Here is another graded reader for intermediate students. It is a nice story by Kate Chopin called The
Locket. If you do not know what “the locket” is have a look at the picture. THE LOCKET
One night in autumn a few men were sitting around a fire on a hill. They were Confederate soldiers. Their gray uniforms were old and dirty. One of the men was cooking something in a cup. Two were lying on the ground, while the fourth was trying to read a letter. His shirt and coat were open.
“What have you got around your neck, Ned?” asked one of the lying men.
Ned—or Edmond—did not reply. He went on reading his letter.
“Is it your lover’s picture?”
“I think it is not a picture,” said the man at the fire. He took his cup. “That’s a magic; some kind of voodoo. It protects him. Am I right Ned?” Edmond looked up from his letter. He was not listening.
“Sorry?” he asked.
“Is it a magic what you have around your neck?”
“It must be, Nick,” answered Edmond with a smile. “I don’t know how I could have gone through these 18 months without it.”
The letter made Edmond want to go home. He lay on his back and looked up at the stars. But he was not thinking of stars. He was thinking of a spring day when a girl was saying goodbye to him. He could see her as she took the locket from her neck and put it on his. It was an old golden locket with small pictures of her father and mother with their names and the date of their wedding. It was the most precious thing she had. Edmond could feel again her soft hands on his neck. Her sweet face appeared before him as if it was real. He turned over and fell asleep.
The night was quiet but tense. He dreamed that Octavie brought him a letter. He had no chair for her and felt embarrassed that his clothes were so old and dirty.
He dreamt of a snake going around his neck, and when he tried to catch it it escaped.
“Get up! You! Ned!” Nick was shouting in his face. There was a lot of movement and confusion everywhere. In the east the sun was slowly rising.
“What’s going on?” asked a big black bird at the top of the tallest tree himself. He was sitting there and the whole day watched the movement below him.
There was a lot of noise and smoke.
“They are children playing a game,” he thought and watched and watched.
When the night came all the men were gone and there was silence. The old bird stopped watching and flew to the plain.
A priest with a black helper were going across the plain. His task was to pray for the last time with those who had yet a bit of life in them.
There were no injured men here; they had been taken away.
There was a soldier—a boy—lying with his face to the sky. Around his neck there was a gold chain and locket. The priest took the chain from the dead soldier’s neck. He had seen a lot of terrors of war but when he saw this he started to cry.
The priest and his helper said a prayer for the dead.
It was a beautiful spring day. Along the road went an old-fashioned cabriolet. It was pulled by two fat, black horses and it went slowly. In the vehicle there were Octavie and her old friend, Judge Pillier, who had come to take her for a morning drive.
Octavie wore a black dress in which she looked like a nun. She had the old locket around her neck. Now it was even more precious than before because it was connected with a very important moment in her life.
A hundred times she had read the letter with which the locket had come back to her.
She had read the letter this morning too. The priest wrote about an autumn evening and a plain full of dead men. Oh! She still could not believe that one of those dead was her own! His face turned up to to the gray sky. She got angry for a few seconds. Why was the spring here with its flowers and its beauty if he was dead! Why was she here!
After each of these moments Octavie felt nothing.
“I will grow old and quiet and sad like poor Aunt Tavie,” she said to herself and put the letter back on the table.
As she sat in the old cabriolet beside the father of her dead lover, again there came to Octavie the terrible sense of loss. She was young and she wanted to be happy and have fun. She put her veil a little closer about her face. It was an old black veil of her Aunt Tavie’s.
“Will you do something for me, Octavie?” asked the judge politely. “Please, could you remove that veil which you wear. It seems out of harmony with the beauty and promise of the day.”
The young girl obeyed him, took it off and put it on the seat next to her.
“Ah! that is better; far better!” he said. “Never put it on again, dear.” Octavie felt a little hurt and hid her face behind a handkerchief.
They had left the big road and turned into an old meadow. Some cows could be seen in the distance. At the end of the meadow there was a hedge along the lane that led to Judge Pillier’s house. Octavie felt the nice smell and welcome of the place.
As they came closer to the house the old gentleman placed an arm around the girl’s shoulders and turned her face up to him. He said: “Don’t you think that on a day like this, miracles might happen? When the whole earth is full of life, does it not seem to you, Octavie, that God might feel sorry for us and give us back our dead?” In his voice was something unusual. She looked at him with eyes that were full of hope.
They had been driving through the lane with the hedge on one side and the open meadow on the other. The horses went a bit faster. When they turned into the road that led to the house, the birds were singing happily.
Octavie felt as if she came into a dream. There was the old gray house and she saw familiar faces and heard voices as if they came from far across the fields. And Edmond was holding her. Her dead Edmond; her living Edmond, and she felt the beating of his heart and his kisses.
Many hours later Octavie took the locket and looked at Edmond with a question.
“It was the night before a battle,” he said. “In the hurry of the fight, and the move next day, I never missed it until the battle was over. I thought of course I had lost it in the fight, but it was stolen.”
“Stolen,” she said and thought of the dead soldier with his face to the sky.
Edmond said nothing; but he thought of the soldier too. It was the one who had said nothing that evening.