nothing to any of my servants that could get you not
me, Mrs. Peacock, but you into trouble."
Just as she was leaving, she turned.
"By the way," she said carelessly, "I forgot to ask
you whether Mr. Loxley has married again. I saw him
the other day with a lady, and I hoped "
Mrs. Peacock interrupted, a sly smile in her unpleasant
"No, m'm my lady, he isn't married, though I know
a lidy as would give her eyes if 'e was, and to 'er, too."
"Indeed?" Bitterly ashamed of herself, Cuckoo stood
as if nailed to the path, waiting.
"She's a Miss Carson lives in the same buildin's she
does. She paints fans. Quite a noise lidy always
pleasant. Mr. Loxley 'e often goes to see 'er, Mrs. Briggs
says, and she goes to see 'im, too. Wore 'erself quite
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
out, takin' care of 'im, she did, when 'e was ill last
Lady Janeways stood, her little figure remarkably
straight, her little face white and haughty.
"Oh, I am glad of that! It's dreadful to be alone
when, one is ill," she said. "Good morning, Mrs. Pea-
cock. I shall expect you one evening at the end of the
week." Mrs. Peacock stood at the door and watched her
visitor making- her way up the street. She was thoroughly
frightened, for the blue jardiniere and the tea-cloth were
not the only things that had, under her guidance, tchanged
their abode in the old days. She was busy that morning,
but in the afternoon she would go and have a cup of tea
with Maud Briggs and arrange to take that lady's place
at Mr. Loxley's flat the following day. Mrs. Peacock
would have liked to be very angry with Lady ^Janeways,
but she didn't dare, so she decided to put all thought of
the stolen things out of her mind and comfort herself
with planning what she was to do with the five pounds
her ladyship had promised her.
Meantime Cuckoo had gone out into the broad thorough-
fare and was making her way back towards Sloane
Square. The rain had ceased, and as she was perturbed
and nervous, she decided to walk part of the way home.
She went quickly on, deep in thought, hating herself for
the humiliation of her scene with Mrs. Peacock, trying to
plan what she could do for George if Mrs. Peacock's
report on him should be very bad. She .could sell her
jewels at any moment, she knew Peregrine would not
mind ; a she was even beginning to have a shrewd idea that
he would, on the contrary, be glad if she did so. But
she had no wish to part from the beautiful things she loved
with an intensity of which few women could have any
idea. One of her greatest pleasures was to lock her door
and spread out on a big table all those wonderful gifts
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
of her husband's and look at and play with them. She
loved her silky, big pearls with something like passion,
and she had many of them. Diamonds she did not so
greatly care for, so Janeways had given her only a few,
but they were, very fine ones and she was fond of them
because of their intrinsic value. Her emeralds were very
good, and the ruby she had never seen beaten, although
there are in London some of the finest rubies in the world.
Of course, she reflected, if George were really seriously
ill she could, and would, sell some of the things, but when
it came to deciding which she would part with, each single
object seemed absolutely indispensable to her. Presently
she came out on the Embankment. The river was full
and oily-looking, rolling smoothly along, the color of cafe
au lait. For a while she stood leaning on the parapet,
staring absently across towards Battersea Park. She
remembered the day she had rushed out of the house, de-
ciding that she could no longer go on and that she must
have a change. It had been raining then, and it was not
raining now, but the time of the year was the same and
there was the same slippery, slimy, brown mud in the
road, and if it had rained she knew the dull scene would
have the look of the day she had never forgotten, for it
was the day she had seen Janeways sitting in his car.
Suddenly she saw a man and woman walking slowly
towards her. .The man was slight and bent and leaning
on the woman as if he had been ill.
At first she thought it was George; but it wasn't, and
for some reason as she passed them she felt a great relief.
The young woman, who was extremely pretty, said, as
she passed, "Does the air make you feel better, darling?"
Cuckoo frowned. That was not George and his Miss
Carson, but it might have been. She laughed as she
realized she did not like Miss Carson, who painted fans.
"Pm an idiot," she said't'o herself. "Poor George! I
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
ought to be glad someone is taking care of him yes,
and I am, really."
