A response journal is exactly what it sounds like. You write a page in which you respond to a piece of literature that interested you from the readings for the lesson. There are many things you can write about. You can express your opinion, or compare the literature to something that has happened in your own life. You can write about specific language or imagery that impressed you, or you can mention some of the difficulties you experienced in reading the literature.
Response Journal Options
1. What experiences have been defining moments or turning points in your life? Explain how they were pivotal moments for you.
2. Do you agree with the parson that the village was better off without the silver mine? Why or why not? Explain.
3. What specific character traits do you have that have gotten you into trouble similar to Mme. Loisel? What role did the character traits play? How might your difficulties have been prevented?
4. Do you agree or disagree with the importance that Mark Mathabane’s mother placed on his education? Explain why.
5. Do you agree or disagree with John Adam’s assertion that the American people must be moral and virtuous if they hope to retain their new democratic government? Explain why.
6. What does Frankl mean by the following statement? “Without suffering and death, human life can not be complete.” (see page 88 of your text)
7. “If there is meaning in life at all then there must be suffering.” Do you agree or disagree? Explain why.
8. How do we become worthy of our sufferings? Have you ever had adversity or trials that you measured up to? Explain how you endured and measured up to these trials.
9. Do you agree or disagree with Frankl’s assertion that the last of human freedoms is the freedom to choose one’s attitude? Explain why.
10. Choose any of the pieces of literature in this lesson and respond in your own way.
Excerpt from “Kaffir Boy” by Mark Mathabane
“Education will open doors where none seem to exist.”
When my mother began dropping hints that I would soon be going to school, I vowed never to go because school was a waste of time. She laughed and said, “We’ll see. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” My philosophy on school was that of a gang of ten-, eleven- and twelve-year-olds whom I so revered that their every word seemed that of an oracle.
These boys had long left their homes and were now living in various neighbourhood junkyards, making it on their own. They slept in abandoned cars, smoked glue and benzene, ate pilchards and brown bread, sneaked into the white world to caddy and, if unsuccessful, carried back to the township to steal beer and soda bottles from shebeens, or goods from the Indian traders on First Avenue. Their lifestyle was exciting, adventurous and full of surprises; and I was attracted to it. My mother told me that they were no-gooders, that they would amount to nothing, that I should not associate with them, but I paid no heed. What does she know? I used to tell myself. One thing she did not know was that the gang’s way of life had captivated me wholly, particularly their philosophy on school: they hated it and considered an education a waste of time.
They, like myself, had grown up in an environment where the value of an education was never emphasized, where the first thing a child learned was not how to read and write and spell, but how to fight and steal and rebel; where the money to send children to school was grossly lacking, for survival was first priority. I kept my membership in the gang, knowing that for as long as I was under its influence, I would never go to school.
One day my mother woke me up at four in the morning.
“Are they here? I didn’t hear any noises,” I asked in the usual way.
“No,” my mother said. “I want you to get into that washtub over there.”
“What!” I balked, upon hearing the word washtub. I feared taking baths like one feared the plague. Throughout seven years of hectic living the number of baths I had taken could be counted on one hand with several fingers missing. I simply had no natural inclination for water; cleanliness was a trait I still had to acquire. Besides, we had only one bathtub in the house, and it constantly sprung a leak.
“I said get into that tub!” My mother shook a finger in my face.
Reluctantly, I obeyed, yet wondered why all of a sudden I had to take a bath. My mother, armed with a scropbrush and a piece of Lifebuoy soap, purged me of years and years of grime till I ached and bled. As I howled, feeling pain shoot through my limbs as the thistles of the brush encountered stubborn callouses, there was a loud knock at the door.
Instantly my mother leaped away from the tub and headed, on tiptoe, toward the bedroom. Fear seized me as I, too, thought of the police. I sat frozen in the bathtub, not knowing what to do.
“Open up, Mujaji [my mother’s maiden name],” Granny’s voice came shrilling through the door. “It’s me.”
My mother heaved a sigh of relief; her tense limbs relaxed. She turned and headed to the kitchen door, unlatched it and in came Granny and Aunt Bushy.
“You scared me half to death,” my mother said to Granny. “I had forgotten all about your coming.”
“Are you ready?” Granny asked my mother.
“Yes—just about,” my mother said, beckoning me to get out of the washtub.
She handed me a piece of cloth to dry myself. As I dried myself, questions raced through my mind: What’s going on? What’s Granny doing at our house this ungodly hour of the morning? And why did she ask my mother, “Are you ready?” While I stood debating, my mother went into the bedroom and came out with a stained white shirt and a pair of faded black shorts.
“Here,” she said, handing me the togs, “put these on.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Put them on I said!”
I put the shirt on; it was grossly loose-fitting. It reached all the way down to my ankles. Then I saw the reason why: it was my father’s shirt!
“But this is Papa’s shirt,” I complained. “It don’t fit me.”
“Put it on,” my mother insisted. “I’ll make it fit.”
“The pants don’t fit me either,” I said. “Whoseare they anyway?”
“Put them on,” my mother said. “I’ll make them fit.”
Moments later I had the garments on; I looked ridiculous. My mother started working on the pants and shirt to make them fit. She folded the shirt in so many intricate ways and stashed it inside the pants, they too having been folded several times at the waist. She then choked the pants at the waist with a piece of sisal rope to hold them up. She then lavishly smeared my face, arms and legs with a mixture of pig’s fat and vaseline. “This will insulate you from the cold,” she said. My skin gleamed like the morning star and I felt as hot as the centre of the sun and I smelled God knows like what. After embalming me, she headed to the bedroom.
“Where are we going, Gran’ma?” I said, hoping that she would tell me what my mother refused to tell me. I still had no idea I was about to be taken to school.
“Didn’t your mother tell you?” Granny said with a smile.”You’re going to start school.”
“What!” I gasped, leaping from the chair where I was sitting as if it were made of hot lead. “I am not going to school!” I blurted out and raced toward the kitchen door.
My mother had just reappeared from the bedroom and guessing what I was up to, she yelled, “Someone get the door!”
Aunt Bushy immediately barred the door. I turned and headed for the window. As I leaped for the windowsill, my mother lunged at me and brought me down. I tussled, “Let go of me! I don’t want to go to school! Let me go!” but my mother held fast onto me.
“It’s no use now,” she said, grinning triumphantly as she pinned me down. Turning her head in Granny’s direction, she shouted, “Granny! Get a rope quickly!”
Granny grabbed a piece of rope nearby and came to my mother’s aid. I bit and clawed every hand that grabbed me, and howled protestations against going to school; however, I was no match for the two determined matriarchs. In a jiffy they had me bound, hands and feet.
“What’s the matter with him?” Granny, bewildered, asked my mother.”Why did he suddenly turn into an imp when I told him you’re taking him to school?”
“You shouldn’t have told him that he’s being taken to school,” my mother said. “He doesn’t want to go there. That’s why I requested you come today, to help me take him there. Those boys in the streets have been a bad influence on him.”
As the two matriarchs hauled me through the door, they told Aunt Bushy not to go to school but stay behind and mind the house and the children.
The sun was beginning to rise from beyond the veld when Granny and my mother dragged me to school. The streets were beginning to fill with their everyday traffic: old men and women, wizened, bent and ragged, were beginning their rambling; workless men and women were beginning to assemble in their usual coteries and head for shebeens in the backyards where they discussed how they escaped the morning pass raids and contemplated the conditions of life amidst intense beer drinking and vacant, uneasy laughter; young boys and girls, some as young as myself, were beginning their aimless wanderings along the narrow, dusty streets in search of food, carrying bawling infants piggyback.
As we went along some of the streets, boys and girls who shared the same fears about school as I were making their feelings known in a variety of ways. They were howling their protests and trying to escape. A few managed to break loose and make a mad dash for freedom, only to be recaptured in no time, admonished or whipped, or both, and ordered to march again.
As we made a turn into Sixteenth Avenue, the street leading to the tribal school I was being taken to, a short, chubby black woman came along from the opposite direction. She had a scuttle overflowing with coal on her doek-covered(cloth-covered) head. An infant, bawling deafeningly, was loosely swathed with a piece of sheepskin onto her back. Following closely behind the woman, and picking up pieces of coal as they fell from the scuttle and placing them in a small plastic bag, was a half-naked, potbellied and thumb-sucking boy of about four. The woman stopped abreast. For some reason we stopped too.
