We’re so close to the end of this book now. There’s really not much further to go and then it finally will be The End of A Series of Unfortunate Events.
In the last chapter we saw the latest schism hit the island, culminating in Ishmael shooting Count Olaf right in the diving helmet (and that’s not a euphemism). This has released deadly fungus spores into the area so they’re probably all going to die.
The children realise that they need to find horseradish so leave the colonists and head to the arboretum. They go into the kitchen in Ishmael’s secret room but can’t find horseradish or any other substitute. Knowing that the end is near, they decide to read A Series of Unfortunate Events in the hope that there will be something useful in the pages written by their parents. Sure enough, there is, but by this point the fungus has progressed too far and the children are unable to move. Luckily, at that moment, someone shows up who can help.
Thoughts as I read:
Remember how the Ishmael led the children away from the book in his hidey-hole because the Baudelaire parents wouldn’t want them to read it? Well, clearly the children decided that this was something that they should read, because the picture that opens this chapter shows the three children studying a massive book with A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS on the cover. I’m guessing that this means we’ll be returning to the arboretum in this chapter.
Snicket opens this chapter in his usual philosophical way, this time talking about how people can get used to being happy but they don’t get used to the feeling of despair. In fact, the more despair you encounter, the harder and harder it is to deal with. I’d say this is a fairly accurate statement. This is relevant because the Baudelaires have had many reasons to feel despair in the past, but this moment is probably at the pinnacle of despair.
Everyone starts wondering what’s going on; Friday heard the sound of breaking glass, Erewhon can feel something in her throat, and Finn is more concerned with Ishmael’s ability to stand on his own two feet. Olaf’s not quite dead yet though and so he takes the opportunity to reveal his final gift to the island as well as to accuse Ishmael of causing all their deaths. Way to go, Ish!
This is clearly very bad news for everyone. Especially the orphans as Olaf is pointing the finger of blame squarely in their direction. Of all the secrets that they’ve been keeping on the island, this is one of the biggest ones, though some of the islanders are still hung up on the fact that Ishmael’s feet are perfectly fine. Priorities people!
Again fingers are being pointed in all direction, though Professor Fletcher is perhaps the most diplomatic:
“It depends on how you look at it,” Professor Fletcher said. “In my opinion, all of us are the root of the trouble. If we hadn’t put Count Olaf in the cage, he never would have threatened us!”
It doesn’t stop them and this continues for almost a whole page until Violet points out that they’ve all been poisoned. They’re all going to be dead in an hour unless they can find something to cure it.
The news that the deadly fungus is, y’know, deadly, is kind of shock to most of the islanders who just now begin to panic. They’d thought it was a forbidden food or something. Ishmael’s still trying to be in charge, recommending their take their nice calming coconut cordial, despite this having absolutely no effect on the Medusoid Mycelium.
When everyone wants to just sit around and talk about the problem instead of getting a move on and actually dealing with it, Sunny says ‘Trahison des clercs!’ which is translated as “You’re forgetting about the quick acting poison in the fungus!” Violet then draws attention to the fact that the solution must be in the hidey-hole in the arboretum. Surely there must be something in one of those books that will help them out. Sunny points out that Ishmael has a kitchen so there might just be horseradish. Sunny would be very disappointed if she visiting our kitchen, I don’t think we’ve ever had horseradish!
Ishmael immediately disputes this, claiming that this is a trick by the Baudelaires. Because people who have less than an hour to live frequently decide to play pranks on other people. Sunny tells him ‘Razoo’ meaning ‘You’re the one not to be trusted.’ They do try to question Ishmael to find out why he’s lying to everyone and trying to get them drunk, but he seems to think that his situation is different to everyone else’s. That’s it, I’ve changed my mind about him again. He’s not a maybe good guy, he’s definitely a bad guy!