Halfway down the Embankment she hailed a taxi
and drove to Curzon Street, whence she went home on
She was very busy the rest of the day, for two days
later she was to give her first ball, before which there was
to be a dinner-party that she was bent .on making a great
success. One or two minor Royalties would be there, and,
what she knew from her husband .was of more real impor-
tance, two old, frumpish and extremely dull ladies of the
old school, who had never before honored her with their
presence in her house.
Aunt Flora was deeply interested in all the arrange-
ments for these festivities, and Cuckoo had invented vari-
ous little ways in which the old lady might suppose herself
to be helping. She was growing very fond of her old
aunt, and she knew besides that it pleased Janeways to
have her pay these little attentions to Miss Flora.
When she went upstairs that morning she found Miss
Flora very busy and very important, giving orders to a
grand young gentleman from the florist's about the deco-
ration of one of the rooms.
"Cuckoo, dear, don't you think tulips would be lovely
in the gray drawing-room ? All yellow and white tulips ?"
Cuckoo kissed her aunt. "Beautiful, of course, but
horribly expensive, you wicked woman!"
Miss Flora drew herself up.
"Peregrine will not mind that," she said with pride.
ON the afternoon of the ball, Janeways came up
into Miss Flora's room, looking troubled.
"Have you seen Nicoleta?" he said.
The old lady, who was rearranging some beautiful old
lace on the black silk gown Cuckoo had given her for the
party at which she insisted she should appear, shook her
"No. She went out about three. She told me where
she was going, but I've forgotten; my memory, Pere-
grine, is not what it used to be."
"You have," he said, "the most beautiful memory,
Flora, because you remember only kind things."
Miss Flora smiled at him, the happy, new smile that
had come to her, despite her sister's death, in the last few
months. She was useful now, and useful to the man with
whonij for many years in her youth, she had been deeply
and quietly in love.
"You always say kind things to me, Peregrine. I'm a
Tery happy old woman."
Contrary to his usual courteous way, he was not, she
saw, "giving her his undivided attention. He sat down,
and for a moment leaned his white head on his hands.
"Something is wrong," he said, "and I don't know what
it is. Flora, let's talk."
Miss Flora laid aside her work and drew a little closer
to the fire.
"Yes," she said, "we'll 'talk. You begin, Peregrine."
He looked up, and she saw that his forehead was drawn
into a most unusual tangle of perplexed lines.
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
"It's about Nicoleta," he said. "I don't know what
it is." Miss Flora nodded.
"Yes, there has been something for several days. I've
noticed it, too. She thought that we should think it was
excitement about the ball, but," she added with a little
laugh, "we didn't, did we?"
Janeways shook his head.
"No. Do you remember.our talk the day I sent young
Taylor away from Tarring-Peverell, Flora?"
"Do I remember ! Why, Peregrine, it was the happiest
day of my life; how could I forget it? It is just like my
luck, you know, to have had the happiest day at the end
instead of the beginning of my life; it makes old age so
pleasant a thing. Well, what about that day ?"
"I told you then," he returned, "that I feared I had
wronged Nicoleta. I have been since then growing surer
of it every day and yet I have had the feeling, or rather
the hope, that though I rob her with one hand, I might
be allowed to give to her with the other. Do you know
what I mean?"
"Yes, I know. You've been trying to educate her;
to develop her; you've been trying well, to wake her
Janeways rose and walked restlessly about the room.
"You're right. I have tried very hard, and because
she's grateful for the things I've given her material
things and for what she considers my kindness to her,
she has been very bribable in doing what I asked her.
She has read many books that at first bored her to death,
and now I find that it is easier for her to read fine ones ;
and good books help everybody. I think she's beginning
to see that although she's rich and has whatever she
wants, she yet has not everything that she needs, or that
she ought to want. In any other woman I should have
feared the coming of the other man, but Cuckoo is per-
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
fectly to be trusted in that way. I don't think," he added
slowly, "that she would ever deceive me."
Miss Flora turned and looked eagerly at him, where
he stood by the window. "She has never been deceitful
although she has always been reticent."
"Did she ever tell you, Flora, what she once asked me
a propos of George Loxley?"
"She once wanted me to give her a large sum of money
for him. What do you think I did?"
Miss Flora was thoughtful for a moment. "I'm sure,"
she said, with a queer little note of pride in her voice,
"that whatever you did, it was the right thing."
"I hope it was, and I believe it was. I refused to give
him a penny."
