- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Timothy Henzel has inherited his grandmother Christina's love of glass and his father's delicate talent as an engraver and he dreams of creating new and innovative glass. His twin sister Cordelia dreams of studying at Girton College. But when their father dies, their hopes for the future are threatened by their mother's obsessive love for her young son. Determined to break her hold, he persuades Cordelia to accompany him to America, to Corning, known as Crystal City. Life is hard at first, but Tim soon finds work...
Timothy Henzel has inherited his grandmother Christina's love of glass and his father's delicate talent as an engraver and he dreams of creating new and innovative glass. His twin sister Cordelia dreams of studying at Girton College. But when their father dies, their hopes for the future are threatened by their mother's obsessive love for her young son. Determined to break her hold, he persuades Cordelia to accompany him to America, to Corning, known as Crystal City. Life is hard at first, but Tim soon finds work in the industry he loves and Cordelia begins to share his excitement in this vibrant young country. However Cordelia must make a choice between two men: the American Jensen Novak, who threatens to steal her trusting heart despite his own secrets, and the brooding French immigrant Pierre, who brings with him a shadow of the past.
So this was Crystal City.
Cordelia, stiff and weary after the long, tedious and sometimes frightening journey, first across the Atlantic in a cramped and uncomfortable steamship and now halfway across New York State in a clanking railcar, walked slowly out of the station and looked around her. And her heart sank.
Was it for this that they had come all this way, she and Timothy? Was it here that they were to find a new life? Would this small and smoky town, crowded with shabby people, its tall chimney stacks pouring forth billowing clouds of darkness, really prove any different from the home they had left?
The air was filled with the same acrid soot, the same grittiness that she had breathed at home. The all too familiar clatter and screech of machinery filled her ears. And already, glancing down at her travelling dress, she could see the stains and grime of industry – the same, it seemed, whether you were in England or America.
Corning – the Crystal City. Well, there was little crystalline about this scene, she thought, and turned to where her twin brother Timothy was carrying out their luggage.
‘It’s just like Stourbridge,’ she said, and there was a world of bitter disappointment in her tone.
The crisis that had faced Timothy Henzel on the death of his father Paul in early 1898 was not immediately apparent.
‘It came too soon,’ Emily said over and over again. ‘Why? Why should I have to lose him so soon? Why, after all we had been through?’ Her widow’s veil was heavy and she pushed it back with a weary, hopeless gesture. ‘I thought we would go into old age together, and now I must spend it alone. Why is God so cruel?’
‘Cruel?’ Christina Compson, Paul’s mother and Emily’s stepmother, looked at her with gravity. ‘Was it really so cruel? His father had even less time, and his death was a much harsher one. I know; I saw it.’
‘But Paul was your son!’ Emily cried, her eyes bewildered, accusing. ‘Do you feel nothing? He was alive in the morning, cheerful, happy and well, looking forward to a new engraving – and then, by teatime, he was dead. What is the purpose of it? It’s – it’s senseless. Senseless and cruel – yes, cruel to me, if not to him. But can you really believe that he would have wanted to die so untimely?’
‘None of us wants to die, my love.’ Her father, Joe, spoke as gravely as his wife. He looked with sorrow at the woman whose grief made a white mask of her face, distorted her trembling mouth and reddened her eyes. ‘But it can’t be avoided and to some it comes early. Aye, it seems cruel, but we have to live with it. And you and Paul had a good life, after all – over twenty years married. It’s more than some can say.’
Cordelia, sitting quietly beside her mother, suffering her own grief, could not help looking at her grandmother when he spoke those words. She knew, as did all the family, the story of Christina and the young Frenchman, Jean-Paul Thietry, who loved her so briefly, leaving her when he died the seed of the child who had been born Paul Henzel. She knew that Emily, her mother, had been brought into the family at two years old, the daughter of Joe Compson and Maggie Haden, treated always as Christina’s daughter; and she knew of the efforts that had been made to part Emily and Paul when, grown up, they had begun to show signs of a deeper attachment than that of brother and sister. There was no blood relationship between them but Christina and Joe had feared for their happiness and sent Paul to France. He had almost been lost there, in the terrible Siege of Paris, but had returned at last – only to find Emily married and desperately unhappy.
The story had been told gradually over the years, explaining many of the things that seemed unusual about the Compson and Henzel families. And Cordelia, living with the examples of both her mother and her grandmother in this age when women’s rights were becoming more and more of an issue, had grown up with the idea that women could be something more than men’s chattels. They could take over and run a factory, as Christina had done when no more than a girl; they could fight and campaign for women’s rights and for better conditions for the poor, as Emily had been doing ever since Cordelia could remember. What they did not do, if their name were Henzel or Compson, was to sit at home idly waiting for calls or doing nothing more arduous than arrange a vase of flowers.
But Emily, who had always been so strong, now seemed unable to take control of her own life. For years her strength had shielded her artistic husband from the realities of the world so that he could concentrate solely on the glass that was his life. As well as continuing her strenuous efforts to improve conditions in the eternally poverty-stricken Lye Waste, where she taught in the little school, ran the soup kitchen in winter and bullied the men to hand their wages over to their wives rather than drink it away in the public houses, she had taken over the running of the house which Christina, still engrossed in the glasshouse, found so tedious – and still found time to campaign vigorously whenever she saw a need. She had been particularly vociferous about marriage: the fact that women had almost no rights; that once married they were considered no more than an extension of their husbands; and that there was very little chance of escape from an unhappy marriage. This disturbed her more than any other wrong.
