Based on scene and characters from 2007 BBC production 'Cranford' and the characters of Elizabeth Gaskell
*The verse quoted is from "Elegy written in a Country Church-Yard" by Thomas Gray
Harry stood stock-still by the open coffin. In the coffin lay his friend. The only friend he'd had in his short 13 years. His friend, Mr Carter. 'Edmund'. 'Edmund Carter' he'd now learned his name was.
But in Life, his friend was always only 'Mr Carter' to Harry. He was that to most of those around him. At least now he knew his name, it helped Harry to feel as close as he could to his 'Mr Carter', in Death.
Harry wasn't sobbing as he looked on Edmund. His large grey eyes stood stoic and alone and older than his years. Yet the tears streamed heavily and silently from them. His full closed lips were softening with emotion.
Edmund lay before him - his brown wavy hair smarmed flat and high above a broad, intelligent forehead; A forehead that Harry could not remember ever really seeing in Life.
Whenever he'd seen Mr Carter before (as he was to Harry then), Carter's forehead was generally obscured by a fall of unruly locks tousled out of place by the elements and by his own exertions as he forged his way around for miles outdoors each day; Days when he was attending to business on the farms and lands of his Lady's Estates, and vigorously discoursing and negotiating with the tenants and workers of the Estate.
And this was how Harry was used to seeing Mr Carter. Coloured, fresh faced and slightly dishevelled from attending to the chores that he was obliged to pursue away from his office; But chores that were more a pleasure to Mr Carter. He'd felt no satisfaction as great as when he was busy and useful, and being buffeted by the bracing country air and the sounds of rural life. He liked too, the gruff but honest no-nonsense talk of the men who worked the land. Better all that than alone in his office too long with his thoughts and the melancholy that threatened.
Harry had always been grateful to Mr Carter for inviting him to sit in his office with him from time to time. Here Carter would teach Harry how to help him with the accounts of the Estate. Little did Harry understand that it was also Mr Carter who was grateful; Grateful to Harry for keeping his mind happily occupied with teaching and with company when he needed to still himself to attend to his office duties.
The boy now remembered too, the light, bright eyes that could sometimes flick about restlessly under a reserved and frequently glowering brow. He remembered that large expressive mouth which rarely spoke, except perfunctionally in the course of business: But a mouth which nonetheless said much, as Carter chewed upon many a conundrum or occassionally struggled to hold down an emotion.
Yes. That was the Edmund that Harry knew. Not this odd, neatened, life-less version. This version exposed a full and still face that Harry had never seen in Life. Those eyes and lips were now shut up tight against that Life. The only colour on Edmund's face now the rouging of some slight scarring remaining from the accident; the accident that had placed him here.
And yet seeing Edmund lying straight and long there in his Sunday best, Harry saw that he did at leat still look steadfast and honourable as truly he was in Life. All in all Harry thought Edmund looked like a freshly scrubbed school-boy, ready, combed and serious for his first day of lessons. Ready to meet the Master.
"There'll be a funeral lad", Jem the undertaker spoke gently.
"I might not be allowed to go." said Harry through a tight, quiet voice, his chin beginning to tremble.
Instead, Harry pulled a small old brown leather-bound volume from his coat pocket and commenced to read from a book of verse. A book which was a precious gift from his friend. Now, in honour of Edmund, Harry spoke clearly and calmly - bravely - if in a subdued tone.
*Graved on a stone beneath yon aged thorn.
Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A youth to Fortune and Fame unknown.
Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy marked him for her own.
Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heaven did a recompense as largely send
He gave to Misery all he had, a tear,
He gained from Heaven ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.
Harry placed the book gently over Edmund's heart. Slowly, reluctantly he then withdrew his hand again. Only now did Harry's chin truly tremble and his face crumple. Still he did not sob. But a fresh waterfall of tears blinded his eyes and flooded down his face.
He looked up at Jem, his eyes still large.
Quietly, sombrely and now through heaving sobs Harry instructed him in a breaking whisper, "You can put the lid on now."