was happily married to a rich miller and known to her
friends as "die Miillerin."
No, it was better, in spite of everything, that it was
Marcia's niece and not his, who had come to share the
good things he had achieved.
THURSDAY came, and Bertie was to arrive in the
evening, having landed in Liverpool late in the
morning. His rooms had been ready for some
days, and after tea Lady Fabricius and her niece went
up in the lift to inspect them. Beautiful, luxurious rooms
they were, and by way of a welcoming gift there was
spread about the dressing-room a toilet service of solid
gold, with "H. L. F." all over it in block letters.
"He loves gold," Lady Fabricius had said pensively,
as if she had said, "He loves Mozart," or "He loves
Cuckoo laughed. "So do most people," she said.
"They don't. Your uncle, for instance. All his things
are silver, aren't they, Parsons?"
Mrs. Parsons, the housekeeper, whose arrangements for
the coming of the great Bertie were, so to say, being
reviewed by the Commander-in-Chief, nodded.
"Oh, yes, my lady, everything. Everything of Sir
Hadolph's are silver, but Mr. Ubert, 'e was always for
gold, he was, cigarette-cases, and match-boxes, and all
such similar jee-jaws."
Cuckoo was dining out that night, but she meant to
have a look at the Great One before she went, so she
dressed early, in black which she very often wore, and
then, waiting till she heard the car drive up and dashing
downstairs in an appearance of great hurry, she met her
cousin on the stairs, "according to plan." They shook
hands hastily after his "I beg your pardon you're
Cuckoo, of course." And she rushed on, making, she knew,
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
an interesting and arresting picture in her black gown and
with her orange velvet cloak, with the famous ermine col-
lar, wrapped round her.
Hubert Fabricius was a heavily-built, brick-red man
of about eight-and-thirty. He was a little bald, and she
knew his face, already blurred in outline, the edges less
keen than they had been, would eventually be very shape-
less and heavy. His eyes, however, were really rather
beautiful ; dark violet eyes with long lashes ; they were
bloodshot and the lids were a little swollen, but the color
in itself was, she noticed, the deep, unusual violet of Aunt
These things- the girl turned over in her mind on the
way to Grosvenor Place. She had seen him only once
before, and that was on the evening of her arrival in
London nearly two years ago. He had been on the point
of starting for the Riviera, and though he had been in
London once or twice since then, she had on each occa-
sion chanced to be away: once at Roseroofs and once at
Planings with Lady Pelter, who had taken a great fancy
to her. She was not unaware of the effect Bertie's return
might not improbably have on lier own position. It could
be regarded as a kind of milestone on her road. Lady
Fabricius had been very kind to her, kind to a degree
that had caused surprise, though no discussion at Rose-
roofs. Miss Effie and Miss Flora had never realized that
their elder sister had really loved poor May; they had
known that she would keep her promise to Blundell ; they
knew that the two hundred pounds a year was Cuckoo's
for life, but they had not expected for Cuckoo, more
than one or two "Seasons" for Seasons were definite-
dated things in those days and now nearly two years
had passed since Cuckoo had been, not visiting, but at
home in South Audley Street. Twice she had been to
Rosexoofs for a fortnight at a time, but without a word
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
on the subject being said, it was quite clear to everybody
that she regarded herself as a guest there. Her home
was with Uncle and Aunt Fab, and now, as she bowled
along in the comfortable car that was as large as some
people's drawing-rooms, her quick mind was envisaging
all the points in her situation. She smelt danger.
Lady Fabricius adored Bertie, and Sir Adolph adored
Lady Fabricius. "Suppose," the girl thought with a
horrid pang, "that Bertie doesn't like me. If he didn't,
and he wanted her to, she'd pack me off at five minutes'
notice, and then where should I be?"
It was characteristic of her that she bore no malice
towards her aunt, as she faced this probable eventuality.
Her aunt had been remarkably kind to her and she knew
it, but the nest in South Audley Street was not her home,
and if the returned wanderer found the stranger took
up too much room in it, the mother-bird would not only
kick the stranger out, but would have a right to do so.
"I am well named," Miss Blundell thought, as the car
stopped. "I am a Cuckoo."
She frowned impatiently, for it made her very angry
that she was a failure ; and she was a failure in that she
had not been adroit enough to secure a nest for herself a
real nest of her own and she knew it.
