The namesake of the story is a song by Steven Wilson. It tells the tale of a man greatly bereaved by the death of his sister, and who sees in a singing raven a manifestation of her. He begs it to sing for him, if only to bring back a fleeting memory; a semblance of the joy he felt with her, but alas, the raven refuses to sing.
The thought of an ensuing dynamic between Violet and Lemony has always intrigued me. I've always wondered where his awareness of her as an independent person would begin, and where it would end as her being an extension of Beatrice, whom she greatly resembles in appearance.
It should be mentioned that I will not be employing the interpretation of the characters given by Netflix. And without further ado, the disclaimer.
Disclaimer: A Series of Unfortunate Events and its characters belong to Daniel Handler.
A man in his late thirties treads upon the stoned ground of Eldritch Harbor; his thin posture is concealed by the overcoat he dons, and his blue eyes are rendered invisible by the shadow overcast by his hat. In one hand, he carries a bulky briefcase, and in the other, an old typewriter.
Lemony Snicket has searched all possible locations where the sea might have deposited the three— no, four Baudelaires. He has made queries to many unpleasant persons, read countless inaccurate newspapers, and even consulted one reptile, which proved to be much more helpful than the preceding sources, but just not helpful enough.
He has searched all possible locations, except this one.
His hope for an answer, a clue, or any sort of indication regarding the children who have somehow grown dear to him throbs painfully in his chest as it battles his overriding despair. Lemony Snicket has never been an optimist, nor has the world ever given him a reason to be one.
The truth of the predicament is, by the time he managed to find their last dwelling, one year has already passed. A year without hearing a single report about them.
He had nearly given up hope of finding them altogether, until one day, fate brought upon an acquaintanceship with a volunteer and a close associate of his sister. The man was concerned about the female Snicket who failed to show up following the concluding part of a scheme that Lemony was not privy to. He confided in him the details, and the subsequent events established themselves elegantly inside the writer's head. She has been washed away to a remote island. And what island could it be other than The Island.
Lemony allowed himself to hope and his heart soared high for the first time in a whole dreadfully enduring year.
But the higher the altitude, the greater the fall.
He did not find his sister. He found her grave.
Much to his shock and chagrin, she was buried near a person he loathes. His tears were bitter with loss and betrayal.
He found that the objects of his long-lasting search were present there as well. Seemingly the last inhabitants of the forsaken island.
He found out about his niece.
Somehow knowing he has one last enduring relative, and one so young and pure at that, adds to his dread rather than help relinquish it. He fears for the girl from troubles yet to come, but resound with a threatening promise all the same.
And now, the last Snicket stares at the steam that emerges from the great sailing vessels as it integrates with the looming fog and wonders if the scene before him is reality, or the product of distorted vision brought upon by his own misty eyes.
Lemony takes in a breath and exhales, his feet taking him to a bystander in a routine engraved in his memory.
He draws near the rugged sailor, who does not acknowledge his presence at all, but rather continues to remove objects from the small keel that sits against the railway of the dock.
"Excuse me, sir," Lemony mumbles, and the man turns his head towards him in an impatient, accusatory manner, "do you know of any—"
"Oy, speak up lad!"
Lemony clears his throat and looks sideways, as if anticipating an emergent hazard. He takes one step closer to the man and raises his voice to a normal speaking volume. "Do you know of any foreign visitors that have recently come to the city by the means of this harbor?"
"Lots of foreigners come 'ere from this harbor," says the man, who is now resting his forearm atop the cargo and chewing most vexingly.
The writer glances upon the region that is seemingly more frequented by pests than by humans and whose structures are halfway enveloped by shrubberies, before nodding at the bemusedly irked sailor.
"Yes, yes of course…" Lemony mumbles. "But the ones I inquire of may have come in a rather unconventional manner."
"Lots of foreigners come 'ere in rather unconventional manners."
