The Necklace - Moral Stories: Moral Value Based Short Stories

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Necklace


The Necklace

Image result for the necklace
SHE WAS ONE OF THOSE PRETTY, CHARMING YOUNG WOMEN born into a working-class family, as if by some error of fate. She had no dowry, no hopes, no way of ever becoming famous, understood, loved or the wife of a rich, distinguished man; she agreed to be married off to a low-ranking clerk in the Ministry of Public Education.

She dressed simply, as she couldn't afford any jewellery, and was unhappy, feeling she had lowered herself; for women belong to neither a caste nor a race: their beauty, grace and charm are their heritage and family background. Their innate sensitivity, instinct for elegance and adaptable minds are their only hierarchy, and these qualities can transform an ordinary young woman into the equal of any high society lady. She suffered continually, feeling she had been born to enjoy every possible delicacy and all sorts of luxury. She suffered from the shabbiness of her home, the cheapness of the walls, the worn-out armchairs, the ugly upholstery. All of these things —things that any other woman of her class would not have even noticed-tortured and infuriated her. The sight of the young Breton girl who did the housework in her humble home aroused in her a sense of despairing regret and lost hope. She dreamed of silent antechambers hung with Oriental tapestries, lit by high, bronze candelabra, and two tall valets in breeches who fell asleep in wide armchairs, drowsy from the heavy heat of the stove. She dreamed of great reception rooms decorated in antique silk, expensive furniture displaying priceless curios, and intimate, charming sitting rooms filled with the lingering scent of perfume, perfect for long conversations in the late afternoon with her closest friends, famous, sought-after men whose attention was envied and desired by every woman.

