EVE GRIEVE, 3o, a widow.
MAY DAY, 18, an unmarried girl.
JAMES KNIGHT, 40, a bachelor.
A RECEPTIVE FRIEND.
Scene:—Mrs. Grieve’s drawing-room at Chelsea. It is 5 o’clock.
She is giving a small tea-party.
MAY DAY (to her hostess in passing):
Why, Eve, you
have got a new gaud?
MRS. GRIEVE (touching her neck): Oh,
thing? I have had it years.
MAY DAY: A month, perhaps! Bend down.
MRS. GRIEVE (bending down, while her friend
the pendant): Oh, well, it’s all the same. Isn’t it a nice little
bit of paste?
MAY DAY (incredulously): No—surely?
MRS. GRIEVE (laughing): Let go May, you
strangling me! Yes, it’s wonderful how effective really
antique paste is. Poor old Jimmy! (She leaves her to speak
to another guest.)
MAY DAY (half to herself, and half to a
friend): Poor old Jimmy, indeed! Paste, did he? I must stop
on and have a straight talk to a young woman—Eve. Eve is
playing, but it isn’t cricket! And why isn’t poor old Jimmy
here to grace, or disgrace her triumph? (She propounds this
query in so many words to Mr, Grieves as that lady drifts
past her a second time.)
MRS. GRIEVE: Kept at the office, dear. Will look in
later if he can manage it. I asked him, at all events (defiantly).
MAY DAY: It is the least you could do.
MRS. GRIEVE (amiably): Stop and see him
if he comes.
I shall soon get rid of all these people. Don’t go till you
MAY DAY (solemnly): I will stay, even
if I have to
miss the Delmar dinner for it, and Teddy is to be there!
THE RECEPTIVE FRIEND: Who is Teddy?
MAY DAY (shortly): The young man I want
engaged to, and yet I am going to sit tight.
(She does. Mrs. Grieve gets gradually rid of
friends, and the room is empty. They both go to the
tea-table and eat little cakes. Mr, James Knight has
MAY DAY (with her mouth full): Now,
Eve, I am
going to scold you. Let us go and sit by the fire.
MRS. GRIEVE (drawing up two chairs):
cheek of it!
MAY DAY: I assume the privilege of youth. How
your jewel flashes in the firelight!
MRS. GRIEVE: How you do keep harping on my
wretched jewel! (boldly.) It isn’t the first Jimmy has given
me by a very long way.
MAY DAY: I know it isn’t. More shame for you!
MRS. GRIEVE: May, I shall get cross, I warn you.
Flesh and blood can’t be expected to stand it.
MAY DAY: Silk and chiffon, you mean! I don’t believe,
my dear, that you have more body than chiffon or less dress-
ing than silk?
MRS. GRIEVE: Very neat! And you judge I have no
heart because I like pretty clothes and things that sparkle, and
because I choose to wear some little bits of mere brightness
that have no intrinsic value except—
MAY DAY: Don’t pretend that you attach sentimental
interest to these—sparklets. Everyone knows that Jimmy
leaves you absolutely cold.
MRS. GRIEVE: He does, poor fellow. I can’t help it.
MAY DAY: While you have the reverse effect upon
him. Everyone knows that, too. It’s humiliating! I am
sorry for him.
MRS. GRIEVE (with feeling). So am I.
MAY DAY: How insulting! How dare you be sorry
for a man worth two of you!
MRS. GRIEVE: That’s not rating him over highly.
MAY DAY: Tell me one thing. You have refused him,
conventionally, I suppose?
MRS. GRIEVE: Very conventionally, once for all.
MAY DAY: And does he believe you?
MRS. GRIEVE: Oh yes. It is only on that understand-
ing that I permit—
MAY DAY: Paste pendants, etc.
MRS. GRIEVE: It gives him such intense pleasure, poor
dear, and you know, you impertinent May, who presume to
know everything, that Jimmy ins’t at all badly off. He has
quite a comfortable salary from those people in Throgmorton
Street, and I always say that he is not to spend more than a
fiver on me, ever. I am adamant.
MAY DAY: That pendant isn’t. I am sure it cost more
than a fiver.
MRS. GRIEVE: Nonsense! Jimmy knows that I am a
woman of honour.
MAY DAY: Did you make him swear to the fiver?