Lemony sighs and sits his belongings to his sides on the stained floor before extracting a photograph of three children. He hands it to his interlocutor who surveys it with a confused expression.
"Have you seen any of these children?" Lemony inquires carefully.
The man shakes his head slowly, "nope. Don' look like any kids I seen."
"I see," comes a quiet, despondent mutter from Lemony, but before he retrieves the pictures, there is a new finger pointing at its middle.
"Isn't that the girl they found this morning?" the younger man asks and Lemony sucks in a breath.
"What girl? The castaway? Naw, she looks mighty different!"
"It's her, I tell ya! Maybe a lil bit younger in the photo but I got a talent for faces."
"Is she…" interjects Lemony, his voice shaking and his breath labored. Both heads turn towards him but he finds himself at a loss for words. When he does find them, he is almost too frightened to utter them, "is she safe?"
The young man nods, "safe and sound but a lil rough 'round the edges. You wanna see her?" he asks.
But Lemony is utterly tongue-tied and he gapes at the men with emotions he cannot name. Years of chronicling have rendered the Baudelaires into fictive characters; at certain times he could swear they are mere figments of his imagination, a desolate desire for him to have an extension of his beloved—a dream. He does not know if he is ready to be woken.
"Look 'ere mate. We got jobs to do, so you best make up your mind quick," rasps out the larger man, and Lemony nods hazily.
"I— yes," he clears his throat and begs his heart to quieten.
"I would very much like to see her," Lemony utters, soft enough for his words to be a whisper.
The grim scenery of reminiscence lends itself to distortion in the writer's mind. Vague sights and obscured sounds are collected by his senses, but he is aware of none of them. There is only the sight of the narrow road before him shortening and the sound of his heart loudly thumping. His two companions take to guiding the stranger in a decidedly neglectful manner; they speed a few feet before him, uncaring whether he follows along or not.
When they reach a cabin that is wrought by atrophy into a mildewed antiquity, they halt, and in unison, they finally turn to the enigmatic man in sounding expectancy.
Fingers that are denied blood turn white as they clutch onto the handle of a tattered briefcase. Lemony Snicket is frozen to the ground, eyes fixated on the fading label of the small shed.
He doesn't know if he is ready.
But the less than cordial pairs of eyes that judge him with impatient intensity implore him to step forward.
He holds his belongings in one hand and reaches towards the doorknob with the other, turning it slowly.
He is greeted by the sight of a seemingly old and somewhat stout, but rather kind looking woman, who is sat at what appears to be a reception desk. She appraises him with an uplifted brow and inclines her head in askance, may I help you? her pose would suggest.
Before he is allowed the chance to speak, his young chaperone chirps in with a friendly salute, garnering a warm grin from the motherly figure. As they exchange their greetings, Lemony finds himself both relieved and aggravated by the suspension of his mounting worries, and the attention withdrawn from him only brings about a surge of unwanted dreads.
She is safe, he reminds himself, why should you be so distraught?
He knows why. Because regardless of his concern for the young Baudelaire, his sympathy towards his own impending afflictions surmounts it. Lemony Snicket is at heart a selfish man, and that is a fact he has grown to accept.
Mainly, he distresses over the what ifs.
What if she expects him to take her in as a guardian? What if she is put in danger, and it is all his fault? What if she is sickened upon finding out he has been publishing about her life? What if she dismisses him as simply another useless adult? What if she sees him for who he is; a self-serving, cowardly man?
What if she reminds him of Beatrice?
He knows in an instant which of these possibilities he is most afraid of.
The voices in the background become subdued, and there is one distinct disruption that addresses him, gestures for him to follow and he does. The first thing that strikes him when he steps into the room that is initially hidden from view is the smell. At some point in time, this place was used for replenishing fish and various other goods before they were shipped to consumership; now as it lays forgotten with business devastated by decreased demands, the fungus and mildew have take it as a haven. Whatever furniture that resides in despondence against the peeling walls has surrendered to the mites and the dust.