“I wish I had done the same to my oldest son,” the strange woman said in a regretful voice, gazing at me. I was confounded by her stopping and offering her unsolicited opinion.
“I wish I had done that to my oldest son,” she repeated, and suddenly burst into tears; amidst sobs, she continued, “before the street claimed him . . . and . . . turned him into a tsotsi [a flashily dressed street thug].”
Granny and my mother offered consolatory remarks to the strange woman.
“But it’s too late now,” the strange woman continued, tears now streaming freely down her puffy cheeks. She made no attempt to dry them.”It’s too late now,” she said for the second time, “He’s beyond any help. I can’t help him even if I wanted to. Uswile [He is dead].”
“How did he die?” my mother asked in a sympathetic voice.
“He shunned school and, instead, grew up to live by the knife. And the same knife he lived by ended his life. That’s why whenever I see a boy-child refuse to go to school, I stop and tell the story of my dear little mbitsini [heartbreak].”
Having said that, the strange woman left as mysteriously as she had arrived.
“Did you hear what that woman said!” my mother screamed into my ears. “Do you want the same to happen to you?”
I dropped my eyes. I was confused.
“Poor woman,” Granny said ruefully. “She must have truly loved her son.”
Finally, we reached the school and I was ushered into the principal’s office, a tiny cubicle facing a row of privies and a patch of yellowed grass.
“So this is the rascal we’d been talking about,” the principal, a tall, wiry man, foppishly dressed in a black pin-striped suit, said to my mother as we entered. His austere, shiny face, inscrutable and imposing, reminded me of my father. He was sitting behind a brown table upon which stood piles of dust and cobweb-covered books and papers. In one upper pocket of his jacket was arrayed a variety of pens and pencils; in the other nestled a lily-white handkerchief whose presence was more decorative than utilitarian. Alongside him stood a disproportionately portly black woman, fashionably dressed in a black skirt and a white blouse. She had but one pen, and this she held in her hand. The room was hot and stuffy and buzzing with flies.
“Yes, Principal,” my mother answered, “this is he.”
“I see he’s living up to his notoriety,” remarked the principal, noticing that I had been bound. “Did he give you too much trouble?”
“Trouble, Principal,” my mother sighed, “He was like an imp.”
“He’s just like the rest of them, Principal,” Granny sighed.”Once they get out into the streets, they become wild. They take to the many vices of the streets like an infant takes to its mother’s milk. They begin to think that there’s no other life but the one shown them by the tsotsis. They come to hate school and forget about the future.”
“Well,” the principal said. “We’ll soon remedy all that. Untie him.”
“He’ll run away,” my mother cried.
“I don’t think he’s that foolish to attempt that with all of us here.”
“He is that foolish, Principal,” my mother said as she and Granny began untying me. “He’s tried it before. Getting him here was an ordeal in itself.”
The principal rose from his seat, took two steps to the door and closed it. As the door swung closed, I spotted a row of canes of different lengths and thicknesses hanging behind it. The principal, seeing me staring at the canes, grinned and said, in a manner suggesting that he had wanted me to see them, “As long as you behave, I won’t have to use any of those on you.”
“Use those canes on me?” I gasped. I stared at my mother—she smiled; at Granny—she smiled too. That made me abandon any inkling of escaping.
“So they finally gave you the birth certificate and the papers,” the principal addressed my mother as he returned to his chair.
“Yes, Principal,” my mother said, “they finally did. But what a battle it was. It took me nearly a year to get all them papers together.” She took out of her handbag a neatly wrapped package and handed it to the principal. “They’ve been running us around for so long that there were times when I thought he would never attend school, Principal,” she said.
“That’s pretty much standard procedure, Mrs. Mathabane,” the principal said, unwrapping the package. “But you now have the papers and that’s what’s important.”
“As long as we have the papers,” he continued, minutely perusing the contents of the package “we won’t be breaking the law in admitting your son to this school, for we’ll be in full compliance with the requirements set by the authorities in Pretoria.”
“Sometimes I don’t understand the laws from Pitori,” Granny said. “They did the same to me with my Piet and Bushy. Why, Principal, should our children not be allowed to learn because of some piece of paper?”
“The piece of paper you’re referring to, Mrs. Mabaso [Granny’s maiden name],” the principal said to Granny, “is as important to our children as a pass is to its adults. We all hate passes; therefore, it’s only natural we should hate the regulations our children are subjected to. But as we have to live with passes, so our children have to live with the regulations, Mrs. Mabaso. I hope you understand, that is the law of the country. We would have admitted your grandson a long time ago, as you well know, had it not been for the papers. I hope you understand.”
“I understand, Principal,” Granny said, “but I don’t understand,” she added paradoxically.
One of the papers caught the principal’s eye and he turned to my mother and asked, “Is your husband a Shangaan, Mrs. Mathahane?”
“No, he’s not Principal,” my mother said. “Is there anything wrong? He’s Venda and I’m Shangaan.”
The principal reflected for a moment or so and then said, concernedly, “No, there’s nothing seriously wrong. Nothing that we can’t take care of. You see, Mrs. Mathabane, technically, the fact that your child’s father is a Venda makes him ineligible to attend this tribal school because it is only for children whose parents are of the Shangaan tribe. May I ask what language the children speak at home?”
“Both languages,” my mother said worriedly, “Venda and Shangaan. Is there anything wrong?”
The principal coughed, clearing his throat, then said, “I mean which language do they speak more?”
“It depends, Principal,” my mother said, swallowing hard. “When their father is around, he wants them to speak only Venda. And when he’s not, they speak Shangaan. And when they are out at play, they speak Zulu and Sisotho.”
“Well,” the principal said, heaving a sigh of relief. “In that case, I think an exception can be made. The reason for such an exception is that there’s currently no school for Vendas in Alexandra. And should the authorities come asking why we took in your son, we can tell them that. Anyway, your child is half-half.”
Everyone broke into a nervous laugh, except me. I was bewildered by the whole thing. I looked at my mother, and she seemed greatly relieved as she watched the principal register me; a broad smile broke across her face. It was as if some enormously heavy burden had finally been lifted from her shoulders and her conscience.
“Bring him back two weeks from today,” the principal said as he saw us to the door. “There’re so many children registering today that classes won’t begin until two weeks hence. Also, the school needs repair and cleaning up after the holidays, if he refuses to come, simply notify us, and we’ll send a couple of big boys to come fetch him, and he’ll be very sorry if it ever comes to that.”
As we left the principal’s office and headed home, my mind was still against going to school. I was thinking of running away from home and joining my friends in the junkyard.
I didn’t want to go to school for three reasons: I was reluctant to surrender my freedom and independence over to what I heard every school-going child call “tyrannous discipline.” I had heard many bad things about life in tribal school—from daily beatings by teachers and mistresses who worked you like a mule to long school hours—and the sight of those canes in the principal’s office gave ample credence to rumors that school was nothing but a torture chamber. And there was my allegiance to the gang.
But the thought of the strange woman’s lamentations over her dead son presented a somewhat strong case for going to school: I didn’t want to end up dead in the streets. A more compelling argument for going to school, however, was the vivid recollection of all that humiliation and pain my mother had gone through to get me the papers and the birth certificate so I could enroll in school. What should I do? I was torn between two worlds.
But later that evening something happened to force me to go to school.
I was returning home from playing soccer when a neighbour accosted me by the gate and told me that there had been a bloody fight at my home.
“Your mother and father have been at it again,” the neighbour, a woman, said.
“And your mother left.”
I was stunned.
“Was she hurt badly?”
“A little bit,” the woman said, “But she’ll be all right. We took her to your grandma’s place.”
I became hot with anger.
“Is anyone in the house?” I stammered, trying to control my rage.
“Yes, your father is. But I don’t think you should go near the house. He’s raving mad. He’s armed with a meat cleaver. He’s chased out your brother and sisters, also. And some of the neighbours who tried to intervene he’s threatened to carve them to pieces. I have never seen him this mad before.”
