Once home, as she is taking off her wraps, she discovers that the necklace is no longer around her neck. They search her clothes: nothing. Her husband goes out and retraces their path home. He returns several hours later having found nothing. The next day, he goes to the police and files a report. He then advertises in the lost-and-found in the papers, but still, nothing. To give them time to continue the search, they tell Madame Forestier that the clasp on the necklace is being repaired. After five days, however, when nothing shows up, they decide that the necklace is truly gone and they must have it replaced. They take the necklace case from jeweler to jeweler to find a strand of diamonds that matches the one lost. They finally see one in a shop at the Palais-Royal. The price, with a four-thousand-franc discount, is thirty-six thousand francs. The Loisels pay for it with an eighteen-thousand-franc inheritance that the husband has received from his father, and by borrowing the rest in small amounts, thereby mortgaging their lives for the next decade. The replacement necklace is returned to Madame Forestier, who remarks rather coldly that it should have been returned sooner because she might have needed it. She does not bother to open the case.
The Loisels are left with their debts. They get rid of their maid. They move to a poorer apartment. The wife now has to do all the menial work herself: wash the sheets, carry garbage down to the street, carry up the water, do her own shopping, bargaining with everybody to save a few sous. The husband moonlights, working in the evenings for a bookkeeper and often at nights, doing copying at twenty-five centimes a page. This goes on year after year until the debt is paid. The time of penury has transformed Mathilde into a poor, prematurely old hag, with a loud voice, red hands, and neglected hair, but in her misery she often remembers the minister’s ball, where she had her great success. What, she asks herself, would have been her fortune had she not lost the necklace? One Sunday, as she strolls along the Champs-Elysees, she sees Madame Forestier taking a child for a walk. Jeanne Forestier is still young-looking and attractive. Now that the debt for the necklace has been satisfied, Mathilde Loisel decides to tell her old friend everything that happened. She stops to speak to her but is not recognized until she introduces herself. She explains that life has been pretty grim. She tells her about the lost necklace, how she had it replaced and for the past ten years has been slaving to pay for it. She is relieved that the long ordeal is over, and naïvely proud that her friend never knew that a different necklace had been returned to her.Madame Forestier is deeply touched. Taking both of her friend’s hands she says, “Oh! My poor Mathilde! But mine was a fake. It was worth no more than five hundred francs!”
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