بخش 02

مجموعه: مجموعه بدبیاری ها / کتاب: پنجره بزرگ / فصل 2

بخش 02

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER Five

Violet, Klaus, and Sunny—By the time you read this note, my life will be at it’s end. My heart is as cold as Ike and I find life inbearable. I know your children may not understand the sad life of a dowadger, or what would have leaded me to this desperate akt, but please know that I am much happier this way. As my last will and testament, I leave you three in the care of Captain Sham, a kind and honorable men. Please think of me kindly even though I’d done this terrible thing.

—Your Aunt Josephine

“Stop it!” Violet cried. “Stop reading it out loud, Klaus! We already know what it says.”

“I just can’t believe it,” Klaus said, turning the paper around for the umpteenth time. The Baudelaire orphans were sitting glumly around the dining-room table with the cold lime stew in bowls and dread in their hearts. Violet had called Mr. Poe and told him what had happened, and the Baudelaires, too anxious to sleep, had stayed up the whole night waiting for him to arrive on the first Fickle Ferry of the day. The candles were almost completely burned down, and Klaus had to lean forward to read Josephine’s note. “There’s something funny about this note, but I can’t put my finger on it.”

“How can you say such a thing?” Violet asked. “Aunt Josephine has thrown herself out of the window. There’s nothing funny about it at all.”

“Not funny as in a funny joke,” Klaus said. “Funny as in a funny smell. Why, in the very first sentence she says ‘my life will be at it’s end.’”

“And now it is,” Violet said, shuddering.

“That’s not what I mean,” Klaus said impatiently. “She uses it’s, I-T-apostrophe-S, which always means ‘it is.’ But you wouldn’t say ‘my life will be at it is end.’ She means I-T-S, ‘belonging to it.’” He picked up Captain Sham’s business card, which was still lying on the table. “Remember when she saw this card? ‘Every boat has it’s own sail.’ She said it was a serious grammatical error.”

“Who cares about grammatical errors,” Violet asked, “when Aunt Josephine has jumped out the window?”

“But Aunt Josephine would have cared,” Klaus pointed out. “That’s what she cared about most: grammar. Remember, she said it was the greatest joy in life.”

“Well, it wasn’t enough,” Violet said sadly. “No matter how much she liked grammar, it says she found her life unbearable.”

“But that’s another error in the note,” Klaus said. “It doesn’t say unbearable, with a U. It says inbearable, with an I.”

“You are being unbearable, with a U,” Violet cried.

“And you are being stupid, with an S,” Klaus snapped.

“Aget!” Sunny shrieked, which meant something along the lines of “Please stop fighting!” Violet and Klaus looked at their baby sister and then at one another. Oftentimes, when people are miserable, they will want to make other people miserable, too. But it never helps.

“I’m sorry, Klaus,” Violet said meekly. “You’re not unbearable. Our situation is unbearable.”

“I know,” Klaus said miserably. “I’m sorry, too. You’re not stupid, Violet. You’re very clever. In fact, I hope you’re clever enough to get us out of this situation. Aunt Josephine has jumped out the window and left us in the care of Captain Sham, and I don’t know what we can do about it.”

“Well, Mr. Poe is on his way,” Violet said. “He said on the phone that he would be here first thing in the morning, so we don’t have long to wait. Maybe Mr. Poe can be of some help.”

“I guess so,” Klaus said, but he and his sisters looked at one another and sighed. They knew that the chances of Mr. Poe being of much help were rather slim. When the Baudelaires lived with Count Olaf, Mr. Poe was not helpful when the children told him about Count Olaf’s cruelty. When the Baudelaires lived with Uncle Monty, Mr. Poe was not helpful when the children told him about Count Olaf’s treachery. It seemed clear that Mr. Poe would not be of any help in this situation, either.

One of the candles burned out in a small puff of smoke, and the children sank down lower in their chairs. You probably know of a plant called the Venus flytrap, which grows in the tropics. The top of the plant is shaped like an open mouth, with toothlike spines around the edges. When a fly, attracted by the smell of the flower, lands on the Venus flytrap, the mouth of the plant begins to close, trapping the fly. The terrified fly buzzes around the closed mouth of the plant, but there is nothing it can do, and the plant slowly, slowly, dissolves the fly into nothing. As the darkness of the house closed in around them, the Baudelaire youngsters felt like the fly in this situation. It was as if the disastrous fire that took the lives of their parents had been the beginning of a trap, and they hadn’t even known it. They buzzed from place to place—Count Olaf’s house in the city, Uncle Monty’s home in the country, and now, Aunt Josephine’s house overlooking the lake—but their own misfortune always closed around them, tighter and tighter, and it seemed to the three siblings that before too long they would dissolve away to nothing.

“We could rip up the note,” Klaus said finally. “Then Mr. Poe wouldn’t know about Aunt Josephine’s wishes, and we wouldn’t end up with Captain Sham.”

“But I already told Mr. Poe that Aunt Josephine left a note,” Violet said.

“Well, we could do a forgery,” Klaus said, using a word which here means “write something yourself and pretend somebody else wrote it.” “We’ll write everything she wrote, but we’ll leave out the part about Captain Sham.”

“Aha!” Sunny shrieked. This word was a favorite of Sunny’s, and unlike most of her words, it needed no translation. What Sunny meant was “Aha!”, an expression of discovery.

“Of course!” Violet cried. “That’s what Captain Sham did! He wrote this letter, not Aunt Josephine!”

Behind his glasses, Klaus’s eyes lit up. “That explains it’s!”

“That explains inbearable!” Violet said.

“Leep!” Sunny shrieked, which probably meant “Captain Sham threw Aunt Josephine out the window and then wrote this note to hide his crime.”

“What a terrible thing to do,” Klaus said, shuddering as he thought of Aunt Josephine falling into the lake she feared so much.

“Imagine the terrible things he will do to us,” Violet said, “if we don’t expose his crime. I can’t wait until Mr. Poe gets here so we can tell him what happened.”

With perfect timing, the doorbell rang, and the Baudelaires hurried to answer it. Violet led her siblings down the hallway, looking wistfully at the radiator as she remembered how afraid of it Aunt Josephine was. Klaus followed closely behind, touching each doorknob gently in memory of Aunt Josephine’s warnings about them shattering into pieces. And when they reached the door, Sunny looked mournfully at the welcome mat that Aunt Josephine thought could cause someone to break their neck. Aunt Josephine had been so careful to avoid anything that she thought might harm her, but harm had still come her way.

