She looked at him with an irritated eye, and she said, impatiently:
And what do you want me to put on my back?
He had not thought of that; he stammered:
Why the dress you go to the theater in. It looks very well, to me.
He stopped, distracted, seeing that his wife was crying. Two great tears descended slowly from the corners of her eyes towards the corners of her mouth. He stuttered:
Whats the matter? Whats the matter?
But, by a violent effort, she had conquered her grief, and she replied, with a calm voice, while she wiped her wet cheeks:
Nothing. Only I have no dress, and therefore I cant go to this ball. Give your card to some colleague whose wife is better equipped than I.
He was in despair. He resumed:
Come, let us see, Mathilde. How much would it cost, a suitable dress, 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 dont know exactly, but I think I could manage it with four hundred francs.
He had grown a little pale, because he was laying aside just that amount to buy a gun and treat himself to a little shooting next summer on the plain of Nanterre, with several friends who went to shoot larks down there, of a Sunday.
But he said:
All right. I will give you four hundred francs. And try to have a pretty dress.
The day of the ball drew near, and Mme. Loisel seemed sad, uneasy, anxious. Her dress was ready, however. Her husband said to her one evening:
What is the matter? Come, youve been so queer these last three days.
And she answered:
It annoys me not to have a single jewel, not a single stone, nothing to put on. I shall look like distress. I should almost rather not go at all.
You might wear natural flowers. Its very stylish at this time of the year. For ten francs you can get two or three magnificent roses.
She was not convinced.
No; theres nothing more humiliating than to look poor among other women who are rich.
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