Chapter 30 Summary
After his cold night on the floor of the bathroom at the Star-Palace, Victor gets sick. For two days, he stays in bed and is hardly able to get up. On Tuesday afternoon, when he is supposed to meet with the Hartliebs, he forces himself to get up and make his way to their hotel. He arrives late and undisguised.
The Hartliebs receive Victor in their room, where they sit with their backs to the spectacular view of Venice in snow. Victor tells the couple that he tracked Prosper and Bo to a gang of child thieves who live in the city. He claims that one of the thieves recognized him and that Prosper and Bo took this boy’s warning and left Venice on a ferry to Corfu. Victor feels awkward and wrong as he lies, and he wishes that he had at least put on a fake mustache. He would feel happier if he had something to hide behind.
Esther Hartlieb does not accept Victor’s story. She thinks Prosper would not leave Venice because the city reminds him of his mother. She says that she is sure he is still here and that he has Bo with him. She shows Victor an enlarged photo of Prosper and Bo, and she announces that she is making posters. She will cover the city with signs explaining the boys’ situation and offering a reward for their safe return. Victor advises against this, but Esther insists that this is the only option left for rescuing Bo from “this infernal city” and “his selfish brother.”
Esther’s venomous anger shocks Victor, who points out that the boys have lost their mother and want to stay together. Esther waves away this objection. She says she will buy Bo a dog, and this will make him forget about his brother in no time. Victor cannot believe the heartlessness of this comment. He asks Esther if she even likes children, and she says she does not. She does not like their noise, their fidgetiness, or their dirtiness. Also, “they have no idea of what’s really important.” This last comment is too much for Victor, who stalks out of the room in disgust.
On his way home, Victor resolves to warn Prosper and Bo of their aunt’s plans. He is still sick, however, and he is not dressed warmly enough for the long walk to the Star-Palace. Besides, he has work to do for another client in the evening. He resolves to deliver his warning to the boys first thing in the morning.