With Paul struck down so suddenly, Emily seemed to shrink in upon herself. Sitting in the parlour after the funeral, she stared round at them all, her eyes great hollows of pain in the paleness of her face. She seemed smaller than before, her clothes hanging loosely around her. The tears ran constantly down her cheeks and Cordelia, accustomed to seeing that mouth set firm and implacable, those eyes dark with a robust determination that had been handed down directly from Joe Compson himself, felt as disturbed as if the whole of the Black Country had suddenly moved and tilted to one side.
Timothy got up and went to his mother. He sat down beside her on the sofa and slipped his arm around her shoulders, holding her close against him.
‘Mother, don’t torture yourself in this way,’ he said softly. ‘Of course Father would not have asked for death so soon. But think – he was luckier than many. He never suffered, never even knew. His heart just stopped beating – no more than that. It was like closing his eyes – as gentle as falling asleep. Wouldn’t you have wished it to be like that? If it had to come – wouldn’t you rather he died so quietly, so happily, than in pain and fear like–’ he glanced briefly at his grandmother before going on ‘–like Grandfather Thietry?’
Emily turned blank eyes upon him. For a long moment, she stared at his face, though no one could tell whether she saw him or not. Then, slowly, she put up one hand, touched his cheek with her fingers and moved them over the contours, as if she were blind and learning his expression, the cool, regular planes of his face, the nut-brown curls that covered his head, even the long, narrow shape of his silver-grey eyes.
‘You are so much like him,’ she said in a voice that was no more than a thread of sound in the quiet room. ‘So much like he was then… before he went to Paris. He was never quite the same after that, you know. He suffered too much, from the women he met, from the things that happened… I always knew he hadn’t the strength to live. I always knew his genius would kill him in the end.’
With a movement so sharp that it startled everyone, she turned completely into her son’s arms, gripping him with hands that shook and looking up into his face with eyes that were now burning fiercely. ‘You won’t go away, Timothy. You won’t leave me.’ Her voice strengthened and throbbed in the quiet room. ‘You’ll stay here, safe in Stourbridge and work as your father did, engraving beautiful glass. You’ve inherited his talent, his genius – you’ll bring it to fruition here. You’ll continue the work he was doing, the work that has made Henzel’s famous. You’ll never go away.’
Cordelia lifted her hand to her mouth. Her eyes, green as a cat’s, were shadowed and disturbed. She felt a coldness around her heart.
There was something frightening in the extremity of her mother’s reaction. She held Timothy as if she would never let him go. As if she meant each word – that he must never, never leave her.
But wasn’t it natural that, with her husband newly in his grave, she should turn to her eldest son? When the worst of her grief had abated, wouldn’t she relinquish that frightening grip?
Cordelia tried to drive away her sudden dismay. Watching her mother, she knew that Emily was suffering from deep shock. She barely knew what she was doing.
But already she could see the dawning fear in her brother’s eyes.
In the months following Paul’s death, her old autocratic nature reasserting itself, Emily turned more and more to her eldest son. Her campaigns were forgotten; women’s rights, the conditions of the poor, even her own family were neglected. Cordelia, the daughter who might have given her comfort, was dismissed to her studies; her younger son Mark, still at school, was discounted. She concentrated wholly on the engraving shops attached to the Henzel glasshouse, and in those shops all her attention was focused on Timothy.
‘Yes, it’s good,’ she would say critically when he showed her a new piece of glass engraved with a fresh pattern. ‘But you still have a long way to go. The depth of the cut here – don’t you think it’s a little too much? Could it not be even finer? And this curve, it’s not quite as your father would have done it – see this piece, how graceful it is.’ She sighed. ‘It’s a great pity that the vogue for cameo glass is already beginning to fade. Purely because it can’t be made easily, of course – only a true artist can achieve the skill needed for cameo carving, and naturally it is expensive.’ She looked again at the decanter in her hand, engraved with the flowing lines and intricate whorls of Timothy’s latest design. ‘Yes, it’s a very nice piece. You’ve done well.’ But her tone implied, not well enough, and Timothy bit his lip as he took the decanter back and set it on his bench.
‘She isn’t satisfied with anything I do,’ he told Cordelia later. ‘Nothing will ever match Father’s work. But I don’t want to match it. I want to try my own ideas. Things are changing in the glass world, Cordelia, and I want to change with them. Henzel’s ought to change with them. We have to keep up to date. We did it before – why not now?’
‘Mother doesn’t want anything to change. She wants it all to stay just as it was when Father was alive.’
‘But that’s ridiculous!’ Tim burst out, and his grey eyes darkened with passion. ‘Father wouldn’t have let things stand still – he was always looking for something new. Look at black cameo, for instance. That was his idea, something different from the cameo other glasshouses had begun to make, and because it was different and because it was beautiful, it succeeded. And going back even further, the crystal that Grandfather and Grandmamma made fifty years ago – why, if Grandmamma hadn’t seen what was needed, if she hadn’t built the engraving shops and brought Grandfather Thietry over from France, we would never be where we are today.’ He paced the room, his slim body taut with impatience and frustration. ‘Henzel’s can’t be just a memorial,’ he declared. ‘We have to move with the times. In a few years we’ll be in the twentieth century – we can’t stay mouldering in the nineteenth.’
But Emily refused to listen. ‘You have a duty to continue your father’s work,’ she stated uncompromisingly, and no one could persuade her that Paul Henzel himself would have been amongst the first to embrace new ways.