Violet opened the peeling white door, and there stood Mr. Poe in the gloomy light of dawn. “Mr. Poe,” Violet said. She intended to tell him immediately of their forgery theory, but as soon as she saw him, standing in the doorway with a white handkerchief in one hand and a black briefcase in the other, her words stuck in her throat. Tears are curious things, for like earthquakes or puppet shows they can occur at any time, without any warning and without any good reason. “Mr. Poe,” Violet said again, and without any warning she and her siblings burst into tears. Violet cried, her shoulders shaking with sobs, and Klaus cried, the tears making his glasses slip down his nose, and Sunny cried, her open mouth revealing her four teeth. Mr. Poe put down his briefcase and put away his handkerchief. He was not very good at comforting people, but he put his arms around the children the best he could, and murmured “There, there,” which is a phrase some people murmur to comfort other people despite the fact that it doesn’t really mean anything.

Mr. Poe couldn’t think of anything else to say that might have comforted the Baudelaire orphans, but I wish now that I had the power to go back in time and speak to these three sobbing children. If I could, I could tell the Baudelaires that like earthquakes and puppet shows, their tears were occurring not only without warning but without good reason. The youngsters were crying, of course, because they thought Aunt Josephine was dead, and I wish I had the power to go back and tell them that they were wrong. But of course, I cannot. I am not on top of the hill, overlooking Lake Lachrymose, on that gloomy morning. I am sitting in my room, in the middle of the night, writing down this story and looking out my window at the graveyard behind my home. I cannot tell the Baudelaire orphans that they are wrong, but I can tell you, as the orphans cry in Mr. Poe’s arms, that Aunt Josephine is not dead.

Not yet.

CHAPTER Six

Mr. Poe frowned, sat down at the table, and took out his handkerchief. “Forgery?” he repeated. The Baudelaire orphans had shown him the shattered window in the library. They had shown him the note that had been thumbtacked to the door. And they had shown him the business card with the grammatical mistake on it. “Forgery is a very serious charge,” he said sternly, and blew his nose.

“Not as serious as murder,” Klaus pointed out. “And that’s what Captain Sham did. He murdered Aunt Josephine and forged a note.”

“But why would this Captain Sham person,” Mr. Poe asked, “go to all this trouble just to place you under his care?”

“We’ve already told you,” Violet said, trying to hide her impatience. “Captain Sham is really Count Olaf in disguise.”

“These are very serious accusations,” Mr. Poe said firmly. “I understand that the three of you have had some terrible experiences, and I hope you’re not letting your imagination get the best of you. Remember when you lived with Uncle Monty? You were convinced that his assistant, Stephano, was really Count Olaf in disguise.”

“But Stephano was Count Olaf in disguise,” Klaus exclaimed.

“That’s not the point,” Mr. Poe said. “The point is that you can’t jump to conclusions. If you really think this note is a forgery, then we have to stop talking about disguises and do an investigation. Somewhere in this house, I’m sure we can find something that your Aunt Josephine has written. We can compare the handwriting and see if this note matches up.”

The Baudelaire orphans looked at one another. “Of course,” Klaus said. “If the note we found on the library door doesn’t match Aunt Josephine’s handwriting, then it was obviously written by somebody else. We didn’t think of that.”

Mr. Poe smiled. “You see? You are very intelligent children, but even the most intelligent people in the world often need the help of a banker. Now, where can we find a sample of Aunt Josephine’s handwriting?”

“In the kitchen,” Violet said promptly. “She left her shopping list in the kitchen when we got home from the market.”

“Chuni!” Sunny shrieked, which probably meant “Let’s go to the kitchen and get it,” and that’s exactly what they did. Aunt Josephine’s kitchen was very small and had a large white sheet covering the stove and the oven—for safety, Aunt Josephine had explained, during her tour. There was a countertop where she prepared the food, a refrigerator where she stored the food, and a sink where she washed away the food nobody had eaten. To one side of the countertop was a small piece of paper on which Aunt Josephine had made her list, and Violet crossed the kitchen to retrieve it. Mr. Poe turned on the lights, and Violet held the shopping list up to the note to see if they matched.

There are men and women who are experts in the field of handwriting analysis. They are called graphologists, and they attend graphological schools in order to get their degree in graphology. You might think that this situation would call for a graphologist, but there are times when an expert’s opinion is unnecessary. For instance, if a friend of yours brought you her pet dog, and said she was concerned because it wasn’t laying eggs, you would not have to be a veterinarian to tell her that dogs do not lay eggs and so there was nothing to worry about.

Yes, there are some questions that are so simple that anyone can answer them, and Mr. Poe and the Baudelaire orphans instantly knew the answer to the question “Does the handwriting on the shopping list match the handwriting on the note?” The answer was yes. When Aunt Josephine had written “Vinegar” on the shopping list, she had curved the tips of the V into tiny spirals—the same spirals that decorated the tips of the V in “Violet,” on the note. When she had written “Cucumbers” on the shopping list, the Cs were slightly squiggly, like earthworms, and the same earthworms appeared in the words “cold” and “Captain Sham” on the note. When Aunt Josephine had written “Limes” on the shopping list, the i was dotted with an oval rather than a circle, just as it was in “my life will be at it’s end.” There was no doubt that Aunt Josephine had written on both the pieces of paper that Mr. Poe and the Baudelaires were examining.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that Aunt Josephine wrote on both these pieces of paper,” Mr. Poe said.

“But—” Violet began.

“There are no buts about it,” Mr. Poe said. “Look at the curvy V’s. Look at the squiggly C’s. Look at the oval dots over the I’s. I’m no graphologist, but I can certainly tell that these were written by the same person.”

“You’re right,” Klaus said miserably. “I know that Captain Sham is behind this somehow, but Aunt Josephine definitely wrote this note.”

“And that,” Mr. Poe said, “makes it a legal document.”

“Does that mean we have to live with Captain Sham?” Violet asked, her heart sinking.

“I’m afraid so,” Mr. Poe replied. “Someone’s last will and testament is an official statement of the wishes of the deceased. You were placed in Aunt Josephine’s care, so she had the right to assign you to a new caretaker before she leaped out the window. It is very shocking, certainly, but it is entirely legal.”

“We won’t go live with him,” Klaus said fiercely. “He’s the worst person on earth.”

“He’ll do something terrible, I know it,” Violet said. “All he’s after is the Baudelaire fortune.”

“Gind!” Sunny shrieked, which meant something like “Please don’t make us live with this evil man.”

“I know you don’t like this Captain Sham person,” Mr. Poe said, “but there’s not much I can do about it. I’m afraid the law says that that’s where you’ll go.”

“We’ll run away,” Klaus said.

“You will do nothing of the kind,” Mr. Poe said sternly. “Your parents entrusted me to see that you would be cared for properly. You want to honor your parents’ wishes, don’t you?”

“Well, yes,” Violet said, “but—”

“Then please don’t make a fuss,” Mr. Poe said. “Think of what your poor mother and father would say if they knew you were threatening to run away from your guardian.”

