Written by Guy de Maupassant
(Abridged and adapted)
Mathilda, a beautiful but poor girl, got married to a clerk who worked in a government office. Because she was poor, she dressed plainly, but she knew she was a great beauty. Mathilda was unhappy because she could not enjoy the luxuries of a rich life. She had no beautiful dresses, no jewels, nothing. She did not like to go to see or visit anybody who was rich, and she felt sad and depressed at being poor. Being beautiful was not enough for her.
One evening her husband, Mr. Loisel, came home happy holding an envelope in his hand. Mathilda opened the letter and saw that it was an invitation from the minister to a big ball.
Instead of being happy for such a fine opportunity to go out and have fun, as her husband had hoped, she threw the invitation away. She knew she did not have anything nice to wear for such a party. She began to cry and asked her husband to give the invitation card to some colleague whose wife had lovely dresses, and so could attend such a party.
Mr. Loisel was upset, and he asked her how much a simple but suitable dress would cost. She said: "I don't know exactly, but I think I could manage it with four hundred francs." He grew a little pale. That was lots of money. He was saving up just that amount of money to buy a gun to shoot birds next summer with his friends. But he agreed to give her the money to get a beautiful dress.
The day of the ball drew near, and Mathilda seemed sad. Her dress was ready, but she was not happy. She was worried. She said:
"I do not have a single piece of jewelry, nothing to put on. Everyone will think I am poor. I don’t want to go."
"You could wear some natural flowers," said her husband. "They look gorgeous at this time of year. For ten francs you can get two or three beautiful roses."
"No. There's nothing more humiliating than to look poor among other women who are rich."
"Okay!" her husband cried. "Go and ask your friend, Madame Forestier, to lend you some jewels. You know her well enough to do that."
The next day she went to her friend and told her of her problem. Madame Forestier took out a large jewel box and asked Mathilda to choose anything that she liked. There were bracelets, a pearl necklace, and a beautiful gold cross containing precious stones. Mathilda liked everything. Suddenly she noticed that there was a beautiful diamond necklace. Her hands shook as she took it. She tried it round her neck and was very happy with how she looked in the mirror. When her friend agreed to lend her the necklace, she was very happy and left with the treasure.
The night of the ball arrived. Madame Loisel was a great success. She danced beautifully and felt very happy. She was prettier than any other woman present. She was graceful, smiling and full of joy. All the men looked at her, asked her name and wanted to be introduced to her. The minister himself even noticed her. She left the ball about four o'clock in the morning.
Her husband, who had fallen asleep waiting for her, was in a corner room outside the grand lobby. He woke up when she came out of the hall, and put a simple shawl over her shoulders. The cheap quality of shawl was very different to the beauty of the ball dress. Mathilda was embarrassed. She wanted to get away as soon as possible so that the wealthy women, who were wearing expensive furs, would not see her.
Mr. Loisel held her back, saying: "You will catch a cold outside. I will call a cab."
But she did not listen to him and ran down the steps. After running and walking for a while, they found an old, dirty cab. When they reached home, Mathilda thought about her beautiful night. Her husband thought that he must be at his office at ten o'clock that morning.
As she was getting ready to go to bed, she looked in the mirror to see herself once more in all her beauty. Suddenly she screamed. The necklace wasn’t there around her neck! "I've lost Madame Forestier's necklace." They looked everywhere but did not find it.
They looked, thunderstruck, at each other. "I shall go back on foot," said Mr. Loisel, "over the whole route, to see whether I can find it."
He went out. She sat waiting in a chair wearing her dress, and without the strength to go to bed.
Her husband returned about seven o'clock. He had found nothing.
He went to the police headquarters, and then to the newspaper offices to offer a reward; he went to the cab companies—everywhere wherever there was any possibility of hope.
She waited all day, not able to move with fear because of this terrible disaster.
Mr. Loisel returned at night with a tired, pale face. He had discovered nothing.
"You must write to your friend," he said, "that you have broken the necklace and that you are having it fixed. That will give us time to look around some more."
At the end of a week, they had lost all hope. To replace the necklace they took the box that had contained it and went to the jeweler whose name was written on it. He checked his records.
"It was not I, Madame, who sold that necklace; I merely made the case."
Sick with sorrow they went from jeweler to jeweler, searching for a necklace like the one that had been lost, trying to remember its exact shape and size.
In a shop, they found a diamond necklace that seemed exactly like the one they had lost. It was worth forty thousand francs. They could have it for thirty-six thousand after discount.
So they asked the jeweler not to sell it for three days yet. And they agreed that the jeweler would buy it back for thirty-four thousand francs, in case, they should find the lost necklace before the end of the month.
Loisel had eighteen thousand francs which his father had left him. He borrowed the rest of the money he needed from others – but feared how he could ever pay the money back. He then went to buy the new necklace.
When Madame Loisel took back the necklace to Madame Forestier, she said to her coldly:
"You should have returned it sooner; I might have needed it."
She did not open the case, as her friend had so much feared. If she had noticed the substitution, she might think Madame Loisel was a thief.
After this time, Madame Loisel knew the horrible life of the needy. She would have to help her husband pay back the debt. They could not afford a servant any longer; they changed their accommodation and rented a small dirty flat. She did all the heavy housework of cooking and cleaning and washing. She did the laundry and went out to buy the cheapest groceries she could find. In the process, she lost her beauty.
Every month they had to pay off a debt and obtain more time to pay others.
Her husband worked in the evenings. Late at night, he copied papers, just to make some more money.
This life lasted ten years. But at the end of ten years, they had paid off all their debts.
Madame Loisel looked old now from her hard life. But sometimes, when her husband was at the office, she sat down near the window thinking of that great evening of long ago, of that ball where she had been so beautiful and so admired.
One Sunday, when she was going for a walk for some fresh air after the hard work of the week, she saw a woman who was with a little child. It was Madame Forestier, still young, still beautiful, still charming.
Madame Loisel went over to greet her.
"Good morning, Jeanne."
Madame Forestier was shocked to be addressed by this poor woman. She did not recognize her, and said:
"But—madame!—I do not know—You must be mistaken."
"No. I am Mathilda Loisel."
"Oh, my poor Mathilda! But you have changed so much!"
"Yes, I have had a hard life, since I last saw you, and great poverty—and that because of you!"
"Of me! How so?"
"Do you remember that diamond necklace 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 exactly like it. It has taken us ten years to pay for it. You can understand that it was not easy for us."
"You say that you bought a necklace of diamonds to replace mine?"
"Yes. You never noticed it, then! They were very similar."
Madam Forestier was deeply moved: "Oh, my poor Mathilda! My necklace was not real. It was worth only five hundred francs!”
Retrieved and abridged from the original by Dr. Algirdas Makarevicius:
Literature Network, Guy de Maupassant, The Diamond Necklace,
The Real Reason Apple Wants to Kill the Audio Jack