Under The Streets Of London – Episode 69

Eliza looked round and saw Mary’s little lad, Bertie, waving keenly. Niall waved back and went towards him.

“I’ll take you very soon,” she heard him promise the child and then, after some chatter, “Yes, and Ray, too.”

There was more talk. Niall looked stunned but Eliza wasn’t quite close enough to hear and could only wonder why Niall was pumping the grumpy landlord’s hand so enthusiastically and smiling and nodding. He looked over at her, and now she did hear him very clearly.

“But first I need to have a word with Mr Rutherford.”

Eliza’s whole body trembled and suddenly she was ten times more nervous than she’d been some time back on entering the lamplit underground tunnel.

She drew in a deep breath and turned to look for her father. She found him right at her side.

“A triumph, Eliza,” he said. “I’m so pleased we were able to create the chance for you to work on this project.”

“So am I, Father,” she agreed keenly. “I’d like you to meet . . .”

But her father wasn’t listening.

“We were worried about you, Eliza. Your mother, especially. And I confess I, too, felt a terrible responsibility for, well, what happened with . . .”

“It’s all forgotten, Father,” Eliza said hastily, not wanting to be reminded of the nasty events that had led to her move to London.

Still, if they were the price she’d had to pay to come here and meet Malcolm and Niall and all her wonderful new friends, then she could accept that.

It was in the past and they could move forward.

“There’s someone . . .”

“You’re well now, though, are you?” James boomed on, oblivious. “Your mother says you’re fine, though it seems that young Henry,
er . . .”

He waved awkwardly towards Henry, who had Violet drawn tight in on his arm and was chattering away to her as if she were the only person in the crowded station.

“Henry and I were always just friends, Father. However . . .”

“Good, good. Maybe one day, my sweet girl, you’ll meet the right man.”


He stopped and stared at her.

“I’m sorry,” she said hastily, “but please listen. There’s someone I’d like you to meet. A young man.”

She felt herself blush as her father’s eyebrows raised. He looked around for her mother.

“It seems Eliza has someone for us to meet,” he told his wife.

“A man?” Eliza’s sister asked, bouncing over. “I bet it’s a man. I told Mother that you looked in love, Liza.”


“Are you saying it’s not true?”

Eliza blushed and sought for words, but now Niall was approaching and her family’s eyes all turned his way. As she, too, looked to her handsome Irish beau, she raised her head and reached out for his arm.

“This, Father, Mother, is Niall McMenamy. He’s an apprentice to John Fowler and has been invaluable on the project.”

Niall gave a little bow and held out his hand.

“Pleased to meet you, sir, ma’am.”

Eliza saw her parents register his Irish accent with some surprise but they were both too well-mannered to comment directly.

“It’s a very exciting project,” James said.

“Indeed it is, sir, and I hope the first of many such to come. Such as these, I believe, are the tracks to the future.”

He swept a broad hand across the railway lines and Eliza felt a rush of pride in his certainty and his belief.

“You may be right,” James agreed. “Have you always wanted to be an engineer, young man?”

“Always, sir.” Niall flushed and Eliza felt him square his shoulders. “I don’t think I knew it clearly until recently. You see, I came here as a navvy.”

Eliza heard James’s intake of breath and felt her insides curl. Why was Niall saying this now? Could he not have let her father get to know him as he was now, before offering this information? She supposed it was a part of him and should not be denied, and felt guilty for wishing him to do so.

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”.