The Gift of the Magi
by O. Henry
1. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time…Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.
2. There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it.
3. Suddenly she…stood before the glass. Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length…
4. Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Young’s in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair…
5. On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.
6. Where she stopped the sign read: "Mme. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself…
7. "Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.
8. "I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it." Down rippled the brown cascade.
9. "Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practiced hand.
10. "Give it to me quick," said Della.
11. Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings... She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.
12. She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else…It was a platinum fob chain simple in design… As soon as she saw it, she knew that it must be Jim’s…
13. When Della reached home …She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas, and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love…
14. Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look like a schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.
15. At 7 o’clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.
16. Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then, she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment…
17. Jim stopped inside the door. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face…
18. "Jim, darling," she cried, "don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow out again—you won’t mind, will you? I just had to do it.
19. Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table…
20. White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! A quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails…
21. For there lay…the set of combs that Della had worshipped long ago in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jeweled rims—just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession.
22. And then Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"
23. Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.
24. "Isn’t it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."
25. Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.
26. "Dell," said he, "let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."