Lemony brings his arm to cover his face in a movement rather involuntary, fending off the allergic effect before it draws from his eyes tears that he has worked hard to banish.
"You'll have to excuse the smell, dearie boy. You'll get used to it in a few," says the lady as she passes by him towards a corner in the room where light casts no luminance. When she sits on her knees, he knows that this is where Violet rests.
On a shriveling, dirty cot in the coldest part of a dying place.
He feels a grimace contort his face and he swallows.
Whatever command he had over his body dissolves when he sees the dark tresses of hair framing an ashen face. His wobbling legs carry his heavy body forward and his arms stretch before him, for balance or by impatience, he does not know.
When he reaches her, he feels his heart sink.
Violet's face is deadly pale, and it contrasts alarmingly against the smeared mattress below her. It is marred by bruises big and small, swollen and swelling. Malnutrition parades its victory against her feeble body which lies so defeatedly in tattered clothes that have become too large to fit her correctly. Her lips look painfully chapped and her eyes are sealed shut.
The room grows even more grim by the silence of its new occupants, and it gains a more sinister mien by the labored breathing of a girl left alone to battle the easily vanquishing death.
"Oh, Violet," chokes Lemony in a whisper that vanishes as quickly is it emanates.
His heart is shaken but his mind is reeling. He hates to see the reverberations of his descriptions and more being realized into being, hates to see the pain that her visage exudes, hates how real all of this is. It is real. Violet is real.
His shaking hand clears his eyes from treacherous foes that frequent him more than any friend. He cannot help the building incredulous anger. Anger at the strangers who have become her acquaintances by their recurrent aggression; at those who have maintained the boundary at the risk of causing her pain; at those who saw it fit to place her here; at himself for being no better than the ones he condemns.
"Why is she here?" he ask at last, in complete contradiction to his usually soft-spoken timbre, his pain channeled freely through his words, "why is she not in the infirmary?"
"We don't have no infirmary," says the large man, enunciating the last word with added emphasis, as if to mock his diction. Indeed he seemed gravely unimpressed by the quaint stranger that held him from his work with his incessant questions and fancy wording.
The lady is quick to quench any tension; she chimes in with a calming hand on the man's forearm and a sympathetic expression directed to Lemony.
"This is a very small town, you see," she explains with deliberation that mirrors that of a patient teacher's handling of a particularly slow student, "and most of those who live in it are tradesmen and sailors; always on the leave. A doctor wouldn't be heading to riches 'round here."
Lemony regards her grimly, his cynicism towards the societal mentality manifesting itself rather clearly on his countenance. He is quick to softening his disposition, however. This woman is not the mastermind behind the status quo, and it wouldn't do to take out his frustrations on other people.
"Don't you worry though, mister," says the young man who cannot seem to be bothered by the grimmest of situations, "we'll be taking her with us to the city on our next trip. Get her medicated and running on full steam," he throws an arm around Lemony's shoulder.
The writer allows the solemn smile that twists his lips for a second. Running on full steam. What a proper way to put it.
But the smile is now gone. He looks at the men and wonders how much they should be trusted. He wonders where fate would deposit her thereafter.
He has found her, and he is not willing to lose her.
Nor is he entirely willing to take her in.
It was always easier to be inquiring about her and her siblings miles away from they are, regardless of all the accompanying unpleasantness. He took refuge in knowing that whenever harm befell them, it was not because of him; he was looking after them, indirectly.
The added weight of an impending responsibility is heavy on Lemony's chest.
He doesn't know if he can take her in.
But time is running out. The men's sea voyage is nearing. This meeting is concluding.
He doesn't know…
He looks at the girl and for a second glimpses a woman whom he loves very much, very achingly…
He looks at the larger man and sees lust hidden in his eyes.
And after a few exchanged words and vehement insistence, Lemony walks down the narrow road, under the clouding sky, but instead of a briefcase and a typewriter, he carries the limp weight of Violet Baudelaire.