There was a long silence, for Miss Flora, in spite of her
resolution to believe in his wisdom, was, he saw, a little
staggered at this.
"Do you see why I refused?" he asked.
"Well, it was because I wanted to see if she would do
something for him herself; if she was sorry enough for
his condition of health to sacrifice to it, not an unim-
portant sum of my money, but something that was dear
to her personally. It was the day I gave her the ruby,
and as a matter of fact, Flora, I told her that she was
at liberty to sell the ruby and give every penny of the
money she got for it to Loxley, if she wanted to."
Miss Flora's hands fluttered for a moment in the old
way, then she clasped them in her lap.
"And she kept the ruby?"
"She kept the ruby."
"You were sorry, Peregrine?"
"I was very sorry and what is more," he added
thoughtfully, "she knows knew all along that I was
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
sorry, and she's a little ashamed of it. Well, just after
lunch to-day I went to see Lady Pelter about some busi-
ness I am seeing to for her, and Rachel was there.
Rachel tells me that young Loxley is in seriously bad
health; she saw him, it appears. On top of this she told
me that she had told Nicoleta. I come in and find Nico-
leta almost in a state of hysteria. I have never before
seen her in such a mental condition. I asked if anything
was the matter, and she told me," he laughed sadly, "that
she was nervous about the ball. Imagine her being
nervous about the ball! And now she's gone out."
Miss Flora rose ; she was very much agitated.
"Surely, Peregrine," she exclaimed, "you don't think
she's gone to George?"
Janeways looked at her almost sternly. "No, of course
she hasn't. It would," he added, as if that settled the
matter, "be an improper thing to do for her to go and
see him who was once her husband. But I don't know
I feel that we've come to some kind of a crisis."
"Yes," said Miss Flora, "she has changed of late."
He sat down again by her, and taking her old hand,
"No, Flora, I don't think she's changed," he said. "I
think she's grown."
He meant so much by this that Miss Flora was silent
for a while, and, before the silence was broken, Cuckoo
came in. She had returned quite to her usual manner
the manner that had newly become usual to her. She
rang for tea and poured it out for them and herself,
talking quietly about the ball and looking with real inter-
est at Aunt Flora's new gown.
Janeways watched her in almost unbroken silence, and
at last he said: "Where have you been, my dear?"
She looked at him, her clear eyes suddenly veiled secret
THE BA'G OF SAFFRON'
"In Chelsea," she said, "walking, and then I went to
Bond Street, and then I stopped to see Aunt Marcia for
a moment. Where have you been?"
At the mention of Chelsea, Janeways and Miss Flora
looked at each other, and Miss Flora suddenly rose to a
height of valor that surprised herself.
"Have you heard," she asked, her voice trembling a
little, "anything about George of la'te, Cuckoo?"
Cuckoo looked at her with the fine gravity she had learnt
since her marriage a gravity that had always distin-
guished Janeways even in his wildest days and which she
seemed to have caught from him.
"Yes, Aunt Flora, poor George is very ill I fear. I
saw him coming out of a shop in the King's Road."
"Oh, poor boy! You of course you didn't speak to
Cuckoo shook her head and poured out tea.
"Oh, no, I could hardly do that. I don't think he
would have liked it; besides, he was not alone. He was
with," she added quietly, "a girl, a very pretty girl with
Miss Flora, unjustly and ridiculously, felt a little
shocked by this piece of news, but Janeways it was who
"I'm afraid the poor fellow will never be strong," he
said, "as long as he lives in this vile climate."
Cuckoo said nothing and, after a moment, left the
room. She went to her own room and, looking at the
clock, saw that she had two hours in which to collect
her thoughts. So, putting on her dressing-gown, she lay
down on a sofa by the fire and switched off the lights.
Into the whirl of emotion she had lived in for the last
three hours and which she had shut away in her mind so
long as she was in Miss Flora's room, came now the other
pang, that she had thus far kept at bay jealousy. She
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
told herself that it was absurd; that no one on earth
had as little right as she to be jealous of George Loxley
or anything he did. But her telling herself this did no
good. She could see them now as they came out of the
shop, George leaning on the arm of his companion, much
as the young man on the Embankment had done that day
the young man whom she had at first taken for George.
And the girl was so pretty so pretty, with such a fine,
radiant air of youth and health, in spite of her obvious
poverty; she looked like a Spring day that had strayed
by chance into the wilds of November ; she looked like an
apple-tree blossoming in the sun.
