Mathilde was a pretty and charming girl, born, as
if by an error of fate, into a family of clerks. She
had no means of becoming known, understood, loved
or be wedded to an aristocrat; and so she let herself
be married to a minor official at the Ministry of
She dressed plainly, because she had never been
able to afford anything better. She suffered endlessly,
feeling she was entitled to all the luxuries of life. She
suffered because of her shabby, poorly furnished
house. All these things, that another woman of her
class would not even have noticed, tormented her and
made her resentful. She dreamed of a grand, palatial
mansion, with vast rooms and inviting smaller rooms,
perfumed for afternoon chats with close friends.
Yet, she had no rich dresses, no jewels, nothing;
and these were the only things she loved. She
wanted so much to charm, to be envied, to be sought
She had a rich friend, a former schoolmate at the
convent, whom she avoided visiting, because afterwards
she would weep with regret, despair and misery.
One evening her husband came home with an air
of triumph, holding a large envelope in his hand.
“Look,” he said, “here’s something for you.”
She tore open the paper and drew out a card, on
which was printed the words:
“The Minister of Education and Mme. Georges
Rampouneau request the pleasure of M. and Mme.
Loisel’s company at the Ministry, on the evening of
Monday, January 18th.”
Instead of being delighted, as her husband had
hoped, she threw the invitation on the table resentfully,
and muttered, “What do you want me to do with that?
And what do you expect me to wear if I go ?”
He hadn’t thought of that. He stammered, “Why,the dress you go to the theatre in. It seems very nice
to me ...”
He stopped, stunned, distressed to see his wife
crying ... He stuttered, “What’s the matter ? Let’s see,
Mathilde. How much would a suitable dress cost?”
She thought for a moment, computing the cost,
and also wondering what amount she could ask for
without an immediate refusal. At last she answered
hesitantly, “I don’t know exactly, but I think I could
do it with four hundred francs.”
He turned a little pale, because he had been
saving that exact amount to buy a gun for a hunting
summer, in the country near Nanterre, with a few
friends. However, he said, “Very well, I can give you
four hundred francs. But try and get a really beautiful
The day of the party drew near, and Madame
Loisel seemed sad, restless, anxious, though her dress
One evening her husband said to her, “What’s the
matter? You’ve been acting strange these last three
She replied: “I’m upset that I have no jewels, not
a single stone to wear. I would rather not go to the
“You could wear flowers,” he said, “They are
very fashionable at this time of year.”
She was not convinced.
The next day she went to her friend’s house and
told her of her distress.
Madame Forestier went to her mirrored wardrobe,
took out a large box, brought it back, opened it, and
said to Madame Loisel :
“Choose, my dear.”
First Mathilde saw some bracelets, then a pearl
necklace. She tried on the jewellery in the mirror.
She kept asking, “You have nothing else ?”
“Why, yes. But I don’t know what you like.”
Suddenly she discovered, in a black satin box, asuperb diamond necklace, and her heart began to beat
with uncontrolled desire. Her hands trembled as she
took it. She fastened it around her neck and stood
lost in ecstasy as she looked at herself.
Then she asked anxiously, hesitating, “Would you
lend me this, just this ?”
“Why, yes, of course.”
She threw her arms around her friend’s neck,
rapturously, then fled with her treasure.
The day of the party arrived. Madame Loisel was
a success. She was prettier than all the other women,
elegant, gracious, smiling, and full of joy.
She danced wildly, with passion, forgetting
everything in the triumph of her beauty and success,
floating in a cloud of happiness.
Mathilde and her husband left at about four
o’clock in the morning. When they were finally in the
street, they could not find a cab. They walked down
toward the Seine, till they found one. They were
dropped off at their door in the Rue des Martyrs, and
sadly, it was all over, for her.
In front of the mirror, she took a final look at
herself in all her glory. But suddenly she uttered a
cry. She no longer had the necklace round her neck !
“What is the matter ?” asked her husband.
She turned towards him, panic-stricken, “I have ...
I have... I no longer have Madame Forestier’s
He stood up, distraught, “What !... How ! …That’s
They looked in the folds of her dress, in the folds
of her cloak, in her pockets, everywhere. But they
could not find it.
