If you were going to give a gold medal to the least delightful person on
Earth, you would have to give that medal to a person named Carmelita Spats, and
if you didn't give it to her, Carmelita Spats was the sort of person who would
snatch it from your hands anyway. Carmelita Spats was rude, she was violent, and
she was filthy, and it is really a shame that I must describe her to you,
because there are enough ghastly and distressing things in this story without
even mentioning such an unpleasant person.
It is the Baudelaire orphans, thank goodness, who are the heroes of this
story, not the dreadful Carmelita Spats, and if you wanted to give a gold medal
to Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire, it would be for survival in the face of
adversity. Adversity is a word which here means "trouble," and there are
very few people in this world who have had the sort of troubling adversity that
follows these three children wherever they go. Their trouble began one day when
they were relaxing at the beach and received the distressing news that their
parents had been killed in a terrible fire, and so were sent to live with a
distant relative named Count Olaf.
If you were going to give a gold medal to Count Olaf, you would have to lock
it up someplace before the awarding ceremony, because Count Olaf was such a
greedy and evil man that he would try to steal it beforehand. The Baudelaire
orphans did not have a gold medal, but they did have an enormous fortune that
their parents had left them, and it was that fortune Count Olaf tried to snatch.
The three siblings survived living with Count Olaf, but just barely, and since
then Olaf had followed them everywhere, usually accompanied by one or more of
his sinister and ugly associates. No matter who was caring for the Baudelaires,
Count Olaf was always right behind them, performing such dastardly deeds that I
can scarcely list them all: kidnapping, murder, nasty phone calls, disguises,
poison, hypnosis, and atrocious cooking are just some of the adversities the
Baudelaire orphans survived at his hands. Even worse, Count Olaf had a bad habit
of avoiding capture, so he was always sure to turn up again. It is truly awful
that this keeps happening, but that is how the story goes.
I only tell you that the story goes this way because you are about to become
acquainted with rude, violent, filthy Carmelita Spats, and if you can't stand
reading about her, you had best put this book down and read something else,
because it only gets worse from here. Before too long, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny
Baudelaire will have so much adversity that being shoved aside by Carmelita
Spats will look like a trip to the ice cream store.
"Get out of my way, you cakesniffers!" said a rude, violent, and filthy
little girl, shoving the Baudelaire orphans aside as she dashed by. Violet,
Klaus, and Sunny were too startled to answer. They were standing on a sidewalk
made of bricks, which must have been very old because there was a great deal of
dark moss oozing out from in between them. Surrounding the sidewalk was a vast
brown lawn that looked like it had never been watered, and on the lawn were
hundreds of children running in various directions. Occasionally someone would
slip and fall to the ground, only to get back up and keep running. It looked
exhausting and pointless, two things that should be avoided at all costs, but
the Baudelaire orphans barely glanced at the other children, keeping their eyes
on the mossy bricks below them.
Shyness is a curious thing, because, like quicksand, it can strike people at
any time, and also, like quicksand, it usually makes its victims look down. This
was to be the Baudelaires' first day at Prufrock Preparatory School, and all
three siblings found that they would rather look at the oozing moss than at
"Have you dropped something?" Mr. Poe asked, coughing into a white
handkerchief. One place the Baudelaires certainly didn't want to look was at Mr.
Poe, who was walking closely behind them. Mr. Poe was a banker who had been
placed in charge of the Baudelaires' affairs following the terrible fire, and
this had turned out to be a lousy idea. Mr. Poe meant well, but a jar of mustard
probably also means well and would do a better job of keeping the Baudelaires
out of danger. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny had long ago learned that the only thing
they could count on from Mr. Poe was that he was always coughing.
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