“I should have known you now, Lechmere,” he said, as he came to his bedside. “Of course you are still greatly changed, but you are getting back your old expression, and I hope that in the course of two or three months you will be able to take your place in the ranks again.”
“I don’t know, sir. I ain’t fit to stay with the regiment, and have thought of being invalided home and then buying my discharge. I know you have said nothing as to how you got that wound, not even to the doctor; for if you had done so there is not a man in hospital who would have spoken to me. But how could I join the regiment again? knowing that if there was any suspicion of what I had done, every man would draw away from me, and that there would be nothing for me to do but to put a bullet in my head.”
“But no one ever will know it. It was a mad act, and I believe you were partly mad at the time.”
“I think so myself now that I look back. I think now that I must have been mad all along. It never once entered my mind to doubt that it was you, and now I see plainly enough that except what the man said about going away—and anyone might have said that—there was not a shadow of ground or suspicion against you. But even if I had never had that suspicion I should have left home.
“Why, sir, I know that my own father and mother suspected that I killed her. I resented it at the time. I felt hard and bitter against it, but as I have been lying here I have come to see that I brought their suspicions upon myself by my own conduct, and that they had a thousand times better ground for suspecting me than I had for suspecting you.
“All that happened was my fault. Martha cared for me once, but it was my cursed jealousy that drove her from me. She was gay and light hearted, and it was natural for her to take her pleasure, which was harmless enough if I had not made a grievance of it. If I had not driven her from me she would have been my wife long before harm came to her; but it was as well that it was not so, for as I was then I know I should have made her life a hell.
“I did it all and I have been punished for it. Even at the end she might never have gone off if I had not shouted out and tried to climb the wall. She must have recognised my voice, and, knowing that I had her secret, feared that I might kill her and him too, and so she went. She would not have gone as she did, without even a bonnet or a shawl, if it had not been for that.”
“Then you don’t think, as most people there do, that she was murdered?”
“Not a bit, sir. I never thought so for a moment. She went straight away with that man. I think now I know who it was.”
“Never mind about that, Lechmere. You know what the Bible says, ‘Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord,’ and whoever it may be, leave him safely in God’s hands.”
“Yes, sir, I shall try to act up to that. I was fool enough to think that I could avenge her, and a nice business I made of it.”