which she was only just beginning to be aware ; its uses,
even yet, were a puzzle to her, but she was beginning to
learn them, and Bertie Fab was destined to help her.
This charm, independent of beauty, for of beauty she had
little or none, or of intellect, for her double-barrelled edu-
cation had turned out rather a muddled affair and she
had no compensating love of books ; or of sweetness, for
Cuckoo was not sweet ; the charm, the one she had always
recognized and used, not the new one, greatly endeared her
to her old uncle. Under its influence he even went so far
as to let her see that his trouble was not unconnected
with his absent son. His mind turned to Cuckoo now
as she sat only a hundred yards from him, liming her little
twigs, weaving her little traps, digging her little pits.
Although he loved her as a niece, she puzzled him and
sometimes hurt him as a girl.
"I wonder," he thought, "what will become of her?
Perhaps, after all, we were unwise not to let her see the
Loxley boy. He is a good kerl, and might have brought
out the best in her"
Bertie Fab was an old bird and wily, but he had fallen
under Cuckoo's spell and saw not the lime on her twigs.
He was unlike George in that her attraction for him
blinded him to her lack of beauty. He thought her ex-
tremely pretty, as well as dangerously desirable, and he
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
was completely fooled by her attitude of detachment. He
had always believed himself, and with reason, a lady-killer,
and his love-affairs had never been distinguished by any
very white sense of honor ; but Cuckoo was his own cousin
and in his mother's house, so even that evening the idea of
marrying passed through his brain. He was falling in
love with her and knew it and welcomed the fact, for it was
some months since he had been in that, to him, habitual
and pleasant condition. He was a lonely man when not
in love. He had found recently somewhere the tag-end of
a French quotation, and with the suppleness of mind that
he had inherited with his Jewish blood and that so sharply
contrasted with his unwieldiness of build, he brought the
lines into the conversation :
"Et partout le spectre 1'amour
Et nulle part de 1'amour
"I suppose that is true," he said, as he finished his
brandy-and-soda, his face a little redder and a little more
blurred at the edges than it had been. "Ghosts of love
and no real love." Cuckoo looked at him with grave eyes.
"I hope that's not true," she said. "It would make life
"Spectres are all very well," he returned, "to pass the
time until the real thing comes along."
She nodded, playing her dimple slyly.
"How do you know the real thing, when it does come,"
she said, "if you have tieen playing about with spectres ?"
"How do you know when a real person comes into the
room, after you have thought you heard people coming
when no one was there?" He poured out some more
brandy, and she rose.
"I'm sure I don't know," she said. "I've never been
in love myself, except in a childish way." This was wis-
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
dom, for she knew quite well that his father or mother
might one day happen to reveal to him the story of
George. "Well, I think I'll go now. Good-night."
They went upstairs together in silence, and half-way up
Cuckoo's heel caught in the carpet and she would have
fallen in all good faith but for his catching her. Having
caught her in his arms he held her for a moment, his heart
giving a bound which she distinctly felt against her bare
shoulder, and he kissed her roughly. She pushed him away
and fled upstairs without a word.
"I say, Cuckoo," he called softly, his voice thick, "don't
be angry. I'm sorry I a fellow loses his head. I beg
your pardon" but she was gone.
She closed her door, and walking soberly to her bed,
sat down and reviewed the situation.
"That was true," she said. "He couldn't help it, and
his heart was going like a donkey-engine, I felt it; two
points; and his voice was like poor Captain Browne's
hoarse and jerky; three points. So far, so good." She
rose, and switching on all the lights in the room, stood
in front of her pier-glass and looked at herself. "You
have been a horrid failure up to this," she thought, as
deliberately as if she were speaking aloud. "The right
men don't want to marry you ; you haven't any real
friends, as other girls have, and you've got one more
chance, and that's Bertie. Bertie is attracted. He is
going to lose his head and you can marry him, if you are
very careful." Then she began slowly to undress, her
face suddenly drawn and dusky. "Aunt Marcia will
rage," her thoughts went on, "but that won't matter. I
can marry him, and I will marry him, and there will be
no more nonsense about George."