“Are you sure you still had it on when you left
the hall ?” he asked.
“Yes. I touched it in the hall at the Ministry.”
“But if you had lost it in the street we would have
heard it fall. It must be in the cab.”
“Yes. That’s probably it. Did you take his
They stared at each other, stunned. At last Loisel
put his clothes on again. “I’m going back,” he said,
“Over the whole route we walked, and see if I can
He left. She remained in her ball dress all night,
her mind blank. Her husband returned at about seven
o’clock. He had found nothing.
He went to the police, to the newspapers to offer
a reward, to the cab companies, everywhere the tiniest
glimmer of hope led him.
She waited all day, in despair at this frightful
Loisel returned in the evening, a hollow, pale
figure; he had found nothing. “You must write to your
friend,” he said, “tell her you have broken the clasp
of her necklace and that you are having it mended. It
will give us time to look some more.”
She wrote as he dictated.
At the end of one week they had lost all hope.
And Loisel, who suddenly looked aged, declared, “We
must consider how to replace the jewel.”
And so, they went from jeweller to jeweller,
looking for a necklace like the other one, consulting
their memories, both sick with grief and anguish.
In a shop at the Palais Royal, they found a string
of diamonds which seemed to be exactly what they
were looking for. It was worth forty thousand francs.
They could have it for thirty-six thousand.So they begged the jeweller not to sell it for three
days. And they made an arrangement that he would
take it back for thirty-four thousand francs if the other
necklace was found before the end of February.
Loisel had eighteen thousand francs which his
father had left him. He would borrow the rest.
And he did borrow. He gave notes, made ruinous
agreements, dealt with every type of money-lender.
Then he went to get the new necklace, and laid down
on the jeweller’s counter thirty-six
When Madame Loisel took the
necklace back, Madame Forestier
said coldly, “You should have
returned it sooner, I might have
From then on, Madame Loisel
knew the horrible life of the very poor. But she played
her part heroically. The dreadful debt must be paid.
She would pay it. They dismissed their maid; they
changed their lodgings; they rented a garret under the
She came to know the drudgery of housework, the
odious labours of the kitchen. She washed the dishes,
the dirty linen, she carried the garbage down to the
street every morning, and carried up the water, stopping
at each landing to catch her breath and dressed like
a commoner. She had to bargain at markets, quarrel
and face insults over every miserable sou.
Each month they had to pay some loans, renew
others, get more time.
Her husband worked extra, every evening, doing
accounts for a tradesman, and often, late into the
night, he sat copying a manuscript at five sous a page.
And this life lasted ten years. At the end of ten
years they had paid off everything, even the interest.
Madame Loisel looked old now. Often, she brooded
over the past - What would have happened if she had
not lost that necklace ? How strange life is, how fickle!
How little is needed for one to be ruined or saved !One Sunday, as she was walking in the Champs
Élysées suddenly she saw Madame Forestier, still
young, still beautiful, still charming.
Madame Loisel felt emotional. Should she speak
to her ? Yes, of course. And now that she had paid,
she would tell her all. Why not ?
She went up to her, “Good morning, Jeanne.”
The other, astonished to be addressed so familiarly
by this common woman, did not recognise her. She
“But-Madame-I don’t know. You must have
made a mistake.”
“No, I am Mathilde Loisel.”
Her friend uttered a cry, “Oh ! ... my poor Mathilde,
how you’ve changed ! ...”
“Yes, I have had some hard times since I last saw
you, and many miseries ... and all because of you ! ...”
“Me? How can that be ?”
“You remember that diamond necklace that you
lent me to wear to the Ministry party ?”
“Yes. Well ?”
“Well, I lost it.”
“What do you mean? You brought it back.”
“I brought you back another exactly like it. And
it has taken us ten years to pay for it. It wasn’t easy
for us, we had very little. But at last it is over, and
I am very glad.”
Madame Forestier was stunned.
“You say that you bought a diamond necklace to
“Yes; you didn’t notice then? They were very
And she smiled with proud and innocent pleasure.
Madame Forestier, deeply moved, took both her
“Oh, my poor Mathilde ! Mine was an imitation!
It was worth five hundred francs at most ! ...