I brushed aside the woman’s warnings and went. Shattered windows convinced me that there had indeed been a skirmish of some sort. Several pieces of broken bricks, evidently broken after being thrown at the door, were lying about the door. I tried opening the door; it was locked from the inside. I knocked. No one answered. I knocked again. Still no one answered, until, as I turned to leave:
“Who’s out there?” my father’s voice came growling from inside.
“It’s me, Johannes,” I said.
“Go away, you bastard!” he bellowed. “I don’t want you or that whore mother of yours setting foot in this house. Go away before I come out there and kill you!”
“Let me in!” I cried. “Dammit, let me in! I want my things!”
“What things? Go away, you black swine!”
I went to the broken window and screamed obscenities at my father, daring him to come out, hoping that if he as much as ever stuck his black face out, I would pelt him with the half-a-loaf brick in my hand. He didn’t come out. He continued launching a tirade of obscenities at my mother and her mother, calling them whores and bitches and so on. He was drunk, but I wondered where he had gotten the money to buy beer because it was still the middle of the week and he was dead broke. He had lost his entire wage for the past week in dice and had had to borrow bus fare.
“I’ll kill you someday for all you’re doing to my mother,” I threatened him, overwhelmed with rage. Several nosey neighbours were beginning to congregate by open windows and doors. Not wanting to make a spectacle of myself, which was something many of our neighbours seemed to always expect from our family, I backtracked away from the door and vanished into the dark street. I ran, without stopping, all the way to the other end of the township where Granny lived. There I found my mother, her face swollen and bruised and her eyes puffed up to the point where she could scarcely see.
“What happened, Mama?” I asked, fighting to hold back the tears at the sight of her disfigured face.
“Nothing, child, nothing,” she mumbled, almost apologetically, between swollen lips. “Your papa simply lost his temper, that’s all.”
“But why did he beat you up like this, Mama?” Tears came down my face. “He’s never beaten you like this before.”
My mother appeared reluctant to answer me. She looked searchingly at Granny, who was pounding millet with pestle and mortar and mixing it with sorghum and nuts for an African delicacy. Granny said, “Tell him, child, tell him. He’s got a right to know. Anyway, he’s the cause of it all.”
“Your father and I fought because I took you to school this morning,” my mother began. “He had told me not to, and when I told him that I had, he became very upset. He was drunk. We started arguing, and one thing led to another.”
“Why doesn’t he want me to go to school?”
“He says he doesn’t have money to waste paying for you to get what he calls a useless white man’s education,” my mother replied. “But I told him that if he won’t pay for your schooling, I would try and look for a job and pay, but he didn’t want to hear that, also. ‘There are better things for you to work for,’ he said. ‘Besides, I don’t want you to work. How would I look to other men if you, a woman I owned, were to start working?’ When I asked him why shouldn’t I take you to school, seeing that you were now of age, he replied that he doesn’t believe in schools. I told him that school would keep you off the streets and out of trouble, but still he was belligerent.”
“Is that why he beat you up?”
“Yes, he said I disobeyed his orders.”
“He’s right, child,” Granny interjected, “He paid lobola [bride price] for you. And your father ate it all up before he left me.”
To which my mother replied, “But I desperately want to leave this beast of a man. But with his lobola gone I can’t do it. That worthless thing you call your husband shouldn’t have sold Jackson’s scrawny cattle and left you penniless.”
“Don’t talk like that about your father, child,” Granny said. “Despite all, he’s still your father, you know. Anyway, he asked lobola only because he had to get back what he spent raising you. And you know it would have been taboo for him to let you or any of your sisters go without asking for lobola.”
“You and Papa seem to forget that my sisters and I have minds of our own,” my mother said. “We didn’t need you to tell us whom to marry, and why, and how. If it hadn’t been for your interference, I could have married that schoolteacher.”
Granny did not reply; she knew well not to. When it came to the act of “selling” women as marriage partners, my mother was vehemently opposed to it. Not only was she opposed to this one aspect of tribal culture, but to others as well, particularly those involving relations between men and women and the upbringing of children. But my mother’s sharply differing opinion was an exception rather than the rule among tribal women. Most times, many tribal women questioned her sanity in daring to question well-established mores. But my mother did not seem to care; she would always scoff at her opponents and call them fools in letting their husbands enslave them completely.
Though I disliked school, largely because I knew nothing about what actually went on there, and the little I knew had painted a dreadful picture, the fact that a father would not want his son to go to school, especially a father who didn’t go to school, seemed hard to understand.
“Why do you want me to go to school, Mama” I asked, hoping that she might, somehow, clear up some of the confusion that was building in my mind.
“I want you to have a future, child,” my mother said. “And, contrary to what your father says, school is the only means to a future. I don’t want you growing up to be like your father.”
The latter statement hit me like a bolt of lightning. It just about shattered every defense mechanism and every pretext I had against going to school.
“Your father didn’t go to school,” she continued, dabbing her puffed eyes to reduce the swelling with a piece of cloth dipped in warm water, “that’s why he’s doing some of the bad things he’s doing. Things like drinking, gambling, and neglecting his family. He didn’t learn how to read and write; therefore, he can’t find a decent job. Lack of any education has narrowly focused his life. He sees nothing beyond himself. He still thinks in the old, tribal way, and still believes that things should be as the were back in the old days when he was growing up as a tribal boy in Louis Trichardt. Though he’s my husband, and your father, he doesn’t see any of that.”
“Why didn’t he go to school, Mama?”
“He refused to go to school because his father led him to believe that an education was a tool through which white people were going to take things away from him, like they did black people in the old days. And that a white man’s education was worthless insofar as black people were concerned because it prepared them for jobs they can’t have. But I know it isn’t totally so, child, because times have changed somewhat. Though our lot isn’t any better today, an education will get you a decent job. If you can read or write you’ll be better off than those of us who can’t. Take my situation: I can’t find a job because I don’t have papers, and I can’t get papers because white people mainly want to register people who can read and write. But I want things to be different for you, child. For you and your brother and sisters.
I want you to go to school, because I believe that an education is the key you need to open a new world and a new life for yourself, a world and life different from that of either your father’s or mine. It is the only key that can do that, and only those who seek it earnestly and perseveringly will get anywhere in the white man’s world. Education will open doors where none seem to exist. It’ll make people talk to you, listen to you and help you; people who otherwise wouldn’t bother. It will make you soar, like a bird lilt tog up into the endless blue sky, and leave poverty, hunger and suffering behind. It’ll teach you to learn to embrace what’s good and shun what’s bad and evil. Above all, it’ll make you a somebody in this world. It’ll make you grow up to be a good and proud person. That’s why I want you to go to school, child, so that education can do all that, and more, for you.”
A long, awkward silence followed, during which I reflected upon the significance of my mother’s lengthy speech. I looked at my mother; she looked at me.
Finally, I asked, “How come you know so much about school, Mama? You didn’t go to school, did you?”
“No, child,” my mother replied. “Just like your father, I never went to school.” For the second time that evening, a mere statement of fact had a thunderous impact on me. All the confusion I had about school seemed to leave my mind, like darkness giving way to light. And what had previously been a dark, yawning void in my mind was suddenly transformed into a beacon of light that began to grow larger and larger, until it had swallowed up, blotted out, all the blackness. That beacon of light seemed to reveal things and facts, which, though they must have always existed in me, I hadn’t been aware of up until now.
“But unlike your father,” my mother went on, “I’ve always wanted to go to school, but couldn’t because my father, under the sway of tribal traditions, thought it unnecessary to educate females. That’s why I so much want you to go, child, for if you do, I know that someday I too would come to go, old as I would be then. Promise me, therefore, that no matter what, you’ll go back to school. And I, in turn, promise that I’ll do everything in my power to keep you there.”
With tears streaming down my cheeks and falling upon my mother’s bosom, I promised her that I would go to school “forever.” That night, at seven and a half years of my life, the battlelines in the family were drawn. My mother on the one side, illiterate but determined to have me drink, for better or for worse, from the well of knowledge. On the other side, my father, he too illiterate, yet determined to have me drink from the well of ignorance. Scarcely aware of the magnitude of the decision I was making or, rather, the decision which was being emotionally thrusted upon me, I chose to fight on my mother’s side.
”The Silver Mine”
King Gustaf the Third was traveling through Dalecarlia. He was pressed for time, and all the way he wanted to drive like lightning. Although they drove with such speed that the horses were extended like stretched rubber bands and the coach cleared the turns on two wheels, the King poked his head out of the window and shouted to the postilion: “Why don’t you go ahead? Do you think you are driving over eggs?”