When she sat down to supper at their round table with its tablecloth that hadn't been changed in three days, opposite her husband who opened the tureen and said, absolutely delighted, "Ah! Beef stew! I can't think of anything better than that ...," she would be dreaming of elegant dinners, sparkling silverware, tapestries on the walls with ancient figures and extraordinary birds in a fairy-tale forest. She would dream of exquisite dishes served on wonderful china, of compliments whispered to her that she would return with the smile of a sphinx while savoring the delicate pink flesh of a trout or the wings of a grouse.
She had no expensive dresses, no jewellery, nothing. And those were the only things she liked, she felt she had been born for such things. She would have so desired to be attractive, envied, seductive and elegant.
She had one wealthy friend, a former school friend from the convent; but she didn't want to visit her any more because she suffered so much when she had to go home. And she would cry for days at a time, from sadness, regret, despair and distress
ONE DAY, HER HUSBAND came home holding a large envelope and looking triumphant. "Here," he said, "this is for you."
She eagerly tore open the envelope and took out an engraved invitation:
"The Minister of Public Education and Madame Georges Ramponneau request the pleasure of the company of Monsieur and Madame Loisel at the Ministry on the evening of Monday January 18."
Instead of being delighted, as her husband had hoped, she angrily threw the invitation down on the table.
"And what do you expect me to do with that?" "But, my dear, I thought you'd be happy. You never go out and this is an opportunity, and a fine one, at that! It was incredibly difficult to get the invitation. Everyone wants one; it's very sought after and they don't give out many to the clerks. Everyone important will be there."
She looked at him, annoyed and impatient, and asked:
"And what am I supposed to wear to go to something like that?"
He hadn't thought of that.
"What about the dress you wear to go to the theater?" he stammered. "I think it looks very nice ..."
He fell silent, stunned when he realized his wife was crying, Two large tears flowed slowly down her face, from the comers of her eyes to the corners of her mouth.
"What's wrong?" he muttered. "What's wrong?"
Through an intense effort, she managed to get control of herself; she wiped her damp cheeks and calmly replied:
"Nothing. It's just that I have nothing to wear and so I can't go to the ball. Give your invitation to a colleague whose wife has fancier clothes than me."
He felt sorry for her.
"Come now, Mathilde," he said, "how much would a suitable outfit cost, something you might wear again for other occasions, something very nice but simple?"
She thought for a few seconds, working out the figures in her mind and thinking of how much she could ask for without getting a horrified response and immediate refusal from her thrifty clerk.
She hesitated, then finally replied:
"I'm not exactly sure, but I think I could manage with four hundred francs."
He went a little pale, for he had put aside exactly that amount to buy a rifle and treat himself to some hunting parties on Sundays the following summer, in the Nanterre region, with a few friends who were going down there to shoot larks.
"Fine," he said, nonetheless, "I'll give you four hundred francs But make sure you get a beautiful dress."
THE DAY OF THE BALL was approaching and Madame Loisel seemed sad, anxious, nervous. But she had her dress.
"What's wrong?" her husband asked one evening. "You've been acting very strangely for three days now."
"I'm upset because I have no jewellery," she replied. "Not a single thing to wear. I'll look as poor as anything. I would almost rather not go to the reception."
"You can wear some fresh flowers," he replied. "That's very chic at this time of year. For ten francs you can have two or three magnificent roses."
She was not convinced. "No ... there's nothing more humiliating than looking poor in the company of wealthy women."
"You're so silly!" her husband exclaimed. "Go and see your friend Madame Forestier and ask her to lend you some jewellery. You're close enough to her to do that."
She cried out in joy. "That's true. It hadn't even occurred to me."
The next day, she went to her friend's house and explained why she was so upset.
Madame Forestier went over to her armoire, took out a large jewellery box, brought it over and opened it.
"Take anything you like, my dear," she said to Madame Loisel.
First she looked at some bracelets, then a string of pearls then a Venetian cross, beautifully crafted with gold and gemstones. She tried on the necklaces in front of the mirror, hesitated, unable to bring herself to take them off and give them back.
"Do you have anything else?" she kept asking.
"Of course. Keep looking. I don't know what kind of thing you like."
Suddenly, she found a superb diamond necklace in a black satin box. And her heart began to beat faster with unbridled desire. Her hands shook as she held it. She put it around her neck, over her high-collared dress, and stood entranced by her image in the mirror.
"Could you lend me this," she finally asked, hesitantly, full of anguish. "Just this?"
"Certainly, of course."
She threw her arms around her friend's neck, gave her a big kiss, then ran off with her treasure.
THE DAY OF THE BALL CAME. Madame Loisel was a great success. She was prettier than anyone else, elegant, gracious, smiling and mad with joy. All the men were watching her, asking her name, trying to get introduced. All the attaches from the Ministry wanted to waltz with her. The Minister himself noticed her.
She danced as if exhilarated, carried away, intoxicated with pleasure, lost in a dream, in the triumph of her beauty, the glory of her success, in a sort of cloud of happiness created by all the compliments, the admiration, the great desire she aroused, created by the complete and utter victory that felt so sweet to a woman's heart.
She left about four o'clock in the morning. Her husband had been sleeping in an empty little sitting room with three other men whose wives were having a wonderful time.
He threw her coat over her shoulders, the one he'd brought with him for going home, an inexpensive coat she wore every day, whose shabbiness clashed with the elegance of her ball gown. She felt this and wanted to rush away so she wouldn't be noticed by the other women who were wrapping themselves up in expensive furs.
Loisel stopped her:
"Wait here. You'll catch cold outside. I'll go and get us a carriage."
But she refused to listen to him and quickly rushed down the stairs. When they were in the street, there were no carriages, so they tried to find one, calling out after any driver they saw going by in the distance.
They walked down toward the Seine, shivering and feeling hopeless. On the quayside, they finally found one of those old cabs you only see in Paris after dark, as if they were too ashamed of their scruffiness to be out during the day.
It took them back to their door on the Rue des Martyrs, and they sadly went upstairs to their apartment. To her, it was all over. And all he could think about was that he had to be back at the Ministry at ten o'clock.
