Under The Streets Of London – Episode 43

Mary couldn’t believe it but, sure enough, the girl was taking an envelope from her bag.

“Take it,” Eliza said gently as Mary stared. She thrust the envelope forward.

Mary moved over to John and together they opened it, the children clamouring around. Only Violet held back.

She’d stopped apologising to John every day but she was still subdued and quiet. Mary had prayed for the girl to settle down a little, but it felt unnatural.

Maybe this compensation would perk her up. It was certainly very welcome, with Christmas just around the corner and so many mouths to feed.

She watched, astounded, as John counted out the money.

“It’s more than we asked for,” she whispered.

“A little more. For your husband’s injuries. You know, by the way, that Robert Barker has been arrested?”

Violet started and Mary went over to her.

“No, we didn’t know.” She put an arm around her niece, who had paled.

“Oh, yes.” Henry Waters came towards Violet, walking softly as if she were a woodland creature who might be easily startled, and Mary blessed him for it. “He went home to his mother in Ireland and she turned him in to the police. Eliza had written to her, you see, so she knew what he’d done.

“She said she wanted nothing to do with him if that was the way he treated women. Said he’d brought shame on the family and should serve his time until he could see the error of his ways.”

Violet stared up at him.

“She said that? About her own son?”

“She did, and more besides, if the Irish police are to be believed. And you know what, Miss Violet? She was right. What that man did to you was unforgiveable, never mind what he did to your uncle.” He placed a warm hand over her shaking one. “It’s all done with now. Everyone is well, he’s behind bars and it’s nearly Christmas.”

Mary heard Violet give a sudden, gentle giggle and she smiled to hear it.

“You’re very kind, sir,” she said to Henry as he patted Violet’s hand and withdrew. “You, too, Miss Rutherford. We’re very grateful.”

She felt she should say more but there didn’t seem to be the words. Miss Rutherford would probably never know what this sum would mean for them. Times were always tough in winter and with the tunnel still open in front of their door, business was suffering. John remained optimistic, but he had to – he’d signed the lease on the new shop and by doing so had tied their future to the underground line.

“It will all be well once it’s open,” he kept saying.

But it wasn’t open – far from it – and they still had to stay alive and healthy to make it to that day.

“Can we offer you tea?”

Eliza looked up but Henry shook his head.

“We had better get going. We have people to meet for dinner and we’ve intruded enough on your evening.”

Mary saw the way Henry held out his arm for Eliza.

“Of course. You two must go and enjoy your meal.”

To her surprise, Eliza pulled awkwardly away from her beau and grabbed Mary’s hands.

“I’d love to stay,” she said earnestly, “but as Henry says, we have to go. I just wanted to make sure that the money made it to you.”

The Farndales crowded to the door to wave the elegant pair off. As they did so a group of men came out of the George and Eliza stopped dead.

Mary heard her gasp.


If Mary wasn’t mistaken the pangs of something like love were in that involuntary exclamation, and by the dark look on young Henry Waters’s handsome face he’d heard it, too.

“Poor Mr Waters,” Violet said softly, confirming Mary’s fears, and together they hustled the family inside.

Mary set the children back to their tasks and fought to resist peeking out of the window, but she couldn’t stop her mind straying continually to whatever might be happening on the street. It seemed, she reflected, that Eliza Rutherford didn’t have quite such a perfect life as she’d thought.

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”.