Chapter 48 Summary

That night, everyone eats spaghetti at Ida’s house. Lucia, the housekeeper, does not complain about having to cook for so many people except to comment grumpily that people are taking advantage of her employer’s generosity. Ida and Barbarossa are missing as the meal begins, but the children start eating anyway. They all keep looking nervously at Scipio, who sits at the head of the table. Except for a few familiar gestures, he looks like a stranger to them. He keeps smiling at them to try to put them at ease, but it does not work.

Victor urges Scipio to go visit his parents and explain what has happened. Scipio says they do not care about him and that he only wants to sneak in and say good-bye to his cats. Victor argues that it is cruel of Scipio to leave his parents wondering. Bo says that Scipio is grown-up and can do whatever he wants. This makes Victor angry, but he gives up arguing for now.

Just then, Ida storms in with Barbarossa, who has been eating her chocolates and attempting to steal her cameras. Barbarossa growls that he will pay her back when he can get his wallet and withdraw some money from the bank. He shouts at everyone, insulting the adults and lording over the children. He kicks Riccio and tells Bo that the two of them are nothing alike: “I went to college, and you haven’t even been to kindergarten yet.” He keeps muttering threats about what he will do to all of them when he is big again. His words sound so silly coming from the mouth of a four-year-old that the others cannot bring themselves to worry.

Bo comments that Barbarossa combs his hair neatly, eats without spilling, and talks like a grown-up. If it were not for his drinking and swearing habits, he would be Esther Hartlieb’s ideal child. Scipio smiles and says he has a crazy idea. Barbarossa snarls at Scipio that he is just a clone of his father and, therefore, is incapable of saying anything worth hearing. Scipio, who has retained his talent for theatrics, shrugs and says that Barbarossa can just go to the orphanage if he likes. Barbarossa rises to the bait, swallowing his pride and asking, relatively politely, to hear Scipio’s plan. Scipio explains that Prosper and Bo have an aunt who wants a child that acts like an adult. Barbarossa is an adult in a child’s body, and he needs somewhere to stay and be safe until he reaches adult size. Why not try to get her to adopt him? Barbarossa thinks it over and asks if this aunt is rich. Prosper says she is rich, but he cannot imagine that anyone, even Esther, would want to adopt Barbarossa.