Chapter 18 Summary

Hornet, Mosca, and Riccio have spent the past two days watching the house they are supposed to rob. Now they sit in the Star-Palace discussing what they have learned. They know when the owner of the house, Signora Ida Spavento, likes to go out in the morning as well as what she does for a living. They know about her housekeeper, who normally spends the whole day in the house with her dogs. Most days at lunchtime, the housekeeper’s husband visits. He “looks as if he eats children for breakfast.” The housekeeper takes her dogs home at night, and Signora Spavento goes to bed early.

The boys claim it will be easy to break in during the night, but Hornet is not so sure. She points out all the weaknesses in their knowledge, all the ways the plan could go wrong. They may be wrong about the location of Signora Spavento’s bedroom or the location of the wooden wing they are supposed to steal. Hornet has stolen food and money in the past, but a burglary is a much scarier crime. The boys wave off her worries, but she can tell they feel as afraid as she does.

The children’s conversation is interrupted by the bell at the secret entrance to their hideout. They all look at each other in confusion. All five of them are home, and Scipio is not supposed to be back for another day. Prosper goes to look through the peephole, but that turns out to be unnecessary. Scipio shouts through the door, demanding to be allowed in.

When Prosper opens the door, Scipio bursts into the room. He is dripping wet, and he is wearing strange, fancy clothes. He is also totally stripped of his usual cocky mannerisms. Quickly, he tells them that the detective knows where they are and that they have to pack up and leave now. Everyone stares at him without moving.

Eventually, Prosper shakes himself into action. He sends Bo to get the cats while he gathers their things. Hornet moves next, telling Mosca to go keep watch at the entrance while she packs. As she works, she wipes some tears off her face. Riccio flops down on his bed and cries. “Where will we go? Where, for God’s sake, can we go?” Nobody knows, so nobody answers.

Suddenly Hornet stops packing. She says she has “an absolutely insane idea” and asks if they want to hear it.