She danced well and had a thousand friendly acquaint-
ances among men, and one or two of the strictly ineligible
class had invited her to share their futures, but not one
man who was, as she put it, "worth marrying," wanted
her. A big Australian millionaire whom she had done
her best to marry, had summed her up in a home letter
in fairly just terms.
Billy is rather smitten [he wrote] with a little girl here, a
niece of an old Jew banker. I rather like her myself and have
seen something of her. She'd do splendidly in some ways for
Billy, for she's as strong as a rat and has a will of iron, could
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
stand any kind of weather and any amount of "roughing" it if
she wanted to, only she would not want to! She has been
having a go at my s. d., but I'm not taking any, thanks; too
business-like to suit me, and I should think has got as much
capacity for -loving as a steel poker.
So poor Cuckoo was a failure. One fine thing about
her at that period, was her courage in boldly facing this
horrid fact, and, after dinner, which from her point of
view had been very dull, she settled herself in a lonely
corner to listen to Caruso who, for some little Balkan
king's ransom, was to sing two songs, and went on with
her reflections. Suddenly illumination came to her. She
had just reflected that, while Aunt Marcia would be sure
to hurl her beloved boy at the daughters of duchesses and
countesses and so on, the daughters of the duchesses and
countesses are not so keen on new money as they used to
be, and lots of them really seem to prefer good blood.
Then the great idea came. "Sixty thousand pounds a
year is not so very much nowadays, and until dear Uncle
Fab dies Master Bertie can't have more than five thou-
sand; not much of a catch for the big families, but he
might be made to do for me if he would have me !"
There was in her thoughts neither conceit nor humility ;
she was doing that thing so unusual in everybody, but
perhaps most of all in a young girl, facing her situation
with absolute candor and laying her plans according to
bare possibilities. And as she sat in deep distraction the
after-dinner guests began to arrive.
Signer Caruso was already there and stood talking to
a very tall Beauty. His accompanist was at the piano ;
there was the usual confusion as people settled into their
places and Cuckoo was undisturbed. She was rrot a music
lover, but everybody who has had the good fortune to hear
that most marvellous of voices, must be enthralled by it,
and gradually the girl's thoughts melted into a soft con-
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
fusion of feeling. The great tenor was singing a simple
song, and the inexpressible magic of his voice laid the
room under as strong a spell as was even the Palace of
the Sleeping Beauty; and suddenly Cuckoo, raising her
eyes and moving a little forward to get a better view of
the singer, caught sight of one of the latest arrivals who
stood at the far end of the room leaning against the door.
It was George. Her first feeling was one of intense,
sincere exasperation that he should appear now, just when
she was so busily arranging to marry Hubert Fabricius.
She would be upset for days and she knew it, and resented
it. George had not yet seen her, and his large eyes were
filled with the blindness of a deep dream. Cuckoo per-
ceived with approbation that his dress clothes were new,
but her heart trembled to see how very pale he was, and
that there were triangular shadows under his cheek-bones.
How an unknown young man from the country had the
good luck to be included in the list of the very great lady
who was his hostess, Cuckoo did not ask herself. If she
had met George in a thieves' kitchen, or in the Pope's
oratory, she would not have been surprised. He was
George, therefore it was always natural to her to see him.
Oh, how she wished he hadn't come !
When the song ceased, of the latter part of which she
had not heard one note, Cuckoo rose and crept quietly
across the room to her hostess. She had a headache, she
said, and feared she must go. And there was George
stuck like an owl on a barn-door in her very path. She
waited a minute as he slowly started towards two ladies
sitting together not far off.
"If he speaks to them I can slip out," the girl thought,
but just as she neared the door, the young man turned
and saw her.
"Cuckoo," he cried, coming to her, "are you glad to
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
She laughed. "You idiot, George, to ask me that!"
"Yes, but are you ?" he persisted gently.
"Delighted, of course. Have you been in town long?"
"I have lived in London for six months, Cuckoo," he
answered quietly. "I have a studio in Chelsea and am
If only his eyelashes didn't flicker in that distracting
way, and if only his little white teeth were not so beau-
"Well, I must be off," she said. "Glad to have seen
you, George. Give my love to the Vicar."
