Under The Streets Of London – Episode 65

That had been two months ago and, true to his word, Fowler had taken Niall on the very next day. The delighted Irishman left the trenches to join the engineer in his offices and out along the length of the project.

He and Eliza met whenever they could, and every time Niall was bursting with all that he’d learned and keen to move on to the next lesson.

It was wonderful to see, and now they were due at any moment to greet the honoured guests who would be the first people to travel on an underground train!

Eliza fidgeted again and glanced nervously back to her family, who stood at her shoulder chatting easily with her boss, unaware that they were about to meet the man she loved.

They’d been delighted to be asked down for this big weekend and had offered to take her back to Sevenoaks with them for a few days’ break afterwards.

She was looking forward to seeing her home after so long away, but hoped that all would remain harmonious after today.

She crossed her fingers over and over, praying, as she’d prayed so often this week, that her dear family would like Niall and that they would see in him all the wonderful potential that she did. Surely an apprentice engineer would be considered good enough to be her husband?

“Is that them?” Millie called out, pointing up the street.

Eliza turned, feeling almost sick now that the moment was upon them, but as she looked at the approaching men her breath caught.

“Niall?” she whispered, stunned.

Was it really him? He was walking at Fowler’s shoulder, the tallest, broadest man in the group. His navvy’s shoulders were encased in a smart new suit and his strong chest was decorated with a beautiful blue waistcoat even Henry would be proud of.

His lean jaw was freshly shaved and his auburn hair was newly cut and brushed back beneath a gleaming top hat. He looked every inch the city gent and Eliza glowed with pride as she moved forward to greet them.

“All ready, Miss Rutherford?” John Fowler asked, glancing back at Niall with a twinkle in his eye. “Don’t my apprentices look smart today?”

“Very smart, sir,” she agreed. “They do you proud.”

“They do. As does yours, Malcolm.”

He indicated Henry, who blushed and bowed low.

Eliza smiled. Niall hadn’t been the only one with a new job after the strange night of the Fleet sewer, for Malcolm had sung Henry’s praises to Fowler and begged to have him transferred to his own offices.

John Fowler had put up only the slightest of protests, and ever since then the dapper young man had been working in Marketing and Communications, where his charm and style could be far more usefully employed than at the works.

He’d confided in Eliza that his father had been mortified at first, but he’d soon been appeased with an invitation to this grand trial run, and at present Mr Waters senior was smiling with pride on his son and pretty Violet, his soon-to-be daughter-in-law.

For Henry, never one to take things slowly, had paid a visit to Violet’s mother, Anna, finally recovering from her TB enough to receive visitors.

He had asked for her daughter’s hand in marriage which had been gladly given.

The wedding was set for two weeks from now and Eliza had watched the eager preparations with pleasure and, she had to admit, just a little jealousy.

Yesterday, however, Niall had told her that he intended to speak to her own father today and now she felt in equal measures thrilled and terrified at the prospect.

A look into Niall’s gorgeous blue eyes beneath his fancy hat told her that he felt exactly the same.

She longed to reach out for him, but could hardly hold his hand here, in front of the great and good of the capital. She had to content herself with smiling at him and received a wary grin in return.

She looked back to her father, bracing herself to make the introductions, but just then, with a great fanfare, they were all ushered down into the tunnel and there was no time to speak.

They took the grand steps in an excited huddle to find, before them, the first underground train, and after that there was little time to worry about anything else for a while.

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”.