Some weeks later there was a curious scene enacted at L'Abri. In the centre of the smoothly swept back yard was a great bonfire. Armand Aubigny sat in the wide hallway that commanded a view of the spectacle; and it was he who dealt out to a half dozen negroes the material which kept this fire ablaze.

A graceful cradle of willow, with all its dainty furbishings, was laid upon the pyre, which had already been fed with the richness of a priceless layette. Then there were silk gowns, and velvet and satin ones added to these; laces, too, and embroideries; bonnets and gloves; for the corbeille had been of rare quality

This sentence seemed vague to me does it mean that as the corbeille was antique he didn't fire it?

This passage is from a short story named: Desiree's Baby by Kate Chopin.

3 Answers 3


In order to properly understand this you have to include more from the story.

“Désirée’s Baby” is Kate Chopin’s short story, set before the American Civil War, about a baby and a racial crisis between a husband and wife. source

In the story Armand and Desiree live in an area and time characterized by slavery and racial prejudice. They have a baby who has unexpectedly dark skin. Armand accuses Desiree of being part black, and sends her and the baby away to live with her mother.

A corbeille is "A basket of clothing and accessories given as part of the dowry from groom to bride". In the story this basket would have been full of the things (of rare quality) that Armand gave Desiree on their marriage, and which now he burns in order to essentially "erase" her from his life.

To be clear, it is the gifts of clothing which are being burnt. We do not know whether an actual basket was used, as corbeille can refer to the overall gift, and not to the container in which it was given. Either way, in the context of the story, it does not matter.

Side note: It's worth reading the short story for the full context; however the central irony, revealed at the end

is that it is Armand himself, who displays the most extreme racism, whose mother was in fact part black. Armand may already know this, but in order to save his own reputation as "white", he hypocritically passes his blame on to his wife.

  • 1
    @RubioRic Yes, that's correct, it is the things that are being burnt. In this case "corbeille" refers to the overall gift, not the actual basket. Indeed, it's not clear whether an actual basket was included in the gift, as it does not matter one way or another.
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 19:25
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    @ViserHashemi It means "of an excellent quality that would have been difficult to obtain", which certainly implies the items were also "expensive*.
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 20:03
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    @ViserHashemi No; he burns them because they are reminders that his son and (he affects to believe) his wife are black. Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 20:24
  • 2
    @ViserHashemi Ah, I see how you are reading this now! The for clause modifies the list, not the action of burning. It explains why those very expensive items of clothing were on the fire: because the bridal gift was "of rare quality". See RubioRic's answer. Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 9:09
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    @ViserHashemi "of rare quality" means the items were very nice and probably expensive, making it all the more dramatic that Armand burns them. Burning "ordinary, everyday things of mediocre quality" wouldn't have the same dramatic impact.
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 14:35

corbeille is French for a kind of basket. And in modern a corbeille à papier is wastepaper basket. But that is not the type of basket mentioned here.

There's a lot of French in Louisiana, especially at the time of this story, which I believe is post-Civil War.

Here, the layette (baby's clothes) were probably in the cradle and the mother's valuable items were in a basket (corbeille) that gentleman is having them burned.

Ladies kept delicate valuables in these baskets. Things like gloves or lacy things.

The corbeille is probably what was called a corbeille de marriage given by the groom to the bride.

  • Lots of thanks for your answer. considering your answer, do you mean that he had put his wife's clothing items in the corbeille and fired them. and as the corbeille was not valuable to him any more he fired it too? Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 19:09
  • @ViserHashemi I have edited my answer. Also, we say burned them, not fired them. :)
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 19:23

The phrase seems incomplete because that use of the preposition for is not usual. At least for us non-native English speakers.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary


because of or as a result of something

Here is an example taken from the BBC web page

For suggests that the reason is given as an afterthought. It is never placed at the beginning of the sentence and is more characteristic of written, rather than spoken English:

I decided to stop the work I was doing - for it was very late and I wanted to go to bed.

After describing the contents of the corbeille that were burning, it's stated that they were of rare quality, the items contained in the corbeille, not the basket itself. He was burning silk and velvet gowns because the corbeille was of rare quality, it contained expensive items. Notice that whether the corbeille, the basket, is burnt or not is not relevant for the story.

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