As the weeks turned to months, Emily was more and more at Timothy’s heels. Her disapproval of his new designs increased until he found himself permitted to work only on designs his father had created. Cordelia, watching him with anxiety, saw a smouldering frustration growing in his eyes, a frustration that only his love for his mother kept him from expressing with all the volatile temper he possessed. And she feared its eventual, inevitable explosion.
Her studies forgotten, she would gaze out of the window, thinking of her brother. Until now, while still learning his skills, he had naturally been overshadowed by Paul’s reputation in the engraving shop. But Cordelia believed that, of the two, Timothy would finally prove to be the greater genius. Designing, engraving, even calculating the chemical composition of different glasses – all seemed to come with equal ease to his brilliant but restless mind. Experimenting was his great love – he would spend hours, days, months, trying out new formulae, different methods, and she knew that he dreamed of making glass of a kind that had never been seen before. But with Emily curtailing his freedom and even Christina determined to keep Henzel’s name prominent for table glass rather than anything more adventurous, it seemed unlikely that he would ever be able to do so.
And it was his restlessness that worried Cordelia most. For Timothy, so talented where glass was concerned, seemed in other ways so young for his age. And, if driven too far, was all too likely to do something foolish…
Gradually, the dispute took on greater proportions and began to upset the entire household at Henzel Court. Joe Compson, now over eighty, tended to dismiss its significance; he had been through too many family upsets to worry about this one, he declared. The boy was a fine workman, no doubt about it, though Joe had never really taken to engraving and never would now. And Emily, well, she was stubborn enough like the rest of the family, but she’d see sense in the end. She’d been through a bad time, when all was said and done; you couldn’t expect too much of her yet awhile.
Christina, however, took the matter more seriously. And one day, when the dispute between Timothy and his mother had been particularly bitter, she came to the old schoolroom where Cordelia was trying unhappily to forget her worries in study, and settled herself by the window, looking down at the cluttered roofs of the village below.
‘I’ve always loved this view,’ she said. ‘My father built this house specially so that we could see our own cones and no one else’s. I used to sit here for hours while our poor governess tried to teach us the three Rs – Miss Crossley, her name was; I used to call her Crosspatch. Poor soul, she did her best. I’m afraid I was something of a trial to her.’
Cordelia looked at her grandmother and smiled. It was easy enough to imagine her being a trial; even now, at seventy-four, Christina still retained the sprightliness and air of mischievous gaiety that had enslaved Joe so many years ago. As a girl, she had been almost shockingly independent; entirely so when she had found herself pregnant and without any possibility of marriage to the father. Yet she had never taken the easy way out. Flying directly in the face of convention, she had raised her son, run the business her father had left her, and had overcome all the difficulties that life had sent her way. And she still bore her small, slender body as lightly as a girl, her hair bright with the tawny colours of autumn, her eyes flashing a dangerous, tigerish green when she was angry.
‘You know,’ Christina said, turning from the window and looking directly at Cordelia, ‘you’re very like me. Not just to look at – though your grandfather often says you’re the image of me when I was your age. But in your character, too. You’re strong, Cordelia.’
‘Strong? I?’ Startled, Cordelia looked down at her books. ‘How can you know? I’ve never had to—’
‘I know. I recognise the same determination in you. You’ve never been forced to use it – your mother was only too pleased for you to be educated, so you didn’t have to fight for that. Like me, she’s always been anxious for women to have their rights. In that way, it’s been easy for you. You’ve never had to test your strength.’ Christina leaned forward a little. ‘But those times are past, Cordelia. The time is coming when you are going to need it all. And not only you.’
Cordelia looked at her and said in a quiet voice: ‘Tim…’
‘Exactly. Your brother is going to need your strength. He’s going to need it very badly.’
Cordelia put her hand up to her brow. She had left her hair loose today, hanging in a heavy veil of copper around her face. She pushed it back and looked at her grandmother.
‘I don’t feel at all strong,’ she confessed. ‘I don’t know what to do to help him. He’s so unhappy, but until Mother leaves him alone—’
‘Which she’ll never do,’ Christina interrupted. ‘Cordelia, your mother is a very intense person. She loves with all her heart and when she loves she is totally engrossed. She loved your father more deeply than anyone else; when he went to Paris and she thought she had lost him, it almost broke her. It drove her into a marriage that could have killed her. And now she can’t accept the fact that he is dead. For all her own strength, she relied on him entirely. He was essential to her. In a strange way, she drew her strength from his need of her. Do you understand me?’
‘I think so,’ Cordelia said, with some doubt.
‘It isn’t easy to understand. You are so young… but we often have to take on responsibilities when we are young.’ Christina’s eyes dimmed for a moment, then she lifted her chin. ‘I did it, your mother did it, and now it’s your turn. You have to use that strength of yours, Cordelia, and I can’t tell you it will be easy.’
‘But how? Do you want me to talk to Mother? I can’t believe she’ll take any notice—’
‘At present, no. She’s beyond taking notice of anyone at the moment. But later, when she begins to look around her again and discover that there’s still life to be lived, she’s going to need you, Cordelia. Just now, her son is everything to her. But you’re her daughter, and that matters too.’
Cordelia looked down at the books on her desk. In them lay her only escape from the unhappy atmosphere that filled Henzel Court these days. She held on to them, and to the place she had already been offered at the women’s college of Girton at Cambridge University, as if to a lifeline. The thought of the following October, when she would leave home and go to live amongst other young women and study for a degree, had been her only comfort in the weeks that had followed her father’s sudden death.
