10. The Necklace
After Guy De Maupassant
She was one of those pretty and charming girls who are sometimes，as if （似乎，好像）by a mistake of destiny，born into a family of clerks. she had no dowry，no expectations，no means of being known , understood，loved，or wedded by any rich and distinguished man and she let herself be married to a little clerk at the Ministry of Public Instruction.
She dressed plainly because she could not dress well，but her unhappiness seemed to be deeper than one might expect . She seemed to feel that she had fallen from her proper station in life as a woman of wealth，beauty，grace，and charm . She valued these above all else in life，yet she could not attain them . she cared nothing for caste or rank but only for a natural fineness，an instinct for what is elegant，and a suppleness of wit . these would have made her the equal of the greatest ladies of the land . If only she could attain them….
She suffered，feeling born for all the delicacies and all the luxuries . She suffered from the poverty of her dwelling, from the wretched look of the walls，from the worn-out
chairs , from the ugliness of the curtains . All those things，of which another woman of her rank would never even have been conscious，tortured her and made her angry . The sight of the little Breton peasant who did her humble housework aroused in her despairing regrets and distracted dreams.She thought of silent antechambers hung with Oriental tapestry，lit by tall bronze candelabra，and of two great footmen in knee breaches sleeping in big armchairs，made drowsy by the heavy warmth of the hot-air stove . She thought of long salons fitted up with ancient silk，of delicate furniture carrying priceless curiosities，and of coquettish perfumed boudoirs made for talks at five o’clock with intimate friends，with men famous and sought after，whom all women envy and whose attention they all desire.
When she sat down to dinner before the round table covered with a tablecloth three days old, opposite her hushand,who declared with an enchanted air .”Ah，the good pot-au-feu！I don’t know anything better than that ,”she though of best dinners，of shining silverware of tapestry which peopled the walls with ancient personages and with strange birds flying in the midst of a fairy forest；and she thought of delicious dishes served on marvelous plates，and of the whispered gallantries which you listened to with a
sphinx-like smile while you are eating the ink flesh of a trout or the wings of a quail.
She had no dresses,no jewels,nothing.And she loved nothing but that;she felt made for that.She would have liked to be envied,to be charming,to be sought after.
She had a friend,a former schoolmate at the convent,who was rich,and whom she did not like to go and see anymore because she suffered so much when she came back.
But one evening,her husband returned home with a triumphant air and holding a large envelope in his hand.
“There,”said he.”Here is something for you.”
She tore the paper sharply and drew out a printed card which bore these words:
“The Miniser of Public Instruction and Madame Georges Ramponneau request the honor of Monsieur and Madame Loisel’s company at the palace of the Ministry on Monday evening,January eighteenth.”
Instead of being delighted,as her husband hoped,she threw the invitation on the table with disdain,murmuring,”what do you want me to do with that?”
“But ,my dear,I thought you would be glad.You never go out,and this is such a fine opportunity.Everyonne wants to go;it is very select,and
they are not giving many invitations to lerks.The whole official world will be there.”
She looked at him with an irritated glance and said,impatiently,”And what do you want me to put on my back?”
He had not thought of that;he stammered,”Why,the dress you go to the theater in.It looks very well to me.”
He stopped,distracted,seeing his wife was cring.Two great tears descended slowly from the corners of her eyes toward the corners of her mouth.He stuttered,”What’s the matter:what’s the matter:”
But by violent effort she had conquered her grief,and she replied with a calm voice while she wiped her wet cheeks,”Nothing.Only I have no dress and therefore I can’t go to this ball.Give your card to some colleague whose wife is better equipped than I.”
He was in despair.He resumed,”Come,let us see,Mathilde.How much would it cost,a suitable dress which you could use on othe occasions,something very simple?”
She reflected several seconds,making her calculations and wondering also what sum she could ask without drawing on herself an immediate refusal and a frightened exclamation from the economical clerk.
Finally,she replied,hesitatingly,”I don’t know exactly,but I think I could manage it with four thousand francs.”
He had grown a little pale,because he was laying aside just that amount to buy a gun and treat himself to a little shooting next summer on th plain of Nanterre with several friends who went to shoot larks down there.
But he said,”All right.I will give you four thousand francs.And try to have a pretty dress.”
The day of the ball drew near and Mme.Loisel seemed sad,uneasy,and anxious.Her dress was ready,however,Her husband said to her one evening,”What is the matter?Come,you’ve been so strange these last three days.”