There was no vacillation in her mind. Her chance had
come and she would take it, and George would wait in
vain at the Round Pond. She didn't know where he lived,
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
so she couldn't let him know she wa not coming, and she
dared not go, for she dared not see him again. "He'll have
a silk handkerchief round his poor, delicate throat," she
moaned, rolled up, a ball of misery, in her soft bed. "His
dear nose will be rabbitier than ever if it's cold and he'll
wait, and wait, and wait; his darling old blind eyes pop-
ping out of his head as every new girl comes into view,
and then and then he'll go back to his poor studio and
lock the door,"
She cried herself to sleep but she didn't go to the
CUCKOO BLUNDELL'S chase of the Fabricius
millions proceeded very satisfactorily for a few
days. Bertie was, in a secret, cautious way, very
devoted to her, and her influence grew every time they
met. However, it would behoove her to advance very
warily in this particular jungle, and she knew it, for not
only was the quarry a scarred and experienced brute, but
he was not alone; wary eyes watched out for him, and
powerful paws and jaws, she knew, were ready to destroy
her if her tracking of him were perceived. However, two
things were in her favor ; Sir Adolph and Lady Fab both
went early to bed and neither of them breakfasted in the
dining-room, Sir Adolph, because his breakfast consisted
of a cup of coffee and two pieces of Zwieback at six
o'clock, after which he worked in his study until nine and
then went to the City; and Lady Fab breakfasted sump-
tuously in bed and never came downstairs until after
eleven. On the third day after their first interview, Bertie
and Cuckoo had eaten their eggs and soles in the stimu-
lating atmosphere of that rarest of meals between an
unmarried man and a girl a tete-a-tete breakfast.
Bertie didn't look his best at 9.30 a.m. His red face,
which held, in spite of its redness, something of the cloudy
darkness of the Oriental's, looked less white than ever,
and his eyes were at that hour always unusually swollen
and bloodshot. Cuckoo looked at him in an unemotional
and stock-taking way during the silence that they broke
only by an occasional remark for the servants' benefit.
She was trying her best to like him, and the thickness
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
of his neck and the powerful muscles of his shoulders
really attracted her, but she hated the redness of his
eyelids and she wished his mouth were not so moist looking.
She herself always dressed with unusual care for break-
fast, and her ecru crepe-de-Chine blouse, just showing the
pearls tucked away against her skin, threw into fine relief
the darkness of her hair and eyebrows and the vivid red
of her lips. The dining-room, a huge place with a mag-
nificent Adam ceiling and a few fine black-framed por-
traits, gave them, at their small table in the window, a
pleasant babes-in-the-wood feeling a feeling of two peo-
ple on a very little island in a big sea. It was sometimes
said of the Fab House that Lady Fab must have won-
derful taste ; but this was though, considering Adolph's
common and insignificant looks, a natural one a mistake.
It was old Fab, he who had lived in the Judenhof in the
German village, who made the house what it was. Whence
he drew it he knew no better than the people who ate
his food and laughed at his accent, but there it was, an
impregnable, delicate taste that, rooted in a really mar-
velous sense of period, flowered in an instinct which never
erred and, what is more unusual, a perfect sense of the
beauty of space. Hence his house was a place of ample
emptiness, of justice-giving lack of crowding, of respect-
ful placing of the treasures so many people would have
ruined by setting too close together. Even the shadows
of his splendid pieces of furniture thus had a chance of
being beautiful and unconfused.
Cuckoo loved the whole house, for to her, too, appre-
ciation if not active taste had been given. But for some
reason she liked the dining-room best of all, and she de-
cided, as she ate her breakfast under the benevolent eye
of Almond, that considering the beauty of the house and
of this particular room, Bertie would not do at all badly
at the head of her table for the rest of her life. He
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
certainly looked as if he had drunk more than was good
for him, and indeed she knew that there were times when
he drank more than would have benefited any five men.
But, after all, it had as yet not made much mark on him.
She would not let him drink too much, and then his really
beautiful violet eyes it was odd that they should be like
Aunt Flora's would lose their ugly redness and the loose
fat into which the points of his collar cut so deep, would
Every now and then she met his eyes. He had a peculiar
hard stare that, in its fixity, was almost insolent. She
returned these gazes coolly, looking away after a moment
as if she instinctively felt it was not quite what he had
expected or wished. When she rose he politely opened the
door for her.