‘But I shan’t be here,’ she said, and knew already what her grandmother was going to ask of her. ‘Grandmamma, I shan’t be here.’
Christina looked at her steadily. ‘Cordelia…’
‘Please!’ Cordelia broke in desperately. ‘Please, Grandmamma, don’t say it – don’t ask it – don’t ask me to give up all that I’ve worked for. Cambridge – Girton – I’ve dreamed about it for so long. You approved. Mother approved. You can’t ask me to give it all up now.’
‘It’s not for ever,’ Christina urged. ‘For this year only, perhaps. You could go next year, or the year after—’
‘Or the year after that, or the year after that. No.’ Cordelia shook her head, bronze hair flying. ‘If I don’t go this year, I never will. Now is the time. I must.’
There was a short silence. Christina watched her, her eyes thoughtful, and Cordelia met her calm gaze for as long as she could, then glanced away. Christina gave a little sigh, the kind she often gave when she was preparing to go into battle, to argue, to deny and cajole until she got her own way. And Cordelia sighed, too, for she knew that when Christina was determined, she usually did get her own way.
But not this time. Not, please God, this time…
‘I am going to Girton,’ she said firmly, and met her grandmother’s gaze again. This time she did not look away.
‘And you won’t concern yourself with what happens here? You’ll be able to push your mother and her troubles right out of your mind? You’ll be able to forget your brother Timothy? Your twin?’
Cordelia began to feel angry. She knew quite well that her grandmother was playing on Cordelia’s loyalty, on the power of her attachment to Timothy, an attachment which had been fostered and encouraged by all the family ever since the twins had lain together in their cot, their tiny hands linked.
‘Of course I won’t forget,’ she said abruptly. ‘Of course I’ll be concerned. But Grandmamma, you’ve always told me that women have their own lives to live as well. That I had my own life. What would I do if I stayed at home? What use would I be? Do you really want me to sit in the drawing room and receive callers? Arrange flowers?’ Her eyes flashed, as Christina’s had when she was a girl and forced to fight against her family. ‘You’ve always lived your life the way you wanted to, Grandmamma. Why do you want to stop me from doing the same?’
Christina was silent for a moment, then rose from her chair and stared down through the window at the cones, the crowded roofs, the heavy pall of smoke. She spoke with her back to Cordelia.
‘I wonder if you’re right,’ she said. ‘Have I always lived my life as I wanted to? Would I have lived differently if I had had the choice?’ She turned sharply. ‘You see, there is a difference between us. You have the choice – you’ve always had choices, choices I never had. I was handed a business to run when I was no older than you are now. My whole life was dedicated to that business. The glasshouse always had to come first, always. It does still. I believe it always must, if your name is Henzel.’ She came swiftly to Cordelia’s desk and leaned on it, her small fists white around the knuckles. ‘The glasshouse is in danger, Cordelia, and I believe you are the one who could save it. It isn’t just a question of your mother or your brother, you see. It’s that out there–’ She waved a hand towards the window. ‘It’s those buildings, those great cones almost a hundred years old, built by a Henzel. It’s the people who depend on us for a living. It’s our living. Our name. Henzel Crystal. And if something isn’t done, we shall lose it all.’
She stood for a moment, taut and urgent, looking down into Cordelia’s shocked face. Then she sagged suddenly, the fire draining from her, and as Cordelia watched she seemed to turn all at once into an old woman, bent and defeated. She sank back into her chair and looked once again out of the window.
Cordelia’s own anger evaporated. She stared at the shrunken figure which had only moments ago been so full of energy and determination, and felt stricken.
‘But why?’ she asked at last. ‘Why do you think things are so bad? We have orders coming in still. Timothy was only saying yesterday—’
‘Orders! Oh yes, we’ve plenty of orders.’ Christina spoke the word dismissively, as if orders were the last things the glasshouses wanted. ‘But what are they for? Old lines, lines we’ve been making for five, ten, twenty years. Where are the orders for new glass? New shapes and styles? Glass that will keep us ahead of our competitors? Where are they?’
‘But we’re not making any—’Cordelia began and Christina snapped in at once, her body straight again, her eyes firing up.
‘Exactly! We’re not making any. Because Emily won’t allow it. Emily! Who has never taken any part in the running of the glasshouse.’ Her voice was angry, bitter. ‘After all the work I’ve done, all the work your grandfather has done, after we’ve both given our whole lives to Henzel Crystal, what happens? Emily forbids anything new. And because she’s his mother and because he loves her and is sorry for her grief, Timothy accepts her ruling. And do you know what will happen if it goes on?’ Christina turned a blazing look on her granddaughter. ‘Henzel Crystal will become nothing. Nothing! Oh, we shall go on making glass, good glass, fine glass. But we shall never lead the market again. We shall never outstrip our competitors as we have for so many years.’
Quietly, Cordelia said, ‘Timothy is just as unhappy about this as you are, Grandmamma. But I still don’t see—’
‘You don’t see what’s to be done about it?’ Christina bit out the words. ‘Isn’t that because you don’t want to see, Cordelia? Because you know what it will mean to you?’ She waited, her eyes fixed on Cordelia’s face. ‘Let me tell you then. Timothy must fight. He must fight his mother, go against her wishes, make the glass he wants to make, make the glass Henzel’s need him to make. It won’t be easy for him to do that, Cordelia. And that is why he will need you at his side. To help him fight her. To fight with him.’
Cordelia stared at her. She thought of her mother, pale, wan, deeply unhappy, her dark eyes following Timothy everywhere, seeing in her son the husband she had lost. She thought of Timothy, concerned only with his work, driven by the art within him, harassed by the disputes, the criticism, the pressure that surrounded him.
