Under The Streets Of London – Episode 66

Niall stood looking at the train in awe. He’d seen it no end of times, of course, in the last few amazing weeks with John Fowler, but today, standing obediently for its first passengers, it looked especially impressive. He still couldn’t believe he was actually here!

He wished Seamus and Brigid could see it, but this trial run had a very limited audience and they’d had to see him off from home.

He’d left them, though, going to look around a new house – a smart little place with two bedrooms, a spacious kitchen and even a scrap of garden.

He could afford it on his new salary and it would give them more space. One room for them and one for him – for now, at least. In time – hopefully not too much time – he hoped to find a place for himself and, God willing, a beautiful bride.

Distracted from the beauty of the train, he looked down the platform to Mr James Rutherford. Eliza’s father seemed a nice enough man. His face was kind and his wife seemed sweet.

They were no ogres, out to protect their beloved daughter from the likes of him, and, besides, he knew he looked good today. He wasn’t going to trick them, though.

They had a right to know his background before they gave their consent, and he just prayed that they were the sort of people who looked more to the future than the past. He’d soon find out.

When the train reached Euston and celebratory drinks were served he would speak. He’d practised what he was going to say – practised it again and again until he knew it off by heart – but nothing had ever felt more important in his life and he was ridiculously nervous.

“All aboard!”

Fowler nudged him quietly as the mayor and assorted dignitaries clambered cautiously into the open carriages behind the great engine and Niall ducked round the back to head up to the cab and be certain that all was ready.

The fires were well stoked, however, and the driver in position so, satisfied that all was in order, Niall returned to his boss’s side.

John Fowler was nervous, he could tell. It was rare to see and, perversely, it made him feel better. If the train journey went well, he assured himself, so would his talk with Eliza’s father.

Taking a deep breath, he took up his own place in the back carriage and then, with a loud whistle, they were off.

*  *  *  *

Mary heard the whistle echo up through the ground, almost as if the train was talking to them.

To her great surprise she found it more exciting than terrifying. Besides, there was little time for fear, for the new shop was open and it was bustling with people.

The streets around the station at Euston were heaving with crowds keen to see if the dignitaries who were daring to ride Fowler’s underground train would emerge alive.

Many of them had come inside to buy fruit and, in particular, the fresh juices young William was making to order.

Their nephew had really come into his own these last few weeks as he’d taken ownership of the second shop, deferring to John but still making his own ideas clear. And what good ideas they were, too!

These juices, for example, used up the stock that wasn’t quite fresh enough to sell and attracted a premium price. Already the till was bursting.

The fresh pastries he’d ordered in from a baker a few streets back were also flying out of the door and, although these sales made the shop look very different from their own store, Mary liked it. It was the future and it looked bright at last.

She still couldn’t believe they’d been able to fit this shop out in time for today.

If sales continued as they had done so far, they’d have raised half of the mystery money by the end of the day.

Not that they knew who they could pay it back to. It had been a gift, but from whom?

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”.