Short Stories » The Gift of The Magi

The Gift of The Magi - Short Story By O.Henry

Della counted her savings. It was just one dollar and eighty-seven cents. She had saved that much by bargaining with the butcher, the vegetable seller and the grocer, shamelessly.

Christmas was next day, and all she had to buy a present for her dear husband was just one dollar and eighty-seven cents!

Della sat on their old couch-the only piece of furniture in the decrepit room- and cried bitterly.

Della and her husband lived in an old apartment that they were renting at $8 a week. Outside the door was the name card of the man of the house and Della’s husband, Mr. James Dillingham Young. Della affectionately called him Jim.

She had just one dollar and eighty-seven cents to buy something good for her dear Jim. Della could not bear the thought. She slowly went to the window and looked out.

Then a thought struck her, and she undid her hair in front of their old mirror and let it fall. One possession that both Jim and Della was proud of was Della’s hair. It cascaded down to below her knees. Well, there was another possession too, that they were supremely proud of. That was Jim’s gold watch, which had been owned by his father, and his grandfather before that. These two possessions were invaluable for them.

As she stood looking at the mirror, two drops of tears fell from her eyes to the worn out red carpet. But she soon wore her old jacket and hat, and went out.

Della sold her hair for twenty dollars.

Within the next two hours, she had been to all the stores in their street, and could not find anything that was worth being owned by her dear Jim. But finally, she found something. It was a platinum fob chain that was elegant and simple. Satisfied, Della paid 21 dollars for it, and happily went back home with 87 cents. “Now Jim is going to be proud to look at his watch,” she said to herself. She had often seen him looking at his watch secretly, because the leather strap had been very old.

As soon as she reached home, Della did some hair styling with what little apparatus she had, and made herself look a bit stylish. She looked like a school boy.

At around 7 pm, Jim came back from work. He opened the door, stepped in, and stared at Della. Della was prepared for anger, disapproval or horror from Jim, but now she could not understand his expression. It was inscrutable.

“Jim,” she pleaded, “please don’t be angry with me. I had to sell my hair because I could not bear to not give you a present for Christmas. My hair will grow again. Please …You know what a wonderful gift I have got for you?”

“You cut your hair?” Jim asked, looking stupid.

“Yes, darling,” she cried, “but you like me like this also, right? Even without hair?”

“Your hair is sold off?”

“It is gone, sold off. For you my darling.”

Jim seemed to wake up from his trance slowly, and he hugged Della. They enfolded each other, and their love flowed into each other.

Then Jim took a packet from his pocket and put it on the table.

“Dell, a haircut is not going to make me love you any less. But if you open that packet you will know why I was dumbfounded just now.”

Della opened the packet, and screamed with joy as she saw his present for her, but a split second later broke down in tears.

Jim’s present for his beloved wife was a set of combs that Della had long yearned for. Made of pure tortoise shell with jewels on the rims, it would have looked glorious on her now vanished hair.

She kissed those combs, and then remembered about her own present. She eagerly held out the platinum chain for his gold watch.

“Jim darling, it is such an elegant piece, isn’t it? Now you can look at your watch a hundred times. Come. Where is your watch? Let me see how it looks with this.”

Jim sat heavily on the couch, leaned back and smiled.

“Dell, I sold my watch you know. I sold it to get enough money to buy your combs.”

Would you say this is the story of two unwise souls foolishly letting their most precious possessions go?

Do you know who started the custom of giving presents for Christmas? They were the wise man - the magi - who brought gifts to the special babe in the manger.

No, these two souls were not foolish. They, in their love for each other, are the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are the wisest. They are the magi.

Image courtesy: deviantart

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