The Diamond Handkerchief

Once there was a weaver who was known far and wide for his excellent weaving. One day, at the end of a long day’s weaving, he put a new warp on his loom of the very finest linen thread, and wove a handkerchief in a beautiful diamond pattern. It was so soft and light that you could have blown it away with one puff, and it was so perfectly and delicately made that he had a dozen buyers eager to buy it straight away.

But the weaver put a very high price on it, because, he said, it was no ordinary handkerchief. If it was folded the right way and held up to the light, a person could see their future.

At last a very wealthy lady came and demanded that he sell it to her. She paid him a great deal of money for it. As soon as she got home, she folded it just so and held it up to the light. Immediately she gave a sharp cry and threw the handkerchief down as if it had burned her fingers. “Take this horrible thing and throw it in the dustbin!” she said, for she had seen her own face, covered in lines and wrinkles, staring into a mirror in an empty house, with nothing in it but bags of money.

Her servant girl, Marie, picked up the handkerchief and tucked it into her apron. A fine linen handkerchief was hard to come by, especially one with such a pretty pattern, she thought. She kept it for many years, but no matter which way she folded it, she never saw even a hint of her future. When she was very old, she gave it to her daughter, Marisa, and when she was very old, she gave it to her daughter, whose name was Marisette.

Now Marisette was a strong, hard-working girl, small for her age and not particularly pretty, but as brave as a lion. One day, when her mother was old and sick, and she took out the handkerchief to wipe her mother’s face and hands, she happened to fold it a certain way, and pass it in front of the candle in her mother’s room, and she saw the most surprising thing.

She saw a handsome young man, with dark wavy hair and a way of limping when he walked. He was building a house, but then he turned with such a look of sweetness and joy on his face that Marisette’s heart melted and she loved him with all her heart. Then her mother called, and she unfolded the handkerchief to wipe her mother’s face. After that of course she couldn’t see a thing in the handkerchief, and if it weren’t that her heart was completely given away, she would have thought it was all her imagination.

Her mother got no better, and after a time, she died. Marisette had nothing left in the world except the clothes she was wearing, some pots and pans, and the linen handkerchief. She found a job in a hospital as a nurse, which came easily to her after so many years of nursing her mother.

Hurrying to work one day, she passed many young people laughing and dancing in the streets, because it was a fiesta day. Marisette had no time for a holiday, and besides, she had no bright, pretty clothes to wear. But as she hurried past, she noticed someone who made her stop and stare. It was the young man with the dark, wavy hair that she had dreamed of so long ago. But there was no sweetness in his face. His lip curled with pride, and he did not so much as glance at Marisette in her old dress. Marisette sighed and went on her way, leaving the sounds of music and laughter behind her.

A year went past, and a terrible war began. The hospital was full of people who had been injured, and soldiers who had been hurt in the fighting. Marisette and the other nurses worked day and night caring for them, cleaning and bandaging their wounds, and holding the hands of the dying.

One day a patient was carried in, a young soldier who had been badly hurt where the fighting was the worst. His friends had been killed and he had lost part of his leg. When Marisette saw him, she recognised the young man she had dreamed about so many years ago, the proud young man who had not spared a glance for her in the marketplace.

The young soldier had a terrible fever, and was close to dying. Marisette nursed him for days, hardly sleeping. For almost a week he hovered between life and death, but finally the fever left him. Marisette brought warm water and washed him gently. She combed the tangles from his hair until it lay soft and wavy on his pillow. When he finally opened his eyes, it was to see Marisette smiling gently at him. He smiled back, with so much sweetness that she almost dropped the bowl of water in astonishment. He was looking at her as though he loved her as she loved him. And so he did.

As soon as he was well enough, they were married. Marisette carried the diamond handkerchief tucked into her wedding dress, and when her baby daughter, Marisena, was born, she sewed the handkerchief into the baby’s shawl. And if, from time to time the shawl hung in a certain way so that the handkerchief was folded and the sunlight shone through it, and the baby looked at it and giggled and cooed, Marisette said nothing, but kissed the baby and smiled.

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