The Neckless

She was one of those pretty and charming girls born, as though fate had blundered over her, into a family of artisans. She had no means of getting known, understood, loved, and wedded by a man of wealth and distinction; and she let herself be married off to a little clerk in the Ministry of Education.

She suffered endlessly, feeling herself born for every delicacy and luxury. She suffered from the poorness of her house, from its mean walls, worn chairs, and ugly curtains. All these things, of which other women of her class would not even have been aware, tormented and insulted her.

She had no clothes, no jewels, nothing. And these were the only things she loved; she felt that she was made for them. She had longed so eagerly to charm, to be desired, to be wildly attractive and sought after. Yet she went naked.

One evening her husband came home with an exultant air, holding a large envelope in his hand.  “Here’s something for you,” he said. Swiftly she tore the paper and drew out a printed card on which were these words:
“The Minister of Education and Madame Ramponneau request the pleasure of the company of Monsieur and Madame Loisel at the Ministry on the evening of Monday, January the 18th.”
Instead of being delighted, as her husband hoped, she flung the invitation petulantly across the table, murmuring:  “What do you want me to do with this? There’s nothing so humiliating as looking poor in the middle of a lot of rich women.”
“How stupid you are!” exclaimed her husband. “Go and see Madame Forestier and ask her to lend you some jewels. You know her quite well enough for that.” She uttered a cry of delight.  “That’s true. I never thought of it.”
Next day Madame Loisel went to see her friend and told her her trouble. Madame Forestier presented a superb diamond necklace; her heart began to beat covetously. Her hands trembled as she lifted it. She fastened it round her neck, upon her high dress, and remained in ecstasy at sight of herself. She asked in anguish: “Lend me this!” Then she flung herself on her friend’s breast, embraced her frenziedly, and went away with her treasure.

The day of the party arrived. Madame Loisel was a success. She was the prettiest woman present, elegant, graceful, smiling, and quite above herself with happiness. All the men stared at her, inquired her name, and asked to be introduced to her. All the Under-Secretaries of State were eager to waltz with her. The Minister noticed her.
She danced madly, ecstatically, drunk with pleasure, with no thought for anything, in the triumph of her beauty, in the pride of her success, in a cloud of happiness made up of this universal homage and admiration, of the desires she had aroused, of the completeness of a victory so dear to her feminine heart.

She left about four o’clock in the morning. Sadly they walked up to their own apartment. It was the end, for her. She took off the garments in which she had wrapped her shoulders, so as to see herself in all her glory before the mirror. But suddenly she uttered a cry. The necklace was no longer round her neck!

“What’s the matter with you?” asked her husband, already half undressed. She turned towards him in the utmost distress. “I . . . I . . . I’ve no longer got Madame Forestier’s necklace. . . .”
He started with astonishment.  “What! . . . Impossible!”
They searched in the folds of her dress, in the folds of the coat, in the pockets, everywhere. They could not find it. Loisel, who had aged five years, declared: “We must see about replacing the diamonds.”

Then they went from jeweller to jeweller, searching for another necklace like the first, consulting their memories, both ill with remorse and anguish of mind. In a shop at the Palais-Royal they found a string of diamonds which seemed to them exactly like the one they were looking for. It was worth forty thousand francs. They were allowed to have it for 36,000, all of which they had to borrow, with interest.

Madame Loisel came to know the ghastly life of abject poverty. From the very first she played her part heroically. This fearful debt must be paid off. She would pay it. The servant was dismissed. They changed their flat; they took a garret under the roof.
She came to know the heavy work of the house, the hateful duties of the kitchen. She washed the plates, wearing out her pink nails on the coarse pottery and the bottoms of pans. She washed the dirty linen, the shirts and dish-cloths, and hung them out to dry on a string; every morning she took the dustbin down into the street and carried up the water, stopping on each landing to get her breath. And, clad like a poor woman, she haggled, insulted, fighting for every wretched halfpenny of her money.
Every month notes had to be paid off, others renewed, time gained. And this life lasted ten years. Until one day Madam Loisel had a mental breakdown, and went to Madam Forestier to tell her of the truth and her suffering.

“You remember the diamond necklace you lent me for the ball at the Ministry? Well, I lost it.

I brought you another one just like it. And for the last ten years we have been paying for it. You realize it wasn’t easy for us; we had no money. . . . Well, it’s paid for at last. All 36,000 francs.”

Madame Forestier had halted. “You say you bought a diamond necklace to replace mine?”

She smiled with proud and simple joy. Madam Forestier, quite overcome, clasped her by the hands. “Oh my poor Mathilde, but my necklace was only plastic! You paid 36,000 francs for a necklace worth only 5 francs!”

Madam Loisel’s face became red. “Why you drool from a motherless fruitfly! You have made me spend ten years of my life for a fake necklace!!!” Madam Forestier giggled with delight at the sight of Madam Loisel running away, embarrassed at having been tricked.

When Madam Loisel got home she went to her attic. She began to cry. How was she going to tell her husband that they spent their life savings on a bunch of plastic? Suddenly a small orange light came from her hand. It felt warm, and familiar. Then the tiny light changed colors to a deep blue. It was cold and unfriendly. She let her thoughts descend and be enveloped by the blueness. Soon the light went away and Mathilde went to sleep.

In the morning Mr. Loisel had terrible news. “My dear Mathilde,” he said, “Madam Forestier and her family were found this morning, neckless!!!”

“That’s improper French, masseur.” Madam Loisel chirped. “You mean to say they have located Madam Forestier’s necklace.”

Mr. Loisel shook his head, then looked down, “Yes, they found her necklace along with her, and the rest of her family. They were all neckless!!”

Madam Loisel was puzzled. “Along with the rest of the family, what? Make sense man!”

“They were all dead. Their throats were ripped out!! They had no necks!!!”

“Oh,” Madam said and then started to cry.

“Have you been playing with your magic light again?” Mr. Loisel asked.

“Yes,” Madam Loisel said. “At the time the light came to me I was thinking only of revenge against Madam Forestier, for lending me a fake necklace. So I released  the monster to remove her ability to wear necklaces forever.”

Mr. Loisel looked out the window. “Whatever’s out there, it killed Forestier, and now it wants us!” They set about boarding up the windows and doors. Then they argued which was safer; the upstairs or the basement. The basement was secure, but upstairs there were escape routes. While they were arguing, they heard a noise. Mr. Loisel reached for his gun, but then remembered he never had one.

Madam Loisel gasped at what she saw. A blue creature came toward her. In it’s right hand, it had a beautiful diamond necklace. In it’s left hand was her husband. “Choose,” it said in a cerulean voice.

Madam’s French instincts kicked in, and she chose the necklace. Because of her selfish choice, she and her husband both lost their necks that night. Thus they became the very treasure that was their desire. Indeed, they were the Neckless.

(pun intended)               THE END

~ a Satire of “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant 1884


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