‘It would kill her,’ she said. ‘It would destroy them both. Grandmamma, you can’t ask it—’
‘I can. I do.’ Christina stared out of the window again. ‘Cordelia, we can overcome these troubles. You can overcome them. Give up Girton. Stay at home and help your brother. Help me. For the sake of the glasshouse.’
Cordelia stared at her brother. He returned her look steadily, though she suspected his air of confidence was only assumed.
‘You’re making fun of me,’ she said at last. ‘How can you possibly leave Stourbridge?’ She looked involuntarily out of the window at the view her grandmother loved, at the factory, the cones, the streets. It was impossible to imagine those streets without Timothy somewhere amongst them, those long buildings without Timothy working in them.
‘I’ve got to,’ he said intensely. ‘Cordelia, it’s the only way. Mother’s stifling me. And Grandmamma’s no help. She believes I should fight – fight my own mother! When she’s in the state she’s in now… It would kill her.’
‘I know,’ Cordelia said soberly. ‘I told her that too.’
‘You? You mean she’s asked you to – to—’
‘She wants me to give up Girton and stay here. She thinks you’ll need me to stand against Mother and make the kind of glass you want to make. The kind of glass Henzel’s needs.’
‘Henzel’s!’ he said. ‘Always Henzel’s… The glasshouse comes before any of us with Grandmamma, Cordelia. It always has.’ He came to stand beside her, looking down. ‘I feel I’m being pulled apart,’ he said. ‘Between the two of them: one thinking I’m a second Paul Henzel, making the glass he created, over and over again; the other wanting me to make new glass, yes – but even that won’t be the glass I want to make, Cordelia. It’ll be the glass Grandmamma wants – the kind of glass Henzel’s has always produced. Table glass. Crystal. Cameo.’ He turned to her and his eyes glittered, silver in the grey light of early spring. ‘That isn’t the kind of glass I want to make,’ he said and there was an intensity in his voice that Cordelia had never heard before. ‘I want to experiment – to try something like the Art Nouveau – oh, I don’t even know what it is I want to do! I only know that we could go forward in glass now as we’ve never done before. And I know that I’ll never be able to do it in Stourbridge.’ He turned away and flung himself into the battered old armchair, staring restlessly around the room which had seen so much of their childhood and growing up. ‘I’ve got to get away, Cordelia. I’ve got to.’
She stared at him with doubt in her eyes, fear at her heart.
‘But Mother… how will you explain to her?’
‘I don’t believe I can,’ he said gloomily. ‘She wouldn’t listen to explanations anyway. I don’t believe she even sees me any more. I’m just a – a ghost to her. A substitute for Father.’ He looked up at her and his eyes blazed. ‘And that’s why I must get away! Don’t you see that the longer I stay here, the worse Mother is going to get? She thinks of nothing but me now, nothing but making me even more like Father. It’s unhealthy – it’s frightening.’
‘But she made you promise never to leave,’ Cordelia said uncertainly. ‘On the day of Father’s funeral.’
Timothy shook his head, a new determination about his mouth. ‘I never gave my word. She did all the talking – told me I must never leave her. I didn’t say a word. How could I, when she was so unhappy? But no one in their right mind would hold me to a promise like that–’ He stopped suddenly.
‘No one in their right mind,’ Cordelia repeated slowly. ‘Timothy, what are you saying?’
‘Mother isn’t in her right mind,’ he said simply. ‘She hasn’t been since Father died. And who could blame her for it? And… as long as I’m here, looking so much like him, doing the work that he did, I’m afraid she’ll never regain her reason.’
‘Regain her reason? You talk as if Mother’s going mad!’ Cordelia was on her feet, white-faced. ‘And you mean to leave her, when she needs you most—’
‘That’s just it. She doesn’t need me most – not just now.’ His voice was almost cold now, and Cordelia stared at him, seeing a Timothy she had never known before. ‘Oh, I know it seems as if she needs me more than ever, but it’s an unhealthy need. It’s doing her no good. Don’t you see that?’ He paused for a moment and then added, ‘And it’s doing me harm too. I can’t work like this, Cordelia. I can’t think any more. I can’t make my glass.’ There was real anguish in his voice. ‘I’ve got to be able to make my glass, Cordelia.’
He stared at the floor and Cordelia watched him anxiously. Ever since babyhood, they had been close; it had been accepted within the family that they would be, that twins always shared a bond tighter than that between normal brothers and sisters. And even though their lives had necessarily taken different paths as they grew up, with Timothy going with his father into the glasshouse and Cordelia working at her studies, the bond had never loosened.
She knew that for Timothy, his glass was his life. The driving need within him was as great as that of any other artist – painter, sculptor, musician, writer. Each one had a star to follow, an ambition that overrode all other factors. Timothy needed to experiment with glass, to make new kinds, to engrave and decorate, to find methods that had perhaps never been discovered. And nothing could stand in his way, nothing could ease that consuming passion to create.
Christina had seen that Timothy was the future for Henzel’s, for glassmaking. But even she might not be able to accept the changes he would want to make. Even she would try to hold him back.
‘But if you leave Stourbridge…’ Cordelia began, doubt still in her voice.
