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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Necklace of Truth
By Jean Macé (1815–1894)
 
From ‘Macé’s Fairy Book’: Translation of Mary Louise Booth

THERE was once a little girl by the name of Coralie, who took pleasure in telling falsehoods. Some children think very little of not speaking the truth; and a small falsehood, or a great one in case of necessity, that saves them from a duty or a punishment, procures them a pleasure, or gratifies their self-love, seems to them the most allowable thing in the world. Now Coralie was one of this sort. The truth was a thing of which she had no idea; and any excuse was good to her, provided that it was believed. Her parents were for a long time deceived by her stories; but they saw at last that she was telling them what was not true, and from that moment they had not the least confidence in anything that she said.  1
  It is a terrible thing for parents not to be able to believe their children’s words. It would be better almost to have no children; for the habit of lying, early acquired, may lead them in after years to the most shameful crimes: and what parent can help trembling at the thought that he may be bringing up his children to dishonor?  2
  After vainly trying every means to reform her, Coralie’s parents resolved to take her to the enchanter Merlin, who was celebrated at that time over all the globe, and who was the greatest friend of truth that ever lived. For this reason, little children that were in the habit of telling falsehoods were brought to him from all directions, in order that he might cure them.  3
  The enchanter Merlin lived in a glass palace, the walls of which were transparent; and never in his whole life had the idea crossed his mind of disguising one of his actions, of causing others to believe what was not true, or even of suffering them to believe it by being silent when he might have spoken. He knew liars by their odor a league off; and when Coralie approached the palace, he was obliged to burn vinegar to prevent himself from being ill.  4
  Coralie’s mother, with a beating heart, undertook to explain the vile disease which had attacked her daughter; and blushingly commenced a confused speech, rendered misty by shame, when Merlin stopped her short.  5
  “I know what is the matter, my good lady,” said he. “I felt your daughter’s approach long ago. She is one of the greatest liars in the world, and she has made me very uncomfortable.”  6
  The parents perceived that fame had not deceived them in praising the skill of the enchanter; and Coralie, covered with confusion, knew not where to hide her head. She took refuge under the apron of her mother, who sheltered her as well as she could, terrified at the turn affairs were taking, while her father stood before her to protect her at all risks. They were very anxious that their child should be cured, but they wished her cured gently and without hurting her.  7
  “Don’t be afraid,” said Merlin, seeing their terror: “I do not employ violence in curing these diseases. I am only going to make Coralie a beautiful present, which I think will not displease her.”  8
  He opened a drawer, and took from it a magnificent amethyst necklace, beautifully set, with a diamond clasp of dazzling lustre. He put it on Coralie’s neck, and dismissing the parents with a friendly gesture, “Go, good people,” said he, “and have no more anxiety. Your daughter carries with her a sure guardian of the truth.”  9
  Coralie, flushed with pleasure, was hastily retreating, delighted at having escaped so easily, when Merlin called her back.  10
  “In a year,” said he, looking at her sternly, “I shall come for my necklace. Till that time I forbid you to take it off for a single instant: if you dare to do so, woe be unto you!”  11
  “Oh, I ask nothing better than always to wear it,—it is so beautiful.”  12
  In order that you may know, I will tell you that this necklace was none other than the famous Necklace of Truth, so much talked of in ancient books, which unveiled every species of falsehood.  13
  The day after Coralie returned home she was sent to school. As she had long been absent, all the little girls crowded round her, as always happens in such cases. There was a general cry of admiration at the sight of the necklace.  14
  “Where did it come from?” and “Where did you get it?” was asked on all sides.  15
  In those days, for any one to say that he had been to the enchanter Merlin’s was to tell the whole story. Coralie took good care not to betray herself in this way.  16
  “I was sick for a long time,” said she, boldly; “and on my recovery, my parents gave me this beautiful necklace.”  17
  A loud cry rose from all at once. The diamonds of the clasp, which had shot forth so brilliant a light, had suddenly become dim, and were turned to coarse glass.  18
  “Well, yes, I have been sick! What are you making such a fuss about?”  19
  At this second falsehood, the amethysts in turn changed to ugly yellow stones. A new cry arose. Coralie, seeing all eyes fixed on her necklace, looked that way herself, and was struck with terror.  20
