Under The Streets Of London – Episode 51

“How are things back home?” Niall asked.

Brigid sobered.

“Not so good, Niall, not so good. The harvest looks to be desperate thin again this year and times are still hard, but we got some money from the Quakers, God bless them, and that kept us . . .”

Niall saw the word “alive” hovering on her lips and quivered at the thought of how lucky he and Seamus had been to get them over to England finally.

He vowed, there and then, to save the money to help Brigid’s father and their own dear mother as well. He’d secure a permanent job of some sort, find a bigger house and bring them over, and they could all be together – safe, warm and well fed. It wasn’t too much to ask, surely?

And yet he already knew that once the tunnel was finished – maybe in as little as two months – work might be hard to come by. He just had to pray that John Fowler and his ilk continued their revolutionary projects and that he could somehow earn a place on them.

But those worries were for another day; for now, Brigid and Ciara were here and they must celebrate.

“Come in, come in,” he urged, drawing them further into their lodgings, although in truth there wasn’t much further in to go. The small sitting-room felt cramped already and Niall would have to sleep in here now to leave room for Brigid and Ciara with Seamus.

Who knew where they were going to put the baby once he or she appeared in the world, but they couldn’t afford anything more, not yet.

“’Tis a bit grey, Seamus,” Brigid commented. “Could you not have sewn yourself some pretty cushions to brighten the place up? Or maybe covered that rotten old sofa with something nicer?”

Seamus looked to Niall and they screwed up their faces at each other. No such thing had ever occurred to either of them, but now Niall looked around he had to admit it was a rather gloomy room. What, he found time to wonder, would Eliza make of it if he ever dared to ask her here?

He’d met her again three times since that wonderful kiss down by the river, twice for walks and once for a picnic in St James’s Park.

Eliza had insisted on bringing the food and had treated them to wonderful crab sandwiches and fresh lemonade. Niall had thought he’d truly gone to heaven that afternoon, with the sun shining, his belly full and the most beautiful girl in the world sitting on a soft blanket at his side.

It was madness, he knew – her father would never let her marry a rough navvy from the wrong side of the Irish sea – but it was a glorious madness all the same, and one that she seemed to share.

That, he had felt, was enough to be going on with, but looking round now it was painfully obvious how different their lives were.

“Cushions?” he asked his sister-in-law. “What could cushions do?”

She smiled.

“You’ll soon find out. Your mother pressed some lovely fabrics on me when I left. Told me you’d be living in squalor, the pair of you, and she was right.

“Oi!” Seamus objected. “It’s clean.”

“It is,” she allowed, “but it’s not exactly homely, is it?”

Seamus looked hurt.

“You don’t like it?” he asked. “I’m sorry. It’s all we could . . .”

His wife stopped him with another kiss.

“I love it. Stop being an idiot. All I’m saying is that now I’m here we can get it nice and then perhaps Niall can invite his lady friend over.”

Niall leaped out of his skin, almost dropping little Ciara.

“What lady friend?” he croaked.

Brigid reached up and chucked him under his broad chin.

“The one you’re always daydreaming about. That’s what Seamus tells me, anyways.”


Niall spun round to glare at his brother, but the sweet sound of Eliza’s name was coming from the little girl in his arms.

“Eliza,” Ciara said again with a cheeky giggle.

“How does she know?” he demanded, stunned.

Brigid grinned.

“So it’s true,” she said triumphantly, grabbing her daughter back and squeezing her tight. “I wasn’t sure if Seamus was exaggerating about this girl but Ciara liked her name – she’s hungry for words at the moment – and it seems she has good instincts. I’m so happy for you, Niall.”

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”.