Under The Streets Of London – Episode 64

“Is that all right with you, lad?” Seamus asked gently at his side and suddenly Niall was hugging his brother again, laughing down at Brigid and gazing in awe at the baby at her breast.

“Is it all right with me?” he gasped out. “Sure, it’s the best gift you could ever give me! Not that there’s any need. Family is family, right? I’d do anything for you, all of you. I’m blessed to have you.”

And he meant it. Though as Brigid detached the now dopey baby and held him out to him, he quailed a little.

“Will he cry?” he asked cautiously.

“Of course not,” Brigid said, her usual cheeky grin returned.

But just as Niall carefully took his small namesake and clutched him tight, a loud knock at the door made the poor little lad startle, his hands splaying wide.

His bright eyes flew open and his mouth formed into a gaping O as he drew an ominously deep breath.

“I’ll get it,” Seamus said cheerily, just as young Niall’s wails hit them all like a smack from a navvy’s shovel.

He opened the door and William tumbled in.

“Baby’s here, then?” he said with a grin, glancing at the boy squirming in Niall’s helpless grasp before rushing over to Sophie, who threw herself gratefully into his arms.

Seamus went to close the door but Will put up a hand.

“There are others on the way,” he shouted over Niall junior’s strident protests.


“Henry?” Violet asked hopefully.

“Henry,” Will agreed. “And Eliza.”

Niall’s heart stopped, but then William hit it with an even heavier strike.

“I believe they have Mr John Fowler with them to see you, Niall McMenamy. So you had best prepare yourself, and fast, because that sounds like them now!”

 * * * *

Eliza stood at the entrance to the first-ever underground station, twitching like a fool as she looked eagerly up the street for the arrival of Mr Fowler and his group of apprentices.

She wound her fingers excitedly together as she remembered, yet again, that amazing night two months ago, when it had looked for so long as if the world might fall apart at the seams before suddenly, miraculously, falling into place.

“Niall McMenamy,” John Fowler had said the minute poor Niall, still dripping wet and clutching a screaming baby to his broad chest, had stepped forward. “I’m glad I found you.”

Luckily Seamus had had the presence of mind to take his newborn back, spiriting him away to the bedroom and Brigid, whilst the others had stood gaping at the great engineer standing in the little front room.

“You honour us, sir,” Niall had managed, for once almost at a loss for words.

“Nay, lad, ’tis you who honour us. You saved the underground tonight.”

“No. I merely . . .”

“McMenamy!” Fowler had held up a hand. “Am I not a renowned engineer?”

“You are, sir, of course you are. The best of . . .”

“So do I not know when my own project has been saved?”

Niall had blushed and mumbled agreement.

“I do,” Fowler had agreed. “And tonight it was saved by you. I’ve spoken to various people and they all agree that diverting the water was your idea. What’s more, that it was you who led the men to effect the plan.”

“It was a very simple plan, sir.”

“Simple is good, McMenamy. You’ll need to learn that, lad, if you’re going to work for me.”

Eliza smiled now as she remembered the stunned silence in the little room. Niall’s blue eyes had lit up.

“Work for you?” he’d stuttered and Fowler had smiled – a big, broad beam that had lit up his clever face.

“Yes, Niall McMenamy, I’d like to offer you an apprenticeship. I’m going to make you into an engineer, lad, if you’re keen.”

“Keen?” Niall had all but choked on the word, but then he’d babbled as though he, like the Fleet River, had been released by this offer.

“Oh, sir, I’d consider it an honour and a privilege. I’d work hard, truly I would. I’ve not much in the way of letters, but I’ll learn, I promise you I’ll learn. I want to be an engineer so much.”

Fowler had grabbed his hand and shaken it hard.

“Then it’s a deal. Come to my offices in the morning when you’ve had a chance to clean off and get some sleep and we’ll sort out a contract. I need men like you, McMenamy, and I look forward to working with you. Goodnight.”

With another smile and a tip of his hat, he’d gone off into the night, leaving them all squealing for joy.

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”.