quietly.
“We could lure her to us,” Violet said, “and trap her.”
Quigley wrote something down in his commonplace book. “We could use the Verdant Flammable Devices,” he said. “Esmé thinks they’re cigarettes, and she thinks cigarettes are in. If we lit some of them, she might smell the smoke and come down here.”
“But then what?” Klaus asked.
Violet shivered in the cold, and reached into her pocket. Her fingers bumped up against the large bread knife, which she had almost forgotten was there, and then found what she was looking for. She took the ribbon out of her pocket and tied her hair up, to keep it out of her eyes. The eldest Baudelaire could scarcely believe she was using her inventing skills to think up a trap. “The easiest trap to build,” she said, “is a pit. We could dig a deep hole, and cover it up with some of this half-burned wood so Esmé couldn’t see it. The wood has been weakened by the fire, so when she steps on it…”
Violet did not finish her sentence, but by the glow of the flashlights, she could see that Klaus and Quigley were both nodding. “Hunters have used traps like that for centuries,” Klaus said, “to capture wild animals.”
“That doesn’t make me feel any better,” Violet said.
“How could we dig such a pit?” Quigley said.
“Well,” Violet said, “we don’t really have any tools, so we probably have to use our hands. As the pit got deeper, we’d have to use something to carry the dirt away.”
“I still have that pitcher,” Klaus said.
“And we’d need a way to make sure that we wouldn’t get trapped ourselves,” Violet said.
“I have a rope,” Quigley said, “in my backpack. We could tie one end to the archway, and use it to climb out.”
Violet reached her hand down to the ground. The dirt was very cold, but quite loose, and she saw that they could dig a pit without too much trouble. “Is this the right thing to do?” Violet asked. “Do you think this is what our parents would do?”
“Our parents aren’t here,” Klaus said. “They might have been here once, but they’re not here now.”
The children were quiet again, and tried to think as best they could in the cold and the dark. Deciding on the right thing to do in a situation is a bit like deciding on the right thing to wear to a party. It is easy to decide on what is wrong to wear to a party, such as deep-sea diving equipment or a pair of large pillows, but deciding what is right is much trickier. It might seem right to wear a navy blue suit, for instance, but when you arrive there could be several other people wearing the same thing, and you could end up being handcuffed due to a case of mistaken identity. It might seem right to wear your favorite pair of shoes, but there could be a sudden flood at the party, and your shoes would be ruined. And it might seem right to wear a suit of armor to the party, but there could be several other people wearing the same thing, and you could end up being caught in a flood due to a case of mistaken identity, and find yourself drifting out to sea wishing that you were wearing deep-sea diving equipment after all. The truth is that you can never be sure if you have decided on the right thing until the party is over, and by then it is too late to go back and change your mind, which is why the world is filled with people doing terrible things and wearing ugly clothing, and so few volunteers who are able to stop them.
“I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do,” Violet said, “but Count Olaf captured Sunny, and we might have to capture someone ourselves, in order to stop him.”
Klaus nodded solemnly. “We’ll fight fire,” he said, “with fire.”
“Then we’d better get started,” Quigley said, and stood up. “When the sun rises, we can light the Verdant Flammable Devices with the mirror again, like we did when we were signaling Sunny.”
“If we want the pit to be ready by dawn,” Violet said, “we’ll have to dig all night.”
“Where shall we put the pit?” Klaus asked.
“In front of the entrance,” Violet decided. “Then we can hide behind the arch when Esmé approaches.”
“How will we know when she’s fallen in,” Quigley asked, “if we can’t see her?”
“We’ll hear it,” Violet replied. “We’ll hear the breaking of the wood, and Esmé might scream.”
Klaus shuddered. “That’s not going to be a pleasant sound.”
