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A Rewrite of The Lamplighter's "The Recompense"
When Uncle True died, Mr Cooper had him buried in the primeval graveyard adjacent the church where he had worked as a sexton. But the church had had to be renovated, and both the graveyard and the church were demolished so that a new, modern, and more visually imposing structure took their place. But long before that had happened; Uncle True's remains were moved to a quieter, and more beautiful resting place in a picturesque piece of undulating incessant woodland in the neighborhood of Mr Graham's country residence, which had been consecrated as a cemetery and thoughtfully bought by William Sullivan.
It was in this solitary graveyard that Uncle True was re-buried, along with his dear friends, Mr Cooper and Mrs. Sullivan. It was often visited by Gertrude, armed with beautiful flowers, hand-grown in her garden; she took it upon herself as a duty to visit the graveyard on the anniversary of the death of each and mark them by an accolade of fresh flowers. So, one week after the engaging events that overlooked the reunion of childhood lovers – Philip Amory and Emily Graham – Gertrude set out to visit her dear Uncle True.
She carried with her a basket full of her best violets and roses and carnations, remembering how much her Uncle had loved those expensive flowers now so easily accessible to her. She set of at a rapid pace, seeing as she had such a long way to go.
She had left her long-lost father, Philip, with Emily. Now and then, she wondered about the tie between her and her father that, though formed only recently, gained strength with every minute they spent together. Discovering sweet satisfaction from this, she would then contemplate with happiness the miraculous circumstances that led her father to Emily, who had magically appeared to be her mother. And it was fitting: that the woman who had cared so much for her even when she was a little child had turned out to be her mother all along. Her life had all along been made saccharine by her loving family.
Gertrude's thoughts turned bittersweet as they turned to that earlier-formed and now, less affectionate friendship that had been tainted. She tried hard not to remember Will, her childhood best friend, or his desertion and abandonment of her – but it would not work. The memory continuously butted into her thoughts, obtruding painfully.
She had met up with Will twice since the last month, and both visits had been painfully awkward. Often during that time, Will had tried to break through this abnormal awkwardness and tried to act familiarly with her like in the old days; but a sudden blush or a sign of uncertainty or sorrow on Gertrude's part stopped him from trying to salvage their deteriorating friendship.
As Gertrude contemplated the sad results of every visit he made her, she half-hoped he would stop his advances altogether, thinking that maybe; maybe if he stopped visiting and totally avoided her, both might escape that painful feeling of rupture that was so accentuated with each of his visits.
The most shocking thing, she admitted to herself, was that she had not shared with him the event that proved so important to her – the discovery of her father and mother. She had once tried to voice her thoughts on it, but she was so overcome by the emotional complexities of revealing something so sensitive to her own heart that she figured that if she were to tell Will, she would lose all self-control and tell him everything, confess to those aching feelings that haunted her heart.
Occupied with her musings, Gertrude continued her quickened pace and soon reached the cemetery. She paused for a second, enjoying the light breeze that played through the heavy pines bordering the entrance. She slowly made her way up the path to Uncle True's and Mrs. Sullivan's and Mr Cooper's graves. When she reached them, she paced slowly along each, holding back the tears that threatened her every time she visited. After all this time, Gertrude still missed that funny old man, her first friend and protector and savior. As she scattered her flowers on his grave, she remembered those warm happy evenings spent with Uncle True and a third companion, her best friend. With these thoughts in her mind, Gertrude exclaimed softly and sadly,
"Oh Uncle True! I wish you were here; you and I are still the same, close at heart, but I can't say the same for Will."
"And whose fault is that may I ask?" a voice reproached her, the sarcasm so achingly familiar, close by her side.
Gertrude spun around with a soft cry of surprise, faced by the object of her thoughts. He stood there watching her sadly, his dark eyes tracing her face as if trying to memorize her. For a second, they just stood there, and contemplated each other; then Gertrude looked away, covering her face with her fingers.
She felt, rather than heard, him move forward and kneel before her so that he was lower than her; he gently took her hands in his and moved them away from her face. As he looked at her tear-filled eyes, Gertrude had a sudden flashback of their first meeting that had occurred with them in the same positions as they were in now. "Gi." Him calling her by her nickname… Gertrude reluctantly looked at him, his sad eyes, as he spoke gently to her.
"Tell me, why am I being blamed for something that is completely out of my hands? Do you think I'm purposely trying to push you away or something?" Her tears started to fall, rolling down her cheeks in torrents. He continued, frustration lacing his words, "You make so miserable. What had I done, that you keep excluding me like this? Why do you look at me so callously and even shirk away from me?"
She looked away from him then, struggling to remove her hands from his. "I don't– I don't mean to be so cruel Will." She replied, forcing the words out. He let her go and stood back, watching her. She couldn't bear that look in his eyes: that obvious mix of irritation and affection that was so familiar to her. It reminded her that he was no longer hers.
"You seemed to have reverted to completely hating me, Gi," he said, his tone faint. He looked away from her, his hand coming up to press against his face. "I guess I should have expected it," he continued conversationally as if this was some normal talk they were having over lunch or something. "I could hardly expect you to wait around for me: I honestly did expect you to fall in love with another man although I still hoped. And that's just it, Gi, I hoped." He turned back to her with sudden vehemence, glaring at her. "I still hoped for you. I still thought that even if you… that you would still at least be my friend!" He turned away from her once more.
Gertrude felt herself grow confused. But she stepped forward and timidly touched his shoulder saying, "I– I never wanted to stop being your friend Will. You know that."