MRS. GRIEVE: Of course not. Jimmy is a man of
MAY DAY: Oh, love makes short work of honour! You
have corrupted him and got him to salve your nasty little
conscience with a lie.
MRS. GRIEVE: I wouldn’t stand this from any one but
an unmarried girl.
MAY DAY: They only have the courage to do and dare
to be rude. I am going on, since you are so nice about it.
Eve, don’t you mean to marry again?
MRS. GRIEVE: I don’t mean to, but I may.
MAY DAY: Not Jimmy?
MRS. GRIEVE: Certainly, not Jimmy.
MAY DAY: He is far to good for you.
MRS. GRIEVE: Far. But honestly, since my widow-
hood I have seen no one I could marry again, marry once
even. That’s my position, and I think it is a tenable one.
MAY DAY (pensive): Oh yes, if you can hold it. When I
think how I adore Teddy, who won’t even give me the chance
of marrying once, I could shake you.
MRS. GRIEVE: Do, child, if you think it would help
you to Teddy. But why won’t you let me stay in the berth
to which Providence has called me—the delightful berth of a
widow, with enough money to be comfortable, and ornamental
too. Neither my features nor my housekeeping are considered
plain. I have, thank God, no relations and heaps of friends.
MAY DAY: Enough to furnish your drawing-room and
eat your delicious little cakes, but only one Jimmy.
MRS. GRIEVE: But Jimmys are not rare. Every
ordinarily nice woman has a Jimmy of sorts, as she has an
opera-glass or a marabout stole.
MAY DAY: “A poor thing, but mine own.”
MRS. GRIEVE: It can’t be helped. There are, moving
in this society of ours, a certain number of women whom
MAY DAY: Draw it mild.
MRS. GRIEVE: Well, that several men want. Then,
as a pendant to them (May Day glances sarcastically at Mrs.
Grieve’s neck, and Mrs, Grieve unconsciously puts her hand
up), we have a certain number of men whom no woman wants.
“Left overs!” Jimmy is the sort of man who is born to be
said No to.
MAY DAY: Not when he comes with his hands full.
MRS. GRIEVE: Of two-pence-halfpenny perhaps.
MAY DAY: Oh, that’s what five pounds has dwindled to!
MRS. GRIEVE: It is no fault of his that he is not
MAY DAY: He has beautiful eyes, like a faithful dog’s.
MRS. GRIEVE: Just the sort of eye that doesn’t count—
MAY DAY: He is an awfully good sort.
MRS GRIEVE: That goes without saying—and with-
out magnetism either! Virtue doesn’t pay with widows. I
don’t know about girls? Re Teddy? (May blushes); Is he
particularly good? I heard tales—! And have you ever
observed that Circe had to turn her men into beasts before she
would look at them?
MAY DAY: Beasts are faithful, at any rate.
MRS. GRIEVE: But men were, and should be, deceivers
ever. It suits them. What of Teddy?
MAY DAY: Drop Teddy. Then why, if Jimmy is so
dull, do you go to tea with him at his rooms and other places?
Aren’t you afraid of being compromised?
MRS. GRIEVE (laughs): Jimmy! Compromising!
MAY DAY: Why not, as well as another?
MRS. GRIEVE: He squints, he lisps, he is bow-legged,
and he’d be red haired if he wasn’t bald. One could go to his
rooms on a season ticket, and no one think it was anything but
an errand of mercy! Would you marry him yourself?
MAY DAY (hesitates):
No—er—I—he is not in love
MRS. GRIEVE (bitterly): You see I And
yet that being
the case, he has some faint chance of being amusing with you.
There’s the situation in a nutshell. (The clock strikes six).
Poor Jimmy! He has been hopelessly kept. And I put on
his pendant on purpose to please him. I am very fond of
Jimmy you know, though not like that. Why, the very way
he comes into a room sets all the wrong nerves vibrating.
MAY DAY (curious): How does he come into a room.
MRS. GRIEVE: The wrong way! I can’t describe it.
Deprecating, dubious, obsequious, as if he didn’t see where he
was going—no dash or virility about it.
MAY DAY: How can he dash when he knows he won’t
be appreciated where he is going?
“How can it, oh how can Love’s eye see true
That is so worn with watching and with tears?”