“We’re not in a pleasant situation,” Violet said, and the eldest Baudelaire was right. It was not pleasant to kneel down in front of the ruined library entrance, and dig through the ashes and dirt with their bare hands by the light of two flashlights, as all four drafts of the valley blew around them. It was not pleasant for Violet and her brother to carry the dirt away in the pitcher, while Quigley tied his rope to the iron archway, so they could climb in and out as the pit grew bigger and deeper, like an enormous dark mouth opening wider and wider to swallow them whole. It was not even pleasant to pause and eat a carrot to keep up their energy, or to gaze at the shiny white shape of the frozen waterfall as it glinted in the moonlight, imagining Esmé Squalor, lured by the smoke of the Verdant Flammable Devices, approaching the ruined headquarters to become their prisoner. But the least pleasant part of the situation wasn’t the cold dirt, or the freezing winds, or even their own exhaustion as it grew later and later and the children dug deeper and deeper. The least pleasant part was the idea, shared by the two Baudelaires and their new friend, that they might be doing a villainous thing. The siblings were not sure if digging a deep pit to trap someone, in order to trade prisoners with a villain, was something that their parents or any other volunteers would do, but with so many of the V.F.D. secrets lost in the ashes, it was impossible to know for sure, and this uncertainty haunted them with every pitcherful of dirt, and every climb up the rope, and every piece of weakened wood they laid on top of the pit to hide it from view.
As the first rays of the morning sun appeared on the misty horizon, the elder Baudelaires gazed up at the waterfall. At the summit of the Mortmain Mountains, they knew, was a group of villains, from whom Sunny was hopefully learning the location of the last safe place. But as Violet and Klaus lowered their gaze to their own handiwork, and looked at the dark, deep pit Quigley had helped them dig, they could not help wondering if there were also a group of villains at the bottom of the slippery slope. As they looked at the villainous thing they had made, the three volunteers could not help wondering if they were villains, too, and this was the least pleasant feeling in the world.
CHAPTER Twelve Not too long ago, in the Swedish city of Stockholm, a group of bank robbers took a few prisoners during the course of their work. For several days, the bank robbers and the prisoners lived together in close proximity, a word which here means “while the police gathered outside and eventually managed to arrest the robbers and take them to jail.” When the prisoners were finally freed, however, the authorities discovered that they had become friends with the bank robbers, and since that time the expression “Stockholm Syndrome” has been used to describe a situation in which someone becomes friendly with the people who are holding them prisoner.
There is another expression, however, which describes a situation that is far more common, when a prisoner does not become friends with such people, but instead regards them as villains, and despises them more and more with each passing moment, waiting desperately for an opportunity to escape. The expression is “Mount Fraught Syndrome,” and Sunny Baudelaire was experiencing it as she stood at the top of Mount Fraught, gazing down at the frozen waterfall and thinking about her circumstances.
The young girl had spent another sleepless night in the covered casserole dish, after washing the salmon out of it with a few handfuls of melted snow. It was chilly, of course, with the winds of the Mortmain Mountains blowing through the holes in the lid, and it was painful, because once again her teeth were chattering in the cold and giving her tiny cuts on her lips, but there was another reason Sunny did not sleep well, which is that she was frustrated. Despite her best spying attempts, the youngest Baudelaire had been unable to eavesdrop on the villains’ conversation and learn the location of the last safe place where V.F.D. would be gathering, or learn any more about the dreadful recruitment scheme planned by the man with a beard but no hair and the woman with hair but no beard. When the troupe gathered around the flat rock for dinner, they discussed these things, but every time Sunny tried to get close enough to hear what they were saying, they glared at her and quickly changed the subject. It seemed to Sunny that the only thing she had accomplished all evening was preparing a meal that the troupe enjoyed. When she had presented her platter of False Spring Rolls, no one had complained, and every single villainous person had taken second helpings.
But something crucial had escaped the attention of Count Olaf and his comrades during the meal, and for that Sunny was very grateful. As she had told her siblings, the youngest Baudelaire had prepared an assortment of vegetables wrapped in spinach leaves, in honor of False Spring. Her recipe had required the bag of mushrooms, the can of water chestnuts, and the frozen hunk of spinach, which she had thawed by holding it underneath her shirt, as she had when preparing toast tartar. But Sunny had decided at the last minute that she would not use the enormous eggplant. When Violet mentioned that the eggplant must weigh as much as Sunny did, the youngest Baudelaire had an idea, and rather than chopping the eggplant into small strips with her teeth, she hid it behind the flat tire of Count Olaf’s car, and now, as the sun rose and the group of villains began their usual morning bickering, she was retrieving the eggplant and rolling it to the casserole dish. As she rolled it past the automobile, Sunny looked down at the frozen waterfall, which was looking less and less frozen in the morning sun. She knew her siblings were at the bottom with Quigley, and although she couldn’t see them, it made her feel better knowing they were relatively nearby and that, if her plan worked out, she would soon be joining them.
