Under The Streets Of London – Episode 16

Violet leaped to her feet, letting the bandage roll off the arm of the navvy. He grabbed disconsolately at it but Violet didn’t even glance his way. She was a flighty thing at times, yes, but she loved her brother dearly.

“He went late morning – not so long ago,” Mary told her soothingly, “and I’m sure he’s fine, but we do need to find him.”

“Yes. Lord, yes. Oh, I hope he’s safe. He has to be safe! He . . .”

“Violet, calm down. You won’t help William if you get hysterical about this. Where are the children?”

Violet looked nervously around but none of the four Farndale brood were anywhere to be seen.

“They were here just a minute ago.”

“We need to make sure they are safe, and then we can look for William.”

“We have to go now!” Violet insisted, trying to make for the door.

But Mary pulled her back.

“I’m as eager as you to find him, but we need the children, too. If finding them holds us up, whose fault is that?”

Violet had turned pale and Mary prayed that they would find William soon. She wanted her niece to learn responsibility, but not at the expense of her brother.

Now, though, the girl nodded humbly and started to push her way around the pub. Luckily, at that moment young Bertie popped up before them.

“Ma! Isn’t this exciting? I’ve been talking to the navvies. Do you know some of them are from Ireland? All they eat there are potatoes. Imagine that. And now they can’t eat potatoes ’cause they haven’t got any. Why haven’t they got any, Ma?”

Mary put a hand on her son’s shoulder.

“We can talk about that another time, Bertie. Have you seen William?”

“William? No. Oh! Has he fallen into the tunnel?”

His eyes were wide with a shameless mix of horror and excitement. He looked to the door, and Mary tightened her hold on his shoulder.

“Of course not,” she said firmly. “I expect he’s helping out further down the line, but we do need to find him.”

“I’ll help!”

Mary’s first instinct was to refuse – Bertie’s “help” was rarely as helpful as he thought – but right now they might need his sharp eyes.

“Fine,” she agreed. “Where are the others?”

“Playing under there.” Bertie indicated the table from which Ray was selling hastily assembled sandwiches. “If you keep your eyes open, people drop food.”

Mary ran over and lifted up the tablecloth. Sure enough, there were Lucy, Constance and Jack, huddled up with a couple of the other local children.

“Can you keep an eye on them, Ray?” she begged the landlord.

“Me? What do you think I am?”

But Mary was in no mood for objections.

“What I think is that I urgently need to find our William, so please, Ray.”

Stunned, he nodded.

*  *  *  *

Mary turned and fled the George, John, Bertie and Violet in tow. Together they scoured the street. The tunnel had collapsed some way down and all the shops in the run were still housing people dazed or hurt by the incident.

They peered hopefully into every one, calling and asking around, but there was no sign of William.

Violet began whimpering and Bertie grew uncharacteristically silent, but still nothing.

“There’s no bodies, at least,” John said, but that only set Violet wailing.

Mary stopped and faced her.

“Is that going to help?” she snapped.

The girl subsided back into quiet sobs and Mary looked frantically around. They were almost at the end of the broken section.

Beyond, the tunnel stood clear and firm, the tracks leading up the centre like two slim silver pathways. Mary couldn’t bear to look on them.

“William!” she called, as loud as her dry throat would let her. “William, where are you?”

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”.