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Monsieur Lantin meets a young woman who he falls in love with and marries. She charms him and runs his household so well that they live as if they are "wealthy." The two things he doesn't like are the fact that she likes the theater, and wears what he believes to be fake jewelry. When she dies, he grieves and he also can not figure out how she kept them living so well on his salary. He finds himself destitute and needs money. He decides to try and sell her "false" jewelry only to find that it is worth a great deal of money. It is worth so much that he can quit his job and still live well. He doesn't want to think about where she got the money for the jewelry. Once he is rich and quits his job he eventually remarries but this woman makes his life miserable.
In the story, Monsieur Lantin meets a young lady and falls in love with her. The lady was seen as a very virtuous woman but poor. She was beautiful, modest and honest and people agreed that the man who won her love would be the luckiest man. Monsieur Lantin was not a wealthy man but earned an adequate salary. He still proposed and was accepted by the lady. His life changed afterwards; he was unable to understand how they managed to live like wealthy people while still on his modest pay. His wife was able to manage their home and ensured everything was in order and that they could even afford some luxury. Unfortunately the lady passed on leaving behind some jewelry that he considered fake and which he disliked. After her passing the husband was unable to manage the finances and grew poor, finally deciding to sell the jewelry. At the jewelers he found out that the pieces were costly and in turn provided him with a life changing sum of money. He nevertheless questioned how the wife acquired the pieces of jewelry. He later remarried, but this second wife brought much sorrow to his life.
Monsieur Lantin meets and falls in love at first sight with a girl of modest means who was the ideal gem of a girl, giving off a "reflection of a pure and lovely soul." Their marriage was happy and prosperous; she had a way of managing the household that made it seem as though they had wealth instead of a "snug little salary." Her two faults were frequent evenings out to the theater (which tired and bored Lantin after his long days at work) and collecting imitation, or paste, jewelry, which she adored for their sparkle, shine, and radiant beauty. In despair at such regular trips to the theater, Lantin persuaded his wife to find a woman friend to accompany her to the theater.
On their evenings home together, she would bring out to the "tea table the morocco leather box" in which she kept her paste jewels. She would pour over their beauty like a miser pours over a secreted cache of gold. After her last trip to the theater, she came home chilled to the bone. Eight days later, she was dead. Deranged by grief, Lantin's hair turned white after one month; he broke into sobs when in public; he daily secluded himself in his wife's now-empty room, untouched, still the way she had left it. Suddenly, his snug salary was not enough to support him, living alone, and he wondered how her housekeeping could have been so skillful that they could live in comfort together but he alone fell into debt. Finally, he had not one cent in his pocket. He determined to sell some of her jewelry, even though they were only imitation pieces.
Expecting to get no more than "six or seven francs" from her false gems, he was astounded to have it valued, at the first jeweler at which he stopped, at 15,000 francs. Affronted by Lantin's stammered response of "You say—are you sure?" the jeweler suggested he have a second valuation made. The second jeweler stated it was originally sold there for 20,000 francs and was worth 18,000 if Lantin wanted to sell it back, but Lantin must comply with the law and state from where he got it. Leaving it for 24 hours, as requested, he learned the next day that his ownership of the piece was confirmed and that the jeweler could buy it and any others back at a generous price. Walking out of the jewelry shop with 143,000 francs, Lantin felt like a new man whose first act was to feed himself well, thinking about the "two hundred thousand francs" he was worth.
He next submitted his resignation, claiming an inheritance of "three hundred thousand francs." To celebrate, he bought a meal at the Cafe Anglais [English Cafe], where he stated he had received a gem of an inheritance of "four hundred thousand francs." Six months later, he married a "very virtuous woman" who made him very unhappy with her "violent temper." There are more false gems within and around Lantin than are found in the "paste" gemstones housed in his wife's "morocco leather box."
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