“What are you doing, baby?” Sunny had just slipped the eggplant under the cover of the casserole dish when she heard the voice of one of Olaf’s comrades. The two white-faced women were standing just outside their tent and stretching in the morning sun.
“Aubergine,” Sunny replied, which meant “I’ve concocted a plan involving this eggplant, and it doesn’t matter if I tell you about it because you never understand a single word I say.”
“More babytalk,” said the other white-faced woman with a sigh. “I’m beginning to think that Sunny is only a helpless baby, and not a spy.”
“Goo goo ga—” Sunny began, but the flap of Count Olaf’s tent opened before she could utter the last “ga.” The villain and his girlfriend stood in the morning sun, and it was clear that they expected the new day—Saturday—to be an important one, because they were dressed for the occasion, a phrase which here means “wearing such strange clothing that the youngest Baudelaire was too surprised to say the final ‘ga’ she had been planning.” Amazingly, it appeared that Count Olaf had washed his face, and he was wearing a brand-new suit made out of material that at first seemed to be covered in tiny polka dots. But when Sunny took a closer look, she saw that each dot was a small eye, matching Olaf’s tattoo and the V.F.D. insignia and all of the other eyes that had plagued the Baudelaires since that terrible day on the beach, so that looking at Count Olaf in his new suit felt like looking at a crowd of villains, all staring at Sunny Baudelaire. But no matter how unnerving Olaf’s fashion choice was, Esmé Squalor’s outfit was worse to behold. Sunny could not remember when she had ever seen a dress so enormous, and was surprised that such an article of clothing could have fit in the tent and still leave room for villains to sleep. The dress was made of layers upon layers of shiny cloth, in different shades of yellow, orange, and red, all cut in fierce triangular shapes so that each layer seemed to cut into the next, and rising from the shoulders of the dress were enormous piles of black lace, sticking up into the air in strange curves. For a moment, the dress was so huge and odd that Sunny could not imagine why anyone would wear it, but as the wicked girlfriend stepped farther out of the tent, it became horribly clear. Esmé Squalor was dressed to look like an enormous fire.
“What a wonderful morning!” Count Olaf crowed. “Just think, by the end of the day I’ll have more new members of my troupe than ever before!”
“And we’ll need them,” Esmé agreed. “We’re all going to have to work together for the greater good—burning down the last safe place!”
“Just the idea of the Hotel Denouement in flames makes me so excited, I’m going to open a bottle of wine!” Count Olaf announced, and Sunny covered her mouth with her hands so the villains would not hear her gasp. The Hotel Denouement, she realized, must be the last safe place for volunteers to gather, and Olaf was so excited that he had uttered the name inadvertently, a word which here means “where the youngest Baudelaire could hear it.”
“The idea of all those eagles filling the sky makes me so excited, I’m going to smoke one of those in green cigarettes!” Esmé announced, and then frowned. “Except I don’t have one. Drat.”
“Beg your pardon, your Esméship,” said one of the white-faced women, “but I see some of that green smoke down at the bottom of the waterfall.”
“Really?” Esmé asked eagerly, and looked in the direction Olaf’s employee was pointing. Sunny looked, too, and saw a familiar plume of green smoke at the very bottom of the slope, getting bigger and bigger as the sun continued to rise. The youngest Baudelaire wondered why her siblings were signaling her, and what they were trying to say.
“That’s strange,” Olaf said. “You’d think there’d be nothing left of the headquarters to burn.”
“Look how much smoke there is,” Esmé said greedily. “There must be a whole pack of cigarettes down there. This day is getting even better!”
Count Olaf smiled, and then looked away from the waterfall and noticed Sunny for the first time. “I’ll have the baby go down and get them for you,” Count Olaf said.
