Chapter 22 Summary
Prosper has not left the Star-Palace for almost three days, and he wants some fresh air. He goes with Riccio and Hornet to meet Scipio and discuss their information on the house they are supposed to rob for the Conte. Mosca offers to watch the prisoner, and Bo stays behind to play with the tortoise.
The children wait near the house long after the time Scipio is supposed to meet them, but he does not come. The modest home does not look like the sort of place that would hold a treasure worth millions of lire. Hornet goes back to worrying that they do not have enough information about the interior, and Riccio has an idea. When he spots the housekeeper walking home with some groceries and her dogs, he purposely runs into her and sends her groceries flying across the sidewalk. After helping her pick them up, he offers to carry them for her. The housekeeper asks suspiciously if he is expecting a tip; when he says he is not, she accepts his offer.
Riccio disappears into the house while Prosper and Hornet wait anxiously. When their friend emerges, he has a large ice cream cone and detailed knowledge of the home’s downstairs rooms. He explains that there are no bars or extra locks on the doors, and there is a door they did not know about between the kitchen and the garden. It is a perfect, easy place to slip inside unnoticed—as long as the mistress of the house, Signora Ida Spavento, is asleep somewhere upstairs.
The children are somewhat cheered by this additional information, although they are worried about Scipio. It is unlike him to fail to show up for a meeting, and they cannot help thinking that something must be wrong. They have no way of contacting him, so they wait another half hour and give up.
On the way home, the children stop at Victor’s apartment to feed his other tortoise. As Hornet looks through Victor’s books and Riccio plays with his disguises, Prosper searches for information about himself and Bo. The phone rings several times, and Hornet eventually picks it up. The caller is Esther Hartlieb, Prosper’s aunt, who announces that she is coming to Venice in two days. Hornet claims to be Victor’s secretary and says that Prosper and Bo have moved on from Venice. Esther Hartlieb does not seem to believe this. She says she is unhappy with the information Victor is passing her about the boys, and she demands a meeting with Victor at the Hotel Sandwirth at three o’clock Tuesday afternoon.
Riccio asks Prosper all about his aunt. When Riccio learns she is rich, he claims he wishes she would adopt him instead, “just as long as she doesn’t hit me too often.” Hornet tells him that Esther Hartlieb would not want a spiky-haired thief with bad teeth.