Lemony snicket the austere academy

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НазваниеLemony snicket the austere academy
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Дата публикации26.03.2014
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Mrs. Bass is terribly boring, isn't she?

But Sunny, instead of going into a classroom, had to work in the administrative building, and I must say that her situation was perhaps the worst in the entire triptych. As Vice Principal Nero's secretary, Sunny had numerous duties assigned to her that were simply impossible for a baby to perform. For instance, she was in charge of answering the telephone, but people who called Vice Principal Nero did not always know that "Seltepia!" was Sunny's way of saying "Good morning, this is Vice Principal Nero's office, how may I help you?" By the second day Nero was furious at her for confusing so many of his business associates. In addition, Sunny was in charge of typing, stapling, and mailing all of Vice Principal Nero's letters, which meant she had to work a typewriter, a stapler, and stamps, all of which were designed for adult use. Unlike many babies, Sunny had some experience in hard work-after all, she and her siblings had worked for some time at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill-but this equipment was simply inappropriate for such liny fingers. Sunny could scarcely move the typewriter's keys, and even when she could she did not know how to spell most of the words Nero dictated. She had never used a stapler before, so she sometimes stapled her fingers by mistake, which hurt quite a bit. And occasionally one of the stamps would stick to her tongue and wouldn't come off.


In most schools, no matter how miserable, the students have a chance to recuperate during the weekend, when they can rest and play instead of attending wretched classes, and the Baudelaire orphans looked forward to taking a break from looking at bananas, rulers, and secretarial supplies. So they were quite distressed one Friday when the Quagmires informed them that Prufrock Prep did not have weekends. Saturday and Sunday were regular schooldays, supposedly in keeping with the school's motto. This rule did not really make any sense-it is, after all, just as easy to remember you will die when you are relaxing as when you are in school-but that was the way things were, so the Baudelaires could never remember exactly what day it was, so repetitive was their schedule. So I am sorry to say that I cannot tell you what day it was when Sunny noticed that the staple supply was running low, but I can tell you that Nero informed her that because she had wasted so much time learning to be a secretary he would not buy any more when they ran out. Instead Sunny would have to make staples herself, out of some skinny metal rods Nero kept in a drawer.


"That's ridiculous!" Violet cried when Sunny told her of Nero's latest demand. It was after dinner, and the Baudelaire orphans were in the Orphans Shack with the Quagmire triplets, sprinkling salt at the ceiling. Violet had found some pieces of metal behind the cafeteria and had fashioned five pairs of noisy shoes: three for the Baudelaires and two for the Quagmires so the crabs wouldn't bother them when they visited the Orphans Shack. The problem of the tan fungus, however, was yet to be solved. With Duncan's help, Klaus had found a book on fungus in the library and had read that salt might make this particular fungus shrivel up. The Quagmires had distracted some of the masked cafeteria workers by dropping their trays on the ground, and while Nero yelled at them for making a mess, the Baudelaires had slipped three saltshakers into their pockets. Now, in the brief recess after dinner, the five children were sitting on bales of hay, trying to toss salt onto the fungus and talking about their day.
"It certainly is ridiculous," Klaus agreed. "It's silly enough that Sunny has to be a secretary, but making her own staples? I've never heard of anything so unfair."
"I think staples are made in factories," Duncan said, pausing to flip through his green notebook to see if he had any notes on the matter. "I don't think people have made staples by hand since the fifteenth century."
"If you could snitch some of the skinny metal rods, Sunny," Isadora said, "we could all help make the staples after dinnertime. If five of us worked together, it would be much less trouble. And speaking of trouble, I'm working on a poem about Count Olaf, but I'm not sure I know words that are terrible enough to describe him."

"And I imagine it's difficult to find words that rhyme with 'Olaf,'" Violet said.

"It is difficult," Isadora admitted. "All I can think of so far is 'pilaf,' which is a kind of rice dish. And that's more a half-rhyme, anyway."

"Maybe someday you'll be able to publish your poem about Count Olaf," Klaus said, "and everyone will know how horrible he is."

"And I'll write a newspaper article all about him," Duncan volunteered.

"I think I could build a printing press myself," Violet said. "Maybe when I come of age, I can use some of the Baudelaire fortune to buy the materials I would need."
"Could we print books, too?" Klaus asked.
Violet smiled. She knew her brother was thinking of a whole library they could print for themselves. "Books, too," she said.