The Baudelaire parents, of course, would have been horrified to learn that their children were to be in the care of Captain Sham, but before the children could say this to Mr. Poe, he had moved on to other matters. “Now, I think the easiest thing to do would be to meet with Captain Sham and go over some details. Where is his business card? I’ll phone him now.”

“On the table, in the dining room,” Klaus said glumly, and Mr. Poe left the kitchen to make the call. The Baudelaires looked at Aunt Josephine’s shopping list and the suicide note.

“I just can’t believe it,” Violet said. “I was sure we were on the right track with the forgery idea.”

“Me too,” Klaus said. “Captain Sham has done something here—I know he has—but he’s been even sneakier than usual.”

“We’d better be smarter than usual, then,” Violet replied, “because we’ve got to convince Mr. Poe before it’s too late.”

“Well, Mr. Poe said he had to go over some details,” Klaus said. “Perhaps that will take a long time.”

“I got ahold of Captain Sham,” Mr. Poe said, coming back into the kitchen. “He was shocked to hear of Aunt Josephine’s death but overjoyed at the prospect of raising you children. We’re meeting him in a half hour for lunch at a restaurant in town, and after lunch we’ll go over the details of your adoption. By tonight you should be staying in his house. I’m sure you’re relieved that this can be sorted out so quickly.”

Violet and Sunny stared at Mr. Poe, too dismayed to speak. Klaus was silent too, but he was staring hard at something else. He was staring at Aunt Josephine’s note. His eyes were focused in concentration behind his glasses as he stared and stared at it, without blinking. Mr. Poe took his white handkerchief out of his pocket and coughed into it at great length and with great gusto, a word which here means “in a way which produced a great deal of phlegm.” But none of the Baudelaires said a word.

“Well,” Mr. Poe said finally, “I will call for a taxicab. There’s no use walking down that enormous hill. You children comb your hair and put your coats on. It’s very windy out and it’s getting cold. I think a storm might be approaching.”

Mr. Poe left to make his phone call, and the Baudelaires trudged to their room. Rather than comb their hair, however, Sunny and Violet immediately turned to Klaus. “What?” Violet asked him.

“What what?” Klaus answered.

“Don’t give me that what what,” Violet answered. “You’ve figured something out, that’s what what. I know you have. You were rereading Aunt Josephine’s note for the umpteenth time, but you had an expression as if you had just figured something out. Now, what is it?”

“I’m not sure,” Klaus said, looking over the note one more time. “I might have begun figuring something out. Something that could help us. But I need more time.”

“But we don’t have any time!” Violet cried.

“We’re going to have lunch with Captain Sham right now!”

“Then we’re going to have to make some more time, somehow,” Klaus said determinedly.

“Come on, children!” Mr. Poe called from the hallway. “The cab will be here any minute! Get your coats and let’s go!”

Violet sighed, but went to the closet and took out all three Baudelaire coats. She handed Klaus his coat, and buttoned Sunny into her coat as she talked to her brother. “How can we make more time?” Violet asked.

“You’re the inventor,” Klaus answered, buttoning his coat.

“But you can’t invent things like time,” Violet said. “You can invent things like automatic popcorn poppers. You can invent things like steam-powered window washers. But you can’t invent more time.” Violet was so certain she couldn’t invent more time that she didn’t even put her hair up in a ribbon to keep it out of her eyes. She merely gave Klaus a look of frustration and confusion, and started to put on her coat. But as she did up the buttons she realized she didn’t even need to put her hair up in a ribbon, because the answer was right there with her.

CHAPTER Seven

“Hello, I’m Larry, your waiter,” said Larry, the Baudelaire orphans’ waiter. He was a short, skinny man in a goofy clown costume with a name tag pinned to his chest that read LARRY. “Welcome to the Anxious Clown restaurant—where everybody has a good time, whether they like it or not. I can see we have a whole family lunching together today, so allow me to recommend the Extra Fun Special Family Appetizer. It’s a bunch of things fried up together and served with a sauce.”

“What a wonderful idea,” Captain Sham said, smiling in a way that showed all of his yellow teeth. “An Extra Fun Special Family Appetizer for an extra fun special family—mine.”

“I’ll just have water, thank you,” Violet said.

“Same with me,” Klaus said. “And a glass of ice cubes for my baby sister, please.”

“I’ll have a cup of coffee with nondairy creamer,” Mr. Poe said.

“Oh, no, Mr. Poe,” Captain Sham said. “Let’s share a nice big bottle of red wine.”

“No, thank you, Captain Sham,” Mr. Poe said. “I don’t like to drink during banking hours.”

“But this is a celebratory lunch,” Captain Sham exclaimed. “We should drink a toast to my three new children. It’s not every day that a man becomes a father.”

“Please, Captain,” Mr. Poe said. “It is heartening to see that you are glad to raise the Baudelaires, but you must understand that the children are rather upset about their Aunt Josephine.”

There is a lizard called the chameleon that, as you probably know, can change color instantly to blend into its surroundings. Besides being slimy and cold-blooded, Captain Sham resembled the chameleon in that he was chameleonic, a word means “able to blend in with any situation.” Since Mr. Poe and the Baudelaires had arrived at the Anxious Clown, Captain Sham had been unable to conceal his excitement at having the children almost in his clutches. But now that Mr. Poe had pointed out that the occasion actually called for sadness, Captain Sham instantly began to speak in a mournful voice. “I am upset, too,” he said, brushing a tear away from beneath his eyepatch. “Josephine was one of my oldest and dearest friends.”

“You met her yesterday,” Klaus said, “in the grocery store.”

“It does only seem like yesterday,” Captain Sham said, “but it was really years ago. She and I met in cooking school. We were oven partners in the Advanced Baking Course.”

“You weren’t oven partners,” Violet said, disgusted at Captain Sham’s lies. “Aunt Josephine was desperately afraid of turning on the oven. She never would have attended cooking school.”

“We soon became friends,” Captain Sham said, going on with his story as if no one had interrupted, “and one day she said to me, ‘if I ever adopt some orphans and then meet an untimely death, promise me you will raise them for me.’ I told her I would, but of course I never thought I would have to keep my promise.”

“That’s a very sad story,” Larry said, and everyone turned to see that their waiter was still standing over them. “I didn’t realize this was a sad occasion. In that case, allow me to recommend the Cheer-Up Cheeseburgers. The pickles, mustard, and ketchup make a little smiley face on top of the burger, which is guaranteed to get you smiling, too.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Captain Sham said. “Bring us all Cheer-Up Cheeseburgers, Larry.”

“They’ll be here in a jiffy,” the waiter promised, and at last he was gone.

