Under The Streets Of London – Episode 25

Eliza glanced down and the name at the top jumped out at her instantly. Eugene Thetford. Was that not the lawyer that Malcolm had been ranting about just a little time ago?

She looked to the shopkeeper. She seemed tired, worn out.

“Mary, isn’t it?” she asked tentatively. “Mary Farndale?”

“It is, yes. Do I know you?”

“We met when the trench collapsed. You were kind enough to offer me a blanket.”

“Of course.” Mary offered her a small smile. “You fell into the works.”

“Sort of. Are all your family well?” Eliza touched a hand to the paper on the table.

Mary squared her shoulders defensively.

“We are all well, thank the Lord, though my nephew had a nasty injury to his collarbone and we lost a lot of stock. All our fruit and veg tumbled into that hole. Cost us a fortune.”

“And you’re looking for compensation?”

Mary’s eyes flashed and her hands flew to her hips.

“We have a right, don’t we?”

“Of course you do,” Eliza agreed calmly. “And the Metropolitan company has a very simple procedure for making a claim.”

“Do they?” Mary dropped her hands, surprised.

“Yes. There’s a form to fill out and then they will pay you what they owe you.”

“Just like that?”

“Well, they have to consider the evidence, obviously. But if the claim is fair – which I’m sure yours would be – then of course they will pay. Whatever you do, though, don’t get one of those rogue lawyers involved.”

Mary sighed.

“You saw the letter.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to pry. I just noticed the name at the top. This man is one of the worst, apparently. All he’ll do is fill out the form for you and then he’ll take a slice.”

“Of our money?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“But if he’s a lawyer he could probably get more for me. I’ve no learning, see, miss. I don’t even write all that well.”

“The company won’t pay more than your loss is worth, whoever submits the claim. More likely Mr Thetford will inflate it so far that it will be thrown out for falsehood.”

Mary looked down at the letter.

“I didn’t like him at all,” she admitted, “but we do need the money. Business has been awful.”

“It’ll be worth it in the future,” Eliza assured her.

“That’s what my husband says. Future this, future that – what I want to know is how we get the family through the present!”

Eliza felt for the woman. She could hear children squabbling upstairs and it was clear that the poor woman had a lot to deal with.

“I could help you,” she suggested.


“With the form. I have one in my folder. We could do it now.”

“You’d do that for me? Why?”

Eliza shrugged.

“I feel sorry for your trouble and as part of the Metropolitan I have a duty. Plus, I’m waiting for the men to come off shift so I have a little time. Perhaps we can start it together and then you can finish it off.”

Mary’s eyes lit up.

“That would be wonderful. Thank you, miss.”

“Eliza. Now, let’s have a look.”

*  *  *  *

The form was, thankfully, as simple as Eliza had promised and they soon had most of it filled out. All that was left to do was to gather the statements of witnesses and give a tally of the lost stock.

As the bells rang at midday with a joyous peal, Eliza left a grateful Mary with her books and moved back on to the street.

Men were scrambling up over the edges of the trench all along the run of the works and seating themselves in the warm sunshine to eat their lunch out of metal boxes. Eliza walked self-consciously along the line and was grateful when she spotted Niall’s red hair.

He was sitting on a pile of wooden sleepers tucking into a huge slice of pie, his head thrown back in laughter at something one of his friends had said.

Eliza felt her heart jerk ridiculously at the sight of him. She felt shy all of a sudden, out of place amongst these burly workers, and she hesitated some steps away.

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”.