Under The Streets Of London – Episode 05


Niall McMenamy tried to flex his muscles as subtly as he could. The pretty girl on the ledge above was watching him, he was sure.

He hefted the timber more firmly, positioning himself on the left side of it to give her a better view of his shoulders, which had become pleasingly muscular in his two months working on the Metropolitan.

Certainly the girl he often saw in the window above the little grocery shop seemed impressed. He could swear she’d winked one of her dark eyes at him the other day when he’d been moving bricks from outside the shop.

He’d had to work fast, because the shop owner – her mother? – was glaring at him, and the sweat had made his shirt stick to his chest. The girl had stared even harder, until he’d almost blushed.

He grinned at the memory and glanced upwards again. The lovely creature on the tunnel’s edge looked a different sort of lady. She was a soft strawberry-blonde, unlike the sultry grocery girl. She looked delicate and intelligent . . .

“Niall!” his brother called behind him. “What are you at? This timber’s tipping all over the place.”

“Sorry, Seamus. Awkward footing.”

“Awkward footing my eye. You’re watching that girl!”

“What girl?”

“You know what girl, lad. Keep your eyes on the job – we’ve come to England to earn money, not to catch colleens.”

“Speak for yourself. Some of us haven’t got a wife to warm our hearth yet.”

“And some of us might just as well not have.”

The morose tone of his brother’s voice made Niall glance at Seamus. He looked pale – even paler than usual – and tired. He missed his family badly.

They’d only had the money for their own two fares and Seamus had had to leave his wife, Brigid, and his little girl Ciara behind in Roscommon. He was desperate to earn enough to bring them over to join him.

Niall smiled. Seamus had been quite a one for the ladies in his younger days, but he’d fallen hard for fiery Brigid Rafferty and had been determined to win her.

She’d been intended by her father for a family friend. The pair of them had had to fight hard to be allowed to wed. In the end their love for each other had convinced Brigid’s parents to sanction the match, but Niall knew his brother felt he had to prove himself.

Getting Brigid out of Ireland, still reeling from the potato famine that had ravaged their land and turned their children into ghosts, would be a strong way to do that. Ireland was a place these days that no man wanted his grandchildren born into.

Not that Brigid’s father had agreed at first.

“What do you want to go to England for?” Mr Rafferty raged at Seamus when he took their railway proposal to him. “It’s the English who have ravaged this country! It’s them who took our beef, our corn, our milk and left us to rot with the tatties.”

“That was the old English, sir,” Seamus had dared to explain. “The aristocrats. They’re losing power now. There’s a new England emerging, one run by engineers and businessmen, and it’s an England that needs strong young men.

“We can progress there, sir. We can learn and then return to Ireland and rebuild it with knowledge and power taken back from the English who ruined it.”

Niall had never heard Seamus so eloquent. It had worked, too. Mr Rafferty had raised an eyebrow.

“Ravage them back?”

“Exactly, sir.”

“Work against them from within?”

“Exploit their resources, sir, yes.”

“Hmm.”

Niall had glanced at Brigid, crossing his fingers behind his back. She and Ciara would have to live under her father’s roof until Seamus could earn her fare across the Irish Sea, so they needed his blessing.

It was tough persuading him to welcome a move to the country he hated with as much passion as he loved his own, but they couldn’t afford the fare to America. This was their only option. That, or stay and starve.

 

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.