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23

(1921) Author: Sigrid Undset
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“I think the malachite necklace was very fine,” said Ahlin,
by way of interrupting —“ and very cheap.”

“Yes, but in Florence malachite is much cheaper still. This
thing cost forty-seven lire. In Florence, where Jenny bought
her cristallo rosso, I could have got one for thirty-five. Jenny
gave only eighteen for hers. But I will make him give me the
corals for ninety lire.”

“I don’t quite understand your economy,” said Heggen.

“I don’t want to talk about it any more,” said Miss Jahrman.
“I am sick of all this talk — and tomorrow I am going to buy
the corals.”

“But isn’t ninety lire an awful price for corals?” Heggen
risked the question.

“They are not ordinary corals, you know,” Miss Jahrman
deigned to answer. “They are contadina corals, a fat chain
with a gold clasp and heavy drops — like that.”

Contadina — is that a special kind of coral?” asked Helge.

“No. It is what the contadinas wear.”

“But I don’t know what a contadina is, you see.”

“A peasant girl. Have you not seen those big, dark red,
polished corals they wear? Mine are exactly the colour of raw
beef, and the bead in the middle is as big as that” — and she
formed a ring with her thumb and forefinger the size of an
egg.

“How beautiful they must be,” said Helge, pleased to get
hold of the thread of conversation. “I don’t know what
malachite is, or cristallo rossa, but I am sure that corals like those
would suit you better than anything.”

“Do you hear, Ahlin? And you wanted me to have the
malachite necklace. Heggen’s scarf-pin is malachite — take
it off, Gunnar — and Jenny’s beads are cristallo rosso, not
rossa — red rock crystals, you know.”

She handed him the scarf-pin and the necklace. The beads
were warm from contact with the young girl’s neck. He looked

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