The door closed behind him just as the party from the garden entered through the French windows.
The next morning George Lechmere went ashore with the steward, when the latter landed to do his marketing. The street up the hill was crowded, and numbers of yachts’ sailors were ashore. Stewards with the flat rush baskets, universally used by them, were going from shop to shop; groups of sailors were chatting over the events of the day; and carriages were standing before the fishmongers’, poulterers’, and fruit and flower shops, while the owners were laying in supplies for their guests. People had driven in from all parts of the island to see the races, and light country carts with eggs, butter, fowls, and fruit were making their way down the steep hill.
George had learnt from a casual remark of Frank’s where the house taken by Lord Haverley was situated, and going up the hill turned to the right and kept on until he came to a large house embowered in trees. Breakfast was just over when a servant told Bertha that a gentleman who said his name was George Lechmere wished to speak to her. She went out to him in the hall.
“Well, George,” she said, holding out her hand to him frankly, for he was a great favourite of hers; “I suppose you have brought me up a message from Major Mallett?”
“No, Miss Greendale, the Major does not know that I have come to you. It is on my own account that I am here. Could you spare me a quarter of an hour?”
“Certainly, George,” she said, in some surprise. “I will come out into the garden. We are likely to have it to ourselves at this hour.”
She fetched her hat, and they went out into the garden together. George did not attempt to speak until they reached the other end, where there was a seat in a shady corner.
“Sit down, George,” she said.
“Thank you, Miss Greendale, I would rather stand,” and he took his place in front of her.
“I have a story to tell you,” he said. “It is very painful for me to have to tell it, and it will be painful for you to hear it; but I am sure that you ought to know.”
Bertha did not say anything, but looked at him with eyes wide open with surprise.
“I am sure, Miss Greendale,” George went on, “that the Major never told you that the bad wound he received at Delhi that all but killed him, was my doing—that he was wounded by a ball from my musket.”
“No, George, he certainly never said so. I suppose he was in front of you, and your musket went off accidentally?”
“No, Miss Greendale, I took deliberate aim at him, and it was only the mercy of God that saved his life.”
Bertha was too surprised and shocked to speak, and he went on:
“He himself thought that he had been hit by a Sepoy bullet, and it was only when I sent for him, believing that I had received my death wound, that he knew that it was I who had hit him.”