Under The Streets Of London – Episode 58

Eliza couldn’t believe her ears. Here was Brigid labouring to bring a babe into the world and already it was in danger of being swept away.

“Flood?” she demanded. “I thought we’d shored up the collapse?”

“So we did,” Roary agreed grimly, “but it’s been raining again out at the source and there’s more water than ever trying to get through. A section of bricks has collapsed and it’s creating a blockage.

“Where?” Eliza croaked.

“At the end of the road here,” Roary admitted. “The props in the open section of the works can’t hold much longer. If they burst, the water will spread.”

“I’ll come,” Niall said, reaching for his jacket.

Eliza grabbed his arm.

“Isn’t it dangerous?”

He pulled her close.

“Better dangerous for a few than for everyone.”

Eliza’s heart turned over at his bravery. She longed to hold him back, but she could see in his eyes that it would make no difference. Niall wasn’t a man to refuse a cry for help.

“I’m coming, too.”

“You can’t. It’s too dangerous.”

“If you can go, I can go. I work for the Metropolitan and there will be journalists gathering. I’ll need to talk to them, minimise the damage. I’ll stay well back.”

He nodded and took her hand.

“I’ll come,” Will said, following them out of the door with Henry hot on his heels.

Seamus hovered, uncertain.

“You stay,” Niall instructed. “Brigid might need you and you must see your baby brought into the world. Besides, someone needs to be here for the women and bairns if there’s trouble.”

“Pray God there isn’t,” Seamus said, adding, “Stay safe,” to their backs as they all set off up the street behind Roary.

Eliza glanced down at her dress, annoyed she’d picked a pale blue fabric for what was turning into the most dramatic dinner she’d ever been to. Then they stepped out of Duke Street and the sight that greeted her wiped away any other thoughts.

The tunnel, still a gaping hole at this point in the line, was creaking and roiling. The timbers were visibly straining in the moonlight and water was gushing between them in giant spurts, rising in swirls along the base of the crevice.

Crowds were gathering, staring in horror at the earth folding in on itself before them, and in the middle a brave crew of men was battling to try to stop the impending disaster.

Niall grabbed Eliza.

“Keep them back, Eliza. The ground could be loose. Who knows how far back it might crack if the timbers give way and the sewer walls break into the tunnel.”

Eliza nodded.

“And you?” she asked, though she knew the reply.

“I’m going in.”

His long strides ate up the unsteady ground as he headed for the centre of the potential disaster. Roary followed and, with only a moment’s hesitation, Will went after them.

Henry looked to Eliza.

“I should go, shouldn’t I?” he said. “I will go. I’m not afraid, not really, I just don’t know how much use I’ll be.”

Eliza pondered.

“You’ll be no use at all,” she agreed candidly, “not to them. But to me you could be invaluable.”

“Could I?”

“Absolutely. We need to get all these people back, to stop them panicking and making things worse. And we need to weed out the journalists and start persuading them what a good job the Metropolitan is doing of sorting this out. It’s a big task. Will you help me, Henry?”

Henry squared his immaculate shoulders.

“I will, Lizzie.”

Over the next long hour, as they wove their way between the crowds, persuading people back and talking about the brave navvy heroes working to save them, Henry more than proved his worth.

By the time Malcolm Jones arrived the pair of them had wheedled some rope out of a local trader to set up a cordon, had talked the nearest housewives into distributing tea, and had directed conversation towards the heroism of the workers.

It wasn’t a lot, but it was a start and it at least kept Eliza from feverishly watching the men battling nature just 100 yards away. Her thoughts, however, even whilst she cajoled and sweet-talked the anxious crowds, were always towards her dear Niall.

Taking a pause as Henry explained their measures to Malcolm, she looked out across the scarred tunnel and made a vow, to the background of the shouts of men and the creaks of the earth, that if they all survived this she would tell her father that she loved Niall. His paternal anger would be nothing to the thought of losing the man she now realised meant so very much to her.

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”.