Chapter 4 Summary
Prosper wakes up to see a slender, masked boy sneaking into the theater. It is the Thief Lord, dressed as always in an old-fashioned bird mask, high-heeled boots, and a long black coat. He cannot be older than twelve or thirteen, but he always pretends to be grown up. Everyone gets up to say hello.
Scipio announces that he has completed a new raid, and he shows off a newspaper article about a break-in at a wealthy home known as the Palazzo Contarini. Everyone is impressed that Scipio managed to steal from such a rich place, but Mosca and Riccio are also disappointed. They have been keeping watch at a different house, thinking Scipio planned to rob that one. Scipio tells them that his opportunity at the Palazzo Contarini was perfect, and he will raid the other house some other time.
The Thief Lord tells the others all about his raid. He claims that the lady of the house woke up just as he stole a medallion off a table by her bed, but he managed to get away just as she raised the alarm. He shows them a bag of loot that contains some spoons, a magnifying glass, and a pair of golden tongs. Riccio asks if the tongs are for nose hairs, and Scipio makes fun of him for not knowing a pair of sugar tongs when he sees one. Hornet, who hates it when Scipio acts so condescending, leaps to Riccio’s defense and makes Scipio apologize.
Scipio tells the kids to demand a good price for his loot. They always sell their stolen goods to a man named Barbarossa, who is the only junk dealer in town willing to buy from kids. He usually intimidates Hornet and Mosca into accepting prices they know are far below the worth of the objects they sell, but nobody knows how to make him pay more. When Bo hears this, he says eagerly that Prosper is good at bargaining. Prosper objects, but Scipio tells him to take charge of the negotiations. Scipio says the goods are worth two hundred thousand lire—a huge sum in the eyes of the children—but Prosper thinks they can get much more.
Scipio turns to leave, but he says he will return tomorrow to find out how much money Barbarossa paid. Almost as an afterthought, he adds that he has brought the children two little kittens. He claims someone was planning to drown them in a canal, and he asks Bo to take care of them.