"The Baudelaire fortune?" Duncan asked. "Did your parents leave behind a fortune, too? Our parents owned the famous Quagmire sapphires, which were unharmed in the fire. When we come of age, those precious jewels will belong to us. We could start our printing business together."
"That's a wonderful idea!" Violet cried. "We could call it Quagmire-Baudelaire Incorporated."
"We could call it Quagmire-Baudelaire Incorporated!" The children were so surprised to hear the sneering voice of Vice Principal Nero that they dropped their saltshakers on the ground. Instantly, the tiny crabs in the Orphans Shack picked them up and scurried away with them before Nero could notice.

"I'm sorry to interrupt you in the middle of your important business meeting," he said, although the youngsters could see that the vice principal wasn't sorry one bit. "The new gym teacher has arrived, and he was interested in meeting our orphan population before my concert began. Apparently orphans have excellent bone structure or something. Isn't that what you said, Coach Genghis?"

"Oh yes," said a tall, skinny man, who stepped forward to reveal himself to the children. The man was wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt, such as any gym teacher might wear. On his feet were some expensive-looking running shoes with very high tops, and around his neck was a shiny silver whistle. Wrapped around the top of his head was a length of cloth secured in place with a shiny red jewel. Such things are called turbans and are worn by some people for religious reasons, but Violet, Klaus, and Sunny took one look at this man and knew that he was wearing a turban for an entirely different reason.

"Oh yes," the man said again. "All orphans have perfect legs for running, and I couldn't wait to see what specimens were waiting for me here in the shack."
"Children," Nero said, "get up off of your hay and say hello to Coach Genghis."

"Hello, Coach Genghis," Duncan said.

"Hello, Coach Genghis," Isadora said.
The Quagmire triplets each shook Coach Genghis's bony hand and then turned and gave the Baudelaires a confused look. They were clearly surprised to see the three siblings still sitting on the hay and staring up at Coach Genghis rather than obeying Nero's orders. But had I been there in the Orphans Shack, I most certainly would not have been surprised, and I would bet What Happened to Beatrice, my prized triptych, that had you been there you would not have been surprised, either. Because you have probably guessed, as the Baudelaires guessed, why the man who was calling himself Coach Genghis was wearing a turban. A turban covers people's hair, which can alter their appearance quite a bit, and if the turban is arranged so that it hangs down rather low, as this one did, the folds of cloth can even cover the eyebrows-or in this case, eyebrow-of the person wearing it. But it cannot cover someone's shiny, shiny eyes, or the greedy and sinister look that somebody might have in their eyes when the person looks down at three relatively helpless children.

What the man who called himself Coach Genghis had said about all orphans having perfect legs for running was utter nonsense, of course, but as the Baudelaires looked up at their new gym teacher, they wished that it weren't nonsense. As the man who called himself Coach * Genghis looked back at them with his shiny, shiny eyes, the Baudelaire orphans wished more than anything that their legs could carry them far, far away from the man who was really Count Olaf.


^ CHAPTER FIVE
The expression "following suit" is a curious one, because it has nothing to do with walking behind a matching set of clothing. If you follow suit, it means you do the same thing somebody else has just done. If all of your friends decided to jump off a bridge into the icy waters of an ocean or river, for instance, and you jumped in right after them, you would be following suit. You can see why following suit can be a dangerous thing to do, because you could end up drowning simply because somebody else thought of it first.
This is why, when Violet stood up from the hay and said, "How do you do, Coach Genghis?" Klaus and Sunny were reluctant to follow suit. It was inconceivable to the younger Baudelaires that their sister had not recognized Count Olaf, and that she hadn't leaped to her feet and informed Vice Principal Nero what was going on. For a moment, Klaus and Sunny even considered that Violet had been hypnotized, as Klaus had been back when the Baudelaire orphans were living in Paltryville. But Violet's eyes did not look any wider than they did normally, nor did she say "How do you do, Coach Genghis?" in the dazed tone of voice Klaus had used when he had been under hypnosis.

But although they were puzzled, the younger Baudelaires trusted their sister absolutely. She had managed to avoid marrying Count Olaf when it had seemed like it would be inevitable, a word which here means "a lifetime of horror and woe." She had made a lockpick when they'd needed one in a hurry, and had used her inventing skills to help them escape from some very hungry leeches. So even though they could not think what the reason was, Klaus and Sunny knew that Violet must have had a good reason to greet Count Olaf politely rather than reveal him instantly, and so, after a pause, they followed suit.

"How do you do, Coach Genghis?" Klaus said.

"Gefidio!" Sunny shrieked.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Coach Genghis said, and smirked. The Baudelaires could tell he thought he had fooled them completely and was very pleased with himself.