Sunny suggests ‘Hightail it’ to her siblings, meaning ‘We’d better hurry’ and the three Baudelaires head out across the island towards the arboretum and into the underground room. But there’s no horseradish in the kitchen there:
The children found many of their favourite spices, including sage, oregano, and paprika, which was available in a number of varieties organised according to their level of smokiness. They found some of their least favourite spices, including dried parsley, which scarcely tastes like anything, and garlic salt, which forces the taste of everything else to flee. They found spices they associated with certain dishes, such as turmeric, which their father used to use while making curried peanut soup, and nutmeg, which their mother used to mix into gingerbread, and they found spices they did not associate with anything, such as marjoram, which everyone owns but scarcely anyone uses, and powdered lemon peel, which should only be used in emergencies, such as when fresh lemons have become extinct.
I know it’s long (and I didn’t even copy out the last bit), but I thought it all deserved to be shared.Violet remembers that it doesn’t need to be actual horseradish as they used wasabi last time. Sunny says ‘Or Eutrema’ to this, and she’s the expert after all. She also reminds them that their parents once lived on the island and surely they would’ve thought to hide horseradish somewhere because they wanted to link the island with Anwhistle Aquatics.
So it’s time to figure out how to search the entire arboretum without actually searching the entire arboretum. Violet ties up her hair and they get to work. Klaus wonders if it might have been hidden in one of the jars belonging to another spice so questions Sunny about the bitterest spices, she replies ‘Cloves… Cardamom, arrowroot, wormwood’. This last reminds Klaus that Kit mentioned drinking tea as bitter as wormwood so maybe very strong tea will save them… except there’s no wormwood here. Back to the drawing board!
Violet takes some time out to bemoan the lack of information passed on by their parents. This is definitely something that they should wonder about, but maybe this isn’t the best time to do it. Luckily this prompts Klaus to check the A Series of Unfortunate Events book to see if Mr and Mrs Baudelaire wrote something there that can help them. The problem here is that they’ve got way less than an hour now and that book is pretty big.
“If we fail,” Sunny said, her voice heavy with fungus, “at least we die reading together.”
Aww, poor Sunny. But that’s kind of how the Baudelaires have always been. If this is the worst that can happen to them, at least they will be together. And they’ll be looking at what has been written and recorded by their parents, so in a way they’ll be all together as a family.
The children don’t have much time to read so they skim the pages, looking out for any words that might be useful to them:
As you know if you’ve ever skimmed a book, you end up getting a strange view of the story, with just glimpses here and there of what is going on, and some authors insert confusing sentences in the middle of a book just to confuse anyone who might be skimming. Three very short men were carrying a large, flat piece of wood, painted to look like a living room.
That last bit would be something that Snicket has popped in just in case you’re skim reading, hehe.
Time is ticking on and the fungus is growing larger and larger inside the children when Klaus suddenly spots a reference to horseradish. It would appear that Mr and Mrs Baudelaire did stockpile the stuff on the island:
“‘We’re attempting a botanical hybrid through the tuberous canopy, which should bring safety to fruition despite its dangers to our associates in utero. Of course, in case we are banished, Beatrice is hiding a small amount in a vess-’”
Why can’t they just write is out in a more easily understood way. Clearly they’re trying to blend the horseradish into something else to keep them all safe. Whatever it is appears to be dangerous to unborn children and presumably that’s what was in the sugar bowl everyone was hunting for.
Klaus figures out that the ‘tuberous canopy’ was the roots of the big tree that they’re currently sitting under. And Sunny figures out the final link in the chain. The bitter apples will save them. Violet says that if they eat the bitter apples it’ll dilute the fungus which Sunny confirms by saying ‘Gentreefive’.
Unfortunately it’s taken them so long to figure this out that they’re all very weak. They’re not sure they’ll be able to make it and Sunny asks ‘Kikbucit?’ It’s really not looking good for them at all. Violet is determined though, even though the Baudelaire parents didn’t know it at the time, they were saving their children’s lives all those years ago. Klaus isn’t so sure, he thinks it’s the end.
Sunny says ‘Turmurchap’ but we don’t get to learn what this means because they’re distracted by a strange hissing sound. And what happens next is somewhat biblical. The Incredibly Deadly Viper slithers down into the hidden room and offers the children an apple.
Hopefully this ends better for the Baudelaires than it did for Adam and Eve.