“Yes, yes,” Mr. Poe said, “but after we’ve finished our cheeseburgers, Captain Sham, there are some important papers for you to sign. I have them in my briefcase, and after lunch we’ll look them over.”

“And then the children will be mine?” Captain Sham asked.

“Well, you will be caring for them, yes,” Mr. Poe said. “Of course, the Baudelaire fortune will still be under my supervision, until Violet comes of age.”

“What fortune?” Captain Sham asked, his eyebrow curling. “I don’t know anything about a fortune.”

“Duna!” Sunny shrieked, which meant something along the lines of “Of course you do!”

“The Baudelaire parents,” Mr. Poe explained, “left an enormous fortune behind, and the children inherit it when Violet comes of age.”

“Well, I have no interest in a fortune,” Captain Sham said. “I have my sailboats. I wouldn’t touch a penny of it.”

“Well, that’s good,” Mr. Poe said, “because you can’t touch a penny of it.”

“We’ll see,” Captain Sham said.

“What?” Mr. Poe asked.

“Here are your Cheer-Up Cheeseburgers!” Larry sang out, appearing at their table with a tray full of greasy-looking food. “Enjoy your meal.”

Like most restaurants filled with neon lights and balloons, the Anxious Clown served terrible food. But the three orphans had not eaten all day, and had not eaten anything warm for a long time, so even though they were sad and anxious they found themselves with quite an appetite. After a few minutes without conversation, Mr. Poe began to tell a very dull story about something that had happened at the bank. Mr. Poe was so busy talking, Klaus and Sunny were so busy pretending to be interested, and Captain Sham was so busy wolfing down his meal, that nobody noticed what Violet was up to.

When Violet had put on her coat to go out into the wind and cold, she had felt the lump of something in her pocket. The lump was the bag of peppermints that Mr. Poe had given the Baudelaires the day they had arrived at Lake Lachrymose, and it had given her an idea. As Mr. Poe droned on and on, she carefully, carefully, took the bag of peppermints out of her coat pocket and opened it. To her dismay, they were the kind of peppermints that are each wrapped up in a little bit of cellophane. Placing her hands underneath the table, she unwrapped three peppermints, using the utmost—the word “utmost,” when it is used here, means “most”—care not to make any of those crinkling noises that come from unwrapping candy and are so annoying in movie theaters. At last, she had three bare peppermints sitting on the napkin in her lap. Without drawing attention to herself, she put on Klaus’s lap and one on Sunny’s. When her younger siblings felt something appear in their laps and looked down and saw the peppermints, they at first thought the eldest Baudelaire orphan had lost her mind. But after a moment, they understood.

If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. But Violet, Klaus, and Sunny all knew that this was an emergency. They needed time alone to figure out Captain Sham’s plan, and how to stop it, and although causing allergic reactions is a rather drastic way of getting time by yourself, it was the only thing they could think of. So while neither of the adults at the table were watching, all three children put the peppermints into their mouths and waited.

The Baudelaire allergies are famous for being quick-acting, so the orphans did not have long to wait. In a few minutes, Violet began to break out in red, itchy hives, Klaus’s tongue started to swell up, and Sunny, who of course had never eaten a peppermint, broke out in hives and had her tongue swell up.

Mr. Poe finally finished telling his story and then noticed the orphans’ condition. “Why, children,” he said, “you look terrible! Violet, you have red patches on your skin. Klaus, your tongue is hanging out of your mouth. Sunny, both things are happening to you.”

“There must be something in this food that we’re allergic to,” Violet said.

“My goodness,” Mr. Poe said, watching a hive on Violet’s arm grow to the size of a hard-boiled egg.

“Just take deep breaths,” Captain Sham said, scarcely looking up from his cheeseburger.

“I feel terrible,” Violet said, and Sunny began to wail. “I think we should go home and lie down, Mr. Poe.”

“Just lean back in your seat,” Captain Sham said sharply. “There’s no reason to leave when we’re in the middle of lunch.”

“Why, Captain Sham,” Mr. Poe said, “the children are quite ill. Violet is right. Come now, I’ll pay the bill and we’ll take the children home.”

“No, no,” Violet said quickly. “We’ll get a taxi. You two stay here and take care of all the details.”

Captain Sham gave Violet a sharp look. “I wouldn’t dream of leaving you all alone,” he said in a dark voice.

“Well, there is a lot of paperwork to go over,” Mr. Poe said. He glanced at his meal, and the Baudelaires could see he was not too eager to leave the restaurant and care for sick children. “We wouldn’t be leaving them alone for long.”

“Our allergies are fairly mild,” Violet said truthfully, scratching at one of her hives. She stood up and led her swollen-tongued siblings toward the front door. “We’ll just lie down for an hour or two while you have a relaxing lunch. When you have signed all the papers, Captain Sham, you can just come and retrieve us.”

Captain Sham’s one visible eye grew as shiny as Violet had ever seen it. “I’ll do that,” he replied. “I’ll come and retrieve you very, very soon.”

“Good-bye, children,” Mr. Poe said. “I hope you feel better soon. You know, Captain Sham, there is someone at my bank who has terrible allergies. Why, I remember one time…”

“Leaving so soon?” Larry asked the three children as they buttoned up their coats. Outside, the wind was blowing harder, and it had started to drizzle as Hurricane Herman got closer and closer to Lake Lachrymose. But even so, the three children were eager to leave the Anxious Clown, and not just because the garish restaurant—the word “garish” here means “filled with balloons, neon lights, and obnoxious waiters”—was filled with balloons, neon lights, and obnoxious waiters. The Baudelaires knew that they had invented just a little bit of time for themselves, and they had to use every second of it.

CHAPTER Eight

When someone’s tongue swells up due to an allergic reaction, it is often difficult to understand what they are saying.

“Bluh bluh bluh bluh bluh,” Klaus said, as the three children got out of the taxi and headed toward the peeling white door of Aunt Josephine’s house.

“I don’t understand what you’re saying,” Violet said, scratching at a hive on her neck that was the exact shape of the state of Minnesota.

“Bluh bluh bluh bluh bluh,” Klaus repeated, or perhaps he was saying something else; I haven’t the faintest idea.

“Never mind, never mind,” Violet said, opening the door and ushering her siblings inside. “Now you have the time that you need to figure out whatever it is that you’re figuring out.”

“Bluh bluh bluh,” Klaus bluhed.

“I still can’t understand you,” Violet said. She took Sunny’s coat off, and then her own, and dropped them both on the floor. Normally, of course, one should hang up one’s coat on a hook or in a closet, but itchy hives are very irritating and tend to make one abandon such matters. “I’m going to assume, Klaus, that you said something in agreement. Now, unless you need us to help you, I’m going to give Sunny and myself a baking soda bath to help our hives.”

