“Oh, it’s a wonder,” exclaimed the artist, and his eyes grew dreamy. “It shines out at you with its white terraces and turrets like those fascinating castles that Maxfield Parrish draws for children. It is fairyland. You expect to wake and find it gone.”
“Oh, drop that, Petty,” said Brewster, “or it will make you poetical. What I want to know is who owns it and is it likely to be occupied at this season?”
“It belongs to a certain marquise, who is a widow with no children. They say she has a horror of the place for some reason and has never been near it. It is kept as though she was to turn up the next day, but except for the servants it is always deserted.”
“The very thing,” declared Brewster; “Petty, we’ll have a house-party.”
“You’d better not count on that, Monty. A man I know ran across the place once and tried for a year to buy it. But the lady has ideas of her own.”
“Well, if you wish to give him a hint or two about how to do things, watch me. If you don’t spend two weeks in your dream-castle, I will cut the crowd and sail for home.” He secured the name of the owner, and found that Pettingill had even a remote idea of the address of her agent. Armed with these facts he set out in search of a courier, and through Philippe he secured a Frenchman named Bertier, who was guaranteed to be surprisingly ingenious in providing methods of spending money. To him Brewster confided his scheme, and Bertier realized with rising enthusiasm that at last he had secured a client after his own heart. He was able to complete the address of the agent of the mysterious marquise, and an inquiry was immediately telegraphed to him.
The agent’s reply would have been discouraging to any one but Brewster. It stated that the owner had no intention of leasing her forsaken castle for any period whatever. The profligate learned that a fair price for an estate of that kind for a month was ten thousand francs, and he wired an offer of five times that sum for two weeks. The agent replied that some delay would be necessary while he communicated with his principal. Delay was the one word that Brewster did not understand, so he wired him an address in Genoa, and the “Flitter” was made ready for sea. Steam had been kept up, and her coal account would compare favorably with that of an ocean liner. Philippe was breathless with joy when he was paid in advance for another month at the hotel, on the assumption that the party might be moved to return at any moment. The little town was gay at parting and Brewster and his guests were given a royal farewell.
At Genoa the mail had accumulated and held the attention of the yacht to the exclusion of everything else. Brewster was somewhat crestfallen to learn that the lady of the villa haughtily refused his princely offer. He won the life-long devotion of his courier by promptly increasing it to one hundred thousand francs. When this too met with rejection, there was a pause and a serious consultation between the two.