He composed several, but none which seemed to give general satisfaction. At the seventh attempt, however, he produced an agreement which, alluding in vague terms to a treasure quest in the Southern Seas on the strength of a map provided by Miss Vickers, promised one-fifth of the sum recovered to that lady, and was considered to meet the exigencies of the case. Miss Vickers herself, without being enthusiastic, said that she supposed it would have to do.
Another copy was avoided, but only with great difficulty, owing to her criticism of Mr. Stobell’s signature. It took the united and verbose efforts of Messrs. Chalk and Tredgold to assure her that it was in his usual style, and rather a good signature for him than otherwise. Miss Vickers, viewing it with her head on one side, asked whether he couldn’t make his mark instead; a question which Mr. Stobell, at the pressing instance of his friends, left unanswered. Then Tredgold left the room to pay a visit to his safe, and, the other two gentlemen turning out their pockets, the required sum was made up, and with the agreement handed to Miss Vickers in exchange for the map.
She bade them good-night, and then, opening the door, paused with her hand on the knob and stood irresolute.
“I hope I’ve done right,” she said, somewhat nervously. “It was no good to anybody laying idle and being wasted. I haven’t stolen anything.”
“No, no,” said Tredgold, hastily.
“It seems ridiculous for all that money to be wasted,” continued Miss Vickers, musingly. “It doesn’t belong to anybody, so nobody can be hurt by our taking it, and we can do a lot of good with it, if we like. I shall give some of mine away to the poor. We all will. I’ll have it put in this paper.”
She fumbled in her bodice for the document, and walked towards them.
“We can’t alter it now,” said Mr. Tredgold, decidedly.
“We’ll do what’s right,” said Mr. Chalk, reassuringly.
Miss Vickers smiled at him. “Yes, I know you will,” she said, graciously, “and I think Mr. Tredgold will, but—”
“You’re leaving that door open,” said Mr. Stobell, coldly, “and the draught’s blowing my head off, pretty near.”
Miss Vickers eyed him scornfully, but in the absence of a crushing reply disdained one at all. She contented herself instead by going outside and closing the door after her with a sharpness which stirred every hair on his head.
“It’s a most extraordinary thing,” said Mr. Chalk, as the three bent exultingly over the map. “I could ha’ sworn to this map in a court of justice.”
“Don’t you worry your head about it,” advised Mr. Stobell.
“You’ve got your way at last,” said Tredgold, with some severity. “We’re going for a cruise with you, and here you are raising objections.”
“Not objections,” remonstrated the other; “and, talking about the voyage, what about Mrs. Chalk? She’ll want to come.”