Under The Streets Of London – Episode 42

Eliza was the first to recover.

“And you? You are well? It must be very cold in the works now.”

“I’m used to it. Don’t worry about me. Not that you were, I’m sure.”

“I was. Well, you and everyone. It’s easy for me in this nice office. You’re the real face of the works. You saw yourself in reception? It looks good, doesn’t it?”

“I’m not sure,” Niall admitted. “I found it strange.”

She smiled.

“I like it.”

“You do?”

She flushed again.

“Of course. I commissioned it, didn’t I?”

“You did. It was very kind of you . . .” He came to a halt. It felt wrong, coming in here, asking for work. He jumped to his feet. “I’d best be off.”

“What? You’ve barely been here a moment. Please, at least finish your tea. Did you wonder if we needed more pictures?”

He hung his head.


He dared to glance up and the look in her eyes reassured him. It was kind and understanding.

“It’s a good idea. I’m happy to talk to my boss about it.”

“Are you?”

“Of course.”

“It’s my brother, you see. Seamus. He’s desperate to earn more money so that he can pay for his wife and daughter to come over and join us, but it’s hard now because the hours are shorter with the dark, and then so much of our money is taken up in keeping warm. He’s been working for some lawyer – Eugene Thetford – and I don’t like it.”

“You’re right not to. Mr Thetford is a menace, cheating honest folks out of their compensation with his a smooth tongue. He’s a predator.”

“He is.” Niall leaned forward eagerly. “Seamus is going to get into serious trouble on his account soon. It’s not worth it – though it feels it to him.”

“I’m sure it must. I’ll see what I can do, Niall, really I will.”

They both sipped at their tea. It tasted wonderful to Niall – it was warm and delicate and the cup was so pretty and the chair so comfortable and the girl opposite him so very beautiful.

This was his Christmas – this moment would be his gift, to cherish in his thoughts. All he had to do now was remember that it could go no further than this.

Eliza Rutherford was out of his reach.

*  *  *  *

“Miss Rutherford, is that you?” Mary peered out of the door into the swirling snowflakes. “Come in, it’s bitter out there. Oh, you have someone with you?”

“Waters. Henry Waters. At your service, ma’am.”

Mary smiled and John scrambled the children out of the chairs to make room for their guests. It was just two weeks away from Christmas and they were busy making presents for the family. William was out visiting Sophie’s family but the others were huddled around the fire.

The girls were bent over handkerchiefs, laboriously embroidering initials on to the cotton, and the boys were chipping and whittling at lumps of wood. They leaped up.

“Good evening,” Eliza said to them all. “Are you well?”

A chorus of voices assured her that they were.

Her gaze singled out John, who gave a little bow.

“Fully recovered, miss, as you see.”

“I’m glad to hear it. The company was very concerned for you.”

“It was not the company’s fault.”

Mary stepped forward.

“Well, now,” she started, but Eliza was too quick for her.

“Be that as it may, we were still concerned. I’ve been following your compensation claim closely and I’m delighted this evening to be able to bring you the money you are rightfully owed.”

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”.