"Good-bye," she said carelessly.
"What are you doing this afternoon?"
She looked at him vaguely as if trying to remember.
"I don't know ; nothing particular."
"Come up to Hampstead Heath with me. I'll get a
car. We might have tea at the 'Spaniard's.' '
She laughed. "I should be delighted," she said with
a little curtsey, "if Aunt Marcia says I may," and she
ran upstairs without waiting for his reply.
Fabricius stared after her for a moment, after he had
audibly damned her Ladyship, realizing the fact that her
dark little face, with its jutting jaw and its misty black
eyes, was stirring him and thrilling him as he had never
been stirred and thrilled before. He was a man used to
making a vivid impression on women, for he had very
strong animal magnetism and the curious brainlessness
that is so often found in the successful heart-eater men
of highly cultivated minds are rarely successful libertines,
not only because they don't care to be, but because there
is in them either a certain lack, or a certain surplus, that
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
is fatal to this particular form of sport. Fabricius had
no brain and he was a particularly perfect specimen of
his kind. He was a passionate man, but he also adored'
the menus plaisirs of love; he loved flattery, petting and
cajolery; he loved to be dressed for and made much of;
he liked dramatic scenes, he liked to be watched for, and
wept for, and in this last point he was a very rare male,
for he actually enjoyed tears up to a certain point.
As he smoked his after-breakfast cigarette, he wondered
how long it would take Cuckoo to be in love with him
as he meant her to be. Probably not long, he decided.
It was a great thing her being in the house with him,
and although, in spite of that first flashing idea of mar-
riage across his mind, he was now giving no thought at
all to the future, yet there was a strong, perverse charm
to him in the fact that his love-making was to take place,
so to speak, under the very nose of his mother. It was
very simplifying to live under the same roof with the
object of one's passion; it dispensed with the minor diffi-
culties, such as calling and finding the object surrounded
by mothers and fathers, or brothers and sisters, or friends.
Bertie Fab hated rain and wind; he objected to anything
but the most luxurious ways of getting about the wet,
winter streets of London. He liked comfortable chairs,
bright fires, and he loathed wet feet as a cat loathes a
bath. He need never go out to see Cuckoo and he could
see her at all hours of the day. All these things were very
Meantime, Cuckoo regarded him and the situation in
almost exactly the same way, except that her object was
unswervingly and unchangeably matrimonial. She knew
that he was violently in love with her and this amused her
.as well as encouraged her efforts. Passion left her as
untouched as if she had been Una instead of a mercenary
modern girl running down a husband; she would marry
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
him and then she would "have things." She reflected com-
fortably about the things she would have.
She lunched out that day, and when she got home at
about three, found her cousin waiting for her.
"Mother and father are out," he said. "She's playing
Bridge at her Club, and you and I are going to Hampstead
Heath. Have you got on proper shoes?"
"I have," she said, "but you haven't."
"I never wear thick boots," he said; "they hurt my
feet. We sha'n't walk, anyhow ; I've telephoned for a car
to meet us at Charbonnel's."
They walked briskly to Bond Street, and after buying a
box of chocolates got into the car and flew up to the
Highlands of London. It was a beautiful day, sunny and
blue-topped, and Cuckoo was very happy. The girl she
had lunched with, a bride of some three months' standing,
had been formerly as poor as she herself was and by her
marriage had achieved wealth and a title in one stroke.
She was very happy with her enormous pearls, and her
rubies, and her beautiful houses, yet Cuckoo knew that
once upon a time she had believed herself to be in love with
a comparatively penniless subaltern, and the fact of her
contentment cheered and lighted Cuckoo on her way.
Cuckoo at this period liked girls who had made rich
marriages and were happy. One or two cases in which
her acquaintances had made financially unsuccessful
but happy marriages she avoided instinctively, as one
avoids the sight of something certain to give one pain.
Evie was blissful she was blissful because she was rich,
and Cuckoo, in order to be blissful, must be rich. She
was going to be rich.
The little walk had lent a look of greater youth to her,
and, for a moment, to Bertie as well; he had gone to
bed early the night before and his eyes were clearer.
Cuckoo looked at him with a proprietary feeling not in
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
the least betrayed in her steady little face. After all, he
was a great deal better than Eve's man.
