Thursday, 26 February 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Grim Grotto, Chapter 3

We’re onto the third chapter of The Grim Grotto now, having been introduced to the Submarine Q and the Crew of Two I think we’re going to learn a little more about where the sugar bowl might be hidden.

What Happens?

Fiona takes the children to get their submarine suits and along the way tells the Baudelaires how they known so much about them. We learn about things called ‘Volunteer Factual Dispatches’ which is where Fiona and Widdershins have been getting their information. And we learn just how unsafe everything is, both inside the submarine and outside.

Thoughts as I read:

The words ‘Chapter Three’ are in white (well, the colour of the page) because they are written over the black of the inside of a diving helmet. There are two more behind it and they all have a little bit of engraving around the top. I wonder if this means that this chapter will involve a trip into the waters outside the Queequeg.

Sunny’s response to learning where they are going is ‘Shiver me timbers!’ which is quite funny, especially as it sets Widdershins worrying about whether or not he’s taken up with a small crew of pirates and Violet has to explain that this is an expression of surprise. Widdershins has been looking all over the place for the Baudelaires, which is an equally surprising revelation.

It’s all a bit much for Sunny, especially as Widdershins has leapt back into work mode and is firing out instructions left, right, and centre. Violet asks Widdershins to back up a moment but that would involve hesitating and they can’t have that. Luckily Fiona understands how the Baudelaires feel about all this so suggests that Widdershins starts up the engines while she gets the Baudelaires into their uniforms.

Phil’s instructed to get them some soda (lemon-lime flavour to keep the scurvy at bay). He also mentions his sore leg, remember his leg got stamped at Lucky Smells, well it has nothing to do with that; he got bitten by a shark recently. And since he’s such an optimist he’s just thrilled that he got to see one up close. Not only an optimist but kind of crazy too.

With the menfolk out of the way Fiona is able to fill the others in on what’s been going on. The Queequeg has been following their exploits in The Daily Punctilio and figuring out fact from fiction to work out where the children were, hence the arrival of the submarine in the Stricken Stream. They’ve also been receiving Volunteer Factual Dispatches about the location of the sugar bowl and so that also brought them to the area.

Sunny asks ‘Dephinpat?’ at this point, meaning ‘What are Volunteer Factual Dispatches, exactly?’ In short, it’s a telegram, but calling it that means the initial is just T. instead of V.F.D. which is way more significant and mysterious. All evidence suggests that the sugar bowl was thrown out the window of V.F.D. headquarters and so has travelled down the stream (or it could have smashed into a bazillion pieces of course, no one is considering that option). That’s why they need to look at the tidal charts, to work out where it’s gone.

And why is it so important to find the sugar bowl? Fiona answers that question as well:

“My stepfather says that if the sugar bowl falls into his [Count Olaf’s] hands, then all of the efforts of all of the volunteers will be for naught.”

We then get an explanation of the phrase ‘for naught’ just in case we weren’t sure about this.

Meanwhile the Baudelaires are being shown their uniforms, a la 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Fiona’s worried that they might be a bit big for Sunny, but Sunny reassures her by saying ‘Pinstripe’ which means ‘Don’t worry – I’m used to ill-fitting clothing.’ Fiona goes on to give them the happy information that they’ll need diving helmets in case the submarine walls collapse. That’s a reassuring thought. If I was on the submarine I don’t think I’d ever sleep, certainly not without a diving helmet on!

The Queequeg apparently used to be a very majestic submarine, but it’s fallen into disrepair. Worryingly a lot of the rooms are flooded. I’m bad enough at travelling on a ferry in rocky weather, I think I would be a wreck if I had to board that wreck! As I’m contemplating this, Fiona and the Baudelaires have moved on to discussing sleeping arrangements and the fact that bunk beds are a far better arrangement than practically every other bed they have slept on up until this point.

Also we learn Widdershins has known about the lies printed in the papers about the Baudelaires but couldn’t do anything about it because their ‘troubles were too enormous’. Fiona’s not sure what this means but it has something to do with doing one ‘small noble thing’ (that being finding the sugar bowl) rather than trying to tackle all the really big bad things in the world. Oh and he won’t tell his stepdaughter what’s so important about the sugar bowl. I wonder if we’ll find out the answer to that one before the end of this book!

Sunny asks ‘Whyno?’ and Fiona tells her that Widdershins has said that it’s too enormous a secret. Everything’s about danger with this man, I can see why he would be so fond of Josephine! Funnily enough Widdershins doesn’t seem too concerned about the fact that the submarine is a pretty dangerous place to be. Though in the grand scheme of things, with Olaf and the villains in the world, the world is pretty unsafe.

So we end the chapter with the Baudelaires contemplating all the assorted dangers that they are facing and which might still be to come. That’s a happy thought, isn’t it?

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