Since they had to drive over poor country roads at such a mad pace, it would have been almost a miracle had the harness and wagon held together! And they didn’t, either; for at the foot of a steep hill the pole broke—and there the King sat! The courtiers sprang from the coach and scolded the driver, but this did not lessen the damage done. There was no possibility of continuing the journey until the coach was mended.
When the courtiers looked round to try and find something with which the King could amuse himself while he waited, they noticed a church spire looming high above the trees in a grove a short distance ahead. They intimated to the King that he might step into one of the coaches in which the attendants were riding and drive up to the church. It was a Sunday, and the King might attend service to pass the time until the royal coach was ready.
The King accepted the proposal and drove toward the church. He had been traveling for hours through dark forest regions, but here it looked more cheerful, with fairly large meadows and villages, and with the Dal River gliding on, light and pretty, between thick rows of alder bushes.
But the King had ill-luck to this extent: the bellringer took up the recessional chant just as the King was stepping from the coach on the church knoll and the people were coming out from the service. But when they came walking past him, the King remained standing, with one foot in the wagon and the other on the footstep. He did not move from the spot—only stared at them. They were the finest lot of folk he had ever seen. All the men were above the average height, with intelligent and earnest faces, and the women were dignified and stately, with an air of Sabbath peace about them.
The whole of the preceding day the King had talked only of the desolate tracts he was passing through, and had said to his courtiers again and again, “Now I am certainly driving through the very poorest part of my kingdom!” But now, when he saw the people, garbed in the picturesque dress of this section of the country, he forgot to think of their poverty; instead his heart warmed, and he remarked to himself: “The King of Sweden is not so badly off as his enemies think. So long as my subjects look like this, I shall probably be able to defend both my faith and my country.”
He commanded the courtiers to make known to the people that the stranger who was standing amongst them was their King, and that they should gather around him, so he could talk with them.
And then the King made a speech to the people. He spoke from the high steps outside the vestry, and the narrow step upon which he stood is there even today.
The King gave an account of the sad plight in which the kingdom was placed. He said that the Swedes were threatened with war, both by Russians and Danes. Under ordinary circumstances it wouldn’t be such a serious matter, but now the army was filled with traitors, and he did not dare depend upon it. Therefore there was no other course for him to pursue than to go himself into the country settlements and ask his subjects if they would be loyal to their King and help him with men and money, so he could save the Fatherland.
The peasants stood quietly while the King was speaking, and when he had finished they gave no sign either of approval or disapproval.
The King himself thought that he had spoken very well. The tears had sprung to his eyes several times while he was speaking. But when the peasants stood there all the while, troubled and undecided, and could not make up their minds to answer him, the King frowned and looked displeased.
The peasants understood that it was becoming monotonous for the King to wait, and finally one of them stepped out from the crowd.
“Now, you must know, King Gustaf, that we were not expecting a royal visit in the parish today,” said the peasant, “and therefore we are not prepared to answer you at once. I advise you to go into the vestry and speak with our pastor, while we discuss among ourselves this matter which you have laid before us.”
The King apprehended that a more satisfactory response was not to be had immediately, so he felt that it would be best for him to follow the peasant’s advice.
When he came into the vestry, he found no one there but a man who looked like a peasant. He was tall and rugged, with big hands, toughened by labor, and he wore neither cassock nor collar, but leather breeches and a long white homespun coat, like all the other men.
He arose and bowed to the King when the latter entered.
“I thought I should find the parson in here,” said the King.
The man grew somewhat red in the face. He thought it annoying to mention the fact that he was the parson of this parish, when he saw that the King had mistaken him for a peasant. “Yes,” said he, “the parson is usually on hand in here.”
The King dropped into a large armchair which stood in the vestry at that time, and which stands there to-day, looking exactly like itself, with this difference: the congregation has had a gilded crown attached to the back of it.
“Have you a good parson in this parish?” asked the King, who wanted to appear interested in the welfare of the peasants.
When the King questioned him in this manner, the parson felt that he couldn’t possibly tell who he was. “It’s better to let him go on believing that I’m only a peasant,” thought he, and replied that the parson was good enough. He preached a pure and clear gospel and tried to live as he taught.
The King thought that this was a good commendation, but he had a sharp ear and marked a certain doubt in the tone. “You sound as if you were not quite satisfied with the parson,” said the King.
“He’s a bit arbitrary,” said the man, thinking that if the King should find out later who he was, he would not think that the parson had been standing here and blowing his own horn, therefore he wished to come out with a little fault-finding also. “There are some, no doubt, who say the parson wants to be the only one to counsel and rule in this parish,” he continued.
“Then, at all events, he has led and managed in the best possible way,” said the King. He didn’t like it that the peasant complained of one who was placed above him. “To me it appears as though good habits and old-time simplicity were the rule here.”
“The people are good enough,” said the curate, “but then they live in poverty and isolation. Human beings here would certainly be no better than others if this world’s temptations came closer to them.”
“But there’s no fear of anything of the sort happening,” said the King with a shrug.
He said nothing further, but began thrumming on the table with his fingers. He thought he had exchanged a sufficient number of gracious words with this peasant and wondered when the others would be ready with their answer.
“These peasants are not very eager to help their King,” thought he. “If I only had my coach, I would drive away from them and their palaver!”
The pastor sat there troubled, debating with himself as to how he should decide an important matter which he must settle. He was beginning to feel happy because he had not told the King who he was. Now he felt that he could speak with him about matters which otherwise he could not have placed before him.
After a while the parson broke the silence and asked the King if it was an actual fact that enemies were upon them and that the kingdom was in danger.
The King thought this man ought to have sense enough not to trouble him further. He simply glared at him and said nothing.
“I ask because I was standing in here and could not hear very well,” said the parson, “but if this is really the case, I want to say to you that the pastor of this congregation might perhaps be able to procure for the King as much money as he will need.”
“I thought you said just now that every one here was poor,” said the King, thinking that the man didn’t know what he was talking about.
“Yes, that is true,” replied the rector, “and the parson has no more than any of the others. But if the King would condescend to listen to me for a moment, I will explain how the pastor happens to have the power to help him.”
“You may speak,” said the King. “You seem to find it easier to get the words past your lips than your friends and neighbors out there, who never will be ready with what they have to tell me.”
“It is not so easy to reply to the King! I am afraid that, in the end, it will be the parson who must undertake this on behalf of the others.”
The King crossed his legs, folded his arm, and let his head sink down on his breast. “You may begin now,” he said in the tone of one already asleep.
“Once upon a time there were five men from this parish who were out on a moose hunt,” began the clergyman. “One of them was the parson of whom we are speaking. Two of the others were soldiers, named Olaf and Eric Svard, the fourth man was the innkeeper in this settlement and the fifth was a peasant named Israel Per Persson.”
“Don’t go to the trouble of mentioning so many names,” muttered the King, letting his head droop to one side.
“Those men were good hunters,” continued the parson, “who usually had luck with them; but that day they had wandered long and far without getting anything. Finally they gave up the hunt altogether and sat down on the ground to talk. They said there was not a spot in the whole forest fit for cultivation; all of it was only mountain and swampland. ‘Our Lord has not done right by us in giving us such a poor land to live in,’ said one. ‘In other localities people can get riches for themselves in abundance, but here, with all our toil and drudgery, we can scarcely get our daily bread.’”
The pastor paused a moment, as if uncertain that the King heard him, but the latter moved his little finger to show that he was awake.
“Just as the hunters were discussing this matter, the parson saw something that glittered at the base of the mountain, where he had kicked away a moss-tuft. ‘This is a queer mountain,’ he thought, as he kicked off another moss-tuft. He picked up a shiver of stone that came with the moss and which shone exactly like the other. ‘It can’t be possible that this stuff is lead,’ said he. Then the others sprang up and scraped away the turf with the butt end of their rifles. When they did this, they saw plainly that a broad vein of ore followed the mountain. ‘What do you think this might be?’ asked the parson. The men chipped off bits of stone and hit into them. ‘It must be lead, or zinc at least,’ said they. ‘And the whole mountain is full of it,’ added the innkeeper.”