They stopped the car at the top of the Heath and
walked for half an hour. Cuckoo, of course, was used
to walking and loved it, and Bertie, who detested exercise,
had known this, and because of it had brought her. A
little color crept into her thin cheeks; her eyes glowed
as they met the fresh, high air.
"Don't you miss the country?" he asked.
She shook her head, for the country meant Roseroofs,
and Roseroofs meant George, and that way misery
"No. I like the country in summer, but I should never
want to live there more than a couple of months in the
"You couldn't live in London ten months."
"No," she returned carelessly, "but I could travel. I
like the South of France; I should like to have a villa
This was a well-delivered blow, for Bertie's idea of
heaven was Monte Carlo.
"How are the old aunts?" he began again, after
she had watched the idea of their similarity of tastes sink
into his mind.
"Oh, they're all right; much the same; drying up
slowly, poor old dears. I think Aunt Flora will blow away
some day like a dry old leaf."
"And how's old Loxley?"
"Do you know Dr. Loxley?" Cuckoo asked, figTiting
against the stiffness that always came to her throat when
she was obliged to talk of George.
"Yes, he sometimes comes to town and always comes
to see the Mater. A nice old fellow, I thought him."
"He is nice ; he's a great dear," she answered, and then
she changed the subject abruptly. It was hateful to her
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
that even the thought of George could, so to speak, come
between her and the sun. She had been quite happy until
that unlucky remark of Bertie's, but now the image of
George standing huddled together, with his collar turned
up and his nose red in the wind, by the Round Pond,
had destroyed her peace. "It's a jolly good thing," she
thought savagely, "that I don't know where he lives, or
it would be just like me to lose my head and bolt off to see
him, and upset the whole apple-cart."
The owner, as Bertie Fab might be called, of the apple-
cart in question, walked on beside her quite happily, never
noticing her change of mood, and this, although con-
venient, incensed her. George would have known that she
was put out, that something had come between them;
George always knew.
Bertie Fab suddenly looked to her almost Falstaffian in
his unwieldiness, and she set her teeth. "I will not think
about it," she vowed angrily.
They had tea at the "Spaniard's," and then got into
the car and went on into the country for some miles.
Fabricius did not break Cuckoo's persistently recurring
silences, and she was grateful for this, though she need
not have been, for his lack of volubility was not prompted
by any consideration for her, but by a certain Pasha-
like state of satisfaction into which he had fallen. He was
not a talkative man, and it was an unconscious relief to
him that Cuckoo did not demand a constant flow of con-
versation. He liked sitting in the car by her, watching
her, thinking about her. No thought of the future was
in his mind ; the present was good and, orientally, it satis-
It was evening the early evening of a winter's day
when they reached town. As they came to Grosvenor
Square, Fabricius spoke,
"Shall we drive straight to the house?" he asked.
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
Cuckoo was taken by surprise and had to collect her
thoughts before answering him; then, deciding that the
time was not yet ripe to risk her aunt's discovery of her
increasing intimacy with her cousin, she answered simply,
"No," and he stopped the car. He looked at her sharply
as they stood together on the curb. They had never
discussed the necessity for keeping Lady Fabricius in
ignorance of their friendship, but they both knew.
"I'm dining out," he said slowly, "but I'll go to the
Club before I come to dress. Will you be up when I
She held out her hand.
"No, not tonight, Bertie. I'm going to see Agatha
Kenyon for a few minutes now, and I shall probably dine
with her and come home and go to bed early ; I'm tired."
A look of displeasure, seeming almost physically to
blacken his face, came into his eyes ; the thick lips pro-
truded a little.
"Very well," he said shortly. "Good-bye," and he
walked off towards Park Lane.
A slight fog had blown up with the coming of the
evening. It was warmer and the air was heavy. Cuckoo
turned off and walked towards Bruton Street, where Mrs.
Kenyon lived. Bertie's ill-temper by no means disheart-
ened her as it might have done two years before. She
took it for what it was, and it gave her a little pang of
triumph. He would miss her tonight and tomorrow might
be rich in happenings.
As she left Grosvenor Square, a hansom came round
the corner, and over the apron of it leaned George Loxley.
He stopped the cab at once and joined her, although she
had bowed and was walking resolutely away.
