Under The Streets Of London – Episode 31

Violet was soon back with his breakfast carefully arranged on a tray, and he was just finishing the toast when the officials arrived. The officer was a burly man, grey-haired, with experience, but the representative from the Metropolitan was young and clearly nervous.

“Henry Waters,” he introduced himself with a bobbing bow. “I’m so sorry for your troubles.”

“I’ll be right as rain in a day or two.”

“You were very brave.”

“He was,” Mary agreed. “That navvy manhandled my poor niece and then he assaulted my husband with no provocation. John was turning away when he struck.”

The policeman wrote this down in his notebook.

“Coward,” he commented.

Mary frowned.

“Have you found him?”

“No, ma’am, not yet. The Metropolitan company gave us the address of his digs but he’s not there and doesn’t seem to have been back since the, er, incident. Done a runner, most likely. But we’ll keep looking.”

“Good. A man like that could be a danger to other young women.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Terrible thing,” young Henry added earnestly.

She rounded on him.

“It is, and that villain wouldn’t have been here if it weren’t for the Metropolitan company!”

“Well, now . . .”

“He wouldn’t! It’s all these navvies that are creating the problems. Far from their own homes, with money in their pockets and beer in their bellies – it’s not safe for us poor people trying to make a living.”

“Steady on, Mary,” John said, but her temper had risen and she couldn’t stop.

“We’re all at risk, so we are. If not from tipping into your unstable trench, then from the monsters that come crawling out of it!”

Henry shrunk back, looking even more nervous than before.

“I understand your concerns, ma’am,” he blustered. “But it’s hard to see how this unfortunate happening could be laid at the company’s door.”

“He was your employee!”

“Yes, but not at the time of the incident. It was evening, was it not? So he was on his own time. And I believe the young lady did agree to meet him.”

Mary’s eyes narrowed.

“You’re saying this was Violet’s fault?”

“No, I . . .”

“It was.” Violet picked this moment to make her entrance, sidling into the room behind Henry. “It was my fault, all my fault. I was a fool!”

Henry spun round, catching his foot in the edge of the rug so that he went sprawling at Violet’s feet. He looked up at her, flushed scarlet and scrabbled to rise, bowing as he did so.

“I’m sure that’s not true,” Henry stuttered. “The man should have taken far better care of you.”

“You’re too kind, sir.”

“Common decency.” Henry’s voice had turned strangely gruff. “Let me assure you that, although the Metropolitan takes no responsibility for this, we will do all we can in our power to help catch the cad. All we can!”

Violet’s hands fluttered to her face.

“Thank you.”

Mary rolled her eyes at John. Violet seemed to be recovering! But then she stepped past Henry and went to her uncle’s bedside, demurely collecting the breakfast crockery without another look towards the young man.

Mary told herself not to be too harsh. Her poor niece had had a terrible scare. They all had.

“In what way, Mr Waters, will the Metropolitan be helping?” she asked, trying to stay polite.

Henry looked anxiously around the room.

“However we can, ma’am. I’m no expert, I’m afraid. My colleague will be here shortly – she might be better placed to, er, assist.”


“Miss Rutherford.”

“Eliza?” Mary brightened instantly and turned to John. “She’s the girl who helped me with the form.”

Henry leaped at this.

“That would be her. Very helpful, Eliza. Very calm.” He looked to the door again and, as if he’d managed to conjure her up, the doorbell rang. “That’ll be her now.”

Light footsteps sounded on the stairs and Bertie, eyes aglow at all the comings and goings, showed Eliza Rutherford into Mary and John’s now rather cramped bedroom.

Mary glanced to Violet who looked paler than ever, but the sooner they got this over with, the better.

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”.