"What do you think, Coach Genghis?" Vice Principal Nero asked. "Do any of these orphans have the legs you're looking for?"

Coach Genghis scratched his turban and looked down at the children as if they were an all-you-can-eat salad bar instead of five orphans. "Oh yes," he said in the wheezy voice the Baudelaires still heard in their nightmares. With his bony hands, he pointed first at Violet, then at Klaus, and lastly at Sunny. "These three children here are just what I'm looking for, all right. I have no use for these twins, however."

"Neither do I," Nero said, not bothering to point out that the Quagmires were triplets. He then looked at his watch. "Well, it's time for my concert. Follow me to the auditorium, all of you, unless you are in the mood to buy me a bag of candy."

The Baudelaire orphans hoped never to buy their vice principal a gift of any sort, let alone a bag of candy, which the children loved and hadn't eaten in a very long time, so they followed Nero out of the Orphans Shack and across the lawn to the auditorium. The Quagmires followed suit, staring up at the gravestone buildings, which looked even spookier in the moonlight.

"This evening," Nero said, "I will be playing a violin sonata I wrote myself. It only lasts about a half hour, but I will play it twelve times in a row."
"Oh, good," Coach Genghis said. "If I may say so, Vice Principal Nero, I am an enormous fan of your music. Your concerts were one of the main reasons I wanted to work here at Prufrock Prep."
"Well, it's good to hear that," Nero said. "It's difficult to find people who appreciate me as the genius I am."

"I know the feeling," Coach Genghis said. "I'm the finest gym teacher the world has ever seen, and yet there hasn't even been one parade in my honor."
"Shocking," Nero said, shaking his head.

The Baudelaires and the Quagmires, who were walking behind the adults, looked at one another in disgust at the braggy conversation they were overhearing, but they didn't dare speak to one another until they arrived at the auditorium, taking seats as far away as possible from Carmelita Spats and her loathsome friends.

There is one, and only one, advantage to somebody who cannot play the violin insisting on doing so anyway, and the advantage is that they often play so loudly that they cannot hear if the audience is having a conversation. It is extremely rude, of course, for an audience to talk during a concert performance, but when the performance is a wretched one, and lasts six hours, such rudeness can be forgiven. So it was that evening, for after introducing himself with a brief, braggy speech, Vice Principal Nero stood on the stage of the auditorium and began playing his sonata for the first time.

When you listen to a piece of classical music, it is often amusing to try and guess what inspired the composer to write those particular notes. Sometimes a composer will be inspired by nature and will write a symphony imitating the sounds of birds and trees. Other times a composer will be inspired by the city and will write a concerto imitating the sounds of traffic and sidewalks. In the case of this sonata, Nero had apparently been inspired by somebody beating up a cat, because the music was loud and screechy and made it quite easy to talk during the performance. As Nero sawed away at his violin, the students of Prufrock Prep began to talk amongst themselves. The Baudelaires even noticed Mr. Remora and Mrs. Bass, who were supposed to be figuring out which students owed Nero bags of candy, giggling and sharing a banana in the back row. Only Coach Genghis, who was sitting in the center of the very front row, seemed to be paying any attention to the music.

"Our new gym teacher looks creepy," Isadora said.

"That's for sure," Duncan agreed. "It's that sneaky look in his eye."

"That sneaky look," Violet said, taking a sneaky look herself to make sure Coach Genghis wasn't listening in, "is because he's not really Coach Genghis. He's not really any coach. He's Count Olaf in disguise."

"I knew you recognized him!" Klaus said.

"Count Olaf?" Duncan said. "How awful! How did he follow you here?"

"Stewak," Sunny said glumly.

"My sister means something like 'He follows us everywhere,'" Violet explained, "and she's right. But it doesn't matter how he found us. The point is that he's here and that he undoubtedly has a scheme to snatch our fortune."

"But why did you pretend not to recognize him?" Klaus asked.

"Yes," Isadora said. "If you told Vice Principal Nero that he was really Count Olaf, then Nero could throw the cakesniffer out of here, if you'll pardon my language."

Violet shook her head to indicate that she disagreed with Isadora and that she didn't mind about "cakesniffer." "Olaf's too clever for that," she said. "I knew that if I tried to tell Nero that he wasn't really a gym teacher, he would manage to wiggle out of it, just as he did with Aunt Josephine and Uncle Monty and everybody else."

"That's good thinking," Klaus admitted.

"Plus, if Olaf thinks that he's fooled us, it might give us some more time to figure out exactly what he's up to."

"Lirt!" Sunny pointed out.