And she answered,”It annoys me to have not a single jewel, not a single stone,nothing to put on.I will look like distress.I would almost rather not go at all.”
He resumed,”You might wear natural flowers.It’s very stylish at this time of the year.For ten francs you can get two or three magnificent roses.”
She was not convinced.
“No;there is nothing more humiliating than to look poor among other women who are rich.”
But her husband cried,”How stupid you are! Go look up your friend Mme.Forestier and ask her to leand you some jewels.You are a close friend of hers.”
She uttered a cry of joy,”It’s true!I never thought of it.”
The next day she went to her friend and told of her distress.Mme Forestier went to a wardrobe with a glass door,took out a large jewel box,brought it back,opened it,and said to Mme.Loisel,”Choose,my dear.”
She saw first of all some bracelets then a pearl necklace,and then a Venetian cross,with gold and precious stones of admirable workmanship.She tried on the ornaments before the glass, hesitated, and could not make her mind to depart with them or to give them back.She kept asking,”Haven’t you any more?”“Why,yes.Look.I don’t know what you like”
All of a sudden she discovered in a black satin box a superb necklace of diamonds,and her heart began to obeat with an immoderate desire.Her hands trembled as she took it.she fastened it around her throat,outside
her high-necked dress,and remained lost in ecstasy at the sight of herself.
Then she asked,hesitating,filled with anguish,”Can you lend me that,only that?”“Why,yes,certainly.”
She sprang upon the neck of her friend, kissed her passionately,and then fled with her treasure.
The day of the ball arrived.Mme.Loisel was a great success.She was prettier than them all,elegant, gracious, smiling,and crazy with joy.All the
men looked at her and asked her name,wanting to be introduced.All the attaches of the Cabinet wanted to waltz with her,even the minister himself.
She danced with passion,made drunk by pleasure,forgetting all the triumph of her beauty,in the glory of her success,in a sort of cloud of happiness composed of all tis admiration,of all these awakened desires,and of that sense of complete victory which was so sweet to her heart.This was her ultimate moment.
She left about four o’clock in the morning.Her husband had been sleeping since midnight in a little deserted room with three other gentlemen whose wives were having a very good time.He threw over her shoulders the coat which he had bought.Its poverty contrasted witth the eleganve of the ball dress.She felt this and wanted to escape so as not to be seen by the other women,who were wrapped in cosly furs.
Loised held her back.
“Wait a bit.You will catch cold outside.I will go and call a cab.”
But she did not listen to him and rapidly descended the stairs.When they were in the stree they did not find a carriage;and they begin to look for one,shouting after the cabmen whom they swa passing by at a distance.
They went down toward the Seine in despair, shivering with cold .At last they found one of those ancient taxis which look as though they can carry only poor people.
It took them to the Rue des Martyrs ,and once more,sadly, they climbed up homeward .All was ended for her .And he reflected that he must e at he Ministry at ten o’clock.
She removed the wraps which covered the shoulders before the glass so as once more to see herself in all her glory .But suddenly she uttered a cry.She no longer had the necklace around her neck!
Her husband ,already half undressed,demanded,”What is the matter with you?”
She turned madly towards him,”I have—I have—I’ve lost Mme.
He stood up,distracted, ”What?___How?---Impossible!”
Any they looked in the folds of her dress ,in the folds of her cloak,in her pockets,everythere.They did not find it.
He asked,”You’re sure you had it on when you left the ball?”
“Yes,I felt it in the vestibule of the palace.”
“But if you had lost it in the street, we would have heard it fall.It must be in the cab.”
“Yes.Probably.Did you take his number?”
“No.And you,didn’t you notice it?”
They looked at one anoher,thunderstruck.At last Loisel put on his clothes.
“I will go back on foot,”he said,”Over the whole route which we have taken to see if I can find it.”
And he went out.She sat waiting on a chair in her ball dress,without strength to go to bed,overwhelmed,without fire,without a thought.
Her husband came back about server o’clock.He had found nothing.
He went to Police Headquarters and to the newspaper offices to offer a reward;he went yo the cab companies—everywhere,in fact,where he was urged by the least suspicion of hope.
She waited all day,in the same condition of mad fear before this terrible calamity.
Losiel returned at night with a hollow,pale face;he had discovered nothing.
