Malipieri calculated that if Sassi were punctual, Sabina would be at the door of the palace at a quarter-past five. At five minutes past, he came down, and sent the porter on an errand which would occupy at least half an hour even if executed with despatch. Masin would keep the door, he said. The old man was delighted to have an excuse for going out, and promised himself to spend a comfortable hour in a wine shop if he could find a friend. His wife, as there was so little to do, had found some employment in a laundry, to which she went in the morning and which kept her out all day. No one would see Sabina and Sassi enter, and if it seemed advisable they could be got out in the same way. No one but Masin and Malipieri himself need ever know that they had been in the palace that afternoon.
It was all very well prepared, by a man well accustomed to emergencies, and it was not easy to see how anything could go wrong. Even allowing more time than was necessary, Sabina’s visit to the vaults could not possibly occupy much more than an hour.
Malipieri was beginning to realize that his work in the vaults had been watched with much more interest than he had supposed possible, and that in some way or other news of his progress had reached various quarters. In the first place, his reputation was much wider than he knew, and many scholars and archaeologists throughout Europe had been profoundly impressed both by what he had discovered and by the learning he had shown in discussing his discoveries. It followed that many were curious to see what he would do next, and there were paragraphs about him in grave reviews, and flattering references to him in speeches made at learned conventions. He had friends whose names he had never heard, and enemies, too, ready to attack him on the one side and to defend him on the other. Some praised his modesty, and others called it affectation. His experience of the wider world was short, so far, and he did not understand that it had taken people a year to appreciate his success. He had hoped for immediate recognition of his great services to archaeology, and had been somewhat disappointed because that recognition had not been instantaneous. Like most men of superior talent, in the same situation, when praise came in due time and abundantly, he did not care for it because he was already interested in new work. To the man of genius the past is always insignificant as compared with the future. When Goethe, dying, asked for “more light,” he may or may not have merely meant that he wished the window opened because the room seemed dark to his failing eyes; the higher interpretation which has been put upon his last words remains the true one, in the spirit, if not in the letter. He died, as he had lived, the man of genius looking forward, not backward, to the last, crying for light, more light, thinking not of dying and ending, but of living, hoping, doing, winning.