When the parson had got thus far in his narrative, the King’s head was seen to straighten up a little and one eye opened. “Do you know if any of those persons knew anything about ore and minerals?” he asked.
“They did not,” replied the parson.
Then the King’s head sank and both eyes closed.
“The clergyman and his companions were very happy,” continued the speaker, without letting himself be disturbed by the King’s indifference; “they fancied that now they had found that which would give them and their descendants wealth. ‘I’ll never have to do any more work,’ said one. ‘Now I can afford to do nothing at all the whole week through, and on Sundays I shall drive to church in a golden chariot!’ They were otherwise sensible men but the great find had gone to their heads and they talked like children. Still they had enough presence of mind to put back the moss-tufts and conceal the vein of ore.
Then they carefully noted the place where it was, and went home. Before they parted company, they agreed that the parson should travel to Falun and ask the mining expert what kind of ore this was. He was to return as soon as possible, and until then they promised one another on oath not to reveal to a single soul where the ore was to be found.”
The King’s head was raised again a trifle, but he did not interrupt the speaker with a word. It appeared as though he was beginning to believe that the man actually had something of importance he wished to say to him, since he didn’t allow himself to be disturbed by his indifference.
“Then the parson departed with a few samples of ore in his pocket. He was just as happy in the thought of becoming rich as the others were. He was thinking of rebuilding the parsonage, which at present was no better than a peasant’s cottage, and then he would marry a dean’s daughter whom he liked. He had thought that he might have to wait for her many years! He was poor and obscure and knew that it would be a long while before he should get any post that would enable him to marry.
“The parson drove over to Falun in two days, and there he had to wait another whole day because the mining expert was away. Finally, he ran across him and showed him the bits of ore. The mining expert took them in his hand. He looked at them first, then at the parson. The parson related how he had found them in a mountain at home in his parish, and wondered if it might not be lead.
“’No, it’s not lead,’ said the mining expert.
“’Perhaps it is zinc, then?’ asked the parson.
“’Nor is it zinc,’ said the mineralogist.
“The parson thought that all the hope within him sank. He had not been so depressed in many a long day.
“’Have you many stones like these in your parish?’ asked the mineralogist.
“’We have a whole mountain full,’ said the parson.
“Then the mineralogist came up closer, slapped the parson on the shoulder, and said, ‘Let us see that you make such good use of this that it will prove a blessing both to yourselves and to the country, for this is silver.’
“’Indeed?’ said the parson, feeling his way. ‘So it is silver!’
“The mineralogist began telling him how he should go to work to get legal rights to the mine and gave him many valuable suggestions but the parson stood there dazed and didn’t listen to what he was saying. He was only thinking of how wonderful it was that at home in his poor parish stood a whole mountain of silver ore, waiting for him.”
The King raised his head so suddenly that the parson stopped short in his narrative. “It turned out, of course, that when he got home and began working the mine, he saw that the mineralogist had only been fooling him,” said the King.
“Oh, no, the mineralogist had not fooled him,” said the parson.
“You may continue,” said the King, as he settled himself more comfortably in the chair to listen.
“When the parson was at home again and was driving through the parish,” continued the clergyman, “he thought that first of all he should inform his partners of the value of their find. And as he drove alongside the innkeeper Sten Stensson’s place, he intended to drive to the house to tell him they had found silver. But when he stopped outside the gate, he noticed that a broad path of evergreen was strewn all the way up to the doorstep.
“’Who has died in this place?’ asked the parson of a boy who stood leaning against the fence.
“’The innkeeper himself,’ answered the boy. Then he let the clergyman know that the innkeeper had drunk himself full every day for a week. ‘Oh, so much brandy, so much brandy has been drunk here!’
“’How can that be?’ asked the parson. ‘The innkeeper used never to drink himself full.’
“’Oh,’ said the boy, ‘he drank because he said he had found a mine. He was very rich. He should never have to do anything now but drink, he said. Last night he drove off, full as he was, and the wagon turned over and he was killed.’
“When the parson heard this, he drove homeward. He was distressed over what he had heard. He had come back so happy, rejoicing because he could tell the great good news.
“When the parson had driven a few paces, he saw Israel Per Persson walking along. He looked about as usual, and the parson thought it was well that fortune had not gone to his head too. Him he would cheer at once with the news that he was a rich man.
“’Good day!’ said Per Persson, ‘Do you come from Falun now?’
“’I do,’ said the parson. ‘And now I must tell you that it has turned out even better than we had imagined. The mineralogist said it was silver ore that we had found.’
“That instant Per Persson looked as though the ground under him had opened! ‘What are you saying, what are you saying? It is silver?’
“’Yes,’ answered the parson. ‘We will all be rich men now, all of us, and can live like gentlemen.’
“’Oh, is it silver!’ said Per Persson once again, looking more and more mournful.
“’Why, of course it is silver,’ replied the parson. ‘You mustn’t think that I want to deceive you. You mustn’t be afraid of being happy.’
“’Happy!’ said Per Persson. ‘Should I be happy? I believed it was only glitter that we had found, so I thought it would be better to take the certain for the uncertain: I have sold my share in the mine to Olaf Svärd for a hundred dollars.’ He was desperate, and when the parson drove away from him, he stood on the highway and wept.
“When the clergyman got back to his home, he sent a servant to Olaf Svärd and his brother to tell them that it was silver they had found. He thought that he had had quite enough of driving around and spreading the good news.
“But in the evening, when the parson sat alone, his joy asserted itself again. He went out in the darkness and stood on a hillock upon which he contemplated building the new parsonage. It should be imposing, of course, as fine as a bishop’s palace. He stood out there long that night; nor did he content himself with rebuilding the parsonage! It occurred to him that, since there were such riches to be found in the parish, throngs of people would pour in and, finally, a whole city would be built around the mine.
And then he would have to erect a new church in place of the old one. Towards this object a large portion of his wealth would probably go. And he was not content with this, either, but fancied that when his church was ready, the King and many bishops would come to the dedication. Then the King would be pleased with the church, but he would remark that there was no place where a king might put up, and then he would have to erect a castle in the new city.”
Just then one of the King’s courtiers opened the door of the vestry and announced that the big royal coach was mended.
At the first moment the King was ready to withdraw, but on second thought he changed his mind. “You may tell your story to the end,” he said to the parson, “but you can hurry it a bit. We know all about how the man thought and dreamed. We want to know how he acted.”
“But while the parson was still lost in his dreams,” continued the clergyman, “word came to him that Israel Per Persson had made away with himself. He had not been able to bear the disappointment of having sold his share in the mine. He had thought, no doubt, that he could not endure to go about every day seeing another enjoying the wealth that might have been his.”
The King straightened up a little. He kept both eyes open. “Upon my word,” he said, “if I had been that parson, I should have had enough of the mine.”
“The King is a rich man,” said the parson. “He has quite enough, at all events. It is not the same thing with a poor curate who possesses nothing. The unhappy wretch thought instead, when he saw that God’s blessing was not with his enterprise: ‘I will dream no more of bringing glory and profit to myself with these riches; but I can’t let the silver lie buried in the earth! I must take it out, for the benefit of the poor and needy . . . I will work the mine, to put the whole parish on its feet.’”
“So one day the parson went out to see Olaf Svärd, to ask him and his brother as to what should be done immediately with the silver mountain. When he came in the vicinity of the barracks, he met a cart surrounded by armed peasants, and in the cart sat a man with his hands tied behind him and a rope around his ankles.
“When the parson passed by, the cart stopped, and he had time to regard the prisoner, whose head was tied up so it was not easy to see who he was. But the parson thought he recognized Olaf Svärd. He heard the prisoner beg those who guarded him to let him speak a few words with the parson. The parson drew nearer, and the prisoner turned toward him. ‘You will soon be the only one who knows where the silver mine is,’ said Olaf. ‘What are you saying, Olaf?’ asked the parson. ‘Well, you see, parson, since we have learned that it was a silver mine we had found, my brother and I could no longer be as good friends as before. We were continually quarrelling. Last night we got into a controversy over which one of us five it was who first discovered the mine. It ended in strife between us, and we came to blows. I have killed my brother and he has left me with a souvenir across the forehead to remember him by. I must hang now, and then you will be the only one who knows anything about the mine; therefore I wish to ask something of you.’