“Yessir!” Sunny said eagerly.
“The baby would probably steal all the cigarettes for herself,” Esmé said, glaring at the young girl. “I’ll go.”
“But climbing down there will take hours,” Olaf said. “Don’t you want to be here for the recruitment scheme? I just love springing traps on people.”
“Me, too,” Esmé agreed, “but don’t worry, Olaf. I’ll be back in moments. I’m not going to climb. I’ll take one of the toboggans and sled down the waterfall before anyone else even notices I’m gone.”
“Drat!” Sunny couldn’t help saying. She meant something along the lines of, “That is exactly what I was planning on doing,” but once again no one understood.
“Shut up, toothy,” Esmé said, “and get out of my way.” She flounced past the youngest Baudelaire, and Sunny realized that there was something sewn to the bottom of the dress that made it make a crackling noise as she walked, so that the wicked girlfriend sounded as much like a fire as she looked like one. Blowing a kiss to Count Olaf, she grabbed the toboggan belonging to sinister villains.
“I’ll be right back, darling,” Esmé said. “Tell that baby to take a nap so she won’t see what we’re up to.”
“Esmé’s right,” Olaf said, giving Sunny a cruel smile. “Get in the casserole dish. You’re such an ugly, helpless creature, I can scarcely stand to look at you.”
“You said it, handsome,” Esmé said, and chuckled meanly as she sat at the top of the waterfall. The two white-faced women scurried to help, and gave the toboggan a big push as Sunny did as she was told, and disappeared from Olaf’s sight.
As you may imagine, the sight of a grown woman in an enormous flame-imitating dress tobogganing down from the source of the Stricken Stream to the two tributaries and the half-frozen pool at the bottom of the waterfall is not the sort of thing to pass unnoticed, even from far away. Violet was the first to see the colorful blur heading quickly down the slope, and she lowered Colette’s hand mirror, which she had used once again to catch the rays of the rising sun and reflect them onto the Verdant Flammable Devices, which she had put in a pile in front of the pit. Wrinkling her nose from the bitter smell of the smoke, she turned to Klaus and Quigley, who were putting one last piece of weakened wood across the pit, so their trap would be hidden from view.
“Look,” Violet said, and pointed to the descending shape.
“Do you think it’s Esmé?” Klaus asked.
Violet squinted up at the tobogganing figure. “I think so,” she said. “Nobody but Esmé Squalor would wear an outfit like that.”
“We’d better hide behind the archway,” Quigley said, “before she spots us.”
The two Baudelaires nodded in agreement, and walked carefully to the library entrance, making sure to step around the hole they had dug.
“I’m happy that we can’t see the pit anymore,” Klaus said. “Looking into that blackness reminded me of that terrible passageway at 667 Dark Avenue.”
“First Esmé trapped your siblings there,” Violet said to Quigley, “and then she trapped us.”
“And now we’re fighting fire with fire, and trapping her,” Quigley said uncomfortably.
“It’s best not to think about it,” Violet said, although she had not stopped thinking about the trap since the first handful of ashes and earth. “Soon we’ll have Sunny back, and that’s what’s important.”
“Maybe this is important, too,” Klaus said, and pointed up at the archway. “I never noticed it until now.”
Violet and Quigley looked up to see what he was referring to, and saw four tiny words etched over their heads, right underneath the large letters spelling “V.F.D. Library.”
“‘The world is quiet here,’” Quigley read. “What do you think it means?”
“It looks like a motto,” Klaus said. “At Prufrock Preparatory School, they had a motto carved near the entrance, so everyone would remember it when they entered the academy.”
Violet shook her head. “That’s not what I’m thinking of,” she said. “I’m remembering something about that phrase, but just barely.”
“The world certainly feels quiet around here,” Klaus said. “We haven’t heard a single snow gnat since we arrived.”
“The smell of smoke scares them away, remember?” Quigley asked.
“Of course,” Klaus said, and peered around the archway to check on Esmé’s progress. The colorful blur was about halfway down the waterfall, heading straight for the trap they had built. “There’s been so much smoke here at headquarters, the gnats might never come back.”