He looked at her gravely, shaking his head.
"You don't fool me a bit, you know. You are every
bit as glad to see me as I am to see you. Come to the
Round Pond at eleven tomorrow."
"Good Heavens, no!"
"Because oh, don't be silly, George ; of course I can't
come. Besides, I don't want to."
He shook his head again and smiled. "Yes," he said,
with gentle obstinacy, "you do want to. And you needn't
be afraid," he added seriously. "I'm not going to ask
you to marry me."
Her stare was almost ludicrously surprised.
"Then why " she began.
"Dear old Cuckoo I want to talk to you; you aren't
After a pause during which she seemed to hear a crash
of all her defenses as they fell, she said indifferently :
"Oh, well, if you aren't going to be silly and try to
make love to me, I'll come. All that nonsense was over
nearly two years ago, anyhow, and there's no real reason
why we shouldn't be friends."
She nodded and left him.
Caruso was singing again as she put her cloak on, and
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
while the car was being called, she stole back up the stairs
to listen. George had changed his position and was facing
the door, so that he saw her. He didn't move, and yet,
as she stood there, he seemed to cross the room towards
her, to come through the door, to put his arms round
her; and together, it seemed to her, close together, they
were listening to the divine voice. . . .
When the song ceased George did not join her. Their
eyes broke away from each other's, and she went slowly
downstairs. All the way home she leant back in the corner
with her eyes shut.
AS the car drew up at 65s, a taxi left the door, and
Cuckoo saw a man standing on the steps. It was
her cousin Hubert.
"That's right," he exclaimed in an undertone, taking
out his latchkey as she joined him, "I thought it was
He looked very big and rather imposing, she thought,
in his fur-collared coat, and as she paused at the foot
of the branching staircase to say good-night, his violet
eyes held hers in a way she liked.
"Don't go up," he said. "Come into the library, and
we'll have something to eat and you can tell me about
"What things?" she asked gravely.
"Oh Mother says Caruso was to sing; did he? Tell
me about him, or about anything else, so long as you
He took off her cloak and laid it on a chest; then he
took off his own coat, and she saw that in spite of his
bulkiness he looked his best in evening dress. Perhaps,
after all, she thought, her plan might not be so dreadful
of accomplishment. He was physically a far handsomer
man than poor, thin, narrow-chested George. She also
liked his adroitness in forestalling any talk among the
servants by immediately ringing for Almond and ordering
a brandy-and-soda for himself, and a bottle of stone
ginger with lemon for her. Moreover, he did not make
the blunder of explaining to her that he thought it best
that, having opened the door with his latchkey, and the
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
servants being up, to have the man in, but she knew and
appreciated his carefulness.
"Is her ladyship in bed, Almond?" he asked, lighting a
"Yes, sir, her ladyship had a headache, I believe, and
went to bed very early, sir."
"Then we won't disturb her to-night, Cuckoo."
Cuckoo nodded. "Oh, dear, no." Then, with a sharp
glance at Almond's expressionless face, she added, "I never
go up to her in her room unless she sends for me."
The library, a large, square room lined with fine books,
was a satisfactory stage for an important interview.
Cuckoo liked it. Her little black-clad figure looked its
best against the browns and golds of the books and the
moss-green velvet hangings, and she knew it. She stood
in the big chimney-place, one hand on the mantelpiece,
looking into the fire. Fabricius watched her keenly ; she
felt the keenness and knew, without seeing, just when it
kindled to something more. Among the logs on the hearth
glowed big blocks of peat squares of liquid fire they
looked and their scent mingled with that of the hundreds
of old calf-bound books; the leisured sound of the big
clock ticking is too slight a word for its deep and
sonorous note gave the girl a strong feeling of being
encouraged and backed in her enterprise. She felt that
she had the right to live in such a room, amid such scents,
and sights, and sounds. She put the thought of George
resolutely from her mind. She would marry Fabricius and
"have things," but she would make him happy as well.
"Cuckoo," he said suddenly, "what are you thinking
She started. "Oh, nothing. I was looking at the fire;
you know how one does not thinking of anything but
I think the smell of the peat gets into one's head."
"Well, put it out of your head," he said nervously,
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
with a bantering note in his voice. "You have changed
since I last saw you."