She took her coat off in front of the mirror, so she could see herself in all her glory one last time. Suddenly, she let out a cry. The diamond necklace was gone!
"What's wrong?" her husband asked; he was already half undressed
She turned toward him, terrified: "...I... I've lost Madame Forestier's necklace." He stood up, panic-stricken: "What! . . . But how!... That's impossible!"
And they looked in the folds of her dress, in her coat, in the pockets, everywhere. They couldn't find it.
"Are you sure you still had it when we left the ball?" he asked, "Yes. I remember touching it in the lobby of the Ministry."
"But if you'd lost it in the street, we would have heard it fall on the ground. It must be in the cab."
"Yes, probably. Did you get its number?" "No. Did you see what it was?" "No."
They stared at each other, devastated. Then Loisel got dressed.
"I'll go back to where we started and retrace our steps to see if I can find it," he said.
Then he left. She sat there in her evening gown, without the strength to go to bed, collapsed in a chair, depressed, with no fire lit, her mind a blank.
Her husband came back at about seven o'clock. He hadn't found it.
He went to the police station, to the newspapers to offer a reward, then to the cab companies, everywhere, in fact, where there was even a glimmer of hope.
She waited all day long, in the same state of fear in the face of this horrible disaster.
Loisel came back that evening; his face was gaunt and pale; he had found out nothing.
"You must write to your friend," he said, "and say you broke the clasp of the necklace and that you're getting it fixed. That will buy us some time."
She wrote as he suggested.
BY THE END OF the week, they had lost all hope. And Loisel, who had aged by five years, said: "We must find out how we can replace the necklace."
The next day, they went to the jewellery shop whose name was inside the case. The jeweller looked through his books
"I did not sell this necklace, Madame; I must have only sold the case."
So they went from one jeweller to another, looking for a necklace that was just like the one they had lost, trying to remember it in detail, both of them in a terrible state, miserable and distressed
In a boutique near the Palais-Royal, they found a diamond necklace that was exactly what they were looking for. It cost forty thousand francs. They could have it for thirty-six thousand.
They asked the jeweller not to sell it for three days. And they made it a condition that he would take it back, for thirty-four thousand francs, if they found the one they'd lost before the end of February Loisel had eighteen thousand francs that his father had left him. He would have to borrow the rest.
Image result for about the necklace story
And borrow he did, asking a thousand francs from one person, five hundred from another, five louis' here, three louis there. He signed for loans, accepted ruinous conditions, dealt with moneylenders and every kind of loan shark. He committed himself for the rest of his life, risked signing for loans without even knowing whether he could pay them back. And terrified by the suffering to come, by the homible poverty he was about to face, by the prospect of all the physical deprivation and moral torment he was going to suffer, he went to the jeweller's, put thirty-six thousand francs on the counter, and bought the new necklace.
When Madame Loisel brought the necklace back to Madame Forestier, she said coldly:
"You should have returned it sooner, I might have needed it."
She didn't open the case, as her friend had feared she might. What if she noticed the substitution, what would she have thought? What would she have said? Wouldn't she have thought Madame Loisel was a thief?
MADAME LOISEL CAME TO know the horrible life of the poor. She accepted her fate at once, however, and bravely. That terrible debt must be paid. And she would pay. They let their maid go; they moved; they rented an attic.
She did all the heavy housework and the disgusting chores in the kitchen. She washed the dishes, breaking her pink nails scouring greasy pots and the bottoms of saucepans. She washed the dirty linen, the shirts and the dishcloths, and dried them on a clothesline, she carried the garbage down to the street every morning and brought back the water, stopping at every floor, out of breath. And dressed like a working-class woman, carrying a basket, she went to the fruit stall the grocer's, the butcher's, bargaining, being swom at, trying to hold on to every single penny of what little money she had.
Every month, they had to pay off certain debts, renew others, ask for more time.
Her husband worked evenings, doing a merchant's accounts, and late at night, he often made handwritten copies of documents for five cents a page.
And this life lasted ten years.
By the end of ten years, they had paid everything off, everything, at outrageous repayment rates and with compound interest.
Madame Loisel looked old now. She had become heavy, hard and harsh, like every other poor woman. With unkempt hair, ragged clothes and raw hands, she talked in a loud voice while throwing buckets of water on the floor to wash it. But sometimes, when her husband was at the office, she would sit beside the window and think of that wonderful evening so long ago, of the ball where she had been so beautiful and so popular.
Image result for the necklace
What would have happened if she hadn't lost that necklace? Who knows? Who can know? How strange and unpredictable life is!
How little it takes to make us or break us!
ONE SUNDAY, SHE WENT for a walk along the Champs-Elysées, to relax after working so hard all week; she suddenly noticed a woman who was taking a child for a walk. It was Madame Forestier, still young, still beautiful, still attractive.
Madame Loisel was filled with emotion. Should she speak to her? Yes, of course. And now that she had paid, she would tell her everything. Why not?
She went over to her. "Hello, Jeanne."
The other woman did not recognize her, and was surprised to be spoken to in such a familiar way by this working-class woman.
"But ... Madame!... I don't ... You must be mistaken," she stammered. "No. It's me, Mathilde Loisel." Her friend let out a cry. "Oh!... my poor Mathilde, but you've changed so much!"
"Yes, I've had a very hard life since I saw you last; and I've been very poor, and miserable... and all because of you!"
"Because of me! But how?"
"Do you remember that diamond necklace you lent me to go to the ball at the Ministry?"
"Yes. What about it?" "Well, I lost it." "No! You gave it back to me."
"I gave you back a necklace that was exactly like it. And it's taken us ten years to pay it off. You know that wasn't easy for us, for we had nothing... It's finally over, and I'm really glad." Madame Forestier stopped.
"Are you saying that you bought a diamond necklace to replace mine?"
"Yes. So you never noticed! They were virtually identical."
And she smiled with proud, naive joy.
Madame Forestier, deeply moved, took her hands.
"Oh, my poor Mathilde! But my necklace was a fake. It was worth no more than five hundred francs!"

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