‘There are other engravers here,’ he said. ‘And Mother won’t interfere with them. It’s only me – because she sees Father in me. And I’m not leaving Henzel’s with nobody to look after the business. Uncle Roger cares for the ledgers as though they were his children – I believe they are the only things he loves. Cousin Rupert manages the glasshouse, and you know that Grandfather and Grandmother will never truly retire. And Mother will still have you, and Mark – he won’t leave school for another two years. She can turn to him without doing any of the damage she’s doing to me.’ He moved across to her, touching her copper curls with sensitive fingers. ‘I don’t suppose it’ll be for ever, anyway. I’ll be able to come back.’
Cordelia turned away and looked once more out of the window. Outside, a March storm was whipping the trees that Joshua Henzel had planted in the garden nearly seventy years ago. Rain beat against the window that the young Christina had liked to look from when she should have been attending to her lessons. The tall red-brick cones of the glasshouse loomed high into the sulphurous sky, and smoke coughed up from their open tops and was torn away by the hungry wind. She leaned her forehead against the cold pane, thinking of Girton, of all she had planned.
‘You talk as if you were going alone,’ she said, and her voice came from a throat that ached. ‘But you won’t be. I shall come with you, Tim – wherever you choose to go.’
The idea, once discussed, began to take root. Until then, Cordelia suspected, it had been little more than a frantic dream in Tim’s mind, a desperate hankering for something he had thought out of the question. He had told her about it almost in the expectation that she would dissuade him, angry and passionate because he had believed it would all come to nothing. But now, with her support, he began to see it as a possibility, a reality.
‘Where will you go?’ she asked. ‘To Lorraine – to the château?’
Timothy shook his head. ‘I thought of that. But it’s still too close to home, in a way. The old Thietry glasshouses, they’re all part of Henzel’s now – they were Father’s, and Mother is sure to feel that they’re hers too. She’ll want to command me as much there as here – she might even make the journey after us. No, if we’re to go away, it must be somewhere completely new.’ He paused for a moment, and then said quietly, ‘I think I should go to America.’
‘America? But we know nobody there.’
‘We know Uncle Harry and Aunt Ruth. They’ve lived there for – oh, forty years or more, ever since Uncle Harry went to help build railways and bridges and things. And where do they live now that he’s retired?’ He paused and looked at her before going on triumphantly, ‘Corning! One of the most important glassmaking centres in the United States! What could be better? Look,’ he went on seriously, ‘if I really mean to make a fresh start, it has to be somewhere really fresh, don’t you see that? A place where Mother won’t follow because she’ll have no influence. Where I can begin again on my terms, making the kind of glass I want to make. England and France are too traditional – America is new, it’s a country that’s looking ahead into a new age.’ He spoke quickly, eagerly. ‘In less than three years we’ll be beginning a new century. The twentieth century! Everything will be changing – things are changing now, so quickly. Trains, bicycles, even motor-cars – and glass. Glass will change too, Cordelia, it’s beginning to already, and I must be where the changes are taking place.’ He strode about the room, waving his hands. ‘Art Nouveau – the work that Gallé and others have been doing – Tiffany, it’s all the kind of thing I should be doing…’ His voice died away as he stared at his sister. ‘Yes,’ he said slowly. ‘I must go away – and America is the place where I should be. But to start again, alone,’ he shivered, ‘it won’t be easy.’
‘But you won’t be alone.’ Cordelia came close and laid her hand on his arm. ‘I shall be with you.’
Timothy shook his head. ‘No. You have your own life to live. Girton – the school you hope to run one day – you can’t give all that up. Cordelia, I’ve been thinking – I can’t ask that of you. You must stay, go on with your studies…’ She looked at him with sudden hope, but his eyes were shadowed, not meeting hers, and she saw that although he believed he meant what he said, he really wanted her to go with him – needed her to go with him. And she knew that in any case she could not have borne to see him go without her.
She sighed, renouncing again the dreams she had had and smiling as brightly as if they had never mattered at all, were only a passing fancy.
‘And who says so?’ She lifted her head, looking directly at him. ‘I shall survive without a university education. Millions of women have done so already. And as for teaching in a school, don’t they have schools in America?’ She stopped for a moment, afraid that her voice would betray her, and then gathered strength and went on. ‘In any case, as you said yourself, it’s not going to be for ever – only until Mother is quite recovered.’
Timothy turned away, his shoulders suddenly bowed. ‘And that’s another thing,’ he said. ‘How are we going to tell her? She’ll never agree–’ He looked almost ready to give up, to concede defeat before the battle was even begun, and Cordelia felt a sudden surge of determination. He was right – he mustn’t give in. And she knew that this was when he needed her strength.
‘She won’t know!’ She caught at his sleeve, forcing him to turn back and face her. ‘Tim, you don’t think we dare even hint at this to Mother? Of course she won’t agree. We shall have to do it secretly – write to Uncle Harry, make all our arrangements and then just slip away. Say we’re going on a visit somewhere – to Aunt Adele in Warwickshire, perhaps, or Aunt Alice, or anywhere.’ She shook his arm desperately. ‘I know what you’re going to say – that it’s cruel and underhand, that she’ll never forgive us. But the only alternative is to stay here – where she’ll get worse and worse, and end up destroying you both! And me with you,’ she added softly.
He stared at her. ‘And if Mother does lose her mind – even when we’ve gone? Would we ever forgive ourselves?’
‘I don’t know,’ Cordelia said honestly. ‘I’ve lain awake night after night, worrying about that very possibility. But I can only say that I’ve watched her, and I think she will become much worse if we stay. Tim, I don’t see what else we can do.’
‘No,’ he said, and his voice was heavy. ‘No, I don’t think we have any choice.’ He looked down at her and his eyes were sombre, as dark as winter clouds. ‘But I’ll go alone, Cordelia. I can’t be responsible for ruining your life as well.’