"My sister means that we can see if any of his assistants are around," Violet translated. "That's a good point, Sunny. I hadn't thought of that."
"Count Olaf has assistants?" Isadora asked. "That's not fair. He's bad enough without people helping him."

"His assistants are as bad as he is," Klaus said. "There are two powder-faced women who forced us to be in his play. There's a hook-handed man who helped Olaf murder our Uncle Monty."
"And the bald man who bossed us around at the lumbermill, don't forget him," Violet added.

"Aeginu!" Sunny said, which meant something like "And the assistant that looks like neither a man nor a woman."

"What does 'aeginu' mean?" Duncan asked, taking out his notebook. "I'm going to write down all these details about Olaf and his troupe."

"Why?" Violet asked.

"Why?" Isadora repeated. "Because we're going to help you, that's why! You don't think we'd just sit here while you tried to escape from Olaf's clutches, would you?"

"But Count Olaf is very dangerous," Klaus said. "If you try and help us, you'll be risking your lives."
"Never mind about that," Duncan said, although I am sorry to tell you that the Quagmire triplets should have minded about that. They should have minded very much. Duncan and Isadora were very brave and caring to try and help the Baudelaire orphans, but bravery often demands a price. By "price" I do not mean something along the lines of five dollars. I mean a much, much bigger price, a price so dreadful that I cannot speak of it now but must return to the scene I am writing at this moment.

"Never mind about that," Duncan said. "What we need is a plan. Now, we need to prove to Nero that Coach Genghis is really Count Olaf. How can we do that?"

"Nero has that computer," Violet said thoughtfully. "He showed us a little picture of Olaf on the screen, remember?"

"Yes," Klaus said, shaking his head. "He told us that the advanced computer system would keep Olaf away. So much for computers."

Sunny nodded her head in agreement, and Violet picked her up and put her on her lap. Nero had reached a particularly shrieky section of his sonata, and the children had to lean forward to one another in order to continue their conversation. "If we go and see Nero first thing tomorrow morning," Violet said, "we can talk to him alone, without Olaf butting in. We'll ask him to use the computer. Nero might not believe us, but the computer should be able to convince him to at least investigate Coach Genghis."
"Maybe Nero will make him take off the rurban," Isadora said, "revealing Olaf's only eyebrow."
"Or take off those expensive-looking running shoes," Klaus said, "revealing Olaf's tattoo."

"But if you talk to Nero," Duncan said, "then Coach Genghis will know that you're suspicious."
"That's why we'll have to be extra careful," Violet said. "We want Nero to find out about Olaf, without Olaf finding out about us."
"And in the meantime," Duncan said, "Isadora and I will do some investigating ourselves. Perhaps we can spot one of these assistants you've described."
"That would be very useful," Violet said, "if you're sure about wanting to help us."
"Say no more about it," Duncan said and patted Violet's hand. And they said no more about it. They didn't say another word about Count Olaf for the rest of Nero's sonata, or while he performed it the second time, or the third time, or the fourth time, or the fifth time, or even the sixth time, by which time it was very, very late at night. The Baudelaire orphans and the Quagmire triplets merely sat in a companionable comfort, a phrase which here means many things, all of them happy even though it is quite difficult to be happy while hearing a terrible sonata performed over and over by a man who cannot play the violin, while attending an atrocious boarding school with an evil man sitting nearby undoubtedly planning something dreadful. But happy moments came rarely and unexpectedly in the Baudelaires' lives, and the three siblings had learned to accept them. Duncan kept his hand on Violet's and talked to her about terrible concerts he had attended back when the Quagmire parents were alive, and she was happy to hear his stories. Isadora began working on a poem about libraries and showed Klaus what she had written in her notebook, and Klaus was happy to offer suggestions. And Sunny snuggled down in Violet's lap and chewed on the armrest of her seat, happy to bite something that was so sturdy.
I'm sure you would know, even if I didn't tell you, that things were about to get much worse for the Baudelaires, but I will end this chapter with this moment of companionable comfort rather than skip ahead to the unpleasant events of the next morning, or the terrible trials of the days that followed, or the horrific crime that marked the end of the Baudelaires' time at Prufrock Prep. These things happened, of course, and there is no use pretending they didn't. But for now let us ignore the terrible sonata, the dreadful teachers, the nasty, teasing students, and the even more wretched things that will be happening soon enough. Let us enjoy this brief moment of comfort, as the Baudelaires enjoyed it in the company of the Quagmire triplets and, in Sunny's case, an armrest. Let us enjoy, at the end of this chapter, the last happy moment any of these children would have for a long, long time.


^ CHAPTER SIX

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