“’Speak out!’ said the parson. ‘I’ll do what I can for you.’
“’You know that I am leaving several little children behind me,’ began the soldier, but the parson interrupted him.
“’As regards this, you can rest easy. That which comes to your share in the mine they shall have, exactly as if you yourself were living.’
“’No,’ said Olaf Svärd, ‘it was another thing I wanted to ask of you. Don’t let them have any portion of that which comes from the mine.!’
“The parson staggered back a step. He stood there dumb and could not answer.
“’If you do not promise me this, I cannot die in peace,’ said the prisoner.
“’Yes,’ said the parson slowly and painfully. ‘I promise you what you ask of me.’
“Thereupon the murderer was taken away and the parson stood on the highway thinking how he should keep the promise he had given him. On the way home he thought of the wealth which he had been so happy over. But if it really were true that the people in this community could not stand riches? Already four were ruined, who hitherto had been dignified and excellent men. He seemed to see the whole community before him, and he pictured to himself how this silver mine would destroy one after another. Was it befitting that he, who had been appointed to watch over these poor human beings’ souls, should let loose upon them that which would be their destruction?”
All of a sudden the King sat bolt upright in his chair. “I declare!” said he, “you’ll make me understand that a parson in this isolated settlement must be every inch a man.”
“Nor was it enough with what had already happened,” continued the parson, “for as soon as the news about the mine spread among the parishioners, they stopped working and went about in idleness, waiting for the time when great riches should pour in on them. All the ne’er-do-wells there were in this section streamed in, and drunkenness and fighting were what the parson heard talked of continually. A lot of people did nothing but tramp round in the forest searching for the mine, and the parson marked that as soon as he left the house people followed him stealthily to find out if he was going to the silver mountain and to steal the secret from him.
“When matters were come to this pass, the parson called the peasants together to vote. To start with, he reminded them of all the misfortunes which the discovery of the mountain had brought upon them, and he asked them if they were going to let themselves be ruined or if they would save themselves. Then he told them that they must not expect him, who was their spiritual adviser, to help on their destruction. Now he had decided not to reveal to anyone where the silver mine was, and never would he himself take riches from it. And then he asked the peasants how they would have it henceforth. If they wished to continue their search for the mine and wait upon riches, then he would go so far away that not a hearsay of their misery could reach him; but if they would give up thinking about the silver mine and be as heretofore, he would remain with them. ‘Whichever way you may choose,’ said the parson, ‘remember this, that from me no one shall ever know anything about the silver mountain.’
“Well,” said the King, “how did they decide?”
“They did as their pastor wished,” said the parson. “They understood that he meant well by them when he wanted to remain poor for their sakes. And they commissioned him to go to the forest and conceal the vein of ore with evergreen and stone, so that no one would be able to find it—neither they themselves nor their posterity.”
“And ever since the parson has been living here just as poor as the rest?”
“Yes,” answered the curate, “he has lived here just as poor as the rest.”
“He has married, of course, and built himself a new parsonage?” said the King.
“No, he could not afford to marry, and he lives in the old cabin.”
“It’s a pretty story that you have told me,” said the King. After a few seconds he resumed: “Was it of the silver mountain that you were thinking when you said that the parson here would be able to procure for me as much money as I need?”
“Yes,” said the other.
“But I can’t put the thumb-screws on him,” said the King. “Or how would you that I should get such a man to show me the mountain—a man who has renounced his sweetheart and all the allurements of life?”
“Oh, that’s a different matter,” said the parson. “But if it’s the Fatherland that is in need of the fortune, he will probably give in.”
“Will you answer for that?” asked the King.
“Yes, that I will answer for,” said the clergyman.
“Doesn’t he care, then, what becomes of his parishioners?”
“That can rest in God’s hand.”
The King rose from the chair and walked over to the window. He stood for a moment and looked upon the group of people outside. The longer he looked, the clearer his large eyes shone, and his figure seemed to grow. “You may greet the pastor of this congregation, and say that for Sweden’s King there is no sight more beautiful than to see a people such as this!”
Then the King turned from the window and looked at the clergyman. He began to smile. “Is it true that the pastor of this parish is so poor that he removes his black clothes as soon as the service is over and dresses himself like a peasant?” asked the King.
“Yes, so poor is he,” said the curate, and a crimson flush leaped into his rough-hewn face.
The King went back to the window. One could see that he was in his best mood. All that was noble and great within him had been quickened into life. “You must let that mine lie in peace,” said the King. “Inasmuch as you have labored and starved a lifetime to make this people such as you would have it, you may keep it as it is.”
“But if the kingdom is in danger?” said the parson.
“The kingdom is better served with men than with money,” remarked the King. When he had said this, he bade the clergyman farewell and went out from the vestry.
Without stood the group of people, as quiet and taciturn as they were when he went in. As the King came down the steps, a peasant stepped up to him.
“Have you had a talk with our pastor?” said the peasant.
“Yes,” said the King. “I have talked with him.”
“Then of course you have our answer?” said the peasant. “We asked you to go in and talk with our parson, that he might give you an answer from us.”
“I have the answer,” said the King.
“The Diamond Necklace”
The girl was one of those pretty and charming young creatures who sometimes are born, as if by a slip of fate, into a family of clerks. She had no dowry, no expectations, no way of being known, understood, loved, married by any rich and distinguished man; so she let herself be married to a little clerk of the Ministry of Public Instruction.
She dressed plainly because she could not dress well, but she was unhappy as if she had really fallen from a higher station; since with women there is neither caste nor rank, for beauty, grace and charm take the place of family and birth. Natural ingenuity, instinct for what is elegant, a supple mind are their sole hierarchy, and often make of women of the people the equals of the very greatest ladies.
Mathilde suffered ceaselessly, feeling herself born to enjoy all delicacies and all luxuries. She was distressed at the poverty of her dwelling, at the bareness of the walls, at the shabby chairs, the ugliness of the curtains. All those things, of which another woman of her rank would never even have been conscious, tortured her and made her angry. The sight of the little Breton peasant who did her humble housework aroused in her despairing regrets and bewildering dreams. She thought of silent antechambers hung with Oriental tapestry, illumined by tall bronze candelabra, and of two great footmen in knee breeches who sleep in the big armchairs, made drowsy by the oppressive heat of the stove. She thought of long reception halls hung with ancient silk, of the dainty cabinets containing priceless curiosities and of the little coquettish perfumed reception rooms made for chatting at five o’clock with intimate friends, with men famous and sought after, whom all women envy and whose attention they all desire.
When she sat down to dinner, before the round table covered with a tablecloth in use three days, opposite her husband, who uncovered the soup tureen and declared with a delighted air, “Ah, the good soup! I don’t know anything better than that,” she thought of dainty dinners, of shining silverware, of tapestry that peopled the walls with ancient personages and with strange birds flying in the midst of a fairy forest; and she thought of delicious dishes served on marvelous plates and of the whispered gallantries to which you listen with a sphinx-like smile while you are eating the pink meat of a trout or the wings of a quail.
She had no gowns, no jewels, nothing. And she loved nothing but that. She felt made for that. She would have liked so much to please, to be envied, to be charming, to be sought after.
She had a friend, a former schoolmate at the convent, who was rich, and whom she did not like to go to see any more because she felt so sad when she came home.
But one evening her husband reached home with a triumphant air and holding a large envelope in his hand.
“There,” said he, “there is something for you.”
She tore the paper quickly and drew out a printed card which bore these words:
The Minister of Public Instruction and Madame Georges Ramponneau request the honor of M. and Madame Loisel’s company at the palace of the Ministry on Monday evening, January 18th.
Instead of being delighted, as her husband had hoped, she threw the invitation on the table crossly, muttering,
“What do you wish me to do with that?”
“Why, my dear, I thought you would be glad. You never go out, and this is such a fine opportunity. I had great trouble to get it. Every one wants to go; it is very select, and they are not giving many invitations to clerks. The whole official world will be there.”
She looked at him with an irritated glance and said impatiently,
“And what do you wish me to put on my back?”
He had not thought of that. He stammered:
“Why, the gown you go to the theatre in. It looks very well to me.”
He stopped, distracted, seeing that his wife was weeping. Two great tears ran slowly from the corners of her eyes toward the corners of her mouth.
