Chapter 51 Summary

The next day, shortly before Esther’s appointment, all of the real children go to the café across the street from Ida’s house and order ice cream sundaes. Most of them eat enthusiastically, but Proper pokes at his sundae and stares out the window. When Esther approaches, he points her out to Hornet. Hornet is surprised; she thought Esther would be “taller—and sort of more sinister.”

Lucia, as a nun, ushers Esther into Ida’s pantry, which has been changed to look like an office. Ida is dressed in a habit and sitting at a desk beneath a picture of the Madonna and Child. Victor is there too, undisguised. Ida explains that she invited him because he was in charge of the search for Prosper and Bo.

Esther seems to feel a little guilty about the way she has treated her nephews. When Ida mentions that it costs money to care for children, Esther rushes into a speech about how she cannot be expected to care for her nephews. According to her, Bo “is stubborn, moody, and bites like a little dog.” She hastens to say that she will donate her sister’s meager estate to the orphanage to pay for the boys’ upbringing.

Just then, someone knocks on the pantry door. Lucia ushers Barbarossa into the room. She calls him Ernesto and says the other children have been teasing him again. Ida apologizes to Esther, then she turns to Barbarossa and asks what happened. Barbarossa tells a pitiful story about mean boys taking his books, and Ida assures him that the boys will be punished.

Barbarossa puts on a show for Esther, sniffling and saying that he wants to go to a museum and see some paintings by Titian. Esther perks up when she hears this. She tells him that Titian is her favorite painter, and Barbarossa tells her she looks just like his Madonna. Victor listens to this in disbelief, thinking that Barbarossa is grossly overdoing the flattery. To his surprise, however, Esther eats it up. She asks permission to take Barbarossa out to the museum for the afternoon, and Ida pretends to be reluctant. Barbarossa says he wants to go, and Ida grants permission. When he goes to get ready, Esther says musingly that she would like to have a child but that she has not yet found one who wants her.

That evening when Esther brings Barbarossa back to Ida’s house, everyone watches them through the window. They seem perfectly happy together, but Prosper cannot stop worrying that Esther will once again change her mind and try to take Bo away from him. Victor tells Prosper to stop worrying, but Prosper insists that he will continue to feel anxious until his aunt boards a plane without Bo by her side.