His lips curved into a twisted bitter smile. "I was right then. You didn't want me to fall in love with you so you denied me your normal affection. That's nice." He looked sharply at her. "But you have no idea how much it hurt me Gi."
She stared at him in utter bewilderment. What was he saying? "Will… what are you… what are you saying? Stop talking so… so strangely!"
"Strangely?" William looked at her, offended. "What, is it so strange that I love you? I've spent all my time away from you thinking about you and looking to our reunion as my only source of happiness. I've thought of only you and how proud you would be of me when I worked so hard all these years. So tell me: what's strange about me loving you? Can you really just throw all that away without a single note of compassion after all this t–?"
"Will." Gertrude interrupted him, no longer helpless. She was calm and spoke to him in her normal kind and serious way. "Do you think you should talk like this? To me? Have you forgotten–?"
"No I haven't." He turned to her and looked her fully in the face then. She stopped abruptly at the look on his face; she could only wonder at the absolute love that showed on his face. "I haven't Gi. I know now, okay, I know that I have no right to harass you like this. You've made your decision, and please, you've got to understand when I say that I can't stand by you as your friend and brother even though I will always love you. I can't watch you be with another man. I'll leave: and you'll have to remember that no matter where you are, or where I am, I wish you the best all the time. And I promise: I will always love you."
He turned away from her and soberly started to walk down the path, away from the graves, away from her. For a moment, Gertrude just stood there, completely nonplussed, staring after him, his words replaying over and over in her head. And then she bounded forward, catching him by his arm and pulling him back, pulling him around to face her.
"What are you saying?" she cried. "I don't have another man. There is no other man, why would you even think that? But I don't understand how you can speak to me like this, Will, when… when there's Isabel! Are you so callous that you can forget her just like that? If so, then you're not the man I thought you were."
He stared at her, this time his turn to be nonplussed. "Isabel?" he echoed, in a tone of bewilderment. Then understanding cleared his face. Will looked down at her, disbelieving and a little hurt. "So you've heard the rumors as well? And you believed such lies?"
"Lies!" she cried, eyes wide. Will looked at her, a new expression of impatience and reproach on his face. "Yes lies," he said steadfastly. "How could you believe in those rumors, when you knew both me and her? Could you honestly see me with a person like her?"
"Will, I saw you with my own eyes."
"Saw what?" he exclaimed, now agitated.
"Saw you and her, Isabel. I saw you when you called her and told her that she must leave, I heard you when you spoke to her, told her that you did not want her to leave but she must – are you telling me that I imagined the pain and irritation in your voice?"
"What… what are you… where did you hear all of this?" he asked her, perplexed.
"I was there Will!" She cried, now finally exasperation breaking through. "I was there, I heard you with my own ears! Do you expect me to disbelieve what I heard with my own two ears? Just because you say so…?"
He was dumbstruck, staring at her. Sunshine fell through the trees and lit up their surroundings, a shaft of light falling on Gertrude, lightening the dark wisps of her hair that lay across her forehead. Her vehemence was clear on her face, and this animation was so real and strange; this show of obvious excitement was like a return of the old Gertrude, of Will's best friend.
That gave him hope again.
He strode forward and grabbed Gertrude, firmly but gently, by her forearms. She gave a little squeak of surprise, struggling back, but failing and stumbling slightly as a result. Will steadied her and forced her to look at him directly before he spoke, his voice calm and fixed.
"Gi, listen to me. I'm not going to deny what you heard; I did speak like that, and to anyone who did not know the full circumstances it would obviously sound like we were lovers. But we're not.
"The only reason I spoke so earnestly with her was because I wanted her to go back to her father. He was on his deathbed, and Isabel is his only child – can you see why I couldn't bear to leave my friend without his family in his last moments? I only wanted her to go to him as soon as possible; so I spoke so. It wasn't real, it was never real. You have to believe me." His voice broke, and he looked at her pleadingly.
Gertrude looked at him. Her heart was beating wildly in her chest, and she couldn't breathe properly. She whispered incredulously, "So… so you don't love her…? And you are not engaged to her…?"
"No. I will never love her." He looked at her squarely. "I love you."
She felt dizzy, like her world was falling apart. She felt as if nothing was staying still or steady; except Will. He was the only one left, the only one leaving her sane and her heart felt full at that. She trembled slightly; Will's hands tightened around her forearms and he held her upright. "I'm sorry," she said, softly, "When I saw… all that… I only wanted to protect myself. I didn't… I didn't want to hurt, Will, so I shut you out and… I'm so sorry." She looked at him then, a stray tear on her cheek.
His hand came up to gently wipe away the tear, while his other arm went around her, holding her to him. He put his hand against her face; she leaned into his warmth, closing her eyes, thinking only of him and how much she loved him. "You have nothing to apologize for," he whispered. "Only… please tell me you love me." She opened her eyes to find him smiling, a little uncertainly.
"I love you." She tasted those words, and saw Will's eyes light up. "I love you," she repeated, again and again, "I love you, I love you, I love you, I will always love you…"
When he kissed her, lightly on her lips, she closed her eyes and felt herself fly. He was sweet and tasted like rich honey; she could live on him alone if given the chance. When she sighed against his lips, she felt him smile – and her heart soared as he held her in his arms.
She wanted their love to last forever.
Author's Note: I've always loved the Lamplighter by Miss Cummins. 'The Recompense' is the third-last chapter of that book and it basically contains the reunion of two childhood friends who are in love with each other but don't know it and... well, you've read it.
I loved the chapter, although it was completely devoid of romance. And since I'm a romance-addict, I decided to rewrite in my own way. The characters, book, plot and everything: they all belong to Miss Cummins. This is a fanfiction.
Thank you for reading and please...