“Bluh!” Sunny shrieked. She meant to shriek “Gans!” which meant something along the lines of “Good, because my hives are driving me crazy!”

“Bluh,” Klaus said, nodding vigorously, and he began hurrying down the hallway. Klaus had not taken off his coat, but it wasn’t because of his own irritating allergic condition. It was because he was going someplace cold.

When Klaus opened the door of the library, he was surprised at how much had changed. The wind from the approaching hurricane had blown away the last of the window, and the rain had soaked some of Aunt Josephine’s comfortable chairs, leaving dark, spreading stains. A few books had fallen from their shelves and blown over to the window, where water had swollen them. There are few sights sadder than a ruined book, but Klaus had no time to be sad. He knew Captain Sham would come and retrieve the Baudelaires as soon as he could, so he had to get right to work. First he took Aunt Josephine’s note out of his pocket and placed it on the table, weighing it down with books so it wouldn’t blow away in the wind. Then he crossed quickly to the shelves and began to scan the spines of the books, looking for titles. He chose three: Basic Rules of Grammar and Punctuation, Handbook for Advanced Apostrophe Use, and The Correct Spelling of Every English Word That Ever, Ever Existed. Each of the books was as thick as a watermelon, and Klaus staggered under the weight of carrying all three. With a loud thump he dropped them on the table. “Bluh bluh bluh, bluh bluh bluh bluh,” he mumbled to himself, and found a pen and got to work.

A library is normally a very good place to work in the afternoon, but not if its window has been smashed and there is a hurricane approaching. The wind blew colder and colder, and it rained harder and harder, and the room became more and more unpleasant. But Klaus took no notice of this. He opened all of the books and took copious—the word “copious” here means “lots of”—notes, stopping every so often to draw a circle around some part of what Aunt Josephine had written. It began to thunder outside, and with each roll of thunder the entire house shook, but Klaus kept flipping pages and writing things down. Then, as lightning began to flash outside, he stopped, and stared at the note for a long time, frowning intently. Finally, he wrote two words at the bottom of Aunt Josephine’s note, concentrating so hard as he did so that when Violet and Sunny entered the library and called out his name he nearly jumped out of his chair.

“Bluh surprised bluh!” he shrieked, his heart pounding and his tongue a bit less swollen.

“I’m sorry,” Violet said. “I didn’t mean to surprise you.”

“Bluh bluh take a baking soda bluh?” he asked.

“No,” Violet replied. “We couldn’t take a baking soda bath. Aunt Josephine doesn’t have any baking soda, because she never turns on the oven to bake. We just took a regular bath. But that doesn’t matter, Klaus. What have you been doing, in this freezing room? Why have you drawn circles all over Aunt Josephine’s note?”

“Bluhdying grammar,” he replied, gesturing to the books.

“Bluh?” Sunny shrieked, which probably meant “gluh?” which meant something along the lines of “Why are you wasting valuable time studying grammar?”

“Bluhcause,” Klaus explained impatiently, “I think bluh Josephine left us a message in bluh note.”

“She was miserable, and she threw herself out the window,” Violet said, shivering in the wind. “What other message could there be?”

“There are too many grammatical mistakes in the bluh,” Klaus said. “Aunt Josephine loved grammar, and she’d never make that many mistakes unless she had a bluh reason. So that’s what I’ve been doing bluh—counting up the grammatical mistakes.”

“Bluh,” Sunny said, which meant something along the lines of “Please continue, Klaus.”

Klaus wiped a few raindrops off his glasses and looked down at his notes. “Well, we already know that bluh first sentence uses the wrong ‘its.’ I think that was to get our attention. But look at the second bluhtence. ‘My heart is as cold as Ike and I find life inbearable.’”

“But the correct word is unbearable,” Violet said. “You told us that already.”

“Bluh I think there’s more,” Klaus said. “‘My heart is as cold as Ike’ doesn’t sound right to me. Remember, Aunt Josephine told us bluh liked to think of her husband someplace very hot.”

“That’s true,” Violet said, remembering. “She said it right here in this very room. She said Ike liked the sunshine and so she imagined him someplace sunny.”

“So I think Aunt Bluhsephine meant ‘cold as ice,’” Klaus said.

“Okay, so we have ice and unbearable. So far this doesn’t mean anything to me,” Violet said.

“Me neither,” Klaus said. “But look at bluh next part. ‘I know your children may not understand the sad life of a dowadger.’ We don’t have any children.”

“That’s true,” Violet said. “I’m not planning to have children until I am considerably older.”

“So why would Aunt Josephine say ‘your children’? I think she meant ‘you children.’ And I looked up ‘dowadger’ in The Correct Spelling of Every English Word That Ever, Ever Existed.”

“Why?” Violet asked. “You already know it’s a fancy word for widow.”

“It is a bluhncy word for widow,” Klaus replied, “but it’s spelled D-O-W-A-G-E-R. Aunt Josephine added an extra D.”

“Cold as ice,” Violet said, counting on her fingers, “unbearable, you children, and an extra D in dowager. That’s not much of a message, Klaus.”

“Let me finish,” Klaus said. “I discovered even more grammbluhtical mistakes. When she wrote, ‘or what would have leaded me to this desperate akt,’ she meant ‘what would have led me,’ and the word ‘act,’ of course, is spelled with a C.”

“Coik!” Sunny shrieked, which meant “Thinking about all this is making me dizzy!”

“Me too, Sunny,” Violet said, lifting her sister up so she could sit on the table. “But let him finish.”

“There are just bluh more,” Klaus said, holding up two fingers. “One, she calls Captain Sham ‘a kind and honorable men,’ when she should have said ‘a kind and honorable man.’ And in the last sentence, Aunt Josephine wrote ‘Please think of me kindly even though I’d done this terrible thing,’ but according to the Handbook for Advanced Apostrophe Use, she should have written ‘even though I’ve done this terrible thing.’”

“But so what?” Violet asked. “What do all these mistakes mean?”

Klaus smiled, and showed his sisters the two words he had written on the bottom of the note. “Curdled Cave,” he read out loud.

“Curdled veek?” Sunny asked, which meant “Curdled what?”

“Curdled Cave,” Klaus repeated. “If you take all the letters involved in the grammatical mistakes, that’s what it spells. Look: C for ice instead of Ike. U for unbearable instead of inbearable. The extra R in your children instead of you children, and the extra D in dowager. L-E-D for led instead of leaded. C for act instead of akt. A for man instead of men. And V-E for I’ve instead of I’d. That spells CURDLED CAVE. Don’t you see? Aunt Josephine knew she was making grammatical errors, and she knew we’d spot them. She was leaving us a message, and the message is Curdled—”

A great gust of wind interrupted Klaus as it came through the shattered window and shook the library as if it were maracas, a word which describes rattling percussion instruments used in Latin American music. Everything rattled wildly around the library as the wind flew through it. Chairs and footstools flipped over and fell to the floor with their legs in the air. The bookshelves rattled so hard that some of the heaviest books in Aunt Josephine’s collection spun off into puddles of rainwater on the floor. And the Baudelaire orphans were jerked violently to the ground as a streak of lightning flashed across the darkening sky.