"Cuckoo," he said, "why didn't you come the other
day? I waited for over an hour."
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
"I I found I couldn't," she returned. "It was quite
"But you said you would."
"My dear George, I have said I would do lots of things
and then didn't do them." He looked pale and tired;
her heart smote her as his troubled eyes held hers.
"Look here, George," she said earnestly, drawing a
step nearer to him in the falling darkness. "It's no use,
you know. I'm not going to marry you, and there's not a
bit of use our being together."
"There is just as much use," he returned slowly, the
end of his nose giving a little jerk, "as there is in food for
hungry people, Cuckoo."
She laughed nervously. "I admire your simile. That's
just the trouble I can't and won't be a hungry person."
"Do you really mean then that you want never to see
me again ?"
She paused for a moment before answering, and it
seemed that she was really and seriously considering the
"Yes," she said, "I think I do mean that."
He flushed, a deep red that stained his cheeks irregu-
"How can you?" he asked, with simplicity, "when you
love me?" And then, for their future weal or woe, she
blurted out the truth:
"I'm going to marry somebody else," she said. "Some-
body who is rich so now you know."
He had known that for the past two years, but he did
not say so.
"Are you engaged now?" he asked, his color fading.
It had begun to rain a little, and as he spoke he turned
up his coat- collar.
"Oh, no, not exactly, but I have made up my mind."
"Cuckoo, don't decide just yet. You are wrong about
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
money; it isn't nearly so necessary as you think. I have
sold two pictures already, and I believe I really am go-
ing to paint fairly well some day. Give me a year's
She shook her head.
"No. It's perfect nonsense. I know what I want.
I'm not like some girls, I really do know. I've always
wanted the same thing. Now George, please let me go.
Don't try to see me again. It's it's just a waste of
She never forgot his face as it bent towards her in the
"If you really mean that, Cuckoo," he said. "I've
nothing more to say."
"I do mean it." After a minute he drew back.
"Then good-bye," he said formally, "and I hope that
you will be very happy."
He raised his hat and passed her, disappearing round
For quite half a minute she stood perfectly still, and
then, as an empty hansom passed her, she hailed it, but
she did not go to Bruton Street.
Lady Rachel Jackson lived over a chemist's shop in a
small maisonette, whose supplementary postal address
was Belgrave Square. Cuckoo rang at the little door
next to the chemist's window, and waited. She waited
a long time, for it is more difficult to live near Belgrave
.Square on a very limited income than it is to live further
afield, and Rachel, at least, was obliged to make up the
difference in the number and quality of her servants.
Cuckoo stood at the top of the steps looking up and down
the depressing street. If she had been a fool half an hour
ago, she would have turned her boat's nose towards a
harbor less smart even than this, for George could not
have afforded Alington Street. She was glad she had been
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
strong and sensible, and with a determined shake of her
head, she pulled the bell a second time.
The very stars in their courses were fighting that after-
noon for Hubert Fabricius.
Cuckoo had come to see Rachel on purpose to confirm
herself, by the sight of Rachel's poverty, in the belief that
she had been wise in refusing to marry George, but the
stellar intervention was made visible the moment the door
opened. Instead of the usual smartly-dressed maid, who,
not unsuccessfully, tried to look on such occasions as
if she had never heard of the kitchen, the door was opened
by a charwoman, and the charwoman was not quite sober ;
from upstairs came the miserable wailing of children's
voices, and there were unmistakable signs of a quite un-
usual degree of domestic discomfort in the little house.
Yes, her ladyship was upstairs, she was in her bedroom.
The nurse had gone. Would the lady walk up? The
lady walked up the tiny staircase, and found Rachel in
a room hardly too large for a properly developed parrot.
She was sitting by the fire, her face swollen with crying, a
bad-tempered baby on each arm, for she had accentuated
her indiscretion in marrying Mr. Jackson by presenting
him with twins at the end of the first year.
"Oh, Nicky, I am glad to see you," Mr. Jackson's wife
exclaimed. "I can't get up ; they are in the most disgust-
ing tempers. They are both getting their nasty little
teeth, and Nurse has gone because Alison scolded her for
being out late when we were going out to dine, and it made
us late, and Lady Harrow was furious, and everything's