The Necklace (continued) by G Sadasiv

‘Hi Appa. How are you feeling?’


‘Oh, I'm fine. You're in the car?’


‘Yes. I have to get Ravi to his Boy Scout meeting, so hopefully the traffic will clear up in a bit.’


‘So, did you get my envelope?’


‘I think so. The one with A V Laider?’


‘Wonderful story. Was it marked in your hands that you were not going to pull that cord? It was marked very clearly ... in their hands.' Marvellous.’


‘Yeah, that was a good one.’


‘This morning I was thinking of another nice story.’


‘What was it?’


‘You've read The Necklace?’




‘You must have. By Guy de Maupassant. Every middle school student has to read it at some point.’


‘It's coming back to me. But why don't you tell it to me again?’


‘Ok. It concerns a married couple; Mathilde and Henri Loisel. They have not been married long. Monsieur Loisel is a clerk in a government office and settled. Madame Loisel is young and pretty, and although they are not poor Mathilde feels that she is perhaps missing out on the finer things in life. And then one day they receive an invitation to a ball.’


‘Pauvre Mathilde’


‘Indeed. She has nothing to wear, her hair is all wrong, and her jewellery simply will not do. But she shops and shops and shops until she finds a perfect dress on sale, finagles an appointment with the finest hairdresser in Paris and for the pièce de résistance she goes to a rich friend from her convent school days and she borrows a diamond necklace to wear for the night.’


‘But at the stroke of midnight…’


‘They return home from the ball and Mathilde cannot find the necklace. They search everywhere, they retrace their steps, they return to the ballroom and examine every cranny and crevice but all to no avail: the necklace is gone.’


‘Disaster strikes.’


‘Yes. It must be returned. Mathilde's honour is at stake. So they stall for time; they visit every jeweller in Paris to locate a replacement; finally, one is found, but … forty thousand francs! Monsieur Loisel empties all of his accounts, he begs, he borrows, he takes on ruinous debt until finally he is able to purchase the diamond necklace. No one will ever know of the terrible mistake that Mathilde has made.


They move to a smaller apartment, to a smaller apartment to a smaller apartment, the squalor growing with each step. Henri spends his nights making up tradesmen's accounts and copying manuscripts at five sous per page. Mathilde must work cleaning houses, she takes in laundry and bargains with the grocer over the very last centime. Eventually, somehow, they manage to repay the debt. But it has been hard, the work has taken its toll, and they are not young as they once were. One day Mathilde is in the park … what is that park's name in Paris?’


‘The Champs Elysees?’


‘So Mathilde is walking in the Champs Elysees, and she sees Jeanne, her old school friend. And though the friend can barely recognise her they get to chatting and finally the friend asks, 'Mathilde, what has happened to you?' and so Mathilde tells her the whole story, from the very beginning. And when she finally reaches the end of the story the friend takes her hands and says, ‘Oh, my poor Mathilde! Why, my necklace was paste! It was worth at most only five hundred francs!'


‘Aah, the twist!’


‘Yes. So, that is the story. But my story is a different story. It is the story of what happens after that. I am thinking of calling it The Necklace (continued).’




‘But my diamonds were only paste; you are telling me the necklace I have is real diamonds? Why, I would not dare have it in my house! Come with me; and take it away with you’ ‘No,’ said Mathilde, I would not dare walk in the streets with that on. But I tell you what. Tomorrow I will come to your house in the evening, with my husband Henri, and take the necklace.


The next day when they went Henri had asked his cousin Pierre, who was a lawyer working in a financial firm in the City, to come along with them. Pierre had a deed with all the usual wherefore and hereby in which Jeanne attested she was quite happy with four hundred francs and had no claim to the necklace that she returned to Mathilde.


From there Pierre took them to the jewellers. The jeweller remembered the necklace and was quite happy to buy it back from them for thirty-six thousand francs. He said that a similar stone studded necklace, but slightly inferior in quality was being offered for ten percent more than that. So I am glad to have it back; if you are sure you do not want to keep it he added, looking at Mathilde. She looked at the necklace, and then said firmly, ‘No I do not’.


