Thursday, 12 February 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Slippery Slope, Chapter 7

We're back to Violet and Klaus in today's installment of The Slippery Slope. And this chapter is definitely not as long as the last one. This is something I'm slightly relieved about!

What Happens?

The children reach the end of the Vertical Fire Diversion and come across a door which they must open by answering three questions correctly. Once inside they discover that someone else reached the headquarters before them and there's not much left. There is also no one else up there, so no Baudelaire parents waiting for them. The sweatered scout does reveal his identity though and it's one of the last people the Baudelaires were expecting to see.

Thoughts as I read:

How do we know that we're back with Violet and Klaus for this chapter? Well, yes, we were told we would be at the end of Chapter Five, but also because the picture for this chapter is very clearly some sort of gadget and I'm guessing that even if Violet isn't the one who invented it, she's going to be the one who figures out what it is and what it does. I have no idea what it is, but it's got various cables and dials coming off of it, so I'm guessing it measures something. Just what exactly it measures will remain to be seen.

The chapter opens with a discussion on the phrase 'corridors of power' which tend to be places which are quiet and mysterious, just like the Vertical Flame Diversion that the children are currently scaling. We also learn that the Valley of the Four Drafts is so named because that's where this tunnel comes out and the smoke is 'scattered to the four winds'. See what they did there?

They had to hide the smoke to prevent people from being suspicious. I'm not entirely sure what they might be suspicious of but whoever built the V.F.D. headquarters up here did not want to be discovered.

Then the sweatered scout pulls out some little green tubes and I've just realised why they got a mention in the last chapter. They're not cigarettes at all, instead they are 'Verdant Flammable Devices' which give off green smoke to allow volunteers to see where they are. Klaus mentions that his father had some of these in his desk drawer which just underlines the fact that the Baudelaire parents were obviously in on this secret organisation.

After a brief discussion of maps and figuring out where the headquarters were located, the sweatered scout produces a commonplace book of his own. Now where've we seen one of those before? He's been constructing a map all by himself based on the things he's read. Basically they're looking for the 'Vernacularly Fastened Door' which will give them access to the kitchen.

And so we reach that thing we saw at the start of the chapter. It's a coded lock apparently, they need to language to open it, hence 'vernacularly'. Luckily the mysterious scout has got some notes to help them out, so they have to type in the answers to three questions. The first answer is Sir Isaac Newton (which Violet knows) and the second is Panthera leo (which the scout knows).

But they get stuck on the third.

Luckily this is Klaus's moment to shine. He knows what the central theme of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is:

"The central theme of Anna Karenina," he said, "is that a rural life of moral simplicity, despite its monotony, is the preferable personal narrative to a daring life of impulsive passion, which only leads to tragedy."

When the scout mentions that this is rather long, Klaus points out that it's not a short book. But all the same, they type it in and things seem to happen. Until they type 'tragedy' and then it all stops. So perhaps all that stuff leads to something that isn't tragedy. Mr Snicket gives us some examples of other stories featuring characters who experience a daring life of impulsive passion which leads to all sorts of other things. Luckily Klaus is actually right and it just takes a moment for the door to open, making this just a moment of suspense.

And what's behind the door? Well, considering we heard from those mysterious people in the last chapter that the headquarters had been burnt down, this shouldn't really come as a surprise to you. But it's a bit of a surprise to the Baudelaires and the scout.

They find themselves in the ruins of the kitchen with the V.F.D. Library signposted in the distance. The only thing that seems to have survived the fire unscathed is a refrigerator. When the kitchen had walls there was a waterfall right outside and that solves the mystery of the grey water; it was the ash from the burning headquarters, the heat melted the frozen stream and mixed with the mess from the fire.

Then Violet voices a worrying question, could anyone have been inside when it happened? You know she's wondering about the surviving Baudelaire parent who is supposed to have been up here. The scout tries to reassure her but there's not really any way of knowing for certain. All the same, they start calling for their parents, just in case.

No one answers.

The scout tells them that they're all alone up here and so Klaus launches into a rant about page thirteen from the Snicket file and the fact that there is supposed to be a survivor of the fire and that survivor is supposed to be here. And that's when the sweatered scout drops a bombshell on them.

There was a survivor of the fire, he tells them as he takes off his mask, and that survivor is Quigley Quagmire.

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