“Without snow gnats,” Quigley said, “the salmon of the Stricken Stream will go hungry. They feed on snow gnats.” He reached into his pocket and opened his commonplace book. “And without salmon,” he said, “the Mortmain Mountain eagles will go hungry. The destruction of V.F.D. headquarters has caused even more damage than I thought.”
Klaus nodded in agreement. “When we were walking along the Stricken Stream,” he said, “the fish were coughing from all the ashes in the water. Remember, Violet?”
He turned to his sister, but Violet was only half listening. She was still gazing at the words on the archway, and trying to remember where she heard them before. “I can just hear those words,” she said. “The world is quiet here.” She closed her eyes. “I think it was a very long time ago, before you were born, Klaus.”
“Maybe someone said them to you,” Quigley said.
Violet tried to remember as far back as she could, but everything seemed as misty as it did in the mountains. She could see the face of her mother, and her father standing behind her, wearing a suit as black as the ashes of V.F.D. headquarters. Their mouths were open, but Violet could not remember what they were saying. No matter how hard she tried, the memory was as silent as the grave. “Nobody said them to me,” she said finally. “Someone sang them. I think my parents sang the words ‘the world is quiet here’ a long time ago, but I don’t know why.” She opened her eyes and faced her brother and her friend. “I think we might be doing the wrong thing,” she said.
“But we agreed,” Quigley said, “to fight fire with fire.”
Violet nodded, and stuck her hands in her pocket, bumping up against the bread knife again. She thought of the darkness of the pit, and the scream Esmé would make as she fell into it. “I know we agreed,” Violet said, “but if V.F.D. really stands for Volunteer Fire Department, then they’re an organization that stops fire. If everyone fought fire with fire, the entire world would go up in smoke.”
“I see what you mean,” Quigley said. “If the V.F.D. motto is ‘The world is quiet here,’ we ought to be doing something less noisy and violent than trapping someone, no matter how wicked they are.”
“When I was looking into the pit,” Klaus said quietly, “I was remembering something I read in a book by a famous philosopher. He said, ‘Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.’” Klaus looked at his sister, and then at the sight of Esmé approaching, and then at the weakened wood that the three children had placed on the ground. “‘Abyss’ is a fancy word for ‘pit,’” he said. “We built an abyss for Esmé to fall into. That’s something a monster might do.”
Quigley was copying Klaus’s words into his commonplace book. “What happened to that philosopher?” he asked.
“He’s dead,” Klaus replied. “I think you’re right, Violet. We don’t want to be as villainous and monstrous as Count Olaf.”
“But what are we going to do?” Quigley asked. “Sunny is still Olaf’s prisoner, and Esmé will be here at any moment. If we don’t think of the right thing right now, it’ll be too late.”
As soon as the triplet finished his sentence, however, the three children heard something that made them realize it might already be too late. From behind the archway, Violet, Klaus, and Quigley heard a rough, scraping sound as the toboggan reached the bottom of the waterfall and slid to a halt, and then a triumphant giggle from the mouth of Esmé Squalor. The three volunteers peeked around the archway and saw the treacherous girlfriend step off the toboggan with a greedy smile on her face. But when Esmé adjusted her enormous flame-imitating dress and took a step toward the smoking Verdant Flammable Devices, Violet was not looking at her any more. Violet was looking down at the ground, just a few steps from where she was standing. Three dark, round masks were sitting in a pile, where Violet, Klaus, and Quigley had left them upon arriving at the ruins of headquarters. They had assumed that they would not need them again, but the eldest Baudelaire realized they had been wrong. As Esmé took another step closer to the trap, Violet dashed over to the masks, put one on and stepped out of her hiding place as her brother and her friend looked on.
“Stop, Esmé!” she cried. “It’s a trap!”
Esmé stopped in her tracks and gave Violet a curious look. “Who are you?” she asked. “You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that. It’s a villainous thing to do.”
“I’m a volunteer,” Violet said.
Esmé’s mouth, heavy with orange lipstick that matched her dress, curled into a sneer. “There are no volunteers here,” she said. “The entire headquarters are destroyed!”