“What’s the matter? What’s the matter?” he answered.
By a violent effort she conquered her grief and replied in a calm voice, while she wiped her wet cheeks:
“Nothing. Only I have no gown, and; therefore, I can’t go to this ball. Give your card to some colleague whose wife is better equipped than I am.”
He was in despair. He resumed:
“Come, let us see, Mathilde. How much would it cost, a suitable gown, which you could use on other occasions — something very simple?”
She reflected several seconds, making her calculations and wondering also what sum she could ask without drawing on herself an immediate refusal and a frightened exclamation from the economical clerk.
Finally she replied hesitatingly,
“I don’t know exactly, but I think I could manage it with four hundred francs.”
He grew a little pale, because he was laying aside just that amount to buy a gun and treat himself to a battle shooting next summer on the plain of Nanterre, with several friends who went to shoot larks there of a Sunday.
But he said:
“Very well, I will give you four hundred francs. And try to have a pretty gown.”
The day of the ball drew near and Madame Loisel seemed sad, uneasy, anxious. Her frock was ready, however. Her husband said to her one evening:
“What is the matter? Come, you have seemed very queer these last three days.”
And she answered:
“It annoys me not to have a single piece of jewelry, not a single ornament, nothing to put on. I shall look poverty-stricken. I would almost rather not go at all.”
“You might wear natural flowers,” said her husband. “They’re very stylish at this time of year. For ten francs you can get two or three magnificent roses.”
She was not convinced.
“No; there’s nothing more humiliating than to look poor among other women who are rich.”
“How stupid you are!” her husband cried. “Go look up your friend, Madame Forestier, and ask her to lend you some jewels. You’re intimate enough with her to do that.”
She uttered a cry of joy,
“True! I never thought of it.”
The next day she went to her friend and told her of her distress.
Madame Forestier went to a wardrobe with a mirror, took out a large jewel box, brought it back, opened it and said to Madame Loisel:
“Choose, my dear.”
She saw first some bracelets, then a pearl necklace, then a Venetian gold cross set with precious stones, of admirable workmanship. She tried on the ornaments before the mirror, hesitated and could not make up her mind to part with them, to give them back. She kept asking:
“Haven’t you any more?”
“Why, yes. Look further; I don’t know what you like.”
Suddenly she discovered, in a black satin box, a superb diamond necklace, and her heart throbbed with an immoderate desire. Her hands trembled as she took it. She fastened it round her throat, outside her high-necked waist, and was lost in ecstasy at her reflection in the mirror.
Then she asked, hesitating, filled with anxious doubt:
“Will you lend me this, only this?”
“Why, yes, certainly.”
She threw her arms round her friend’s neck, kissed her passionately, then fled with her treasure.
The night of the ball arrived. Madame Loisel was a great success. She was prettier than any other woman present, elegant, graceful, smiling and wild with joy. All the men looked at her, asked her name, sought to be introduced. All the attaches of the Cabinet wished to waltz with her. She was remarked by the minister himself.
She danced with rapture, with passion, intoxicated by pleasure, forgetting all in the triumph of her beauty, in the glory of her success, in a sort of cloud of happiness composed of all this homage, admiration, these awakened desires and of that sense of triumph which is so sweet to woman’s heart.
She left the ball about four o’clock in the morning. Her husband had been sleeping since midnight in a little deserted anteroom with three other gentlemen whose wives were enjoying the ball.
He threw over her shoulders the wraps he had brought, the modest wraps of common life, the poverty of which contrasted with the elegance of the ball dress. She felt this and wished to escape so as not to be remarked by the other women, who were enveloping themselves in costly furs.
Loisel held her back, saying: “Wait a bit. You will catch cold outside. I will call a cab.”
But she did not listen to him and rapidly descended the stairs. When they reached the street they could not find a carriage and began to look for one, shouting after the cabmen passing at a distance.
They went toward the Seine in despair, shivering with cold. At last they found on the quay one of those ancient night cabs which, as though they were ashamed to show their shabbiness during the day, are never seen round Paris until after dark.
It took them to their dwelling in the Rue des Martyrs, and sadly they mounted the stairs to their flat. All was ended for her. As to him, he reflected that he must be at the ministry at ten o’clock that morning.
She removed her wraps before the glass so as to see herself once more in all her glory. But suddenly she uttered a cry. She no longer had the necklace around her neck.
“What is the matter with you?” demanded her husband, already half undressed.
She turned distractedly toward him.
“I have — I have — I’ve lost Madame Forestier’s necklace,” she cried.
He stood up, bewildered.
“What! — how? Impossible!”
They looked among the folds of her skirt, of her cloak, in her pockets, everywhere, but did not find it.
“You’re sure you had it on when you left the ball?” he asked.
“Yes, I felt it in the vestibule of the minister’s house.”
“But if you had lost it in the street we should have heard it fall. It must be in the cab.”
“Yes, probably. Did you take his number?”
“No. And you — didn’t you notice it?”
They looked, thunderstruck, at each other. At last Loisel put on his clothes.
“I shall go back on foot,” said he, “over the whole route, to see whether I can find it.”
He went out. She sat waiting on a chair in her ball dress, without strength to go to bed, overwhelmed, without any fire, without a thought.
Her husband returned about seven o’clock. He had found nothing.
He went to police headquarters, to the newspaper offices to offer a reward; he went to the cab companies — everywhere, in fact, whither he was urged by the least spark of hope.
She waited all day, in the same condition of mad fear before this terrible calamity.
Loisel returned at night with a hollow, pale face. He had discovered nothing.
“You must write to your friend,” said he, “that you have broken the clasp of her necklace and that you are having it mended. That will give us time to turn round.”
She wrote at his dictation.
At the end of a week they had lost all hope. Loisel, who had aged five years, declared,
“We must consider how to replace that ornament.”
The next day they took the box that had contained it and went to the jeweler whose name was found within. He consulted his books.
“It was not I, madame, who sold that necklace; I must simply have furnished the case.”
Then they went from jeweler to jeweler, searching for a necklace like the other, trying to recall it, both sick with chagrin and grief.
They found; in a shop at the Palais Royal, a string of diamonds that seemed to them exactly like the one they had lost. It was worth forty thousand francs. They could have it for thirty-six.
So they begged the jeweler not to sell it for three days yet. And they made a bargain that he should buy it back for thirty-four thousand francs, in case they should find the lost necklace before the end of February.
Loisel possessed eighteen thousand francs which his father had left him. He would borrow the rest.
He did borrow, asking a thousand francs of one, five hundred of another, five louis here, three louis there. He gave notes, took up ruinous obligations, dealt with usurers and all the race of lenders. He compromised all the rest of his life, risked signing a note without even knowing whether he could meet it; and, frightened by the trouble yet to come, by the black misery that was about to fall upon him, by the prospect of all the physical privations and moral tortures that he was to suffer, he went to get the new necklace, laying upon the jeweler’s counter thirty-six thousand francs.
When Madame Loisel took back the necklace, Madame Forestier said to her with a chilly manner,
“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 detected the substitution, what would she have thought, what would she have said? Would she not have taken Madame Loisel for a thief?
Thereafter Madame Loisel knew the horrible existence of the needy. She bore her part, however, with sudden heroism. That dreadful debt must be paid. She would pay it. They dismissed their servant; they changed their lodgings; they rented a garret under the roof.
She came to know what heavy housework meant and the odious cares of the kitchen. She washed the dishes, using her dainty fingers and rosy nails on greasy pots and pans. She washed the soiled linen, the shirts and the dishcloths, which she dried upon a line; she carried the slops down to the street every morning and carried up the water, stopping for breath at every landing. And dressed like a woman of the people, she went to the fruiterer, the grocer, the butcher, a basket on her arm, bargaining, meeting with impertinence, defending her miserable money sou by sou.
Every month they had to meet some notes, renew others, obtain more time.
Her husband worked evenings, making up a tradesman’s accounts, and late at night he often copied manuscript for five sous a page.
This life lasted ten years.
At the end of ten years they had paid everything, everything, with the rates of usury and the accumulations of the compound interest.
Madame Loisel looked old now. She had become the woman of impoverished households — strong and hard and rough. With frowsy hair, skirts askew and red hands, she talked loud while washing the floor with great swishes of water. But sometimes, when her husband was at the office, she sat down near the window and she thought of that gay evening of long ago, of that ball where she had been so beautiful and so admired.