‘You won’t be responsible for ruining anyone’s life,’ she said steadily. ‘And I am coming with you.’
Now several weeks later, they were here. The subterfuge was over. Carrying only the luggage they would have needed for a week in Warwickshire, they had made their escape, travelling to Liverpool where they had found berths on a ship bound for New York. With the ship almost ready to sail, they had written to both their mother and grandmother. From New York they had journeyed across the State to the little glassmaking town of Corning – Crystal City. They had secretly written to Harry and Ruth before leaving home, and had telegraphed from New York; whether their journey was approved or not, they would at least be expected.
And as Cordelia stared at the chimneys and the dirt, she was beset by doubt. If it had been possible to call back the past months, to return to the day when Christina had come to sit in the old schoolroom and sown those first seeds in her mind, she would have done so.
‘It’s just like Stourbridge,’ she said again, and the tall man who was helping Timothy with their luggage stopped and came to stand beside her.
‘Is it?’ His voice was deep and slow, with just a touch of that twang she had become accustomed to since arriving in America. ‘Look up, Miss Henzel, look through the smoke and the soot at the hills all around. Do you see anything like that in England’s Black Country? Do you see forests like that, green and thick? And look at the river, the lovely Chemung, winding its way through the valleys. Can the canal you know compare with that?’ he said, pointing, then shook his head. ‘I’ve never been to England but I’ve heard a good deal about it, and your brother has told me more as we’ve travelled along. You grew up in an industrial town, Miss Henzel, you must have known that there would be smoke and dirt and noise. But here, at least, it can be escaped. There’s peace enough for those who look for it.’
Peace! The word sounded oddly in Cordelia’s ears. Perhaps one day she would seek it, but she was not ready for peace – not yet. There was something else she must experience first.
But there was no time to think of that now, and Cordelia dared not compare the life she had longed for with this weary journey half-way across the world to a town that, whatever anyone might say, seemed no less cramped and dirty than Stourbridge. She looked around once again, seeing the dusty buildings, the unpaved roads, the hurrying people in their shabby working clothes. These were men no different from the glassmakers of her own village of Wordsley, leaving their poor homes to toil in the hot glasshouse, making tableware of a luxurious fineness that they could never hope to afford themselves. Their faces were the same, worn with work and care, thin with anxiety over families that they could barely support. Any pride they might have in their work was restricted to those like the gaffers who blew the fine shapes, the cutters and engravers like her own father and brother, whose work reached the realms of artistry. For the footmakers and servitors, the takers-in and gatherers, there was little except a hope that one day they too might rise to these heights; a faint hope indeed, for with only one gaffer to a chair, few apprentices could expect to progress far unless they were the sons of gaffers to start with.
She was startled from her thoughts by a tug at her arm, and turned to find her brother beside her.
‘Come on, Cordelia – you’re standing there in a dream. How many boxes should there be? I can’t remember.’ Timothy ran long fingers through his brown, curly hair. ‘Do give me a hand.’ He tugged her arm again and his grey eyes searched hers. ‘Are you all right?’ he asked more quietly, and she felt a quick surge of love for the brother she had come so far to support.
‘Yes, of course I am. And surely you must know by now that we have five boxes altogether.’ A pitifully small number for travelling halfway across the world, but it would have been impossible to pack more without arousing her mother’s suspicions. She ran a calculating eye over the pile of luggage that had been handed down from the high door of the train. Why didn’t American railroads have platforms? she wondered briefly, and shrugged. Everything was different in this strange country. Almost the same – but never quite. And that was more disconcerting than a country where everything was totally strange, for here as soon as you began to relax and feel at home another small difference would declare itself and remind you once again that you were a stranger.
As she looked at the luggage, her eye caught that of the man standing beside it, the man they had met on the train and who had helped them with their luggage and given them a good deal of information about the town they were visiting. Tall, with hair that glinted gold in the sunshine filtering now through the smoke, he was watching her with a faint smile on his sunburnt face. Immediately, her skin prickled. Several times during their journey, she had caught his dark blue eyes fixed on her in that way that was both bold and thoughtful. It had made her feel uncomfortable and, kind and helpful though he had undoubtedly been, she had felt relieved that they would be parting as soon as they reached Corning. But here he still was, and Cordelia could not help the sharp note in her voice when she spoke to him.
‘Yes, our boxes are all there. It’s kind of you to have helped us, Mr Novak. I’m sure we need detain you no further now.’
‘On the contrary. I’ve already told your brother that my trap is at your disposal. Since your uncle doesn’t know the time of your arrival, he’s hardly likely to be here to meet you. My driver’ll be ready outside.’
‘Oh no, we wouldn’t dream of putting you to such trouble. We’re quite capable of hiring a cab–’ Cordelia began, but he lifted a long, narrow hand and shook his head firmly.
‘I reckon you are, too. All the same, why not use my trap today? It’s here and ready.’ His smile deepened with amusement. ‘You needn’t be scared of me, Miss Henzel. I shan’t abduct either you or your luggage. In fact, I shan’t even ride with you – you can travel all cosy together with all your luggage, and I’ll walk to my lodgings – it’s no distance. As you’ll soon find out, nothing in Corning is very far from anything else.’
