Fat chance," Maggie concluded in satisfaction. "If Digby couldn't find it, she sure as heck won't be able to." She glanced quickly at Jonas. "And neither will you. Not unless you're a lot smarter than Digby, which ain't very likely."
Jonas nodded soberly. "You're probably right. Digby was quite smart, even brilliant in some ways. I read some of his early investigations into the nature of Renaissance science. They were first-class.
Hazelhurst was a scholar in the old-fashioned sense. I still remember how much I learned about the Renaissance mind from a piece he wrote on sixteenth-century anatomy studies. He understood those men, knew how they thought."
A reminiscent gleam appeared in Maggie's eyes. "Anatomy was one of Digby's favorite subjects, all right. Whenever I think about some of those nights the two of us spent studying it down in that torture chamber I just kinda melt inside." The gleam faded and was replaced by a hint of moisture. Maggie wiped the back of her hand across her eyes.
Verity choked on her coffee. When Jonas reached over to pound her between the shoulders, she saw the laughter in his gold eyes.
"Maggie, did Hazelhurst ever tell anyone besides Doug and Elyssa about the treasure? Did he ever ask anyone else to help him hunt for it?" Jonas inquired.
Maggie opened the refrigerator and removed a tub of butter. "Sure. A few. Not many, though. Couldn't trust most folks. And he damn sure didn't want no one but historians hearing about the treasure. Real insistent on that, he was. But every so often he'd think he was making real progress, and he'd get excited and invite some old pal from his teaching days to stay here for a while. He'd tell 'em about the legend and swear 'em to secrecy. Sometimes they'd get curious enough to help him look for a while. None of 'em ever stayed interested for too long. It always hurt Digby real bad that none of his pals from the university believed him."
"Did he try to get anyone else to believe him?" Jonas asked. "Someone from outside the academic world?"
Maggie shook her head. "Not really. He only told men he considered real scholars. Never invited nobody but scholars here, said they were the only ones who could appreciate it. Except for Doug, that is.
He did tell Doug. Said his nephew was kin and deserved to know about the legend, even if he didn't have time to help him look for it."
"Those are the only people he might have told about the legend?" Jonas prodded. "A few friends from his teaching days and Doug?"
Maggie's forehead wrinkled for a moment in concentration. "Well, there was one other. A young hotshot grad student who showed up claiming he'd heard about the legend from a professor. The kid claimed he was getting a degree in history, with a specialization in Renaissance art. Said he was curious about the villa and the legend, and wondered if Digby would let him help look for the treasure. He said it would be the chance of a lifetime to work with a scholar of Digby's reputation and all that malarkey. Said if they found the treasure, he'd write up the find in a fancy journal, and Digby would get all the credit."
"Did Mr. Hazelhurst let him help with the search?" Verity asked.
"For a while. Digby was gettin' a bit past it by then, if you know what I mean." Maggie tapped her temple with a forefinger. "For a time I think he was just glad someone from the academic world was interested enough to help him search again. But he sent the kid packing soon enough. Said the kid was just a two-bit treasure hunter, not a real scholar, and it would be a cold day in hell before he ever got a Ph.D. after his name."
"Did anyone else ever get out here to the island?" Jonas asked.
"Over the years a couple of cheap treasure-hunter types contacted Digby saying they'd heard about the legend, but Digby never gave 'em the time of day. Never let 'em come to the island. Claimed he'd never turn this place over to a real treasure hunter because that type wouldn't have any understanding or appreciation of the history locked up here."
"What about you, Maggie?" Verity asked. "Did you ever help Digby look for the treasure? You must have known a lot about the progress he was making."
Maggie concentrated intently on her breakfast preparations. "Sure, I helped out when I could. Held the ladder for him when he went inch by inch over the ceiling, that sort of thing."
"Did you ever believe the treasure might exist?" Verity asked gently.
Maggie paused in her work and stood gazing out the window into the weedy courtyard. "I had a few hopes during those first years after I came to live here, but that was about it. I stayed on account of Digby, not because of the treasure. Lord, I miss that man."
Elyssa's indefatigably cheerful voice hailed them from the doorway, breaking into Maggie's reverie.
"Good morning, everyone. Isn't it beautiful outside today? Positively gorgeous, the sort of day that makes you aware of all your senses. The kind of day one can use to really get in tune with the different levels of nature's reality."
Verity glanced out the window. "It's raining." A dull, steady gray mist was falling.
"That's what I mean," Elyssa said, sweeping over to the counter to help herself to coffee. "A day to delight the senses. How did you two sleep last night?" Her gaze was on Jonas.
"Fine." Jonas poured himself more coffee.
"Did it seem strange to sleep in a genuine Renaissance villa?" Elyssa demanded, watching him closely.
"Did you get any feeling of attunement with the past?"
"No." Jonas turned at a sound in the doorway. "Morning, Doug."
Doug Warwick walked into the kitchen. "Hi, everyone. Ready to go back to work today, Jonas?"
"Sure," said Jonas. He began to detail a stone-by-stone examination of the west wing, and Doug paid close attention to his description of how to differentiate original construction from later patches and additions.
Verity listened with proud satisfaction. She also found herself quite interested, even though she knew that Jonas was simply playing the role she had assigned him. The man knew his stuff, she thought.
"Mustn't forget the influence of Alberti's treatise on architecture," Jonas said gravely. "He wrote it in the fifteenth century. It was heavily influenced by the classical works of Vitruvius, of course. Alberti accepted a lot of the principles unquestioningly and passed them along to his contemporaries. But his work had an impact on all major Renaissance architecture. This villa isn't exactly a shining example, but it definitely reflects the Alberti influence."
"I see," said Doug, looking quite impressed.