By Guy de Maupassant (1850 – 1893)
Re- told by John Millen
Emily Lai had been told so often as a child that she was pretty that by the time she was teenager she knew how to use her looks to get anything she wanted.
After refusing many proposals of marriage, Emily selected Simon Lai as her husband. Simon had prospects of becoming a very rich man when his childless millionaire uncle died.
When the uncle did die and his lawyer revealed the old man had lost his entire fortune in failed investments, Emily screamed until she physically sick. She had nothing. She wept for days with grief, regret, despair and misery.
One evening, Simon came home holding a large envelope in his right hand.
"Here's something that will please you," he said.
It was an invitation to a ball to be given by Simon’s boss to celebrate his daughter's marriage. But instead of being delighted, Emily flung the invitation across the table.
"Why, darling, we're lucky to get this invitation."
"And what am I going to wear?" Emily shouted.
"Well, we can use the money we've been saving to have the flat decorated to buy you a new dress."
"And what do I wear for jewellery? I don't have a single necklace."
"Ask your friend Maggie to lend you something. Since she married that banker she's been dripping in jewels."
The next day, Emily went to see her friend and explained her problem.
Maggie got out her jewellery box.
"What about this?" she asked holding up a superb diamond necklace. “You can certainly borrow it if you want."
Emily thanked her friend and went home with her treasure. The evening of the wedding reception arrived and Emily was the most elegant woman present. She was beside herself with happiness.
The Lais left the reception at four in the morning and caught a taxi home. As they were walking up the stairs to their apartment, Emily let out a shriek of horror.
"My God! I no longer have Maggie's necklace!"
Simon stared at her in astonishment. They searched the staircase and the pavement outside. They could not find it.
“Did you get the cab’s number?” Simon asked in panic.
“Of course I did not! What are we going to do? Oh, my God!”
"You must tell your friend that you’ve broken the clasp and are getting it mended. That will give us time to decide what to do.”
By the end of the week, the Lais had decided on the only course open to them. They had to replace the diamonds. They arranged a massive loan from their bank and searched through all the top jewellery shops in town to find an identical necklace.
Emily Lai had to take on every job she could find to earn money to pay off their fearful debt. She washed dishes, worked in laundries, did back-breaking cleaning jobs. Her husband spent his evenings doing any work he could find.
And this awful life lasted ten years.
Emily Lai looked old now. Her hair was grey and unkempt and her face was lined with deep wrinkles. One day she was walking along Nathan Road when she caught sight of her friend Maggie, still young, still beautiful. She had not seen her since returning the necklace.
“Good morning, Maggie.”
“I’m sorry….. I don’t know you…..”
“It’s Emily Lai.”
“Oh, my poor Emily …. How you have changed.”
“I have had a very hard life over the last ten years … all on your account. You remember the diamond necklace you lent me for that wedding? Well, I lost it and had to buy another. And for the last ten years we’ve been working hard to pay off the debt. We have had a terrible life.”
Maggie went pale and stared open-mouthed at her former friend.
“Oh, my God, Emily! That necklace! It was imitation diamonds. It was made of glass. It was worth nothing…..”
Language work on ‘The Necklace’ will appear on the Young Post on Tuesday, June 29.