At the firm where he worked Pierre went in to conference with a manager. He came out with papers for Henri and Mathilde to sign. He explained that the money had been deposited in a Trust to be managed by the firm. ‘There will be a monthly payment into your bank from half of the invested principal; and the other half will be invested and kept in the Trust and can be redeemed in part or on the whole by you after fifteen years.’


Henri and Mathilde went home. His ten years of unremitting work had impressed his superiors in the Department; he received a big increase in his salary. Henri and Mathilde found themselves now as before; but instead of living on half Henri's salary they had more than twice that every month.


They moved out of the attic; their landlady had a vacant apartment on the ground floor, which had a large room that had once been the nursery. The Loisels bought a piano, which thy installed in the room and Henri, who in his childhood had had many years of instruction, resumed his, playing.


But their style of living did not change much. The ten years had instilled frugal habits and did not easily change. Every Friday evening Henri still went to the Place du Marché to find the best deals for meats and provisions. Mathilde had found work in a dressmaking shop when they had to strive to make every franc they could; she continued working one day a week. But now she could spend a little extra time there and with the fabrics she bought, make dresses for herself.


The next summer they went on a vacation to the seaside. Henri had arranged to rent a suite in a pension for three weeks. The pension was on a street that ran along the beach. Mathilde herself did not relish going in the water, but lay on the sand and watched as Henri and their eight-year-old son Emil swam and played in the water all day. Most of the vacationers were middle-aged couples with children, business people, men with sagging stomachs. Henri was lean and erect, a little grey. But he and Emil were running around and building gigantic sand castles as Mathilde watched with delight.


The last day of the vacation it rained all day. They spent the day indoors. In the evening a family, which was taking the suite for the next month, arrived at the pension. Their name was Renaud and it turned out they lived in Paris very near where the Loisels had their apartment. Madame Renaud was delighted when she heard that Henri played the piano. She said ‘I have a music group; we meet every now and then it is quite amateur; you must come and visit us when you are back in Paris’.


When they visited her a couple of weeks later; they discovered she had been very modest about the music group. It was quite large and it was true they were mostly amateurs; but they did have some members who were part time employees in theatres and salons. They were an extremely active group; meeting and giving recitals in their homes and occasionally in rented venues. Henri's piano playing was not perhaps up to their level, but as an accompanist he was welcomed. He was competent, and sympathetic and obliging of the singer.


Mathilde continued her work at the dressmaking establishment; she had a good eye for colour, a sharp ability to spot good fabrics at sales and small stores and the skill to make dresses which looked far more stylish and a la mode than their inexpensive material warranted.


So life continued. They were busy and their circle of acquaintances from the music and the customers at the dress shop grew. Ten years later their son, who had done very well in his school, passed the entrance exam and was selected for the Ecole, the first step on a ladder which would put him on for a career in the Government Department.


On the twentieth anniversary of the return of the necklace they had dinner with Pierre and Pierre's wife. The financial firm had done well with their investment; they now had enough money to consider getting a small house or cottage in the countryside; but the social circle they had built made them hesitate about the idea of moving. Henri himself got promoted and was now an assistant Supervisor. One day a member of the music society who also worked in the Department came to Henri's desk. He was collecting donations. He explained that long ago they had had a colleague who had connections with the artistic world and left. He had been enormously successful; but had lived an extravagant and profligate life and alas had died in an asylum and was being given a pauper's burial. So they were making a collection to pay for a proper funeral for their erstwhile colleague; and would Henri like to contribute. Certainly, said Henri as he put his one hundred francs into the envelope marked: Collection from the Staff at the Department: For the Funeral Expenses Of Albert Rene Guy de Maupassant.



G Sadasiv was born in Chennai in 1930. He is Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at the University of Rhode Island.