In the firelit darkness Cuckoo buried her face in her
hands in shame at what she had done, for she had followed
them up the crowded King's Road and seen them dis-
appear round the corner of Barker Street. That was
bad enough, but she had done worse ; after walking for
an hour trying to quell the tumult that had arisen in her,
she had gone to Whistler Mansions and, after studying
the address-board in the hall, she had called on Miss
The girl was at home and alone, sitting by the window
at a little table painting. Under the pretext of having
heard of her fans somewhere, Lady Janeways went in,
bought a fan, and sat by the fire to dry her wet feet,
she said. Miss Carson, of course not suspecting who she
was, and grateful for the unexpected sale, talked without
reserve of her work, and, in an innocent way, of her own
life. Cuckoo learned that her father was dead and that
her mother lived in Bristol, which she couldn't leave be-
cause her two little sons were at school there. Miss
Carson herself had been living in the Mansions for the
past year and liked it very much.
"Don't you long to go back to Bristol?" Cuckoo had
asked, and a bright flush had spread over the girl's face.
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
No, she didn't want to go back to Bristol ; she liked Lon-
don ; she was very comfortable in the Buildings. Cuckoo,
sick with shame yet driven by wild curiosity to go on,
then asked her if she had many friends in London.
"No ; I only know one or two people. I've some cousins
in Cricklewood, but I don't see much of them. I have
one friend living here, of whom I see a good deal
Cuckoo looked the other way. "Is she a painter too?"
Nina Carson shook her head and blushed again.
"Yes, but it isn't a 'she ;' it's a 'he.' Oh, yes, he paints
beautifully. He's taught me a good deal. I'm expecting
him down any minute, he's promised to put in the figures
on the little Trianol fan that parchment one on your
Cuckoo rose. "You're very lucky to have someone to
help you," she said kindly; but something in her voice
made the girl stare. "Do tell me your name, won't you,"
she said, "and who told you about me? He George
would be so interested."
"My name is Bunbury," Cuckoo returned, in involun-
tary tribute to Oscar Wilde's delightful play. "I can't
remember who told me about you; however, it doesn't
matter, as I've got the fan."
A few minutes later she had found herself in the street,
and now, in her beautiful room, surrounded by all her
"things," she was in such a turmoil of misery and jeal-
ousy as she had never in her life experienced.
She was too confused, too upset, to be able to analyze
her feelings or even to set them in order and look at
them squarely. Everything seemed in a whirl round her.
She didn't want poverty; she certainly wasn't in love
with George again she was quite sure about that she
didn't know what she wanted ; she didn't know even what
she did not want. If it had been about anything else in
the world, she would have gone to Janeways and told him.
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
But that she could not do. Presently she rose, and took
from its hiding-place her great leather jewel-case, and,
locking the doors of her bedroom, she turned on the lights
and spread all the jewels out on the lace counterpane;
and there they lay and sparkled at her. She took them
in her hands, let the light play on them ; she pressed the
pearls to her cheek; she covered her little fingers with
rings and waved her hands to herself in the glass. Here,
here were her "things" ; the things she had always wanted,
the things she had achieved.
When Marthe came in to dress her, she found her
mistress sitting quietly by the fire, reading.
Miss Flora came in just before dinner, an ethereal, un-
substantial, but delightfully pretty Miss Flora; and
pinned to the lace in the front of her gown was a beautiful
"Cuckoo, look, look, my dear, what Peregrine has given
me!" the old lady cried, skipping just a little, old as she
was, in her joy.
Cuckoo kissed her. "I am glad, dear Aunt Flora.
That was kind of him, wasn't it?"
Miss Flora left her and went down to the library where
she knew Janeways would be. When she thanked him
for the gift, which had been sent her in a bunch of violets,
he took her hands and swung them out to her full length
and then back again, in a boyish kind of way.
"Flora," he said, "here we stand, you and I, an old
man and an old woman "
"I'm years older than you, Peregrine," she broke in.
" Waiting for something to happen. The feeling is
strong on me. If anything should happen to-night after
the ball has begun, may I come straight to you?"
"Peregrine Janeways," the old woman said steadily,
"if my death would do you or Cuckoo the least little bit
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
of good in the world, I would gladly die for you to-night."