What would have happened if she had not lost that necklace? Who knows? Who knows? How strange and changeful is life! How small a thing is needed to make or ruin us!
But one Sunday, having gone to take a walk in the Champs Elysées to refresh herself after the labors of the week, she suddenly perceived a woman who was leading a child. It was Madame Forestier, still young, still beautiful, still charming.
Madame Loisel felt moved. Should she speak to her? Yes, certainly. And now that she had paid, she would tell her all about it. Why not?
She went up.
The other, astonished to be familiarly addressed by this plain goodwife, did not recognize her at all and stammered:
“But — madame I — I do not know — You must have mistaken.”
“No. I am Mathilde Loisel.”
Her friend uttered a cry.
“Oh, my poor Mathilde! How you are changed!”
“Yes, I have had a pretty 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. And it has taken us ten years to pay for it. You can understand that it was not easy for us, for us who had nothing. At last it is ended, and I am very glad.”
Madame Forestier had stopped.
“You say that you bought a necklace of diamonds to replace mine!”
“Yes. You never noticed it, then! They were very similar.”
And she smiled with a joy that was at once proud and ingenuous.
Madame Forestier, deeply moved, took her hands. “Oh, my poor Mathilde! Why, my necklace was paste! It was worth at most only five hundred francs!”
Letters of John and Abigail Adams
Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, March 31, 1776
I long to hear that you have declared an independency—and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.
That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend. Why then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the Lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity. Men of Sense in all Ages abhor those Customs which treat us only as the vassals of your Sex. Regard us then as Beings placed by providence under your protection and in immitation of the Supreme Being make use of that Power only for Our happiness.
Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, April 14, 1776
As to Declarations of Independency, be patient. Read our Privateering Laws, and our Commercial Laws. What signifies a Word.
As to your extraordinary Code of Laws, I cannot but laugh. We have been told that our Struggle has loosened the bands of Government every where. That Children and Apprentices were disobedient—that schools and Colledges were grown turbulent—that Indians slighted their Guardians and Negroes grew insolent to their Masters. But your Letter was the first Intimation that another Tribe more numerous and powerful than all the rest were grown discontented—This is rather too coarse a Compliment but you are so saucy, I wont blot it out.
Depend upon it, We know better than to repeal our Masculine systems. Altho they are in full Force, you know they are little more than Theory. We dare not exert our Power in its full Latitude. We are obliged to go fair, and softly, and in Practice you know We are the subjects. We have only the Name of Masters, and rather than give up this, which would compleatly subject Us to the Despotism of the Peticoat, I hope General Washington, and all our brave Heroes would fight. I am sure every good Politician would plot, as long as he would against Despotism, Empire, Monarchy, Aristocracy, Oligarchy, or Ochlocracy.—A fine Story indeed. I begin to think the Ministry as deep as they are wicked. After stirring up Tories, Landjobbers, Trimmers, Bigots, Canadians, Indians, Negroes, Hanoverians, Hessians, Russians, Irish Roman Catholicks, Scotch Renegadoes, at last they have stimulated the [ ] to demand new Priviledges and threaten to rebell.
Letter from John Adams to Mercy Otis Warren, April 16, 1776
The Ladies I think are the greatest Politicians that I have the Honour to be acquainted with, not only because they act upon the Sublimest of all the Principles of Policy, viz., that Honesty is the best Policy, but because they consider Questions more coolly than those who are heated with Party Zeal and inflamed with the bitter Contentions of active public Life.
The Form of Government, which you admire, when its Principles are pure is admirable, indeed, it is productive of every Thing, which is great and excellent among Men. But its Principles are as easily destroyed, as human Nature is corrupted. Such a Government is only to be supported by pure Religion or Austere Morals. Public Virtue cannot exist in a Nation without private, and public Virtue is the only Foundation of Republics. There must be a positive Passion for the public good, the public Interest, Honour, Power and Glory, established in the Minds of the People, or there can be no Republican Government, nor any real Liberty: and this public Passion must be Superiour to all private Passions Men must be ready, must pride themselves, and be happy to sacrifice their private Pleasures, Passions and Interests, nay, their private Friendships and dearest Connections, when stand in Competition with the Rights of Society.
Is there in the World a Nation, which deserves this Character? There have been several, but they are no more. Our dear Americans perhaps have as much of it as any Nation now existing, and New England perhaps has more than the rest of America. But I have seen all along my Life Such Selfishness and Littleness even in New England, that I sometimes tremble to think that, altho We are engaged in the best Cause that ever employed the Human Heart yet the Prospect of success is doubtful not for Want of Power or of Wisdom but of Virtue. The Spirit of Commerce, Madam, which even insinuates itself into Families, and influences holy Matrimony, and thereby corrupts the morals of families as well as destroys their Happiness, it is much to be feared is incompatible with that purity of Heart and Greatness of soul which is necessary for an happy Republic.
This Same Spirit of Commerce is as rampant in New England as in any Part of the World. Trade is as well understood and as passionately loved there as anywhere.
Even the Farmers and Tradesmen are addicted to Commerce; and It is too true that property is generally the standard of Respect there as much as anywhere. While this is the Case there is great Danger that a Republican Government would be very factious and turbulent there. Divisions in Elections are much to be dreaded. Every man must seriously set himself to root out his Passions, Prejudices and Attachments, and to get the better of his private interest. The only reputable Principle and Doctrine must be that all Things must give Way to the public.
This is very grave and solemn Discourse to a Lady True, and I thank God, that his Providence has made me Acquainted with two Ladies at least who can bear it. I think Madam, that the Union of the Colonies, will continue and be more firmly cemented. But We must move slowly. Patience, Patience, Patience! I am obliged to invoke this every Morning of my Life, every Noon and every Evening.
from Letters from John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776
 . . . Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony “that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States may rightfully do.” You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the Causes, which have impell’d Us to this mighty Revolution, and the Reasons which will justify it, in the Sight of God and Man. A Plan of Confederation will be taken up in a few days.
When I look back to the Year 1761, and recollect the Argument concerning Writs of Assistance, in the Superiour Court, which I have hitherto considered as the Commencement of the Controversy, between Great Britain and America, and run through the whole Period from that Time to this, and recollect the series of political Events, the Chain of Causes and Effects, I am surprized at the Suddenness, as well as Greatness of this Revolution. Britain has been fill’d with Folly, and America with Wisdom, at least this is my Judgment—Time must determine. It is the Will of Heaven, that the two Countries should be sundered forever. It may be the Will of Heaven that America shall suffer Calamities still more wasting and Distresses yet more dreadfull. If this is to be the Case, it will have this good Effect, at least: it will inspire Us with many Virtues, which We have not, and correct many Errors, Follies, and Vices, which threaten to disturb, dishonour, and destroy Us.—The Furnace of Affliction produces Refinement, in States as well as Individuals.
And the new Governments we are assuming, in every Part, will require a Purification from our Vices, and an Augmentation of our Virtues or they will be no Blessings. The People will have unbounded Power. And the People are extreamly addicted to Corruption and Venality, as well as the Great—I am not without Apprehensions from this Quarter. But I must submit all my Hopes and Fears, to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the Faith may be, I firmly believe.
 Had a Declaration of Independency been made seven Months ago, it would have been attended with many great and glorious Effects. . . . We might before this Hour, have formed Alliances with foreign States—We should have mastered Quebec and been in Possession of Canada.
But on the other Hand, the Delay of this Declaration to this Time, has many great Advantages attending it.—The Hopes of Reconciliation, which were fondly entertained by Multitudes of honest and well meaning tho weak and mistaken People, have been gradually and at last totally extinguished—Time has been given for the whole People, maturely to consider the great Question of Independence and to ripen their Judgments, dissipate their Fears, and allure their Hopes, by discussing it in News Papers and Pamphletts, by debating it, in Assemblies, Conventions, Committees of Safety and Inspection, in Town and County Meetings, as well as in private Conversations, so that the whole People in every Colony of the 13, have now adopted it, as their own Act.—This will cement the Union, and avoid those Heats and perhaps Convulsions which might have been occasioned, by such a Declaration Six Months ago.
But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.—I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not.—I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States—Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.