Klaus was the next to grab a mask and confront Olaf’s treacherous romantic companion. “Our headquarters might be destroyed,” he said, “but the V.F.D. is as strong as ever!”
Esmé frowned at the two siblings as if she couldn’t decide whether to be frightened or not. “You may be strong,” she said nervously, “but you’re also very short.” Her dress crackled as she started to take another step toward the pit. “When I get my hands on you—”
“No!” Quigley cried, and stepped out from the arch wearing his mask, taking care not to fall into his own trap. “Don’t come any closer, Esmé. If you take another step, you’ll fall into our trap.”
“You’re making that up,” Esmé said, but she did not move any closer. “You’re trying to keep all the cigarettes for yourself.”
“They’re not cigarettes,” Klaus said, “and we’re not liars. Underneath the wood you’re about to step on is a very deep pit.”
Esmé looked at them suspiciously. Gingerly—a word which here means “without falling into a very deep hole”—she leaned down and moved a piece of wood aside, and stared down into the trap the children had built. “Well, well, well,” she said. “You did build a trap. I never would have fallen for it, of course, but I must admit you dug quite a pit.”
“We wanted to trap you,” Violet said, “so we could trade you for the safe return of Sunny Baudelaire. But—”
“But you didn’t have the courage to go through with it,” Esmé said with a mocking smile. “You volunteers are never brave enough to do something for the greater good.”
“Throwing people into pits isn’t the greater good!” Quigley cried. “It’s villainous treachery!”
“If you weren’t such an idiot,” Esmé said, “you’d realize that those things are more or less the same.”
“He is not an idiot,” Violet said fiercely. She knew, of course, that it was not worthwhile to get upset over insults from such a ridiculous person, but she liked Quigley too much to hear him called names. “He led us here to the headquarters using a map he drew himself.”
“He’s very well-read,” Klaus said.
At Klaus’s words, Esmé threw back her head and laughed, shaking the crackling layers of her enormous dress. “Well-read!” she repeated in a particularly nasty tone of voice. “Being well-read won’t help you in this world. Many years ago, I was supposed to waste my entire summer reading Anna Karenina, but I knew that silly book would never help me, so I threw it into the fireplace.” She reached down and picked up a few more pieces of wood, which she tossed aside with a snicker. “Look at your precious headquarters, volunteers! It’s as ruined as my book. And look at me! I’m beautiful, fashionable, and I smoke cigarettes!” She laughed again, and pointed at the children with a scornful finger. “If you didn’t spend all your time with your heads stuck in books, you’d have that precious baby back.”
“We’re going to get her back,” Violet said firmly.
“Really?” Esmé said mockingly. “And how do you propose to do that?”
“I’m going to talk to Count Olaf,” Violet said, “and he’s going to give her back to me.”
Esmé threw back her head and started to laugh, but not with as much enthusiasm as before. “What do you mean?” she said.
“Just what I said,” Violet said.
“Hmmm,” Esmé said suspiciously. “Let me think for a moment.” The evil girlfriend began to pace back and forth on the frozen pond, her enormous dress crackling with every step.
Klaus leaned in to whisper to his sister. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Do you honestly think that we can get Sunny back from Count Olaf with a simple conversation?”
“I don’t know,” Violet whispered back, “but it’s better than luring someone into a trap.”
“It was wrong to dig that pit,” Quigley agreed, “but I’m not sure that walking straight into Olaf’s clutches is the right thing to do, either.”
“It’ll take a while to reach Mount Fraught again,” Violet said. “We’ll think of something during the climb.”
“I hope so,” Klaus said, “but if we can’t think of something—”
Klaus did not get a chance to say what might happen if they couldn’t think of something, because Esmé clapped her hands together to get the children’s attention.
“If you really want to talk to my boyfriend,” she said, “I suppose I can take you to where he is. If you weren’t so stupid, you’d know that he’s very nearby.”
“We know where he is, Esmé,” Klaus said. “He’s at the top of the waterfall, at the source of the Stricken Stream.”
“Then I suppose you know how we can get there,” Esmé said, and looked a little foolish. “The toboggan doesn’t go uphill, so I actually have no idea how we can reach the peak.”