In his study at the back of the house, old Sir Adolph
sat thinking. The room was small and had only one
window. He had chosen it because it was very quiet and
it was comfortable. He sat in an armchair by the fire;
he wore a quilted smoking- jacket of plum-colored silk,
and on his large, flat feet was a pair of slippers embroid-
ered in bullion. Those slippers were blatantly of German
origin and had been worked for him on the far-off banks
of the Main by Linchen and Lenchen as a Christmas gift.
Lady Fabricius could not endure them, so he wore them
only when he was sure that they would not wound her
eyes. But he liked them, for they were roomy and warm,
and besides, Linchen and Lenchen had made them ; Linchen
and Lenchen, his only sister's daughters, whom he had
not seen since they were little children. His smoking-
cap, which was very ornate and grand and had a gold
tassel that bobbed about his face when he moved sud-
denly, was an offering from an unknown niece-in-law, Frau
Chimney-Inspector Schlott, in Dresden. Sir Adolph had
lived many years in England, but his old blood was still
true to his kind.
There was only one electric light on, for the old man
liked the firelight, and as he sat there in the midnight
quiet he was lapped in old memories.
Over the mantelpiece hung a very badly painted por-
trait of a man in the high stock of Napoleon's day, and
Sir Adolph had begun to think of his early life, for the
old Jew with the subtle, clever face was his grandfather,
whom he could best remember as a very ancient man with
no teeth and eyes that still blazed like fire somewhere far
back in his head. This old man, Isaac Fabricius, had
been a horse-dealer and money-lender in one of a string
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
of long, dirty, ugly villages on the Main, near Frankfort.
Where he had originally come from nobody, not even
himself, knew, but he had not been of the solid, agricul-
tural type. He was a clever, shrewd man, possessed of
various little lodes of knowledge from which he drew
unexpected treasures when occasion arose. The Napo-
leonic wars were, for example, an occasion for him, and
his knowledge of French .had been said, his grandson re-
membered, to have enabled him to do much profitable work
as a spy. At all events, when, early in the twenties, he
again settled, as far as such spirits ever settle, at Over-
heim-am-Main, it was plain that he was not a poor man.
Until he was very old he had, assisted by his son, gone
on plying his double trade, and when he died, in his grand-
son's childhood, he was a rich man for his class.
And now old Sir Adolph, sitting in his splendid London
house, passed mentally from his grandfather to contem-
plation of his own childhood. How well he remembered
the village, the long, cobbled street, the sordid, dirty,
etone house, possessing for a garden a kind of pit outside
the front door, where a manure heap lay and accumulated
and rotted. An occasional geranium in a window was
the only flower the boy and his sister ever saw in their
childhood. In the ill-defined little square more a widen-
ing of the street than a real square stood the village
pump, and here it was the women came to fill the great,
flattened casks they carried strapped to their backs. The
church was beautiful in the florid way of the Rococo
Period ; fat-bellied angels clustered on the facade ; the
windows were overhung by heavily-carved frills of stone,
and above the strong door stood a clumsy St. Christopher
carrying the Christ. The small Adolph and the small
Gretchen admired the church, but were not allowed to go
into it because they were Jews.
Their father's house, by far the most comfortable in
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
the village, stood, not in the main street, but in what was
called "the Judenhof" the Jews' quarter, a cluster of
houses isolated from the village, at the end of a very
muddy lane. To the end of his life Adolph Fabricius
associated great muddiness with the lane to the Judenhof.
His father, Valtele (pronounced Feltyleh) was not a good
Jew, and he was disliked by all the orthodox Jews, but
as he was rich he was tolerated, tolerated by the ugly
women with the black jute wigs, by the serious, bearded
men who were then truer to the Old Testament type than
they are now, possessing the silent, abstemious unmirthful-
ness that must have been possessed by those who, in the
Wilderness, so eternally murmured against poor Moses.
Valtele Fabricius was a rich man, so he was forgiven much.
They had, the child knew, even forgiven him his un-Jewish
wife in time.
"Was my mother a Christian?" he had once asked his
father, as they sat at their supper a bitter cold night, in
the over-heated, airless living-room. His father, already
an old man, although the boy was but ten, turned his
queer, hooded eyes on him.