  “I have been to the enchanter Merlin’s,” said she humbly, understanding from what direction the blow came, and not daring to persist in her falsehood.  21
  Scarcely had she confessed the truth when the necklace recovered all its beauty; but the loud bursts of laughter that sounded around her mortified her to such a degree that she felt the need of saying something to retrieve her reputation.  22
  “You do very wrong to laugh,” said she, “for he treated us with the greatest possible respect. He sent his carriage to meet us at the next town, and you have no idea what a splendid carriage it was,—six white horses, pink satin cushions with gold tassels, to say nothing of the negro coachman with his hair powdered, and the three tall footmen behind! When we reached his palace, which is all of jasper and porphyry, he came to meet us at the vestibule, and led us to the dining-room, where stood a table covered with things that I will not name to you, because you never even heard speak of them. There was, in the first place—”  23
  The laughter, which had been suppressed with great difficulty ever since she commenced this fine story, became at that moment so boisterous that she stopped in amazement; and casting her eyes once more on the unlucky necklace, she shuddered anew. At each detail that she had invented, the necklace had become longer and longer, until it already dragged on the ground.  24
  “You are stretching the truth,” cried the little girls.  25
  “Well, I confess it: we went on foot, and only stayed five minutes.”  26
  The necklace instantly shrunk to its proper size.  27
  “And the necklace—the necklace—where did it come from?”  28
  “He gave it to me without saying a word; probabl—”  29
  She had not time to finish. The fatal necklace grew shorter and shorter till it choked her terribly, and she gasped for want of breath.  30
  “You are keeping back part of the truth,” cried her schoolfellows.  31
  She hastened to alter the broken words while she could still speak.  32
  “He said—that I was—one of the greatest—liars—in the world.”  33
  Instantly freed from the pressure that was strangling her, she continued to cry with pain and mortification.  34
  “That was why he gave me the necklace. He said that it was a guardian of the truth, and I have been a great fool to be proud of it. Now I am in a fine position!”  35
  Her little companions had compassion on her grief; for they were good girls, and they reflected how they should feel in her place. You can imagine, indeed, that it was somewhat embarrassing for a girl to know that she could never more pervert the truth.  36
  “You are very good,” said one of them. “If I were in your place, I should soon send back the necklace: handsome as it is, it is a great deal too troublesome. What hinders you from taking it off?”  37
  Poor Coralie was silent; but the stones began to dance up and down, and to make a terrible clatter.  38
  “There is something that you have not told us,” said the little girls, their merriment restored by this extraordinary dance.  39
  “I like to wear it.”  40
  The diamonds and amethysts danced and clattered worse than ever.  41
  “There is a reason which you are hiding from us.”  42
  “Well, since I can conceal nothing from you, he forbade me to take it off, under penalty of some great calamity.”  43
  You can imagine that with a companion of this kind, which turned dull whenever the wearer did not tell the truth, which grew longer whenever she added to it, which shrunk whenever she subtracted from it, and which danced and clattered whenever she was silent,—a companion, moreover, of which she could not rid herself,—it was impossible even for the most hardened liar not to keep closely to the truth. When Coralie once was fully convinced that falsehood was useless, and that it would be instantly discovered, it was not difficult for her to abandon it. The consequence was, that when she became accustomed always to tell the truth, she found herself so happy in it—she felt her conscience so light and her mind so calm—that she began to abhor falsehood for its own sake, and the necklace had nothing more to do. Long before the year had passed, therefore, Merlin came for his necklace, which he needed for another child that was addicted to lying, and which, thanks to his art, he knew was of no more use to Coralie.  44
  No one can tell me what has become of this wonderful Necklace of Truth; but it is thought that Merlin’s heirs hid it after his death, for fear of the ravages that it might cause on earth. You can imagine what a calamity it would be to many people—I do not speak only of children—if they were forced to wear it. Some travelers who have returned from Central Africa declare that they have seen it on the neck of a negro king, who knew not how to lie; but they have never been able to prove their words. Search is still being made for it, however; and if I were a little child in the habit of telling falsehoods, I should not feel quite sure that it might not some day be found again.  45
 
 
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