“She will invent a way,” Quigley said, pointing at Violet.
Violet smiled at her friend, grateful for his support, and closed her eyes underneath her mask. Once more, she was thinking of something she had heard sung to her, when she was a very little girl. She had already thought of the way that the three children could take Esmé with them when they ascended the hill, but thinking of their journey made her think of a song she had not thought of for many years. Perhaps when you were very young, someone sang this song to you, perhaps to lull you to sleep, or to entertain you on a long car trip, or in order to teach you a secret code. The song is called “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and it is one of the saddest songs ever composed. It tells the story of a small spider who is trying to climb up a water spout, but every time its climb is half over, there is a great burst of water, either due to rain or somebody turning the spout on, and at the end of the song, the spider has decided to try one more time, and will likely be washed away once again.
Violet Baudelaire could not help feeling like this poor spider as she ascended the waterfall for the last time, with Quigley and Klaus beside her and Esmé Squalor on her toboggan behind them. After attaching the last two forks to Klaus’s shoes, she had told her companions to tie the leather straps of the toboggan around their waists, so they could drag the villainous girlfriend behind them as they climbed. It was exhausting to approach the peak of Mount Fraught in this manner, particularly after staying up all night digging a pit, and it seemed like they might get washed back down by the dripping water of the Stricken Stream, like the spider Violet had heard about when she was a little girl. The ice on the slope was weakening, after two fork-assisted climbs, a toboggan ride, and the increasing temperatures of False Spring, and with each step of Violet’s invention, the ice would shift slightly. It was clear that the slippery slope was almost as exhausted as they were, and soon the ice would vanish completely.
“Mush!” Esmé called from the toboggan. She was using an expression that arctic explorers shouted to their sled dogs, and it certainly did not make the journey any easier.
“I wish she’d stop saying that,” Violet murmured from behind her mask. She tapped the candelabra on the ice ahead of her, and a small piece detached from the waterfall and fell to the ruins of headquarters. She watched it disappear below her and sighed. She would never see the V.F.D. headquarters in all its glory. None of the Baudelaires would. Violet would never know how it felt to cook in the kitchen and gaze at the two tributaries of the Stricken Stream, while chatting with the other volunteers. Klaus would never know how it felt to relax in the library and learn all of the secrets of V.F.D. in the comfort of one of the library’s chairs, with his feet up on one of the matching V.F.D. footstools. Sunny would never operate the projector in the movie room, or practice the art of the fake mustache in the disguise center, or sit in the parlor at tea time and eat the almond cookies made from my grandmother’s recipe. Violet would never study chemical composition in one of the six laboratories, and Klaus would never use the balance beams at the gymnasium, and Sunny would never stand behind the counter at the ice cream shop and prepare butterscotch sundaes for the swimming coaches when it was her turn. And none of the Baudelaires would ever meet some of the organization’s most beloved volunteers, including the mechanical instructor C. M. Kornbluth, and Dr. Isaac Anwhistle, whom everyone called Ike, and the brave volunteer who tossed the sugar bowl out the kitchen window so it would not be destroyed in the blaze, and watched it float away on one of the tributaries of the Stricken Stream. The Baudelaires would never do any of these things, any more than I will ever see my beloved Beatrice again, or retrieve my pickle from the refrigerator in which I left it, and return it to its rightful place in an important coded sandwich. Violet, of course, was not aware of everything she would never do, but as she gazed down at the vast, ashen remains of the headquarters, she felt as if her whole journey in the Mortmain Mountains had been as useless as the journey of a tiny arachnid in a song she had never liked to hear.
“Mush!” Esmé cried again, with a cruel chuckle.
“Please stop saying that, Esmé,” Violet called down impatiently. “That mush nonsense is slowing our climb.”
“A slow climb might be to our advantage,” Klaus murmured to his sister. “The longer it takes us to reach the summit, the longer we have to think up what we’re going to say to Count Olaf.”
“We could tell him that he’s surrounded,” Quigley said, “and that there are volunteers everywhere ready to arrest him if he doesn’t let Sunny go free.”
