Thursday, 9 October 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Ersatz Elevator, Chapter 8

I’ve had a busy weekend and managed to get everything scheduled on the blog apart from the last three Chapter-by-Chapter posts this week. In theory I could of squeezed in time to get them written on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening, but I was too tired to blog then and I had other things on my mind, so check back tomorrow and hopefully I’ll have managed it.

What Happens?

The Quagmires are reluctant to believe that the Baudelaires have found them. Duncan and Isadora have been making notes on Olaf’s plan so the Baudelaires decide they have to rescue them from the cage. Unable to pick the lock, Violet comes up with another plan: welding. They leave the Quagmires and head up to the penthouse again to find makeshift welding tools, heating them in the oven before making the descent back to the Quagmires’ cage.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter opens with an oven-mitted hand holding a smoking poker. I’m guessing that this is one of Violet’s inventions and the hot poker is going to be used to free the Quagmires. We’ve still got a bit of a way to go though so I might be getting ahead of myself!

The Quagmires can’t believe their eyes when they realise who it is that has located their cage. In fact, they’re so doubtful that they decide that the Baudelaires must be a hallucination. The Baudelaires reassure them that they are in fact real, and Sunny shrieks “Sunny!” to help elaborate.

Not only is there a cage down here, there’s also a hallway that leads away into the distance. We don’t learn anything else about that for a while though because we need to pay a little bit of attention to the Quagmires. They’re only really recognisable by the books they carry. Judging from their expressions, the Quagmires have not been experiencing a happy time of things recently. Despite being forced to put up with Esme’s fickle tastes, at least the Baudelaires have been living with a degree of comfort.

Two pages later the Baudelaires are still trying to reassure their friends that they are who they say they are. I suppose if things have been so bad that the Quagmires are now living in a cage, they might not be entirely convinced that someone is attempting to rescue them. Especially as they don’t even know where they are. This last thing is something that the Baudelaires can help them out with, explaining exactly where the cage is located.

The Quagmires do actually have some idea of what is going on. They’ve been making notes of the boasts made by Olaf; Isadora’s are in the form of rhyming couplets:

On Auction Day, when the sun goes down,
Gunther will sneak us out of town.

The basic plan, until he gets the Baudelaires in his clutches, is to hold onto the Quagmires on some distant island until they come of age and then steal their sapphires. Apparently his plans are so bad that Isadora can’t stand to hear them repeated. This means we don’t get to hear either but we know what Olaf is like, it’ll almost certainly be something vile. The method for smuggling the children out of town under the noses of the authorities is going to involve hiding them in the largest item in the auction, then having one of his henchmen bid on it.

V.F.D. gets a mention again but we zoom past it before we can find out any more. I love these little tantalizing hints. It’s not done quite as subtly as J.K. Rowling, but it’s nice to see things crop up that you know will be returned to later.

Violet is not able to pick the lock on the cage. Times have changed since she did it in book two and Olaf has evolved. Sunny suggests “Aguen?” meaning “Could you saw through the bars of the cage?” but this gives her an idea. In order to put this plan into action the Baudelaires are forced to leave the Quagmires alone and so she sends Sunny up the cord ahead of them.

Sunny replies “Onosew” meaning “Yes ma’am”. I recently got called ‘ma’am’ and it’s really weird. I don’t feel old enough to be a ‘ma’am’.

Anyway, Duncan tries to tell them about V.F.D. in case they don’t get a chance again, but the Baudelaires don’t listen, telling them to wait until later. These seem to be famous last words. You’d think they could stand to just wait another couple of minutes, find out what Duncan’s been trying to tell them and then continue with that little bit of knowledge that is obviously important to them.

As they climb up the rope Violet gives her brother and sister instructions to look for ‘long, slender objects made of iron’. Sunny follows this request up with “Agoula?” meaning “What for?” and so Violet explains that she’s going to try her hand at welding. Which explains the picture at the beginning of the chapter. Violet needs two of these items and they they’ve got to meet her at one of the kitchens. Sunny helpfully says “Selrep” meaning “That’s the one with the bright blue oven.”

This plan seems a little bit sketchy really. Violet’s intending to heat up the metal and then take them down to melt the bars. Klaus seems a little doubtful and I don’t blame him. I really doubt that anything is going to stay hot enough for a climb all the way back down to the cage and even if it did, will they really be able to melt the bars? Sorry Violet, I don’t think this one is going to work.

I love this little bit here:

… Violet walked straight into the kitchen with the bright blue oven and looked around uncertainly. Cooking had never been her forte – a phrase which here means “something she couldn’t do very well, except for making toast, and sometimes she couldn’t even do that without burning it to a crisp” – and she was a bit nervous about using the oven without any adult supervision.

Luckily Violet realises she’s done quite a bit without adult supervision recently so heating some metal in a kitchen cooker probably isn’t really a huge deal. So she gets on with it, turning the oven up to 500 Fahrenheit. I had a little bit of a debate about whether this was realistic, I suppose it’d be about the highest setting on a cooker. In UK terms it’s 260 Celsius, so not outside the range of possibility. I like to check these things. Realising that this is some heat, Violet making she has appropriate welding attire and pulls out some oven mitts.

Before too long Klaus and Sunny come back with some fire tongs so then it’s time to get things heated up. Sunny is given the instruction to stay back from the oven, she’s just a baby. I love her response “Prawottle” which means “Older children aren’t supposed to be near a hot oven either, especially without adult supervision.” I think Violet and Klaus are old enough to be using a cooker. They’re twelve and fourteen, aren’t they? I was cooking stuff at twelve.

The oven isn’t really designed for fire tongs so the door doesn’t shut. This makes the kitchen heat up. I can’t help but smile at this. We’ve just started putting out heating on after being determined to get through all of September without using it. To make up for the lovely September weather October has been all about the wind and rain. Our house has been a bit of an oven as a result of this.

It takes quite a while for the tongs to heat up properly and the Baudelaires realise that out of all the rooms in the penthouse, there’s no waiting room. The one room they would kind of need right now. Eventually they are each handed an oven mitt and fire tongs, superheated, leading to this little gem from Violet:

“They’re hot enough to melt metal, so just imagine what they could do if they touched us. But I’m sure we can manage.”

Klaus wisely observes that carrying super hot metal might make the climb down a little trickier. Ya think? But as with his sister, he’s sure they can manage. Even Sunny has to have her say too “Zelestin” and “Enipy” meaning “It’ll be terrifying to climb down that horrible passageway again” and “But I’m sure we can manage”.

And so just like that, they head out to the elevator shaft and start the long climb down.

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