Under The Streets Of London – Episode 61

It had torn at Mary, especially once she’d caught sight of William’s slim frame among the men battling to divert the water’s path.

She’d seen Eliza cordoning off the area and begged her to fetch Will out, but the girl had only given her an apologetic look.

“They’re in there and they won’t come out. It would shame them to give in.”

Mary had recognised the truth in that, but as she’d stood behind the rough rope, watching the struggle, she’d been torn between admiration for the men’s selfless heroism and anger at their lack of concern for what it might mean for their loved ones if they were swept away by the dark tide.

It had been all she could do to keep John at her side, begging him to leave it to the younger men. At every minute she’d expected to see the Fleet leap ferociously from the dark ground, seizing them in its watery grasp and hurling them to their deaths.

The cheer when they finally succeeded in sending the flood towards the Thames made her knees weaken.

“I’d never forgive myself if anything happened to you,” she told Will now.

“It’s not up to you, though, Aunt.”

Shocked at his words, she let him go and looked him up and down.

“I’m a grown man,” he repeated, more softly this time.

Mary nodded as she took in his thickening shoulders and the stubble across his young cheeks. He was right; he’d changed a great deal in the last months and she’d been too close to see it.

“You are,” she agreed, patting his arm, “but I’m still allowed to worry about you, am I not?”

William smiled suddenly, then grabbed her back in another hug.

“Of course you are, Aunt Mary, and I’ll for ever be grateful for it. You’ve been so kind taking Violet and me in whilst Mother . . . gets better. I know she appreciates it and I do, too. But I have to try to make my own path now.”

“Even if it runs down a flooded tunnel?”

“Even then. It didn’t, though, did it? Not for long, at least. We saw to that.”

Mary saw him glow at his part in the mad rescue.

“You did very well, Will. Sophie will be so proud.”

That made William glow even more, but then he looked wildly around him.

“Sophie! The babe!”

“Babe?” Mary looked to John, who seemed as confused as she was.

“She was delivering Brigid’s baby when we were called away,” Will told them. “She was doing a wonderful job but I reckon she was as terrified as we were back in the tunnel – she’s no midwife, you know.”

“No,” Mary agreed, trying to take this all in. “Who’s Brigid?”

“The lady who was hosting our dinner party in Duke Street. She’s newly over from Ireland and she was close to her time. Violet is with her as well. I need to get back and see how they all are.”

He turned to go but Mary reached out and grabbed him.

“You can’t go like that, Will, you need dry clothes. Come home first. I’ll help you. We can be quick.”

She could see from the set of his shoulders that he was determined and carefully unpeeled her fingers from his arm.

“You’re a grown man now?” she suggested softly and was rewarded by another smile.

“I am, and I’ll be home as soon as I can – Violet with me, I promise.”

It would have to be enough. Mary felt John’s arm go around her as their young nephew, his legs still nimble despite his travails at the trench, dashed off across the scarred landscape towards his friends. She looked up at her husband.

“I have to let him go, don’t I?” she said and he leaned down and kissed her.

“You do, my sweet, but there are plenty more at home still need their mother’s love and I think we should get back to them, don’t you?”

Mary’s hands flew to her mouth.

“Bertie!” she cried. “If he wakes and gets wind of this, he’ll be headlong into trouble.”

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”.