Violet shook her mask. “He won’t believe that,” she said, sticking a fork-assisted shoe into the waterfall. “He can see everything and everyone from Mount Fraught. He’ll know we’re the only volunteers in the area.”
“There must be something we can do,” Klaus said. “We didn’t make this journey into the mountains for nothing.”
“Of course not,” Quigley said. “We found each other, and we solved some of the mysteries that were haunting us.”
“Will that be enough,” Violet asked, “to defeat all those villains on the peak?”
Violet’s question was a difficult one, and neither Klaus nor Quigley had the answer, and so rather than hazard a guess—a phrase which here means “continue to expend their energy by discussing the matter”—they decided to hazard their climb, a phrase which here means “continue their difficult journey in silence, until they arrived at last at the source of the Stricken Stream.” Hoisting themselves up onto the flat peak, they sat on the edge and pulled the leather straps as hard as they could. It was such a difficult task to drag Esmé Squalor and the toboggan over the edge of the slope and onto Mount Fraught that the children did not notice who was nearby until they heard a familiar scratchy voice right behind them.
“Who goes there?” Count Olaf demanded. Breathless from the climb, the three children turned around to see the villain standing with his two sinister cohorts near his long, black automobile, glaring suspiciously at the masked volunteers.
“We thought you’d get here by taking the path,” said the man with a beard but no hair, “not by climbing up the waterfall.”
“No, no, no,” Esmé said quickly. “These aren’t the people we’re expecting. These are some volunteers I found at headquarters.”
“Volunteers?” said the woman with hair but no beard, but her voice did not sound as deep as it usually did. The villains gave the children the same confused frown they had seen from Esmé, as if they were unsure whether to be scared or scornful, and the hook-handed man, the two white-faced women, and the three former carnival employees gathered around to see what had made their villainous boss fall silent. Although they were exhausted, the two Baudelaires hurriedly untied the straps of the toboggan from their waists and stood with Quigley to face their enemies. The orphans were very scared, of course, but they found that with their faces concealed they could speak their minds, a phrase which here means “confront Count Olaf and his companions as if they weren’t one bit frightened.”
“We built a trap to capture your girlfriend, Olaf,” Violet said, “but we didn’t want to become a monster like you.”
“They’re idiotic liars!” Esmé cried. “I found them hogging the cigarettes, so I captured them myself and made them drag me up the waterfall like sled dogs.”
The middle Baudelaire ignored the wicked girlfriend’s nonsense. “We’re here for Sunny Baudelaire,” Klaus said, “and we’re not leaving without her.”
Count Olaf frowned, and peered at them with his shiny, shiny eyes as if he were trying to see through their masks. “And what makes you so certain,” he said, “that I’ll give you my prisoner just because you say so?”
Violet thought furiously, looking around at her surroundings for anything that might give her an idea of what to do. Count Olaf clearly believed that the three masked people in front of him were members of V.F.D., and she felt that if she could just find the right words to say, she could defeat him without becoming as villainous as her enemies. But she could not find the words, and neither could her brother nor her friend, who stood beside her in silence. The winds of the Mortmain Mountains blew against them, and Violet stuck her hands in her pockets, bumping one finger against the long bread knife. She began to think that perhaps trapping Esmé had been the right thing to do after all. Count Olaf’s frown began to fade, and his mouth started to curl upward in a triumphant smile, but just as he opened his mouth to speak, Violet saw two things that gave her hope once more. The first was the sight of two notebooks, one a deep shade of purple and the other dark blue, sticking out of the pockets of her companions—commonplace books, where Klaus and Quigley had written down all of the information they had found in the ruined library of V.F.D. headquarters. And the other was a collection of dishes spread out on the flat rock that Olaf’s troupe had been using for a table. Sunny had been forced to wash these dishes, using handfuls of melted snow, and she had laid them out to dry in the sunshine of False Spring. Violet could see a stack of plates, each emblazoned with the familiar image of an eye, as well as a row of teacups and a small pitcher for cream. But there was something missing from the tea set, and it made Violet smile behind her mask as she turned to face Count Olaf again.
“You will give us Sunny,” she said, “because we know where the sugar bowl is.”
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