Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Ersatz Elevator, Chapter 12

The penultimate chapter is a bit of a hefty one, so grab yourself a snack and a drink and join me for the action.

What Happens?

The Baudelaires arrive at the auction shortly before Lot #50, the V.F.D. and watch as a large red fish statue is auctioned off. The children meet Mr Poe and learn that he has had a tip off that the Quagmires are working in a glue factory, before they beg Jerome to bid on the V.F.D. for them. However when they win the lot they discover that Olaf has outsmarted them again.

Thoughts as I read:

The chapter picture for Chapter Twelve is of a man in a pinstripe suit (obviously at the In Auction then) standing in front of a large fish on a column. It’s a pretty shapely looking fish, and a fairly smart looking column. I vaguely remember what happens in this chapter so I’m not going to say anything else about it here.

The chapter gets underway with a description of the architectural features of Veblen Hall; features which go wholly unappreciated by the Baudelaires who are just in a hurry to get inside and stop Olaf’s latest nefarious plan. They do however pause for a moment to consider all the things that lie behind the door’s handle and hinges; “Sorusu” says Sunny, meaning “Behind those wooden planks lies the answer to the mystery of V.F.D., and why the secret hallway led us to the place where the Baudelaire mansion burned to the ground, killing our parents, and beginning the series of unfortunate events that haunt us wherever we go.” Because people actually talk like this, really.

Then they head inside.

Where they are met with the most In display of Inness imaginable. Everywhere they look there are pinstripes and parsley soda and other in things. Luckily nobody notices the Baudelaires as they’re all far too interested in the auction taking place at the other end of the room. The Baudelaires take advantage of this to try and figure out their new plan of action, they’ve been so focused on actually getting to this point, they never worked out what they would do when they got here.

Sunny comes out with “Evomer” meaning “I can’t stand it any longer. Let’s tell everyone in this room what is really going on.” Before they get a chance to go any further, however, someone tries to throw them out. After all, right now they don’t look like the wards of the most In woman in the room, they’re three dirty children covered in ash. Jerome is summoned over and tells the children he thought they were ill and so were staying behind.

We’re reminded here that Jerome is probably going to be the least helpful person in the room when it comes to saving the Quagmires; he hates to argue with people. That’s why he’s been answering to Jerry and has been eating something salmon-based, better to comply than make a fuss and risk upsetting someone. All the same, Sunny asks “Menrov?” which Klaus translates as “Would you do us a favor, Jerome?” We’re then told that what it actually means is “Should we try to tell Jerome about Gunther and Esme and the Quagmire triplets?” but luckily Jerome doesn’t speak Sunny and Klaus has a plan.

He’s telling Jerome that the Baudelaires would really like to own one of the auctioned items, particularly V.F.D. Jerome, not liking to argue, agrees, making him not actually the least helpful person right now. Then we’re shown over to where Mr Poe is standing. He promptly informs them that rather than being up a mountain, the Quagmires are actually in a glue factory. He’s only at the auction to buy some fashionable ocean decoration for his wife.

And with that the big red fish statue we saw at the beginning of the chapter goes up for auction. Red fish… get it? We’re even told that it’s big enough to step inside. Could this be a clue?

Klaus takes an opportunity to try and reveal Gunther’s true identity but Mr Poe is distracted by his bidding and just accuses the children of being xenophobic because Gunther is from another country. In case you’d missed the first clue about the big red fish statue Mr Poe then says “Five hundred is too much to pay for a big herring statue.” It’s then revealed that the statue has gone to the doorman, with the sleeves which cover his hands. I think I know who he is!

We get another little nod to the item the doorman has just won on the next page where it’s described as his “scarlet herring”. It’s like we’re slowly building up to the term ‘red herring’. I love it.

Anyway, the doorman is trying to get it out the door when he spots the Baudelaires, and then yells to Gunther/Olaf or Esme to let him know they’ve arrived. No one does anything and the doorman is able to leave with the red herring. I have a funny feeling this will be a mistake. At this point Olaf decides it’s time to wrap up the charade. He skips Lot #49 and goes straight to the V.F.D. which is just a big box.

We get a couple of pages of bidding, interspersed with the children pleading with Jerome to keep going so they can have whatever it is in the box and assuring both Jerome and Mr Poe that it will be a surprise for them. After a couple of pages of this, with the bidding getting too high for Jerome, another bidder steps in with “Thousand!” The bidder is actually Sunny and I’m not sure how she intends to pay for it. It does the trick though and the Baudelaires win the lot.

It’s when they go to collect it that things don’t go quite the way they were hoping. Sunny says “Silko!” right before opening the box. Esme starts protesting that they can’t have it until they’ve actually paid for it, while Klaus points out that the only illegal thing is keeping orphans in boxes and cages. Violet reveals Gunther/Olaf and Esme’s plan; they were going to ship the Quagmires out of the country hidden in a box.

And then Sunny rips open the last of the box, just as we’re reminded of the definition of ‘a red herring’. So it turns out that the red herring wasn’t the red herring, the V.F.D. box was.

Check back tomorrow for the final instalment.

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