He was moved by her earnestness, but he laughed softly.
"I don't want you to die for me, but I may want you to
get up at an ungodly hour and let me talk to you, for I
know something is going to happen. We've come to the
end of a chapter; we've come to the end of a period;
we are going to have to begin over, old as we are, my
Miss Flora looked at him and saw that he was very
grave under his smile.
"Then we'll begin over, the best way we can," she an-
swered. "Be sure you come if you need me. And now,"
she added, emboldened and less titubating than usual, for
now that he really needed her her old timidity had gone,
"I've a favor to ask you."
"No, no, wait till you hear what it is, Peregrine. To-
night is a very important night for Cuckoo. Oh, I don't
mean something we don't know about, the way you mean,
but I mean this dinner and the ball. It's going to be very
splendid and she's going to be very proud, and I want you
oh, Pelly, please let her wear the Bag of Saffron."
After a pause, Janeways answered, very quietly:
"I'm sorry, Flora, but I can't. If I'd a son, or possibly
even a daughter, he or she would understand; it's in our
blood. But I couldn't make you understand, and I
"But people know about it, Peregrine. Blanche Pelter
was talking about it only a few days ago, and it appears
people have asked her why your wife doesn't wear it."
Janeways frowned. "It doesn't follow that because I
have a wife she must wear the thing; neither of my two
former wives wore it, as you know. Besides, it's a hideous
thing. The diamonds, though very good, are not so fine
as others I have given Nicoleta."
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
"For all that," Miss Flora persisted, "I wish you would
let her, even if it is only this once."
Janeways put one of his hands on each of her shoulders
and looked closely into her beautiful old eyes.
"I am almost inclined," he said gently, "to offer to
let you wear it, my very dear Flora, but I can't let
Nicoleta. Please don't ask me again."
Miss Flora went sorrowfully away. She had forgotten
all about the brooch on her own bodice.
MISS FLORA lived several years after that night,
but she never forgot one single incident of it.
She had lived so long quietly in the country that
she was apt to become confused when she found herself
with many people ; her memories even of the house-parties
at Tarring-Peverell had been blurred, and overlapped a
little ; she could not quite remember which of two episodes
had been before the other, and so on. But the great ball
the ball that had been given after many months of
wary and skilful waiting by Janeways was destined to
remain in her mind so long as she lived, perfectly clear
Cuckoo, looking better than she had ever looked in
her life, all in white, with her best jewels, seemed to Miss
Flora, as she received her guests, to have an odd air of
conferring on them the honor and pardon they were in
reality supposed to be bestowing on her. Even the
Duchess that greatest of Duchesses, Her Grace of
Trafalgar seemed to lose in majesty as she shook hands
with the little nobody whom that old fool, Pelly Jane-
ways, had run away with. The Duchess had hated the
idea of Cuckoo and opposed with all her might the recep-
tion into the fold of the dingy little mutton. Miss Flora,
who was standing on the landing above, peering down, too
excited to move, knew this, and observed with joy the
gracious, unflattered air of the little gray mutton in
"She looks better than any of them, Pelly," the old
lady whispered to Janeways a little later, when the danc-
THE BAG OF SAFFRON
ing had begun and she had chanced to meet him as she
went into the library.
He laughed. "She does she's exceeding magnifical,
Flora. God bless her," he added gently.
Miss Flora saw that he looked pale and that his ex-
treme pallor, against the snowy whiteness of his hair,
seemed to have taken on a yellowish tinge.
"Are you not well?" she asked hastily.
"Yes, my dear, I am quite well."
They stood together for a moment unobserved in the
softly lighted library, and Miss Flora could hardly have
been prouder of him, possibly not so proud, if she had
been his wife. He was so very handsome, so very dis-
tinguished-looking, she thought.
"Do you still feel," she asked him, "that something is
going to happen?"
He nodded gravely. "Yes. To-night, you see, is an
etape a kind of station, a milestone on the Dover Road,
Flora. We've all of us come to an end, as I told you
before dinner, and in order to make a new beginning,
something must happen. However, my dear and beau-
tiful friend, will you do me the honor of walking through
the ballroom with me? I wish to introduce you to one
or two people."
Miss Flora took his arm, and they went through the
white drawing-room into the ballroom. The orchestra