"Hello!" Violet cried.
"Hello!" Klaus yelled.
"Shalom!" Sunny shrieked.
Over the sound of the rushing stream, the Baudelaires heard a very dim sound coming from behind the hatch. The sound was a human voice, very deep and echoey as if it were coming from the bottom of a well. "Friend or foe?" it said.
The Baudelaires looked at one another. They knew, as Im sure you know, that "friend or foe" is a traditional greeting directed at visitors who approach an important place, such as a royal palace or a fiercely guarded shoe store, and must identify themselves as either a friend or a foe of the people inside. But the siblings did not know if they were friends or foes for the simple reason that they had no idea who was talking.
"What should we say?" Violet asked, lowering her voice. "The eye might mean that its Count Olafs submarine, in which case were foes."
"The eye might mean that its V.F.D.s submarine," Klaus said, "in which case were friends."
"Obvio!" Sunny said, which meant "Theres only one answer that will get us into the submarine," and she called down to the hatch, "Friend!"
There was a pause, and the echoey voice spoke again. "Password, please," it said.
The Baudelaires looked at one another again. A password, of course, is a certain word or phrase that one utters in order to receive information or enter a secret place, and the siblings of course had no idea what they should say in order to enter a submarine. For a moment none of the children said anything, merely tried to think, although they wished it were quieter so they could think without the distractions of the sounds of the rushing of water and the coughing of fish. They wished that instead of being stranded on a toboggan in the middle of the Stricken Stream, they were in some quiet room, such as the Baudelaire library, where they could sit in silence and read up on what the password might be. But as the three siblings thought of one library, one sibling remembered another: the ruined V.F.D. library, up in the Valley of Four Drafts where the headquarters had once stood. Violet thought of an iron archway, one of the few remnants of the library, and the motto that was etched into it. The eldest Baudelaire looked at her siblings and then leaned down to the hatch and repeated the mysterious words she had seen, and that she hoped would bring her and her siblings to safety.
"The world is quiet here," she said.
There was a pause, and with a loud, metallic creak, the hatch opened, and the siblings peered into a dark hole, which had a ladder running along the side so they could climb down. They shivered, and not just from the icy chill of the mountain winds and the rushing dark waters of the Stricken Stream. They shivered because they did not know where they were going, or who they might meet if they climbed down into the hole. Instead of entering, the Baudelaires wanted to call something else down the hatchthe same words that had been called up to them. "Friend or foe?" they wanted to say. "Friend or foe?" Would it be safer to enter the submarine, or safer to risk their lives outside, in the rushing waters of the Stricken Stream?
"Enter, Baudelaires," the voice said, and whether it belonged to friend or foe, the Baudelaires decided to climb inside.
From The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket. Text copyright © 2004 by Lemony Snicket. Illustrations copyright © 2004 by Brett Helquest. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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