“You must write to your friend,”he said,”that you have broken the clasp of her necklace and that you are having it mended.That will give us time to find it.”
She wrote at his dictation.
At the end of a week they had lost all hope.And Loisel,who had aged five years,declared,”We must consider how to replace that ornament.”
The next day they took the box which had cotained it,and they want to the jeweler whose name was found within.He consulted his books.
“It was not I,madame,who sold that necklace;I must simply have furnished the case.”
Then they went from jeweler to jeweler,searching for a necklace like the other,consulting their memories,both of them sick with chagrin and anuish.
In a shop at the Palais Royal,they found a string of diamonds which seemed to them exactly like the one they looked for.It was worth forty thousand francs.They could have it for thirty-six.
So they begged the jeweler not to sell it for three more days.And tghey made a bargain that he could buy it back for thirty-four thousand francs in case they found the other once before the end of February.
Loisel had eigthteen thousand francs which his father had left him.He would borrow the rest.
He did borrow,asking a gthousand francs of one person,five hundred of another,five luis here,three luis there.He took up very large loans.He compromised all the rest of his life and ,frightened by the pains which were yet to come,by the black misery which he was to suffer,he went to get the new necklace,putting down upon the merchant’s counter thirty-six thousand francs.
When Mme.Loisel took back the necklace,Mme.Forestier said to her in a chilly manner,”You should have returned it sooner;I might have needed it.”
She did not open the case as her friend had feared.If she detected the substitution,what would she have thought?What would she have said?Would she have thought that Mme.Loisel was a thief?
Mme.Loisel now knew the horrible experience of the
improverished.She carried her burden,however,with heroism.That dreadful debt had to be paid.and she would pay it.The Loisels fired their servant.They moved from their comfortable apartment to a small attic-like flat under the roof.
She came to know what heavy housework meant and she came to know the hateful chores of the kitchen.She washed the dishes, breaking the dirty linen,the shirts, and the dishcloths,which she dried on a line.She carried the garbage down to the street every morning and carried up the water,stopping at every landing to catch her breath.And,dressed like a poor woman of the streets,she went to the grocer,the butcher,and the fruit vender,carrying her basket on her arm,bargaining,shouting,and defending every sou which she had to spend on food.
Each month they had to pay off some old debts,renew others and make some new ones.
Her husband worked in the evening as a bookkeeper,and late at night he copied manuscripts for people at five sou a page.
This life lasted for ten years.
At the end of ten years they had paid everything,the principal on their many loans and the terrible high interest,too.
Mme.Loisel looked old now.She had become the woman of poor households—strong and hard and rough.With frowsy hari,skirts askew,and red hands,she talked loud while washing the floor with the great swishes of water.But sometimes,when her husband was at the office,she sat down near the window and thought of that gay evening of long ago,of that ball where she had been so beautiful.
What would have happened if she had not lost that necklace?who knows?who knows?how life is strange and changeful!how little a thing is need ed for us to be lost or to be saved!
But,on Sunday,having gone to take a walk in the Champs Elysees to refresh herself from the labor of the week,she suddenly saw a woman who was leading a child.It was Mme.Forestier, still young,still beautiful,still charming.
Mme.Loisel felt moved.Was she ging to speak to
her?Yes,certainly.And how that she had paid,she was going to tell her all about it.Why not?
She went up.
The other,astonished to be familiarly addressed b y this plain housewife,did not recognize her at all and stammered,”But ---madame!----I do not know---You must be mistaken.”
“No.I am Mathilde Loise!”
Her friend uttered a cry/
“Oh,my poor Mathilde!How you are changed!”
“Yes,I have had hard days since I saw you,terrible days—and because
”Of me!how so?”
“Do you remember that diamond necklace which you lent me to wear at the ministerial ball?”
“Well, I lost it.”
”What do you mean? You brought it back.”
”I brought you back another just like it. And for ths we have been ten years paying. You can understand that it was not easy for us, us who had nothing.At last it is ended,and I am very glad.”
Mme.Forestier had stopped.
“You say that you bought a necklace of diamonds to replace mine?”
“Yes.You never noticed it. then! They are very like.”
And she smiled with a joy which was proud and na?ve at once.
Mme.Forestier,strongly moved,took her two hands.
“Oh,my poor Mathilde!Why,my necklace was paste.It was worth at most five hundred francs!”