Rose

Rose Henslowe was an after thought (believe it or not! She becomes very important!) but I really like her a lot!  She lives with her parents in their theatre, The Little Rose. Tommy meets her while delivering flowers and is instantly smitten…

…A large voice boomed from behind the castle walls.  ‘God damn it!  Where is Mister Palmer? Not that he’s of any bloody use anyway.’  Mr. Henslowe stormed onto the stage and noticed Tommy instantly.  ‘Who the hell are you?’ Tommy opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out.

            ‘His name is Tom, papa.  He’s here to see the play with me.’ Rose announced rather sternly. Tommy looked down at her and then back to the huge man in front of him. He had never expected her father to be so, large. The man only came to Tommy’s nose but he seemed taller.  Perhaps it was the tuft of dark black hair that stood up straight on his head as if he spent a great deal of time trying to pull it out.  He had a bushy moustache that moved when he talked, or at least the few words Tommy had witnessed so far. His arms were thick from years of carrying sets back and forth, his body solid and strong. The only thing small on the man were his black eyes—or at least they seemed that way because they were beating down on Tommy with such ferocity that he could feel the sweat bead up on his neck.

            ‘Is he then?’ He continued to look Tommy over for a moment before looking at Rose and cocking his head slightly.  ‘What in the hell are you wearing?  I’ve never seen that dress before.’

            Tommy saw her jaw tighten slightly and her cheeks turn bright red.  So, the dress was just for him.  He couldn’t help but smile.

            ‘That’s because I don’t usually wear it.’

            ‘Oh my! Don’t you look lovely!’ An excited voice came from behind them and Tommy spun around to see a tiny woman with very large hair walking briskly towards them.  He knew instantly this had to be Rose’s mother.  While Rose had her father’s colouring she had her mother’s figure and large blue eyes.  ‘You did such a beautiful job with that dress darling! Let me just look at you!’ She turned Rose around to see the full affect. Rose closed her eyes for a moment then managed a smile. 

            ‘Thank you mother.’

            ‘Isn’t she so talented?  She does a lot of our costumes when our regular designer is too busy or just not able to keep up.  You must be Tom.’ She held out her small hand and Tommy took it.  He wasn’t sure if he was supposed to shake it or kiss it from the way she offered so he just held it for a moment and smiled.

            ‘Yes ma’am.’ Seemed to cover everything she had just crammed into the sentence and was all he could really manage before she started talking again.

            ‘We’re so glad to meet you!  I hear you deliver our gorgeous flowers now? They really lighten up our lobby! We do love fresh flowers every day.’  He could feel Rose tense up beside him and he shifted a bit closer so he could grab her hand without anyone seeing.  She squeezed tightly.

            ‘God woman, give it a rest will you?  He doesn’t care about the bloody flowers right now.’  Mr. Henslowe sighed and his wife stopped instantly.  She didn’t seem to mind being told to shut up.  She just smiled and admired Rose’s dress again. 

Tommy’s home

Tommy McDonough is a tough 17 year-old.  The youngest of five boys, Tommy became the head of his household at the age of nine when his father buggered off for unknown regions.  Leaving school to scour the banks of the Thames with the other mudlarks, he befriended a cocky kid named Sid…and they’d remained friends ever since.

This is a bit about Tommy, but more so it gives you an idea of where he lives…

Tommy walked out the door and sat on the stoop, the sun warm on his face. The stoop was like all the others, each one jutting out from the arched doorway into the small, narrow lane. All the window boxes were empty as the sunlight stood little chance of making its way in for more than a few hours a day. Newspapers were littered here and there, taking refuge along the safety of the building walls.  The wind from the night before, cold and desolate off the river, left them damp and moist. Buckets of dust sat outside a few of the flats awaiting collection.  They had already been sifted through for any possible treasure by Mrs. Henley at the end of the lane. She worked the dust heaps and never let anything be tossed without pawing through it first.  ‘Won’t believe all you can find in dust.  Bits of marrow, coal and such, the usual things a course, but there is stories about findin’ rings—gold even!  I know it’s true!  I heard it with me own ears I did.  A friend from the heaps, she heard it from a friend a hers.  Found a diamond ring he did. Never had to sift again!  I’m gonna find me some treasure some day I am.  Just a matter of time with all the dust I sift.  Sift more than most I do!  Best round!’  This would turn into a braggart session about who could sift the most and Tommy would tune her out.  He wondered if anyone ever believed those stories other than sifters.  He would bet a shilling (if he had one) that the ‘friend of a friend’ was created by the owner of the heap to keep the workers motivated.  To keep them sifting faster and longer.  And Mrs. Henley was proof it worked.  Not that he blamed her really. Everyone deserved some hope, some reason to keep sifting even if it was the prospect of never having to sift through London’s trash again.