“Let’s get out of here!” Violet shouted over the noise of the thunder, and grabbed her siblings by the hand. The wind was blowing so hard that the Baudelaires felt as if they were climbing an enormous hill instead of walking to the door of the library. The orphans were quite out of breath by the time they shut the library door behind them and stood shivering in the hallway.

“Poor Aunt Josephine,” Violet said. “Her library is wrecked.”

“But I need to go back in there,” Klaus said, holding up the note. “We just found out what Aunt Josephine means by Curdled Cave, and we need a library to find out more.”

“Not that library,” Violet pointed out. “All that library had were books on grammar. We need her books on Lake Lachrymose.”

“Why?” Klaus asked.

“Because I’ll bet you anything that’s where Curdled Cave is,” Violet said, “in Lake Lachrymose. Remember she said she knew every island in its waters and every cave on its shore? I bet Curdled Cave is one of those caves.”

“But why would her secret message be about some cave?” Klaus asked.

“You’ve been so busy figuring out the message,” Violet said, “that you don’t understand what it means. Aunt Josephine isn’t dead. She just wants people to think she’s dead. But she wanted to tell us that she was hiding. We have to find her books on Lake Lachrymose and find out where Curdled Cave is.”

“But first we have to know where the books are,” Klaus said. “She told us she hid them away, remember?”

Sunny shrieked something in agreement, but her siblings couldn’t hear her over a burst of thunder.

“Let’s see,” Violet said. “Where would you hide something if you didn’t want to look at it?”

The Baudelaire orphans were quiet as they thought of places they had hidden things they did not want to look at, back when they had lived with their parents in the Baudelaire home. Violet thought of an automatic harmonica she had invented that had made such horrible noises that she had hidden it so she didn’t have to think of her failure. Klaus thought of a book on the Franco-Prussian War that was so difficult that he had hidden it so as not to be reminded that he wasn’t old enough to read it. And Sunny thought of a piece of stone that was too hard for even her sharpest tooth, and how she had hidden it so her jaw would no longer ache from her many attempts at conquering it. And all three Baudelaire orphans thought of the hiding place they had chosen.

“Underneath the bed,” Violet said.

“Underneath the bed,” Klaus agreed.

“Seeka yit,” Sunny agreed, and without another word the three children ran down the hallway to Aunt Josephine’s room. Normally it is not polite to go into somebody’s room without knocking, but you can make an exception if the person is dead, or pretending to be dead, and the Baudelaires went right inside. Aunt Josephine’s room was similar to the orphans’, with a navy-blue bedspread on the bed and a pile of tin cans in the corner. There was a small window looking out onto the rain-soaked hill, and a pile of new grammar books by the side of the bed that Aunt Josephine had not started reading, and, I’m sad to say, would never read. But the only part of the room that interested the children was underneath the bed, and the three of them knelt down to look there.

Aunt Josephine, apparently, had plenty of things she did not want to look at anymore. Underneath the bed there were pots and pans, which she didn’t want to look at because they reminded her of the stove. There were ugly socks somebody had given her as a gift that were too ugly for human eyes. And the Baudelaires were sad to see a framed photograph of a kind-looking man with a handful of crackers in one hand and his lips pursed as if he were whistling. It was Ike, and the Baudelaires knew that she had placed his photograph there because she was too sad to look at it. But behind one of the biggest pots was a stack of books, and the orphans immediately reached for it.

“The Tides of Lake Lachrymose,” Violet said, reading the title of the top book. “That won’t help.”

“The Bottom of Lake Lachrymose,” Klaus said, reading the next one. “That’s not useful.”

“Lachrymose Trout,” Violet read.

“The History of the Damocles Dock Region,” Klaus read.

“Ivan Lachrymose—Lake Explorer,” Violet read.

“How Water Is Made,” Klaus read.

“A Lachrymose Atlas,” Violet said.

“Atlas? That’s perfect!” Klaus cried. “An atlas is a book of maps!”

There was a flash of lightning outside the window, and it began to rain harder, making a sound on the roof like somebody was dropping marbles on it. Without another word the Baudelaires opened the atlas and began flipping pages. They saw map after map of the lake, but they couldn’t find Curdled Cave.

“This book is four hundred seventy-eight pages long,” Klaus exclaimed, looking at the last page of the atlas. “It’ll take forever to find Curdled Cave.”

“We don’t have forever,” Violet said. “Captain Sham is probably on his way here now. Use the index in the back. Look under ‘Curdled.’”

Klaus flipped to the index, which I’m sure you know is an alphabetical list of each thing a book contains and what page it’s on. Klaus ran his finger down the list of the C words, muttering out loud to himself. “Carp Cove, Chartreuse Island, Cloudy Cliffs, Condiment Bay, Curdled Cave—here it is! Curdled Cave, page one hundred four.” Quickly Klaus flipped to the correct page and looked at the detailed map. “Curdled Cave, Curdled Cave, where is it?”

“There it is!” Violet pointed a finger at the tiny spot on the map marked Curdled Cave. “Directly across from Damocles Dock and just west of the Lavender Lighthouse. Let’s go.”

“Go?” Klaus said. “How will we get across the lake?”

“The Fickle Ferry will take us,” Violet said, pointing at a dotted line on the map. “Look, the ferry goes right to the Lavender Lighthouse, and we can walk from there.”

“We’re going to walk to Damocles Dock, in all this rain?” Klaus asked.

“We don’t have any choice,” Violet answered. “We have to prove that Aunt Josephine is still alive, or else Captain Sham gets us.”

“I just hope she is still—” Klaus started to say, but he stopped himself and pointed out the window. “Look!”

Violet and Sunny looked. The window in Aunt Josephine’s bedroom looked out onto the hill, and the orphans could see one of the spidery metal stilts that kept Aunt Josephine’s house from falling into the lake. But they could also see that this stilt had been badly damaged by the howling storm. There was a large black burn mark, undoubtedly from lightning, and the wind had bent the stilt into an uneasy curve. As the storm raged around them, the orphans watched the stilt struggle to stay attached.

“Tafca!” Sunny shrieked, which meant “We have to get out of here right now!”

“Sunny’s right,” Violet said. “Grab the atlas and let’s go.”

