Thursday, 4 September 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Miserable Mill, Chapter 13

And here we are at the end of another book at last. That means that tomorrow I’ll run over the introduction to the next book and there’ll only be one post instead of two. This chapter isn’t quite as long as yesterday’s but there’s quite a bit of ground to cover considering how that last chapter ended!

Random little fact, marking the chapter here is a ticket for ‘Victory Dance’ a play that I was in on the 25th June, 2005. That means that ticket has been in this book for almost ten years.

What Happens?

Sir, Charles and Mr Poe discuss how unbelievable recent events are but Sir and Poe still can’t quite grasp the idea that Shirley might be Count Olaf. All the same they humour them and ask Shirley to reveal her left ankle. Unsurprisingly it contains an eye tattoo and Foreman Flacutono is also revealed to be one of Olaf’s henchmen. Olaf and Fluctono make a quick getaway out the window, Sir then goes on to disown the children because of all the trouble they have caused. But they can’t help but think they’re a little bit lucky; they are still alive after all.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter image contains a big high backed chair which I’m going to guess belongs to Sir because I don’t think anyone else at Lucky Smells Lumbermill would own anything that would be as luxurious as this. Hanging over the back of it, like a discarded snakeskin, is Shirley’s tights. With regards to this I’m going to guess that this means that Count Olaf is going to give up the pretence of being Shirley.

Mr Poe has shown up and is now agreeing with Sir about how dreadful the situation is. Charles is there, obviously recovered from his ordeal, and the Baudelaires are seated on the floor wondering how everyone else can be so calm considering the recent events. They’re all pretty shaken up from having been hypnotised, tortured and almost killed, as well as witnessing someone being killed in a fairly horrific way (well, anyone being killed is pretty horrific, perhaps I should say gruesome here).

In case you’ve skipped straight to the end of the book Sir, Charles and Mr Poe fill in the details of much of the last 170 pages. For those who haven’t paid attention: Dr Orwell hypnotised Klaus and Violet figured out how to unhypnotise him; Foreman Flacutono captured Charles and tied him to a log, he was only saved by Klaus coming up with an invention to save him; Shirley was planning to adopt the Baudelaires to get their money but will now have to remain as just a receptionist.

This last inspires Violet to speak, pointing out that Shirley is in fact Count Olaf. All of these things have been pretty unbelievable but everyone has so far been willing to go along with them, but this last is too much and everyone, apart from the Baudelaires agree that this cannot possibly be true. Mr Poe explains that the children see Count Olaf everywhere, which is obviously because generally he is wherever they are.

Sunny tries to help Sir out by explaining “Weleef!” meaning “But he was in disguise, as usual!” Luckily Charles does seem inclined to believe the children so suggests that they all go and visit Shirley to settle things once and for all. It’s at this point that Sir drops the bombshell that the children will soon be going away to boarding school. After all, they’ve caused a lot of trouble for the lumbermill.

Once again it’s Sunny who speaks up against this, with “Hech!” meaning “But you didn’t keep your end of the deal, either!” but they’re obviously not going to win because they’re children who are powerless against the adults. Before this conversation can go any further Mr Poe suggests they go and see if Shirley really is Count Olaf just to make sure that this book is properly wrapped up with no inconvenient loose ends.

Outside the library is Phil who’s been reading The Paltryville Constitution and has realised that being paid in coupons is kind of a bum deal and possibly illegal to boot. Sir brushes him off and they all head inside where Shirley and Foreman Flacutono claim to have been behaving badly because they were hypnotised. Shirley expresses her love of the children and Sir is won over straight away suggesting that the children are too much trouble for him. Because transferring guardianship is just that easy.

For once Mr Poe actually has his wits about him and asks for proof that Shirley is in fact who she says she is. He dismisses her suggestion that she show them her desk nameplate and instead goes right in for the kill. He wants to see her ankle. Sure enough there is a very familiar eye emblazoned upon her ankle. It’s evidence enough for Mr Poe and sparks a hilarious little exchange:

“In that case,” said Mr. Poe, after a pause, “you are not Shirley. You are Count Olaf, and you are under arrest. I order you to take off that ridiculous disguise!”
"Should I take off my ridiculous disguise, as well?” Foreman Flacutono asked…

The children quickly identify the foreman as the bald man with the long nose. “Plemo!” Sunny adds meaning “Who works for Count Olaf!” Once again Mr Poe arrests Count Olaf, but we’ve seen this too many times before to believe that it will all end well for the Baudelaires.

And of course it doesn’t. Count Olaf breaks the window and jumps out, making a quick getaway but not before warning the Baudelaires that he’ll be back for them. Sir yells after him that the children won’t be there because “Wherever these Baudelaires go, misfortune follows, and I will have no more of it!” plus I’m guessing that once he has to actually start paying his employees wages he’ll have less money to spend on his smoking habit.

So it looks like the Baudelaires will be off to boarding school instead, which they aren’t too sad about because their time at Lucky Smells hasn’t been particularly happy. I’m sure they’ve read Enid Blyton and Harry Potter and will be looking forward to midnight feasts and brand new sports. Though from Snicket’s hints they’re only going to face more trouble in the future.

After they’ve been dismissed by Sir and left the library Phil tries to convince them to be optimistic. It’s really saying something that the best he can come up with here is that they’re alive. Funnily enough, the children do have to admit that this is a lucky thing, considering all the bad things they have experienced in Paltryville. Klaus and Violet congratulate themselves on the fact that they were able to adopt their sibling’s respective talents in order to help save the day, meanwhile Sunny pipes up with “Croif” which means “It was lucky that I could defend us from Dr. Orwell’s sword, if I do say so myself.”

And so we end the book there, reminding ourselves how lucky the children have been to survive all the tribulations they’ve faced so far. And considering there’s another nine books to get through in this series, their luck is going to hold out for a little while yet.

The very last picture of the book is a full size one of Sir, head wreathed in smoke as usual, looking out the broken window as Olaf (still wearing a skirt) and his associate climb over the fence. On the road outside we can see a school bus with two small figures waiting to board it. That’ll be a little, not so subtle, clue about where we’ll be going next then.

There’s also the customary letter from Lemony Snicket to the editor at the end of the book. This confirms everything that was mentioned during this last chapter and it sounds as though things have continued to go from bad to worse for the Baudelaires. The note is torn around the edges because of the crabs which apparently inhabit the same shack as the orphans lived in at Prufrock Preparatory School.

Check back next week if you dare!

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