Under The Streets Of London – Episode 37

Eliza laughed and looked about her as the cab turned up Oxford Street, heading for the Metropolitan offices. All the shops had festive displays in their windows, although Christmas was still three weeks away, and the centre of London glowed with colour and life.

Eliza had become used to the bustle of the capital, but sometimes its vibrancy made her realise all over again how different her life was now from a year ago. She shuddered. It had been last Christmas when . . .

“Don’t,” she scolded herself under her breath.

But it was hard not to, especially since Henry’s proposal. She remembered the awkwardness of that night . . .

“I am in love with you,” Henry said, his eyes aglow, “and I ask you, my dear, to consent to be my wife.”

“I’m sorry, Henry. I can’t.”

“I know I’m a bit of a fool sometimes,” Henry begged, “but I’m working hard.”

Eliza knew she owed him an explanation.

“Henry, please, it’s not you. You’re doing wonderfully well.”

“I am? Then what’s the matter? I know I’m not the most dashing chap, but I’m not all that ugly, am I?”

“No! Henry, you’re a very good-looking man. Hundreds of women would kill to have you as their husband.”

“But not you.” He said it so quietly that Eliza felt terrible.

“Not yet.” The words had been out before she’d truly thought them through.

“Not yet?” Henry had perked up. “Why not? Is it your job? Because I agree with Malcolm. I won’t stop you working once we’re married. Well, not until . . .”

He tailed off but his arms had already curved around an imaginary baby and she swallowed at the confusing picture of them holding a newborn together.

Had she just had her head turned by a handsome navvy with a twinkle in his roguish eye? Henry was a suitable husband in every possible way. He was young and charming and already making his way in the world. Their families were friends and of similar standing. He made her smile and would take care of her very well, she knew.

“I’m just . . . nervous.”

“Nervous? Of me?” He spread his arms wide.

“Not of you, Henry.” She leaned in closer, out of the driver’s sharp hearing. “I was assaulted. By a man, in his library. He – he pinned me down. Kissed me.”

The words were agony to say. She felt guilty all over again and the shock on Henry’s face didn’t help.

“Who? By God, I’ll . . .”

“It doesn’t matter who he was. He was stopped by his butler. It went no further. I’m sorry, Henry. I didn’t encourage him, really I didn’t! I didn’t see it coming at all, just suddenly there he was and he was so strong and I couldn’t even scream for his mouth . . .!”

She buried her head in her hands, desperately ashamed, but Henry took them softly in his own, prising them away from her face, and dropping a gentle kiss on her forehead.

“It wasn’t your fault, Eliza. He was a cad, a villain. I hope your father beat him.”

“No. He was a friend – though he isn’t any more,” she added hastily. “It was all dealt with very calmly. It’s done with, truly. But it has left me . . .”


She nodded weakly and his grip tightened around her hands.

“I understand, Lizzie.”

Even with him being so nice, the name still grated.

“I can wait,” he went on. “There’s no rush. Take your time. I won’t ask again until you say I might.”

“Henry . . .”

“By Christmas, maybe?” he added, looking hopeful.

Drained by her confession, she had run out of power to protest.


She’d never been so grateful to see her lodgings and escaped inside, fearing that her horrible story, far from putting Henry off, had made him even keener to secure her hand.

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”.