Under The Streets Of London – Episode 32

“Good morning,” Mary said, leaning across to shake Eliza’s hand.

“It’s lovely to see you again, Mrs Farndale. I’m so sorry it’s in such difficult circumstances. How is your husband?”

Eliza’s very presence was, as Henry had said, calming, and Mary felt herself relax a little as John assured her that he was recovering.

“Obviously we at the Metropolitan are very anxious that the man is caught,” Eliza told them all. “We’ll be issuing a reward for his capture and I will be personally contacting the family we have on his file to see if they can assist in tracking him down.”

“Knew she’d know what to do,” Henry mumbled.

“Is your claim form ready?” Eliza asked Mary.

“Yes, miss.”

“Then we’ll add the loss of your husband’s earnings to it. I’ll arrange that.”

“Will you? Thank you.”

“It’s the least we can do. The stock list is complete?”

“Yes, miss. I finished it last night, before . . .” She trailed off awkwardly.

“Before I spoiled everything!” Violet sobbed.

Eliza moved round the bed towards her.

“You did nothing wrong,” she told Violet firmly.

“I did! I agreed to meet that man and I, I let him walk me home.”

“As was proper. A young lady would not want to be out in the dark alone.”

“No, but . . .”

“It gave him no right to molest you. No right at all.”

Violet’s eyes widened.

“Do you hear me, Violet? He did wrong, not you!”

The room had hushed. Violet glanced to Mary, who nodded slowly. The girl might have been silly but what Eliza said was true. No woman deserved such treatment.

“She’s right, Violet,” she said quietly, and at last she saw her poor niece’s shoulders stop shaking.

*  *  *  *

Eliza stepped out of the grocer’s shop and drew in a huge breath of fresh morning air. She’d done her best to sound calm before the poor Farndale family but in truth the whole thing had torn at her heart. How many times had she gone over and over her own situation with her father’s so-called friend, wondering what she’d done to deserve his forceful attentions, berating herself for having somehow, however unknowingly, encouraged him.

“It’s her fault,” the horrible man had spat when her father had dragged him in for the excruciating discussion afterwards. “She shouldn’t be so pretty.”

It hadn’t made sense to Eliza. What could she do about how she looked? But still she’d felt certain he must be right. She’d been a temptation, as Eve had been a temptation, and that was somehow her sin.

Her parents had been very kind, dismissing such ideas as “ridiculous” but she’d feared that they were not so much protecting her as preventing her getting into further trouble.

Looking back now, it made her angry, but it was in the past. Best forgotten, as it would be best forgotten for poor Violet.

“You were wonderful in there!”

Her painful musings were interrupted by Henry and for once she was grateful for his lively presence.

“Not really. I just said what Mr Jones told me to say.”

“About it not being her fault?”

She flushed.

“That? No, that was me. It’s true, though, Henry.”

“Of course it is. Anyone could see the poor girl was defenceless.”

Eliza caught something in his tone.

“And very pretty,” she suggested.

“Was she? I didn’t notice.”

He turned on to the rough bridge over the tunnel, moving across it before remembering himself and returning to offer Eliza a hand across.

Smiling, she waved him away and stepped confidently over alone. She was getting used to the works at last.

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”.