Of course, he has no spirit. You have killed it. He is afraid
MRS. GRIEVE: I always know exactly what he will do
MAY DAY: But you may depend upon it, it will be the
MRS. GRIEVE: There are so many ways of doing the
right thing. There’s his way, the commonplace gentlemanly,
grovelling, unadventurous, unspeculative way. Now if I
heard of one unexpected, daring, dashing, romantic, masterful
thing he had done for me, or against me, it doesn’t matter
which, I believe it would work wonders with the impression-
able, modern creature that I am.
MAY DAY: Yes, you are a very widow. Well, I am
going to tell you of a deed such as you describe. I have
guessed it. Jimmy hasn’t let on to anyone. But I have
known it for a very long time.
MRS. GRIEVE: What?
MAY DAY: That pendant you are wearing is not paste, it
is diamonds. So is the brooch you wore at the Delmars the other
night. Teddy noticed that. He said he’d bet his life that never
came out of Wardour Street. Jimmy likes you to believe that
he is always interviewing Jews in the Rue de Douai, or the
back streets of Amsterdam. Not at all, he buys things new in
Bond Street, and dips them in something to make them look
old? You have taught him to cheat you. It is a gigantic
system of fraud, practised on you, Eve. He spends a very
fair half of his income, as I guess, on decking out a woman
who makes fun of him, teases him, and pities him! He need
not work hard, but he does, you admit it. Why should he
slave, except to earn the “over” that pays for your pleasure,
you, who flout and jeer at him? I am convinced of this, and
so is Teddy, who knows something about stones.
MRS. GRIEVE (sneers): And hasn’t it
together—a common interest of abusing me?
MAY DAY: We don’t talk of you, but of James Knight,
a true knight if ever there was one, tricking out his lady like
an idol, and the idol thinks she is being adorned with cut glass
and tinsel, and tells her votary to turn his toes out, and wipe
his muddy boots in the hall before he comes into her presence.
MRS. GRIEVE: Jimmy may be the best of men, but he
is terribly slovenly, and I am desperately neat.
MAY DAY: Pooh! Do you remember my asking you
to lend me your brooch for a fancy dress party, a month or
two ago? You agreed, you are generous enough. I didn’t
wear it, but took the opportunity of confounding you. I gave
it to a jeweller and had it valued.
MRS. GRIEVE (in a husky voice): Well?
MAY DAY: Diamonds, rather yellow, but worth at
least a couple of hundred. One jeweller offered me eighty for
them. And that lump you wear on a chain—
MRS. GRIEVE: That is nothing particular—a Russian
pebble; an Alexandrite they call it.
MAY DAY: Very difficult to get, and most costly. How
easily people are taken in when they want to be! (The outer
bell rings’) James!
MRS. GRIEVE: Do you mind leaving us?
MAY DAY: Certainly, with the greatest of pleasure!
(She goes, Mr. Knight is announced.)
JAMES KNIGHT: I am sorry. I could not get here
sooner. (He sinks rather wearily into the chair that May Day
has just vacated, leaving a trail of muddy boot in his passage
MRS. GRIEVE: Some tea, Jimmy?
JAMES KNIGHT (deprecatingly): I am too late!
MRS. GRIEVE (softly): Not at all. I’ll
have some fresh
made. (She contrives to put a chair over the worst boot
mark.) Have you had a hard day?
JAMES KNIGHT: Rather. But one must grind to
keep up at all. Have you had a successful reception?
MRS. GRIEVE: As successful as it could possibly be
JAMES KNIGHT (looking up, surprised, and
of these new amenities): Oh, I should hardly have added to the
general hilarity. I’m growing a sad bear.
MRS. GRIEVE: Say a melancholy Jacques. Why do
you always take such a gloomy view of life?
JAMES KNIGHT (stung into plainness):
won’t marry me, dear Eve!
(The servant comes in with tea! he helps
himself to milk
and sugar, The servant departs,
Let us talk of something and someone else. I met your little
friend May Day in the hall as I came in. She looks remark-
ably chirpy, and gave me such an amiable greeting. Is her
small love affair coming out all right?
MRS. GRIEVE: May? Oh, I forgot, she has a hopeless
passion, too! (Bites her lip.) No, she hasn’t been talking of
herself for a wonder, she has been talking about you.
JAMES KNIGHT (with the honest amazement of
modest man): About me? She might find a more lively topic
to bore you with.
