Furthermore, an architect would have understood at a glance that the plan was incomplete, and that there was some reason why it could not be completed. A part of it was quite blank, but in one place the probable continuation of a main wall not explored, or altogether inaccessible, was indicated by dotted lines.
Besides this main drawing, Malipieri had several others made on tracing paper to the same scale, which he laid over the first, and moved about, trying to make the one fit the other, and in each of these the part which was blank in the one underneath was filled in according to different imaginary plans. Lastly, he had a large transparent sheet on which were accurately laid out the walls and doors of the ground floor of the palace at the north-west corner, and in this there was marked a square piece of masonry, shaded as if to represent a solid pilaster, and which came over the unexplored part of the cellars. Sometimes Malipieri placed this drawing over the first, and then one of the others on both, trying to make the three agree. It was like an odd puzzle, and there was not a word written on any of the plans to explain what they meant. On most of the thin ones there were blue lines, indicating water, or at least its possible course.
The imaginary architect, if he could have watched the real one, would have understood before long that the latter was theorizing about the probable construction of what was hitherto inaccessible, and about the probable position of certain channels through which water flowed, or might be expected to flow. He would also have gathered that Malipieri could reach no definite conclusion unless he could break through one of two walls in the cellar, or descend through an opening in the floor above, which would be by far the easiest way. He might even have wondered why Malipieri did not at once adopt the latter expedient. It is not a serious matter to make an aperture through a vault, large enough to allow the passage of a man’s body, and it could not be attended with any danger to the building. It would be much less safe and far more difficult to cut a hole through one of the main foundation walls, which might be many feet thick and yet not wholly secure. Nevertheless the movements made by the point of Malipieri’s pencil showed that he was contemplating that method of gaining an entrance.
Sabina had been more than two months in Baron Volterra’s house, when she at last received a line from her mother. The short letter was characteristic and was, after all, what the girl had expected, neither more nor less. The Princess told her that for the present she must stay with the “kind friends” who had offered her a home; that everything would be right before long; that if she needed any advice she had better send for Sassi, who had always served the family faithfully; that gowns were going to be short next year, which would be becoming to Sabina when she “came out,” because she had small feet and admirable ankles; and that the weather was heavenly. The Princess added that she would send her some pocket-money before long, and that she was trying to find the best way of sending it.