Sir W.B. Richmond…

[Sir] W.B. Richmond had just begun his work on the mosaics covering St. Paul’s domes.  His works are amazing–yet few people even know his name.  A painter, a sculptor, a mosaic creator, Richmond was a kind, wonderfully talented man.  If  you want to see his work check out here: http://www.explore-stpauls.net/ .  It’s a virtual tour of the Cathedral.  A must see!

There is little written in the way of a biography for Richmond so I gathered all I could in his own words and works of art and pieced together the man I believe him to have been. 

Here’s an excerpt from SHARDS…

Books covered every surface, flat or otherwise. Picking up Lang’s newest book of fairy tales off the cushion of a green wing backed chair, Richmond mumbled ‘sorry old man’ before tossing it on the floor so he could sit down.  He felt bad about mistreating his friend’s hard work but he knew Andrew would understand. Blue, red, green, yellow, the fairybooks were a rainbow of stories saved from extinction. Like the pieces of glass he dealt with all day, his friend saw the colour and richness in everything in life.

It had been such a long day, as all days were at the cathedral. His head was pounding slightly from a lack of sleep and food and he closed his eyes against the pain.  Once again he had neglected to stop for tea, neglected to eat anything since the egg Clara Jane had fixed him that morning.  He relished the sweet sound of silence, the draped echoes of nothingness that reverberated around his studio; no workmen yelling at each other in cockney accents, no church official asking how the progress was coming—and more important, how much longer he would be.  Sid’s smooth voice resonated through the silence, the perfect enunciation of the Latin translation—Miss Duckworth would be proud!  How she had worked with Richmond as a child, how she hammered the declensions into his skull.  And here was this boy, no schooling to speak of, reciting Latin better than he ever could. 

            The clink of china brought him back from deep within his thoughts and he opened his eyes lazily to find Clara Jane bringing him a plate with a piece of joint, a jacket potato and peas.  A thin slice of bread slathered with white creamy butter was placed on top of it all.  Everything was fixed exactly as he liked; something she saw to herself.  She set the plate down on the small table where they took most their meals since the children had left home.  Beavor Lodge felt overwhelmingly large and empty with just the two of them. The drawing room seemed to hold echoes of Helen playing piano while Herbert sang, their laughter lingering just in the next room, no matter what room they happen to be in.  He expected to find one of the boys around every corner, head in hands as they pondered over a book or copied Punch cartoons.

Sid

This is one of the main characters, Sid Thompson, a young man of 19.  He’s given up his cold rented room to sleep [unnoticed] in Richmond’s studio in St. Paul’s Cathedral where he works. Unfortunately the nightmares follow where ever he goes:

Sleep came in spurts the rest of the night and when the sun hit his face Sid wanted nothing more than to roll over and throw the blanket over his head.  But he knew that was impossible.  He lay still for a moment, letting the silence of the cathedral seep into his body.  He loved being here when no one else was around, when there were no workers banging and yelling in their cockney accents.  It was in this silence he could sense the real beauty of St. Paul’s, feel its age and wisdom envelope him, caress him and keep him safe.  Some nights he thought he heard whispers, sounds of a distant past rumbling somewhere deep within its belly.  He never ventured down to find out the source.  He wasn’t that brave. But most of all when he was here alone he felt at one with her, felt like he belonged somehow to this beautiful structure.