MRS. GRIEVE: She says you—Jimmy, I am such a
careless idiot, I have been and gone and lost the Alexandrim
-Archimandrite, whatever it is—you gave me. At least, I can’t
find it anywhere?
JAMES KNIGHT (smiling indulgently):
looked in the tea-caddy?
MRS. GRIEVE: Yes, and in the coal-scuttle. Does it
JAMES KNIGHT: No, I’ll soon get you another.
MRS. GRIEVE: You must not.
JAMES KNIGHT: Why not? It is good of you to lose
it and give me the pleasure of getting you a new one.
MRS. GRIEVE: James, you are not to spend any
more money on me.
JAMES KNIGHT: Why not, surely? It is the only—the
best pleasure I have. I have no one else to give presents to,
no one else to think of!
MRS. GRIEVE: May Day says I am a mean—
JAMES KNIGHT (hotly): May Day had
her own business.
MRS. GRIEVE: But I do think I am a cad, James.
JAMES KNIGHT: No, you are an angel, I think!
MRS. GRIEVE: An angel, with a reservation! But still.
if what May says is true—.
JAMES KNIGHT: What does she say?
MRS. GRIEVE: She says that I am covered, from head
to foot, like an idol, with perfectly priceless gems, your gift!
How funny? (She stares at Mr. Knight.)
JAMES KNIGHT (roughly): Why do you look
MRS. GRIEVE: Because I see that when a man is upset
he turns red, not white, as we women do.
JAMES KNIGHT: Never mind my colour, Eve, or the
state of my banking account either! I wish you had not started
this. (Wipes his forehead).
MRS. GRIEVE: I wish May hadn’t. But now that
she has sprung this mine—of diamonds—on us, I presume
you will tell me the truth?
JAMES KNIGHT: Of course I will—if you insist! But
I wish to God you wouldn’t press me.
MRS. GRIEVE (touching her pendant):
Jimmy, is this
JAMES KNIGHT (rising): No, it is not.
MRS. GRIEVE (after a long pause): I
suppose it is all
through alike? This—and this? . . . (She begins feverishly
to pluck at her trinkets).
JAMES KNIGHT: Stop, Eve, please stop! I must ask
you to re-consider—I must tell you!— I believe I have
behaved infamously to you, dear, but you must really try to
forgive me when you see my point of view. I love you hope-
lessly to do you justice, quite hopelessly. I will never allow
that the woman I adore is a flirt. You have never, I swear it,
encouraged me by word, look or sign!
MRS. GRIEVE (rueful): Yes, I have
always been per-
fectly brutal to you.
JAMES KNIGHT: For my good. You have been
sincere. And things being as they were, you would never have
chosen to accept valuable presents from me. You postulated
that from the very first. I found out a way to cheat you
for my own selfish ends. I wanted to see my jewel in a worthy
setting for her beauty—so much more than rubies! I am a
moral criminal. I wanted to watch diamonds sparkling near
your eyes, and pearls lying on your white neck; to hear the
world admire you and them—for you may say what you like—
a woman, ay, the prettiest, can play her part better when the
scene is set in diamonds. I took a base advantage of your
innocence—for what nice woman ever knew the value of
things?—and gained myself the greatest possible pleasure.
The money was there, ready for my wife if I had one, and she
could have been no other than you. And, Eve, though some
of the things were expensive, the rest were bargains. I have
been cultivating a quite remarkable flair for uncut gems and
jewels, in the last few years. I amuse myself attending sales, and
getting things knocked down to me cheap through knowing
more about them than even the Jews do. It’s something to be
proud of, that! Those three emeralds—I had them all set
separately for you, they were tastelessly arranged in a single
ring—were acquired at the sale of the effects of a distant
relative of mine. Three fine emeralds for a hundred and
eighty! That was good, you’ll own! Eve, I have truly had
my money’s worth of pleasure out of them, first and last. I
have seen them flashing and glowing on the breast of the
woman I love. Don’t give me the agony of having them
returned to me! I see you are trying to take them off now!
Put down your hands! Eve, my darling Eve, don’t give them
back to me; wear them, throw them away if you must, but if
you return them it will, I believe, break my heart!
MRS. GRIEVE (putting down her hands): I
Hunt, Violet. “The Gem and Its Setting.” The Venture: an Annual of Art and Literature, vol. 1, 1903, pp.115-128. Venture Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2019-2021. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2021, https://1890s.ca/vv1-hunt-gem