Under The Streets Of London – Episode 23

“Perfect,” Malcolm Jones pronounced, holding up the posters, one in each hand. “Absolutely perfect.”

Staring at the large-scale photograph of Niall McMenamy, wooden strut over one shoulder and a smile across his handsome face, Eliza couldn’t have agreed more.

Not that she would say so, of course.

“They offer a nicely positive view of the works,” she managed, blushing.

“They do,” Malcolm agreed earnestly. “It was an excellent idea, Eliza – you really are proving your worth to the company.’

“Oh, I don’t know,” Eliza protested, conscious that her main motivation in proposing the photographs had been to see the young Irishman again. “Anyone could have thought of it.”

“But ‘anyone’ didn’t, Eliza Rutherford – you did. And you interested the paper in them, too. That Mr Filcher is paying good money to print the pictures with a very encouraging article alongside. It will go a long way to stopping the rot about the danger of the tunnels, and will focus the public back on the excitement of them.

“You’ve done good work and I shall tell your father so when I see him next. Will he be visiting any time soon, do you know?’

Eliza blushed at the reminder of her family.

“Father wrote to me yesterday,” she admitted. “He says they are coming up next week and would like to take you and your wife out to dinner with us – if that suits?”

Malcolm Jones nodded.

“I shall check our diary with my dear Beatrice and let you know tomorrow.”

“Thank you.”

Malcolm was still holding up the posters and Eliza found her eyes continually drawn to them.

The first showed Niall with the girder, a speck of mud on his pale cheek and a broad smile across his face as he looked straight into the camera with his beautiful blue eyes. Behind him, Seamus was at the back end of the girder, the works rising up around them, tall and strong, and at the bottom the caption Building A Secure Future For London.

The second poster showed the two brothers thrusting spades into the rich earth, feet firmly planted between the shining steel rails leading up to their booted feet, with the words Tracks To The Future emblazoned above them.

Seamus and Niall both looked strong, healthy and vigorous, discreetly dressed in snowy-white shirts and black waistcoats. Fine young men but not, she suspected, what James Rutherford would be seeking for his daughter.

She sighed.

Ask Henry to come and dine, too, her father’s letter had urged, and she would have to comply or all sorts of awkward questions would be asked. But the last thing she wanted to do was to encourage the young man.

Henry Waters was a dear. He had looked after her very well at dinner the other night, telling her persistently that she was quite the prettiest girl there, even though she felt she looked out of her place in her work frock with all the other women in evening wear.

He’d seen her home in a hansom cab, and then insisted on walking her to the door. She’d kissed him hastily on the cheek and whisked inside, but even after she’d taken her coat and shoes off he’d still been standing the other side of the stained glass of the door. She’d been very relieved when she’d heard the horse clopping smartly off down the street at last.

Henry was a lovely man and he would make some woman a good husband.

It just wouldn’t be her.

Her eyes strayed again to the broad, inquisitive smile of the navvy in the poster.

“A navvy, Eliza?” she berated herself.

But Niall McMenamy was no ordinary labourer. He had vision and belief and a silver tongue. He was a man who would make something of his life, she was sure of it, and she longed to know him better.

“Shall I take personal copies to the men?” she suggested.

“Good idea,” Malcolm agreed, to her great relief. “The paper will be publishing them tomorrow, so it would create a bit of excitement on the ground – or should that be under the ground?”

He laughed heartily and handed her two copies of each poster, carefully peeling them off the pile ready to be pasted up around the city. He rolled them neatly together.

“You can take the men their money, too, if you don’t think it will burn a hole in their trouser pockets.”

“It won’t,” Eliza assured him. “They’re saving up to bring their family over from Ireland.”

“Commendable,” Malcolm said, “very commendable. Tell them I’m very pleased with their work and I might be in touch about more. There could be lots of interest – let’s hope so, anyway. I’m tired of getting enquiries about compensation.”

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”.