Under The Streets Of London – Episode 46

Niall sidled into the George just before seven, more than certain that the young engineer would not arrive. No matter. It had been good to escape Seamus’s continued gloom.

Thankfully his brother had given up touting for lawyer Eugene Thetford’s dodgy trade, but as a result his earnings had slowed down and sadly there had been no more posters for the Metropolitan.

Eliza had sent a letter regretfully informing him that the company was struggling for money and could not spare the budget for more posters. The trench collapse had cost them dearly, she said, and all efforts were being poured into construction.

She’d written at some length, but she hadn’t come to see him. Niall wasn’t surprised. He’d heard the way she’d said his name on the street that snowy night. She’d looked mortified and he had passed her by with just a raise of his hat, but it had felt like so much more.

He couldn’t help being thrilled that lovely Eliza Rutherford liked him, but he’d also known it could only mean trouble.

Putting it out of his thoughts now, he went up to the bar.

“Drink, sir?” The barmaid was Violet, the grocer’s niece. She had started helping Ray Matthews out over Christmas when the pub was really busy and it seemed she was still doing the odd shift.

Niall smiled at her.

“Ale, please, Violet.”

“Coming right up.”

Violet was different these days, poor girl. Her encounter with the vile Rob Barker had changed her. Although she still chattered with the customers, she stayed safely behind the bar most of the time and never worked late.

“How’s the family?” Niall asked her, glad of someone to talk to.

“Not too bad, thanks.”


“Not so good. Uncle John’s putting money into his new shop and things are a bit tight. It’ll be better once the tunnel’s covered over, though, Aunt Mary says.”

“Any day now,” Niall assured her and couldn’t resist adding, “I was helping the engineers sort the safest way to construct the roof today.”


He pulled a face.

“Hard to believe, I know.”

“But true.” Henry Waters came up at his side and clapped him heartily on the back. “Let me get that,” he said as Violet placed his beer on the bar. “A second one, please, and something for yourself?”

“I’m fine, thank you, sir.”

Henry stared at her.

“Violet, isn’t it?”

“It is, sir, yes.” She flushed.

“No sir, please. Henry will do. Lovely to see you again. You’re working here now, are you?”

“Occasionally, sir.”

“Henry. Have a drink with us. We’re celebrating.”

Niall looked at his companion. His heart raced a little – had this suave young man secured Eliza’s hand after all?


“My narrow escape with Mr John Fowler,” came the reply. Henry leaned a little closer. “I’m not much of an engineer, to be honest. You really helped me out this morning.”

Niall wasn’t sure what to say but Violet stepped in.

“That’s very generous of you, Henry. Not many men would be so. It is hard to admit your own faults.”

Henry looked down at himself.

“Especially when there are so many.”

Violet reached over and touched his hand where it lay on the bar.

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Is it?”

Violet flushed again.

“I suppose I don’t really know. I’ve only just met you properly, though you were very kind to me at Christmastime over, you know, the compensation and that.” She coughed and hurried on. “But I’m sure you’re very accomplished.”

“That’s kind of you,” Henry said. “Do join us for a drink.”

Violet looked around but the pub was quiet and Ray was out the back sorting the barrels.

“Maybe just one,” she agreed tentatively. “I’ll have an orange juice.”

“Capital. Now, tell me about your lovely family.”

Niall sat back to let the pair of them chat. Clearly he was surplus to requirements here, but he didn’t mind. It was warm and cheery in the inn and the beer was good.

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”.