Klaus grabbed A Lachrymose Atlas, not wanting to think what would be happening if they were still leafing through the book and had not looked up at the window. As the youngsters stood up, the wind rose to a feverish pitch, a phrase which here means “it shook the house and sent all three orphans toppling to the floor.” Violet fell against one of the bedposts and banged her knee. Klaus fell against the cold radiator and banged his foot. And Sunny fell into the pile of tin cans and banged everything. The whole room seemed to lurch slightly to one side as the orphans staggered back to their feet.

“Come on!” Violet screamed, and grabbed Sunny. The orphans scurried out to the hallway and toward the front door. A piece of the ceiling had come off, and rainwater was steadily pouring onto the carpet, splattering the orphans as they ran underneath it. The house gave another lurch, and the children toppled to the floor again. Aunt Josephine’s house was starting to slip off the hill. “Come on!” Violet screamed again, and the orphans stumbled up the tilted hallway to the door, slipping in puddles and on their own frightened feet. Klaus was the first to reach the front door, and yanked it open as the house gave another lurch, followed by a horrible, horrible crunching sound. “Come on!” Violet screamed again, and the Baudelaires crawled out of the door and onto the hill, huddling together in the freezing rain. They were cold. They were frightened. But they had escaped.

I have seen many amazing things in my long and troubled life history. I have seen a series of corridors built entirely out of human skulls. I have seen a volcano erupt and send a wall of lava crawling toward a small village. I have seen a woman I loved picked up by an enormous eagle and flown to its high mountain nest. But I still cannot imagine what it was like to watch Aunt Josephine’s house topple into Lake Lachrymose. My own research tells me that the children watched in mute amazement as the peeling white door slammed shut and began to crumple, as you might crumple a piece of paper into a ball. I have been told that the children hugged each other even more tightly as they heard the rough and earsplitting noise of their home breaking loose from the side of the hill. But I cannot tell you how it felt to watch the whole building fall down, down, down, and hit the dark and stormy waters of the lake below.

CHAPTER Nine

The United States Postal Service has a motto. The motto is: “Neither rain nor sleet nor driving snow shall halt the delivery of the mails.” All this means is that even when the weather is nasty and your mailperson wants to stay inside and enjoy a cup of cocoa, he or she has to bundle up and go outside and deliver your mail anyway. The United States Postal Service does not think that icy storms should interfere with its duties.

The Baudelaire orphans were distressed to learn that the Fickle Ferry had no such policy. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny had made their way down the hill with much difficulty. The storm was rising, and the children could tell that the wind and the rain wanted nothing more than to grab them and throw them into the raging waters of Lake Lachrymose. Violet and Sunny hadn’t had the time to grab their coats as they escaped the house, so all three children took turns wearing Klaus’s coat as they stumbled along the flooding road. Once or twice a car drove by, and the Baudelaires had to scurry into the muddy bushes and hide, in case Captain Sham was coming to retrieve them. When they finally reached Damocles Dock, their teeth were chattering and their feet were so cold they could scarcely feel their toes, and the sight of the CLOSED sign in the window of the Fickle Ferry ticket booth was just about more than they could stand.

“It’s closed,” Klaus cried, his voice rising with despair and in order to be heard over Hurricane Herman. “How will we get to Curdled Cave now?”

“We’ll have to wait until it opens,” Violet replied.

“But it won’t open until the storm is past,” Klaus pointed out, “and by then Captain Sham will find us and take us far away. We have to get to Aunt Josephine as soon as possible.”

“I don’t know how we can,” Violet said, shivering. “The atlas says that the cave is all the way across the lake, and we can’t swim all that way in this weather.”

“Entro!” Sunny shrieked, which meant something along the lines of “And we don’t have enough time to walk around the lake, either.”

“There must be other boats on this lake,” Klaus said, “besides the ferry. Motorboats, or fishing boats, or—” He trailed off, and his eyes met those of his sisters. All three orphans were thinking the same thing.

“Or sailboats,” Violet finished for him. “Captain Sham’s Sailboat Rentals. He said it was right on Damocles Dock.”

The Baudelaires stood under the awning of the ticket booth and looked down at the far end of the deserted dock, where they could see a metal gate that was very tall and had glistening spikes on the top of it. Hanging over the metal gate was a sign with some words they couldn’t read, and next to the sign there was a small shack, scarcely visible in the rain, with a flickering light in the window. The children looked at it with dread in their hearts. Walking into Captain Sham’s Sailboat Rentals in order to find Aunt Josephine would feel like walking into a lion’s den in order to escape from a lion.

“We can’t go there,” Klaus said.

“We have to,” Violet said. “We know Captain Sham isn’t there, because he’s either on his way to Aunt Josephine’s house or still at the Anxious Clown.”

“But whoever is there,” Klaus said, pointing to the flickering light, “won’t let us rent a sailboat.”

“They won’t know we’re the Baudelaires,” Violet replied. “We’ll tell whoever it is that we’re the Jones children and that we want to go for a sail.”

“In the middle of a hurricane?” Klaus replied. “They won’t believe that.”

“They’ll have to,” Violet said resolutely, a word which here means “as if she believed it, even though she wasn’t so sure,” and she led her siblings toward the shack. Klaus clasped the atlas close to his chest, and Sunny, whose turn it was for Klaus’s coat, clutched it around herself, and soon the Baudelaires were shivering underneath the sign that read: CAPTAIN SHAM’S SAILBOAT RENTALS—EVERY BOAT HAS IT’S OWN SAIL. But the tall metal gate was locked up tight, and the Baudelaires paused there, anxious about going inside the shack.

“Let’s take a look,” Klaus whispered, pointing to a window, but it was too high for him or Sunny to use. Standing on tiptoe, Violet peered into the window of the shack and with one glance she knew there was no way they could rent a sailboat.

The shack was very small, with only room for a small desk and a single lightbulb, which was giving off the flickering light. But at the desk, asleep in a chair, was a person so massive that it looked like an enormous blob was in the shack, snoring away with a bottle of beer in one hand and a ring of keys in the other. As the person snored, the bottle shook, the keys jangled, and the door of the shack creaked open an inch or two, but although those noises were quite spooky, they weren’t what frightened Violet. What frightened Violet was that you couldn’t tell if this person was a man or a woman. There aren’t very many people like that in the world, and Violet knew which one this was. Perhaps you have forgotten about Count Olaf’s evil comrades, but the Baudelaires had seen them in the flesh—lots of flesh, in this comrade’s case—and remembered all of them in gruesome detail. These people were rude, and they were sneaky, and they did whatever Count Olaf—or in this case, Captain Sham—told them to do, and the orphans never knew when they would turn up. And now, one had turned up right there in the shack, dangerous, treacherous, and snoring.

