The Gift of the Magi

Short Story by O’ Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and twoat a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.


There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.


While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home.A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the look out for the mendicancy squad.


In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.”


The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20,though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called”Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young,already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.


Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard.Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling—something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.


There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room.Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.


Suddenly she whirled from the window and 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.


Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs 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. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airs haft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement,Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed,just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.


So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And thens he did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.


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.


Where she stopped the sign read: “Mne. So fronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardlyl ooked the “So fronie.”


“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.


“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take yer hat off and let’shave a sight at the looks of it.”


Down rippled the brown cascade.


“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practiced hand.


“Give it to me quick,” said Della.


Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings.Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.


She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by mere tricious ornamentation—as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knewt hat it must be Jim’s. It was like him. Quietness andv alue—the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.


When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends–a mammoth task.


Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny,close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.


“If Jim doesn’t kill me,” she said to herself, “before he takes a second look at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do—oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty seven cents?”


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.


Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that the always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: “Please God, make him think I am still pretty.”


The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two—and to be burdened with a family! He needed anew overcoat and he was without gloves.


Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. 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.


Della wriggled off the table and went for him.


“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. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!’ Jim, andl et’s be happy. You don’t know what a nice—what a beautiful, nice gift I’ve got for you.”


“You’ve cut off your hair?” asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.


“Cut it off and sold it,” said Della. “Don’t you like me just as well, anyhow? I’m me without my hair, ain’t I?”


Jim looked about the room curiously.


“You say your hair is gone?” he said, with an air almost of idiocy.


“You needn’t look for it,” said Della. “It’s sold, I tell you—sold and gone, too. It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,” she went on with sudden serious sweetness,”but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?”


Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year—what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.


Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.


“Don’t make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less.But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.”


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, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.


For there lay The Combs—the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshiped long 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. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.


But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: “My hair grows so fast, Jim!”


And then Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, “Oh, oh!”


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.


“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.”


Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.


“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.”


The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise,their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that o fall who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

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12 thoughts on “The Gift of the Magi”

  1. thanks a lot sir, The Gift of the Magi,by O, Henry.
    i have read very interesting it signifyes the Christian couple ‘s pure love. the main character is Dilla and jim.

  2. sazia suborna

    i read the story somewhat. but i got some problem in writing that the proper space had not used between two words in many sentence that’s way i failed to able the meaning of several sentence. if you rewrite the sentence with correcting that’s problem, it will be good for me.

    now i want to say something about the story of ♥the gift of magi♥.I am listened the story from my teacher. but i never read it.i think,it gives so much enjoy to read.because it is a romantic story of jim and Della.they love each other so much.they proved their love by doing many things. you selected a good topics for reading practice. so i urge to you.please solve the problem for regarding us……

  3. At first, I heard Jim and Della story from my mother. But today, I read the story for 1st time on your website. It’s really a story of pure love. Thanks for sharing such a great story for us. I hope more good story from you.

  4. I have read this tale and listened in another place. But in this writing you have used copious difficult word that I could not understand then I seem that I will have to read more and more then difficult word and understanding power enhance effortlessly.

  5. Sir, I couldn’t understand this post cause many vocabulary meaning do not know. Sir, What do I do? But zero category post have read and I could be understood. Now One category’s first post don’t understand. Sorry to say, I weak in English.

  6. I have completed reading this story in almost one hour.I think its too long time.I want to read fast.
    though I knew the story before,I understood 80% of this story.there are ample new vocabularies which are entirely new for me.however, I am trying to summarise it:
    james dillingham young, jim, and della are the two hilarious spouse who loves one another too much.they live in an apartment where the weekly cost is 8 dollar. in Christmas day,they both want to give present to one another.but they both don’t have enough money.della could save 1.87 dollars by bargaining with the grocers and other persons from whom she buys daily commodities. she wants to buy a gift for her husband, but her saved money is too little to buy a gift.that’s why she sold her long hair with 20 dollars which was jims most beloved thing.she sold the hair and bought a beautiful platinum chain for his husband’s favourite watch.on the other hand,jim also sold his gold watch to buy a comb and luxurious accessories for his wife, dellas long hair. after jims returning home the main tragedy happens….
    though it is an irony of fate, I think the two beloved are happy to see their love for one another. I also feel like having such a husband who will never a millionaire, but will love me like jim.

  7. Jim and della had a great relationship.I would not find those type of story in real life.Now I want to be a jim because he loved too much his wife.But sad things is that when I was read this story for the first time I could not understand this story meaning ans it had taken more than 30 minutes but happiness matter is that now I read it within 9 minutes with understanding.That’s magic of myself but I can not believe for that I read it two times to cheek myself.

  8. The story is so interesting to read for youngester as well as for some old/elders because it is a romantic story that shows the sacred love of Della’s and Jim’s but the sense of writing is too tough to read for a new learner but I tried to read it with full attention and I will read it again so that I can fully understand this tough writing ….and thanks for providing us such stories that’s create our interest to read these stories again and again

  9. A pure & true love story between Jim & Della.
    I read this love story before so I understand it easily.Here you use some new & unknown vocabularies. when I read those words I felt little worry. after complete my reading I checked those words at goole & I get there meaning easily.

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