Chapter 52 Summary

Esther Hartlieb remains in Venice a few days longer than planned, taking little “Ernesto” Barbarossa to see the sights every day. One evening he comes home finely dressed in the most expensive children’s clothes available in Venice. Prosper and Bo are playing a game on the floor with Ida and their friends. Barbarossa stands over them and calls them idiots for running away from such a rich aunt. Ida barely looks up as she says that Barbarossa probably has “a wallet for a heart.” Barbarossa takes his wallet from his pocket and asks Ida and Victor to look after his shop for a few years. He is leaving Venice with Esther Hartlieb, who has offered to adopt him.

After that news is settled, Mosca announces that he and Riccio are also leaving. They want to move into an abandoned building in Castello. When Ida asks if they are planning to steal for a living, Riccio pretends not to hear but Mosca says he will find something honest to do. Ida seems sad but does not try to force the boys to stay.

Instead, she turns to Prosper, Hornet, and Bo and says she hopes they are not going to run off, too. Bo announces that Hornet wants to live with Ida forever. Hornet goes beet red, but Ida seems pleased, and she invites Hornet to stay. Then she looks at Prosper, who goes quiet. Bo says that Prosper also wants to stay but is too shy to admit it. Ida says that the four of them should get along fine.

A few days later, Scipio stops Victor in the street. They walk together, and Scipio admits that he does not know what to do now that he is grown-up. He asks Victor how adults occupy their time. Victor says, “, shop, pay bills, use the phone, read newspapers, drink coffee, sleep.” Scipio complains that none of that sounds exciting, and Victor does not argue. Scipio murmurs that he could hunt for treasures or learn to dive, and Victor smiles, thinking that Scipio has interesting taste in work.

Suddenly Scipio has an idea. He offers to become Victor’s employee and do all the footsore and nighttime work. Victor hesitates. He offers Scipio a job at Barbarossa’s shop instead. Scipio dismisses that idea immediately and says that he wants to learn to be a famous detective, and he wants Victor to teach him. Victor sighs and says that he will agree on the condition that Scipio write to his parents to let them know he is okay. Scipio is obviously displeased with this condition, but he agrees.