Cordelia looked at him and saw that there was no further argument to be made. And she couldn’t help feeling glad, even though she had a definite feeling that she didn’t want to be beholden to this man. She was suddenly aware of a great weariness, a desperate longing to reach her uncle’s house, to sink into a chair and feel herself at least partly at home. The events of the past weeks crowded in upon her exhausted brain and she lifted a hand to her brow. She craved rest, forgetfulness. It was a sensation completely new to her, and for a moment she felt weak and frightened.
‘You’re tired out.’ Jensen Novak was at her side, his voice low and gentle now so that she felt sudden tears hot in her eyes. ‘Please don’t worry any more. Go home to your uncle’s house and rest. I’ll see that everything arrives safely.’
Cordelia looked up at him and inclined her head.
‘Thank you, Mr Novak. It’s most kind of you.’ He slipped his hand under her elbow to help her up into the trap and she felt the strength of his fingers. Thank you very much,’ she repeated almost inaudibly.
He kept his hand on her arm for a moment, holding her so that she was forced to look down into his eyes. They were smiling, as dark as sapphires yet with a depth that she could not plumb, and for a moment she found herself unable to look away.
‘You’re welcome, Miss Henzel. I hope we’ll meet again, when you’ve recovered from your journey.’
‘Yes…’ Cordelia said, and was annoyed to hear her voice stuttering. ‘Yes, I’m sure we will…’
He released her arm and nodded to his driver. ‘Take the young lady and gentleman to the house on the corner of Birch and Second Street, Parkin. And then go back to the stable. I’ll see you there.’
The trap moved forward and clattered away down the street. And when Cordelia glanced over her shoulder, she saw that Jensen Novak was still standing there, watching, his hair gleaming in the golden sunshine.
Timothy’s voice broke in upon her thoughts.
‘Well, here we are, sis. What d’you think of Corning?’
She looked at him. Was he regretting their journey? Was he already wishing himself back in Stourbridge, in his own family’s glasshouse where he knew everyone and was known and respected by all the men?
It was up to her, she knew, to drive away those regrets, to encourage him in this new life. This was, after all, why she had come. There would be worries enough anyway – they were both anxious for news of their mother. Suppose the shock of their desertion had totally unbalanced her? It was a fear that had haunted Cordelia through many uncomfortable nights at sea and on the train. Would they ever be able to forgive themselves?
But she had never voiced these fears to Timothy. They had come here for his sake as well as their mother’s – to give his genius the chance it needed to develop, to blossom as it should. If they failed in that, they might as well have stayed at home.
She looked around her, trying to stave off these unwelcome thoughts. Now that they had left the centre of Corning, with its busy streets, its factories and railroads, they were entering a more pleasant, leafier area. The streets here seemed to be all straight, criss-crossing each other in the grid pattern that was so popular in American towns. The houses were large and of different styles, most of them frame-built with white clapboard facing which gave them a pleasant, airy look. Their gardens were filled with flowers and spacious lawns, and there were no fences between them. It was almost like a park.
‘Does Uncle Harry live in one of these houses, do you suppose?’ she remarked. ‘They look quite grand.’
‘Well, he’s a wealthy enough man – he worked all his life on the railroads, planning them and building bridges and tunnels.’
‘Yes, of course. I wonder if he and Aunt Ruth are expecting us yet? It’s a pity we couldn’t have arranged our arrival more conveniently – but our telegram should have arrived by now, so I should think they’ll know we’d be here soon. So long as we don’t arrive first!’ She laughed. ‘I’m looking forward so much to seeing them again. When was the last time they came to England, Tim?’
‘I don’t know – five years ago?’ The trap was drawing up on the corner of two streets now and the driver indicated the nearest house. ‘Anyway, we’ll be seeing them any minute now.’
They jumped down from the trap and stood for a moment looking up at the house. It was one of the nicest on the street, Cordelia thought, with its white clapboard walls, its grey slate roof, the porch that ran round the ground floor and the little turret on the corner. Suddenly nervous and excited, she tugged at her brother’s arm. ‘Come on, Tim! Let’s knock.’ They ran together up the steps on to the porch that ran the length of the house, and rapped on the big front door.
There was silence.
‘Ring the bell,’ Cordelia suggested, noticing the pull at the side of the door. ‘There must be someone in – a servant, at least.’
But there was still no answer. And they stared at each other, suddenly uncertain.
‘They’re out,’ Tim said.
‘Well, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be – they didn’t know we’d be arriving today.’ Trying to control her disappointment, Cordelia went to the edge of the porch and called to the driver. ‘You can bring the boxes up here, please. My uncle and aunt won’t be long, I’m sure. Try again, Tim, just in case they didn’t hear.’
She watched as Parkin carried up the boxes and thanked him. He touched his cap and drove away, leaving them alone. Cordelia turned again to her brother.
‘They’re not here,’ he said. ‘Cordelia, they’re not here.’
‘They’ve just gone out for a while. It means nothing, Tim.’
‘But nobody’s here,’ he said, and she heard the dismay in hjs voice. ‘No servants – nobody. And we’ve come all the way from England…’
Cordelia stared at him aghast. Could he be right? Could there really be nobody here? She looked again at the house, noticing now its strange, empty look. Where could they be? What had happened to Uncle Harry and Aunt Ruth?
‘He’s right, miss,’ said a voice from the sidewalk, and they both whirled round to face the man who stood there looking up at them. ‘Mr and Mrs Henzel have gone away on a trip. They won’t be back for – oh, six, nine months, maybe a year. That’s what they told us before they went.’
‘Gone away?’ Cordelia repeated. ‘But where – where have they gone?’
‘Why, England; I reckon. Got relatives there. They’ve gone to England, to visit with their family.’