Violet’s face must have shown her disappointment, because as soon as she took a look Klaus asked, “What’s wrong? I mean, besides Hurricane Herman, and Aunt Josephine faking her own death, and Captain Sham coming after us and everything.”

“One of Count Olaf’s comrades is in the shack,” Violet said.

“Which one?” Klaus asked.

“The one who looks like neither a man nor a woman,” Violet replied.

Klaus shuddered. “That’s the scariest one.”

“I disagree,” Violet said. “I think the bald one is scariest.”

“Vass!” Sunny whispered, which probably meant “Let’s discuss this at another time.”

“Did he or she see you?” Klaus asked.

“No,” Violet said. “He or she is asleep. But he or she is holding a ring of keys. We’ll need them, I bet, to unlock the gate and get a sailboat.”

“You mean we’re going to steal a sailboat?” Klaus asked.

“We have no choice,” Violet said. Stealing, of course, is a crime, and a very impolite thing to do. But like most impolite things, it is excusable under certain circumstances. Stealing is not excusable if, for instance, you are in a museum and you decide that a certain painting would look better in your house, and you simply grab the painting and take it there. But if you were very, very hungry, and you had no way of obtaining money, it might be excusable to grab the painting, take it to your house, and eat it. “We have to get to Curdled Cave as quickly as possible,” Violet continued, “and the only way we can do it is to steal a sailboat.”

“I know that,” Klaus said, “but how are we going to get the keys?”

“I don’t know,” Violet admitted. “The door of the shack is creaky, and I’m afraid if we open it any wider we’ll wake him or her up.”

“You could crawl through the window,” Klaus said, “by standing on my shoulders. Sunny could keep watch.”

“Where is Sunny?” Violet asked nervously.

Violet and Klaus looked down at the ground and saw Klaus’s coat sitting alone in a little heap. They looked down the dock but only saw the Fickle Ferry ticket booth and the foamy waters of the lake, darkening in the gloom of the late afternoon.

“She’s gone!” Klaus cried, but Violet put a finger to her lips and stood on tiptoe to look in the window again. Sunny was crawling through the open door of the shack, flattening her little body enough so as not to open the door any wider.

“She’s inside,” Violet murmured.

“In the shack?” Klaus said in a horrified gasp. “Oh no. We have to stop her.”

“She’s crawling very slowly toward that person,” Violet said, afraid even to blink.

“We promised our parents we’d take care of her,” Klaus said. “We can’t let her do this.”

“She’s reaching toward the key ring,” Violet said breathlessly. “She’s gently prying it loose from the person’s hand.”

“Don’t tell me any more,” Klaus said, as a bolt of lightning streaked across the sky. “No, do tell me. What is happening?”

“She has the keys,” Violet said. “She’s putting them in her mouth to hold them. She’s crawling back toward the door. She’s flattening herself and crawling through.”

“She’s made it,” Klaus said in amazement. Sunny came crawling triumphantly toward the orphans, the keys in her mouth. “Violet, she made it,” Klaus said, giving Sunny a hug as a huge boom! of thunder echoed across the sky.

Violet smiled down at Sunny, but stopped smiling when she looked back into the shack. The thunder had awoken Count Olaf’s comrade, and Violet watched in dismay as the person looked at its empty hand where the key ring had been, and then down on the floor where Sunny had left little crawl-prints of rainwater, and then up to the window and right into Violet’s eyes.

“She’s awake!” Violet shrieked. “He’s awake! It’s awake! Hurry, Klaus, open the gate and I’ll try to distract it.”

Without another word, Klaus took the key ring from Sunny’s mouth and hurried to the tall metal gate. There were three keys on the ring—a skinny one, a thick one, and one with teeth as jagged as the glistening spikes hanging over the children. He put the atlas down on the ground and began to try the skinny key in the lock, just as Count Olaf’s comrade came lumbering out of the shack.

Her heart in her throat, Violet stood in front of the creature and gave it a fake smile. “Good afternoon,” she said, not knowing whether to add “sir” or “madam.” “I seem to have gotten lost on this dock. Could you tell me the way to the Fickle Ferry?”

Count Olaf’s comrade did not answer, but kept shuffling toward the orphans. The skinny key fit into the lock but didn’t budge, and Klaus tried the thick one.

“I’m sorry,” Violet said, “I didn’t hear you. Could you tell me—”

Without a word the mountainous person grabbed Violet by the hair, and with one swing of its arm lifted her up over its smelly shoulder the way you might carry a backpack. Klaus couldn’t get the thick key to fit in the lock and tried the jagged one, just as the person scooped up Sunny with its other hand and held her up, the way you might hold an ice cream cone.

“Klaus!” Violet screamed. “Klaus!”

The jagged key wouldn’t fit in the lock, either. Klaus, in frustration, shook and shook the metal gate. Violet was kicking the creature from behind, and Sunny was biting its wrist, but the person was so Brobdingnagian—a word which here means “unbelievably husky”—that the children were causing it minimal pain, a phrase which here means “no pain at all.” Count Olaf’s comrade lumbered toward Klaus, holding the other two orphans in its grasp. In desperation, Klaus tried the skinny key again in the lock, and to his surprise and relief it turned and the tall metal gate swung open. Just a few feet away were six sailboats tied to the end of the dock with thick rope—sailboats that could take them to Aunt Josephine. But Klaus was too late. He felt something grab the back of his shirt, and he was lifted up in the air. Something slimy began running down his back, and Klaus realized with horror that the person was holding him in his or her mouth.

“Put me down!” Klaus screamed. “Put me down!”

“Put me down!” Violet yelled. “Put me down!”

“Poda rish!” Sunny shrieked. “Poda rish!”

But the lumbering creature had no concern for the wishes of the Baudelaire orphans. With great sloppy steps it turned itself around and began to carry the youngsters back toward the shack. The children heard the gloppy sound of its chubby feet sloshing through the rain, gumsh, gumsh, gumsh, gumsh. But then, instead of a gumsh, there was a skittle-wat as the person stepped on Aunt Josephine’s atlas, which slipped from under its feet. Count Olaf’s comrade waved its arms to keep its balance, dropping Violet and Sunny, and then fell to the ground, opening its mouth in surprise and dropping Klaus. The orphans, being in reasonably good physical shape, got to their feet much more quickly than this despicable creature, and ran through the open gate to the nearest sailboat. The creature struggled to right itself and chase them, but Sunny had already bitten the rope that tied the boat to the dock. By the time the creature reached the spiky metal gate, the orphans were already on the stormy waters of Lake Lachrymose. In the dim light of the late afternoon, Klaus wiped the grime of the creature’s foot off the cover of the atlas, and began to read it. Aunt Josephine’s book of maps had saved them once, in showing them the location of Curdled Cave, and now it had saved them again.

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