Thanks to the approaching hurricane, Josephine is forced to leave the house with the children and they head to town to get supplies. Violet bumps into Captain Sham, who is obviously Count Olaf in disguise. Of course Josephine doesn’t believe that the Captain is really Olaf and even agrees to have tea with him in the future!
Thoughts as I read:
I like the opening image of this chapter as it shows a hand and I’m hopeless at drawing hands. This hand is holding a large card which reads ‘Captain Sham’s Sailboats – Every boat has it’s own sail’. And yet, that little grammatical error is on the card, it’s not one of mine. It’s highly likely that the hand holding this card belongs to Captain Sham as it appears to be wearing a Captain’s outfit.
Snicket opens this chapter with a brief description of the idea of ‘keeping things in perspective’ and how you can make a bad situation seem better by thinking about those in a worse situation than yourself. Then you turn the page and are told that this isn’t a very effective method to make yourself feel better because invariably, when things are bad, you can’t really focus on anyone who is having a worse time than you. Which is very true.
This is also how the Baudelaires are feeling. Though they’re trying to stay positive; Violet thinks that at least they’re not having to cook for Olaf and crew, Klaus glad they’re not being abducted by Olaf in order to get them to Peru, and Sunny thinks “Zax!” meaning ‘Well, at least there isn’t a sign of Count Olaf anywhere.’ But the children aren’t really satisfied; Violet’s trying to invent something to help Josephine get over her fear of the stove, Klaus is having to sit in the library and read up on grammar and Sunny just wants her parents back.
Luckily there’s a hurricane on its way to force them all out of the house in order to get supplies but they have to walk all the way down to town because, surprise, surprise, Josephine is afraid of cars. She also doesn’t want the children to cook for her and she corrects their grammar at any opportunity. Sunny’s “Niku!” at this means “It wasn’t very nice to point out Klaus’s grammatical mistake when he was talking about something that upset him.” I have to admit, I have to hold myself back from correcting people’s mistakes at inappropriate moments. I do manage it most of the time though.
The search for supplies includes cucumbers, for more cold cucumber soup. Yum. As of two weeks ago my favourite thing containing cucumber is the Pimms that my neighbour brought round. That was nice. Cold cucumber soup? Probably not so much.
Violet is so distracted by the thought of this, the soup, not the Pimms, that she bumps into a man in the shop. He’s clearly a sailor with an eye patch, tall and skinny, with a peg leg. Oh and the one eye she can is is bright and shiny, above it is a monobrow. I wonder who that could be.
We’re informed that this is Count Olaf in a transparent disguise. Snicket helpfully explains that this doesn’t mean his outfit is see-through (what a relief) but that it’s obvious who Violet has just run into. And so, barely three chapters into the book, we can pretty much guess at what Aunt Josephine’s fate is going to be. Olaf immediately starts flattering Josephine which pretty much guarantees that she’s not going to believe a word that the children say about the man. You have to give Olaf credit for how sneaky and conniving he is.
Klaus, to give him his credit, does try to point out who this man is, but Josephine just tries to correct his grammar. This is annoying and I’m definitely going to have to watch myself when I’m trying to help people out in the future because I suspect that I could quite easily sound like a Josephine if I’m not careful.
It’s a little bit ironic that Olaf has adopted the name ‘Captain Sham’. His whole identity is a sham. I like it. Apparently he’s got a new business renting boats out of Damocles Dock. He pretends to be all charming and friendly to the children, offering to take them out for a trip in one of his boats. Yeah, so he could push them in probably. Sunny’s got the right response to this anyway: “Ging!” meaning “I would rather eat dirt.”
When the children are less than polite to Captain Sham/Count Olaf they are criticised by Josephine. She does waver for a moment, or at least seem to, as though she’s considering whether they might actually be right but then decides that it’s unlikely because Mr Poe told her the children see Olaf everywhere.
“We see him everywhere,” Klaus said tiredly , “because he is everywhere.”
On the one hand, this does sound a little like paranoia, on the other hand it is also true. Then again, they’ve only seen him somewhere once and while it did indeed turn out to be him, I can kind of understand why the adults might be sceptical. Ooh, I’m torn.
The children continue trying to give evidence of the fact that Sham is not who he claims to be. I have to admit that the evidence is somewhat shaky. Violet points out that Sham has shiny eyes and a monobrow, though Josephine counters with the fact that her mother-in-law also had a monobrow and only one ear. Then Klaus remembers the ankle tattoo which would be really good proof if it wasn’t for the fact that Sham has a wooden leg where the ankle tattoo should be.
Olaf has obviously done his research on Josephine because he knows exactly what to say to get to her. He tells her that a few weeks ago the Lachrymose Leeches ate his leg after he spilled pasta with puttanesca sauce on it. It’s like he’s just mocking the children because he knows they know who he really is and there’s nothing they can do about it. He even goes so far as to invite Josephine for a cup of tea, passing on the card that we saw at the beginning of the chapter.
Josephine spots the grammatical error on the card, highlighting the lack of the apostrophe in ‘its’ and for a moment Sham/Olaf seems annoyed but then he gets all gracious and thanks Josephine for pointing out his mistake. Hah, sucks to be Olaf. All the same, Josephine clearly loves the guy and the children know that there’s nothing they can say to change her mind:
As they walked up the hill in silence, the children looked down at Lake Lachrymose and felt the chill of doom fall over their hearts. It made the three siblings feel cold and lost, as if they were not simply looking at the shadowy lake, but had been dropped into the middle of its depths.
Things are obviously going to keep going downhill from here because we’ve got another ten chapters to go!