Under The Streets Of London – Episode 14

There hadn’t been much to say after that, but he stood next to her and watched the dancing, and after a while she recovered her manners.

“I’m Mary Evans.”

He turned to her.

“John. John Farndale. I’m a grocer. That is, my pa’s a grocer. But the shop will be mine one day.”

“That’s nice.” A solid trade, her dad would say.

“Do you enjoy it?”

“It’s all right. It’s a job, you know. I’d like it better if I were in charge – I’ve ideas about how to make it better. But Pa won’t listen. Not that I want him gone, of course!”

They watched the dancers again. Mary felt John move closer and didn’t step away. He was tall and lean. His arms looked strong.

“What changes would you make?”

He looked down at her and smiled.

“Too many to talk about, especially here. I wouldn’t want to bore you.”

“Oh, you wouldn’t. I’ve always wanted a shop. I mean . . .” She flushed, horrified at how that sounded. “I just mean that, when I was little, my auntie had a cloth shop, and I loved it when I got to help. I used to look at all the shelves and think how I’d arrange them. So I’d be interested in your ideas, that’s all.”

He nodded.

“What about dancing, Mary Evans? Would you be interested in dancing?”

“With you?”

“Yes. I’m no expert, mind.”

Now Mary smiled.

“Me, either.”

“But we could, maybe, give it a go together?”

“We could.”

He put out his arm and she took it.

He led her on to the dance floor and suddenly she felt like a princess again. None of the other girls’ fancy frocks and glamorous hairstyles mattered a jot any more because John was looking at her like she was the most beautiful girl in the whole packed hall.

They’d both spoken true – they were no experts at any of the dances – but they’d given the polka a go and then the gallop, and somehow they seemed to have been giving things a go together ever since . . .

*  *  *  *

“It was a long time back, wasn’t it?” Mary said now.

“More than a dozen years, sweetheart, but you’re every bit as beautiful as you were then.”

“Get away!”

“You are. More so, because you’ve borne me four lovely children.”

Mary kissed him, then sighed.

“Four lovely children who are probably getting into all sorts of trouble right now.”

“You could be right.”

“I should go and get them back for their dinner.”

“No doubt they’re doing all right for themselves. I hear Ray’s laying sandwiches on.”


“Ray? Come off it! They’ll probably wangle a few from someone, though.”

“Violet certainly will. That girl could charm anything out of anyone – well, anyone male.”

“Even Ray?”

Mary smiled.

“Maybe not Ray.”

John laughed out loud and the sound surprised Mary after all the harsh noises the morning had brought to their little corner of the New Road.

He squeezed her tight and kissed her again.

“Come on, Mary, let’s shut up shop for a while and go to the George. We deserve a break and we can keep an eye on the children, not to mention young Violet. We’ll have all sorts to tell her poor mother next time we visit, won’t we, Mary?”

But Mary had frozen.

“Mary? What’s wrong?”

“William,” she said, her nephew’s name sticking in her throat. “Oh, lord, John, where on earth is William?”

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 tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.