Chapter 6 Summary

After Riccio and Prosper leave Barbarossa’s shop, Riccio insists on buying cakes. He says that nobody has ever succeeded in making Barbarossa pay more than his first offer and that Scipio will want Prosper to sell all the loot from now on. As they eat, they talk about what to buy. Prosper thinks of jackets and shoes, but Riccio is more interested in toys and TVs. He asks what fun object Prosper would most like to have, but Prosper does not know.

On the way home, Prosper tries to convince Riccio not to tell the Thief Lord about the job Barbarossa wants him to do. Riccio says this would be crazy. He says he will do the job himself if Scipio does not want it. Prosper struggles to explain why he thinks the offer is bad, but he cannot articulate a good reason.

As the boys pass through Saint Mark’s Square, a man with a walrus moustache gives Prosper a funny look. Prosper gets scared and runs, and soon he sees the man following him. At first, Riccio thinks Prosper is imagining things, but then he recognizes the man as a private detective who often works for tourists. Riccio leads Prosper through a maze of streets, hoping to confuse the man. They make their way to the Grand Canal and hop onto a boat called a vaporetto that works like a bus. As they pull away from shore, they see the detective staring after them. Riccio grins and waves; he knows the man has no chance of catching them now that they are on the water. There are only two bridges across the Grand Canal, and the boys can be out of sight long before the man reaches either one.

As the boys wait to hop off the vaporetto at its next stop, Riccio asks why a detective would follow Prosper. As Riccio knows, Prosper never steals unless he must. Prosper tells Riccio about his rich aunt, who wants to adopt Bo even though Bo hates her. She is certainly rich enough to hire a detective, but Prosper is determined to elude her—and also to prevent Bo from finding out that she is still looking for him. Prosper musingly asks whether Riccio ever wishes he were grown up. Riccio says he does not because kids blend in and fill their stomachs more easily. He goes on to say:

You know what Scipio always says? Children are caterpillars and adults are butterflies. No butterfly ever remembers what it felt like being a caterpillar.