"Yes," he said. "Your mother was a Christian; she
was a good and brave woman."
His mother had been good and brave, the old man re
fleeted, and he too had been good. He laughed softly as
he thought how little people knew how he had made his
money. But he knew, and he knew that he had been
honest and fair. He had also fulfilled the practice of that
greatest of Jewish virtues charity. His mother would
not have been ashamed of him if she had lived.
When he was fourteen his father had died, and he and
his sister had gone to live in Frankfort. After that he
had had no youth. He did not dwell long on the thought
of his dull, monotonous work in a pawnbroker's shop that
had started him in his career. The Franco-Prussian war
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
had made his fortune in the end, and the next event in his
life was his meeting his beautiful and wonderful Marcia,
and the miracle of her becoming his wife. How beautiful
she had been! His dreams were very romantic, but he
sighed as he came to his son. They had been married
some years when the boy was born, and Lady Fabricius,
like all selfish, spoiled women, had treated her child as if
he were indeed herself her very flesh. She had accorded
to him the senseless indulgence and favor she had always
given herself, and as a natural result the boy had grown
up badly. He had grown up as no man, whether he be
German Jew or English gentleman, likes his son to grow
up. He was selfish, self-indulgent, and profligate; his
strength of will was tremendous in so far as it was devoted
to the getting of his own way, but he was weak to an
equal degree in any matter where his own comfort was
involved. He had been expelled from Eton, and his Oxford
career had been a series of blows to his father. "Bertie
Fab," as he was called, had been asked to take his name off
the books of his College, and later he had been obliged to
withdraw from a very famous club; he drank, and for
some years his tastes were unusually low. But of these
things his mother either knew or cared nothing. To her
he was what she indiscreetly called "her beautiful boy,"
and, to do him justice, his good side, such as it was, was
always turned to her, and poor old Sir Adolph did his
best to bear his shame and disgrace without letting his
wife see that he was unhappy.
It was at this time, just after the episode of the Club,
that she had invented the theory, in which she came to
believe, that her husband had liver trouble. The old man
smiled as he remembered his amazement on the first occa-
sion when this entirely imaginary malady of his was used
to cover his uncontrollable depression. He had been so
surprised, and Marcia had been so glib !
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
"I must take him," Lady Fab had said, "to Karlsbad.
It is the only place, so we must go there, though I loathe
Sir Adolph loathed Karlsbad too, but patiently he
underwent the cure there year after year, saying little,
trotting about by himself, a small, lonely, unshapely old
man, not unthankful for the excuse that the liver-com-
plaint gave him for solitary walks and the silence and
moodiness that he could not always, even for his wife's
"After all," he wondered, as he sat that night over the
fire, "perhaps it wass my liver. Some old philosopher has
said that the liver is the seat of the affections,"
It is a question whether Lady Fabricius loved her son
more deeply than did her husband, but there is no doubt
that the old man himself had always treated her love for
the boy as something beyond his own powers of achieve-
ment. For years he had been torn between his duty as a
father, knowing that he ought to correct his son and
enforce his authority over him, and his pitying, tender
longing to protect his wife from the very shadow of pain.
When things had got to their worst point, Bertie had had
the wisdom to be persuaded to go round the world, and
since then he had, off and on, traveled a good deal. "I
suppose," Sir Adolph mused, "that it has been a relief to
me to have the poor boy away, but it has nearly brolcen
his mother's heart" which was an entire mistake; for
Lady Fabricius' heart, though doubtless full of love for
her son, was sentimentally in the status lymphaticus, there
was too much of herself there to allow of anyone, even
Bertie, permanently disturbing its indolent well-being.
During his son's travels, Sir Adolph had had only two
serious liver attacks ; one supervening on a letter from
the British Ambassador at St. Petersburg, as it was then
called, and one after the visit of an old Spanish friend of
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
his from Valparaiso. Lady Fabricius had had no know-
ledge of the occasion of these sharp bouts of her hus-
band's, but Cuckoo had been a great help to the lonely old
man during their duration. For she had at once seen
that his illness was mental, not physical, and her tact and
powers of distraction inherited from her father, had helped
him more even than she had really known. For Cuckoo,
like her father, had a cage with a bird in it; in fact, her
cage had two birds in it, of the existence of the second of