Friday, 6 February 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Slippery Slope, Chapter 4

Are you impressed that I've managed to get all of these posted this week? I hope so, I am. On Saturday when I started scheduling my blog posts for the rest of the week, I didn't think that I would have time to get all these posts written. Even on Sunday I spent about an hour organising the photos I used in this morning's post. But I did it. Yay me!

Last chapter of The Slippery Slope caught up with Sunny at the top of Mount Fraught with Count Olaf. This time I think we're back with Violet and Klaus.


What Happens?

Violet and Klaus find themselves in the midst of a troupe of Snow Scouts who are camping in the mountains ready for their False Spring celebration. And Carmelita Spats is with them. After learning the bizarre Snow Scout Pledge they join up, put on masks and soon meet a Snow Scout who seems to know about V.F.D. Unable to talk to him in front of the other scouts they wait until bedtime, then, just as they are beginning to dose off, he tells them to come with him.

Thoughts as I read:

Remember at the end of the chapter before last? Violet and Klaus were greeted by someone calling them cakesniffers. Well this picture shows the people who were hanging out in the cave before they arrived and the girl at the front has very familiar ringlets. There are two other people standing behind her and all three of them are wearing face masks so we can't see them. They've also got 'BRR' on their headband things and snowflakes. Looks like the return of Carmelita Spats!

Things are not going particularly well for Violet and Klaus who have just stumbled upon a cave containing one of their least favourite people in the whole world. Just in case we were wondering who that might be, someone asks Carmelita who she is talking to. And in case you've forgotten who Carmelita Spats is, we get a quick reminder of Prufrock Prep where the Baudelaires first encountered her.

A voice which goes by the name 'Uncle Bruce' asks Violet and Klaus to identify themselves, so they tell him that they're weary mountain travellers who just want to shelter from the snow gnats for a while. Carmelita, being her usual hospitable self, does not want to let them stay, after all they'll be intruding on their Snow Scouts camping trip.

Apparently the Snow Scouts have a 'Snow Scout Alphabet Pledge', one of the points of which is that they should be accommodating. I wonder how far through this chapter we get before we learn the rest of the points in this pledge, I'm betting there's twenty-six of them. Despite being a Snow Scout Carmelita does not want to be accommodating, she wants to get to the top of the mountain so she can be crowned False Spring Queen.

And I was right about learning the pledge. We get to hear it right now as the voice of Uncle Bruce gets the children to chant a random list of words. It starts well but, well, you can see for yourself:

"Snow Scouts," recited the Snow Scouts, "are accommodating, basic, calm, darling, emblematic, frisky, grinning, human, innocent, jumping, kept, limited, meek, nap-loving, official, pretty, quarantined, recent, scheduled, tidy, understandable, victorious, wholesome, xylophone, young and zippered - every morning, every afternoon, every night, and all day long!"

If you say so.

Violet and Klaus are just a bewildered by this pledge as I am. Some of these words contradict one another and others just don't make any sense. How can anyone be a xylophone?! They also find fault with the end bit of the pledge, but I'm not so bothered by that, sure it's repetitive but after the rest of the pledge at least it kind of makes sense!

Oh, and the pledge ends with everyone making a wind noise at the end of it. That's Uncle Bruce's favourite part apparently. Well, it makes about as much sense as everything that came before it.

Violet and Klaus quickly decide that they shouldn't remove the coat from their faces because they don't want to be recognised by Carmelita or any of the other Snow Scouts. At least Carmelita doesn't just call the Baudelaires 'cakesniffers', she uses it quite unreservedly for anyone she thinks is below her. That's kind of reassuring.

No sooner have the children decided they need to hide their identity do they realise that everyone else in the cave is doing the same. The Snow Scouts all wear big winter jackets decorated with snowflakes and the Snow Scout Alphabet Pledge on the back in pink, they've also got the headbands we saw in the picture at the start of the chapter. And they're all wearing fencing masks.

When Carmelita calls the Baudelaires out on the fact that they've got a coat over their heads, Violet tells her that they're meek so they don't like people to see them. Bruce declares they'll fit right in and sets everyone off reciting the pledge again. I can see this is going to become a bit of a theme here.

Once all the chanting is over, someone gives Violet and Klaus a mask each. The real purpose of them is to help keep the snow gnats off their faces but they serve a handy dual purpose in keeping people from seeing just who has joined their ranks. Convenient for the Baudelaires.

Also convenient for the Baudelaires is the fact that they've joined a group of people who are hiking up to Mount Fraught to celebrate False Spring. We also learn what False Spring actually is, albeit from Carmelita Spats who tells the children, rather disdainfully, that it's when the weather starts to get warm again before getting really cold again. In Scotland we call that Summer.

The Snow Scouts have a celebration thing which involves crowning Carmelita the False Spring Queen. None of the other Snow Scouts seem to like her much and claim she is only Queen because Uncle Bruce is her actual uncle. Do none of them realise that this would be the perfect time to accidentally on purpose push her off the side of a mountain?

Klaus finally asks that one question we've all be dying to know. How can someone be xylophone? One of the other Snow Scouts explains that it was the only word Bruce could think of beginning with X. Klaus immediately suggests 'xenial' which relates to being hospitable, the sort of thing you would expect to hear in a pledge, but Uncle Bruce shoots him down. You can't change a pledge, especially not after you've had it printed on a bunch of coats!

The Baudelaires are still a little anxious about how safe it is to hang out in a cave when there might be hibernating animals around. So two of the Snow Scouts fill them in on the animals that used to live in the mountains. There were bears that were trained to be soldiers but which all disappeared, and lions that were 'volunteer feline detectives'. Oh look, it's another V.F.D. And the Scout might be giving them some sort of signal. Who knows?!

Next up in the Grand Snow Scouts Camping Schedule is Snow Scout Story Time. Someone tells a story, then they eat marshmallows and go to bed. Sounds fun and nutritious. Bruce prompts the Baudelaires to share a story but Carmelita thinks everyone should listen to her story instead. We get another hint that perhaps the Scout wearing the sweater might have an idea of who the Baudelaires really are because he announces his preference for their story, saying 'I'd love to hear a Very Fascinating Drama.' Yet another V.F.D.

So they start spinning a yarn which basically gives them the opportunity to sound out the sweatered scout. Violet tells him they've not had a 'Very Fun Day', Klaus adds that all they've eaten is 'Vinegar-Flavored Doughnuts', Violet complains about the snow gnats which are like 'Violent Frozen Dragonflies' and Klaus adds they are also like a 'Voracious Fierce Dragon'. I'm not sure what message they're trying to pass on to the sweatered scout, but he's got it as he suggests a 'Vain Fat Dictator'.

Bruce and Carmelita decide that this story is kind of boring and reminds them that their story should follow the Snow Scout Pledge. Then Carmelita launches into her story which is basically about how wonderful she is. Luckily Snicket decides to skip all the boring stuff so instead we hear about how the Baudelaires had to listen to it, then eat marshmallows, then go to bed all the while wondering just who the sweatered scout was and how he knew about V.F.D.

Thankfully, just as they're beginning to fall asleep, they are woken by the sweatered scout:

"Come with me, Baudelaires," the boy said in a very quiet voice. "I know a shortcut to the headquarters,"

And that is very interesting indeed!

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