Under The Streets Of London – Episode 26

Before Eliza could turn back Niall spotted her. His eyes lit up and he leaped to his feet.

“Miss Rutherford, what a pleasure.”

Eliza felt herself blushing but refused to look down like some coy debutante. This was a business meeting, no more.

“Mr McMenamy, I’m glad I found you. The company sent me with these.”

She delved into her bag and drew out the careful roll of posters. His eyes widened.

“Is that them? Seamus and me?”

“It is.”

She proffered the roll and he took it tentatively – now he was the shy one.

“Are they, you know, all right?”

She smiled at him.

“They’re excellent. The Metropolitan company is very pleased with them and my boss says he might be in touch about some more work, if these attract the interest that we’re anticipating.”

She sounded stiff, she felt, but the navvy didn’t seem to notice. He was staring at the posters as if they might rise up and fly out of his hands.

“Are you going to look?” she asked gently.

“Look? Oh, yes, of course.”

Still he didn’t move to untie the string and in the end Eliza took them back and did it herself. The other men had noticed now and were gathering round, jostling and laughing.

Eliza spotted Seamus at Niall’s shoulder, looking even more nervous than his brother, and smiled at these big men’s shyness.

She unfurled the posters and held first one and then the other up for all to see. They were met with a chorus of whistles and catcalls but she was gratified to see both Niall and Seamus allow themselves a tiny smile.

“Are they not good?” she prompted.

“Lovely,” one of their friends said, laughing. “Proper little models, you pair are.”

“And look,” another added, “a perfect size for fixing to the dartboard in the George. Reckon I’ll hit the bullseye every time with your ugly mug fixed to it, young Niall!”

They were all laughing now, but it was good-humoured and both brothers looked quietly proud. Eliza drew them aside as the others went back to their lunches.

“I have your money.”

Seamus’s eyes lit up.

“Shall I give it and the posters to your foreman to keep safe until the end of your shift?”

“Not the money,” Seamus said instantly. “I’ll take care of it.”

“He’s worried I’ll drink it away,” Niall said to Eliza.

“I am not,” Seamus protested. “I just don’t want anyone else getting their hands on our earnings. We need that money badly, brother.”

“You do,” Niall retorted, but without rancour.

“You wish your wife to join you?” Eliza asked Seamus.

“I do, miss,” he agreed. “I miss her sorely; my daughter, too. Ireland’s no place for them at the moment. This will be a big help, thank you.” He took the money and slid up a side street, presumably to stash it safely out of sight of prying eyes.

Niall remained standing before Eliza and she fought for things to say to keep him there.

“My boss says the newspaper article is very good. It will come out tomorrow if you want to get a copy.”

Niall smiled his broad, open smile.

“I’ll get several. Might even send one back to Ireland to show the family how well we’re doing over here. Thank you.”

“My pleasure. And like I said, there might be more work.”

“That would be excellent. It feels a bit strange being on a poster, but it’s all in a good cause and maybe I might, one day, get to meet Mr John Fowler himself.”

Eliza leaped on this.

“That could be a very good idea. I’m sure my office would like it – pictures of the engineer with his workers.”

“Really?” Niall’s eyes lit up in that wonderful way she was getting dangerously familiar with. “We could talk about it more, if you liked and if you had time. I’m in the George most evenings. But a lady like you wouldn’t want to come to a rough old public house. We could have tea. Do you like tea?”

“I do.”

“Are you free on Sunday? After church?”

Eliza thought fast. Her father was arriving on Sunday but he wouldn’t be here until later in the day. Would she have time? Did she dare?

“No matter,” he said, taking her hesitation for disapproval. “A silly idea. Of course you’re busy; I’m sorry.”

“Please don’t apologise. I just . . .”

Before she could agree to meet him there was a small squeal and a dark-haired girl bundled between them.

“Niall McMenamy, is that you, you handsome rogue?”


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”.