Under The Streets Of London – Episode 63

Seamus looked down at the bundle cradled against his chest. Niall looked, too, and saw a furious pink face and a big gape of a determined mouth.

“You’re not so good for feeding him, though, eh?” he teased softly.

Seamus shook his head.

“The midwife arrived a little while back. She’s ‘sorting Brigid out’, whatever that means, so I’m holding him. But he’s not so keen on the idea. He’s been feeding half the night, so he has – you can tell he’s an Irishman, poor scrap – and here he is, wanting more!”

At that moment the bedroom door opened and the midwife appeared.

“You can take him back in now,” she said. “His ma’s all ready for him.”

“I’ve managed,” Seamus asserted again. The midwife, a sweet-faced woman, smiled at him but before she could agree, Brigid called through.

“To be sure you have, Seamus, but you’ve not got what he needs right now. Bring him in and we can all get some peace.”

Seamus rolled his eyes but scuttled obediently forward. Niall hung back but Brigid wasn’t having that, either.

“Come on in, Niall, please. I want to be sure you’re safe with my own eyes. What’s happened out there?”

Niall shuffled inside the bedroom and noted Sophie and Violet at the head of the bed, looking weary but happy. Now all eyes were turning expectantly to him.

Feeling finally safe in the warmth and contentment of the little birthing room, Niall gave them a summary of the events, playing down his part.

He kept his eyes firmly on the floor, as much from modesty as to avoid the sight of his nephew feeding. The events of the last few hours felt unreal even as he related them.

He had to admit he’d almost enjoyed it. Was it wrong to have taken some strange pleasure in such a crisis?

It would, surely, have been better if it had never happened and no-one had ever been in danger?

Yet Niall had to admit to himself that he had loved the feeling of being actively involved in quite literally changing the course of events. He had felt in control, useful – as if he belonged.

He smiled bitterly to himself. Who was he kidding? He was just a strong-armed navvy with a big gob and a fast shovel, and the sooner he remembered that the better.

He’d been getting above himself, what with the posters and meeting Fowler and courting . . .

His heart contracted as he thought of Eliza. He remembered her lovely eyes when she’d smiled up at him as she arrived at his little house earlier, and the feel of her in his arms as they’d danced together. It had all felt so right then.

But after the madness with the Fleet it had been as if the black water had run between them, and now he no longer knew what to think.

“Niall?” Brigid’s voice, soft for once, pulled him back to the present and he reminded himself that this amazing night wasn’t all about his petty concerns.

“Yes, Brigid?”

“Are you all right? Only you look sad. Please don’t look sad.”

Niall leaped forward.

“There now, of course I’m not sad. How could I possibly be, with such a handsome nephew?”

“He is handsome, isn’t he?” Brigid agreed, a smile sneaking on to her weary face. “Which is why we’ve decided to call him Niall.”

Niall blinked.

“Niall?” he repeated stupidly.

“Yes. Niall.”

“Because he’s handsome?”

Niall felt as if someone had stuffed sheep’s wool deep into his ears and stopped the cogs of his brain turning properly. He blinked, confused, and Brigid reached out and slapped at his leg.

“No, idiot, because of you. Seamus says he’d never have managed it here in London without you. He says you have been his rock.

“You’ve kept him sane and you’ve given all your money to bring us over, and we owe you a debt of gratitude that we’ll never truly be able to repay. But we’d like to name the babby after you to at least make a start.”

Niall stared. His legs felt weak suddenly and he had to dash a dirty arm across his eyes for fear they might leak like a girl’s.

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”.